With only a few days left before Halloween, several horror movies made the cut this week. This set of write-ups includes a courtroom comedy-drama, a Lovecraftian horror story, a Nic Cage western, a couple of farm-related horror flicks, and a Bill Burr-directed comedy. The following features reviews for The Burial, Suitable Flesh, Butcher’s Crossing, Dark Harvest, Hayride to Hell, and Old Dads.
The Setup: Willie E. Gary (Jamie Foxx), an unconventional lawyer, helps Jeremiah Joseph O’Keefe (Tommy Lee Jones), a funeral home owner with financial troubles, save his family business from a corporate behemoth.
Review: Having recently gotten a few compelling legal dramas, I feel I was in the right mood for another that leaned on having big movie star performances really help set the scene. The Burial is more comedic than the other courtroom films I had seen but plenty effective. Foxx, in particular, does a tremendous job channeling this flashy lawyer character tasked with taking on a much more significant case than he is used to. Watching moments where this man is forced to humble himself shows why Foxx succeeds so well as an actor. As far as the rest of the film goes, all the staples of a courtroom movie are here, down to a call from the judge for the counselor to watch himself, but proceed with caution. That said, even with all the tropes in place, director Maggie Betts has made a crowd-pleasing film with plenty of time for Foxx, Tommy Lee Jones, and the rest of this solid character actor-rich cast to shine through.
Where To Watch: Available to stream on Prime Video.
The Setup: Psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Derby (Heather Graham) begins to help a young patient, Asa (Judah Lewis), who has an extreme personality disorder. She digs further into the situation and realizes something dark and supernatural is at play with the patient.
Review: Despite noting that this film came from the makers of Re-Animator and From Beyond, it took me a bit to see what director Joe Lynch was going for in this ode to Stuart Gordon films of the 80s/90s. Perhaps it comes down to the lack of cosmic horror in a more mainstream setting these days, but as the film found its rhythm, I was certainly happy to have more fun with it. Some key casting choices help. Graham steps into her first lead horror role and has a ball moving between various personalities, given the story that unfolds. Veteran performers Barbara Crampton (also a producer) and Bruce Davison also provide what’s needed here when it comes to the loopier choices played with a straight face. I wish Judah Lewis was a bit more of a scoundrel, but his character also opens the film up to some of its biggest questions that could have used some clarity. Still, when the film aims for pure gonzo pleasures that typically come with Lovecraftian horror flicks, Suitable Flesh has enough clever moves, gore, and more to keep things sick and fun.
Where To Watch: Opening in limited release and on VOD on October 27, 2023.
The Setup: Will Andrews (Fred Hechinger) has left Harvard to find adventure. He teams up with Miller (Nicolas Cage), a mysterious frontiersman offering an unprecedented number of buffalo pelts in a secluded valley. Their crew must survive an arduous journey where the harsh elements will test everyone’s resolve, leaving their sanity on a knife’s edge.
Review: Before this year, Cage had never been in a traditional Western. Now we’ve had two, and this one is the more substantial entry. Having this film arrive so close to Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon almost feels deliberate, as what could sit as a stripped-down drama about frontiersmen dealing with one man’s obsession ends up being more of a somber look at what greed and other poorly thought-out intentions end up doing to an environment that was once rich with certain wildlife. Sporting a bald head and a beard that suggests he’s been out here quite some time, Cage is game to keep his energy at a low but effective rumble for the most part, letting the other actors do their best to raise the tension around him by yelling louder. Not at all action-packed, this is a compelling enough psychological journey that could have excelled further were it to really focus on what impact these men were having on land they did not cherish enough.
Where To Watch: Now playing in select theaters.
The Setup: In a cursed town, the annual harvest becomes a brutal battle for survival. On Halloween 1963, Sawtooth Jack (Dustin Ceithamer), a terrifying legend, rises from the cornfields, threatening the town’s children. Groups of boys unite to defeat the murderous scarecrow before midnight. Richie (Casey Likes), a rebellious outcast, joins the run, motivated by his brother’s previous victory. As the hunt progresses, Richie makes a shocking discovery and faces a pivotal choice to break the relentless cycle.
Review: It’s wild how much I’ve stuck to being somewhat excited for David Slade movies, given how long it’s been since Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night. The latter film I’m not even that big a fan of (the comic rules), but his style just feels so distinct. And this is what ultimately works for Dark Harvest, a fairly ridiculous horror film that packs in a lot of mythology and story ideas. I suppose that deserves credit compared to simply making a slasher film about a killer scarecrow. The problem comes down to the tone being a bit too loose for me to get the best handle on this thing. Still, it’s a very well-shot film, with several well-staged sequences in terms of how a proper director can make a lot from a little. Plus, I do tend to enjoy horror films actually set around Halloween.
Where To Watch: Available on digital.
The Setup: Set on the Coxe Family Farm in rural Willis County, Farmer Sam (Bill Moseley) exacts his bloody revenge on unscrupulous local town-folk, including Sheriff Jubel (Kane Hodder), who menace him and attempt to steal the farm that has been in his family for 200 years.
Review: Speaking of Halloween, here’s a movie that absolutely shouldn’t work as well as it does, and yet here we are. Working on a very minimal budget, writer/director Dan Lantz has next to nothing in terms of production design to rely on, actors that largely seem to be pulled from community theater, and a general vibe that would suggest a Halloween Hallmark movie were it not for the inevitable turn to horror theatrics. However, Bill Moseley is here to lead the show, and I can’t argue with what works. The 70+-year-old actor has all the spark one wants from the horror veteran, and it goes a long way in making a film featuring a major speaking role for the lumbering former Jason Vorhees, Kane Hodder, as entertaining as it is.
Where To Watch: Now playing in select theaters.
The Setup: Three best friends (Bill Burr, Bobby Cannavale, and Bokeem Woodbine) become fathers later in life and find themselves battling preschool principals, millennial CEOs, and anything created after 1987.
Review: The concept of this film is relatively straightforward. It amounts to comedian Bill Burr turning his stand-up act into a feature with a three-act structure and supporting characters. If you like Burr, you’ll be in familiar territory and perhaps be able to simply go along with what’s presented. I like Burr and the way he rides just on the line of being against how the world has evolved to cater to a more sensitive generation. Yet he is self-aware enough to know he looks like a jerk for daring to impose some common sense on various situations. Does that make for a compelling character arc? Not particularly, and the story being told relies on many tired tropes, including nagging wives, keeping up with the younger generation, renowned schools with ridiculous rules for parents to follow, and more. Is there much this film has to offer? Not really. As a directorial debut for Burr, does he at least have what it takes to get something like this accomplished decently enough? I suppose. As a Netflix comedy that passes some time, it’s a bit outdated but still fine.
Where To Watch: Available to stream on Netflix.