JUNE 25 — With the summer movie season really going into full swing as we head into July, there’s going to be plenty of hot new movies and series to watch either at the cinemas or on TV.
Netflix has already started their summer assault with Season 3 of The Umbrella Academy just released and Part 2 of Season 4 of Stranger Things getting ready for its big drop next week.
With Elvis, Black Phone and Mat Kilau opening in local cinemas this week and Thor: Love and Thunder following soon, I thought it’d be cool to just offer up some alternatives in the form of more under the radar genre movies that are now available to stream on the many types of streaming platforms out there.
So, if horror flicks are your thing, maybe these three relatively new films might just do the trick for you.
Writer-director Mickey Keating is a name that I’ve been championing for quite a while, having been a fan of his earlier indie horror flicks like Pod, Psychopaths and Carnage Park.
It took quite a while for him to come out with this, his seventh feature film; almost five years after his last film Psychopaths hit the screens back in 2017.
Even a quick glimpse at Offseason’s opening few minutes would’ve alerted long-time Keating fans to what looks like a slicker look and probably a slightly higher budget compared to his previous films.
It’s a simple setup, calling to mind deep cut horror classics like Messiah Of Evil and Carnival Of Souls, in which the film’s protagonist Marie (Jocelin Donahue) is summoned to her celebrity mother’s hometown to inspect her grave, which has been vandalised.
She arrives just as the town is about to be closed off from the outside world, with the lone drawbridge connecting the town about to be raised because it’s the offseason, and what plays out is something I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of times before in films involving cult-ish small town citizens and supernatural beings, but Keating succeeds in creating a consistent foreboding atmosphere, resulting in his own version of an elevated horror film.
I first came across Riley Stearns after hunting down his debut feature film Faults back in 2014, which I tracked down largely because it starred Mary Elizabeth Winstead, whom he was married to back then.
It was a pretty superb debut, with a confident command of tone even when the film’s content, which combines jet black comedy and horrific violence, could’ve easily derailed the whole thing.
Now that I’ve seen three films by him, it’s quite clear that trying to combine genres and tones that don’t necessarily fit with each other is an artistic pursuit that he’s trying to make his own.
Dual, his third film, is no different. This time combining high concept sci-fi with action and horror, not to mention his trademark brand of jet-black comedy, the film is set in a near future world where cloning is possible, and is legally allowed for people with chronic/terminal illnesses who wish to have their loved ones continue their lives with the clone living with them as substitutes.
Sarah (a cracking Karen Gillan, playing a dual role here) is one of these people, signing up to have her clone replace her once she’s gone, except there’s a snag, almost a year a later she surprisingly went into full remission, meaning she’s not going to die of her terminal illness after all.
And so begins a pretty hilarious process of trying to decommission her clone, which legally involves a duel to the death between them in front of a “live” audience, and what transpires between Sarah and her clone, I’ll leave it for you to find out.
A mixed bag, as Stearns doesn’t really nail down the tone as much as I’m sure he’d like to, but it’s a pretty decent watch anyway.
A scene from ‘Torn House’. — Screen capture via YouTube/Blumhouse
Honky tonk horror is a subgenre we rarely get to see, so even if this is only a sort of TV movie from the famed Blumhouse Productions, a result of their deal with EPIX (which also includes the recently released, but awful Unhuman), to get to see a horror movie play out among the country scene in Nashville is enough of a hook to make me want to seek this one out.
This is the third feature film from actress/director Brea Grant, who made a pretty decent splash in the horror scene with her second film 12 Hour Shift back in 2020, and Torn Hearts continues her mission of telling more female-centric horror stories.
The film tells the story of Torn Hearts, a country musical duo consisting of Jordan (Abby Quinn) and Leigh (Alexxis Lemire), who are desperate to graduate from being popular in Nashville to hitting up the big time and going national.
A chance encounter with a male country star leads them to an opportunity of a lifetime — the home address of Harper Dutch (a magnetic Katey Sagal, quite clearly enjoying herself), an idol of theirs now living a reclusive life after her sister and bandmate killed herself.
Seeking to record a duet with Harper, they are surprised when an initially reluctant Harper finally lets them in to her big and creaky old mansion, and what follows is part home invasion thriller and part hagsploitation (remember films like What Ever Happened To Baby Jane and Mommie Dearest?) and all sorts of crying good times.
Clearly not top tier Blumhouse as the low budget can sometimes really show, but as one of the many horror films about the price of fame out there, it more than holds its own.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.