In Thoroughbreds, writer-director Cory Finley delivers an astonishing debut. The film features two astounding lead performances from Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy as a pair of grim highschoolers. The plot of the film unwinds in four chapters (plus an epilogue), in which information is revealed piecewise and the tension and mystery of this thriller matures into a chilling climax. All the while, the spectator is treated to some stunning cinematography that perfectly captures the pristine affluence of the setting while simultaneously hinting at some dark kernel. This grim tone permeates the film, lending Thoroughbreds an additional layer of significance and meaning.
Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room takes advantage of two primal human fears to fill its audience with a profound sense of unease: the fear of confinement, and the fear of being outnumbered in a fight. The film establishes an omnipresent feeling of dread by casting the members of a punk rock band into the deep end of a hinterland Neo-Nazi club. Though the set itself is fine, one of the members witnesses something he shouldn’t, and the film becomes a hyper-realistic slasher thriller set in this single, remote location. Though the story essentially recreates the “Ten Little Indians” trope, there is a subtlety and direction to the plot and a dimensionality to the characters that raises Green Room above the common slasher.
When reacting to the trailer for Joe Dante’s Burying the Ex, I remarked that it could be interesting to use the zombie story as a metaphor for a doomed or stale relationship. This film barrels down that road with fervor, and the result is an awkward on-screen relationship that despite literally decaying, just will not die. The film opens with Max (Anton Yelchin) and Evelyn (Ashley Greene) clinging to a relationship that just doesn’t work. They are horribly mismatched from the get-go: she is a vegan tree-hugger with a cause and a blog, and he works at a Halloween shop and loves monster movies and gore. Thankfully, we don’t waste time discovering how these two got together or see the early parts of their relationship, we just see the death throes. It is annoying that the only thing keeping them together from Max’s perspective is the sex – but even the melt-your-face sexiness of Evelyn isn’t enough after she re-decorates their apartment and forces him to go vegan with her, to his credit. When he finally decides to pull the trigger, and he sets up the breakup location, Evelyn is killed while crossing the street.