Every year, I enjoy snuggling up to watch creepy movies when the autumn chill hits the air. This season, there are many new movies available, but not all thrill.
On Amazon Prime, Totally Killer combines a slasher movie with a time travel story as Jamie Hughes (Kiernan Shipka) travels back to 1987 to prevent The Sweet Sixteen Killer from murdering a group of popular girls who call themselves The Mollies (after Molly Ringwald): Pam (Olivia Holt), Tiffany (Liana Liberato), Marisa (Stephi Chin-Salvo), and Heather (Anna Diaz). With the help of brilliant Lauren Creston (Tory L. Johnson), Jamie tries not to disrupt the timeline so much that she is never born—or is murdered herself. Julie Bowen is also beautifully cast as Jamie’s mom.
Setting aside the massive discrepancies in how old Jamie is supposed to be, given the ages and dates provided, Totally Killer delivers a fun mixture of Back to the Future, Scream, and Happy Death Day. Carried by a smart performance from Kiernan Shipka, the story blends slasher thrills, with just enough sci-fi to justify the time travel, plus teen movie drama. I would have liked more of the John Hughes infusion to draw out the period piece element more. Jamie comments on how insensitive the 1980s teens are, but I do not think the movie uses the ‘80s for enough fun.
Totally Killer features a satisfying mystery, fun performances, and enough plot twists that I was willing to suspend a lot of disbelief.
Totally Killer was written by David Matalon, Sasha Perl-Raver, and Jen D’Angelo, and directed by Nahnatchka Khan. It runs 106 minutes and is rated R.
On Hulu, No One Will Save You centers an alien invasion story on Brynn (Kaitlyn Dever), a young woman who has been ostracized by her small town after a tragic event in her past. Brynn spends her days isolated in an old house so beautiful that I might be willing to get abducted by aliens if I got to live there. When Brynn is jolted awake by the arrival of extraterrestrials, how should she handle the invasion if her neighbors hate her?
No One Will Save You uses light beautifully, deploying lens flares and sunbeams to provide a more natural contrast to the intense rays of light that the alien spacecraft shines. The set designs give rich details about the community and Brynn’s character, building the story in the absence of dialogue. The movie also depends on the considerable talents of Kaitlyn Dever, whose skills at expressing complex emotions with her face compensate for the relative silence of the screenplay. The problem, however, is that without lines, or even screaming, the majority of the movie gets soundtracked by Dever heaving, gasping, and generally breathing heavily. That makes sense for the story, but after long enough, it starts to take over the whole experience. Maybe they could have let her character talk to herself a little bit?
The other major flaw with No One Will Save You is how much the story drags. At just 93 minutes, the movie feels much longer. Ultimately, it is beautifully crafted and skillfully acted, but boring. I keep thinking about the sets and costumes but would never rewatch this film.
No One Will Save You was written and directed by Brian Duffield. It runs 93 minutes and is rated PG-13.
Similarly, on Netflix, Reptile attempts slow-burning neo-noir but drags along. In the film, veteran detective Tom Nichols (Benicio Del Toro) investigates the murder of Summer (Matilda Lutz), a young real estate agent working for hotshot agent Will Grady (Justin Timberlake) and his mother, Camille (Frances Fisher). Will, Summer’s estranged husband, and a volatile man stalking the Gradys all seem like good candidates, but what Tom uncovers shocks him more than the murder itself.
Reptile reminds me of the thrillers of the late 1990s-early 2000s, such as Double Jeopardy, Along Came a Spider, or Seven. They had great actors, sometimes silly plots, but enough sizzle that I occasionally get an urge to go back and rewatch them. Reptile has all the elements to be a good movie, but somehow it does not all add up. The sizzle fizzles.
Nevertheless, as Judy, Tom’s wife, Alicia Silverstone brightens up an otherwise dreary film, providing a charming counterpoint to Tom’s hardboiled persona. She’s smart and observant, but also lighter than the overall tone. Justin Timberlake gives a fine performance, but continually had me asking why he was cast for this role. Benicio Del Toro is as talented as ever, but there are so many middle-aged, smart-alec cops in this movie they all start to blend. Reptile shows skill in every element of the production, but especially clocking in at over two hours in length, I doubt anyone could watch it without folding laundry or reading the headlines, too.
Reptile was written by Benjamin Brewer, Benicio Del Toro, and Grant Singer, who directed. It runs 134 minutes and is rated R.
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