OLD STRANGERS (2022)
Though marketed as a horror film, especially with a title that implies some sort of supernatural threat, flick is more of a survival thriller focusing on a small group of people during what appears to be some kind of pandemic. As the film opens, we find Paul (Joel Edgerton), living in his father-in-law Bud’s house in the middle of the woods, along with his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and his son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). As the story opens, Bud (David Pendleton) is infected, Paul euthanizes him and sets his body on fire. While still suffering from their loss, a man (Christopher Abbott) breaks into their house one night. Captured, he says his name is Will and is only looking for supplies for his family. Paul and Sarah invite Will, his wife Kim (Riley Keough) and son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner) to come live with them, seeing strength in numbers. But, when it is believed that little Andrew might be infected, paranoia and fear take over and threatens to destroy this safe haven in the woods.
Written and directed by Trey Edward Shults this is an intense and sometimes violent little movie about fear, paranoia and what lengths folks will go to survive. Going in without the horror movie expectations, one can enjoy this flick for what it is. There are some horror elements, as the sickness isn’t pretty, there is some brutal violence and Travis has some very unsettling nightmares with some spooky imagery. The characters appear to be normal people in a frightening situation and none are bad guys or unlikable, just some do extreme things to, in their minds, ensure their survival. It’s no secret these folks will turn on each other and Shults keeps the film tense until they do. He keeps the audience on edge with a sense that death is always lurking outside the house, whether it be this ominous disease or other humans with bad intent. He also never let’s you completely trust Will and Kim, as Paul and Sarah never quite do. Yes, we’ve seen it before, but the writer/director makes it work by focusing on the effects of the situation on a small isolated group instead of what might be going on in more populated areas. It works well and can be unsettling at times, even with the subject of pandemics and infections being common ground right now. There are a few questions and unresolved plot points as the credits roll. After Bud’s death it seems hard to believe that Paul and family would so quickly agree to bring strangers into their home, despite the good intentions. There is a violent encounter with two armed men that at first seems like it might have further impact, but it never does. There is also the implication that coming-of-age Travis might have an attraction to the pretty Kim and vice-versa, but it goes nowhere after the initial scene that introduces the notion. Aside from these small matters Trey Edward Shults delivers a taunt thriller which keeps one unnerved even if you know certain things are coming. Aiding him is some nice cinematography by Drew Daniels, which takes advantage of the large shadow filled house and a fitting score from Brian McOmber.
There is a good cast here, too. Edgerton is a strong lead as the cautious, though somewhat kind-hearted Paul. He makes some tough decisions to protect his family, but is far from a bad man and hasn’t lost his humanity. Christopher Abbott is good as Will. He gives the character just enough uncertainty, so we never quite trust him to makes us as uneasy as Paul. Kelvin Harrison Jr. shines as Travis. Travis is sometimes the moral center of the story, though his ominous nightmares make us unsettled as to what the future holds and the actor conveys that this is also the same with Travis, himself, a youth growing up isolated in a dangerous world. In support Carmen Ejogo is solid as Paul’s loving and strong willed wife, Sarah. Riley Keough is also good as Will’s wife Kim, as is Griffin Robert Faulkner as their young son Andrew.
Once you get past the notion that this is a horror film, you can still enjoy an intense thriller about people trying to survive in a deadly environment. They’re trying to keep their humanity when their fellow humans are just as dangerous as the disease they are trying to avoid. It’s intense, atmospheric and brutally violent at times. It may not be the most original flick in terms of story and comes with a title that raises horror film expectations, but does used the pandemic fear scenario very well and is an effective little thriller on it’s own.
Zombie outbreak flick is a mildly entertaining diversion that has a doctor (Rachel Nichols) being taken by a small squad of soldiers (Alfie Allen, Mekhi Phifer and Missi Pyle) into a contaminated area to search for a missing team and the uncontaminated survivors they supposedly found. The mission goes awry, stranding the team and putting their lives in danger…as it does the doctor’s own secret, personal agenda.
Written by Dustin T. Benson and directed by John Suits this is absolutely nothing new in the zombie sub-genre and certainly adds nothing to freshen up it’s story in the current over-saturation of living dead movies, shows and books. It is well made for a low budget flick and moves along quickly enough with some decent action, but nothing innovative. The constant use of POV shots from the team’s helmet cams may amuse some, but if you’re not a gamer, it will probably just give you a headache. The cast are fine and Nichols makes a solid heroine with her own secret and gives the movie a little emotional weight. If you just want a little entertainment to go along with your beers, you could do worse than this SYFY-ish zombie flick.
Absolutely awful found footage flick has student Rachel (Maria Simona Arsu) hiring a small crew (Patrick Sebastian Negrean and Marius Dan Munteanu) to enter Romania’s supposedly haunted Baciu forest to film a documentary. Sound familiar? As we know from the professor that opens the movie (Adrian Carlugeo), the trio disappeared and we are now watching their laughably Blair Witch-ish footage that looks like a home movie filmed in one afternoon on a dare.
Directed by Mark Evans who co-wrote with Caroline Riley this is bottom of the barrel found footage nonsense that is not only terribly boring, but is so blatant a Blair Witch rip-off that it could almost be a remake…and a horrible one at that. The dialog between them is awful as we meander around the snowy countryside following these idiots as their nut job of a guide (Bill Hutchens) disappears and they get lost. They then start to loose there minds when they can’t find their way out and feel something evil is stalking them based on finding a teddy bear and a shoe…all with some heinously bad dialog that is equally ineptly acted. There is a scant bit of bloodshed in the last act, but it is with little effect and at that point we just want this inane flick to be over with. Leading lady Arsu was kind of cute, but no amount of beauty would make this watchable.