Dear friend,

this week marked the end of a short holiday period, which on one side gave a bit more ‘watching’ time, and on the other side brought some sadness, that I fought off by adding to my usual horror films a decent dose of classic ’80s comedies (thanks to Paramount+’s - not a sponsor - catalogue including most Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker films; yes, last week I did something I thought I never would: subscribe (temporarily) to Paramamount+, mostly to watch The Ring). Here’s the weekly round-up:

  • Ju-on: The Grudge external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. (by Takashi Shimizu, 2022, Japan): after watching Ring last week, I felt it was time to check the second most famous J-Horror feature, and… I found it quite disappointing. I didn’t expect it to have an episodic structure, and it left me a bit confused and also not too interested in any of the characters, most of which appear, quickly go crazy and/or die, and disappear. Maybe it would have been more enjoyable if I had watched first the actual first Ju-on Tv movie? I think a second watch could be more satisfying, at some point. Playing hide-and-seek with the creepy boy was fun. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Friday the 13th Part 2 external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. (by Steve Miner, 1981, US): the aforementioned Paramount streaming service has most of the Friday the 13th films, so, why not? I may go against the common judgement, but I enjoyed this one better than the first film. It’s a pity that previous-final-girl Alice is brought back only for a few minutes, but the ’new’ final girl is actually smart and resourceful, which contributed a lot to my enjoyment of this movie. I hope she manages to stay out of trouble in the next instalments. ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

  • A Tale of Two Sisters external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. (by Kim Jee-woon, 2003, South Korea): well, what can I say about this K-Horror without spoiling it? I am not sure it fully plays by the conventional narrative rules, or maybe it’s just that it has too many irons on the fire. Great tapestry colours. ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

  • Airplane! external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. (by Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, 1980, US): here we go, what better cure to the end-of-holiday blues than the silly comedy par excellence? One of those films you still remember bits of twenty years after watching it last. Granted, not all of its humour, as they say, ‘aged well’, but it made me laugh out loud more than once (with Ted Striker’s ‘drinking problem’ killing me every single time). The film that introduced the great Leslie Nielsen to my generation. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • The Greatest Night in Pop external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. (by Bao Nguyen, 2024, US): unusual for me to watch a documentary, but I am old enough to remember when We Are the World came out, and how amazing it felt that all these artists had joined voices for a good cause (Band Aid’s cast and Do They Know It’s Christmas didn’t have the same effect on pre-teen boys - gosh I’m really dating myself today). Anyway, I’m sure there’s a ton of embellishment of the real story, but it’s a touching and compelling watch. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Quatermass and the Pit external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. (by Roy Ward Baker, 1967, UK): a Hammer Film remake of a 1958 BBC serial, this film expects you have an idea of who Professor Quatermass external link to Wikipedia is, so without wasting much time in introducing him, it goes straight into a story involving a weird object found during the expansion of an Underground station in London. Revered British screenwriter Nigel Kneale weaves intriguingly aliens and potential demonic presences, but the whole thing breaks down with an awful third act. It features a young Julian Glover. ⭐️⭐️½

  • Airplane II: The Sequel external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. (by Ken Finkleman, 1982, US): it would be better titled Airplane II: The Remake, because it follows a very similar story and character beats, not to mention basically the same jokes delivered by the same cast (though Leslie Nielsen, as well as the trio of creators of the original, moved on to create Police Squad, which turned into The Naked Gun a few years later). William Shatner comes in at the last moment to save the day, but after a great first scene he overstays his welcome. Surely these films were not meant to be watched one right after the other, but I guess it would be fair to expect a few good original jokes (instead of an unfunny space pastiche riffing off Star Wars and 2001 ). And please don’t call me Shirley. ⭐️⭐️½

  • Top Secret! external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. (by Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, 1984, US): back to actual Z-A-Z, this is the film of theirs that I had rewatched most recently (well, ten years ago), and that I remembered as universally underrated. Maybe it was me who overrated instead: it doesn’t have the same amount of jokes that Airplane! has, and the several Val Kilmer songs are mostly… puzzling. I guess they were trying to spoof Elvis’ films, but I’m not sure it fully works. There are some absolute gems though (the bit with Peter Cushing, the re-appearance of Omar Sharif, the underwater scene…) ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

  • Ring 2 external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. (by Hideo Nakata, 1999, Japan): …and back to regular horror programming, it was time to check-in with Sadako. A quite disappointing sequel, that feels like they needed a new film but didn’t know what story to tell (I know the first sequel, Spiral, bombed), so they ended up collecting all characters left from the first film and not doing them justice. So now Hiroyuki Sanada’s new girlfriend also is a psychic? I thought this was watchable, but nothing special. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Civil War external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. (by Alex Garland, 2024, US/UK): True, I may have a soft spot for Alex Garland, but I found this film really effective, powerful, and scary. I really hope he reconsiders his threat of quitting directing. It feels like he’s gone from Ex Machina’s machines wanting to be people, to people wanting to behave like machines. Always nice to see Sonoya Mizuno pop out in Garland’s work. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½

  • The Ring Two external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. (by Hideo Nakata, 2005, US): by now, I guess you expected this one. The sequel of the American remake is not a remake of the Japanese sequel, though it borrows some themes and a scene or two. I have convinced myself that the story more or less makes sense (Samara is now out of the well, so she can do different things from the first film - but do supernatural beings need a way to track people?), and, differently from Ring 2, it lets some of the first film characters alone. Also, Simon Baker’s Max reacts, mostly, like a normal person would. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Tremors external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. (by Ron Underwood, 1990, US): in preparation for the new season of EoH external link , while in Italy I seized the opportunity this film was available on Netflix, without expecting too much from it… but I liked it a lot! Mainly thanks to the great chemistry between Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward, but also because it keeps moving on and create new obstacles, instead of settling on the easiest solution. It’s quite amazing to think that Jurassic Park came out just three years after this film and its (honestly not very sophisticated-looking) creatures. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Statistics for the week: seven horrors (of which, three Asian ones; two originals - if we count Ju-On as part of a larger saga and ignore Tremors is basically Dry Jaws -, four sequels and a remake), an original thriller (if that’s Civil War genre), a documentary, three comedies (two originals and a sequel). Double Hideo Nakata, double Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker.

Civil War without any doubt was the film of the week, and it pre-booked a spot in 2024’s Top Ten.