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'Thanksgiving' & 'Cobweb': Two big reasons to head to the cinema this week

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

DECEMBER 2 ― As we approach the end of the year and the race to the Oscars starts to heat up, we’ll start to see more and more interesting new films opening in local cinemas, even if most of their release strategies will be of the more low-key kind when compared to normal Hollywood studio releases.

Of course, the normal big studio releases will still be making their appearance in cinemas, but usually the months of December, January and February are filled with interesting choices in local cinemas.

Just last month we saw the release of Martin Scorsese’s excellent almost four-hour epic Killers of the Flower Moon in Malaysian cinemas, and Ridley Scott’s almost three-hour period epic Napoleon (which I haven’t managed to see, but most definitely will) has also recently opened in cinemas here.

And there’s also John Woo’s Hollywood comeback Silent Night just opening this week, so there’s definitely plenty of interesting and exciting choices to make when it comes to catching a movie in the cinema right now.

Here are two more of them.

A scene from ‘Thanksgiving’. ― Screenshot via YouTube
A scene from ‘Thanksgiving’. ― Screenshot via YouTube

A scene from ‘Thanksgiving’. ― Screenshot via YouTube

Thanksgiving

Eli Roth was once one of the hottest new genre directors in Hollywood, with films like Cabin Fever and the first two Hostel movies getting major love from both audiences and critics.

Things started going downhill after The Green Inferno, with later films like Knock Knock and the Death Wish remake getting butchered by critics and even audiences.

It’s been 16 years since Hostel: Part II, and finally Roth is back with a damn good new horror flick called Thanksgiving.

Starting out as one of the fake trailers in Grindhouse, Thanksgiving has now, alongside Machete and Hobo With A Shotgun, graduated into its own feature film.

In the tradition of 70s and 80s holiday horror slashers like Halloween and Black Christmas, this one, as the film’s title implies, is set on Thanksgiving Day.

The movie’s gloriously gnarly opening set-piece, set during the Black Friday sale at a Walmart-like superstore, in which everything that can go wrong does go wrong, beginning with a stampede at the store’s entrance, sets the story up brilliantly as a select group of people who survived the tragedy begins to be targeted during the days leading up to Thanksgiving Day the next year.

And so begins the usual slasher film game of catch and mouse, as the audience tries to guess who the masked killer is, and predict how the kills are going to go, based on the foreshadowing that the script casually drops to the audience.

There’s nothing new here, but this was done so expertly, and so lovingly as a tip of the hat to grubby 80s slashers like New Year’s Evil and Graduation Day, that it all feels so fresh and invigorating, especially after all the usual scare tactics of mainstream horror films of the last few years.

Despite being rated 18 for the Malaysian market, unfortunately there’s still some cuts made to the film due to some of the more extreme gore on display, which expertly walks the fine line between being nasty and despicable, but they won’t interfere with your enjoyment of the movie.

If you’re looking for a fun and quality slasher flick, this is one you shouldn’t miss.

Cobweb

Kim Jee-woon is a pretty major name in Korean cinema, responsible for gifting the world modern classics like A Tale of Two Sisters, A Bittersweet Life, I Saw The Devil and even his super fun Hollywood debut The Last Stand.

So, it’s pretty strange that his latest film, Cobweb, received very little to no fanfare when it opened in Malaysian cinemas about two weeks back. It’s still playing here, but in a very limited capacity that befits the low-key nature of its release.

Unlike the films that made his name, which were genre films that usually involve violence and revenge, Cobweb is a period behind-the-scenes/film-within-a-film comedy that will remind people of beloved classics like Day For Night, Living In Oblivion and maybe even Bowfinger.

Set during the 1970s when film censorship was still very tight in South Korea, the film focuses on a movie director named Kim Yeol (the always game Song Kang-ho, of Parasite and Memories of Murder fame), who has just finished shooting his latest film but has decided to reshoot some of the film, especially its ending, because he’s been inspired by the very persistent dreams he’s been having about the film’s ending.

The film opens with that dream, in glorious black and white, and fans of classic 1960s and 1970s Korean melodramas like the legendary The Housemaid will be more than familiar with the loving homage being paid to the aesthetics and style of this era of Korean filmmaking here.

Needing just two days for the reshoot, things are not as simple as the director imagined because there are censors to please, busy actors to recall for the reshoot and plenty of personal issues between them, resulting in a hugely funny and affectionate ode to why we love and want to make films in the first place.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.