The movie release schedule is picking up speed and these films are a great start.
It’s ironic that the first major film to have its release pulled when covid hit was a horror movie about a world devastated by a nightmare that left the survivors isolated in their homes.
Okay, the monsters in A Quiet Place part II are somewhat more physically aggressive than a virus – especially when anyone makes a sound nearby – but watching it in a crowded cinema, it’s not hard to see why they avoiding the streaming option and waited until cinemas were reopened before releasing it.
More than most horror films, this one works because of the shared experience. The audience is in the same boat as the people on the screen – in a film where silence is vital and the slightest sound could have dire consequences, we’re forced to keep quiet to hear what’s (not) going on.
The first film ended with the surviving humans – Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and children Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe) and baby / noise machine Abbott – figuring out a way to use Regan’s hearing aid to stun the long-limbed aliens long enough to kill them. As we soon discover here, sometimes that’s not enough.
After a prequel showing how things originally went to hell, we pick up where we left off: Evelyn’s husband (writer / director John Krasinski) is still dead and the farm is still on fire, so after grabbing a few essentials – and a quick cameo from the nail in the step that was so memorable in the first film – they hit the road. With only a shotgun and portable speaker to broadcast the feedback the monsters hate, even the shortest journey is extremely risky, and they’ve got a long walk (with no shoes) ahead of them.
Eventually they meet up with former neighbour Emmett (Cillian Murphy), who has moved into a disused factory for safety even though the whole place is full of teetering chunks of scrap iron just waiting to go crash. Emmett’s basically given up after the death of his wife and says (very quietly) they should too, but Regan has bigger plans – and a mysterious radio station broadcasting the same song over and over is a big part of them.
While this is definitely a small-scale thriller (the story’s few attempts to broaden things out don’t really make a lot of sense), that works to its advantage in creating a world where doing literally anything could get you killed. A quick walk down the (ruined) shops becomes a series of knife-edge scenes, and Krasinski takes full advantage of this. He’s constantly dragging out moments for maximum tension and throwing in just as many jump scares as creepy moments where we notice something moving in the background before the characters do. If you haven’t been back to the cinemas yet, this is the perfect (scary) film to see.
If you like your horror a little more traditional – and by that I mean gory – then Spiral (“from the book of Saw”) is definitely the film for you. The deathtraps here aren’t exactly classics (they’re really just ways to mangle people), but what they lack in inventiveness they more than make up for in gore. Just how many body parts are people willing to sacrifice to stay alive? Let’s find out.
Pretty much the only other reason to see this film is Chris Rock, who isn’t playing Chris Rock but if you’re a fan of Chris Rock you’ll definitely enjoy the way he’s playing a very Chris Rock kind of character. “What if Chris Rock was a cop trying to track down a serial killer while riffing on Forrest Gump and referencing New Jack City?” Question answered.
While those are two very good reasons to watch this film (or at least, they are if you’re a fan of gory dismemberments and / or Chris Rock), beyond that this slice of grim big city murk can feel a little reheated. A Jigsaw copycat killer is targeting corrupt cops in an unnamed US city, and Detective Zeke Banks (Rock) and new partner William Schenk (Max Minghella) are on the case. Which might be a problem, because years ago Banks took down a crooked cop and the whole force turned against him – even, to some extent, his police chief (now retired) dad (Samuel L Jackson).
Jigsaw Junior is killing corrupt cops; Rock is playing literally the only non-corrupt cop in town. So there’s not a whole lot of tension there. Meanwhile, the identity of the Jigsaw copycat is extremely non-mysterious if you’re paying even the slightest attention, so that’s not exactly keeping you in your seat either. And yet Spiral is still perfectly watchable (unless you’re squeamish) and at times almost compelling. This particular mix of gratuitous murders and Rock going all out as a shouty cop turns out to be surprisingly entertaining; seems there’s life in the old Saw yet.