Shudder is kicking off the new year strong with a steady supply of horror while Netflix has some action and animated series to offer. HBO Max receives some classic movies while WandaVision finally launches on Disney+.
‘Outside the Wire’ (Netflix)
This sci-fi action flick is the latest Netflix original and stars Avengers-star Anthony Mackie and Damson Idris (Snowfall, Black Mirror, The Twilight Zone) as two soldiers in the near future. Human troops are slowly being replaced by robots, further removing humanity from the wickedness of war. Idris plays Harp, a drone pilot who is suddenly thrown into a real combat zone for the first time. He’s under the command of Leo, played by Mackie, and the two take on a mission to stop a Russian terrorist from launching nukes. But Leo has a secret: he’s actually an incredibly advanced android, and he may have some ideas of his own that go against the military’s wishes.
For those looking for an action movie that also offers up some genuinely contemplative thoughts on war and humanity – it’s telling that Harp is the more robotic of the two and Leo the more emotive – Outside the Wire is for you. It’s directed by Mikael Håfström, who also directed the Stephen King adaptation of 1408, as well as the Arnold Schwarzenegger / Sylvester Stalone action movie Escape Plan.
A true classic directed by Steven Spielberg with music from the legendary John Williams, this fantasy adventure film serves as a sequel to Peter Pan, with a grown up Peter returning to Neverland to reclaim his memories and thwart Captain Hook once again.
Featuring an all-star that includes Dustin Hoffman, Julia Roberts, Bob Hoskins, Maggie Smith, and the incomparable Robin Williams as Peter, Hook is a childhood favorite that’s retained a strong cult following since its release back in 1991.
‘Disenchantment: Part 3’ (Netflix)
Disenchantment is the latest series from Simpsons and Futurama creator Matt Groening, and its third batch of episodes delves deeper into the fantasy world it takes place in and its characters.
Abbi Jacobson of Broad City fame voices Bean, an alcoholic teenage princess in the kingdom of Dreamland. She’s accompanied by an optimistic elf named Elfo (Nat Faxon) and her own personal demon, Luci, voiced by Eric Andre.
‘A Monster Calls’ (Netflix)
This dark fantasy film slipped in under the radar when it was released in 2016, but it’s a unique and somber coming-of-age story that’s worth the watch. Directed by J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), it tells the tale of a young boy named Conor (Lewis MacDougall) struggling to come to terms with his mother’s illness. He’s visited by a large monster several times as he navigates his harsh new reality – a hulking yew tree voiced by Liam Neeson.
It’s a rather moving film whose dark themes and otherworldly elements are similar to those found in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. Don’t sleep on it.
‘Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (Season 1)’ (Netflix)
The extremely popular Demon Slayer anime series is finally coming to Netflix, and fans can, at last, binge all 26 episodes of the hit show. After a demon attack leaves his family slain and his sister cursed, Tanjiro embarks upon a perilous journey to find a cure and avenge those he’s lost. And naturally, he’ll also be slaying plenty of demons.
The series’ raging success is no fluke – the gorgeous animated action is a feast for the eyes and its transcendent music is equally as exciting. Don’t wait to find out why Demon Slayer has risen to the top of the anime roster.
‘Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous (Season 2)’ (Netflix)
Netflix’s animated Jurassic Park / World spin-off is a more family friendly affair for the franchise, but it surprisingly doesn’t shy away from relatively intense subject matter. There are high stakes, strong character arcs, and of course, plenty of thrilling dinosaur action.
The series follows a group of teenagers who are participating in a fun new adventure camp on the island of Isla Nublar. Naturally, the dinosaurs on the island break loose, and the teenagers are left stranded. They’ll have to come together as a team in order to survive all of the dangers the island has to offer.
‘No Escape’ (Hulu)
No Escape is a horror thriller that follows in the footsteps of films like Saw or Hostel. While the “torture porn” sub-genre may not be everyone’s cup of tea, No Escape features an interesting commentary on social media and influencer culture with an escape room setup. Which makes sense, considering writer and director Will Wernick also helmed 2017’s Escape Room (not to be confused with the 2019 film of the same name).
A hot shot influencer named Cole (Keegan Allen) takes himself and his friends to Moscow, where they participate in a challenge that he believes will earn him plenty of great content for his viewers. But things turn deadly fast, and the group quickly realizes that they’re in for way more than they bargained for.
‘One Night in Miami’ (Amazon Prime Video)
The critically-acclaimed directorial debut of the eclectic Regina King, One Night in Miami is fittingly, about a single evening in 1964 where four of the most prominent Black figures of the time – Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke – gather to meet and share ideas.
The story is a fictional one, but it offers up powerful and reflective debates on the very real social and racial issues of the time, and it’s easy to draw parallels to the ongoing crises of today. Featuring career best performances from Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, and Leslie Odom Jr., it’s a must-watch for anyone looking to catch up before awards season.
‘Alone’ (Amazon Prime Video)
Alone has a pretty standard setup: A young woman (Jules Willcox) is desperately attempting to escape from the perverse clutches of a homicidal stalker (Marc Menchaca). Nothing we haven’t seen before, but the film’s simplicity is a strength.
With a minimal cast and production, the thriller is able to create an intimate, gripping, and suspenseful experience. Alone may be familiar territory for many viewers, but it’s still sure to leave you on the edge of your seat.
Hunted is yet another story of Woman Flees from Evil Man, but French filmmaker Vincent Paronnaud imbues this survival thriller with a heightened sense of reality. Everything feels a bit larger than life, leading to some surreal moments of black comedy that set the film apart from similar premises.
Featuring a scene-stealing, unhinged performance from Arieh Worthalter as the man and a ferocious turn from Lucie Debay as the woman, Eve, Hunted is a brutal and twisted fairy tale that isn’t afraid to get down and dirty. You won’t see another movie quite like it.
Did you know that Sylvester Stallone has written movies himself? The 2013 action thriller Homefront was penned by Stallone but stars his action cohort Jason Statham as Phil Broker, a retired DEA Agent and military veteran. Phil is looking to settle down for a quiet life with his daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic), but he unwittingly makes himself a target for a local pair of meth dealers, played by James Franco and Chuck Zito.
Homefront is a classic action flick that offers plenty of kickass moments and a solid cast.
‘The Wolf House’ (Shudder)
Perhaps one of the most disturbing and darkest animated films ever made, The Wolf House is an artsy stop-motion picture from Chile. The Hollywood Reporter describes its uncanny visuals as “deliberately seductive and repellant in equal measure” – an unsettling creative force that will elicit any number of reactions from viewers.
Inspired by the story of Colonia Dignidad, the film is about a woman, María (Amalia Kassai), seeking refuge from a sect of German religious fanatics. She winds up at the house of two pigs, who slowly begin to transform into humans as the world morphs around them all into a nightmarish place.
‘The Walking Dead: The World Beyond (Season 1)’ (Shudder)
As the third series set in the world of The Walking Dead, The World Beyond needed to find a new way to approach the overdone zombie genre. Set in Nebraska ten years after the zombie apocalypse, four teenage survivors are forced to grow up fast in the new, harsh world they now find themselves in.
The show offers a new perspective to the franchise as well as some strong performances. Fans of the original series will likely want to check it out.
‘Starring Peter Cushing’ (Shudder)
Legendary English actor Peter Cushing led a vast and lasting career throughout his life. While most widely known for his role as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars, he became a horror icon for his portrayals of Dr. Frankenstein and Van Helsing in several films. He also made appearances as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Who.
Shudder is celebrating the actor’s legacy with Starring Peter Cushing, a collection of four of his films: The Flesh and the Fiends, based on the true Burke and Hare murders, Asylum, an anthology horror film set in the titular location, And Now the Screaming Starts!, a gothic tale set in a haunted castle, and The Beast Must Die, a mixture of a werewolf film and a whodunnit.
‘It’ (HBO Max)
The original 1990 miniseries adaptation of the iconic Stephen King novel is arriving on HBO Max this week. The tale of a ragtag group of kids dubbed The Losers Club, It stars the iconic Tim Curry in the nightmare-inducing role of Pennywise the Dancing Clown, who tortures The Losers Club and wreaks havoc in their hometown of Derry.
The miniseries has retained a strong cult following since it aired – most notably for Curry’s performance – and its visceral scares have haunted the generation that grew up on it. The cultural impact that this adaptation has had can’t be understated.
‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ (HBO Max)
This 1975 drama is considered to be one of the greatest films of all time, winning five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actor and Actress for stars Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher.
When a criminal (Nicholson) pleads insanity and is admitted to a mental institution, he begins to rebel against the oppressive nurse (Fletcher) and rallies up his fellow patients. Take a peek and see why the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
‘Poltergeist’ (HBO Max)
Horror fans around the world know the horror classic Poltergeist. A once-in-a-lifetime collaboration between Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper, the film is the story of a suburban family who are haunted and terrorized by ghosts. If that sounds incredibly like a plethora of other haunted house movies, that’s because Poltergeist wrote the blueprint on the subgenre.
New horror classics like Insidious and The Conjuring have much to thank this movie for. With a focus on the family rather than the special effects, Poltergeist ascended beyond a horror scene that was becoming stale, and cemented itself in popular culture.
‘Kill Bill: Volumes 1 & 2’ (HBO Max)
Cue the sirens. Quentin Tarantino’s infamous tribute to grindhouse cinema has arrived on HBO Max. Kill Bill – originally conceived as a single film before a runtime of over fours hours forced it to be split into two parts – is a wild ride that mixes a variety of genres such as martial arts movies, samurai movies, blaxploitation films, and spaghetti Westerns.
Uma Thurman, in a career-defining role, plays the Bride, who is out for blood after a vicious squad of assassins (played by Lucy Liu, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, and Vivica A. Fox) and their leader, Bill (David Carradine) attempt to murder her and her unborn child. Explosively violent and provocative in all the ways he knows best, it’s a Tarantino classic.
“Isle of Dogs’ (Disney+)
Isle of Dogs is the latest film from the instantly recognizable Wes Anderson, made in stop-motion animation like his 2009 film, Fantastic Mr. Fox. The film’s distinct style, creative premise, stellar voice cast, and deadpan humor have all been highly praised.
In the near future, all dogs in Japan are exiled to an island after an outbreak of canine flu. Here, a boy named Atari (Koyu Rankin) searches for his own dog with the assistance of pack leader Chief (Bryan Cranston). It’s a vividly imaginative adventure.
CONTINUED WEEKLY EPISODES:
Not only is WandaVision the first Disney+ series from Marvel Studios, but it’s the first new piece of Marvel Studios content in over a year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic derailing their movie release plans. That’s a lot to live up to, and WandaVision takes a big gamble by not being your typical superhero entertainment. Instead, it’s a homage to classic sitcoms of the 50’s onward, filmed in front of a live studio audience and all.
The gamble pays off. WandaVision is funny and charming, and its two leads, Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen, hilariously commit to the bit. But there’s a bit of mystery involved as well, and for those familiar with Wanda’s powers, you’ll know that not everything is as it seems. The first three episodes of the series are streaming now, with a new one arriving each week.
COMING THIS WEEK:
‘Don’t Let Go’ (HBO Max 1.23)
Detective Jack Radcliff (David Oyelowo) gets a shocking phone call from his recently murdered niece Ashley (Storm Reid). Working together across time, they race to solve the crime before it can happen.
That’s the premise for Don’t Let Go, a thriller that blends in elements of science fiction and horror to create a truly unique film. Produced by Jason Blum of horror genre titans Blumhouse Productions, the film features standout performances from its cast and an immediately intriguing premise.
‘The Queen of Black Magic’ (Shudder 1.28)
A loose remake of the 1981 film of the same name, The Queen of Black Magic is the latest Indonesian horror film to land on Shudder. Written by Joko Anwar (Satan’s Slaves, Impetigore), it follows a trio of orphans who return to the orphanage where they grew up. They bring their families along with them, but something is strangely wrong with the place. The orphanage is almost entirely empty, and the couple people there are vague about why that is. Disturbing supernatural occurrences begin happening as well, and some family members begin acting as if they’re possessed.
It’s sadistic and gorey, but the film’s scare sequences are methodically and expertly crafted to create dread and suspense until the scenes ramp up to a bloody frenzy. On top of it all is an intriguing mystery and the idea that some secrets can never stay buried. If you’re looking to give Indonesian horror a try, The Queen of Black Magic isn’t a bad place to start.
‘Mortal’ (Amazon Prime Video 1.29)
Mortal offers a combination of fantasy and action, which makes sense considering that it’s based on Norse mythology.
The film follows a man (Nat Wolff) cursed with the ability of pyrokinesis, but is offered help by a young psychologist (Iben Arkelie). It’s directed by Norwegian filmmaker André Øvredal, who is known for Trollhunter, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, and more recently, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
‘Nightbreed’ (Shudder 1.25)
Nightbreed is a 1990 cult classic created by horror icon Clive Barker. While he’s most known for creating the Hellraiser and Candyman series, Nightbreed steers away from his usual slasher style towards a more dark fantasy feel.
The film follows a mental patient named Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer), who is fleeing the police when he stumbles upon a tribe of monsters and outcasts who hide from humanity in an abandoned cemetery.
‘Rawhead Rex’ (Shudder 1.25)
Another Clive Barker creation, Rawhead Rex (what a title!) is a good old fashioned B-movie monster flick. This one is a real hidden gem, and Shudder is looking to give it a possible new life.
The film follows a destructive pagan god as he goes on a chaotic rampage through the Irish countryside. What more could you possibly need?
‘The Untold Story’ (Shudder 1.26)
For those looking for something a little different, The Untold Story is a shockingly violent Hong Kong crime-thriller from 1993. Directed by Herman Yau and starring Danny Lee and Anthony Wong, the film is based on a true crime: The Eight Immortals Restaurant murders.
Gruesome and gut-churning, The Untold Story relays the true story of the slaying of a family of 10 in their own restaurant. The film does, however, give into the sensationalism that was churned up about the event at the time, with many alleging cannibalism was involved. Try not to watch this one while you’re eating.
‘The Woman’ (Shudder 1.26)
This 2011 horror film is a wild ride from start to finish. Bloody, bizarre, and teeming with rage, The Woman stars Pollyanna McIntosh as the sole survivor of a clan of vicious cannibals.
When an arrogant lawyer (Sean Bridgers) captures her and foolishly tries to tame her, he ends up way over his head. It’s a violently satisfying time.
‘Chick Fight’ (Amazon Prime Video 1.29)
When Anna (Malin Åkerman) joins an all-female, underground fight club to turn her mess of a life around, she soon discovers she’s much more personally connected to the history of the club than she ever could have imagined.
Chick Fight is a fun action comedy that offers big laughs and a story of female empowerment of the literal, physical sort. The cast also includes Bella Thorne and Alec Baldwin.
‘Dinosaurs’ (Disney+ 1.29)
Disney+ is finally adding the throwback of all throwbacks to its streaming selection. Dinosaurs is a family sitcom starring dinosaur puppets that aired from 1991 to 1994, and all four seasons will be available when the series hits the streaming service.
A collaboration between the Jim Henson Television, Michael Jacobs Productions, and Walt Disney Television, the series has been applauded for not only its presentation and witty sense of humor, but for also tackling a surprising number of topical issues. Environmentalism, sexual harassment, racism, censorship, drug abuse, and even corporate crime and government corruption are touched on by this landmark show.