Witch hysteria get a social-media makeover (trending) in writer/director Sam Levinson’s Assassination Nation (2018). The movie takes place in an affluent American suburb by the name of Salem, appropriately enough, where an online hack, which is to say prank, doxxes everyone’s pics and browser history for the requisite public outrage, shaming, and shunning. At this point Salem collectively loses it. All the cruelty, bad behavior, corroded social bonds, and hypocrisy that the community can possibly upvote is roaming the streets in the form of masked vigilante mobs looking for someone vulnerable to blame.
This movie is for those who are in on the joke that nothing anywhere has ever mattered. All that exists is what exists now, precisely at this moment, and only at this moment. String some of these moments together if you want. Go ahead and call them time. It makes no difference, because time means nothing. Take plot and character. These don’t exist. Think about them, and they’re already gone. You’re onto the next thing. None of it matters. Maybe you’re two, maybe four college students. Maybe you’re driving cross country to find the sorts of roadside attractions that they don’t write about in respectable guidebooks. One thing might lead to another, or not, and the next thing you know, or maybe you don’t, you’re being repeatedly and graphically tortured by an incestuous family of serial killers, which they play for the comedy, because it’s supposed to be funny. And then maybe they’re ready to sacrifice you to whatever dark power that they do or don’t worship, and suddenly the setting goes subterranean, and you’re flashing back to the Vale of Pnath, and the movie that you’re in is getting half-good. Would any of that matter? No, it would not. Directed by Rob Zombie.
The jee-kill pronunciation of Dr. Jekyll’s name in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) might sound strange, but it’s actually the correct one according to Robert Louis Stevenson, creator of the literary Dr. Jekyll. The rhymes-with-heckle pronunciation that everyone uses anyway is technically inaccurate.
Do whatever you need to do to see Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy (2018) in a theater. But if you can’t find a screening, here’s how to simulate one. Watch Hellraiser (1987), Red State (2011), and Evil Dead II (1987), all simultaneously, preferably with their scenes in random order, while blasting King Crimson, ingesting peyote, and undergoing the ritual from Altered States (1980). Don’t stop until you understand―not suspect, but understand―that the fundamental conflict that keeps all things in balance is Nicolas Cage versus the cosmic darkness.
Dr. Kate Fuller (Olga Kurylenko), an up-and-coming forensic psychologist and the world’s most beautiful woman, spends the running time of Clive Tonge’s Mara (2018) being haunted by the thing in the Henry Fuseli painting. It’s no chubby, brooding anti-cherub, either, but a full-on, twisted-limb, straggle-haired hag that crawls on top of you while you sleep, holds you down, and strangles you. Its name, we learn early on, is Mara.
Just in case we needed any more proof that an Ed and Lorraine Warren cinematic universe is the sort of thing you get when you sell your soul, along comes Corin Hardy’s The Nun (2018). It’s gaudy, loud, tacky, and dumb in a way that The Conjuring movies aren’t (quite) but that it seems to believe that its audience is.