The classic Agatha Christie-style whodunit murder mystery story is a genre that I have, admittedly, had limited exposure to in contemporary Hollywood productions, let alone one that is set in our present-day Trump-governed America. It was a genre I had always associated with the Cluedo board game growing up as well as the infamous Simpsons two-part episode ‘Who Shot Mr. Burns’. When I had heard that Rian Johnson’s latest cinematic outing, Knives Out would present a more playfully comedic, theatrical take on the whodunit genre, I was initially rather apprehensive. This was mainly due to Johnson’s previous film Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) having been met with possibly the most controversial and divisive critical reception of any film that I had heard of. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that Knives Out was a thoroughly entertaining and well-crafted production with a wonderfully talented cast, masterful use of staging, intricately detailed and theatrical set-pieces interwoven with a devilishly tongue-in-cheek brand of comedy and deft use of classic murder-mystery tropes.
“All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That’s how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day.”
To say that the Joker, the arch-nemesis of Batman and one of the most notorious comic-book villains of the modern age has had a storied legacy within the realm of Hollywood cinema would be trivializing the character’s notable impact on the medium. The fact that he has 7 cinematic incarnations with each one wildly differing from the last stands as a testament to the Clown-Prince of Crime’s pervasiveness and longevity in Hollywood film. As befitting a character with a knack for dramatic and grandiose entrances, it only seems appropriate that the Joker makes an explosive solo return to the 2019 cinematic scene in a sea of anticipation and contention in equal measure.
What do you get when you toss Wolfenstein, John Carpenter’s The Thing, Saving Private Ryan and possibly the most blatant amounts of historical inaccuracy into a blender? You get a feverishly insane, ridiculously ultraviolent, revisionist war horror, schlock-fest that is Overlord. It could easily be dismissed as exactly the kind of unapologetically gruesome and tasteless B-movie pulp that a fourteen-year-old version of me would call a ‘masterpiece’. But in an era where most action productions are shackled to grand executive franchise aspirations, a schlocky revisionist war film about horrific Nazi experimentation with a simple beginning and an end and no loose ends to be tied up in a sequel or big-budget franchise feels like a breath of fresh air.
I can’t overstate it enough. Guillermo del Toro is one of those directors who’s signature aesthetic style of his productions is something I have a tremendous personal adoration for. His more commercial productions including the Hellboy films and Pacific Rim were simple, yet fun and well-executed for what they were. But while they may have attracted me to his visual style initially, what had garnered a much more profound fascination in me for del Toro’s work were his more ‘artistic’ productions that delve into certain historical backdrops and deftly intertwine and manifest certain conflicts and anxieties of said historical period with his own oddball blend of atmospheric dark fantasy and gothic horror.