Friday, July 23, 2021

Capsule Reviews - July 23, 2021

Host (2020) – Along with its many strengths, director Rob Savage’s Host will also one day serve as the perfect time capsule, showing future audiences what it was like to live through the hell that was the COVID pandemic of 2020; characters are sequestered at home, communicating with each other by way of an online Zoom meeting, and when they go out, they wear face masks. On top of that, Host is also a damn effective horror movie. A group of friends, with the help of a medium (played by Seylan Baxter), holds an online séance and inadvertently summons a malevolent spirit. There are some intensely creepy scenes in Host, and with a running time of just under an hour the movie never loses any of its steam. Host is a supernatural tale for the modern age, and will have you poised on the edge of your seat. Rating: 9 out of 10

Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces (2000) – Produced by Turner Classic Movies, this 2000 documentary focuses on the life and career of silent film star Lon Chaney, whose remarkable skills with a make-up brush earned him the nickname “The Man of a Thousand Faces”. We learn about Chaney’s upbringing, and how his expertise at both pantomime and communicating with his eyes were in part due to his parents (both of whom were deaf mutes). In addition we’re shown the physical extremes that the actor went to for many of his roles (the make-up he devised for his portrayal of the title character in 1925’s The Phantom of the Opera must have been extremely uncomfortable). Directed by Kevin Brownlow and narrated by Kenneth Branagh, Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces features interviews with family members (including archival footage of his famous son, Lon Chaney Jr., recounting stories from his childhood) as well as clips from many of the actor’s most notable films (though known for playing monsters, Chaney’s portrayal of Sgt. O’Hara in 1926’s Tell it to the Marines so impressed the Corps that they made him an honorary Marine). This is a must-see for cinephiles looking to delve into the actor’s filmography (an undertaking I highly recommend). Rating: 9 out of 10

They Nest (2000) – Ordered to take a leave of absence by his hospital’s administrator, recovering alcoholic Dr. Ben Cahill (Thomas Calabro) heads to the crappiest island in Maine, where he recently purchased a vacation home. Soon after his arrival, Cahill discovers that a highly aggressive, carnivorous insect has somehow made its way to this sleepy little inlet, and is multiplying quickly… by laying its eggs inside the locals! Calabro is hit-and-miss as the lead (he’s so goofy at times that we wonder how he ever became a surgeon in the first place), and the first half hour or so of the movie, when Cahill is being tormented by Jack Wald (John Savage), the previous owner of his house, fell flat. Once the bugs take center stage, however, They Nest hits its stride, and there are a handful of gross yet effective sequences throughout (especially when the bugs “burst out” of their human hosts). The supporting cast, including Dean Stockwell as the sheriff and Kirsten Dalton as Cahill’s love interest, is solid, and the finale (by which point the bugs have evolved) is a real nail-biter. Rating: 7 out of 10

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