After the crushing disappointment I felt last week after watching the new Indiana Jones, I needed to scale back a little and watch some films that weren't so deeply connected to my childhood. I went to four movies in the theater this weekend (one of which I won't write about because I don't need the death threats) and they were all varied enough to feel like a weird little film festival programmed just for me.
First was "Blue Jean," a subdued and quietly devastating look at Jean, (played by the instantly iconic Rosy McEwan) a closeted lesbian teacher caught in an external and internal fight for equality against Margaret Thatcher's anti-gay legislation in the England of 1988. The film is just as relevant now as it would have been in 1988, showing when human rights are decided by bigoted politicians, then each moment of happiness and every defiance of ignorance and hatred is a fearless form of activism.
We live in a time where queer visibility is at an all-time high, yet anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is as well, so we have "Blue Jean," which acts not just as an intelligent dissection of repression, but as a tender and empathetic entreaty for self-actualization. The moments of catharsis throughout the film are quite small, just as they mostly are in life, shaping the film into a deceptively powerful celebration of resilience.
Next I watched "Biosphere," an absolutely insane sci-fi/comedy/drama hybrid starring the great Sterling K. Brown and Mark Duplass as the (possibly?) last two men on Earth. I went into this knowing almost nothing and that is definitely the way this batshit insanity should be experienced. With its single setting and two characters, the dialogue and performances have to really resonate; luckily, Brown and Duplass have chemistry to burn and the rambling, conversational dialogue feels honest and authentic.
I wish I could say more about the story, but that would be terrible of me. Just know this: you have never seen a movie like this before. "Biosphere" is pure originality distilled into 107 minutes of unpredictable chaos that has more to say about humanity in a 5-minute stretch of dialogue than most films do in their entire running time. As a deconstruction of masculinity or as a mumblecore comedy of errors, "Biosphere" succeeds at every genre it tries.
Finally, I went to "Insidious: The Red Door," technically the fifth film in the franchise started by James Wan, but acts as a direct sequel to the first two films ("Insidious: Chapter 3" and "Insidious: The Last Key" are both prequels). As a "trilogy" capper, "The Red Door" is a satisfying goodbye to the Lambert Family and their literal and metaphorical ghosts and demons, but as a stand-alone horror movie it doesn't work quite as well. At the end of "Insidious: Chapter Two" Josh Lambert (played by Patrick Wilson — who also served as director) and his son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) had their memories repressed about all the terrifying shit that happened to them. Now it's eight years later and that horror is returning to them as father and son begin astral projecting back into the "Further," the dark realm where disturbed ghosts basically hang out and queue up to possess the living.
While most of the jump scares fall pretty flat, the one thing the "The Red Door" does well is focus on characterization and track the emotional arc of Josh and Dalton. Because Dalton can't remember chunks of his childhood, he thinks his dad (who fearlessly saved his life in the first movie) is a deadbeat. It's a full half an hour before anything "scary" happens because the script is mostly focused on the father/son relationship — a nice change from the average horror movie that only cares about gore or spookies. The problem here, though, is that there's so little focus on being scary that "In5idiou5" works better as a domestic drama than a horror movie.
Don't get me wrong: trauma as a metaphor in horror is powerful, but ever since "Hereditary," it has been so overused in scary movies that it became a trope. Movies like "The Babadook," "Midsommar," "Saint Maud" and "Pearl" did it so well that "Insidious: The Red Door" really needed to up its game to be in the same conversation as those films. But, if you're into the series and care about the fate of the Lambert family, this could have been a much worse denouement, (even though it doesn't live up to its potential). Although, there's something poetic about unrealized expectations in a movie about disappointing dads.