It’s Time to Watch ‘Horse Girl’

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CREDIT: Katrina Marcinowski/Netflix

With so many movie theaters closed for the foreseeable future, I decided to finally watch and review some straight-to-streaming flicks I haven’t had a chance to get around to yet. And in the spirit of things being not-so-normal, these reviews will maybe be a little more, uh, shall we say, offbeat, than usual.

First up on the docket is Horse Girl, a seemingly quirky indie comedy, but actually no, it’s a psychological study of emergent mental illness, but with some trappings of low-budg sci-fi. We can use the catchall term “drama.” It stars and is co-written by Alison Brie. The other person handling scripting duties is Jeff Baena, who also sat in the directing chair. I know and love Jeff from The Little Hours, in which he previously directed Alison. It played at Sundance in January 2020 and landed on Netflix on February 7, 2020. Thanks to Alison’s presence, I knew I was going to definitely watch it eventually, as I’ve been a superfan of hers since her days on Community (which I’m legally obligated to acknowledge is my favorite show of all time whenever I mention it).

Alison plays Sarah, an introverted lass who works at an arts and crafts store and enjoys horses. Also, her stepdad is played by Paul Reiser! (That’s got to be a good sign, right?) Things seem to be going okay for her, especially when she strikes up a potential new romantic relationship on her birthday. But then, as she begins to experience lost time and unexplained visions, it appears that the mental struggles that run in her family are finally making themselves at home in her brain. Or is she actually a clone who is also dealing with flippin’ alien abductions, jeez?

If you’re forcing me to say one or the other, Sarah probably actually is indeed experiencing mental illness. But Horse Girl makes me think: isn’t the idea of alien abduction intoxicating? What if it could be the basis of a religion? You could believe in them, though not literally, just have faith in them in some sort of way. That’s just a kernel of an idea, we’ll see if it becomes anything more. Anyway, Alison is terrific, but y’all knew that already! (Dint ya?)

Movie Review: ‘Brightburn’ Has Some Chilling Horror Instincts, But It Miscalculates Its Own Stakes

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CREDIT: Boris Martin/Sony Pictures

Starring: Jackson A. Dunn, Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner

Director: David Yarovesky

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Rating: R for Alarmingly Gory and Sadistic Violence

Release Date: May 24, 2019

“What if Superman, but evil?” sounds like a pretty slam-dunk pitch for a superhero horror movie, doesn’t it? Brightburn isn’t an official offshoot of the Man of Steel, though it does hew closely enough for me to wonder if any copyright lawyers need to get involved, considering that it’s about a childless couple living on a Kansas farm who adopt a superpowered baby boy who falls from the sky. This isn’t the first story to propose this sort of switcheroo, as the 2003 comic Red Son (in which Superman is raised in the Soviet Union) and the ’70s SNL Uberman sketch (in which he grows up in Nazi Germany) come to mind. But while those examples suggested that a superbeing’s environment is key, Brightburn comes down squarely on the nature side of the Nature vs. Nurture debate.

Brandon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn) has two loving and devoted parents (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman), but they mean nothing in the face of a spaceship that sends him telepathic messages to conquer Earth. Brightburn is most effective as a horror mashup of slasher and bad seed flicks, as Brandon quickly turns sadistically bloodthirsty as he discovers his abilities. But ultimately, the film is not equipped to work as a subversion of the superhero narrative. Once Brandon’s parents realize his intentions, it is clear that they (along with everybody else) are no match for him. In the desperation to present some sort of counterattack, Elizabeth Banks is required to deliver some pathetic dialogue that nobody could possibly salvage in the face of such an impossible-to-defeat opponent. The balances are all off-scale, and only little stinkers who want to watch the world burn could enjoy the resolution offered here.

Brightburn is Recommended If You Like: Twisted takes on superheroes, Saw, Slashers at their gnarliest

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Laser Eyes

This Is a Movie Review: The Oath

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CREDIT: Topic Studios/Roadside Attractions

I give The Oath 3 out of 5 Breaking News Alerts: http://newscult.com/movie-review-oath-offers-caustic-vision-thanksgiving-america-built-loyalty-else/