CVIndependent

Fri11272020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Some movies are made to make viewers miserable. It’s what they set out to do, and if done well, cinema geeks such as myself will tip our hats to them.

The Devil All the Time is one of those movies. It’s an ugly film—and it’s supposed to be. I understand that a lot of people do not need this sort of movie in their lives right now. I, for one, found it a mildly rewarding viewing experience, even though I had to take two showers afterward.

The film starts in World War II, where soldier Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgard) makes a discovery that will pretty much fuck him up for the rest of his life. Upon returning stateside, he tries to live the American life: He gets married to Charlotte (Haley Bennett) and has a boy named Arvin (Tom Holland, when the character grows up). Try as Willard might to live a good, pious life, tragedy strikes multiple times.

Arvin grows up with a decent-enough head on his shoulders despite the trauma, and has a strong bond with his stepsister, Lenora (Eliza Scanlen). When a creepy preacher (Robert Pattinson) moves to town, things—rather predictably—go bad again.

Meanwhile, in another subplot, a sadistic couple (Jason Clarke and Riley Keough) drives around picking up hitchhikers and asking them to do some strange things. There’s also a corrupt sheriff (Sebastian Stan), the brother to the woman doing the strange hitchhiking things. There are a lot of other characters in the mix as well.

Bottom line: The film has way too much going on. It needed to be a miniseries rather than a single 138-minute film. That said, Holland and Pattinson are especially good, and the film is worth seeing for them. Skarsgard, Keough, Clarke and Scanlen all do just fine, but the movie is way too crowded.

To reiterate: If you are looking for a good time, this movie won’t provide it. It’s bound to go down as one of the film year’s biggest bummers—intentionally, of course.

The Devil All the Time is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Matt Dillon is all sorts of horrifying as the titular character, a serial killer in 1970s America, in The House That Jack Built.

He’s an architect; he has OCD; and he’s a killer who likens his work to art. He describes his murders to an off-camera inquisitor (Bruno Ganz) as if they were symphonic masterworks. The allegory is a bit heavy-handed, and the satire is a little more than obvious. At times, it plays a lot like the book version of American Psycho. (The book was nastier than the film.)

Director Lars von Trier, who is seemingly getting nastier and stranger with every film, has always been quite the provocateur. This marks a slight comeback from his awful Nymphomaniac movies, although it doesn’t compare to his best work (Melancholia, Dancer in the Dark, Antichrist).

The main reason to see The House That Jack Built is Dillon, who delivers one of his best performances as a very complicated, very sick dude. The final act of the movie is its best, as Jack completes a journey that takes him to a hot place, including an impressive ride on the river Styx. Dillon and a supporting cast that includes Uma Thurman and Riley Keough make this worth seeing.

Von Trier makes good-looking movies, but he gets a little carried away sometimes, and this one is quite insane. He seriously needs to make a movie about puppies and rainbows, and calm things down.

The House That Jack Built is available via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Al Pacino does haunting work in HBO’s Paterno as Joe Paterno, the former Penn State football coach who was a cowardly liar when it came to the case of Jerry Sandusky, one of Paterno’s assistants—and now a convicted pedophile.

The film, directed by Barry Levinson, starts with Paterno on top of the world, about to win a record-setting football game. But behind the scenes, a story is brewing—one that will derail Paterno and others who led at a university that chose to cover up Sandusky’s acts in order to protect a legendary football program.

That, of course, was disgusting, and Levinson’s film drives that point home in what amounts to a horror show. Jim Johnson, who plays Sandusky in a few chilling scenes, looks a lot like the real guy—so much so that your stomach turns when he’s onscreen. Sorry, Mr. Johnson.

Pacino portrays Paterno as he appeared during his final days: completely lost and at death’s door. Pacino’s Paterno comes off as being in a bit of a haze, but the actor shows us something behind Paterno’s confused eyes. It’s that slight glint of knowing everything, and remembering everything—the look of lying.

Riley Keough (Elvis’ granddaughter) is excellent as Sara Ganim, one of the first reporters to break the story. Benjamin Cook is heartbreakingly good as one of Sandusky’s victims.

It’s a hard movie to watch, and it should be.

Paterno is now on HBO and streaming on HBO Go.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Writer-director Trey Edward Shults, who made a splendid debut with last year’s family drama Krisha, goes for a family drama of the post-apocalyptic kind with It Comes at Night, a thriller falsely billed as a horror movie.

Paul (Joel Edgerton), a man living in a remote house with his wife and kid (Carmen Ejogo and Kelvin Harrison Jr.), will go to every extreme to protect his family from a plague that has claimed the majority of Earth’s population. If somebody gets sick in his home, the ill person receives a bullet to the head and a postmortem visit to the fire pit. With that possibility always at hand, he allows a new couple (Christopher Abbott and Riley Keough, grandchild of Elvis) and their child to move in after they earn his trust with some livestock. Things go well for a short amount of time … before paranoia kicks in, and the fire pit looms.

Edgerton is magnificent here, as is the rest of the cast. The marketing makes this look like some sort of zombie movie, but it’s more drama than horror—although the film is quite dark. Shults is a true talent who doesn’t play by the rules, and he’s only going to get better.

If you are looking for zombie fun, watch The Walking Dead. This one is about families behaving badly. It aims to mess with your head—and succeeds.

It Comes at Night is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews