By Jessie McAskill
It might not be an utter coincidence that The Maltese Falcon and Citizen Kane were released within a month of each other in 1941, as both films jockey for the title of American film noir’s founding father and have stood the test of time with critics for over seventy five years. The two films of course share their contemporary cultural moment: the depression was ending, a second world war was rising, and the nation was enduring a rumble of emotional unrest while struggling to forge a path out of desperation. Part of what makes both films so poignant is the braiding of that unrest, repression, and ambiguity into the characters of their leading men, atmosphere, as well as the flow of the camera movement and cinematography.
By Syeedah Eesha Rashid
My first thought when witnessing the titular Girl for the first time is that she is beautiful. However as the plot progresses her beauty transitions into something a bit more frightening, and above all powerful. This is one of the simplest ways to describe Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. It serves as an eye-catching mash up of horror, spaghetti western, thriller and suspense in a way that suggests one genre then leads you down towards another. By the end we are left in the hands of the characters, who wield all the power and control of their own fates.
By Brad Avery
Boston has often been kind to Bobcat Goldthwait. He cut his teeth on the local standup scene here in the 1980’s, his directorial efforts have frequently been the spotlight features of the Independent Film Festival Boston, and it was Betsy Sherman writing for The Boston Globe in 1991 who gave his first film, Shakes the Clown, its defining title as “the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies.”
In fact, Shakes the Clown had its premiere at the 1991 Boston Film Festival, unleashing this sub-cult comedy about a world where standup comic culture is comprised of depressive, vindictive clowns who never take their makeup off and drift around in seedy bars. So it’s wonderful to see him return to town for the film’s 25th anniversary screening this month.
By Selin Sevinç
If we had to pick a single film from Alfred Hitchcock’s individually unique and brilliant filmography to stand as his cinematic signature, it would undoubtedly be Rear Window. It is the most literal expression of his fondness for our ‘peeping tom’ nature and a great example of his expert coalescence of suspense and humor. Disguising what is primarily a love story, the murder mystery in Rear Window is a classic Hitchcockian tale seen completely from the point of view of the protagonist.
By Michael James Roberson
“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?” – Edgar Allan Poe, The Premature Burial
Horror and the surreal go hand in hand. As a genre, horror can be summarized as the intrusion of the irrational into the mundane. In Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm, we have a very pure expression of the mundane, in the form of the suburban everytown that most of the characters agree is oppressively dull (or to put it another way, “dead”), and an even purer expression of the irrational, in the form of murderous dwarves concealed in dark robes, a beautiful violet-dressed woman who transforms into a ghastly tall ogre of a man, and a levitating silver sphere that roves the halls of the town mausoleum on the hunt for brains. And that’s just scratching the surface.
By Christian Gay
Room, which Emma Donoghue adapted for the screen from her novel of the same name, is a story perhaps inspired by horrific news stories about the finding of women, kidnapped by men and presumed dead, who are discovered after living for years in captivity, often in otherwise unremarkable neighborhoods and houses. Stories of women in peril are nothing new to the silver screen, but here, Donoghue creates a detailed portrait of the woman involved, going beyond the shocking and the sensational to explore the humanity and resilience at its core. The resultant film, released in 2015 and directed by Lenny Abramson, tells the story of a mother in peril in a powerful and deeply moving new way. As opposed to other woman-in-captivity narratives from film history, such as Silence of the Lambs whose focus is placed on the journey of the detective who comes to the woman’s rescue. Room, on the other hand, takes the victims’ point-of-view, giving us insight into her psychological response to such traumatic events.
By Leo Racicot
The opening credits are silent, mirroring the acquiescence of those who stood by in shame, fear and sheer cowardice as millions of victims were hauled off to concentration camps by the Nazis. Jews, yes, but also political prisoners and gay men, those accused by The Third Reich of being denizens of society. Watching this scene, I was reminded of the saying, “What scream can ever be louder than silence?”
by Justin LaLiberty
By the time of the 1991 release of Poison, gay themes, though present, weren’t exactly expected in genre cinema. Within the confines of the horror genre, themes of lesbianism showed up (usually eroticized or rendered evil) in Hammer films like Twins of Evil (1971) or The Vampire Lovers (1970) or other sexually explicit grindhouse staples like Daughters of Darkness (1970). Male homosexuality tended to be even harder to see, unless portrayed explicitly – Curt McDowell’s hardcore opus Thundercrack!(1975) – or for laughs – Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985). But Todd Haynes’ Poison is the first gay themed horror film to not patronize or sensationalize its material – which is saying a lot considering that it earned itself an NC-17 rating.
By Deirdre Crimmins
In director Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest film, The Neon Demon, everything is as it seems. A highly stylized dive into the corrupt world of high fashion modeling, the film is a natural fit for symbolism. The lush visual imagery is the most important facet of the film, with the plot coming in a distant second. It is one of the beautiful films that emphasize form over function. That being said, the film’s deliberate and careful themes coexist with the visual storytelling rather than fighting against it. Certain themes in the film are direct reflections of the pretty images dancing on screen. Notably, the interconnection of two of these themes, innocence and superficiality, is one of the more pervasive voices throughout The Neon Demon.
By Chelsea Spear
Quick: name the first feature film about hardcore punk. If you guessed at something that got dumped in theaters in the ‘80s only to become a hit on VHS and cable, you are sadly mistaken. Green Room, the third film by Jeremy Saulnier, has the honor of being the first feature to take place in the hardcore punk scene. So many films about punk have resonated with audiences; why has the unkillable, tribal subgenre taken so long for its moment in the sun?