Another fantastic year for horror, whether it be mammoth documentaries covering a decade, thoughtful character pieces or practical effects laden absurdities, 2021 had it all, here are some of what we thought were the best.
Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car is an emotionally aching film that utilises its extended runtime to perfection. A shattering piece of poetic cinema that, if it isn’t on your much watch list, should be, without a shadow of a doubt, the best film of 2021. Theatre practitioner Yûsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi
Luàna Bajrami’s terrific debut feature at the age of just 20 is a tremendous look at young women trapped in their small Kosovo town. With naturalistic performances and observational direction, we have an empowering film in The Hill Where Lionesses Roar. In a small remote village in Kosovo, three young
Apart from Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance, The Power of the Dog never rises above serviceable. Unable to delve deeper into its own story and rather unforgivably keeping its audience at arm’s length throughout.
An ambitious film that struggles under its own weight. The French Dispatch becomes unwieldy and, as such, loses the energy that it had opened with. Yet it remains a wonderful love letter t o print journalism.
Titane is bold and visceral, but actually works best when it focuses itself on the main themes of the story. Instead Ducournau’s film gets too wrapped up in the lure of shocking it’s audience that it leaves behind the story.
An intimate and enthralling documentary that makes excellent use of some gorgeous animation to tell this deeply personal story. While centered on Amin’s fight to get to a safe country, it quickly becomes a film about far more than that. Flee is an incredibly moving film.
Natalie Morales’ Language Lessons is an assured film that is unafraid to play with your heart. Aided by the fantastic Mark Duplass we are left with a relatable and emotional film that is simply faultless.
The Wolf Suit is a cathartic film by Sam Firth. Not only is it that for her, but also audiences who have experienced something similar. A deeply personal and utterly fascinating documentary.
Uneasy yet endlessly hopeful, Bantu Mama refreshingly tells us a story through Afro-European and Afro-Caribbean eyes. From start to finish, we have an excellent film that pulls you in and astounds you.
Adrián Silvestre’s Sediment is an empathetic and, at times, a joyful film that allows a group of six transexual women to be themselves in a most welcoming environment. An important film that should have as wide an audience as possible.
Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest is a documentary that showcases the importance of finding kindred spirits. While it takes detours along the way, it is still a wonderfully heartwarming film.
Mothers of the Revolution is a moving and riveting documentary that showcases the power of dedication and how no matter the cause, it is worth fighting for. Briar March’s film is an important documentary to watch.
A pointed satire that does the small things very well, yet when it reaches beyond itself it begins to plod. However, there is still an awful lot to enjoy here in Money Has Four Legs. Due to money-stricken producers, strict censorship, and an unreliable crew, Wai Bhone’s first feature is
A video essay style documentary that looks at the importance of the stunning Monument Valley on not only cinema and beyond. An interesting documentary that allows the visuals to do the talking.
Brother’s Keeper has you in a state of ever-increasing frustration as you watch the obstacles young Yusef goes through as he tries to help his friend. A film that does its best to crush your spirit. Make no mistake; this is an assured and effective film from Ferit Karahan. In
Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s Memory Box is far more complex and layered than you would expect and hits all the right emotional notes as it asks its audience how they view their own memories and past. A wonderfully satisfying film.
A disjointed film that is perhaps overly ambitious with its intent. Like A Dirty French Novel takes a unique and at times welcome approach of being set during the pandemic, but not at all about it. Sadly it throws away what works with some unfathomable narrative choices and a continual
What should be a standard revenge thriller takes a hard turn into the schlock, and it is all the better for it. While not perfect, The Retaliators blunt approach, coupled with Michael Lombardi’s performance, makes it an entertaining horror An upstanding pastor John Bishop (Michael Lombardi), uncovers a dark and
A bleak tale of a family keeping too close to Christian doctrine. While The Last Thing Mary Saw doesn’t bring any new ideas to the table, it has an effective atmosphere that grows darker by the minute.
A slow burn narrative allows for eco-horror Gaia to come into its own by taking advantage of stunning visual storytelling. Jaco Bouwer’s film entrances you and does so much right and makes you pay attention to it.
Somewhere deep within Behemoth, there lives a great thriller. It is just a shame it never realises it and tries to become something it shouldn’t. As a result, this film made for literal pennies overstretches itself. A true shame.
As we round out our coverage of Fantasia Fest, we thought we would spend some time talking about some more of the shorts that were on offer and believe us there are some great ones! Andronicus – Director Mark H. Rapaport – 24 mins Troubled but talented teenager Simon (Kimball
Ten fantastic films from seven countries, we are spoilt for choice in a collection that allows each film to bring something different to the audience. All of these filmmakers have a very bright future.
An exciting action thriller that ticks all the right boxes by bringing in heavy intrigue and mystery, Yakuza Princess eases us into this world before going gung-ho into the action. Quite the entertaining movie.
A film that may seem slow & repetitive, but that is exactly the point; this is a film about the frustrations of staying at home during the pandemic & finding connections any way possible
A film that subverts your expectations. While a little rough around the edges at times, Pauric Brennan’s Don’t Sell Me A Dog has plenty going for it to keep you invested in the story. A solid film that surprises thanks to some great direction, a strong script and solid performances.
An entertaining film that feels like a love letter to all the writers out there, struggling or best selling. Scare Me takes some bold decisions with its confined setting; taking advantage of a smart script & two great performances.
Phil Tippett has created a nightmare, a wonderful, gloriously gruesome and relentlessly horrifying nightmare that leaves you with your jaw firmly on the ground. Simply put, you will have never seen anything like Mad God.
Shannon Walsh takes a straight aim at the businesses benefiting from using lowly paid gig workers. The Gig is Up holds no punches as it paints a rather bleak picture of exploitation that many will have not realised existed.
Racked in pent up grief, “Martyrs Lane” is a beautiful yet heartbreaking ghost story that at times takes your breath away, paced to perfection. Told through the eyes of the brilliant Kiera Thompson, this is a film that you cannot miss out on.
A genuine surprise of a picture, Michael Sarnoski’s feature debut “Pig” is a slow but careful gaze at the devastation of loss. Nicolas Cage’s restrained performance startles with its effectiveness, as he portrays a deeply broken man just trying to get by.
A confident coming of age horror that focuses more on the ever-changing dynamic between parent and child. The Adams family has made a very surprisingly effective film in Hellbender. One that does so much right and very little wrong – a fantastically refreshing film. Teenager Izzy (Zelda Adams) lives a
With Glasshouse, Kelsey Egan has conjured a beautifully haunting film. This dystopian fairytale weaves quite a tragic tale highlighted by the excellent performances and strong use of storytelling. Egan marks herself out as a filmmaker to watch out for. A dementia induced toxin known as the Shred has enveloped the
Despite having interesting ideas, Mosquito State is never able to grab its audience’s attention fully. Its unsubtle story hinders this flawed body horror from being something as memorable as it really should be.
A horror that very much keeps with an entertaining 80s vibe #JakobsWife has its bloody cake and eats it. Successfully toeing the line of keeping true to its core story while having a blast. As entertaining as you can imagine.
Wearing its influences on its sleeves, Kentucker Audley and Albert Birney’s lo-fi fantasy film Strawberry Mansion is a gloriously offbeat but sweet film that unexpectedly touches you, full of whimsy originality.
Takahide Hori’s painstaking stop motion film has take over a decade to get to this point and despite a wayward narrative, this is an awe-inspiring piece of work that should be celebrated as widely as possible. Unforgettable.
Richard Bates Jr’s film King Knight is full of ridiculousness, from the characters to the situations, yet it never forgets the message of finding acceptance in ones past – a comedy that hits all of the right notes.
A joyous & dreamy look at a young person taking that big step into independence & finding oneself, April Story is as relatable now as it was in 1998. Engaging as it is poignant, its simple story gracefully guides you along.
An absurdist comedy for the ages, Masashi Yamamoto’s Wonderful Paradise escalates almost to the point of being overstuffed. Yet it is wildly entertaining as it has a blast, and why not, we need films like this.
Alice Lenay’s documentary is an entertaining and compelling look at humanity’s relationship with technology, be it emotionally or spiritually. Sadly it hinders itself by not fully expanding on the topics raised to connect.
Carrying on from the excellent Climate of the Hunter, filmmaker Mickey Reece brings us a film full of mood and isolation. Reece is ambitious here with Agnes, and he manages to pull it off with a great film that is a must-watch.
Everything you want it to be and more, Alien on Stage is a love letter to those who always dreamed of making the unlikely happen. A wonderful triumph that will have you grinning for its entire runtime.
On the Trail of UFOs: Dark Sky is fine as a documentary that looks into the UFO phenomenon occurring in West Virginia, with personable subjects it should be a home run. Yet, towards the back end of the piece, it sadly loses itself.
This quiet & bleak chamber piece works very well during its engaging opening act, & tension racked finale. However, #Settlers middle act frustrates due to the lack of answers to the questions posed, regardless, this is an impressive debut.
Fantasia International Film Festival is almost upon us and as we here at Upcoming On Screen are getting the opportunity to cover it this year, I felt it was a good idea to let you have an idea of what is on offer. Roaring into its 25th year, the Montreal
A muddling action film that doesn’t quite know what it is trying to be. There are glimpses of a good film living underneath Out of Death, but with such a terrible script, the only saving grace the film has is the strong turn by Jamie King,
Distant direction choices almost overshadow the Offerings dense narrative and strong cast performances. This cynical but intriguing film takes its time at fully getting to its point but remains effective in its execution.
The Most Beautiful Boy In The World is at times an uncomfortable but remains a fascinating piece that shows how the scars of the earliest years of one life carry with you to adulthood. A finely crafted documentary that haunts you.
Some films never make it to DVD, Blu-Ray or digital or if they did, their prints are long gone. This series wants to look back at those films, that almost slipped through our B-Movie grubby little fingers.
Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook is a masterful horror film, that takes advantage of its human story to scare the life out of you. An unmissable film in an unmissable package and out from Monday 26th
An impressive horror from Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury utilises many well-used horror tropes and can bring something fresh to the table. Rife with tension and some gruesome scares, Kandisha demands your time.
Rife with nail-biting tension, Lonnie Chavis & Ezra Dewey are phenomenal in The Boy Behind The Door. With a simple story done exceptionally well, directors David Charbonier and Justin Powell have created a wonderful thriller.
The Fear Street trilogy misses the opportunity to be something special, instead, bogged down with too much worldbuilding, overbearing scores and mere moments of nostalgia. Disappointing with how forgettable it becomes.
Flippo Meneghetti’s feature debut Two of Us is a heartbreaking look at the battle to keep love together during the most trying of times. A drama that tenderly and carefully carries you along, and like Nina, makes sure never to let you go.
Laura Samani’s hauntingly beautiful Piccolo Corpo is a triumph. This is a voyage of uncompromising love and sacrifice, utterly unmissable with enduring and memorable performances from Celeste Cescutti and Ondina Quadri.
Jill Gebargizian’s The Stylist began as a short film and last month to honour that, the good folks at Arrow decided to run a contest of for female filmmakers working on both sides of the camera to make and send their films in.
Andi Matichak shines in Ivan Kavanagh’s effective and surprising chiller Son. Filled with confidence, this is a film that makes sure to get the little things right and, by its finale, has you gripped.
A psychological drama that never connects in the way that it thinks it does. A Perfect Enemy misses more than it hits, but when those hits flash before us, they do work well though the lead up to the finale is what costs the film. Successful architect Jeremiasz Angust is approached on
Love Happens, the debut from Liza Rafael is a solid little comedy about the romantic and career pressures put on someone. Yet, by needlessly pushing the narrative during a perplexing final act, we are left frustrated.
At times Mosley: It’s Complicated is an engaging look at a man trying to form a legacy of safety when shrouded in a complex history. We have a film with such a significant story to tell that it can never provide us with enough time to do so Chronicling the life and
presents its audience with as bleak a picture as you can imagine for the children & families of Juárez. Yet hope and determined optimism shine in this thought provoking and emotional documentary
Rife with atmosphere & doom, this is a film that sticks to its deliberate pacing to show us the struggles of sacrificing everything for family. But it keeps its cards far too close to its chest narratively.
Lust Life Love is an open & honest look at the sex-positive community. An immersive & intimate film that takes us on a journey less travelled, and thank goodness it does. Not a film to be missed.
An engaging debut from Evgeny Yablokov, has a vigilante get too caught up in his nightly excursions and struggle to keep it all together. A film that satisfies and stays true to itself.
Yaniv Raz’s adaption of Dr Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets shows how it was a book made for the big screen. This offbeat look at mental health in teenagers occasionally stumbles but is able to stay on its feet to be an entertaining film. Enter the whimsical world of James
Imagine a plot along the lines of Final Destination without getting to see the deaths and played out by a cast who forgot to emote. Don’t Look Back is a woefully sloppy film that has few bright sparks to speak of.
The filmed performance of Ian Rickson’s production of Uncle Vanya astounds. A beautiful yet utterly heartbreaking piece with faultless performances. It will live long in the memory. An unmissable experience
Natalia Garayalde’s intimate documentary is as much a love letter to family members as about
what befell her community of Río Tercero in 1995. Deftly crafted, we are left with an enthralling yet painstakingly honest film
While the doc stalls at times due to its slightly repetitive nature, it remains an important film highlighting an urgent issue for indigenous communities like this throughout the world.
A fascinating documentary of determination, Srđan Kovačević keeps a neutral gaze on his subjects as they battle through thick and thin to make an impossible task succeed. In Croatia in 2005, a machine tools factory was occupied by its workers. Since then, they have operated collectively, becoming the only successful
Robin Petré’s From the Wild Sea is a glorious showcase of cinematic imagery and impeccable sound design. A documentary that presents the ever-increasing devastation that humans and climate change have on marine life.
A sprawling and engrossing documentary that leaves no stone unturned in the victim’s crusade for justice. This documentary leaves you angry at the bureaucratic system yet in awe of those who kept going.
Mayye Zayed’s fantastic observational doc may focus on challenging gender stereotypes in sport. Yet it becomes so much more by being a film that wears its heart on its sleeve with two wonderful subjects.
Sing, Freetown is a captivating look at two men trying to reclaim the identity of their country and show generations, young and old, the importance of their culture. A very personal documentary that racks up the tension to the hopeful opening night. Raised in Sierra Leone and now a Londoner, Sorious
A thought-provoking and intimate look at the damages of insufficient mental health support. Nira Burstein’s feature documentary debut manages to find joy and hope deep within the chaos up a tumultuous upbringing.
Rosine Mbakam’s intimate yet challenging Delphine’s Prayers is the most intense therapy session you can imagine. An emotional whirlwind of a documentary that has you riveted with its subject’s life.
Lake Mungo is a wonderfully weaved story that draws you in and utilises atmosphere and fantastic casting to be that cult film that everyone should watch at least once. A perfectly crafted film that astounds you with how authentic it is.
Damian McCarthy’s feature debut Caveat is a claustrophobic success that knows precisely what to do to creep you out. A smartly written and directed film that provides the audience with an exciting new voice.
Cruella has it’s faults, but in the end it is a rather enjoyable film with two great performances wrapped around some dazzling production design. An entertaining film that shouldn’t be as good as it is considering it’s stretched runtime.
Jonathan and Leandro Taub’s take their audience on a grim journey of realisation of how wanting power and uncountable wealth can lead to devastating consequences, not for the person seeking it, but for everyone else on the planet. Externo is a stark wake-up call of a film that has to be seen.
Come & stay for the gore & the B-movie tropes as there isn’t much else going on with Skull: The Mask. A film that falls short of being great due to it forgetting that there needed to be a solid story to hold it all together.
John Huddle’s drama has its thinking cap on, and while it falters occasionally. It succeeds in being a refreshing story that allows ideas and thoughts to shine. The Philosophers surprises with just how good it is.
Caroline Williams gives the best performance of her career in Ten Minutes to Midnight. This film has a wonderful underlying story that has you come in for the horror but stay for the on point and insightful commentary.
#ArmyoftheDead flatters to deceive with a premise that should make it stand out. but is severely lacking in its script by being just too predictable. Neither disappointing nor great, this is a film that settles with being just okay.
Stalker is hampered by a laboured & predictable middle half but is saved with a cracker of a final act. A solid thriller that visually paints a great picture, but falls just when you want it to leap. However, it is still worth your time.
Alex Noyer’s film utilises its horror graphically well. Yet it shines most when it explores what is under the pools blood left behind with a story full of tragedy, desperation wrapped around PTSD and addiction – A must-see film.
A practical effects-laden joy. Psycho Goreman is everything a genre fan would love but can also go beyond a niche B-movie to be a schlocky film that will entertain everyone. Siblings Mimi and Luke unwittingly resurrect an ancient alien overlord who was interred on Earth millions of years ago after a failed
A relentlessly compelling action packed thriller, your are invested right from that unbelievable opening sequence. Any minor faults are so readily forgiven, a joy of an action film made for the big screen.
Shock Wave is a terrific spectacle of a film that harkens back to the classic 90’s action thrillers. With an awful lot to love about this entertaining film, it becomes a wonderful surprise of a movie.
Thomas Gullestad is a revelation here in the WW II drama The 12th Man. It is a harrowing and grueling film that never lets up or lets you out of its grip until the final scene—an underseen gem of a movie that fully deserves a chance.
John Berardo’s Initiation is a welcome addition to the genre, an excellent slasher has something to say, working best when it centres itself in the world of realism. A film that has its cake & eats it. Watch this great horror immediately.
Chino Moya’s hauntingly bleak debut feature Undergods is an ambitious trio of tales expertly interwoven film. A vision that makes him a filmmaker to look out for. A very impressive movie. A collection of darkly humorous, fantasy tales about ill-fated characters and doomed fortune: in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic Europe, K
Max Strands feature debut is a thriller that does an awful lot right with its minimal style and two great performances. However, it stretches itself too thin just when you are fully compelled. However this is still one to catch.
An abysmally dull affair, Robin Hood: The Rebellion never does anything of note other than frustrating its audience with some terrible action & meaningless dialogue. A shambolic film that should be avoided for your own sanity.
Brad Helmink and John Rauschelbach’s film is a tremendously effective thriller that does everything possibly right. A slow-burner that reels you in, this is a must-watch film that deserves to find as wide an audience as possible.
With an overbearing score and a script that simply cannot get to grips with what supernatural influence it wants to take from, The Darkness never gets going. Resulting in a flawed, disjointed film that fails its audience in almost every way possible.
A wonderful documentary about the auteur Ann Hui. Keep Rolling is an exploration into her storied career that links in perfectly with her personal life. For those unfamiliar with Hui, this remains an open & appealing introduction to the filmmaker.
The Virtuoso is held back by an uninspiring script that hampers itself from the start; a premise that could have had legs is wasted to become a standard assassin thriller. Given only a time, a location, and a cryptic clue, the methodical hitman (Anson Mount) must identify his mysterious foe
Danny Madden’s fantastic feature debut Beast Beast is bold with its perfectly built tension and a final act that hits you like a train, becoming an unmissable and urgent film for young adults in a modern world.
With two fabulous performances from Tsai Chin and Hsiao-Yuan Ha, Lucky Grandma weaves a delightful tale that delivers the laughs and knows when to pull at your emotions to bring us a charming film that showcases the value of family.
Writer-Director Lawrence Michael Levine’s Black Bear mesmerises with its three devastatingly good leads. This film is full of ambiguity that keeps you engrossed and unable to look away as these characters destroy themselves.
A touching tribute to an outstanding producer, Laddie: The Man Behind The Movies is a documentary that should be appreciated by all film fans. While it is far too short, it remains an enjoyable journey. Laddie: The Man Behind the Movies is the story of Alan Ladd Jr., the Oscar-winning producer and
The Banishing – ★★★
A solid ghost story, with some great performances, Christopher Smith’s The Banishing gets so close to being a tremendous, however it fizzles out all too soon before the end credits.
Gillian Wallace Horvat’s wonderfully uncomfortable yet sharp debut feature I Blame Society, is a film that gets under your skin and once it gets going takes zero prisoners. We have a film that is as fantastic as it is creative.
The high hopes of Neil Marshalls The Reckoning is quickly dissipated by a run of the mill story with woeful dialogue and one of the most overpowering scores in recent times. This is one that sadly needs to be avoided. Set against the Great Plague’s backdrop and subsequent witch-hunts against women, Grace
Samuel Van Grinsven’s debut feature is a superb cautionary tale for young gay men, Sequin in a Blue Room is film at its best. This is an essential watch. Sequin (Conor Leach) explores his burgeoning sexuality through an obsession with anonymous, no-strings sexual encounters. That is until he finds his way into The
Welcome to your new favourite cult midnight movie. For the Sake of Vicious is a film that wears its bloody heart on its sleeve and, after a tense opening half, let’s loose in ways that will have you clapping away in glee.
If you want to know the quality deep within Steven Seagals Mercenary For Justice, there is a line in the film that goes, “Yeah, that’s it for you poophole”, and in a weird sort of way, that sums up the film perfectly.
As we reach the end of BFI Flare, we look at the shorts section. Second up is For the Record, traversing a wide range of subjects, this inspiring selection of short-form documentaries is guaranteed to provoke & inspire.
Marley Morrison’s feature debut, Sweetheart, takes ahold of you with its striking charm and sharp dialogue. Coupled with strong performances, this is as entertaining as it is relatable.
Phil Connell unfurls a wonderful picture with Jump, Darling, showing a great deal of poetic beauty throughout, thanks to two fantastic performances from Thomas Duplessie and the late Cloris Leachman.
Silk Road sees documentarian Tiller Russell venture into dramatic fare with a story that should be right up his alley. Yet by altering this true story, some of the emphasis is lost, hindering itself from the get-go.
While Fukushima 50 comes from a more fact-based background, it can pinpoint how close Japan was to total disaster and how a small group of plant workers became heroes. An emotionally rewarding film of heroism.
Phil Sheerin’s bleak Irish drama is held together thanks to its four leads and some superb direction. The Winter Lake slightly lacks in its plot development; however, those wanting a low key mystery drama are in for a treat.
It may not seem it at first, but Natasha Kermani’s Lucky is an angry film that challenges its audience while still wearing its heart firmly on its bloody sleeve. A sharp film that makes it’s presence felt.
Laurence Gough’s second feature is a film that you cannot predict, and from the tense and harrowing opening, the audience will not be able to peel their eyes away from the screen. A true gem of a picture.
Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale is an extraordinary bold film that is never afraid to go where others dare not. Coupled with performances that will live long in the memory, this is a film that needs to be seen.
A heartbreaking tale of losing one’s innocence during Soviet occupation, by a regime that cares as little for you or its soldiers. It struggles to remain compelling despite some particularly strong performances.
Broil brings with it an interesting premise and a sprinkling of great moments. Yet struggles with this potential. In the end actually needing more runtime to flesh itself out. However, this is still a film where much reward can be found.
Lara Jean Gallagher’s feature debut takes us on a slow journey filled with mystery and questions as it has the viewer sink into its interesting mood. Sadly it leads itself astray, but not enough to lose the audience.
Greta Bellemacina’s Hurt By Paradise is a whimsically charming piece that floats through its running time by rarely giving its audience something to grab onto to fully embrace both of the leads.