Best Films I Watched in July 2020

Palm Springs, 2020 – ★★★★½

A truly heartfelt meditation on treading water in life, stasis, and the importance of love. Sure it trods the same ground that Groundhog Day walked almost thirty years ago, as well as Russian Doll and the Happy Death Day films, but amazingly Palm Springs manages to avoid the tired beats and instead hit both new and emotionally resonant ones. It’s not without note that we’re currently living in a world where day after day is nearly the same, and for Palm Springs to be released within this horrifying reality is beyond kismet. It reminds us to both take stock and be happy with where we are as well as consider where we’d like to be if/when this is all over. Also worth noting the freedom of sexuality exploration that Nyles displays with a simple frankness. While a bit of a punchline, his bisexual experience revelation isn’t played for laughs as in Deadpool, instead it’s another block building his overall experience.

I loved this film.

Blow the Man Down, 2019 – ★★★★½

It is so wonderful when the credits roll on a movie featuring strong women and the writing and directing is from strong women – Danielle Krudy and Bridget Savage Cole. Blow the Man down is many things at once, it’s a murder coverup film, it’s a mystery, and it’s almost a “you’ll never do this in our town again” western. Anchored by wonderful performances from not just our two mains Sophie Lowe and Morgan Saylor, but the quartet of older women who run the Maine port town of Easter Bay, June Squibb, Marceline Hugot, Annette O’Toole, and the EXCEPTIONAL Margot Martindale, Blow the Man Down is exceptional from beginning (featuring a chorus of lobstah men singing the titular song) to the smile on the face that ends the film. Highly recommend.

The Guest, 2014 – ★★★★

As it seems like all of Horror twitter is talking about The Guest this week I thought it finally time to spin it up and press play. Stylish, atmospheric, and sexy, The Guest plays with your expectations of what it ought to be by giving you what you think you want, I mean, who doesn’t want to see a warrior go to town on your high school bullies. In doing so it makes us complicit, because even as the facade falls away, we still want to like the man we have assumed is our protagonist. The final act set in a school dance’s haunted maze is everything here, and what crosses the genre into a slasher movie finale. Superb performances across the board, with my only complaint being that we see any of the “outsiders” before their arrival. Had we stayed entirely within the Peterson family point of view the entire time this would’ve been a masterpiece.

Relic, 2020 – ★★★★

Could very well be the definition of slow burn horror. Many films have mined the very real cycle of the horrors and ravages of age both in ourselves and our parents for metaphorical horror. Relic shows, vividly, the difficulties we face as adults taking care of our aging parents, and metaphorically through a ghost story that reveals nearly nothing of itself. What we do see is heartbreaking. The post-it reminders of ones own identity, the questioning of where those around us who loved us have gone. There isn’t a single jump scare to be found, instead layer upon layer of dread with elements of the horror both real and metaphysical lurking on the sidelines until it can wait no more. Especially effective is the momentary fun-house like extension of the world, trapping our leads until they don’t know where to turn. Three very strong performances. But man oh man is it bleak.

The Beach House, 2019 – ★★★★

It’s astonishing how quickly your world can change; how the world we knew can be gone seemingly overnight. It’s that existential dread that was layered into everything HP Lovecraft wrote, and it seems to be one of the most difficult things for films to capture. That very existential dread is permeating the world at the moment, as we struggle blindly through a plague. While derivative of many that has come before it (The Mist, Bodysnatchers, The Colour out of Space) The Beach House still manages to carve a strong space out for itself through impressive (and simple) visual and creature effects, great lighting, and not feeding us too much information. The real MVP though is the fabulous performance by Liana Liberato as the brilliantly capable Emily, who keeps moving forward despite every curveball thrown at her.

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