The must-watch 'Sator' and 'Rendez-Vous' lead a new round of movies available to stream right now at home

We also tell you what new releases to avoid or approach with lowered expectations, including a new movie filmed in Tampa, “Fear of Rain”

click to enlarge Meet Sator, or better yet, pray you never meet Sator, especially alone in the woods. - 1091 PICTURES/DOUG SHINEMAN
1091 Pictures/Doug Shineman
Meet Sator, or better yet, pray you never meet Sator, especially alone in the woods.


Sator
4 star(s), 85 minutes, streaming

Some movies just creep under your skin and keep burrowing down deep until they reach the pitch-black crevices where your primal fear is stored.

Writer-director Jordan Graham, with just his second feature film, has crafted a seriously unnerving exploration of human nature, madness and evil with “Sator,” which straddles the line between folk horror and demonic possession, keeping viewers guessing the outcome right up to the bloody conclusion.

“Sator” is the epitome of a slow-boil, but don’t let that deter you. It’s also almost completely free of dialogue, which allows Graham to focus his energies on creating some genuinely eerie set pieces, as well as taking his camera into the woods at night for a master’s class in how to do POV/found footage right.

Graham’s film is essentially the story of two brothers, Adam (Gabriel Nicholson) and Pete (Michael Daniel), whose has been haunted and tormented by a demonic entity for longer than they care to remember. As Adam becomes more determined to confront this entity, his fractured grip on sanity and reality continues to fray, leading to a gory family reunion in the film’s nihilistic third act.

“Sator” is disturbing and dark, but also incredibly well made, and I think it would be wise for horror fans to remember Graham’s name. Something tells me he’s just getting started, and we haven’t seen his best work yet.

Rendez-Vous
4 star(s), 102 minutes, streaming

Prepare to be wowed by “Rendez-Vous,” a fantastic import from Mexico, and the first feature film from writer-director Pablo Olmos Arrayales.

The film, shot in one continuous take with no edits, tells the story of the first date between Lili (Helena Puig) and Eduardo (Antonio Alcantara). The first 45 minutes or so are a whirlwind of dialogue and subtle character details as Lili and Eduardo stroll through their town, taking in a museum, flirting, sharing personal stories. Lili seems a little too eager at the prospect of finding love. Eduardo is a little too awkward, as if he has something to hide.

By the time they return to Eduardo’s apartment for a quiet homemade dinner, Arrayales pumps the gas, feeding viewers one red herring after another—is Eduardo a serial killer in disguise?—and serving up a series of twists that build tension and foreshadow the explosive and bloody third act to come.

“Rendez-Vous” is thrilling and packed with clever snippets of dialogue, but the real joy to behold is how masterfully Arrayales toys with his audience. It’s clear that he had fully fleshed out his vision prior to shooting.

I know that I’m being vague, and that’s on purpose. “Rendez-Vous” is one of those rare gems that needs to be discovered with as little advance information as possible to allow you to fully savor the delicious reveals in store.

Seriously, prepare to be wowed.

click to enlarge Alex (Elizabeth Cotter, right) listens as an old, evil white guy mansplains to her, just before kicking his ass, in "Burn It All" - VERTICAL ENTERTAINMENT
Vertical Entertainment
Alex (Elizabeth Cotter, right) listens as an old, evil white guy mansplains to her, just before kicking his ass, in "Burn It All"

Burn It All
4 star(s), 102 minutes, Streaming

Writer-director Brady Hall and first-time feature actor Elizabeth Cotter make for a formidable pair in “Burn It All,” Hall’s mesmerizing and fiercely feminist reimagining of a backwoods, B-grade, drive-in-worthy action flick.  

Alex (Cotter) is a tiny woman, a struggling addict, forced to put down her prescription pills long enough to go bury her estranged mother in the shit-stain of a small town where she grew up. But when she arrives and discovers that her mother’s corpse is being harvested as part of a secret human organ smuggling operation, she steps up to deliver justice, one brutal ass-kicking at a time.

What Hall accomplishes here is nothing short of revelatory, and the fact that this is Cotter’s first starring role is unbelievable.

Yes, you’ve seen this movie, or a variation thereof, hundreds of times before, whether it starred Jean-Claude Van Damme or Stone-Cold Steve Austin. But you’ve never seen this movie told from the point of view of a strong-willed woman who refuses to bend to the expectations of simple-minded male brutes who dismiss her as a threat.

I simply couldn’t stop smiling throughout, whether from Alex correcting a low-life thug that she was on a “womanhunt,’ as opposed to a “manhunt,” or the recurring theme of every new character she encounters asking why she’s so damn angry, as if her rage is somehow offensive and unjustified because she’s a woman.

The fight sequences too are staged to not only showcase Alex’s limited but effective abilities, but also to feel as grounded as possible. She’s not some mixed-martial-arts expert. She’s a pissed-off daughter determined to do right, and the way she fights shows that grit in spades.

The subtle visual nods too are awesome, such as Alex smiling at a newborn baby boy in a diner only to furrow her brow in disgust when the baby’s mother hoists him up so Alex can see the child is wearing a jumper embossed with the words, ‘Make Me a Sandwich Bitch.’

“Burn It All” might as well be speaking directly to Hollywood and the way that movies, action films in particular, treat female characters as weak and ineffective, unable to defend themselves, unworthy of respect and incapable of playing a role that’s not steeped in subservience.

This one comes highly recommended.

Safer at Home
2 star(s), 82 minutes, streaming

Writer-director Will Wernick has been a busy bee for the past four years. He’s made two movies, “Escape Room” and “No Escape,” about (duh!) escape rooms (neither of which was as good as 2019’s “Escape Room”) and now he’s just released “Safer at Home,” a pandemic-themed thriller that’s sure to serve as a trigger for many people who have been isolating and stuck at home for the past year.

“Safer at Home” is a Zoom-call thriller, which is basically the newest iteration of found footage flicks. It opens in September 2022. The third strain of coronavirus, Covid-22C, has sparked a massive toll, claiming 31 million lives. Martial law has been imposed. Curfews keep major U.S. cities on lockdown. Violent protests consume the nightly news, in part, because they have caused blistering wildfires that have created widespread health concerns from air pollution.

So, yeah, this is a happy film that should immediately take your mind off all the shit that you’ve been struggling with since February 2019.

“Safer at Home” is watchable, even though the majority of characters are broadly painted as little more than societal stereotypes, and several are immediately unlikeable. Still, there are enough tiny truths visible to help you recognize these people as versions of your friends, co-workers and extended family.

But it’s also entirely predictable. In fact, I called the twist ending an hour before it happened.

If you’ve yet to see a Zoom-call movie, I would recommend skipping “Safer at Home” and go directly to Shudder to watch “Host,” which is an infinitely superior film and genuinely scary.

click to enlarge Rain (Madison Iseman) is afraid. Of rain. And her neighbor. Who might be kidnapping children. It's all very confusing. - LIONSGATE
Lionsgate
Rain (Madison Iseman) is afraid. Of rain. And her neighbor. Who might be kidnapping children. It's all very confusing.

Fear of Rain
2 star(s), 109 minutes, streaming, Blu-Ray and DVD

Local film fans take note, “Fear of Rain,” the third film from director/writer/actor Castille Landon (of Bradenton) was partially filmed in Tampa and you can catch plenty of scenes making our city look pretty good.

If only Landon’s film, which follows Rain (Madison Iseman), a young woman in high school with schizophrenia, who becomes convinced that her teacher, who lives next door, is holding a young girl hostage in her attic, was worth the word-of-mouth recommendation that such movies depend on.

As it is, “Fear of Rain” is an OK, just so-so thriller that gets no help whatsoever from its two big-name stars, Katherine Heigl and Harry Connick Jr., who play Rain’s parents and act as if they are literally carrying nitroglycerine every time they are around their volatile daughter. Heigl is particularly wasted in a role that exists more as a gimmick than a flesh-and-blood portrayal of a parent trying to navigate raising a child with a severe mental health disorder.

I will give Landon credit for trying something different. It never feels like she’s exploiting Rain’s disability, which should please anyone actually suffering from schizophrenia and those who care for them; however, “Fear of Rain” also picks and chooses what it wants to emphasize about schizophrenia, particularly the hallucinations and waking delusions, without incorporating enough information about the psychological and emotional effects, or the consequences that families face when a child acts out.

By making Rain’s condition almost akin to a superpower, “Fear of Rain” detaches from reality at key moments instead of leaning into the ramifications that the disorder can create. It also doesn’t help that the film concludes with a quote-unquote happy ending, which is something I’m sure many families across the world don’t get to enjoy.

Archenemy
2.5 star(s), 90 minutes, streaming, Blu-Ray and DVD

If the Marvel Cinematic Universe has taught us anything, it’s that superhero movies are here to stay, which explains why more filmmakers are stretching outside their comfort boxes to craft stories about heroes that aren’t tied to a specific comic book property or icon.

“Archenemy” has two things going for it that many similar films don’t have. The first is writer-director Adam Egypt Mortimer, who has really blossomed into a creative force since his so-so debut, “Some Kind of Hate,” back in 2015. Mortimer’s last film, “Daniel Isn’t Real,” was a standout surprise in 2019, one of the best genre offerings that year. The second advantage “Archenemy” has is lead actor Joe Manganiello of “True Blood” fame. Manganiello is a literal mountain of a man who has surprising range, and I’m frankly shocked that he has yet to show up in a major Marvel or DC movie.

That said, “Archenemy” is not the resounding success that it should be, in part, because Mortimer takes a huge swing for the fences, incorporating so many different elements, from animated sequences to moments of somber drama, that the resulting stew is almost too thick to digest.

Manganiello plays Max Fist, an alien avenger from a distant world, think Superman, but with a much darker antihero streak, who finds himself banished to Earth, his powers muted and his former glory relegated to brilliant, painful flashes of his past.

When Max stumbles into a situation involving a young boy who actually believes his stories about alien worlds and superpower wars, he can’t help but feel the same desire and sense of purpose to protect.

“Archenemy” is a fascinating case study in ambition and missed opportunity, but just because it fails to hit the bullseye doesn’t mean you should avoid it.

The simple fact that Mortimer felt confident enough to go really big is a good thing, if only because it shows just how much raw talent and creativity he has yet to tap into and harness.

click to enlarge Meet Mia (Daisye Tutor), a social media influencer. She's about to have a terrible day where all her fake online friends die. Sad face. - CHRISTINE RAMAGE/SHUDDER
Christine Ramage/Shudder
Meet Mia (Daisye Tutor), a social media influencer. She's about to have a terrible day where all her fake online friends die. Sad face.

Shook
2 star(s), 88 minutes, streaming

It should come as no surprise that horror films are now beginning to recognize the fertile landscape of social media that can be mined for gory inspiration.

“Shook” imagines a world where social media influencers spend every waking moment trying to gain followers, increase their presence and outshine the competition, even when those competitors are friends. It also seeks to show just how disruptive and divisive this new “career” can be within a family dynamic, and the malignant envy that it spreads like a cancer.

The problem, of course, is that social media influencing is still a burgeoning world, and one that many people likely pay little to no attention to. And the so-called “influencers” themselves are so vain and detached from reality that as a central character, it’s incredibly difficult to root for someone who is so self-absorbed.

The other big issue, of course, is that social media influencers exist online in social media platforms, fueled by likes, emojis and instant messages, which is not an easy environment to translate visually.

Too much of “Shook” feels repetitive and small. Many of the characters exist only to die for our enjoyment, which means you never form any significant attachment to their fate.

If only “Shook” was willing to flex more and take risks, this might have been a much better pseudo-found-footage slasher film.

Sputnik
2 star(s), 113 minutes, streaming, Blu-Ray and DVD

“Sputnik,” a new Russian science-fiction import, basically imagines what might have happened if a crew member from the Nostromo in “Alien” had made it back to Earth with a gestating Xenomorph in their belly.

It’s a solid premise that is bolstered by the bleak landscape of 1980’s era Russia and the considerable hurdles that a young, female doctor encounters from the apathetic male military leaders when she is specifically recruited to work with the cosmonaut who has been infected.

“Sputnik” is a good creature-feature with above-average special effects and surprisingly deep characters, so why am I championing it more? That’s a good question, one that I’ve wrestled with myself. If anything, I think I wanted more — more creature close-ups, more carnage, more adrenalized set pieces, but if you’re a fan of “Alien” and all of its various iterations and replications, you should be pleased with “Sputnik."

Faceless
1 star(s), 110 minutes, Shudder

It’s crazy to think that 13 years have passed since Marcel Sarmiento unleashed “Deadgirl” on an unsuspecting, unprepared horror community. As polarizing as it was (I fall squarely in the "Loved it" camp), “Deadgirl” delivered a complete experience.

That’s sadly more than I can say for Sarmiento’s latest, “Faceless,” his first feature film since 2017 and only his second feature-length effort since “Deadgirl.”

“Faceless” is an interesting, yet wholly uneven, exercise in body horror that frankly left me confused and bored, so much so that I didn’t even make it to the third act, which is mind-blowing to me because this is the first time I’ve walked away from a movie co-starring Alex Essoe, who remains one of my favorite genre actors working today.

click to enlarge Knock, knock. Let us in. We're trying to escape this crappy movie. - GRAVITAS VENTURES/KAMIKAZE DOGFIGHT
Gravitas Ventures/Kamikaze Dogfight
Knock, knock. Let us in. We're trying to escape this crappy movie.

Death Trip
1 star(s), 101 minutes, Streaming

Oh look, it’s yet another movie about a group of friends taking a trip to a secluded cabin in the woods that just happens to be right next door to another cabin where a local urban legend allegedly happened.

And guess what, the inter-personal dynamic among the group of three women and one male friend is strained and colored by unspoken desire.

And just for shits and giggles, “Death Trip” employs a fractured narrative, telling its tale through flashbacks and flashforwards, trying desperately to keep viewers off-balance so they don’t immediately discern that this movie is basically the same movie they’ve seen dozens of times.

Avoid.

click to enlarge "Greenland" is the truest definition of nightmare fuel, especially since Tampa gets obliterated. - STXFILMS
STXfilms
"Greenland" is the truest definition of nightmare fuel, especially since Tampa gets obliterated.

Greenland
1 star(s), 119 minutes, streaming

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I have watched some movies packed with true stomach-churning moments of gore and despair, and never batted an eye or flinched in the dark while huddled on the couch.

Why then did I barely make it through 30 minutes of “Greenland,” a PG-13 disaster flick starring Gerard Butler and Morena Baccarin?

For one, the film’s story of an asteroid-induced E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event) just hit way too close to home, especially given that we’re still deeply immobilized by a global public health nightmare.

And, if only to reinforce my first point, “Greenland” basically wipes central Florida and Tampa, specifically, off the map within the first 15 minutes, obliterated by a massive chunk of asteroid that bursts through our atmosphere.

Literally, I shouldn’t even be able to write this review.

It’s OK if you want to call me a wussy, I’ll take that and be just fine. But as disaster movies go, from the excellent all the way to the ridiculous, “Greenland” was simply too much for my fragile psyche to handle at this time.  

click to enlarge This scene from "Necropath" is like every father's nightmare. 'Hi, we're here to pick up your daughter for the dance.' - GRAVITAS VENTURES
Gravitas Ventures
This scene from "Necropath" is like every father's nightmare. 'Hi, we're here to pick up your daughter for the dance.'

Necropath
1 star(s), 94 minutes, Streaming

By its very IMDb description, “Necropath” is “a prototype film, to be used to present for future larger production.”

While that might not make much sense to most, having endured “Necropath,” I’m here to tell you that it makes perfect sense. “Necropath” feels like an experiment, an effort to try and translate those feelings of disorientation and despair that people feel in the dead of night when they wake from a terrible dream. This is not a fun movie to watch, at all, and it does in fact feel like some kind of bizarre dress rehearsal for something more terrible.

“Necropath” also has no narrative structure whatsoever. It just exists to make you queasy and uncomfortable with its dreary, dirty depiction of underground addicts being tortured and killed. If anything, “Necropath” succeeds in transferring nightmare fuel from the brain to the screen, but I’m not sure if that’s a positive to be triumphed.

click to enlarge Next up on "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom": Clowns in nature. - UNCORK'D ENTERTAINMENT
Uncork'd Entertainment
Next up on "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom": Clowns in nature.

The Legend of Fall Creek
1 star(s), 88 minutes, streaming and DVD

You’ve got to give credit sometimes, even if a director doesn’t know when to quit, or at the least find a new muse.

Following on the heels of last December’s “Black Pumpkin,” a woeful and blatant “Trick ‘r Treat” rip-off, writer-director Ryan McGonagle has teamed up with Anthony Hall to co-direct an origin story, “The Legend of Fall Creek,” for Bloody Bobby, a supernatural child entity wholly fashioned after the iconic “Sam” from “Trick ‘r Treat.”

And guess what? “The Legend of Fall Creek” is just as bad, if not worse. In fact, “The Legend of Fall Creek” is actually more offensive than “Black Pumpkin.”

For one, McGonagle and Hall open the film by plastering a definition of Grindhouse Cinema across the screen. This is not a wise thing to do, especially if you have no intention of living up to the gonzo hallmarks that define genre filmmaking.

From there, they launch straight into a tired horror trope, the bickering boyfriend and girlfriend, driving too fast on a canyon road late at night and not paying any attention to what’s up ahead. This might not be so bad if the first character viewers meet is a total meathead who goes on an extended (and obnoxious and offensive and infuriating) riff about all the homosexual undertones that can be found in  He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

Avoid at all costs.

Also available

  • John Hughes 5-Movie Collection This awesome collection brings two Hughes' classic to Blu-Ray for the first time, "She's Having a Baby" and "Some Kind of Wonderful"
  • Centigrade Survival thriller meets relationship drama. 
  • Redemption Day Action thriller with former "CSI" star Gary Dourdan and Andy Garcia. 
  • Lady Sings the Blues Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams ignite the screen in this Oscar-nominated classic. 
  • Demon Mothe Equal parts "The Evil Dead" and "The Howling," but not nearly as cool as that sounds. 
  • Shogun’s Joy of Torture This 1968 cult-classic has beheadings, disembowelment and incest, and that's before the opening credits are done. 
  • Naked Girl Murdered in the Park Obscure Italian giallo. 
  • The Swordsman Samurai epic. 'nuff said. 
  • The Astrology of Pandemics Can astrological signs predict a mass public health crisis? 
  • The El Duce Tapes Wild documentary about a controversial rocker whose public persona drew condemnation.
  • Paramount Presents: Elizabethtown Cameron Crowe fans, rejoice!
  • Paramount Presents: Love Story 50th Anniversary Weepy sad movie fans, rejoice!
  • Elysium 4K Ultra HD  Mediocre science-fiction fans, rejoice?
  • Paradise Cove And finally, Mena Suvari and Kristin Bauer van Straten go head-to-head as a home-flipper and a homeless squatter, respectively. 

John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films that often get overlooked and interviews with cult cinema favorites like George A. Romero, Bruce Campbell and Dee Wallace. Contact him at Blood Violence and Babes.com, on Facebook @BloodViolenceBabes or on Twitter @BVB_reviews.

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About The Author

John W. Allman

John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films...
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