The Witch (2016)

The film has a very confusing premise that never really resolves itself. However, it is certifiably creepy and that goes miles for this horror fan.

Since A24 is gaining a credibility I don’t think it altogether deserves, I thought I’d republish my review of an early film they produced. This film had a lot of potential but didn’t get there for me. I think THAT is really what defines this brand and that really sucks. I hope that changes. I wrote the content below when this film came out.

The Witch (2016)



Anya Taylor-Joy as Thomasin
Ralph Ineson as William
Kate Dickie as Katherine
Harvey Scrimshaw as Caleb

Directed by

Robert Eggers

Written by

Robert Eggers

Rated R for disturbing violent content and graphic nudity
1h 32min

I saw this film not knowing what to expect. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a rating in the 80% range so I was naturally curious since I rarely see horror films doing so well. The audience was not favoring it quite as much so that made me wonder what was going on here. Sometimes that means it’s a “movie makers” movie and not one the average American is going to “get.” I was right about that I think. This film has received a Sundance “best director” award and all sorts of other laurels on its poster. Usually those mean foreign film but in this case they are festival awards. This movie is taking the critics by storm. I think the audience will get on the bus sooner or later. Please understand, this film is not the easiest to understand but it still combines several powerful themes to make a hard hitting horror film and I love it!

It displays the cruelty of religion in the same way the Crucible and the Scarlet Letter. It takes it all the way into the psyche of a Puritan family and causes them all to question whether each other are witches. Mind blowing. It’s not a horror movie per se but it uses elements of diverse themes to create an original movie. Don’t watch this movie hoping it to make sense but rather dwell among the family and observe the sickness that religion can become. The ending may perplex some or it may be an awakening. I think the director wants us to draw conclusions but not in a concrete way. Why does the heroine walk naked into the trees? What caused this transformation? Did she make the choice or was it destiny made for her by her family? Is the family innocent? This dark tale raises more questions than answers. Though much is never explained, it’s the experience of these unexplained things that is the essence of the ride. We may not want to get off but the director pulls off our seat belts at the credits and says GO NOW! Then, we have to think about it. I’ve been doing so for 2 days straight and it’s lovely. 7/10

Michael Clayton

Lawyers are fascinating to watch, especially in courtroom dramas. This film always comes up in a search of them. They also can be thrillers. Audiences are drawn to the theme of law and the courtroom because we all think we know the truth. This film shows, as many others do, that the truth can be altered and made to look differently than it is. The question then becomes not a “what” but rather a “why” did the lawyer take that road.

Michael Clayton (2007)
R | 1h 59min | Crime, Drama, Mystery | 12 October 2007 (USA)

A law firm brings in its “fixer” to remedy the situation after a lawyer has a breakdown while representing a chemical company that he knows is guilty in a multibillion-dollar class action suit.
Director: Tony Gilroy
Writer: Tony Gilroy
Stars: George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson

Our director here Tony Gilroy has been around the block and shown his meddle in movies. He directed many amazing films including “Devil’s Advocate,” and “Nightcrawler.” He has a clean, straightforward style that shows us the facts and lets us make the conclusions.

In psychology circles, this film is cited as an example of a character with bipolar disorder. Not the main character though. My wife has an advanced degree in psychology and she agrees this is an excellent illustration of mania. Beside that, this is an excellent legal thriller that I truly enjoyed watching. It reminds me of other Davey and Goliath/ firm vs. individual legal films like “A Civil Action” and “Erin Bockovich.” I recommend this film highly. 10/10.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2011)

Extremes in geology have always amazed me like how lava is melted rock. To watch a film about caves and paintings that are 32,000 years old, captivated me. Werner Herzog did an amazing job explaining and presenting these ghostly artifacts.

“Werner Herzog gains exclusive access to film inside the Chauvet caves of Southern France and captures the oldest known pictorial creations of humanity.” -IMDB


Werner Herzog Himself/Narrator
Jean Clottes Himself
Julien Monney Himself
Jean-Michel Geneste Himself

Directed by

Werner Herzog

Written by

Werner Herzog

Other Info

Documentary, History
Fri 25 Mar 2011 UTC
IMDB Rating: 7.4

Among other arcane effects in these drawings, the most alluring to me was the “animated” horse head. The cave person tried to make the animal appear as it does in life, moving.

I think about the significance of the years gone by. We lie about 100 years in one lifetime. 32,000 divided by one lifetime then is 320 lives back to back, one death signaling a birth every 100 years and so on, 320 times. All those lifetimes ago, someone painted these cave walls. The film takes you into the caves and tells you haunting stories that summon images of people like us, living and creating art.

An archaeologist explains in vivid detail the mental anguish he suffered being in the cave for weeks doing studies. It’s one of the most powerful moments in the film for me. I can almost feel what he’s talking about. Seeing what they painted without seeing them. He is, and so are we through the film, observing a way of life portrayed in images without having anyone connected with and living it to explain.

If their way of life seems simple to us now, how will future generations view ours? In fact, will ours have any artifacts at all?

This is an example of a perfectly done documentary film. I highly recommend it.



I’ve seen a few films recently where people use the black arts or occult spells like The Alchemist’s Cookbook and A Dark Song. This is another to add to that list.

Pyewacket (2017)
1h 30min | Horror, Thriller | 23 March 2018 (USA)

A frustrated, angst-ridden teenage girl awakens something in the woods when she naively performs an occult ritual to evoke a witch to kill her mother.
Director: Adam MacDonald
Writer: Adam MacDonald
Stars: Nicole Muñoz, Laurie Holden, Chloe Rose

Adam MacDonald is our director. He is known for “Backcountry” the bear horror movie. He does a good job here. I’ll definitely be looking for more from him especially in the horror genre.

Leah is our protagonist here. She has all the trappings of a high school student: hates her mom, into black magic, cuts herself … well unfortunately these days all those are common things. There is tension throughout and an awesome score helping to make that happen. I like it that the scares are more drawn out thoughtful ones and not jump scares. It builds the story slowly and has a spooky tone throughout (which I value in horror).

This is certainly one to check out for all you horror buffs out there. Enjoy. I gave it 7/10.

Isle of Dogs

In this one, man’s best friend is exiled to an island due to something called the “snout flu.” Hilarity ensues on the island as the dogs band together, form alliances, and try to survive. For the most part, they are successful. There’s enough humor here to fill a movie theater and it certainly does.

Isle of Dogs (2018)
PG-13 | 1h 41min | Animation, Adventure, Comedy | 13 April 2018 (USA)

Set in Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy’s odyssey in search of his lost dog.
Director: Wes Anderson
Writers: Wes Anderson (story by), Roman Coppola (story by) | 3 more credits »
Stars: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton

Director Wes Anderson makes movies with animation and live action conventions. His films can almost always appear silly to the first-time Wes Anderson viewer. But to the “informed” eye, a lot of thought and practical prep work must go into his work. Each film looks like a masterpiece painting worthy of the Louvre. This one is in line with all that have come before. The animation is reminiscent of “The Amazing Mr. Fox.” All the dog characters are hilarious and Scarlett Johanssen’s girl dog character is loveable and fluffy 🙂 Furthermore there is a lot of understated humor thing, if you enjoy that like I do.

It was a quirky, fun film. I quite enjoyed it with my 11-year-old daughter. For that sort of film, I give it a 9/10. Highly recommended.

21 Grams

No, this film isn’t about drugs as the title hints. It’s a people study. In this heroic film by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, a handful of characters are under the microscope for us to try to analyze. Their lives intersect in odd ways but that really isn’t the amazing thing to watch for. It’s their drives and why they do things that should captivate the viewer. I know it did that for me.

21 Grams (2003)
R | 2h 4min | Crime, Drama, Thriller | 16 January 2004 (USA)

A freak accident brings together a critically ill mathematician, a grieving mother, and a born-again ex-con.
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu (as Alejandro González Iñárritu)
Writer: Guillermo Arriaga
Stars: Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro, Naomi Watts

Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro, & Naomi Watts are the top stars in this dramatic film about what drives people. The writer Guillermo Arriaga has done a fantastic job giving us a dollhouse type view of these normal people engaged in their lives. I first became interested in the director when I saw “Birdman,” another film that puts regular people right up to the screen larger than life. In watching what they do, we can quietly and privately look at ourselves. These films cause us to question our motives.He is an excellent director but I find some of his formulaic conventions unnecessary to make us introspective.

If you like deeply portrayed characters, look no further. I greatly enjoyed this film but personally didn’t need all the “coincidences” to make it powerful for me. I give this film an 8/10.


“Rosemary’s Baby.” “The Omen.” “The Visitor.” Three examples of old school scares. This film is crafted after that time and not as much after today’s films. This film will do well, I have no doubt. In the mire of bad films being made this year, it has no competition. But I have issues with its convoluted plot and overly busy storyline. It could have had better impact with a simplified approach.

Hereditary (2018)
R | 2h 7min | Drama, Horror, Mystery | 8 June 2018 (USA)

When the matriarch of the Graham family passes away, her daughter’s family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry.
Director: Ari Aster
Writer: Ari Aster
Stars: Toni Collette, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne

The director is 31. He has done a couple of movies. As I understand, this is his first horror. I watched an interview with him, he seems like someone who will continue making good movies. This film had a few really creepy images that I will forever treasure. Too bad the story was way too complicated for my simple horror loving mind.

When the son comes downstairs and sees a naked man standing there, it reminded me of the final scene of “Rosemary’s Baby.” Loved that! I think if he would have had a simpler story and whittled down the story a bit to a narrow focus, it would have fared better with me. I really wanted to love this film but it was boring at times. I give it a 7/10

Faces Places

When 2 artists separated by over 30 years decide to go on the same project, touring the country seeking people to let them make murals of their faces, funny stuff happens. It’s also a touching film with depth and sadness that appears to spring up with pure spontaneity despite its profundity.

Faces Places (2017)
Visages villages (original title)
PG | 1h 34min | Documentary | 28 June 2017 (France)

Director Agnes Varda and photographer/muralist J.R. journey through rural France and form an unlikely friendship.
Directors: JR, Agnès Varda
Writers: JR, Agnès Varda
Stars: Jean-Paul Beaujon, Amaury Bossy, Yves Boulen

The film was written and directed by its costar duo, JR, and Agnès Varda. Both are professional artists willing to take chances with the film’s austere concept.

The first art is done on a set of town homes that have belonged to old mining families. They get permission to enlarge old photos into wallpaper posters and paste them on the houses. The people are blown away by the compliment and the woman we first meet who has lived in the houses all her life breaks out in sobs. The thankfulness of the people is truly moviing and thought-provoking to watch.

They go on several other places asking the denizens the same permissions. They also plaster photos on trains and boxcars stacked in a ship yard. The resulting effect is highly lifelike and definitely makes you look twice. I can only imagine the power these murals had on the actual local areas. There is some talk of composition in photography, especially by Varda since she has been an actress/film maker/artist for over 80 years. She gives him a lot of shit for not ever taking off his glasses (and he never does).

The film ends on a somber note when they aren’t able to meet up with her friend and colleague Jean Luc Godard. It brings the fame problem to the surface. The movie is about regular people and a famous person can’t be bothered to meet with him. Varda calls him a dirty rat. This film is a bit hard to watch but as I ave been reading lately, those can be the ones most worth getting through. It’s more of the same as far as art realizations go but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded. We are all just temporary faces on the backdrop of time. I give this film a 7/10. Charming, thoughtful, & certainly worth your time.

Bullet Head

Big dog lovers will probably enjoy this film more than anyone. I’m not talking Saint Bernards but rather pits, bulldogs, Rottweilers and others bred for fighting that hold a dear place in their owners’ hearts. Heist movie fans will probably be let down.

Bullet Head (2017)
R | 1h 33min | Crime, Drama, Thriller | 8 December 2017 (Lithuania)
Three career criminals find themselves trapped in a warehouse with the law closing in and an even worse threat waiting inside – a nigh unstoppable killer dog.
Director: Paul Solet
Writer: Paul Solet
Stars: Adrien Brody, Antonio Banderas, John Malkovich

Our director is Paul Solet. He has made an accomplished looking film with only a few flaws which I will get into in the body of my review. This is his first feature-length film as far as I can recognize from his IMDB page. I respect the hell out of him for getting his BA in film. So many young film students bypass that, thinking they know it all without any humility whatsoever. Besides that I’m an age-old fan of education in general. It enables you to make better stuff. Of course there are exceptions. I hope to see more from Paul Solet.

Summary: By the nature of this section, there may be spoilers. There are some robbers and a dog fight in the same warehouse. The film focuses on when the twain shall meet. The three robbers are played by Rory Culkin, John Malkovich, and Adrien Brody. The dog fight leader is played by Antonio Banderas.

A noticeable tool the director uses is the flashback technique when a character is telling a story. He even includes their modern day visage in the clip, telling the story. For example, Roy is sharing a truly touching story about how his father put a dog down in front of him as he is standing in the barn modern day watching it with his younger self. This is a cool technique but I felt it might have been misused to tell dog stories when we have a heist going on. What I found out later is that this violent heist tale is really a sentimental “tough guy” dog tale in disguise. Notwithstanding, the flashback stories are enlightening and entertaining. My favorite is Malkovich’s story about his first heist stealing fish out of a fish store. An important one is when Brody’s character shares his true love left him and that he would meet her on a beach one day when he had himself together.

Rory is an addict and in the middle of the heist in this warehouse, he od’s. And then there were two. They begin to realize they are in this warehouse with a dog fighting racket and there is at least one dog in there who has lost and is yet to be put down. There are some truly violent dog scenes that may affect dog people. If it’s not shown, it’s inferred.

In the end, Malkovich’s character ends up shot and it’s a standoff between Brody’s character and Banderas’. The last 30 mins are really unnecessary back and forth between these two. At the end the wounded dog shows up and kills Banderas supposedly out of spite for making him fight. The final scene is Brody’s character walking toward his true love on a beach with a puppy pit.

Final Thoughts

This movie had my attention about 3/4 of the way through and that was when it got way too nursery-rhyme for me. I expected it to be a bit about dogs but not this much. It was a little misadvertised I think. Still, it showed good chops by a new director, no pun intended. I think dog lovers and teens will find this a fun movie. The acting is so so. Rory Culkin seems the most believable and that’s sad. I have to blame the writer mostly for tha though, the actors did the best they could with a sub-par script. Once again, I do want to compliment the director. I expect great movies from him in the future. Perhaps a clearer singular focus would go further next time? I give this film a 6/10, which is an ok score. Worth checking out.

Ep. 103: Action Point

Listen to this episode on The Damien Riley Podcast

This is Knoxville doing his stuntwork all the way to the bank. Between he and Chris Pontius, my sides hrt from laughing. Check out my audio as usual and video review I tried my hand at this time. Tell me what you think. Would you like to see more video experiments from me?

Action Point (2018)
R | 1h 25min | Comedy | 1 June 2018 (USA)

A daredevil designs and operates his own theme park with his friends.
Director: Tim Kirkby
Writers: John Altschuler (screenplay by), Dave Krinsky (screenplay by) | 5 more credits »
Stars: Johnny Knoxville, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Susan Yeagley

from The Damien Riley Podcast of Movie Reviews