Skull: The Mask is Nasty B-Movie Fun [Chattanooga Film Festival Review]

In the scene that best captures the essence of Brazilian slasher film Skull: The Mask, a monster (Rurik Jr.) stalks toward a priest (Ricardo Gelli). The priest backs toward a crucifix. He takes Christ’s hand, at first it seems, for comfort. But the hand comes out and reveals itself to actually be a sword hidden in Jesus’s arm. The priest and monster proceed to have an epic sword fight in front of a stained glass background.

The movie starts long before that fight in 2021. Skull: The Mask opens in 1944, with soldiers that look a lot like Nazis conducting a ritual to summon Anhangá, a Brazilian god. They cut a man’s stomach open and bathe the titular mask—which looks like the skull of one of the pig things from the rancor pit in Return of the Jedi—in blood and entrails. One of the maybe-Nazis puts the mask on. The mask doesn’t like that. The maybe-Nazi’s head explodes.

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Tigers Are Not Afraid Returns Fairy Tales to Their Gory Glory [Steelbook Review]

Issa López’s Tigers Are Not Afraid opens with a shocking set of juxtapositions. White text on a black background tells audiences that, “Since the beginning of the drug war in 2006, 160,000 have been killed and 53,000 have disappeared in Mexico… There are no numbers for the children.” From there, López takes her audience into a classroom where they’re discussing the nature of fairy tales. The children are wearing pristine white uniforms. Their symbolic innocence crashes against the sobering statistics.

As Estrella (Paola Lara) writes a fairy tale about a prince who has forgotten that he’s a prince, the scene changes again. Now the camera is following Shine (Juan Ramón López), a boy around the same age as Estrella. Instead of going to school, he’s stalking two gangsters through an alleyway. When Caco (Ianis Guerrero) steps into a corner to pee, Shine steals his phone and his wallet. It’s a wonderfully tense moment because as López shows again and again throughout the film, she knows how to milk a scene for all it’s worth.

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The Only Good Indians is Phenomenal [Book Review]

Stephen Graham Jones is prolific. According to his website, he’s “the author of 23 or 25 or so books, +300 stories, some comic books, and all this stuff here.” The Only Good Indians is the 5th of those 20 plus books I’ve read, and it’s by far the best.

The Only Good Indians opens with “Ricky Boss Ribs,” a member of the Blackfeet tribe, hanging out in a bar. He’s working with “a drilling crew over in North Dakota.” His work is so dangerous that “Each time he came back with all his fingers he would flash thumbs-up all around the platform to show how he was lucky.” He has no illusions about how dangerous the bar is for a Native American man. When he slips outside to pee, there’s an elk in the parking lot, destroying vehicles.

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William Friedkin: Interview Peeks into Director’s Mind [Book Review]

William Friedkin was one of the biggest directors of the 1970s. He struck it big in 1971 with the crime thriller The French Connection and had other hits throughout his fifty year career in film. Undoubtedly, horror fans will know him from his 1973 genre-defining film The Exorcist.

Along with the University Press of Mississippi, who also published an excellent book of interviews with horror luminary Wes Craven, Christopher Lane has compiled fifteen interviews with Friedkin, spanning from the height of his success in 1974 all the way until the release of his latest film, The Devil and Father Amorth, which Friedkin was promoting in 2018.

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Infection is a Science Heavy Zombie Flick [DVD Review]

The ending of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is iconic. Ben, as brilliantly played by Duane Jones, goes to the window while an all-white militia is sweeping toward the farmhouse, head-shotting as many zombies as they can. One of them spots Ben, a black man, in the window and shoots him. It’s never clear whether they mistook Ben for a zombie or they saw an opportunity to kill a black man and took it. Romero never intended that moment to be read in this way, and Venezuelan writer-director Flavio Pedota finds himself in a similar situation with his zombie flick Infection.

In Romero’s introduction to the collection of zombie short fiction, Nights of the Living Dead: An Anthology, he admitted, Jones got the part because he was “hands down, the best, within our puny budget, to play it” (xvi). I quoted that same line in my review of Day of the Dead: Bloodline, and I still believe, “The thing with allegories and politics in film: They’re there whether the creators intended them or not.” Pedota, unlike Bloodline director Hèctor Hernández Vicens, lucked into the best part of his film.

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The Other Lamb is a Righteous Takedown of Christian Cults [Review]

My parents sent me to a Catholic all boys high school to “avoid distractions.” What “distractions” means, if you haven’t been indoctrinated into the bizarre sexist code of America, is “healthy relationships with women.” At that Catholic all boys high school, I was taught that when Eve ate the apple she committed the “Original Sin.” All of humanity would be punished, but women especially. They would have to have periods every month and painfully birth children. (Forgive me if I’m fuzzy on the details. It’s been ten years.) Malgorzata Szumowska’s first English language feature, The Other Lamb, demonstrates the way the concept of “Original Sin” has been and can be used to other and denigrate women.

The main character, Selah (Raffey Cassidy from The Killing of a Sacred Deer), is born into a Christian cult. The leader, known only as Shepherd (Game of Throne’s Michiel Huisman) for most of the film, is her father. In fact, he’s the father of many of the other young women in this cult. The rest of the women are his wives. There are no other men. “Only one ram in a flock, child,” Sarah (Denise Gough) explains to Selah late in the film.

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