Thriller ‘Knives and Skin’ Cuts Deeper Than Most
Genre : Thriller
Rating : Unrated
Director: Jennifer Reeder
A small rural town is turned inside out when local student Carolyn Harper goes missing. Despite the best efforts of the suburban sheriff and Carolyn’s mother she cannot be found. As the days go by a wave of fear and distrust slowly begin to seep into the town’s foundations. As more and more townspeople try to figure out how to deal with their shared trauma a collective awakening takes over the town’s youth.
As simple as that synopsis may sound Knives and Skin is so much more. Written and directed by indie favorite Jennifer Reeder (2017’s Signature Move), Knives and Skin is a hard movie to explain. What starts out as a conventional teen thriller becomes a surrealist take that’s two parts Twin Peaks, one-part Rian Johnson’s Brick with a dash of Heathers to help it all go down. And although Knives and Skin is a grounded mystery it tackles so much more including toxic masculinity, LGBTQ issues and shared trauma.
Just as unique is how Reeder and cinematographer Christopher Rejano present their tale of tragedy. Nostalgic for the bright and vibrant look of the 80’s Knives and Skin uses deep blues and reds feel like they belong more in an Argento film than grounded thriller. Just as intricate are the relationships and characterizations of the town’s inhabitants. Mostly focused on Afra (Haley Bolithon), April (Aurora Real de Asua) and Joanna (Grace Smith) the most compelling performance Carolyn’s mother Lisa (Marika Engelhart). Over the course of the film we watch Lisa go from choir teacher and concerned mother to unraveling mess to a weird kind of acceptance. Marika’s performance is able to straddle tightrope between tragic and touching all at the same time.
As unique as Knives and Skin is in presentation it has its drawbacks. By taking inspiration from David Lynch it also replicates his signature acting style. How his style could make a performance feel stacato and suddenly give off a burst of intensity. Or how someone who was a normal teenager in the scene before would do a complete 180 and feel like a nihilistic monster in the next. Although David Lynch has shown that this style of telling a story can work it can just as often feel off putting. Just as confusing is the narrative of the story. Although the story itself is straight forward I found the way it was being told to be a bit jumbled in execution. Needless to say, Knives and Skin isn’t the kind of movie you put on as background noise.
A bit of a sleeper on the festival circuit Knives and Skin emerges as one of the most unique thrillers of the year. Jarring in presentation and story it isn’t for everyone. And that is probably it’s biggest strength. Not only does writer-director Jennifer Reeder show a skill at genre conventions but she also shows a willingness to look at topics we don’t typically talk about in genre cinema. Whether you love it or hate it Knives and Skin will speak to you in some way.
Links : IMDB
Knives and Skin is now in theaters and on VOD
‘Wednesday’ Co-Stars Jenna Ortega and Percy Hynes White to Star in Romance Film ‘Winter Spring Summer or Fall’
Even the folks at Netflix couldn’t have thought that Wednesday would turn into the hit that it did. The Addams Family property is one that many in the cultural zeitgeist are aware of, however, many would be hard pressed to believe that the mythology within that franchise is as rich as Tim Burton has been able to make it with the series. One of the reasons for that is for Jenna Ortega who plays the titular Wednesday Addams, and she has lined up her next project.
According to an exclusive from Deadline, Ortega will re-team with Percy Hynes White, who plays Xavier Thorpe on Wednesday for the romantic drama, Winter Spring Summer or Fall. The film will be the directorial debut of Tiffany Paulsen with Ortega serving as an executive producer on the project. Winter Spring Summer or Fall is described as Before Sunrise meets The Perks of Being a Wallflower following two teens coming-of-age into adulthood who meet and fall in love over four days throughout the year in all four seasons, hence the title of the flick.
Ortega has been skyrocketing to stardom due to Wednesday but has had a massive year in film and television. The young Latina was recently nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in the Netflix original but also starred in horror films Scream 5 and X in 2022. She’ll next be seen in Scream 6 which hits theaters in March 2023. The highly in-demand actress will also star in a crime thriller for Paramount titled Finest Kind alongside Ben Foster and Tommy Lee Jones as well as Miller’s Girl for Lionsgate where she’ll star with Martin Freeman. Ortega’s co-star Hynes White is best known for his lead role in Fox’s X-Men based series, The Gifted where he played Andy Strucker.
Paulsen is best known for writing the Netflix holiday rom com Holidate which starred Emma Roberts. Additionally, Paulsen also wrote About Fate which stars Roberts, Thomas Mann, Madelaine Petsch and Britt Robertson which is streaming currently on Amazon.
Daniel Craig Sets Follow-Up to ‘Knives Out’, Will Star in Luca Guadagnino’s ‘Queer’
Daniel Craig has been mostly known for his franchise fare in recent years. Whether that’s famously playing James Bond since 2006 or more recently, detective Benoit Blanc for Rian Johnson’s Knives Out films, the terrific actor brings gravitas to any role he inhabits. However, it seems Craig may be aiming for more awards garnering performances as of late.
According to Above the Line, it appears that Craig will star in Queer, a film based on the novel of the same name from distinguished author, William S. Burroughs. The story centers around a man named Lee in Mexico City who is dealing with his insecurities among other exiled college students and bar owners getting through on part-time jobs. Lee then pursues a young man named Allerton who is discharged from the Navy in Jacksonville before befriending Lee in Mexico. It appears there will be a romantic element to this with Craig’s character pursuing the young serviceman, who Sneider notes that a currently unknown star of Netflix hit series, Outer Banks is being eyed to play Allerton.
Queer will be directed by Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name, Suspiria) whose most recent film, Bones and All is in theaters currently. That film reunites Guadagnino with Timothee Chalamet who starred in Call Me by Your Name, earning his first Oscar nomination for his performance as Elio as a young gay man in 1980s Italy. Currently, Guadagnino is directing Chalamet’s Dune co-star Zendaya along with Josh O’Connor and Mike Faist in the film Challengers; a film about a love triangle set in the world of Tennis.
Craig will reprise his role as Benoit Blanc in the Knives Out sequel, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery which will be the first of two sequels to stream exclusively on Netflix. Director Rian Johnson inked a deal with Netflix to develop two sequels for the streamer on a deal that was reportedly around $450 million, making it a major coup for the studio. Glass Onion had a limited release in theaters before being pulled ahead of its streaming debut on December 23rd.
Zola Review | An Imaginative, Darkly Comedic Adaptation
In October 2015, A’Ziah “Zola” King’s 148-part saga of a trip to Florida took Twitter by storm. The viral story was hilarious, suspenseful, and disturbing at times, all told through Zola’s compelling and singular voice. It brought about a new kind of storytelling via social media whose influence lives on in Twitter and newer platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Film is certainly not a new medium but Janicza Bravo’s feature based on the thread offers an experience so fresh and imaginative, it feels like a new form.
Zola (Taylour Paige) befriends Stefani (Riley Keough), a patron at the restaurant she works at. Despite Stefani’s unapologetic use of blaccent and over-the-top ratchedness, the two women (one black and one white) have an instant connection after bonding over stripping and frenemy activity on social media. When the two are together, their surroundings fade as they appear alone in a beautifully lit hall of mirrors. The chemistry between the characters during their first encounters is not unlike the meet-cutes of the rom-com genre. Mica Levi’s music box-like score, along with the film’s shiny visuals, convey a dreamy setting at the beginning that soon becomes a nightmare as the story unfolds.
Stefani invites Zola on a “hoe trip” to Florida, where their plan is to dance and make a ton of money. The women are accompanied by Stefani’s boyfriend Derrick and her shady “roommate” X, played by Nicholas Braun and Colman Domingo. Both characters are contrasting figures in Stefani’s life, with Derrick being hilariously weak while X is terrifyingly controlling. Domingo’s enigmatic performance and flip-flopping accents further prove that he is one of the best character actors working today.
As soon as the four arrive in Tampa, it is clear that this trip is not what Zola expected and we watch her navigate through a dangerous weekend that, as she says, is “full of suspense.” Bravo gives us a brightly colored palette and Twitter sound effects to capture the outrageousness of the twisty story. Still, it’s Paige’s performance that keeps the film grounded. Paige can adeptly deliver Zola’s sharp wit in Bravo and co-writer Jeremy O. Harris’ script but it’s her more silent moments that give the movie depth. Twitter gave us Zola’s funny take on a night gone wrong, but Paige and her expressive eyes show us her at her most vulnerable. Keough has the difficult task of portraying a woman that will make you laugh, cringe and even feel sorry for her despite all of her wrongdoings. It’s a bold performance (particularly when the movie changes its POV for a bit), but Keough is able to give the character balance and avoids becoming a full blown caricature.
Not only does Zola tell an entertaining and raucous story, it also exposes the facade of social media presence. Vibrant costumes, candy-colored visuals, and even a car ride turned mini music video all give the impression of a fun and sensory experience but under the surface is a dark story. People’s real lives are different from what they put on their social media accounts and Bravo uses contrasting elements to shed light on the duality of online and offline lives. Zola also breaks down another facade in the form of Zola and Stefani’s interracial friendship. Stefani immediately endears herself to Zola but eventually, her bad intentions come to light. Stefani’s blatant cultural appropriation is played for laughs in the beginning but her betrayal toward Zola is a reminder that in modern society, there are still strides to be made between white women and women of color. Just like Zola says, “the same bitch that wanna smile in your face be the same bitch that gonna come for you later.”
Zola is now playing in limited U.S. theaters and will be released in UK cinemas on August 6th.
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