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Fantasia 2022 Review: MOLOCH, Dark Whispers of Intergenerational Trauma

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Fantasia 2022 Review: MOLOCH, Dark Whispers of Intergenerational Trauma

The camera glides up the stairwell of an old home at the edge of the bog, there are several portraits on the wall of trios of generations of just the women, grouped into trios: Grandmother, mother, daughter. A low rumble knocks one of them down, cracking the glass. This is a succinct visual mission statement for Nico van den Brink’s debut feature; a balanced and dramatic family ghost story, Moloch. It is easy enough to overlook during the sturm und drang of its opening prologue, where a young girl experiences the audible death of her grandmother, perhaps from a seizure or a stroke, while hiding in the closet one floor below. 

 

Flash forward 30 years later, and young Betriek has grown up and has a child of her own. When forced to cut short her successful musical career in the United States after the sudden death of her husband, she returns to her childhood home to raise her daughter, Hannah, with the help of her aging parents. The house is located far outside of the small town, requiring a lengthy drive to drop off and pick up Hannah from school. it results in a simmering conflict between Betriek and her mother, Elske, about their co-parenting styles. Elske does not approve of Betriek’s distracted tardiness, which she perceives as a lack of focus on family. Betriek does not like Elske, now prone to night-seizures herself, going off script, and driving on the back roads near the expansive bogs of peat moss. “Let it be,” is as much of a dialogue about the issue that Betriek gets from her mother. 

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Normally silent and foggy and dour, there has been some recent excitement in the area, when a team of scientists set-up shop extracting corpses from the bog, preserved across centuries in perfect condition due to the particular nature of ecology. This type of archaeological anthropology has been has been going on across Northern Europe and Ireland for decades. It lends the horror story that follows a strong air of verisimilitude. “Bog bodies” unearthed were often found to be subjected to acts of violence or harsh community justice, hangings or dismemberments, before being dumped in the swamp. When they first started being discovered in the 1950s, the black bodies appeared so fresh, that investigators thought they could be recent crimes. That is a hell of a metaphor, for what takes place in Moloch. The work done by the production design team here almost exact; no enhancement to the strange form of mummification is needed to create lasting, disturbing nightmare imagery. 

 

This violation of the land and its dark history, which has been softened (not all the edges are worn off thought), and is now celebrated by the townspeople with an annual festival to the local bog legend. There are whispers from the swamp itself, though. Restless spirits, begin to drive several members of the dig team mad. To the point where one of them breaks into the Betriek’s home assaults Elske. With the dig in danger, the head scientist enlists the help of Betriek to make peace with the town, and her parents, as well as trying to make some sense of what the heck is going on. Betriek’s father grimly promises to start shooting if trespassing happens again. Discussion over.

 

A mixture of scientific enquiry and ancient lore is executed in one of the films most sophisticated sequences. As a researcher presents her findings on the local legend of Feike to her boss, it is juxtaposed with the school’s play. This visual acting out the genre’s typical exposition as dark, whimsical theatre, with the children performing for their parents and community on stage, is intercut with the research team dryly listening to details. The confidence in the filmmaking only increases going forward, as hell really begins to break loose, and the film embraces the shadows and mists of its rich location that were only teased thus far.

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The work of foregrounding intergenerational conflict and unspoken traumas, is that by the time the climax of the film comes due there is a sturdy base with the central family, to absorb the startling realization that we have been in the hands of a true magician all along. Like any good spell, it is so effective that we did not even know it was there. Like poor Sergeant Howie, in The Wicker Man, our personal biases and assumptions mask, or simply ignore, many uncomfortable truths in old rural enclaves. That communities can create a culture that grooms, perpetuates, and insulates itself, beyond conventional notions of good or evil, and outside the spheres of science or even religion. Families, be it through secrets or lies, can do this as well. In fact, they do indeed, do this well. Many things get passed down through families: Physical traits, an heirloom, genetic conditions, or physical characteristics. Trauma can be inherited as well.

Moloch explores all of this in a fascinating way that is faithful to the folk horror genre, but elegant in its drama and execution of its ideas. It gets all the spooky stuff right too. The Netherlands have a bonafide gem of a horror movie on their hands, and a filmmaker to keep a very close eye on.

Moloch

Writer(s)
  • Daan Bakker
  • Nico van den Brink
Cast
  • Anneke Blok
  • Johan Fretz
  • Fred Goessens

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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