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I spent the last few weeks going through every Marvel and DC movie I had ignored for the last 5+ years. Reviewing those films would be boring and possibly gain me the ire of several Twitter groups, so I won’t do that. Instead, here are some quick reviews of random films I watched during my much-needed breaks in my belated journey through the multiverse of multibillion-dollar factory art. Enjoy.

I always look forward to discovering new films in the home-invasion (and adjacent) genre. It's a category that can deliver an intense and claustrophobic experience, evoking real fears–or just as easily blend goofy-ass elements of Home Alone with ridiculous gore and be as good either way. "The Retreat" falls somewhere between those classifications without quite meeting the requirements for either. The brutality is incredibly tame by the subgenres standards, and there are no exaggerated acts of violence that will have you cheering. In fact, there is only one memorable on-screen kill--while the rest of the intriguing splatter occurs off-screen. Despite straddling that line, however, I found myself invested, and that can make all the difference when the movie is basically a demented game of hide and go-seek. I quickly developed an attachment to the main characters and their dynamic, genuinely caring about their survival ( a rare and often risky factor in horror movies). The antagonists' cliched motives and overused personalities were pulled together well by the actors involved. I would certainly recommend "The Retreat," but only to those who haven't grown tired of the sub-genre and are willing to overlook some overdone elements in favor of compelling main characters.

Debbie Does Demons (2023)

Despite its title, Debbie Does Demons is not the hardcore, unholy lovechild of The Devil in Miss Jones (1973) and Debbie Does Dallas (1978) you might have imagined. The name is both a tribute and a parody, which could also be said of the film's content. If taken seriously, it can be seen as a micro-budget, occult horror film with a generous dose of sleaze. However, like most of Donald Farmer's later output, it has some comedy in its frugal presentation.
Wearing little more than a cape, Jessa Flux floats around authoritatively as Carmilla Karnstein. She seems to understand the assignment and plays the character with an exaggerated passion that calls upon some of the greats in exploitation cinema. If you squint your eyes, there's a distinct Franco-esque quality to it, which is not surprising considering the clear influence of Female Vampire (1973), as well as, according to the director, nods to Witchfinder General (1968) and Fright Night (1985). We are big fans of Farmer here at VideoReligion, and I'm likely the target audience, so it’s no surprise I liked the flick. It evokes the spirit of other cult works of cinema in a way that doesn’t piss me off. Also, most of the movie is a beautiful lady walking around topless in a cowl, sometimes in graveyards, so there is that.

The Nanny's Night (2021)

This one might seem like a peculiar recommendation, but hear me out. You know the film The Babysitter (2017) with Samara Weaving? Imagine that--but with all the pop culture references outside the realm of horror removed or at least muddied by translation. It's the same shit, retold with fresh madness and free from the overwhelming presence of Disney stars. I watched it dubbed, and while there are occasional culturally-awkward moments, love for the genre managed to come through enough to win me over with sheer earnestness.
A Google translate version of a Netflix horror-comedy wasn't on my Christmas list, but I had a blast with whatever this was. Filled with surface-level tributes and an odd tone (further amplified by the dubbing in the version I watched), it is like a campfire story told at top speed, by a horror fan with trouble focusing. The rapid-fire pacing reminded me of Detention (2011)--in that both films feel like trying to keep up a text conversation with a person born in the 2000s. Even though it made me feel old, it was a shit-ton of fun.

The Invisible Man (2020)

I Finally got around to watching this reach-into-the-old-toybox by Universal Studios. This time instead of trying to jump-start some kind of public domain Avengers, they let someone try to make a (horror) movie. Even better, it is a fresh approach to one of the less-loved characters from the Universal roster. Dr. Griffen is a figure that doesn't always receive the attention he deserves in conversations about the Universal line-up, and he often loses his more egotistical side when he shows up in any media. Here, the story is brought back to a serious place, with a version of the titular character that is part super-science and part real-life monster. By following the victim of his violence, the antagonist truly is an unseen force, and this comes across well on several levels. Unfortunately, the acting throughout the movie was quite bad, and no amount of cinematography or cool ideas could save that. It seemed like every actor struggled, even those I've seen perform well in other projects. So, there was something universally lacking in that regard. Additionally, I felt that the film could have benefited from a better soundtrack rather than relying on leftover dramatic foghorn blasts from a Nolan project (bwwaaaaaaaaahwwwmmph). The visual callbacks to the original film were out of place and betrayed the mood, but I loved them too much to care.

Bloodshot (2020)

I almost forgot about this failed attempt at a shared universe that came out in 2020. At some point, there were plans to turn the Valiant Comics comic book line into a film franchise, despite the fact that you have to be a very specific type of nineties-kid to even know that it existed. Vin Diesel seems only able to portray an indestructible badass version of himself, and he doesn't resemble the Bloodshot character from the comics at all. He gets a pass for being an actual fan of the source material, but in my opinion, he is not a particularly skilled actor. This mess of a film might be the reason we'll never get a truly violent and bloody adaptation of Ninjak, and honestly, that kind of makes me want to hate it. There was never a chance for a multi-film universe, even if this film hadn’t come out with a quiet thud during one of the shittiest years ever. The plot is crafted with nearly non-existent writing, and it plays like the long-lost sequel to the Robocop remake from 2014. Not only does Diesel not look like Bloodshot, but he never even comes close to embodying the hero on any level–which makes even less sense since I know he has read the comics. All that being said, I have to admit, I fucking love the kind of bad superhero movie that this mess turned out to be. Maybe the dumb just landed right for me to enjoy myself, or I just had the right buzz going on, but I had fun watching nano-bot Riddick punch people. It reminds me of FOX’s anything-goes, uneven vibe with the X-Men films--something we may never experience again. Despite being a CGI-heavy disaster, they managed to tone down the special effects to be less offensive than the current norm, at least until the movie’s final quarter. Plus, for some reason, it has a great score with a classic style that works surprisingly well.

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