A Quiet Place Part II (2020)

The first A Quiet Place left me kind of cold. Once you get past the conceit — aliens that attack based on sound attacking a mostly hearing impaired family — and the nail to the foot scene (repeated in the movie Haunt, which was also written and co-produced by Scott Beck and Bryan Wood), I came away feeling alright about what I watched. However, so many people absolutely adored the first movie, so when the second came out, I decided to give it an open-minded watch.

I’m glad I did.

Written, produced and directed by John Krasinski — who makes a cameo in the opening flashback — this film brings back the Abbott family (Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe) while adding Cillian Murphy and Djimon Hounsou as survivors.

The beginning of the film is astounding, showing the initial invasion of the creatures which transforms a small-town American Main Street into carnage before slamming us into the events of a year later, as the family tries to navigate the hostile world that is left behind.

As for Beck and Woods, they didn’t return for the sequel. Woods said they were not interested in a franchise approach and that they would rather “create original ideas” whole Beck claimed that his goal was “…investing back into the ecosystem of original ideas in a massive marketplace.” Krasinski had told the produces to find another writer and director before finding the idea and meaning behind this sequel.

An important team that returned for this film was supervising sound editors Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn and re-recording mixer Brandon Proctor. Their ability to drop sound and then bring it back make the noises in this film anything but wallpaper and dramatically show the experience of the film’s hearing-impaired characters.

On May 29, 2021, director William Friedkin referred to this movie as “a classic horror film” and ended his tweet with “Cinema is back.” How about that for high praise?

You have so many ways to watch this movie. Digitally, the film is available on Paramount Plus and on demand. If you want a physical copy, you can get the 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, as well as Blu-ray and DVD. Or, if you’d like to have both films in the same place, you can get the 2-Movie Collection, available to buy exclusively on Digital or Blu-ray with bonus content on both films. They’re all available from Paramount Home Entertainment.

You can learn more at the official site and official Facebook page.

1st Year Checking (2020)

I lost my teeth playing hockey and I’m still dealing with it thirty years later, with painful implants being removed and redone, and I never made it to any high level. So that made me think about the kids in this movie — which shows how little kids who love hockey go from playing a clean game to suddenly learning about checking when they are twelve — who must learn violence quickly. The issue is that learning violence changed my life. I would not be the man I am today without hockey — and MMA and pro wrestling and fighting — and so while I worry for the young kids in this movie, I also realize that a fundamental part of growing up as a man in our society is learning how to fight. I have been this coach — in wrestling — that worries about my kids while also forearming them in the face until they bleed, pushing them harder than they thought they would be pushed and being proud when I heard both how respectful and how absolutely violent my kids are.

So it’s strange to listen to director and writer Michael Messner deal with what it’s like to not only coach his son Grayson in youth hockey, but to realize that he is coaching young boys as they grow into men and suddenly add size and, yes, the ability to do long-lasting physical harm to one another.

This is a movie that some will be upset by. Some will be interested in this story. And others will say, “That’s how boys become men.”

Hockey may not be as important in the U.S., but in Canada, it’s the same as football. We’re sending little kids out to be gladiators. And then again, like I said, without discovering my body’s ability to withstand punishment, I wouldn’t have the confidence that I have today. Then again, I may like to be able to turn my neck and not wake up in pain.

Vicious Fun (2020)

I want to know what it was like to live in the 1983 of 80s throwback movies, where it’s always neon-lit and set to synth. I kind of remember everything being woodgrain and dismal, but to quote The Hold Steady, “I’ve survived the eighties one time already. And I don’t recall them all that fondly.” You know, outside of all the movies that came out back then.

Joel (Evan Marsh) is a horror movie journalist, aspiring movie writer and pretty much incel who yearns for a roommate that wants nothing to do with him. After trying to play detective and get her latest boyfriend Bob (Ari Millen) to break up with her, he stumbles upon a self-help group for serial killers. Bob is one of them, throwing off his ruse as a taxi cab killer, and leading to the killers stalking him.

This movie makes the most of a David Koechner cameo, as well as appearances by Robert Maillet (formerly WWEs Kurrgan), Julian Richings (the janitor in Urban Legend) and Amber Goldfarb as Carrie, one of the killers who may be more than she seems.

Much like everything that came after Scream, this film desperately wants to take the piss out of the slasher genre while falling to the failings of said films. It says nothing new, it brings Patrick Bateman-lite in as its bad guy and at least has funny cops. Director Cody Callahan also made the two Antisocial movies, as well as The Oak Room, which is also about bad things happening at a bar, and Let Her Out.

You may enjoy this. As for me, if I want to be awash in endless nostalgia, I know that I have plenty of better slashers to indulge in. I’d recommend Just Before DawnThe Prowler or, well, anything made before 1983 to be perfectly honest.

You can watch this on Shudder.

Medusa (2020)

In the world of myth, Medusa was a gorgeous woman who was assaulted inside the temple of Athena by Poseidon, who gained power over the goddess of wisdom through this attack. Angered, Athena punished Medusa by transforming her into a horrific creature, her radiant hair replaced by snakes. Today, feminists see the story of Medusa as one of the first cases of victim blaming. There’s also the theory that she was transformed into a beast because men have always feared female desire. 

That brings us to the movie Medusa, in which a young woman suddenly finds that a snake’s bite has begun to change her into something new, beautiful and deadly. 

The first full-length movie from director Matthew B.C. — working from a script by Scott Jeffrey — tells the story of a caravan of prostitutes facing a variety of addictions, violent customers and an existence bereft of any hope.

When a new girl named Carly — who had escaped this caravan once before, only to succumb back to the siren’s call of heroin addiciton — is taken to work there by her pimp, her first job introduces her to Alexis, who is both a snake and a woman. Once Carly is bitten, she becomes something that will change the world of all of the women. 

If you told me the premise of this movie without showing it to me — and told me the budget — I’d think it was a trifle. Yet I was pleasantly surprised by the way the narrative is in the now without clubbing you over the head with its messages. It’s a talented filmmaker who can thread the narrow divides of commerce, exploitation and message. Somehow, against the odds, this movie does that.

And hey — I’m all for movies that feature snakes growing out of a woman’s head.

Medusa is available on demand and on DVD from New Era Entertainment.

MacGyver Season 4 (2020)

It’s pretty amazing that the reboot of this venerable 80s show — which lasted seven seasons and only ended when star Richard Dean Anderson told TV Guide, “The only reason it went off the air was that everybody was ready to move on. I was physically exhausted and had no life.”

In the new series, Lucas Till plys Angus “Mac” MacGyver, an undercover government agent for the Phoenix Foundation, a covert agency that the rest of the world believes is a think tank. An Army EOD technician, Mac prefers to use non-lethal means to stop his enemies and excels, as always, at solving problems with unique scientific feats.

The new version of the show was created by Peter M. Lenkov — who created the comic RIPD that the movie is based on — and takes place inside the same universe as his other two shows, Magnum P.I. and Hawaii Five-O. Lenkov also wrote Demolition ManSon In Law and the second and third Universal Soldier films. A sad thing to report is that he was removed from all of the CBS shows he created in 2020 because it was said that he fostered a “toxic work environment,” with Lucas Till telling Vanity Fair, “I’ve never worked this hard in my life, and I am fine with hard work. But the way Peter treats people is just unacceptable. I was suicidal that first year on the show, because of the way he made me feel. But the way he’s treated the people around me — that’s just my breaking point.”

But a positive thing is that the series is actually pretty fun to watch. I wish that it had been a better experience for the people making it. Horror fans will also enjoy seeing appearances in season 4 from some of their favorite actors like Keith David, Peter Weller, Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project) and Tobin Bell. The Tenderloins (James Murray, Sal Vulcano, Joe Gatto, and Brian Quinn), who you may know from Impractical Jokers, also appear as waiters in one episode.

This season also finds the Phoenix Foundation being rebuilt as a privately funded entity to go up against CODEX, a secretive organization that is coordinating multiple catastrophes to get the attention of world leaders. They also possess something called File 47, which is about the end of the world. Any time the team gets close to the truth, the agent from that group always commits suicide rather than reveal their plan.

There’s even an episode with Mac loses his short-term memory and must undergo a dangerous treatment that sends his brain back in time, where he meets numerous people from his past and the past of CODEX, such as Thomas Alva Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, his mother, his evil self and even Nikolai Tesla, who helps him regain his memory and teaches him the secrets of Shiva, a superweapon he’s created.

Season 4 moves at a quick clip and it’s pretty cool that there’s an underlying story arc throughout the episodes. You can catch the DVD box set, which has just been released from Lionsgate and CBS Studios.

Pipeline (2020)

You know, every time I believe that I’ve seen it all, something shows up to surprise me. Like this movie, which features a pipe monster that takes over a family’s house. So how does the family stay alive? Pretty simple. They rent their home out to people who will serve as food for the beast.

The best part of this movie is that it uses shadows and light to hide the beast, with the kills mostly happening offscreen. Writer/director/producer Emily Aguilar has a background in much lighter fare, making movies like Clara’s Ultimate Christmas. Yet as we’ve learned, often there’s a fine line between directors who do horror movies and those that do holiday movies for kids.

You can learn more at the film’s official Facebook page. Want to watch it? Get it on demand and on DVD from Wild Eye Releasing.

Power Book II: Ghost Season One (2020)

Just a few days after the end of the series Power, this is one of several new stories that continue the universe of the original show. Those shows will be Power Book III: Raising Kanan, which concerns the life of Kanan (50 Cent); Power Book IV: Force, which is rumored to be about Tommy (Joseph Sikora) and Power Book V: Influence, a political tale of Tate’s (Larenz Tate) rise to power.

Ghost is about Tariq St. Patrick (Michael Rainey Jr.), the son of James “Ghost” St. Patrick and Tasha Green-St. Patrick (Naturi Naughton). He wants to escape the heavy shadow of his father, but finds himself going down the same path into selling drugs. He also has to deal with the Tejada family, led by Monet Stewart Tejada (Mary J. Blige).

With appearances by Method Man and Redman, as well as Cooper Saxe (Shane Johnson) continuing to pursue the St. Patrick family, this Starz series won the Outstanding Drama Series in the 2021 NAACP Image Awards, which also saw Blige win Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.

While I’ve never watched the original series, I really enjoyed this show. It presents a world that I’d have no chance to ever be part of and immerses you in the lives of its characters.

The DVD set of season one has just been released and is a great way to catch up on the world of Power and get set for the new shows, with Power Book III: Raising Kanan starting on July 18 and Power Book IV: Force airing next January.

Conjuring the Devil (2020)

Originally known as Demon Nun, this film was obviously retitled to take advantage of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. But hey — if you’re looking for another movie where a woman who is struggling with her faith defends herself against the spirit of a demonic nun, then here you go!

I wonder how we got away from nuns getting possessed and all making out with each other or getting Oliver Reed killed and instead, they’re trying to kill civilians.

I’d have liked this movie much better if it were 70 minutes instead of 114. Brevity is the soul of wit or Sam has a bad attention span, isn’t that way they say?

Director Max Dementor under the name Brian Schiavo also made Lifeform and Shapeshifter. The script is by Brian Schiavo for this movie, so are they one and the same person? Or has an evil nun made this movie? I demand to know!

Regardless, you can watch this on Tubi or order it from Wild Eye Releasing.

Woe (2020)

Woe takes an interesting take on grief. A year after the death of their father, Charlie (Adam Halferty) has lost himself in the endless repairs to his family’s house. When his sister Betty (Jessie Rabideau) sells the car that their father killed himself in, the two must come to grips with their relationship with one another. However, there’s a hunchbacked monster who has been tracking them, as well as their possibly dead Uncle Pete (James Russo, who has been in everything from Once Upon a Time In America to The Ninth Gate).

Betty and her fiancee Ben (Ryan Kattner) want to invite him to their upcoming wedding, but he may have become so lost inside that unfinished house or in the loss of his father that he may never come back. Or perhaps the same demons that haunted his father, which could be emotional or straight-up supernatural, what with all of the red eyes in the paintings he left behind that match the visions in the forest surrounding the house.

Writer/director Matthew Goodhue doesn’t give any simple answers here. If you’re looking for a ghost story filled with jump scares, this would not be the film. It feels deeply personal and a film that may need several watches to fully comprehend. This is Goodhue’s first full-length movie after creating some short films. He’s smart, keeping this compact and focused.

Woe is available on demand and on DVD from Gravitas Ventures and Kamikaze Dogfight.

Road Head (2020)

Three friends — Stephanie (Elizabeth Grullon), Alex (Damian Joseph Quinn) and Bryan(Clayton Farris) — are on a road trip when they run across a cult that likes to take the heads of its victims and always seems to show up when someone is engaging in the vehicular application of phallically obtaining a throat culture.

As Stephanie tries to get over a breakup, she joins Alex and Bryan, who are a couple, on a vacation to Isola Lake, which is now dry. That’s just the first bad thing that happens and things get worse when The Executioner shows up looking like he emerged from an Italian sword and sorcery film.

I don’t want to give too much away, because there were moments in this movie that genuinely surprised me, including the secret society that The Executioner belongs to. It’s not a perfect film — there aren’t too many people to root for — but the moments that work, like Stephanie hallucinating her ex. Not all of it comes together, but the parts that do work pretty well.

Director David Del Rio has acted in several movies, but this is the first that I’ve seen him create. It was written by Justin Xavier, who also wrote another Del Rio-directed movie, Sick for Toys. I’ll be keeping my eyes open to see what they do next.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.