Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The 20 best Amazon Prime Video movies to watch now (November 2021)

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This article originally appeared on www.polygon.com

We’ve all been there: Flipping through Amazon Prime Video’s movie offerings, but stuck wondering Uh, what’s good? The commercial giant’s streaming service has quietly collected a giant archive of films, and since 2006, has released a number of acclaimed films under the Amazon Studios banner, like Sound of Metal, Manchester By the Sea, Selah and the Spades, Paterson, and Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake.

But along with originals, there are tons of back catalogue picks just waiting to be discovered in the platform’s, let’s say, challenging UX. So we’ve looked through the service and cherry-picked some of our favorite films currently on the platform to try out. Without further ado, here are the top 20 best films to stream on Prime Video right now.


Blade of the Immortal

Manji and Rin facing off against a crowd of sword fighters in Blade of the Immortal.

Image: Magnet Releasing

Based on Hiroaki Samura’s historical martial arts fantasy manga series of the same name, 2017’s Blade of the Immortal stars Takuya Kimura as Manji, a ruthless swordsman who wanders the countryside of feudal Japan on a quest to kill enough “evil” men in order to undo the curse that renders him immortal yet still susceptible to injury and pain. Enlisted by Rin Asano (Hana Sugisaki), an orphaned teenager whose family was slaughtered by a villainous band of sword fighters to be her bodyguard, Manji swears to protect her on her own quest for vengeance with the hopes that her vendetta will eventually set him free. Takashi Miike (13 Assassins, Ichi the Killer) is the perfect director to tackle this material, rendering Manji’s many mutilations at the hands of his opponents with gleeful physical humor, gory detail, and stylish grace as he and Rin cut a swath through their adversaries. —Toussaint Egan


Burning

Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in) wanders through a field.

Photo: Well Go USA Entertainment

Lee Chang-dong’s Burning easily ranks as one of the most engrossing psychological thrillers of the 2010s. Based on a 1992 short story by The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle author Haruki Murakami, the film focuses on the story of Lee Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in), an aspiring writer who reunites with his childhood friend Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo) after years apart … or does he? Soon after Jong-su meets Ben (Steven Yeun), a “friend” of Hae-mi’s whose extravagant lifestyle, vague occupation, and seemingly iron-clad hold over Hae-mi conjures feelings of suspicion and jealousy within Jong-su. When Hae-mi suddenly disappears one day, Jong-su’s desperate search to find her unearths a web of implications that shake him to his core. Burning is a mystery-thriller that thrives on insinuations conveyed through a triumvirate of masterful performances between Yoo, Lee, and especially Yeun, whose portrayal as Ben sincerely ranks as one of the most unsettling on-screen antagonists in recent memory. —TE


Coherence

Nicholas Brendon, Maury Sterling, Lorene Scafaria, Alex Manugian, Lauren Maher, and Emily Baldoni in Coherence (2013)

Photo: Oscilloscope Laboratories

Writer-director James Ward Byrkit’s 2013 sci-fi thriller Coherence is a taut puzzle box of multidimensional weirdness and fraught existential terror. Holding it all together are strong performances led by Emily Baldoni, Homeland’s Maury Sterling, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Nicholas Brendon. If you’re hungry for an intriguing blend of mumblecore cinema and sci-fi horror, Coherence is it. —TE


The Collector

A masked man brandishes a knife in The Collector (2009)

Image: Freestyle Releasing

Director-screenwriter Marcus Dunstan’s (Saw IV, Saw V) 2009 directorial debut The Collector is a gruesome twist on the home invasion subgenre centered on the story of handyman and ex-con Arkin O’Brien (Josh Stewart). When loan sharks threaten to harm his wife if their debts aren’t repaid by midnight, Arkin is forced to break into the home of his employers intending to steal a treasured ruby locked inside their safe. Unfortunately for him, and the family residing in the house, he’s not the only intruder that night. As Arkin witnesses a deranged masked killer torturing the family for his own sick aims, and virtually trapped inside the house himself, Arkin must summon the smarts and courage to rescue both the family and himself from this waking nightmare. As you’d expect from a horror movie penned and directed by a Saw screenwriter, there’s tons of terrifying traps, thrilling suspense, and one hell of a final scene that’ll linger in your mind well after the movie is over. —TE


Drug War

Sun Honglei as police captain Zhang Lei pointing a pistol in Drug War (2012)

Photo: Variance Films

Though Johnnie To might go unrecognized by a majority of Western filmgoers, he’s one of the most prolific Hong Kong directors of his generations, renowned for his tense action crime thrillers and gangster dramas. Drug War, To’s first feature produced in mainland China, is as excellent an introduction to his work as any. It’s a tightly wound cat-and-mouse game focusing on Zhang Lei (Sun Honglei), a relentless police captain trying to topple an illicit drug cartel, and Timmy Choi (Louis Koo), a mid-level drug smuggler who agrees to cooperate with police in order to escape the death penalty for his offenses. If you’re looking for a taut, pulse-pounding crime film with blistering action and dark twists, Drug War is a must-see. —TE


Hellraiser

Pinhead flanked by two other cenobites in Hellraiser (1987)

Image: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Clive Barker’s 1987 directorial debut adapts his 1986 novella The Hellbound Heart to tell the story of Larry (Andrew Robinson) and Julia Cotton (Clare Higgins), a married couple who move into the home of Larry’s recently deceased brother Frank (Sean Chapman) with whom Julia had a previous affair. After inadvertently being resurrected by a drop of blood spilled by Larry on the floor of the house’s attic, Frank seduce Julia into luring new men to the house so that he can drain their life force and fully regain his mortal form. Surrounding this core narrative is the the story of the Lament configuration, a puzzle box Frank acquired before his untimely death that when solves conjures hellish beings known as Cenobites to the mortal plane of existence and indulge in hellish exercises of sadomasochistic mutilation. Easily the best and most enduring of the Hellraiser movie series, Barker’s 1987 original is a must-watch for horror fans — especially if you’re at all curious about the upcoming remake penned by The Night House writers Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski and starring Jamie Clayton of Sense8 fame. —TE


House on Haunted Hill

Vincent Price in House on Haunted Hill

Image: Shout Factory

Director William Castle was the king of the gimmick. Though he went on to produce bona fide classics like Rosemary’s Baby, he spent his early days pitching genre pictures to mass audiences through the promise of enhanced, terror-inducing viewing experiences. His film The Tingler screened with “Percepto” buzzer enhancements, which jolted viewers whenever the titular creature popped up. A ticket to 1960’s 13 Ghosts came with Illusion-O Glasses, which revealed hidden specters in the picture.

The twist on 1959’s House on Haunted Hill would be a little bit harder to replicate at home today — during the haunted house movie’s finale, a skeleton swooped over the audience on a zip line. But the truth is, Castle’s fun-forward horror flicks hold up just as well without the accoutrement. With a cast led by Vincent Price, House on Haunted Hill finds a macabre millionaire inviting a number of unsuspecting, money-hungry guests for a night at his haunted mansion rental. If anyone can last the night, they get $10,000. But it’s haunted! Or is it? Castle’s funhouse tricky weaves its way into both plot and execution.

The fun here is all the sight gags on screen. There are ghosts, skeletons, violent hands brandishing weapons, and a basement with its own acid death pit. The old fashioned rat-a-tat dialogue and goofy setups keep House on Haunted Hill as blissfully silly as any straight-faced remake (and, seriously, the remake of this one is bad). It’s also a joy to see Price in action, reminding viewers with each scene why he’s one of the key voices of classic horror. Castle had to hustle to get butts in seats back in the day, but this one’s a no-brainer for any crowd with varying degrees of horror tolerance. —Matt Patches


In Bruges

Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell in In Bruges.

Photo: Universal Studios

If you only know playwright-turned-filmmaker Martin McDonagh from his Oscar-winning drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, it’s time to go back to In Bruges, a hilarious dark comedy and arguably his best film to date. Starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, the film follows Irish hitmen Ken and Ray who are sent by their mobster boss Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes) to hide out in the Belgium city of Bruges following a thwarted job back in London. Gleeson and Farrell’s chemistry is impeccable as the pair bicker at one another over the banality of their surroundings and inevitably end up lapsing into trouble out of sheer boredom. In Bruges is a hysterical and deeply compelling film boasting a wealth of supporting performances, including a memorable turn by Jordan Prentice as a volatile actor with a foul mouth. —TE


Knives Out

Ana de Armas and Daniel Craig puzzle over the clues in Knives Out

Photo: Claire Folger/Lionsgate

Rian Johnson’s 2019 whodunnit Knives Out stars Daniel Craig (Casino Royale) as Benoit Blanc, a master detective hired to investigate the mysterious death of wealthy mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), and Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, No Time To Die) as Marta, the late author’s trusted nurse. As Blanc attempts to unravel the tangled web of events that led up to Harlan’s untimely passing, he’ll have to deduce whether any of his family members had a hand in his suspected murder. Supported by a cast of performances including Chris Evans (Avengers: Endgame), Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween Kills), Michael Shannon (Take Shelter), Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry To Bother You), Toni Collette (Hereditary), and more, Knives Out is a entertaining mystery drama in the mold of a Agatha Christie classic and worth a watch for Craig’s bizarre and hilarious southern accent alone. —TE


The Lighthouse

Thomas (Willem Dafoe) and Ephraim (Robert Pattinson) in front of the lighthouse.

Photo: A24

Director Robert Eggers and his brother Max conceived of The Lighthouse as a ghost movie, but it plays more like an abstract vampire film. In the two-hander, Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe play the attendants of a lighthouse on a diminutive island off the coast of New England in the 1890s. The two men — both named Thomas — have no companionship but each other and the light of the lighthouse. The Fresnel lens that casts light across the sea becomes a point of fixation, an immortal beacon that saps the men of their very will. Eggers and his film are part of the recent push of critically lauded horror films. If you enjoy The Lighthouse, you should also try Eggers’ debut, The Witch. —Chris Plante


Midsommar

Christian (Jack Reynor) and Dani (Florence Pugh) in shock.

Image: A24

Ari Aster’s folk horror follow-up to his 2018 debut Hereditary tells the story of Dani (Florence Pugh), a college student who travels with her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) to a remote Swedish village to witness their once-in-a-lifetime midsummer celebration. Struggling in the wake of a horrific personal tragedy, Dani seeks out the journey as a distraction from her own worries all the while her relationship with Christian deteriorates. What begins as a carefree holiday born out of curiosity morphs into a nightmare in which the couple and their friends find themselves at the center of an inscrutably sinister ritual. With unsettling slow-burn imagery set against the backdrop of a picturesque Swedish village, Midsommar is yet another outstanding effort from a rising star of horror. —TE


The Man Who Fell to Earth

David Bowie as Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth

Photo: Criterion Channel

David Bowie embodies the role of Thomas Jerome Newton, an extraterrestrial who disguises himself as a human in order to save his dying planet in Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth. Based on Walter Tevis’ 1963 novel, the film has been championed as a cult classic in the years since its release, due to its surreal imagery, esoteric plot with analogies to the ravages of fame and human excess, and Bowie’s inimitable performance as a wayward alien who descends into a spiral of alcoholism and self-destruction. It’s a beautiful, bewildering film that will stick with you long after it’s over, as only the best films do. —TE


The Parallax View

Photo: The Criterion Collection

Alan J. Pakula’s The Parallax View, the second in the director’s “Paranoia Trilogy” of films followed by 1971’s Klute and 1976’s All the President’s Men, is celebrated as one of the best conspiracy films ever made. It’s a noir-inflected thriller that taps directly into the political and social anxieties of mid-’70s America in the wake of the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The film stars Warren Beatty as Lee Carter, a charismatic but troubled television journalist who witnesses the assassination of a popular presidential candidate while atop the Seattle Space Needle. Three years later, a rash of mysterious deaths among those who witnessed the assassination prompts Carter to look closer at the connections, leading him to uncover the assassin’s ties to an intensely clandestine organization known as the Parallax Corporation. —TE


Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Ben Whishaw as Jean Baptiste-Grenouille in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Based on Patrick Suskind’s novel of the same name, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer stars Ben Whishaw as Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a “gifted and abominable” monster in 18th-century Paris — an era and place with no lack of gifted and abominable monsters. An orphan with heightened olfactory senses, Jean-Baptiste is taken under the wing of France’s finest perfumers as an apprentice. As he grows, however, so do his ambitions, and he develops a dark, violent obsession with craft the perfect perfume distilled from the essence and beauty of the women he covets and resents. An extravagant, macabre historical horror fantasy, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is a feast for the senses. —TE


Ran

Lord Hidetora Ichimonji walks dejectedly from his burning estate

Photo: The Criterion Collection

Akira Kurosawa’s action drama Ran (the Japanese word for “chaos”) is considered by many to be one of the greatest films ever produced by inarguably the most iconic and critically acclaimed Japanese director in the history of cinema. Inspired by William Shakespeare’s King Lear and the apocryphal legends of the 16th-century daimyo Mōri Motonari, the 1985 epic stars the legendary Tatsuya Nakadai (Harakiri, The Sword of Doom) as an elderly warlord in Medieval Japan who, upon his retirement, bequeaths his kingdom to the care of his three sons. Order soon subsumes chaos however, as Nakadai’s Lord Ichimonji is forced to watch helplessly as the harmonious accomplishments of his reign quickly spiral into a cacophonous din of horror and bloodshed. Heralded as Kurosawa’s last great masterpiece, Ran is a must-watch classic. —TE


Small Soldiers

Image: Universal Pictures/Dreamworks Pictures

What if Pixar’s Toy Story, but instead of a CG-animated children’s story about toys trying desperately to return home to their beloved owner, it was a live-action drama about two factions of toys inadvertently programmed by military microprocessors that proceed to wreak havoc on a quiet suburban neighborhood? That’s essentially the elevator pitch for Small Soldiers, Joe Dante’s 1998 sci-fi action movie starring Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man) and Gregory Smith (Everwood). If you’re looking for a children’s film that feels like a Frankenstein mash-up of The Indian in the Cupboard, Apocalypse Now, and Child’s Play, this is the film for you. —TE


Stop Making Sense

David Byrne performs alongside the Talking Heads in Stop Making Sense

Photo: Vivendi Entertainment

Unfortunately for all other movies, cinema doesn’t get better than Stop Making Sense. Take it from me, a man who has never listened to a single Talking Heads album from front to back, when I say that Jonathan Demme’s 1984 concert film is one of the most electrifying, unique, and essential cinematic experiences of the late 20th century. Where else are you going to see David Byrne noodle-dancing in a gigantic oversized suit before belting out infectiously euphoric rock anthems guaranteed to get you out of your seat? Eat your heart out, James Murphy. —TE


The Wicker Man

Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) raises his arms in front of the wicker man

Photo: British Lion Films

One of the eeriest of the British folk horrors, The Wicker Man follows mainland police officer and staunch Christian Sgt. Howie (Edward Woodward) as he arrives on the island of Summerisle. His investigation into the disappearance of a local girl is stymied by the pagan beliefs of the townspeople – that is, if she exists at all.

Unlike its imitators (and Nic Cage remake), The Wicker Man lets its weirdness drip at a satisfyingly slow pace, while never forgetting the mystery at the heart of the plot. Summerisle is a regular, lived in village — a little secluded, but not fundamentally different from any small town. For Howie and for the audience, it’s not immediately obvious how unusual their beliefs are, until it’s much too late. The whole affair is given special dignity by Christopher Lee – who still insisted, even post Lord of the Rings, that this was the best movie he was ever in. As Lord Summerisle, Lee brings the perfect amount of levity and good humor (and bold fashion sense) to contrast Howie’s dour self-righteousness. —Jenna Stoeber


You Were Never Really Here

Joaquin Phoenix as Joe in You Were Never Really Here

Image: Amazon Studios

Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) delivers an unsettling and soulful performance as Joe, a traumatized veteran-turned-hired fixer in Lynne Ramsay’s 2017 psychological thriller You Were Never Really Here. When Joe is hired to rescue Nina (Ekaterina Samsonov), the kidnapped daughter of a notable New York Senator, he descends into the criminal underbelly of the city on a brutal, blood-drenched mission for personal redemption. Troubled by suicidal ideation and a history of abuse, Joaquin’s rendition of Joe is emphatically sympathetic even at his most barbaric; a wounded soul searching for absolution and the will to go on in a world teeming with adversarial uncertainty and death. —TE


Young Frankenstein

Gene Wilder as Dr. Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein

Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’s Gene Wilder stars in Mel Brooks’ cult comedy horror spoof film Young Frankenstein as the mad scientist Frankenstein (er, Fronk-en-steen) in his dogged pursuit to reanimate his misbegotten creation (Peter Boyle) from the dead. if you’re looking for a throwback horror movie —but maybe actually want to watch a riotous comedy — this one holds up like few other of Brooks’ era-specific work. —TE

This article originally appeared on www.polygon.com

We’ve all been there: Flipping through Amazon Prime Video’s movie offerings, but stuck wondering Uh, what’s good? The commercial giant’s streaming service has quietly collected a giant archive of films, and since 2006, has released a number of acclaimed films under the Amazon Studios banner, like Sound of Metal, Manchester By the Sea, Selah and the Spades, Paterson, and Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake.

But along with originals, there are tons of back catalogue picks just waiting to be discovered in the platform’s, let’s say, challenging UX. So we’ve looked through the service and cherry-picked some of our favorite films currently on the platform to try out. Without further ado, here are the top 20 best films to stream on Prime Video right now.


Blade of the Immortal

Manji and Rin facing off against a crowd of sword fighters in Blade of the Immortal.

Image: Magnet Releasing

Based on Hiroaki Samura’s historical martial arts fantasy manga series of the same name, 2017’s Blade of the Immortal stars Takuya Kimura as Manji, a ruthless swordsman who wanders the countryside of feudal Japan on a quest to kill enough “evil” men in order to undo the curse that renders him immortal yet still susceptible to injury and pain. Enlisted by Rin Asano (Hana Sugisaki), an orphaned teenager whose family was slaughtered by a villainous band of sword fighters to be her bodyguard, Manji swears to protect her on her own quest for vengeance with the hopes that her vendetta will eventually set him free. Takashi Miike (13 Assassins, Ichi the Killer) is the perfect director to tackle this material, rendering Manji’s many mutilations at the hands of his opponents with gleeful physical humor, gory detail, and stylish grace as he and Rin cut a swath through their adversaries. —Toussaint Egan


Burning

Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in) wanders through a field.

Photo: Well Go USA Entertainment

Lee Chang-dong’s Burning easily ranks as one of the most engrossing psychological thrillers of the 2010s. Based on a 1992 short story by The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle author Haruki Murakami, the film focuses on the story of Lee Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in), an aspiring writer who reunites with his childhood friend Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo) after years apart … or does he? Soon after Jong-su meets Ben (Steven Yeun), a “friend” of Hae-mi’s whose extravagant lifestyle, vague occupation, and seemingly iron-clad hold over Hae-mi conjures feelings of suspicion and jealousy within Jong-su. When Hae-mi suddenly disappears one day, Jong-su’s desperate search to find her unearths a web of implications that shake him to his core. Burning is a mystery-thriller that thrives on insinuations conveyed through a triumvirate of masterful performances between Yoo, Lee, and especially Yeun, whose portrayal as Ben sincerely ranks as one of the most unsettling on-screen antagonists in recent memory. —TE


Coherence

Nicholas Brendon, Maury Sterling, Lorene Scafaria, Alex Manugian, Lauren Maher, and Emily Baldoni in Coherence (2013)

Photo: Oscilloscope Laboratories

Writer-director James Ward Byrkit’s 2013 sci-fi thriller Coherence is a taut puzzle box of multidimensional weirdness and fraught existential terror. Holding it all together are strong performances led by Emily Baldoni, Homeland’s Maury Sterling, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Nicholas Brendon. If you’re hungry for an intriguing blend of mumblecore cinema and sci-fi horror, Coherence is it. —TE


The Collector

A masked man brandishes a knife in The Collector (2009)

Image: Freestyle Releasing

Director-screenwriter Marcus Dunstan’s (Saw IV, Saw V) 2009 directorial debut The Collector is a gruesome twist on the home invasion subgenre centered on the story of handyman and ex-con Arkin O’Brien (Josh Stewart). When loan sharks threaten to harm his wife if their debts aren’t repaid by midnight, Arkin is forced to break into the home of his employers intending to steal a treasured ruby locked inside their safe. Unfortunately for him, and the family residing in the house, he’s not the only intruder that night. As Arkin witnesses a deranged masked killer torturing the family for his own sick aims, and virtually trapped inside the house himself, Arkin must summon the smarts and courage to rescue both the family and himself from this waking nightmare. As you’d expect from a horror movie penned and directed by a Saw screenwriter, there’s tons of terrifying traps, thrilling suspense, and one hell of a final scene that’ll linger in your mind well after the movie is over. —TE


Drug War

Sun Honglei as police captain Zhang Lei pointing a pistol in Drug War (2012)

Photo: Variance Films

Though Johnnie To might go unrecognized by a majority of Western filmgoers, he’s one of the most prolific Hong Kong directors of his generations, renowned for his tense action crime thrillers and gangster dramas. Drug War, To’s first feature produced in mainland China, is as excellent an introduction to his work as any. It’s a tightly wound cat-and-mouse game focusing on Zhang Lei (Sun Honglei), a relentless police captain trying to topple an illicit drug cartel, and Timmy Choi (Louis Koo), a mid-level drug smuggler who agrees to cooperate with police in order to escape the death penalty for his offenses. If you’re looking for a taut, pulse-pounding crime film with blistering action and dark twists, Drug War is a must-see. —TE


Hellraiser

Pinhead flanked by two other cenobites in Hellraiser (1987)

Image: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Clive Barker’s 1987 directorial debut adapts his 1986 novella The Hellbound Heart to tell the story of Larry (Andrew Robinson) and Julia Cotton (Clare Higgins), a married couple who move into the home of Larry’s recently deceased brother Frank (Sean Chapman) with whom Julia had a previous affair. After inadvertently being resurrected by a drop of blood spilled by Larry on the floor of the house’s attic, Frank seduce Julia into luring new men to the house so that he can drain their life force and fully regain his mortal form. Surrounding this core narrative is the the story of the Lament configuration, a puzzle box Frank acquired before his untimely death that when solves conjures hellish beings known as Cenobites to the mortal plane of existence and indulge in hellish exercises of sadomasochistic mutilation. Easily the best and most enduring of the Hellraiser movie series, Barker’s 1987 original is a must-watch for horror fans — especially if you’re at all curious about the upcoming remake penned by The Night House writers Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski and starring Jamie Clayton of Sense8 fame. —TE


House on Haunted Hill

Vincent Price in House on Haunted Hill

Image: Shout Factory

Director William Castle was the king of the gimmick. Though he went on to produce bona fide classics like Rosemary’s Baby, he spent his early days pitching genre pictures to mass audiences through the promise of enhanced, terror-inducing viewing experiences. His film The Tingler screened with “Percepto” buzzer enhancements, which jolted viewers whenever the titular creature popped up. A ticket to 1960’s 13 Ghosts came with Illusion-O Glasses, which revealed hidden specters in the picture.

The twist on 1959’s House on Haunted Hill would be a little bit harder to replicate at home today — during the haunted house movie’s finale, a skeleton swooped over the audience on a zip line. But the truth is, Castle’s fun-forward horror flicks hold up just as well without the accoutrement. With a cast led by Vincent Price, House on Haunted Hill finds a macabre millionaire inviting a number of unsuspecting, money-hungry guests for a night at his haunted mansion rental. If anyone can last the night, they get $10,000. But it’s haunted! Or is it? Castle’s funhouse tricky weaves its way into both plot and execution.

The fun here is all the sight gags on screen. There are ghosts, skeletons, violent hands brandishing weapons, and a basement with its own acid death pit. The old fashioned rat-a-tat dialogue and goofy setups keep House on Haunted Hill as blissfully silly as any straight-faced remake (and, seriously, the remake of this one is bad). It’s also a joy to see Price in action, reminding viewers with each scene why he’s one of the key voices of classic horror. Castle had to hustle to get butts in seats back in the day, but this one’s a no-brainer for any crowd with varying degrees of horror tolerance. —Matt Patches


In Bruges

Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell in In Bruges.

Photo: Universal Studios

If you only know playwright-turned-filmmaker Martin McDonagh from his Oscar-winning drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, it’s time to go back to In Bruges, a hilarious dark comedy and arguably his best film to date. Starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, the film follows Irish hitmen Ken and Ray who are sent by their mobster boss Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes) to hide out in the Belgium city of Bruges following a thwarted job back in London. Gleeson and Farrell’s chemistry is impeccable as the pair bicker at one another over the banality of their surroundings and inevitably end up lapsing into trouble out of sheer boredom. In Bruges is a hysterical and deeply compelling film boasting a wealth of supporting performances, including a memorable turn by Jordan Prentice as a volatile actor with a foul mouth. —TE


Knives Out

Ana de Armas and Daniel Craig puzzle over the clues in Knives Out

Photo: Claire Folger/Lionsgate

Rian Johnson’s 2019 whodunnit Knives Out stars Daniel Craig (Casino Royale) as Benoit Blanc, a master detective hired to investigate the mysterious death of wealthy mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), and Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, No Time To Die) as Marta, the late author’s trusted nurse. As Blanc attempts to unravel the tangled web of events that led up to Harlan’s untimely passing, he’ll have to deduce whether any of his family members had a hand in his suspected murder. Supported by a cast of performances including Chris Evans (Avengers: Endgame), Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween Kills), Michael Shannon (Take Shelter), Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry To Bother You), Toni Collette (Hereditary), and more, Knives Out is a entertaining mystery drama in the mold of a Agatha Christie classic and worth a watch for Craig’s bizarre and hilarious southern accent alone. —TE


The Lighthouse

Thomas (Willem Dafoe) and Ephraim (Robert Pattinson) in front of the lighthouse.

Photo: A24

Director Robert Eggers and his brother Max conceived of The Lighthouse as a ghost movie, but it plays more like an abstract vampire film. In the two-hander, Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe play the attendants of a lighthouse on a diminutive island off the coast of New England in the 1890s. The two men — both named Thomas — have no companionship but each other and the light of the lighthouse. The Fresnel lens that casts light across the sea becomes a point of fixation, an immortal beacon that saps the men of their very will. Eggers and his film are part of the recent push of critically lauded horror films. If you enjoy The Lighthouse, you should also try Eggers’ debut, The Witch. —Chris Plante


Midsommar

Christian (Jack Reynor) and Dani (Florence Pugh) in shock.

Image: A24

Ari Aster’s folk horror follow-up to his 2018 debut Hereditary tells the story of Dani (Florence Pugh), a college student who travels with her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) to a remote Swedish village to witness their once-in-a-lifetime midsummer celebration. Struggling in the wake of a horrific personal tragedy, Dani seeks out the journey as a distraction from her own worries all the while her relationship with Christian deteriorates. What begins as a carefree holiday born out of curiosity morphs into a nightmare in which the couple and their friends find themselves at the center of an inscrutably sinister ritual. With unsettling slow-burn imagery set against the backdrop of a picturesque Swedish village, Midsommar is yet another outstanding effort from a rising star of horror. —TE


The Man Who Fell to Earth

David Bowie as Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth

Photo: Criterion Channel

David Bowie embodies the role of Thomas Jerome Newton, an extraterrestrial who disguises himself as a human in order to save his dying planet in Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth. Based on Walter Tevis’ 1963 novel, the film has been championed as a cult classic in the years since its release, due to its surreal imagery, esoteric plot with analogies to the ravages of fame and human excess, and Bowie’s inimitable performance as a wayward alien who descends into a spiral of alcoholism and self-destruction. It’s a beautiful, bewildering film that will stick with you long after it’s over, as only the best films do. —TE


The Parallax View

Photo: The Criterion Collection

Alan J. Pakula’s The Parallax View, the second in the director’s “Paranoia Trilogy” of films followed by 1971’s Klute and 1976’s All the President’s Men, is celebrated as one of the best conspiracy films ever made. It’s a noir-inflected thriller that taps directly into the political and social anxieties of mid-’70s America in the wake of the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The film stars Warren Beatty as Lee Carter, a charismatic but troubled television journalist who witnesses the assassination of a popular presidential candidate while atop the Seattle Space Needle. Three years later, a rash of mysterious deaths among those who witnessed the assassination prompts Carter to look closer at the connections, leading him to uncover the assassin’s ties to an intensely clandestine organization known as the Parallax Corporation. —TE


Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Ben Whishaw as Jean Baptiste-Grenouille in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Based on Patrick Suskind’s novel of the same name, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer stars Ben Whishaw as Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a “gifted and abominable” monster in 18th-century Paris — an era and place with no lack of gifted and abominable monsters. An orphan with heightened olfactory senses, Jean-Baptiste is taken under the wing of France’s finest perfumers as an apprentice. As he grows, however, so do his ambitions, and he develops a dark, violent obsession with craft the perfect perfume distilled from the essence and beauty of the women he covets and resents. An extravagant, macabre historical horror fantasy, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is a feast for the senses. —TE


Ran

Lord Hidetora Ichimonji walks dejectedly from his burning estate

Photo: The Criterion Collection

Akira Kurosawa’s action drama Ran (the Japanese word for “chaos”) is considered by many to be one of the greatest films ever produced by inarguably the most iconic and critically acclaimed Japanese director in the history of cinema. Inspired by William Shakespeare’s King Lear and the apocryphal legends of the 16th-century daimyo Mōri Motonari, the 1985 epic stars the legendary Tatsuya Nakadai (Harakiri, The Sword of Doom) as an elderly warlord in Medieval Japan who, upon his retirement, bequeaths his kingdom to the care of his three sons. Order soon subsumes chaos however, as Nakadai’s Lord Ichimonji is forced to watch helplessly as the harmonious accomplishments of his reign quickly spiral into a cacophonous din of horror and bloodshed. Heralded as Kurosawa’s last great masterpiece, Ran is a must-watch classic. —TE


Small Soldiers

Image: Universal Pictures/Dreamworks Pictures

What if Pixar’s Toy Story, but instead of a CG-animated children’s story about toys trying desperately to return home to their beloved owner, it was a live-action drama about two factions of toys inadvertently programmed by military microprocessors that proceed to wreak havoc on a quiet suburban neighborhood? That’s essentially the elevator pitch for Small Soldiers, Joe Dante’s 1998 sci-fi action movie starring Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man) and Gregory Smith (Everwood). If you’re looking for a children’s film that feels like a Frankenstein mash-up of The Indian in the Cupboard, Apocalypse Now, and Child’s Play, this is the film for you. —TE


Stop Making Sense

David Byrne performs alongside the Talking Heads in Stop Making Sense

Photo: Vivendi Entertainment

Unfortunately for all other movies, cinema doesn’t get better than Stop Making Sense. Take it from me, a man who has never listened to a single Talking Heads album from front to back, when I say that Jonathan Demme’s 1984 concert film is one of the most electrifying, unique, and essential cinematic experiences of the late 20th century. Where else are you going to see David Byrne noodle-dancing in a gigantic oversized suit before belting out infectiously euphoric rock anthems guaranteed to get you out of your seat? Eat your heart out, James Murphy. —TE


The Wicker Man

Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) raises his arms in front of the wicker man

Photo: British Lion Films

One of the eeriest of the British folk horrors, The Wicker Man follows mainland police officer and staunch Christian Sgt. Howie (Edward Woodward) as he arrives on the island of Summerisle. His investigation into the disappearance of a local girl is stymied by the pagan beliefs of the townspeople – that is, if she exists at all.

Unlike its imitators (and Nic Cage remake), The Wicker Man lets its weirdness drip at a satisfyingly slow pace, while never forgetting the mystery at the heart of the plot. Summerisle is a regular, lived in village — a little secluded, but not fundamentally different from any small town. For Howie and for the audience, it’s not immediately obvious how unusual their beliefs are, until it’s much too late. The whole affair is given special dignity by Christopher Lee – who still insisted, even post Lord of the Rings, that this was the best movie he was ever in. As Lord Summerisle, Lee brings the perfect amount of levity and good humor (and bold fashion sense) to contrast Howie’s dour self-righteousness. —Jenna Stoeber


You Were Never Really Here

Joaquin Phoenix as Joe in You Were Never Really Here

Image: Amazon Studios

Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) delivers an unsettling and soulful performance as Joe, a traumatized veteran-turned-hired fixer in Lynne Ramsay’s 2017 psychological thriller You Were Never Really Here. When Joe is hired to rescue Nina (Ekaterina Samsonov), the kidnapped daughter of a notable New York Senator, he descends into the criminal underbelly of the city on a brutal, blood-drenched mission for personal redemption. Troubled by suicidal ideation and a history of abuse, Joaquin’s rendition of Joe is emphatically sympathetic even at his most barbaric; a wounded soul searching for absolution and the will to go on in a world teeming with adversarial uncertainty and death. —TE


Young Frankenstein

Gene Wilder as Dr. Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein

Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’s Gene Wilder stars in Mel Brooks’ cult comedy horror spoof film Young Frankenstein as the mad scientist Frankenstein (er, Fronk-en-steen) in his dogged pursuit to reanimate his misbegotten creation (Peter Boyle) from the dead. if you’re looking for a throwback horror movie —but maybe actually want to watch a riotous comedy — this one holds up like few other of Brooks’ era-specific work. —TE

Source link Author Toussaint Egan on date 2021-10-28 00:05:25 Polygon is a gaming website in partnership with Vox Media. Their culture focused site covers games, their creators, the fans, trending stories and entertainment news. Follow them for more

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