It's the end of another year and it's time for one of many, many, many end-of-the-year lists. This is one of those lists. I could go on about Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird, Logan, Baby Driver, Split, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, Get Out, or Dunkirk but rather than pick films and declare them as the best, I'd rather focus on a few lesser known films that have stuck with me most this year.
The Belko Experiment
Greg McLean directed this old James Gunn script. An anonymous voice tells the employees in a building that he's going to set off a device that will blow their heads up unless they do what he says. That is basically the plot we get here folks. When Vanity Fair labeled the thriller "horrifying for all the wrong reasons," I have to concede that, yes, they're right. It's a grueling mean little movie (with exploding heads!) that could've been a smart take on office politics but instead skimmed the surface and decided to just be a primal nail-biting thrill-ride with a dash of Michael Rooker for good measure.
Speaking of biting nails, over in France Julia Ducournau directed this gruesome oddity about a vegetarian's newly acquired love for human meat. It's cannibalism barf-baggingly intertwined with themes of sisterly love and familial rivalry — with subtitles. If you have a strong stomach, you'll dig this dark-hearted satire.
Killing Of A Sacred Deer
Oh, speaking of satiric horror films about dysfunctional families, Killing Of A Sacred Deer is about a young boy who has inserted himself into the dynamic of an upper class family. Things get twisted and mean from there. In spacious hollow rooms, the characters deliver dialogue with a stilted robotic intent between pregnant pauses that are reminiscent of the quieter scenes in Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut and The Shining while the more cruel moments of Michael Haneke's Funny Games (either version) play out before your eyes. I'd say enjoy it if you thought director Yorgos Lanthimos' previous film The Lobster was just too darn light-hearted.
Oh and speaking of a not very light-hearted film, in Donald Cried, a successful Wall Street banker visits his old hometown in Warwick, Rhode Island and, eventually, he reluctantly hangs out with an exhausting high school friend. The pal, Donald, is a man stuck in the past and frequently wears an unnerving smile. Things go downhill from there. Beware, it doesn't have the charm of a late stage Napoleon Dynamite or the melancholy of this year's My Friend Dahmer. For those who enjoy cringe-inducing films like Martin Scorsese's The King Of Comedy and Mike White's Chuck & Buck, they will consider writer-director Kris Avedisian's dark comedy a good time.
Hey, speaking of good times, selfish asshole Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) spends the entirety of Good Time roaming through New York City's underworld trying to get money to bail his brother out of jail after a botched bank robbery. The Safdie brothers have married the gritty urgency of Martin Scorsese's After Hours, the colorful atmospherics of Michael Mann's Thief and the unrepentant, unlikable protagonist of Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant to create a near perfect crime drama.
Speaking of movies about crime, if you check out this film and say to yourself, "this reminds me of a well executed rip-off of some movies I've seen before," you're right. Free Fire revisits territory that will likely remind the average viewer of Reservoir Dogs. Ben Wheatley's film consists of numerous criminals stuck in a warehouse. Eventually things go to hell and the bullets start to fly. The dialogue is zippy, the characters are fun, and the violence is over-the-top. Sound familiar? Wheatley, who tends to gravitate towards more original, heavier material, decided to have fun instead.
Blade Runner 2049
Speaking of things working for me, someone — in a Tony Montana-esque coked-out binge, I'd like to imagine — decided to throw caution and $150 million to the wind and see what would happen if they made a Blade Runner sequel. If ever a film was a visual feast, it was Denis Villeneuve's lauded sequel to Ridley Scott's cult classic sci-fi noir. After so many rebootquels, I assumed (very wrongly) that this would abandon all the things that made the original stand out in favor of non-stop action with stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford tossing out buddy cop one-liners. Instead, Villeneuve doubled down on the film's leisurely pace and abstract concepts. I hope whoever greenlit this wonderful film still has a job.
Finally, speaking of a wonderful film for those with unorthodox tastes, any person with an unhealthy feline fixation would enjoy this documentary that follows around seven cats (out of thousands) that walk throughout the streets of Istanbul. I'm too biased to say whether it would be a great film for anyone that could give two mews about cats but I think it's safe to say that if you've ever endlessly seeked out cat videos or visited Pounce Cat Cafe, you'll like it as much as I did.