7 Recent Films Directed by Women You Should See ASAP by Keith LaFountaine

7. RAW (2016)

directed by Julia Ducournau

“An innocent teenager, studying to be a vet, develops a craving for human flesh.”

There is so much I love about this film. It’s eerie, horrifying, visually unforgettable, and narratively substantive. The fact that this was Ducournau’s debut feature makes it even more impressive. I could not more highly recommend watching this film as soon as possible, especially if you love horror.


6. BERLIN SYNDROME (2017)

directed by Cate Shortland

“A passionate holiday romance leads to an obsessive relationship, when an Australian photojournalist wakes one morning in a Berlin apartment and is unable to leave.”

Both a terrifying horror film and a deep character study, Berlin Syndrome took me by surprise last year. I haven’t been able to forget it since. Cate Shortland’s direction is incredible, and Teresa Palmer’s lead performance is unforgettable.


5. A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT (2014)

directed by Ana Lily Amirpour

“In the Iranian ghost-town Bad City, a place that reeks of death and loneliness, the townspeople are unaware they are being stalked by a lonesome vampire.”

God, I love this film so much! It’s hypnotizing, in terms of its visuals, its soundscape, and its lighting. Amirpour’s direction is spot on, and Sheila Vand gives an incredible performance.


4. BUSTER’S MAL HEART (2016)

directed by Sarah Adina Smith

A family man's chance encounter with a conspiracy-obsessed drifter leaves him on the run from the police and an impending event known as the Inversion.”

Puzzling, intriguing, mystifying — it’s difficult to classify Sarah Adina Smith’s mesmerizing film. Rami Malek’s lead performance is incredible, and Smith’s direction reflects the inherent strengths of the film — it’s ability to move between genres with ease, to shock and to endear. Few films are as original and exciting as Buster’s Mal Heart.


3. THE INVITATION

directed by Karyn Kusama

A man accepts an invitation to a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife, an unsettling affair that reopens old wounds and creates new tensions.”

I didn’t intend for this list to be so full of horror films! With that said, Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation is one of the most memorable modern horror films to get released. It has a host of incredible performances, perfect editing, and incredible lighting. It’s eerie, unsettling, tense, and exciting. I might have to revisit this film again, soon — it’s been a few years since I last saw it.


2. MIDDLE OF NOWHERE (2012)

directed by Ava DuVernay

“When her husband is sentenced to eight years in prison, Ruby drops out of medical school in order to focus on her husband's well-being while he's incarcerated - leading her on a journey of self-discovery in the process.”

Ava DuVernay is a household name nowadays (and rightly so — if you haven’t seen Selma or 13th you should fix that). However, the film I would most recommend in her canon is her affecting drama, Middle of Nowhere. Featuring a great performance from Emayatzy Corinealdi, and with pitch-perfect writing and direction from DuVernay, this film is a truly somber and emotional film that has a razor-sharp focus on its impactful characters.


1. The Tale

directed by Jennifer Fox

“A woman filming a documentary on childhood rape victims starts to question the nature of her childhood relationship with her riding instructor and running coach.”

The Tale is a difficult film to watch. Not only does it deal with very traumatic and difficult subjects, but it also is a true story — it’s Jennifer Fox working through her own experience of abuse when she was a child. Not only is this an important film, but it’s also a very well-made, affecting, difficult to watch drama. In fact, it was my #2 favorite film of the year in 2018.

"Scary Stories" Is Unsettling, but Doesn't Hold Up Narratively by Keith LaFountaine

It's interesting to me the legacy that the Scary Stories books have, especially among folks around my age. I started reading them in elementary school, as did many of my friends, and they were truly unique in every sense of the term. More pulpy than R.L. Stine's Goosebumps, while retaining an accessible style that kids and teenagers could understand.

So of course, given this nostalgia, the prospect of a film adaptation is enticing and exciting. Given the constraints that a film like this has to have, this isn't a horrible adaptation, either. However, it does feel stitched together, comprised of different limbs and parts in order to work as a singular story. As such, it loses some of the allure that the short story collections had, and feels imprecise.

Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark.jpg

With that said, André Øvredal was the perfect choice to direct this film. The horror visuals were utterly superb, especially for a PG-13 horror film, and while I rolled my eyes at many of the unnecessary jump-cuts, he built tension and suspense in a palpable way. Akin to The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Øvredal uses precise camerawork and specific editing to make the horror scenes truly memorable (it will be a while before I forget the Scarecrow scene and the Pale Lady). What's remarkable is that he manages to work within the confines of a PG-13 rating without making the horror feel toothless.

As I said before, I'm mixed on the actual narrative. I understand its purpose, and I think it does have some merits, but ultimately it strikes me as a total opposite to the eerie and unsettling visuals. Perhaps that works in the books' favor, though, as it complements the accessible, yet pulpy stories that I read when I was ten.


Scary Stories 2.jpg

SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK ★★★

written by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman & Guillermo del Toro || directed by André Øvredal

Rated PG-13 || 108 MIN || Released on 9 August 2019

Steven Spielberg Has Been Astonishingly Good for A Long Time by Keith LaFountaine

When someone asks me to list my favorite directors, there are always some names that come up: Kubrick, Tarkovsky, Lynch, and Scorsese, for example. However, there’s one name a lot of people tend to leave out (including me): Steven Spielberg.

Given his long history in the film industry, and his mastery both with more artsy films and with commercial projects, it’s astonishing to me that more folks do not include him in their list. In fact, Spielberg has been one of the most consistent directors out there, with an astonishingly good track record, both commercially and critically.

I was curious how I ranked Spielberg’s films (the ones I’ve seen, at least, and I was pretty surprised with what I found. I rate films on a 5-star scale, and here’s how I ranked Spielberg’s canon.

Spielberg Films I've Seen, Rated

Not only have I enjoyed the vast majority of Spielberg films, but he has also held this consistent excellence since his debut in 1964. You can see this in the average critical score of his films over each decade he has been working.

Critical and Social Ratings of Spielberg's Work, Average by Decade (Out of 100)

Over the span of five decades, Spielberg’s work has consistently been above average. While he’s had a few films that have slipped in critical and social consensus, and while he’s had a few average projects, the vast majority of his work is above average or a masterpiece. What’s even more incredible is the diversity of his work. This man has directed literally every kind of film possible, from psychological horror in Jaws, to science-fiction in Minority Report, to children’s movies like E.T. and masterful dramas like Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan.

The bottom line is that this man’s work has been consistent to an astonishing degree. It’s difficult to find another director who has kept up this level of quality over this many years. So perhaps it’s time we start including him in our “Best Directors” lists. He’s definitely earned it!