Cinepocalypse: Part 1

Cinepocalypse: Tragedy Girls; Get My Gun

This November marks the inaugural Cinepocalypse. While it can’t accurately be said to be Chicago’s first film festival dedicated to genre (Willy Atkins’ Chicago Horror and Indie Horror Film Festivals probably deserve that distinction), it does seem to be the first one with major power behind it. Co-organized by one of the minds behind the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival and boasting sponsorship from IFC Midnight, Bloody Disgusting and the AV Club, the basic idea seems to be Fantastic Fest-type fare, with 100% less Devin Feraci. The festival takes over Wrigleyville’s Music Box Theater for eight days, running from November 2 to 9.

And, of course, I’ll be there. I plan to see a dozen films, and as always, I’ll pass my opinions along to you—starting with my Friday screenings, Tragedy Girls and Get My Gun.

Tragedy Girls

Tragedy Girls

United States. Directed by Tyler MacIntyre. Starring Brianna Hildebrand, Alexandra Shipp, Jack Quaid, Kevin Durand, Josh Hutcherson. 90 minutes.

We haven’t had a teen horror movie since…uh, Happy Death Day, I think. I haven’t seen that yet, but don’t judge me; I was busy covering CIFF. Anyway, the dark high school comedy Tragedy Girls stars Brianna Hildebrand (Deadpool) and Alexandra Shipp (Straight Outta Compton) as the titular Girls, a pair of morbid BFFs with a nascent social media empire. When a serial killer (Kevin Durand) takes up residence in their town, the Girls sieze their chance to boost their numbers by committing a few murders themselves.

So of course with a movie like this the major reference point will be Heathers (pay close attention when the Girls reveal the serial killer’s name) and the ’90s works of Kevin Williamson. What makes Heathers work, for me at least, is the fact that even if Winona Ryder’s character isn’t an actual outsider per se she has outsider cred. This means that, number one, she sees the high school social hierarchy for the steaming pile of bullshit it is, and number two, the target audience, whose members probably see themselves as outsiders, have an identification figure.

The Tragedy Girls, on the other hand, are two of the most popular students in their class—they’re cheerleaders, they run the Prom Committee. They pass for normal, and apparently always have, partially because almost all of their classmates are also sociopaths, and partially because everyone in town in any position of real authority is an idiot. They’re don’t want to burn the system down because the system sucks, they want to burn it down because they like burning shit down.

Now, none of this is automatically wrong per se, but since I found myself unable to root for the Tragedy Girls and the one other possible identification character was clearly doomed from the start, I felt adrift. Tragedy Girls is a comedy, and a lot of it is very funny. I liked the sly commentary about how important social media has become in our lives (and I found a veiled reference to Donald Trump and the neo-fascist “alt-right” movement about halfway through the film…at least I hope I did). I liked the visual shout-out to Cannibal Holocaust. I liked all the performances, particularly Hildebrand and Josh Hutcherson as a shallow kid who hilariously pretends to be deep.

But I also noticed I was only laughing along with the audience about half the time. Clearly they were seeing something else in the film I wasn’t.

Get My Gun

Get My Gun

United States. Directed by Brian Darwas. Starring Kate Hoffman, Christy Casey, Rosanne Rubino, William Jousett. 90 minutes.

Roughly three-quarters of the way through Get My Gun, its protagonist Amanda (Kate Hoffman) screams, “How the FUCK is this my life!” By this point, she’s been raped, impregnated by her rapist, and discovered that the woman who’d agreed to adopt Amanda’s unborn child has, shall we say, severe emotional and mental issues. We can reasonably assume things are not going to get better without getting much worse first.

Filmmaker Brian Darwas, alongside co-screenwriter Jennifer Carchietta, cast Get My Gun squarely in the tradition of exploitation classics such as Ms. 45 (and if you want to put the word “classics” in ironic air quotes, add I Spit on Your Grave and Thriller: A Cruel Picture). The overall film doesn’t focus as much on revenge as the opening scenes—which include Amanda clad in a nun’s habit, pointing a shotgun at a creep and demanding he “Get in the fucking car!”—imply. Instead, Darwas and Carchietta just keep throwing shitty situation after shitty situation at her, seeing how much she can take before she finally breaks.

Even with the filmmakers portraying Amanda’s rape as sensitively as possible without losing its intensity, this isn’t an easy watch, and I respect the filmmakers and the cast for their commitment to the material. Hoffman displays extraordinary vulnerability and bravery in her performance. Unfortunately, the introduction of Catherine (the psycho who wants Amanda’s child) sees the film stray too far into slasher-film territory. The script leaves too many gaps between characters: Amanda’s best friend sets up the practical joke which leads to her rape, but this doesn’t change their relationship at all. The final third of the film sees multiple characters gain superheroic abilities to suffer multiple potentially fatal injuries and not only survive, but not suffer any side effects.

I really wanted to like Get My Gun more than I did, but that third act pretty much killed it for me. Oh well.


My next screenings are on Sunday night: the Canadian film The Crescent and Housewife, the latest from Turkish director Cam Evrenol (Baskin).

A scene from THE REVENANT.

The Revenant

United States. Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, 2015. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck. 153 minutes. 9/10

Alejandro G. Iñárritu picked an unlikely project to succeed his quirky black comedy Birdman. Set in 1823 and based on a novel by Michael Punke, The Revenant tells the true tale of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), who served as a tracker for Capt. Andrew Henry’s (Domhnall Gleeson) expedition of the Louisiana Purchase. Glass suffers life-threatening wounds during a bear attack; the party does not expect him to survive his injuries. The effort of moving him slows the party down too much, so Henry assigns John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) to stay behind with Glass and his adopted Native American son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck). Seeing this as a fool’s errand, Fitzgerald unsuccessfully attempts to murder Glass, ends up accidentally kills Hawk, and rejoins the expedition, telling a lie about Glass and his son’s fate.

Glass not only survives but recovers to the point where he can walk. Struggling against the brutal Western winter, and stalked by hostile members of the Arikara tribe (whose chief searches for his daughter, kidnapped by white fur trades), he pursues a seemingly impossible goal: to make it back to the expedition’s outpost and take revenge on Fitzgerald.

The word that repeatedly comes to mind when reflecting upon The Revenant is “awesome.” To paraphrase webcomic artist John Allison, we’ve deviated from the traditional definition of the word, and now use it to describe how we feel when our bread is toasted exactly right. That’s not what this is. This is the original meaning of “awesome”: the sense of being overwhelmed by something that is huger than us and almost entirely beyond our comprehension. In this case, that’s nature in all of its majesty and brutality, and while The Revenant evokes a time when humans seemed to be a bit tougher, we’re still puny, weak bags of meat and water in comparison to a defensive bear or a torrential blizzard.

Filmed entirely on location–none of yer green-screens or digital backlots here, mate–The Revenant oozes authenticity from every pixel. Iñárritu’s familiar hand-held cinematographical style was the source of much mirth in Birdman, but here he deploys it to a vastly different, devestating effect. By keeping the camera low to the ground, the scenery looms over the characters and the audience, and when the grizzly attacks, the shaky-cam proves essential. If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to be eaten by a bear, watch The Revenant.

That sense of cinematic truth extends to the performances. I have a limited amount of respect for actors in physically-punishing roles, but DiCaprio inhabits the role of Glass in a way that goes beyond merely crawling across tundra and grunting for the entire second act of the film. To me, he actually became Hugh Glass, in a way I would have thought impossible. I’ve been watching him in movies for twenty years and while I’ve enjoyed many of his films, I’ve never seen him disappear into a role like he does here. And he’s not the only one! Hardy becomes barely recognizable for the second time this year, and it’s easy to forget The Revenant is the fourth film we’ve seen Gleeson in this year.

The Revenant is one of the most impressive cinematic achievements of 2015, not just in terms of how it was made (which is nothing to sneeze at), but the effect it has on the audience. It takes you out of the comfort of your environment and transplants you to a hostile wasteland to be part of an epic tale of human survival. Genuine movie magic, right here.


Retro Review: Ms. .45

United States. Directed by Abel Ferrara, 1981. Starring Zoë Tamerlis, Editta Sherman, Albert Sinkys. 80 minutes.

Director Meir Zarchi has two movies to his credit, but people only care about the first one. He released this film–a revenge thriller about a young woman who methodically murders the four men who raped her–in 1978, under the title Day of the Woman. Nobody much cared.

In 1981, its distributors released it under a new title: I Spit on Your Grave. This time people paid attention and the film generated no small amount of controversy. Zarchi is said to have claimed that he meant the film to serve as a statement of feminine empowerment. Others see it as a piece of exploitative garbage. The battle may no longer rage, not exactly, but it still has a polarizing effect on viewers, and horror fandom doesn’t seem to have come to a consensus as to whether it’s any good or not.

Ms. .45 was released in the same year that Day of the Woman became I Spit on Your Grave. I don’t know if Zarchi’s film influenced director Abel Ferrara and screenwriter Nicholas St. John. But on the surface, they might seem to be similar movies. As titles, Day of the Woman and Ms. .45 carry feminist connotations. And comparing Ms. .45’s poster to I Spit on Your Grave’s reveals a few similarities. Both attempt to transform something that isn’t sexy (violence against women) into something that is (by prominently trading on traditional pop-cultural symbols of female sexuality).

The point of me saying all this is that, judging from my personal experience, a lot of people who know about Ms. .45 but haven’t seen it seem to think it’s a typical rape-revenge exploitation cheapie. And it isn’t. It’s a lot more interesting than that.

Zoë Tamerlis (better known as Zoë Lund, but I always think of her by her maiden name) plays the titular character, a mute Manhattan Garment District seamstress named Thana (such a name should set off your mental Symbolism Detector), who is attacked and raped while walking home from work one afternoon. She collects her wits and continues to her apartment, only to find it in the process of being burglar–and then the burglar overpowers and violates her. This guy doesn’t get away with it, as Thana is eventually able to brain him with a heavy object and kill him.

Sources can’t agree on where things go from here. IMDB’s synopsis says Thana “goes insane” as a result of her attacks and “takes to the streets of New York after dark and randomly kills men with a .45 caliber gun.” Amazon claims she “ignites a one-woman homicidal rampage against New York City’s entire male population.” Wikipedia describes her as a “misandristic spree killer (not strictly a vigilante).” None of these are strictly true, although, to be fair, they’re not all that inaccurate by 1981’s standards.

What actually happens is this: Thana keeps the dead rapist’s gun, carries it with her, and accidentally shoots and kills a cat-caller who probably thinks he’s being a bit of a white knight. After that, she becomes a bit more pro-active, dressing more provocatively and luring potential rapists and misogynists into situations where she can kill them. Eventually, yes, she does snap entirely. But that’s the climax of the film; it’s not what the film is actually about.

I want to go back to the masher, though. I probably saw Ms. .45 for the first time in 1995, but maybe it was ’94 or ’96. That guy didn’t seem like much of a threat back then–I understood why Thana killed him, she was still very freaked out and I couldn’t blame her, but I saw him essentially as an innocent.

I didn’t see the character in quite the same way when I re-watched the movie last week (the first time I’d seen it in around twenty years). The discussions that opened up as a result of the Isla Vista killings back in late May of this year have made a lot of men more aware of the smaller, less obvious acts of misogyny women are subjected to every day. The cat-caller seems more sinister, less harmless, while it’s clear that Thana suffers from PTSD and hasn’t actually “gone insane.”

Was this deliberate on the parts of Ferrara, St. John and Tamerlis? I’ll probably never know for sure, but I’d like to think so. The conversation Thana has with her boss, where he comes right out and tells her she has to “work harder” to overcome her infirmity, definitely indicates that people were putting more thought into the themes of the film than they might be given credit for.

In terms of style, Ms. .45 is very unusual: it’s an exploitation movie that doesn’t feel particularly exploitative. The rape scenes are short, sharp and to the point, with almost no nudity, and despite all the gunfire, the film isn’t as bloody as many of its contemporaries. It’s more nuanced than the two films most cited as its spiritual godparents: Death Wish and Bo Arne Vibenius‘s rape-revenge/martial arts/hardcore pornography epic Thriller: A Cruel Picture. It’s an intense psychological thriller, and a suspenseful crime drama, and a black comedy (the latter particularly clear in the subplots involving Thana’s neighbor and annoying dog, and her attempts to dispose of her attacker’s remains).

Ferrara’s direction helps tie things together, and Ms. .45 is a vast improvement over his previous film, The Driller Killer. But the true unifying force is Tamerlis, a 19-year-old musician at the time of this, her first acting gig. She cuts a compelling figure throughout the film, easily coaxing the audience onto her side for her journey, and covering a wide range of emotion that many other comparable performers couldn’t even attempt to come close to. (You’re free to speculate about whether her lack of dialogue–she makes two sounds over the course of eighty minutes–makes her job easier or harder.) It’s not a performance you’ll readily forget. The word I’m looking for is iconic.

Ms. .45 isn’t perfect, of course–nothing of its kind ever truly is. But it’s deeper and more thoughtful than your average revenge, or rape-revenge thriller. Despite being firmly rooted in its time, it manages to be better and more relevant than it was when it was made–no cheap feat, that.

R.I.P. Zoë Tamerlis Lund 1962-1999

Ms. .45 poster

Josh Brolin stars in OLDBOY


United States. Directed by Spike Lee, 2013. Starring Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlo Copley, Samuel L. Jackson. 103 minutes.

Remaking Oldboy in English is an odd proposition. The original garnered critical acclaim and a cult following, but not widespread notoriety or huge bank. On top of that, it was released in 2003, so the bandwagon ship sailed years ago. So what’s the point? I don’t have an answer to that question; more importantly, neither do screenwriter Mark Protosevich and director Spike Lee.

The idea of Lee directing isn’t as bizarre as you might think, considering his filmography also includes the likes of Clockers and Inside Man. (And not Rounders, as I said on the yet-to-be-released podcast.) But at least I expected the film to bear some sort of personal stamp, and…

…it really doesn’t. It’s a typical American action-thriller.

First, the characters. Dae-su Oh becomes Joe Doucett, advertising douchebag turned avenging angel douchebag. Mainly he goes around clenching his jaw and beating the shit out of people. It’s harder to feel for Joe, because his ordeal hasn’t made him reflective, only mean.

Meanwhile, Woo-jin Lee has been transformed into Adrian Pryce. You know he’s the bad guy, because he’s got a British accent. Even though his sister seems to be American and his parents German. And even though the actor is actually South African. He’s a Bond villain with a mind-bogglingly complex plan and he insists on taking Joe through every step of it during their confrontation. His lead minion is a hot Asian chick who’s also a master of martial arts, because in Asia if you’re a girl and it looks like you’re going to grow up to be a babe, they put you on the martial arts fast-track in school. It’s a fact.

The adorable Mi-do is represented by the glum Marie Sebastian, the sort of world-weary young woman who’s lived a hard, shitty life and wears it on her face like an actress playing a world-weary young woman who’s lived a hard, shitty life. If you somehow manage to miss that, her male BFF will emerge from the friendzone to tell you all about it.

And then there’s Mr. Chaney, the remake’s equivalent of Mr. Lee. He’s played by Samuel L. Jackson and by God nobody is ever going to let you forget that, let alone Mr. Jackson himself. Every time he’s on-screen you expect him to belt out “I’m sick of these muthafuckin’ oldboys in my muthafuckin’ prison!

The action sequences. Oh boy, do I ever want to tell you about the action sequences. Dae-su Oh spends 15 years in captivity and turns into a proficient hand-to-hand fighter. Okay, that’s a bit outlandish but I can buy it because the fights are realistic. Joe Doucett, on the other hand, spends 20 years in captivity and turns into, I don’t know, the Incredible fucking Hulk or something. It’s something I’d have trouble buying in a Zack Snyder film, let alone a Spike Lee film. At one point he punches a football player’s leg so hard that it literally breaks and you hear the snap and I think I saw the bone punch through the flesh.

In the original film, the fight in the hallway was creative and actually kind of funny. Lee turns it into something that looks like a platform fighter, like Lode Runner or something. I kept wondering if Joe was gonna fall into a pipe and end up in the minus world.

And yet–I’m as shocked as you are on this one–the remake has its upsides, enough to make the viewing experience a net positive.

The cast is stronger than I expected. If you need a chisel-faced, beady-eyed actor to clench his jaw and stoically beat the stuffing out of nameless goons, you can do a lot worse than Josh Brolin. Sharlto Copley understands that he’s auditioning for the next Bond movie and attacks his role with gusto. What do we say to the God of Not Enjoying Watching Sam Jackson Play Jules from Pulp Fiction in 75% of the Movies He Makes? “Not today.” The real revelation, though, is Elizabeth Olsen, who rolls all of Marie’s damaged-girl clichés into a ball and fashions a real character out of them.

Meanwhile, Lee’s direction is taut, suspenseful and effective, with a number of beautiful compositions. (Admittedly, he’s at his best when he apes Park.) Protosevich’s script preserves the sensitive treatment of the film’s main twist, which I was absolutely sure would be watered down for American audiences. I also really liked the ending, which is more cynical and less hopeful than the original’s.

Yes, Oldboy is a typical pointless American remake. But it does exist, and since it does, we might as well give it a fair shake. It’s not remarkable, but it is entertaining, particularly if you can keep yourself from constantly comparing it to the original.

Oldboy poster


Retro Review: Oldboy

South Korea. Directed by Chan-wook Park, 2003. Starring Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu, Hye-jeong Kang. 119 minutes.

Are you a good person?

Silly question, right? Of course you are. Look at you, your life. Your family loves you. Your friends consider you a boon companion. You work hard and your boss respects you. You donate to charity, you volunteer at the senior center.

Okay, maybe you have a couple of vices. You might drink too much, or spend more money than you can afford on luxuries. Perhaps you cheat on your spouse. But you probably don’t.

Or maybe you have a secret. Were you the school bully? Did you swipe money from the collection basket? Tell a lie that hurt someone else? Probably–causing trouble is what kids do–but it was so long ago that you can’t remember and even if you could it doesn’t matter, right? Right.

So what are you doing in this prison cell?

Sure, it looks like a hotel room–bed, television, chest of drawers, bathroom and shower–but don’t let that fool you. It’s not like you can just walk out whenever you want: the door is bolted shut from the outside, and the window is fake. Someone slides your meals through a hatch in the door.

Seems as if you’ve made an enemy over the years. Maybe you’re not the upstanding citizen you believe yourself you are, and you’ve made a lot of enemies. Someone put you here, but who?

And what will you do when you get out?

In Oldboy, Chan-wook Park’s classic 2003 thriller, protagonist Dae-su Oh finds himself in this very position. The film thoughtfully considers its twin themes of revenge and redemption. It’s easy enough to say “revenge brings catharsis” or “revenge doesn’t bring catharsis” but as a dramatic theme, revenge is a bit more complex than that and you can tell Park and his screenwriters put more thought into it than many other filmmakers might. It all culminates in a conclusion that left my eyes watering and my jaw agape.

The film’s streak of dark comedy (the suicidal man on the rooftop is a treat) shifts to a darker, more serious tone over the course of the film, with such subtlety that you might not even notice you stopped laughing. The script deals with some difficult subject matter, but treats it with sensitivity and respect instead of sensationalizing and exploiting it.

The film hinges on the performances of its four lead actors. Min-sik Choi is nothing short of phenomenal in the role of Dae-su. His physical presence is highly effective, particularly in the half-hour or so following his release from imprisonment. As befits a man who’s spent the last fifteen years of his life in a space no larger than a spacious bedroom, he holds himself very compactly. His movements are quick, his reflexes squirrelly. Throughout the film he moves like a tightly wound spring that could uncoil at any moment.

That’s enough to impress by itself, but Choi also has the emotive skills to sell such a complex character. You can readily buy him as a man whose decade and a half of imprisonment have driven him more than a little crazy, and his ability to change moods on a dime (note two scenes where he goes from rage to apologetic simpering in a matter of milliseconds) is magical.

His opposite number is Ji-tae Yoo as Lee, Oh’s enemy and the man behind his imprisonment. Lee starts the film as a straight-up villain but as the film progresses we learn more about the exact nature of the relationship between Oh and Lee and Yoo deftly maneuvers through the shift in sympathy. Hye-jung Kang is adorable as Mi-do, a young sushi chef who starts the film as Oh’s ally and who eventually becomes his lover. Dal-su Oh’s Mr. Park, the manager of the unique prison Dae-su finds himself in, is memorable and entertaining as the sneering baddie Yoo doesn’t allow himself to play.

Visually, the film is a delight to watch from start to finish. Park’s visual sense is impeccable and much of the visual imagery is delightful (Dae-su’s emergence from the steamer trunk is a particular favorite moment). He doesn’t skimp on the blood or the action; the violent sequences stick in the mind for days afterward (I’ll never look at a claw hammer the same way) and the fights are clever, inventive and engaging. I appreciated how Dae-su, while a proficient fighter, is never portrayed as a superhuman badass and this anchors the suspension of disbelief.

It may seem like I haven’t given a balanced overview of Oldboy by describing its negatives as well as its positives. The truth is that it’s one of those rare films in which I can find no flaws whatsoever. As far as I can tell, it comes as close to perfect as a movie can.

Oldboy poster

Blue Ruin

United States. Directed by Jeremy Saulnier, 2013. Starring Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves. 90 minutes. 9/10

Unkempt and withdrawn, Dwight Evans (Macon Blair) lives “off the grid” in Delaware. He breaks into houses for baths, scavenges for food and lives in his broken-down, pale blue Pontiac Bonneville.

One day, someone raps on the car’s window. It’s Officer Eddy of the local P.D. She has a message for Dwight.

Years ago, Wade Cleland, Jr., murdered Dwight Evans’s mother and father. He went to prison for his crime. And soon, within days, his term will be over.

Dwight’s demeanor changes the minute he hears the news. He fixes his car, sends a postcard to his sister Sam (Amy Hargreaves), and unsuccessfully attempts to get a gun. He hits the road, his destination a place he hasn’t seen in a long, long time.


By pure chance, Dwight comes across the Cleland family, celebrating Wade’s release at a meeting hall just outside the small Virginia town where he grew up. Within minutes, Wade lies on the floor of the men’s room, dead by Dwight’s hand.

Dwight gets away–but not unseen. Soon, the Cleland family will come for him, and probably his sister and her young daughters. He’s got to get them first.

It’s the only way.

It’s an old story. The wronged man takes up arms, to take vengeance on those who persecuted him. But at the end of it all, he rarely finds that revenge delivers the catharsis and closure he seeks. Instead, he finds the price he pays is terrible indeed, and he is worse off than he was before. He sees, to his sorrow, the truth behind the old saying: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

That’s not how Dwight’s story goes, not exactly. It’s not hard to guess that writer/director Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin won’t end with Dwight Evans perched triumphantly atop a mound of Cleland corpses. But it’s not the process of vengeance that destroys him. He’s a broken man, damned the day his parents died. He’s a tragic figure, unable to take any step that doesn’t bring him closer to his looming fate. Awkward and inept, he’s nobody’s idea of a hero.

“I could feel sorry for you if you were crazy,” Sam tells him, “but you’re just weak.”

The direction is poetic and spare, occasionally interrupted by scenes of intense suspense and harrowing violence. The cracked urban pavements and long shots of vast, empty rural land reflect the characters’ mental states. Some of the dialogue is quite clever (I’m very fond of “The guy with the gun gets to tell the truth”) and there’s a thin streak of black comedy running through the story, but the overall tone is bleak. The script sparingly doles out backstory, and while there are surprises and twists, it thankfully doesn’t hinge on an all-important third-act shock plot twist. Haunting ambient soundscapes, provided by Brooke and Will Blair, underline the action, along with the occasional country and western song.

Blair (who also executive-produced) inhabits the lead role of Dwight and carries the film with it. It’s not just in his line readings (sometimes intense, sometimes scattershot). His physical presence is just as important, and even after cleaning up and changing from a scraggly-bearded, creepy-looking drifter to someone you wouldn’t look twice at passing on the street, Blair looks the part of a man driven by demons. It’s in the eyes, mainly.

The other performances are quite good, especially Hargreaves (best known for playing Claire Danes’s sister on Homeland), Devin Ratray as Dwight’s gun-fondling childhood friend and Kevin Kolack, Stacey Rock and Eve Plumb (yup, that Eve Plumb) as various Clelands.

Quirky yet hauntingly dark, Blue Ruin is one of the best films of 2014 so far. Highly recommended for fans of the Coen Brothers’ darker films, such as Blood Simple and Fargo.

P.S. Jeremy Saulnier may seem to have come out of nowhere, but several months ago my friends Jori and John introduced me to his first film, 2007’s Murder Party; we discussed it in the April episode of the Forced Viewing Podcast. As riotously hilarious as Blue Ruin is spare and grim, this merciless evisceration of pretentious art-scene sycophants is one of the finest horror-comedies of recent years. It also stars Macon Blair, as well as two other Blue Ruin actors, Cleland siblings Stacey Rock and Alex (Sandy) Barnett. I wholeheartedly recommend it. “Fuck the scene! Everybody dies!”

Blue Ruin poster