FEBRUARY 26 ― Even though Shudder will always be my favourite streaming platform when it comes to genre movies, with Tubi a very valuable (and free) option for checking out older and more obscure cult films, Netflix can be a pretty decent genre movie resource as well once in a while, as their “throw everything at the wall to see what sticks” approach means that even genre movies can and will get their backing.
Genre auteur Mike Flanagan is probably the biggest beneficiary of this, having at first made the very well-regarded Netflix original films Hush and Gerald’s Game before going supernova with his series The Haunting Of Hill House and Midnight Mass.
But there are spoils to be shared even for movies/series from non-English speaking countries; the obvious examples being successful horror offerings like Veronica and Marianne, and the superb Indonesian fight flick The Night Comes For Us.
The past few weeks have seen the release of quite a few genre films that have even made the Netflix charts on their first week of release, so of course I had to check them out even if some of them don’t look particularly promising judging from the trailers.
If you’re thinking of checking these Netflix movies out, but are wondering if they’d be worth your time, here’s what I think of them.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
There have been so many Texas Chainsaw films made ever since the original 1974 film became one of the biggest independent financial successes ever (made on a budget of US$140,000 or today's RM588,000 and grossing over US$30 million back then, which is equivalent to US$150 million in 2019), taking the form of sequels, remakes, reboots and even spinoffs.
This 2022 version is called Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and following the current trend in franchise filmmaking as can be seen with the new films in the Scream, Halloween and even Star Wars franchise, is a “requel” (explained in the 2022 Scream as a mixture of a reboot and a sequel), wherein legacy characters are involved.
This is more or less the filmmakers copying their homework from the new Halloween films by David Gordon Green, even down to having a white-haired legacy female character involved, and is actually a pretty well-shot and competently acted exercise, boosted by a quite startling amount of gore and bloodletting that’s simply fun to witness.
Where things go downhill is in the decision making by the characters, especially during the last 20 minutes, which is practically an avalanche of moronic decisions, happening one after another at such a fast clip that the movie starts to feel like a Funny Or Die take on a Texas Chainsaw Massacre film, except I don’t think that’s what the filmmakers intended it to be.
But then, with the movie making fun of hipsters, gentrification and cancel culture, who knows? That might just be what they intended.
Fistful of Vengeance
A continuation of the Wu Assassins series, but now as a feature film, I had hoped that this would at least be a little less cheesy and better executed than the frankly quite awful series, which I had a hard time finishing, but forced myself to anyway because it’s a martial arts series starring Iko Uwais, and any self-respecting chop socky fan would be doing the genre a disservice by not finishing it.
Alas, my not so high hopes were dashed even in the film’s opening 15 minutes, as everything that made the series painful to watch, like cringe-worthy dialogue (which of course leads to painful acting) and bang average fight scenes (that might just be the result of inelegant shooting and editing rather than bad action choreography) are there for all to see, all over again.
If you’ve seen the series and are just curious to see where the story goes then by all means just grit your teeth and sit through another 90 minutes of the same kind of torture, at least it’s not one whole season of that.
But if you’re thinking of jumping in for the first time, I’d say that you’d be better served spending your time doing something else instead.
This German language flick at first starts off like one of those teen psychodramas, with the protagonist Finn trying to deal with the trauma of witnessing his elder sister killing herself (and trying to take him with her) when he was a little boy.
Given a new dose of medication to deal with his trauma, Finn starts to see/hallucinate even crazier things, including witnessing some sort of ritual involving his twin sister Sophie, and then finding out that there’s something weird in the pills he’s been given.
Even from that short and simple description, it’s clear that this is the kind of film where almost every horror concept and cliché is being thrown into the mix, in the hope of producing something exciting, and I must say that the approach kind of works here, because not for a second was I bored by the proceedings.
Yes, I may have questions about how things flow from one to another (a threesome scene just came out of nowhere and made me laugh out loud), and of course some of the technical execution here, but the film’s take on the whole Invasion Of The Body Snatchers concept is quite simply bonkers and entertaining enough for anyone to watch the whole way through, even if it’s quite dumb.
A perfectly tolerable time-waster (of the guilty pleasure variety), we might even get a sequel if this one does well enough on Netflix, so let’s get more people to watch this so that we can experience that privilege, hopefully next year or the year after!
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.