Aterrados (dir. Demián Rugna, 2017) – Strange events occur in a neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, leading to suspicions of the paranormal.
Light on answers but heavy on tension, Aterrados presents some tautly strung scenes of terror that successfully conjure the fear of the dark.
Not many can leave a screening of Aterrados without realising their fear of the dark, and of things that go bump in the night. The paranormal takes on a thickened sheen of terror through the lens of director Demián Rugna, whose survey of the genre has paid off in full.
The tense opening makes clear that the title is its intent. A terrified Clara (Natalia Señoriales) tells her husband Juan (Agustín Rittano) about the threatening voices she hears, coming from the kitchen pipes.
He dismisses her, but soon hears knocking against the walls himself that very night. The sceptic in him would have blamed it on the neighbour. Only that the latter is away, and the noise seems to be coming from inside the house.
Watching The Umbrella Academy (and enjoying the heck out of it) reminded me of a short story that I once wrote on superheroes. Hope it’s halfway decent. x
Stolen from their cots in the winter of 1989, five involuntary orphans grew up knowing neither their parents nor of the world outside. Instead, they were raised by nameless Guardians in the mansion that had everything they needed. Or so they had believed.
It was true that the kids had food, warmth, shelter, and Guardians who were kind to them. They even had the occasional luxury of Sinatra records, which arrived at their doorsteps in unmarked parcels. Still, they grew up lonely in the company of each other.
None of them were close; they weren’t allowed to be. The Guardians kept them apart with rumours and half truths that made them wary. They had distinctive daily schedules too, replete with studies on more languages that they needed, complex mathematics, scientific explorations, and above all, their inborn capabilities.
Velvet Buzzsaw (dir. Dan Gilroy, 2019) – Art is dangerous, more so for those who sell it for greed.
Effective satire elevates the potentially campy slasher Velvet Buzzsaw to an incisive, layered work of art.
For a horror film, Velvet Buzzsaw comes off much more introspective than its company. Its effectively satirical screenplay introduces the obnoxious rulers of its galleries in broad strokes, sharply critiquing the many artists and proprietors who value art solely for money.
There is Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal) in the sneakers of the art critic, who believes that a bad review is better than sinking into the great glut of anonymity. Not only does he compromise in ethics by accepting favours. His reviews spit pure vitriol, as one soon hears in voices that manifest from his own guilt.
Alita: Battle Angel (dir. Robert Rodriguez, 2019) – With no memory of her past but a stunning set of combative skills, Alita sets out to unravel the mystery of who she truly is.
Slick visuals and fantastic world-building drive Alita towards her becoming, making the dreary bits worth trudging through.
Neither genres nor audiences can bound Robert Rodriguez. To date, the Desperado director and Splat Pack member has delivered well-loved entertainment in almost every realm of cinema, from the gore galore of Planet Terror, to the family-friendly franchise of Spy Kids.
Alita: Battle Angel thus seems a neat fit for his directorial versatility. Set in a futuristic albeit dystopian future, the manga adaptation aptly treads a delicate line between crowd-pleasing action and almost alienating grimness.
For one, Alita knows nothing her combative skills, made ready for an action-adventure of mass appeal. But her big, shining eyes can be deceptive. Darkness lurks in her history, as well as the post-apocalypse society of the future that has no place for the innocent.
Polar (dir. Jonas Åkerlund, 2019) – Hitman Duncan Vizla is about to go into retirement, but his employer has no plans of letting him settle down in peace.
Emotionally distant and distractingly explicit, Polar may leave one feeling ice cold following the heat of the action.
Former musician Jonas Åkerlund has long since established himself as a big name in the making of explicit music videos. Known for his unbridled depiction of sex, drugs, and violence, the man was responsible for the party visuals behind Rammstein’s Pussy, The Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up, and other aptly named greatest hits.
Who then would expect anything more from him than a no holds barred show of exploitative hyper-violence and abundant butt close-ups? It is indeed no surprise to see Polar serve up another one of his trademark cocktails, where the hard-R trinity shows up in gratuitous excess.
December may just be the best season to avoid the heat in Chiang Mai. Temperatures typically hover around 30°C in the day and 20 at night, which is as good as it gets here. With Day 1 spent away in Chiang Rai, we were down to four days in the city. Thankfully, there was plenty else to do.
Temples visiting was a given. If you have never been to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, you have never been to Chiang Mai, so say the locals. And so we took a songtaew up the steep mountains and arrived at the stairs towards the pagodas, a sight worth every of the 309 steps.
This is a sacred site to the Thais, and is considered to be one of the holiest pilgrimage spots for Buddhists. It has the scale to show for it. Awash in royal gold, the temples and shrines are pure displays of grandeur and magnificence.