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This seems to be a week dealing in dread, with plenty of options for filmic thrill-seekers. Netflix’s bloodthirsty teen horror trilogy Fear Street reaches its culmination, while the lean and mean creature feature Crawl impresses with its brevity and its bite.
Meanwhile, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity turns fear of the void of space into a story of spiritual rebirth. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, on the other hand, is just an extremely funny outlier: a good alternative for those who would prefer comedic set pieces over terror.
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Fear Street Part Three: 1666 - Netflix
The final chapter of Netflix’s trilogy of adaptations of RL Stine’s horror franchise travels even further back in time, to 1666. History comes full circle as the film takes place in a colonial town gripped by a hysterical witch-hunt that has deadly consequences for hundreds of years, the third film of the trilogy exploring the origins of Shadyville’s curse, as the teenagers from 1994 have to undo it before it’s too late.
In a fun touch, the primary cast of the last two films play their 1666 ancestors, though it’s not exactly a period piece – Bone Thugs N Harmony’s 'Mo Murda' features as one of the series’ latest, multitudinous needle drops – taking place in multiple time frames at once.
At this point the Fear Street “film trilogy event”, as Netflix is calling it, are hardly self-contained feature films as much as they are fancily-packaged television, but the deranged, 300 year mythology that RL Stine built has an undeniable magnetism to it, both through its detailing of a systemic rot that’s classically American in its paranoia, monstrousness and pervasiveness, as well as its foregrounding of queer relationships and experience.
Crawl - Netflix
In this film directed by Alexandre Aja, director of the nasty, goriest update of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes as well as the completely bonkers Piranha 3D, what Crawl doesn’t quite have in bloodshed or deranged satirical bite (ha) it makes up for with its conciseness. Set during a huge hurricane in Florida, protagonist Haley (Kaya Scodelario) ignores her hometown’s evacuation orders to look for her father. After finding him badly wounded, both are trapped by the flood. With virtually no time to escape the storm, they discover that rising water levels are the least of their problems - because they’re stuck with a bunch of alligators. Aja’s film is lean and efficient and often very mean, placing the cruel and uncaring gore of a creature feature amongst a context of climate anxiety.
Also new on Netflix: Good Boys, Once Upon a Time In… Hollywood
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar - NOW with a Sky Cinema Membership
A masterclass in both scripted and improv comedy, Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar sees Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo – following their success writing 2011’s Bridesmaids – reunite as writers and co-stars in this completely absurdist cult highlight of 2021. Best friends Barb (Mulmolo) and Star (Wiig) leave their small Midwestern town for the first time and head to the idyllic Vista Del Mar in Florida, expecting a vacation in paradise only to find themselves caught in the midst of a evil villain’s (also Wiig) plot to unleash killer bees at the beach.
Watch a clip from Barb and Star
Wiig and Mumolo are completely hilarious, every new demented digression of their writing only made funnier by their performances, and Jamie Dornan puts in some career best work too, one highlight being a sequence of his that heavily resembles ‘Bret’s Angry Dance’ from Flight of the Conchords. Delightful from top to bottom, and stealthily one of the year’s finest.
Also on NOW: Inception, Bill and Ted Face The Music
Gravity - BBC iPlayer
Gravity was a film designed to be seen on the biggest screen possible, 3D glasses affixed. From the 20 minute long take of its opening it's a sweeping and epic technical exercise, paired with a slightly less impressive human drama. Still, it holds the attention with the movie star charisma of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts Dr Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalsky, both eminently watchable even when obscured by helmets and heavy astronaut gear, even when simply drifting amongst a cosmic void or speaking as a disembodied voice on the radio.
It’s a work of wonder and visceral desperation and terror, even if it’s all wrapped in a blunt metaphor for rebirth.
Also new on iPlayer: A Simple Favour, 3:10 to Yuma