Thriller

Why Watch? A suggestive thriller that will leave you freezing in your own shower. Writer/director Joby Stephens has created a film that oscillates between a beautiful girl lying in a bathtub (an image that can physically drop your core temperature by its design) and a frolicking night out at the clubs. It’s a dreamy twist on a simple fear – something we all keep in the back of our minds whenever we go out. The music does almost as much heavy lifting as the inevitable, but it’s perfect for a quick feeling of unease and a semi-voyeuristic look into two very different bathrooms. What does it cost? Just 7 minutes of your time. Check out the trailer for Skin Deep for yourself:

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The Holding begins with a dark action and stumbles its way through thriller territory, making pit stops along the way to undermine itself every time it starts to get gritty. Cassie Naylor (Kierston Wareing) is a tough woman whose farm is struggling, whose teenage daughter Hannah (Skye Lourie) is rebelling, and whose youngest daughter Amy (Maisie Lloyd) is beginning to get curious about everything around her. Even though a friendly old man called Cooper (David Bradley) helps out with the cows and the sewage pump, the holding is still not turning a profit. Bills are piling up, and Cassie’s neighbor Karsten (Terry Stone) is overtly obsessed with buying the land one way or another. That’s when aimless drifter Aden (Vincent Regan) enters the picture. He solves a few problems for Cassie and her young girls but ultimately becomes one himself.

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The Debt is a painstakingly old-fashioned drama that’s far more interested in the nuances of human behavior than exploitation or pyrotechnics. At the same time, in telling the parallel stories of Mossad agents hunting a Nazi doctor in East Berlin circa 1966 and those same agents dealing with the consequences of that mission 30 years later, John Madden’s film evokes the existential themes that lie at the heart of Israel’s creation. To straddle both those worlds within the constraints of a tightly-wound thriller is a considerable accomplishment. And this eloquent remake of a 2007 Israeli picture with the same name harkens back to the old-fashioned aesthetics of genre movies that mean something, films that are unafraid of drawing out big ideas between familiar lines. The film stars Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Ciarán Hinds as the older version of agents Rachel Singer, Stephan Gold and David Peretz, who discover that the book has not been written on their mission of 30+ years ago with the finality they thought it had. Jessica Chastain, Martin Csokas and Sam Worthington play their younger selves, tracking the sadistic Doktor Bernhardt (Jesper Christensen) astride the Iron Curtain.

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While most viral outbreak films take us right into the heart of patient zero and the hordes of humanity flooding the streets to escape sneezing to death, Retreat takes the clever route by presenting it from the viewpoint of people who have no idea what’s going on. Unless there is no outbreak. But what if there is? Or maybe there’s not, but there’s no way to tell what’s truly happening in this first trailer which highlights Cillian Murphy and Thandie Newton as a couple taking a holiday on a small island when an armed man (Jamie Bell) washes ashore claiming that the mainland has been crushed by a virus that floats on the air. Check it out for yourself:

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Why Watch? We all hold cameras in our hands now. People have started using the iPhone 4 to make films, and it’s a strong representation of a new low-budget filmmaking technique that’s still a bit wobbly. Park Chan-wook and Park Chan-kyong made a pro flick with the phone, and we’ve featured an amateur iPhone movie (that was pure joy), but this is the first to truly evoke a 1970s sense of horror without a budget. It’s a sense that the person behind the camera has skill even if the equipment has severe limitations. Plus, director Vinod Bharathan borrows more than a few angles from the thrillers of the past, and having an attractive, pantsless blonde walking around with a knife is something everyone can enjoy. What does it cost? Just 5 minutes of your time. Check out Limbo for yourself:

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While at Cannes, our own Simon Gallagher called Miss Bala, “a blend of situational horror and politically-laced action thriller that I’d have no trouble recommending to anyone.” As a Briton, that’s the most excited he can legally get. The film from Gerardo Naranjo focuses on a young woman named Laura (played by Stephanie Sigman) who is entering the Miss Baja competition with a friend. When thugs shoot up the place and leave her alive, she finds herself in the quicksand of the drug cartel world where she’s in near constant danger. The film is also a social comment on how bad things have gotten in Mexico, told with the kinetic language of bullets and desperate situations. Now, you can check out the trailer for yourself:

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It’s been a while since we’ve gotten a film from legendary Scarface director Brian De Palma. The last was an Iraq war drama called Redacted that came out in 2007, but honestly I don’t even remember that one happening. The last time he did something that I even recognized as a De Palma film was The Black Dhalia in 2006. And before that there was 2000’s Mission to Mars, which I only remember because of how laughably bad it was. Suffice to say, Brian De Palma has been off of the radar for a while. It felt a little strange today to see his name randomly pop up when Deadline Lenexa reported that he had signed on to direct a film called The Key Man. Written by relative newcomer Joby Harold, The Key Man is said to be tonally in tune with that spat of 70s thrillers that took over for a while and was probably best encompassed by Marathon Man and Three Days of the Condor. It’s going to be about a single father being tracked by government agents because his body contains important national secrets. In his body? How did that happen? “Million to one shot, doc.” Gross. All possibilities of anal insertion humor aside, is anybody looking forward to a thriller directed by Brian De Palma? The 70s style throwback makes it sound a little intriguing to me, but this is a director I wrote off a while ago. Do we have any indication that he might […]

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Editor’s Note: This review originally ran during Fantastic Fest 2010, but every word of it still applies today as Cold Fish sees a limited release this week. The key to making someone disappear is to cut up the body into tiny bite sized chunks and to separate the meat from the bone. From there, you can burn the bones in an industrial barrel and drop the diced human into the river to be eaten by the fish. It takes a time commitment, but it’s really a simple procedure. This is just one of the many lessons presented in the movie Cold Fish, the new work from Sion Sono that tells the story of Shamoto (Mitsuru Fukikoshi), a timid tropical fish store owner who is bullied by his daughter and shut out from sexual intercourse by his wife. Murata (Denden), a fellow entrepreneur in the fish world, helps the family out by employing the rebellious daughter, leaving the household open for fornication to commence, and making Shamoto his latest business partner on a big score. Of course, all of this comes at a heavy cost, and Shamoto soon learns how to make someone disappear.

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A box just landed on my doorstep, and as the UPS man drove away, I opened it up to find a device that gets rid of germs on cell phones using some sort of UV light. Why would a marketing department send me that? Because inside was a USB drive containing the first trailer for Contagion – the forthcoming viral outbreak thriller from Steven Soderbergh. What better way to kick everything off? Plus, the trailer is gripping. Matt Damon brings the intensity, Laurence Fishburne brings the expertise, the rest of the cast (including Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard and Jude Law) bring anxiety, but behind every single performance is a major element of fear. Holy hell, this looks great:

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Can we all take a moment and be thankful that Paul Schrader – the man who wrote Taxi Driver and Rolling Thunder and Raging Bull and Mosquito Coast and wrote/directed American Gigolo – is still pumping out films? His recent work doesn’t belong on the sky-high pedestal that these names do, but Adam Resurrected was a pretty solid movie, and his lack of retired status means he can team with Bret Easton Ellis to deliver Bait. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Schrader is going to work with Ellis on the script (and direct the film) which sees a young man taking revenge on the wealthy by weaseling his way into a yacht club, snagging a boat, and taking a few fat cats out to the deep end where hungry fish await. It’s unclear what propels the revenge, but this pairing is a dream come true. Don’t expect this one to be PC. Or pretty.

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Turns out all it takes to become a big star these days is flowing blonde locks, bulging muscles, a sly grin, and a giant war hammer. Who knew? After playing the Norse God of Thunder in Marvel’s most recent hero flick Thor, actor Chris Hemsworth has become a bit of a hot commodity. Good for him. Never to miss an opportunity, Sony has capitalized on this new Hemsworth craze by finding the actor a brand new movie to star in. They’ve acquired the rights to a film called Shadow Runner, which will see Hemsworth playing the leader of a covert team who specializes in taking on impossible tasks. The film is loosely inspired by a real life event where an Israeli hit team took out a Hamas leader in a five star hotel in Dubai, but it doesn’t appear as if that specific story is the one that will be told in the movie. So, I guess, one of the producers of this film just read an article about covert ops, had his mind blown, and decided to make a movie about it. What’s the over under on how long it takes before this thing gets retooled to be about Seal Team Six?  [Deadline Coronado]

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Decades before Scream made us afraid of the telephone, Midnight Lace scared Doris Day to death with the damned thing. Rex Harrison plays her loving husband, whose accent is the most frightening thing of all. It’s a truly terrifying thriller where nothing is ever clear, everyone is suspect, and Day’s character might even be making the whole thing up. Or she might be insane. That’s always an option. Everything is on the table in this incredible mystery that makes great use of its twist ending. Fortunately, the trailer dares the audience not to be fully creeped out by the first few lines.

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Updated: The original, poorly dubbed trailer has been replaced by a subtitled version that’s much, much, much better. Huzzah! Original Post: First of all, the dubbing in this trailer is terrible. It’s laughably bad, as most dubbing is. Please ignore it. For if you do, you’ll get a much better experience of a gripping, increasingly tense trailer. Miguel Angel Vivas’s Kidnapped takes a very familiar conceit and seeks to squeeze every ounce of fear out of it. A group of criminals takes a family hostage in their home and forces the credit cards out of their pockets. Unfortunately, crime doesn’t pay, because (unlike the morons in Funny Games) this family fights back. Apparently, there will be blood.

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Wait Until Dark is undoubtedly one of the most terrifying movies made in the 1960s, and it’s probably the scariest thing Audrey Hepburn ever starred in (unless you’re deathly afraid of vocal coaches (or were really hit hard by Charade)). Here she plays a blind woman (Hepburn even learned to read Braille for the role) who has a trio of villains (led in a dynamite role by Alan Arkin) in her apartment after a doll they believe is filled with delicious heroin. In a deft move, the film focuses directly on Hepburn’s Susy Hendrix, but her character doesn’t even make it to the screen until almost half an hour into the action. It’s an incredibly taut thriller that stays just as frightening on repeat viewings.

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The second film of the day, and one of the reasons why I so enjoy the Un Certain Regard section of this festival: for among the intentional oddities, and the boring experiments there are usually a number of gems that fit the competition’s manifesto of presenting films that are “worth a look” extremely well, Miss Bala is an incredibly terse, and successfully tense situational horror/thriller. The film begins conventionally enough, with Laura (Stephanie Sigman), attempting to enter the Miss Baja California with her friend Suzu, and then joining her at a club with its own police-devoted VIP section (or so it seems), in order to – as Suzu suggests – get in with some powerful men who can help them win the contest. Following an altercation with one of said policemen, Laura finds herself in the toilet, surrounded by armed gang members, who shoot the place up, leaving Laura to survive, but to fret over her friend’s fate. Attempting to track down what happened to her, Laura ends up being delivered to the same cartel, after approaching the wrong policeman, and becomes embroiled in an endlessly progressing spiral of events alongside the charismatically malignant cartel leader. Miss Bala presents a Mexico that is rotting from the inside: corruption runs rampant to the extent that no one is to be trusted, regardless of what their badge might suggest, drug trafficking and running gun battles are an everyday occurrence, and the value of human life is far less than the appeal of power […]

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Criterion Files

“Think they pay you to drive? They pay you to be terrified.”

It’s the line that inspires the title. Four men behind the wheel of two trucks without shock absorbers or any special balancing mechanics and driving across unpaved terrain for hundreds of miles with everything in their path from two-ton boulders in the middle of the road to rotten wood acting as their road extension to pivot over a precipice…all while each truck lugs enough nitroglycerine to reduce mountains to piles of pebble. With the prevention of that much destruction contingent on such undisturbed sensitivity a boulder in the middle of the road is the least of their concern to stay alive. In a case like that a large rock is no match for an invisible pothole that need only be inches deep to separate all of you from the rest of you.

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As we all already knew, Peter Pan is a monster who swoops down, breaks into bedroom windows, and takes children deep into the night to never, never return. Now, filmmakers are catching up to that fact and developing a story that reflects the grisly, real-world terror of Pan. According to Dark Horizons, Aaron Eckhart has signed on to play Captain Hook – a former police detective haunted by the ghosts of his past, hunting down a kidnapper (who probably wears green tights). AnnaSophia Robb will play Wendy, a victim who survived and has joined in the manhunt. Plus, Sean Bean is on board to play Smee – the only person on the police force helping Hook. All of these things are good things. The propensity to go darker for our children’s stories is a trend I can fully get behind, because it means revealing a much more human side to tales usually filled with glitter and fairy dust. On that note, there’s no word yet as to whether Tinkerbell will be a much-needed prostitute with valuable information. Animation director Ben Hibon will make his directorial debut here from a script written by newcomer Benjamin Magid. It’s good to see some new blood pumping through the system aided by some solid acting talents and a strange premise. Of course, this isn’t the first dim project for the boy who wouldn’t grow up (not to mention the four or five hundred Snow White and Red Riding Hood and Hansel & Gretel projects […]

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Joel Schumacher jumps around from genre to genre whether he succeeds in them or not, but some of his best work is in the world of thrillers. Movies like Flatliners, The Client and A Time to Kill are at the top of his personal best list, so hopefully finding that tension again will churn out a winner. According to Variety, Schumacher is attached to direct The Hive. Written by Thirteen Ghosts screenwriter Richard D’Ovidio, the story focuses on a 911 operator who has to confront a killer from her past in order to protect a little girl. Schumacher may have struggled to find the plot in the past few years – with Twelve and Blood Creek (starring Superman!) – but his forthcoming Nic Cage-starring Trespass is set for release this September, so we’ll get to see if he’s still got what it takes to make a solid thriller. Statistically speaking, he’s bound to be due a good one soon, right?

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On the surface, Hanna is just the latest action flick centered on a petite, butt-kicking young woman and the sinister world she inhabits. Yet, were that all it was, the new film from director Joe Wright (Atonement, The Soloist) would be a tired, forced enterprise, arriving in theaters a mere two weeks after Sucker Punch and just about one year following Kick-Ass. Fortunately, Wright is too sharp a director for that. His keen visual eye and knack for character-driven nuance turns the story of highly-trained teenage killing machine Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) into an engagingly twisted fairytale/coming of age drama. With a soundtrack fueled by electronica wizards The Chemical Brothers, tightly coiled supporting work from Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana and a schema that offers a world of out-sized colors, foreboding shapes and demented villains, the Focus Features release is an offbeat, engaging blend of David Lynchian and kinetic action tropes. We spoke with the acclaimed filmmaker about his latest directorial effort.

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When a young man is dumped by his long-time girlfriend, he suspects the source of their collapse lives in his very own city. He knows she was communicating in a chat room with a blond Lothario so he has a female acquaintance get in touch with the same blond man to find out where he lives. The acquaintance, having been invited to the blond man’s house for some romantic entanglements, is greeted by a rather nasty surprise.

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