4.5 star(s), 96 minutes, Theatrical
If you’ve yet to experience a movie by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, Synchronic is the perfect gateway drug. If not for the COVID-19 pandemic, this likely would have been the breakout smash that finally introduced the world to Benson and Moorhead’s immeasurable film-making talents.
The film focuses on two New Orleans paramedics who must contend with a growing body count from a new designer drug. The kicker isn’t the drug, but what it can do, which is basically transport people of a certain age and medical condition to different moments in history, but only those moments that occurred wherever the user is when they take the pill.
Synchronic is a brilliant twist on time travel, an epic mindfuck of surreal imagery, and a beautiful meditation on mortality and friendship.
Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan have never been better, but the real star here is Benson’s audacious script. A lot of movies promise to show you something you’ve never seen before. Synchronic actually delivers.
Bonus points for anyone so inspired that they go seek out Benson and Moorhead’s first three films (Resolution, Spring and The Endless) before watching their latest. The duo has talked openly about how each of their films is connected through a shared universe, and I suspect that Synchronic is no different. I cannot wait for a repeat viewing.
3.5 star(s), 81 minutes, Streaming
Chop Chop might just be one of the oddest, most ambitious debut feature films to come along in quite a while. For 75 minutes, writer-director Rony Patel crafts a gloriously gory take on the worst night a young couple could ever have. Seriously, I had no idea what to expect, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for Chop Chop to deftly stitch together a grab-bag of influences from teleporting mutant killers to torture porn and still keep me transfixed. Patel doesn’t stick the landing, sadly, but it’s difficult to fault him for taking a risk and trying one last twist in the final six minutes. Chop Chop deserves to be seen, and Patel is definitely a director to follow. I can’t wait to see what he does next.
3 star(s), 99 minutes, Streaming
Tomas (Alec Secareanu) is a former soldier living on the streets of London and wracked with guilt over his role in an unidentified war where he was tasked with guarding a check point. When he’s offered refuge by a nun, Sister Claire (Imelda Staunton), and a job as a caretaker at a dilapidated estate, Tomas sees an opportunity for redemption by helping Magda (Carla Juri), whose mother lays dying on the third floor of the massive house. Amulet, the first film from Romola Garai, takes its time getting to the spooky stuff, but it’s worth the wait. My main fault with Amulet is Garai’s decision to leave certain critical moments open to viewer interpretation, specifically where it concerns a strange totem that Tomas digs up during the war.
Redwood Massacre: Annihilation
0 star(s), 104 minutes, Streaming
You would be hard pressed to find a bigger fan of scream queen Danielle Harris, but even I walked away from Redwood Massacre: Annihilation feeling pissed. This is, quite honestly, one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, and I suffered through the entirety of Daniel Myrick’s Skyman. There’s just no point whatsoever. Watching Redwood Massacre: Annihilation is like watching clueless counselors wander around Camp Crystal Lake for nearly two hours while they bitch about the experience and you barely get to see Jason Voorhees. It’s an offensive, interminable film that should be ashamed to call itself part of the slasher genre.
I Am Toxic
2 star(s), 76 minutes, Streaming
Hailing from Argentina, I Am Toxic, which is known overseas by the preferable title, Soy Tóxico, is set in the distant future of 2101 after the Earth has been ravaged by war and a virus that turns the infected into vicious, desiccated monsters. I love a good dystopian action-horror mashup, but sadly there’s not much originality to be found here. While it’s clear that the creative forces behind I Am Toxic gave it their all, the end result falls far short of better apocalyptic thrillers that you’ve already seen.
House of Shadows
1 star(s), 75 minutes, Streaming/DVD
House of Shadows starts strong with a young woman, Sarah (Elena Delia), being notified that she is the sole heir to a substantial inheritance, which includes a secluded retreat where her mother lived. But the film quickly, and inexplicably, undercuts what could have been a satisfying gothic thriller. House of Shadows just plods along with characters you don’t feel attached to, a host of mysteries that go too long without being resolved and no real sense of urgency or dread, which is a hallmark of the paranormal genre.
Also available as of October 20:
Tremore: Shrieker Island: The seventh (?!?) entry in the 30-years-and-counting Tremors franchise is now streaming and on DVD.
The Haunting: Jan de Bont’s 1999 take on Shirley Jackson’s classic novel, The Haunting of Hill House, is now available on Blu-Ray.
Back to the Future: The Ultimate Trilogy: Yes, it’s not horror, but the classic time-travel franchise returns in glorious 4K Ultra-HD just in time for Halloween.
John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films that often get overlooked and interviews with cult cinema favorites like George A. Romero, Bruce Campbell and Dee Wallace. Contact him at Blood Violence and Babes.com, on Facebook @BloodViolenceBabes or on Twitter @BVB_reviews.