Mathieu Amalric and Catherine Deneuve, directed by Arnaud Desplechin

‘A Christmas Tale’ – A messy family holiday on Criterion Channel

A Christmas Tale (France, 2008), Arnaud Desplechin’s mercurial, knotty and cinematically vibrant drama of family dysfunction stirred up over a Christmas gathering, was my pick for best film of 2008. Directing with restless energy, Desplechin sketches out a family tragedy, the untimely death of a first-born that precedes the story by decades, and then only […]

Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson star in the 1954 melodrama classic by Douglas Sirk

‘Magnificent Obsession’ – grand melodrama on Peacock TV

Jane Wyman’s Helen Hudson is the widow of a self-sacrificing surgeon. Rock Hudson’s Bob Merrick is an arrogant millionaire playboy whose reckless ways and attitude of entitlement indirectly lead to the death of Helen’s husband and to an accident that leaves her blind. The “magnificent obsession” of the title refers to a spiritual philosophy of […]

‘Make Way for Tomorrow’ on Criterion Channel

When Leo McCarey won the Oscar for Best Director for The Awful Truth in 1938, he reportedly accepted it with the comment, “Thank you very much, but you gave it to me for the wrong picture.” The “right picture” that McCarey was referring to is Make Way for Tomorrow (1937), the devastatingly moving story of […]

‘Carnival of Souls’ on HBO Max and Criterion Channel

Carnival of Souls (1962), an imaginative tale of a chilly church organist who is haunted by apparitions (looking very zombie-like in greasepaint make-up) is a minor masterpiece of independent genre filmmaking of the sixties. Candace Hilligoss stars as a young woman who stumbles out of the river after the car she was in goes through […]

‘Eyes Without a Face’ – the poetry of horror on HBO Max, Criterion Channel, and Kanopy

George Franju’s perverse and poetic Eyes Without a Face (France, 1959) is at once lyrical, haunting, and deviant, an elegantly horrifying classic of sadism and shadowy grace. A famed plastic surgeon (Pierre Brasseur), wracked with guilt over disfiguring his once beautiful daughter (Edith Scob) in car wreck, lures young woman to his secluded mansion with […]

Nobuhiko Obayashi's 1977 acid flashback horror fantasy 'House'

‘House’/’Hausu’ – Japanese madness on HBO Max and Criterion Channel

I can’t begin to find the words to describe House (1977), aka Hausu, an unclassifiable Japanese haunted house/high school romp/demon killer/surreal fantasy film from Nobuhiko Obayashi. Made in 1977 and recently revived and released to the rest of the world, it’s the archival cult find of the decade: a candy-colored style bomb of horror movie […]

Marta Mazurek and Michalina Olszanska star in the polish horror fantasy by Agnieszka Smoczynska

‘The Lure’ – Little Mermaids with teeth on Criterion Channel and Kanopy

The strangest take on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale “The Little Mermaid” ever put on the screen, The Lure (Poland, 2015) is a musical-horror-fantasy-romantic tragedy from Poland about mermaid sisters with a taste for human flesh. Like the sirens of Homer’s “The Odyssey,” Silver (Marta Mazurek) and Golden (Michalina Olszanska) are feral creatures who […]

Duane Jones in the 1968 American horror classic by George Romero

‘Night of the Living Dead’ restored on HBO Max and Criterion Channel

Fifty years ago, commercial filmmaker George Romero marshaled the resources of his production company Latent Image and the talents of friends and colleagues to produce a low budget feature film in Pittsburgh, PA. The rest is, as they say, history. Night of the Living Dead (1968) is the first genuinely modern horror movie, shot more […]

Carl Th. Dreyer's 19322 horror classic

‘Vampyr’ – Classic horror as tone poem on HBO Max and Criterion Channel

Vampyr (Denmark, 1932) is a horror movie as tone poem. An early sound film shot with a distinctive and evocative silent film aesthetic, dialogue is sparse and large blocks of text (either intertitles or pages from a book of vampire lore) provide the exposition. And it’s eerily abstract film with vague motivations and ethereal imagery […]