Horror movie roundup: Saw X, Exorcist, VHS 85
It’s been a month of screams on the screen already with the releases of THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER, SAW X, and Shudder’s V/H/S/85.
To keep up, here’s a shotgun review of the three movies, because they keep common’ and we’re a once a week paper, so I’d still be reviewing these babies into Christmas with the onset of KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON, FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S, and others coming out this month.
Taking place between 2004’s original SAW and 2005’s SAW II, SAW X follows the eccentric life-coach John Kramer (a career-best Tobin Bell) as he travels to Mexico for a potentially life-saving medical procedure not approved in America to remove his aggressive tumor that has given him months to live.
It turns out, however, that the entire operation is a sham. Kramer is duped and, of course, decides to get even. Way even.
Calling in his assistant/protege Amanda (Shawnee Smith, reprising) the two kidnap the lead doctor and her “staff” to make them pay for what they’ve done, stealing millions and playing with the lives of cancer patients the world over.
SAW X is good. Like, really good. It is more of a human drama than a slasher, with some seriously fantastic performances by Smith and Bell as Amanda and John who, you can tell, are giving these characters everything they should have had from the beginning now with decades more acting prowess and understanding.
The traps are nasty and disgusting as ever, and the gore is at an all-time high without ever feeling “mean”. These are, mostly, terrible people that John and Amanda are playing with and a 3rd act surprise introduces a villain that upsets even Jigsaw himself.
A franchise-best for the long-running series and one that is absolutely required viewing.
THE EXORCIST BELIEVER
After his daughter and her friend disappear in the woods for 3 days and return…different…widowed father Tanner (Leslie Odom Jr) seeks out the help of a retired actress named Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) who’s daughter Regan suffered a similar fate almost 50 years ago.
BELIEVER is the first in a planned trilogy of sequels to William Freidkin’s original 1970’s EXORCIST film, relying on the magic (or poisonous) touch of director David Gordon Green who brought the “Halloween” franchise back from the dead in 2018.
BELIEVER is not as terrifying as you would hope, but it is shocking and surprising in many ways, bolstered by some knock-out performances from the two young possessed girls Olivia O’Neill and Lidya Jewett as well as Odom Jr.
It raises some interesting questions moving forward with the sequel planned, and while it doesn’t reinvent the wheel it is a solid fun time.
The sixth entry in the V/H/S anthology horror series, ‘85 brings together the talents of David Bruckner (The Night House, Hulu’s Hellraiser), Mike P. Nelson (Wrong Turn reboot), Gigi Saul Guerrero (Bingo Hell), Natasha Kermani (Lucky), and Scott Derrickson (The Black Phone).
In typical V/H/S/ fashion, the found-footage films are different segments held (sometimes linked together) by an overarching narrative.
‘85’s entries include a TV news reporter in Mexico in the 1980s who stumbled upon a sinister underground secret during an earthquake, a group of friends who go out for some summer fun at the lake only to end up the target of a maniac, a young boy who has a special video recorder that captures his premonitions of a grizzly murderer, a theatrical performance gone awry, and a young girl’s psychotic family and their bizarre ritual.
V/H/S/ is a pretty consistent series with the worst entries being only “passable” and the best being the stuff of horror-movie legend. I loved 85, but I don’t quite think it reached the heights of V/H/S/99 which I still maintain as the absolute peak of the franchise.
That isn’t a mark on 85 tough, merely personal preference. This is definitely the STRONGEST of the six movies, there isn’t a boring one in the lot.
SAW X and EXORCIST are playing in theaters, VHS85 is streaming on Shudder and other VOD services.
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