Friday, February 16, 2018

COLD IN JULY (2014) **&1/2 out of four

Directed by Jim Mickle
Entertaining, quirky thriller, based on the novel by Joe R. Lansdale. The twists and turns keep things moving at a breakneck pace, and the characters are intriguing enough. But the whole thing lacks style, and, considering the quality of the story and cast, doesn't pack the punch it should. But it is an enjoyable ride nonetheless, and one worth taking. Recommended.

Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2018.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Review: THE BENEFACTOR (2015) **&1/2 out of four

Andrew F. Renzi
Uneven and  dramatically unsteady psychological drama. But the elegant visual veneer, Richard Gere's showy but mesmerizing performance, and the lean running time - under 90 minutes - make it work somehow. An intriguing misfire.

Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2018.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Book Review: THE SHADOW: THE BLACK MASTER By Maxwell Grant **&1/2 out of four

A unique entry in The Shadow series, with a surprisingly dark, downbeat tone. The titular villain is scary and formidable, providing an uncommon challenge to the usually invincible The Shadow. Here, though, The Shadow is shown at his most human and self-sacrificial.

Although the plot itself is messy and overly complex, and the aforementioned dark tone makes this a less fun entry, it is still a page-turning, intense read, and recommended for fans of the character and the genre.

Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2018.

Monday, February 12, 2018

BLUE RUIN (2013) - **&1/2 out of four

Directed by Jeremy Saulnier
Effective psychological/revenge thriller, with careful pacing, clever writing, and an unrelenting eye for gritty detail. The dialogue is crisp and the characterization wonderful. Only the didactic, heavy-handed ending prevents it from becoming a modern classic.

Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2018.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

HORSEHEAD (2014) - * & 1/2 out of four

Directed by Romain Basset
Ambitious attempt at a modern Gothic tale is a sophomoric, overwrought, and incoherent mess of a movie. Some of the visuals are alluring, and genre veteran Catriona McColl gives an admirably intense performance. But the uneven direction, stilted dialogue, and frenetic editing, make this a near unwatchable experience and a missed opportunity.

Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2018.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

HONEYMOON (2014) *** out of four

Directed by Leigh Janiak
An intriguing premise, engaging performances, and a truly eerie mood, make this a beguiling psychological thriller. The dialogue may be a little pedestrian, but as a mystery it keeps one hooked till the harrowing end. A neat twist on an old sci-fi premise.

Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2018.


Friday, February 9, 2018

Book Review: The Skin Gods by Richard Montanari - *** out of four

The second in the series featuring detectives Byrne and Balzano, this is a tremendously compelling thriller, with a surprisingly humane center. The plot's fascination with movies and movie violence gives the plot an entertaining twist, and contrasts effectively with the gritty horrors the two detectives face. Even if things unravel a bit near the contrived climax, this is an enjoyable, haunting, and unputdownable read and a good place to start for newcomers to the series.

Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2018