Owner: Uncut (2020)
It is clear from Brandon Cronenberg’s harmful and provocative beginnings, Antiviral, that he had inherited his father’s talent as a director. His fascinating second feature film, Possessorfurther confirms that it makes its namesake proud, using jaw-dropping visions of body horror to not only turn stomachs but give audiences a deeper insight into its tortured heroine’s psyche.
Andrea Riseborough plays a special agent who wears the skin of others to carry out perfect assassinations in which the culprit, the motive and all the evidence are taken into account. Her sense of identity crumbles with each blow, and she finds herself so emotionally estranged from her family that she nervously repeats lines of domestic chatter in private before heading home. The film is dark, graphic and sometimes strangely beautiful. Cronenberg has something incredibly poignant to say about tech companies and their grip on our collective consciousness, and like his father, harnesses the power of sci-fi horror to get his ideas across artfully and intentionally.
Evil Dead 2013)
Fede Alvarez took a hell of a job when he decided to redo Sam Raimi’s evil Dead. Why would anyone do that? The odds of a remake of a classic being well-received are slim, but Alvarez did it the right way here, using the original’s narrative model as a springboard to create his own horror movie with his own voice. Sure, there are nods to Raimi’s version throughout, but it’s a super fun cabin-in-the-woods movie in its own right.
The best part of Alvarez’s approach is that he doesn’t try to chase Raimi’s tone at all. Even the scenes taken directly from the original play play out in a completely different way, with a bit of phantasmagoria and heightened violence. As modern reboots go, evil Dead is one of the best, not because of its reverence for the original, but because it understands and embraces that it exists in a new era, serving a new audience.
I Saw the Devil (2010)
Revenge often compels people to do really atrocious and appalling things. I saw the devil illustrates in gruesome detail how far some people will go to avenge their loved ones, and how their actions reveal that pure evil can, in fact, spring from good people. The film is a thrilling cat-and-mouse chase between a government agent (Lee Byung-hun) and the serial killer who brutally murdered his wife (Old boy‘s Choi Min-sik), following the men as they leave a trail of blood and misery as a result of their murderous game.
Lee and Choi’s performances are forces of nature, and director Kim Jee-woon taps deep into the primal nature of the characters’ rage. The violence on display here is about as hard to watch as it gets, not because of the gore (which is, yes, incredibly graphic and vomiting-inducing), but because of the way things are shot. Every cut, every blow, every cruel act of torture is visceral and feels startlingly real. This is not a movie for the faint hearted. But if you can take it, it turns out to be a deeply felt cautionary tale that will shake you to the bone.