the Scream The franchise has been eating its own tail since the late Wes Craven killed off Drew Barrymore in the opening scenes of the first movie in 1996, so it’s no surprise that this belated fifth installment is another cinematic ouroboros. Returning to the original, the chomping begins with another over-the-phone deconstruction of the horror genre – this one taking sneaky shots of so-called “high horror” – before reinstating the rules of the meta-horror series that fell apart with 2011’s Scream 4. Unlike recent Matrix Resurrections, it’s self-aware enough to acknowledge how silly its own sequels were before letting its eye-rolling Gen-Z protagonists land on the the movie’s true satirical target: toxic fandom and “requel” culture (“Not quite a sequel, not quite a reboot — fans are divided on terminology,” one character helpfully explains).
Thus, we have plenty of talk of returning legacy characters to justify bringing back original stars Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette while the continued references to fictional franchise films in a Stab franchise question how the real monsters could be those blockbuster movies are created in a time when fans are obsessed and have too much access to social media. Between it all, the murders are entertaining and gory, though the ease with which people die makes you doubt the supposed intelligence of the characters we’re supposed to be cheering on (25 years later and still no one thinks to invest in a hit knife – protective vest).
Trouble aside, new franchise executives Matt Bettinelli and Olpin-Tyler Gillet (Ready or Not) inject enough energy into the proceedings to ensure it doesn’t end with nostalgia alone and, among the young actors, Jack Quaid, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s Mikey Madison and Jasmin Savoy Brown (one of the stars of current TV sensation Yellowjackets, a much smarter throwback to 1990s horror) add a pleasantly shifted.
At the start of Colombian filming by Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul Memory there’s a moment of Spielbergian wonder so perfectly executed it could have been engineered by the man himself. We are in an urban neighborhood of Bogotá in the wee hours of the morning and, as the camera slowly weaves between a circle of parked cars, their alarms begin to go off, breaking the pre-dawn silence with a light show symphony of flashing turn signals and jerky honking. The eerie way the scene unfolds suggests some sort of spectral or alien presence, and as the film progresses it becomes clear that this isn’t entirely untrue.
Whether consciously or not, Weerasethakul—whose penchant for long-dwelling on inscrutable detail tends to detach his films from the rigors of conventional storytelling—has created something akin to a dreamlike, slow-paced remake of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, with Tilda Swinton taking on the Richard Dreyfuss role of an empath driven mad by a mysterious signal implanted in her head. The signal in question is a thud that only Swinton’s character, Jessica, seems able to hear and even though it’s not the kind of thing that can be carved out of mashed potatoes, she sets out to recreate it with the help of a sound engineer called Hernán (Juan Pablo Urrego) whose existence is in turn called into question shortly after enlisting his services.
Jessica also has a sick sister in Bogotá, and her visits to see her in the hospital coincidentally bring her into contact with a forensic anthropologist (Jeanne Balibar) in the midst of analyzing recently unearthed 6,000-year-old human remains. on a construction site near the Amazon jungle. What one has to do with the other is only hinted at in the abstract as Jessica drifts toward some kind of resolution involving another man called Hernán (Elkin Díaz) and a sci-fi epiphany in the desert that reinforces the Spielberg connection in a way that some may find sublime and others silly.
Marking the documentary debut of Andrea Arnold, Cow sees the director of Red Road deliver an impressionistic portrait of a dairy cow on a British commercial farm to give us a bovine take on the reality of life as an animal down the food chain.
Shot over four years, the film adheres to the standard model of nature documentation by identifying a single animal as the “star”, but Arnold immediately subverts this approach by filming his chosen subject, Luma, in his own harsh style. There are no stately planes of pastoral splendor here, though there are plenty of unmistakable Arnold flourishes. A diegetic soundtrack of melancholy club hits, for example, adds an eerie municipal-domain sadness amidst the industrial farmhouse – and the sex is also typically brutal, with Arnold managing to ensure that the sight of Luma being stalked and riding by a bull resembles the joyless copulation of the last two punters in a small British nightclub at the end of a particularly depressing evening.
It’s a key scene and Arnold uses it to make Luma’s miserable lot in life worse by juxtaposing it with a tongue-in-cheek shot of bonfire night fireworks quickly followed by a cut to an ultrasound informing us that Luma has been impregnated for a sixth time. The indifferent look on Luma’s face is the same smiling grimace found on the faces of female characters across decades of British social realist cinema. A poor cow indeed.
All films in general release from January 14
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