Three excellent genre films ripe for discovery

AUGUST 22 ― Next week should be a fun one at the local cinemas as the eagerly anticipated new Christopher Nolan film Tenet and a surprise sequel Bill & Ted Face The Music are scheduled to arrive here, making it the first time since Malaysian cinemas are allowed to re-open after the movement control order (MCO) that proper, real Hollywood films are shown here (as opposed to the mostly Asian and indie horror films that have been making up the numbers so far).

Yes, I know, some of us are still hesitant about going to the cinema this early on after the MCO, and I don’t blame you for feeling that way.

But for those who are excited to resume that “normal” part of our lives (with strict adherence to SOPs of course), next week just can’t come soon enough.

Besides, there’s only so much stuff you can watch at home before you start to crave the communal experience of going into a darkened room filled with strangers to stare at the screen for two hours, right?

But while we wait for that, I’m sure there’s enough time to catch more films at home, especially the never-ending fountain of fun that is genre films, and for the last month or so I’ve encountered quite a few that are plainly brilliant, very good or simply good enough.

Let’s see if I can recommend some of these to you, shall we?

Possessor

Looks like, for the Cronenberg family at least, talent does run in the family, for this second film by Brandon Cronenberg (son of David Cronenberg, director of endless classics like The Brood, Videodrome, Scanners, Rabid, A History Of Violence and lots more) undoubtedly confirms the immense promise that his debut Antiviral gave a few years ago.

A high concept revolving around an agent who works for a secretive organisation that uses brain implants in order to inhabit other people’s bodies to carry out assassinations is given a full emotional and psychological workout, as the viewers are made to visually and aurally experience the toll that such a job takes on the agent, Tasya Vos (the always excellent Andrea Riseborough).

When that strain becomes too much and she finds herself trapped in the mind of the man she’s inhabiting, things spiral beautifully and brutally out of control, with Brandon showing remarkable confidence in conveying all that chaos through his (and his father’s) trademark visual means, which is through plenty of striking body horror moments and shockingly brutal gore.

A singular work of horror art, this is one the best genre films you’ll likely encounter this year.

Becky

One of this film’s biggest hook, and trust me it has many, is the startlingly convincing transformation of Kevin James (he, of Paul Blart: Mall Cop and countless Adam Sandler movies) from the goofy comic persona that we all know and love (or hate, depending on your taste) into a scary, no-nonsense neo-Nazi.

So yes, James plays the villain here, in what is basically a home invasion movie in which he and his gang of neo-Nazis terrorize the family of teenager Becky (Lulu Wilson, of Ouija: Origin of Evil, The Haunting Of Hill House and Annabelle: Creation fame) at her family’s lake house, for reasons that I will not spoil for you.

Like most home invasion movies, the “invaded” ones will inevitably strike back, and boy does that Becky strike back.

Directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion (who previously did Cooties and Bushwick) exhibit plenty of visual ingenuity in staging the film’s many brutal set-pieces, and if home invasion and revenge movies are your jam, this movie will sing perfectly for you.

Mortal

After witnessing the wonderful excellence that was Trollhunter back in 2010, I just made it a point to always catch any new movies by director Andre Ovredal, and he justified that faith with more excellent genre outings like The Autopsy Of Jane Doe and Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark.

Now back in his home turf Norway for his new film Mortal, albeit with American actor Nat Wolff (Paper Towns, Death Note) in the lead, playing an American tourist, and with quite a lot of dialogue in English, Ovredal has again excelled in quickening our pulses at all the right moments with one of those classic superhero origin stories a la Chronicle or Brightburn.

Granted, there’s nothing new brought to the table here, but the interesting thing that Ovredal does bring to the table with this one is by mixing these archetypal tropes with plenty of hints to Nordic mythology, the older gods, and very specifically for this one, the god of thunder, Thor.

I’m not saying that this is a film about Nat Wolff discovering that he's Thor, but it does revolve around that, and I don’t want to spoil the excitement of the mystery and discovery for you.

In short, if this is a Marvel movie, it won’t be in the same league as Captain America: Civil War, but if you really do want to compare things, it’s better to compare it to the aforementioned Chronicle and Brightburn, and in that company Mortal does perfectly fine.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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