James Wan makes his return to the world of horror on HBO Max, a new original ghost story hits Shudder, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead kicks yakuza ass on Netflix this week
‘Malignant’ (HBO Max)
James Wan has been a constant presence in Hollywood since launching the Saw franchise at the start of the 2000s, going on to greater and greater success with other series like The Conjuring and Insidious and even contributing entries in the Fast and Furious franchise and the DCEU. Wan usually produces several films in any given year, but the last one he directed was 2018’s Aquaman, his biggest blockbuster to date. Malignant is a proper return to the filmmaker’s horror roots, following a woman named Madison (Annabelle Wallis) who is paralyzed by shocking visions of grisly murders, and her torment worsens as she discovers that these waking dreams are in fact terrifying realities.
‘Martyrs Lane’ (Shudder)
The latest film from actress-turned-director Ruth Platt (The Black Forest), Martyrs Lane follows a young girl as she tries to unravel the secrets of family and the secrets in the dark vicar they live in with the help of a ghostly child that visits her nightly and promises clues in exchange for odd little tasks. It stars Denise Gough (The Good Traitor, upcoming Game of Thrones prequel series), Steven Cree (Outlaw/King, Brave), Hannah Rae (Broadchurch, Fighting With My Family), and Anastasia Hille (The Abandoned) with young actresses Kiera Thompson and Sienna Sayer leading the cast with exceptionally phenomenal and emotionally impactful performances. A dark, ghostly fairytale that thematically borrows from both the British Gothic tradition as well as from Spanish fantastic films, Martyrs Lane confronts loss and grief through a genre lens with a deeply personal story.
On his bachelor party weekend, Roman (David Kross), his brother Albert (Hanno Koffler) and their friends go on a hiking trip into the wild. When the group hear gunshots nearby, they attribute them to hunters in the woods. However, they soon find themselves in a desperate bid for survival when they realize that they have fallen prey to a mysterious shooter. Directed by Thomas Sieben, it promises to be a tight new thriller for Netflix.
‘Mortal Kombat’ (HBO Max)
Directed by Simon McQuoid and produced by genre legend James Wan, this new adaptation of the world’s most famous fighting game can take pride in the fact that its action sequences are superb and the characters have never looked better. The screenplay jams as many recognizable heroes and villains in as possible, but it mostly works instead of feeling like an overload, even if some characters are more fleshed out than others. The story is pretty simple and thin – despite a lot of exposition and setup – but that likely won’t matter to the established fans seeking the film out. If you missed the film in its initial release, it’s now back on HBO Max.
‘If I Leave Here Tomorrow: A Film About Lynyrd Skynyrd’ (Netflix)
Directed by Steven Kijak (Stones In Exile, Jaco, We Are X), this authorized documentary will explore the music and backstory of legendary American band Lynyrd Skynyrd. With the songs from the first six Skynyrd albums driving the narration, the film focuses on the story of frontman Ronnie Van Zant – his upbringing, his roots, his work ethic and his contradictory persona as both as a mythic Southern rock poet and notorious boozed-up brawler, as well as the relationships between his friends and fellow founding members Gary Rossington and Allen Collins, along with later bandmates Ed King and Artimus Pyle.
‘The Voyeurs’ (Amazon Prime Video)
When Pippa (Sydney Sweeney) and Thomas (Justice Smith) move into their dream apartment, they notice that their windows look directly into the apartment opposite – inviting them to witness the volatile relationship of the attractive couple across the street. But when they attempt to anonymously intercede in their lives, they unwittingly set in motion a chain of events that will lead to disaster. Innocent curiosity turns into full-blown obsession in this Hitchcock-inspired erotic thriller.
‘La La Land’ (Hulu)
The 2016 musical that was the Best Picture winner for only a moment, La La Land stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as a pianist and an actress navigating their careers in Los Angeles. As the two fall deeply in love, they must attempt to reconcile their aspirations for the future. Written and directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, First Man), the film won numerous awards, including six Oscars, and has been praised as one of the very best films of 2016. The film also a huge box office success, raking in nearly half a billion dollars on a budget of only $30 million.
Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan (The Huntsman: Winter’s War) Kate gives the magnetic and scene-stealing Mary Elizabeth Winstead an action franchise all her own. Meticulous and preternaturally skilled, Kate is the perfect specimen of a finely tuned assassin at the height of her game. But when she uncharacteristically blows an assignment targeting a member of the yakuza in Tokyo, she quickly discovers she’s been poisoned, a brutally slow execution that gives her less than 24 hours to exact revenge on her killers. As her body swiftly deteriorates, Kate forms an unlikely bond with the teenage daughter of one of her past victims (Miku Patricia Martineau).
‘Grave Encounters’ (Shudder)
Sufficiently creepy and still managing to find inspired scares in the found-footage genre long after The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, the Vicious Brothers’ 2011 cult hit Grave Encounters became a success even with a limited theatrical release and quickly found a following on demand. Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson) and the crew of “Grave Encounters”, a ghost-hunting reality television show, are shooting an episode inside the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, where unexplained phenomena have been reported for years. All in the name of good television, they voluntarily lock themselves inside the building for the night and begin a paranormal investigation, capturing everything on camera. They quickly realize that the building is more than just haunted – it is alive – and it has no intention of ever letting them leave.
‘News of the World’ (HBO Max)
From acclaimed filmmaker Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy / Ultimatum, Captain Phillips), News of the World takes place five years after the end of the Civil War. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks), a veteran of three wars, now moves from town to town as a non-fiction storyteller, sharing the news of presidents and queens, glorious feuds, devastating catastrophes, and gripping adventures from the far reaches of the globe. On the plains of Texas, he crosses paths with Johanna (Helena Zengel), a 10-year-old taken in by the Kiowa people six years earlier and raised as one of their own. Johanna, hostile to a world she’s never experienced, is being returned to her biological aunt and uncle against her will. Kidd agrees to deliver the child where the law says she belongs. As they travel hundreds of miles into the unforgiving wilderness, the two will face tremendous challenges of both human and natural forces as they search for a place that either can call home.
CONTINUED WEEKLY EPISODES:
‘What If…?’ (Disney+)
The very first animated series from Marvel Studios, What If…? runs wild and plays loose with the sprawling cinematic universe that everyone knows. The series dives into the multiverse to show a variety of different timelines where major moments from the MCU play out differently, such as Agent Carter receiving the super soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers, Killmonger rescuing Tony Stark before he’s ever kidnapped by terrorists, and even an episode that involves superhero zombies. With a gorgeous cel-shaded animation style and an infinite amount of exciting and weird directions the show can go in, it’s sure to be a hit for Marvel fans. The first five episodes are now streaming, with the latest being a horror fueled zombie episode.
‘Reservation Dogs’ (Hulu)
Created by Taika Waititi and Sterlin Harjo, Reservation Dogs details the lives of four Indigenous teenagers – played by D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Deverey Jacobs, Paulina Alexis, and Lane Factor – in rural Oklahoma. The kids steal, rob, and save in order to get to the exotic, mysterious, and faraway land of California, where they hope to find better lives. It’s consistently hilarious, moving, and eye-opening. The first six episodes are now streaming.
‘Slasher: Flesh & Blood’ (Shudder)
The anthology horror series Slasher – obviously inspired by the genre it takes its name from – has been all over the place. The original first season aired on the now defunct Chiller television network, its second and third season premiered on Netflix, and now its fourth iteration, Slasher: Flesh & Blood, is exclusively streaming on Shudder. This new season follows a wealthy, dysfunctional family that gathers for a reunion on a secluded island only to learn they’ll be pitted against one another in a cruel game of life and death, all while being stalked by a mysterious masked killer. Nothing is what it seems and no one is safe as the tension – and body count – ratchets up. The first six episodes are now streaming.
‘Only Murders in the Building’ (Hulu)
A wonderfully timely take on our nation’s ongoing obsession with true crime, Only Murders in the Building has been receiving glowing reviews since its first episodes aired. The series stars Steve Martin (who created it alongside John Hoffman), Martin Short and Selena Gomez as three strangers who share an obsession with true crime and suddenly find themselves wrapped up in one. When a grisly death occurs inside their exclusive Upper West Side apartment building, the trio suspects murder and employs their precise knowledge of true crime to investigate the truth. Perhaps even more explosive are the lies they tell one another. Soon, the endangered trio comes to realize a killer might be living among them as they race to decipher the mounting clues before it’s too late. The first four episodes are now streaming.
Also streaming now:
Netflix – ‘Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space’, ‘Kid Cosmic (Season 2)’, ‘Into the Night (Season 2)’, ‘Blood Brothers: Malcolm X & Muhammad Ali’
Hulu – ‘Flower’, ‘The Killing of Two Lovers’, ‘Transporter 3’
Shudder – ‘Grave Encounters 2’, ‘Resolution’, ‘They Look Like People’, ‘Jugface’, ‘Dark Waters’
HBO Max – ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’
COMING NEXT WEEK:
Netflix – ‘Crime Stories: India Detectives’, ‘You vs. Wild: Out Cold’, ‘Nightbooks’, ‘Schumacher’, ‘Birth of the Dragon’, ‘He-Man and the Masters of the Universe’, ‘Jaws Franchise’, ‘Safe House’, ‘Sex Education (Season 3), ‘Squid Game’, ‘The Stronghold’
Hulu – ‘High Ground’, ‘Colette’, ‘Y: The Last Man’, ‘Joseph: King of Dreams’, ‘Love, Simon’, ‘Maze Runner: The Death Cure’, ‘On Chesil Beach’, ‘Riders of Justice’, ‘Stalker’, ‘The Premise’
Shudder – ‘Ms. 45’, ‘#LIKE’, ‘Woe’, ‘The Columnist’, ‘Kriya’, ‘The House of the Devil’
HBO Max – ‘Walker (Season 1)’, ‘Scenes From a Marriage’, ‘The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly’, ‘Cry Macho’, ‘El Cuartito’, ‘Superman & Lois (Season 1)’
Amazon Prime Video – ‘Desperado’, ‘Searching’, ‘Weeds’, ‘As Above, So Below’, ‘The Mad Women’s Ball’, ‘American Traitor: The Trial of Axis Sally’, ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’
Latest Articles on Knotfest.com