In-House Reviews #110: Road House, Late Night with the Devil, Immaculate, YOLO & More!

Aaron Neuiwirth has reviews for Road House, Late Night with the Devil, Immaculate, YOLO, Femme, and Riddle of Fire.

While some things may be strange in certain neighborhoods, that hasn’t stopped other forms of evil from heading elsewhere. This set of write-ups includes a remake of a Swayze classic, a retro horror film, a nunsploitation movie, a Chinese sports blockbuster, a stylish neo-noir, and an indie children’s adventure with a fantasy edge. The following features reviews for Road House, Late Night with the Devil, Immaculate, YOLO, Femme, and Riddle of Fire.

Road House: 6 out of 10

The Setup: Ex-UFC fighter Dalton (Jake Gyllenhaal) takes a job as a bouncer at a Florida Keys roadhouse, only to discover that this paradise is not all it seems.

Review: Remaking a masterpiece is a tricky proposition, so I can see why some may have been up in arms at the very notion of director Doug Liman possibly going the same route as, for example, the various attempts to remake Hitchcock movies. Fortunately, this take on Road House is more like borrowing the basic premise and eventually going in its own direction. They are both similarly silly films, though this updated version is not nearly as strong for various reasons. That said, Gyllenhaal is in his zone here, essentially playing into the weird persona he’s adopted for multiple press tours and combining that with a talented fighter who doesn’t feel pain but also holds back from embracing a zen-like state that the late Patrick Swayze so convincingly pulled off in various instances.

On the other side, however, you have a plot (much as I care about it) that pretty much goes off the rails in the second half and stacks on action sequences that feel ambitious in construction, well-choreographed in staging, yet nearly unwatchable due to a variety of editing and visual effects techniques ideally designed to pull the viewer more in the moment. Liman has previously made The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Edge of Tomorrow Live. Die. Repeat. He’s a good action director, but this is not his finest hour in that department. This could all lead up to me saying that at least Conor McGregor’s role as a deadly enforcer is a spark of energy that delivers…but I won’t say that. Sure, his fights are exciting by default, but calling his efforts as an actor bad would be an understatement.

Where To Watch: Now available to stream on Prime Video.

Late Night with the Devil: 8 out of 10

The Setup: Johnny Carson rival Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian) hosts a syndicated talk show ‘Night Owls’ that has long been a trusted companion to insomniacs around the country. However, ratings for the show have plummeted since the tragic death of Jack’s beloved wife. Desperate to turn his fortunes around, on October 31, 1977, Jack plans a Halloween special like no other–unaware he is about to unleash evil into the living rooms of America.

Review: Just when I thought the possession genre was all out of gas, here comes Colin and Cameron Cairnes with a really fun take that had me smiling with delight as all hell broke loose. Character actor David Dastmalchian getting a proper leading role makes for inspired casting for the host of a talk show that gave me vibes of The Dick Cavett Show. Framing the film around an episode of that taping, with a quick montage up front and some “behind-the-scenes” footage during commercial breaks, had me completely wrapped up in how this unique narrative unfolded. The circumstances are not too unfamiliar compared to other possession-based films, but Late Night with the Devil oozes with as much style as it does eventual gore. Even with a lack of major scares for horror aficionados, there’s a creepy atmosphere, committed performances, and just enough interesting commentary to let this movie stand as what I think will remain one of the best horror films to arrive this year.

Where To Watch: Now playing in select theaters. Available to stream on Shudder starting April 19, 2024.

Immaculate: 5 out of 10

The Setup: An American nun (Sydney Sweeney) embarks on a new journey when she joins a remote convent in the Italian countryside. However, her warm welcome quickly becomes a living nightmare when she discovers her new home harbors a sinister secret and unspeakable horrors.

Review: Perhaps this film can’t help but compare to the fun I already had with the above movie. That said, even in the realm of more religiously minded horror, Saint Maud (from Love Lies Bleeding director Rose Glass) is a much better take on how extraneous circumstances can push back against someone’s legitimate faith. Granted, as a small (yet already successful) Neon release backed by its star who also serves as producer, there is an intent to play as something more akin to a wicked scare-fest reliant on a build to a genuinely hardcore finale. Whether or not one goes along with the jump-scare-laden 70 minutes leading up to that point (this film is mercifully short), the intent to leave the audience with these memorable final moments is the sort of gamble I can respect. That comes even with Sweeney, who I don’t really see sitting comfortably in lead roles. Still, director Michael Mohan packs a good level of gore in this Italian convent that’s sure to satisfy others.

Where To Watch: Now playing in theaters.

YOLO: 7 out of 10

The Setup: Le Ying (Jia Ling) has been staying at home for many years, doing nothing in particular, after choosing to withdraw from society, closing herself off from social circles, which she believes is the best way to “reconcile” with herself. One day, after several twists of fate, she decides to live life differently. Cautiously venturing into the outside world, Le Ying meets boxing coach Hao Kun (Lei Jia-Yin) and starts down a new path.

Review: This huge blockbuster hit out of China has come stateside, and I’m happy to have seen it. On the whole, the film plays as a solid underdog sports story with a heavy emphasis on character. Yes, the boxing element is a vital part of the narrative, but at (a slightly overlong) two+ hours, a good amount of drama unfolds, with scattered bits of comedy throughout. It’s pretty involving, with the addition of the other hand it plays. Director/star Jia Ling fully invests in the process for this film, as she loses a ton of weight over the course of the runtime (this film was shot for over a year to feature the actual weight loss process). It speaks well to what the overall messaging is after, which steps beyond some of the more clichéd ideas one typically finds in these sorts of movies. It’s perhaps a cheesy slogan, but the title is very much a fitting one for this feature.

Where To Watch: Now playing in select theaters.

Femme: 5 out of 10

The Setup: One night after performing his drag show, Jules (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) is targeted in a horrific homophobic attack, destroying his life and career. Some time after, he encounters one of his attackers (George MacKay) without being recognized and wants revenge.

Review: On the one hand, directors and writers Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping deliver a well-acted, tense, and very stylish thriller focusing on a unique community and the harm that can come against it that is fueled by hate. On the other hand, this film feels incredibly misguided in its perspective, what it puts its most innocent character through (let alone what this speaks to regarding the Black queer community), and a need to put way too many attempts at empathy toward those who do not deserve it. It’s not as though there’s not a story that can be told about someone who hates themselves as much as Mackay’s Preston does, but it’s hard to reconcile that with the amount of pain Jules is forced to go through; some of it at the hands of his own friends (who receive no comeuppance…not even a talking-to). The depiction of violence in this film, in various ways, is uncompromising and messy. Still, it comes at the cost of connecting me with a movie that seems to aspire to be more than just dark misery and thrilling scenarios. A twisted middle section lets the performances round themselves out well enough. Still, outside of the genre goods, I wasn’t going too far along with this one.

Where To Watch: Now playing in select theaters.

Riddle of Fire: 8 out of 10

The Setup: This neo-fairytale set in Wyoming follows three mischievous children as they embark on an odyssey when their mother asks them to run an errand. On the hunt to obtain her favorite blueberry pie, the children are kidnapped by poachers, battle a witch, outwit a huntsman, befriend a fairy, and bond together to become best friends forever.

Review: It’s always a good feeling when just the look and sound of a film can immediately win you over. Writer/director Weston Razooli impressed me so quickly with what Riddle of Fire had to offer that I was already awaiting whatever was next while enjoying this fantastic little fantasy (with a mild edge). Set in modern times but shot with 16mm to resemble the atmosphere of a kid’s adventure fantasy from the 70s, I had so much fun diving into the world presented here. The kids all may be new to acting, but they have a certain kind of presence and charm that lets them be incredibly engaging while journeying their way through such a wacky odyssey. Having adults on hand who entirely get the type of film they are in, this whole enterprise is a true delight, complete with a specificity that made it all the more special, and unexpected musical/dance moments that kept my eyes wide open with joy.

Where To Watch: Now playing in select theaters.

***

Written by
Aaron Neuwirth is a movie fanatic and Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic from Orange County, California. He’s a member of the African American Film Critics Association, the Hollywood Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society, and the Black Film Critics Circle. As an outgoing person who is always thrilled to discuss movies, he’s also a podcaster who has put far too many hours into published audio content associated with film and television. His work has been published at Variety, We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu, The Young Folks, Firstshowing.net, Screen Rant, and Hi-Def Ninja.

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