- Review: Laugh Riot @ Refract:21, Waterside Arts - 30 July, 2021
- Preview: Refract Festival, Waterside Arts, Manchester - 5 July, 2021
- Review: Manchester Jewish Museum - 4 July, 2021
2018 has been a great year for movies. In our list of the top 10 films of the year, there are a surprising number of horror movies, some great comedies, two biopocs, and only one superhero movie! Here are numbers 5 to 1 (see parts 10 to 6 here).
5. Game Night
The sheer joy of this film, as a game-loving 30-something, is in its careful balancing of personalities. The main ensemble are all likeable in their own way, bringing very different comedic styles to the table, and reflecting the diverse gamer friends many people like me have.
It’s also a fairly light-hearted film that manages to be funny and charming at the same time. I can’t wait for Game Night 2!
4. Black Panther
Black Panther was a visual marvel (or Marvel, if you like). But more important than what it did theatrically is what it did culturally: black philanthropists bought out entire cinema screenings so that underprivileged black kids could see a hero who looked like them on the big screen.
At last, a black-led superhero movie (perhaps overlooking New Line’s Blade) that works on multiple levels. This was the Wonder Woman of 2018, and shows that there may just be life in the superhero franchise yet – if Marvel can continue to challenge itself.
Dumplin’ is a sweet film about three unexpected entries into a beauty contest, a love of Dolly Parton, and the transformational powers of drag – starring Jennifer Aniston and Harold Perrineau. If that doesn’t sound gay AF to you, then I don’t know what it is!
This is a perfect Christmas movie, full of feel-good vibes and unconventional people. Having glimpsed negative reviews online, we went into this one not expecting much, but were very pleasantly surprised. By the end, we were weeping like babies and full of cheer. Isn’t that what you want for a cold December movie?
A retconned sequel to the original Halloween, this movie sees its heroine Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) go all Sarah Connor in her long-awaited showdown with the Shape. Laurie is as much the hunter this time around as Michael is, and that injects the film with a giddy energy that goes beyond horror jump-scares.
This semi-reboot shows that there can be life in established franchises that respect the things fans loved but are willing to go in new directions. Dare I say it, but this film is possibly better than the original. It expertly combines the horror and revenge genres into one satisfying film that balances terror and catharsis finely.
Central to the film’s success is the focus on Laurie, her daughter and granddaughter, and the more empowering approach to a last girl that the 21st Century climate requires.
It gives me hope that decent sequels to iconic series can be made, if they embrace the heart of those franchises and are willing to go back to basics. I’m looking forward to the new Terminator film (starring Linda Hamilton once more) for the same reason, and idly wonder whether Heather Langenkamp and Sigourney Weaver can be encouraged to return to solid A Nightmare on Elm Street and Alien films, respectively.
1. Bird Box
I didn’t expect to like Bird Box. I’m a fan of Sandra Bullock, but modern horror films mostly leave me cold. This one owes a lot to the zombie genre, but with some nice twists. The plot isn’t exactly original (the idea of travelling to a farflung colony where it’s safe appears in lots of post-apocalyptic movies, including 28 Days Later and Mad Max: Fury Road), but that doesn’t matter.
What Halloween and this film both get right (like 28 Days Later and Fury Road) is that they have simple plots and well developed characters. Bird Box is also elegant in the way it creates and maintains tension. Its use of flashback is subtle – really, the film could just as well start at the time of the apocalypse and move forward, but including the flashback creates tension as we try to figure out how the characters got where they are from what we know of them in the past.
Using blindfolds is a great way to rob the heroes (and, by proxy, ourselves) of valuable information which maintains the growing sense of dread. Keeping the monsters invisible and inexplicable is also perfect, because our imagination is much more powerful than any CGI ever could be.