March 2022 Roundup
A24 // Directed by Ti West // Starring Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Martin Henderson, Brittany Snow, Owen Campbell, Stephen Ure, Scott Mescudi
Whilst boasting an entirely uninteresting title, Ti West’s X is anything but uninteresting. The latest A24 horror is very much a love letter to the exploitation/sexploitation flicks of the 1970s whilst eschewing the trappings of a full-on throwback - there’s more than a hint of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Eaten Alive here. Its premise is simple - a group of young actors hole up in a farmhouse in Texas to make an elevated porn film, however, the strange old couple that own the land take umbrage and suddenly the group are fighting for their lives - however, X works so well because of its simplicity. Whilst there are plenty of subtexts bubbling away under the surface alluding to sex, aging, porn, and the movie industry - these aren’t always explored in real detail it must be said - X is first and foremost a slasher film that’s packed full of gore, violence, and blood. There’s a real meta quality to the story as well, in it the character of RJ (Campbell) wants to make a “great adult flick” but the other characters argue that people just want to see sex. Similarly, the presence of A24 suggests one thing when people just want to see a low budget horror and that’s what this is. That being said, X is not a fun film but there is a satirical element to it - West doesn’t take his film entirely seriously. Surprisingly (and refreshingly), the characters were developed solidly, for once they weren’t portrayed as awful and/or fodder - Mia Goth stands out in multiple roles here and Brittany Snow also provides a strong performance. Sometimes in life, you just want a simple slasher movie that checks the boxes and then some, X is that movie. Mixing great tension, kills, brutality, and solid characters, X delivers one of the better horror movies of recent years.
Universal Pictures // Directed by Michael Bay // Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eiza González
Michael Bay has returned with Ambulance, a remake of 2005 Danish film of the same, and, in true Bay fashion, it’s far longer than its original…it’s also far longer than it needs to be…and it’s probably Bay’s best film in a long time. Ambulance still harbors many tropes and clichés expected from a Bay film, but here he dispenses with some of his more shadier tendencies and actually opens up for more inclusion which was a very welcome surprise. The majority of the film is a high-stakes vehicle chase that spans Los Angeles and focuses on characters played by the dependably decent Gyllenhaal, Abdul Mateen II (whose story provides the real pulse of the story), and González, they all get the assignment and help prevent Ambulance from sliding into mediocre territory. Despite its runtime and premise, it actually manages to feel smaller compared to some other Bay films and the movie is at its strongest when it simply focuses on the three leads together within the confines of the titular ambulance - a particularly icky surgery scene added a shot of tension alongside the heist and hostage aspects. Despite suffering from a bloated runtime (it does begin to get exhausting), some cardboard tertiary characters, and a stretched narrative, Ambulance is spectacularly solid - it’s engaging at times and forgettable at others, but it's certainly not bad.