6. Climax (69%)
Gaspar Noé has always been a divisive director, and that doesn’t change with his latest work. Though Climax is probably his most accessible film to date, it’s still an immensely challenging arthouse acid trip that spits in the face of conventionality. This failure to adhere to norms, coupled with some seriously graphic violence, ultimately turned off a number of critics, but these seemingly troublesome qualities actually strengthen the final product.
Climax is essentially split into two halves. Without giving too much away, the juxtaposition between the moods of the two halves helps to unearth a multitude of thought-provoking themes and motifs. That’s why the film is such a success. It’s essentially two perfect puzzle pieces that come together to create something remarkable.
This remarkable puzzle is certainly polarizing, but it’s hard to ignore the artistic merit. It’s disturbing, loud, and in-your-face, but it’s also unlike anything you’ve ever seen. For one second, ignore the fact that Climax is hard to sit through. Instead, think about the messages you’re liable to take in when the credits roll.
7. Escape Room (51%)
Escape Room looks like the type of movie to get slammed by critics. It’s a teen-oriented horror movie focused on a gimmicky concept. Based solely on that information, the tomatometer hardly seems surprising. To some, it might even seem too high. That’s precisely why it deserves more love.
The central premise seems like it was created by a group of teenagers, but there’s a surprising amount of quality on display. The writing is sharp, the visual effects are impressive, and the cast is talented. Escape Room is silly, but it makes up for that because it’s surprisingly well-made. It never delivers the kind of horror you’d find in an A24 production, but it offers its own kind of thrills.
8. Greta (60%)
Picture this: you’ve just sat through some intellectually challenging arthouse movie. Your brain is fried and you’re looking for something a little more laid-back. Basically, you need a palate cleanser before you can move on and watch anything remotely complex. Greta is that palate cleanser.
Greta never promises to offer anything more than B-movie thrills, and in that regard, it delivers. Most people will go into this film expecting to see a cat and mouse game between Isabelle Huppert and Chloe Grace Moretz. If you are looking for philosophical musings, you will likely be disappointed, but if you adjust your expectations accordingly, you’re in for something that will keep you thoroughly entertained.
9. Under the Silver Lake (58%)
David Robert Mitchell was one of several breakthrough horror directors who delivered a hotly-anticipated follow-up last year. Unlike his contemporaries, the critical reaction was rather lukewarm. Under the Silver Lake didn’t get the acclaim of The Lighthouse, Midsommar, or Us. Although the technical aspects were praised, it was considered convoluted, bloated, and pretentious.
Now that a year has passed, viewers have begun to get a little introspective. Under the Silver Lake is slowly developing a cult following due to the myriad of codes and clues sprinkled around throughout the lengthy runtime. To some, Mitchell’s latest isn’t just an over-the-top mystery flick; it’s an entire cinematic puzzle.
Even if you were to ignore the subliminal clues, you’d still find a surprisingly funny film with a distinctive identity that sets it apart from the competition. With the plethora of copy-pasted movies, it’s nice to see something that truly stands out. Throughout your time with Under the Silver Lake, you might come across some frustrating narrative decisions, but you’ll never come across a generic cash grab.
10. Velvet Buzzsaw (62%)
With Velvet Buzzsaw, Dan Gilroy completely abandons the grounded approach that was taken with Nightcrawler and Roman J. Israel, Esq. Anybody looking for gritty realism should look elsewhere. Instead, Gilroy’s latest directorial effort is a gleefully goofy horror-satire that’s filled to the brim with interesting ideas.
Unfortunately, critics found that Velvet Buzzsaw may have had a little too much on its mind, and honestly, they might be onto something. This is the type of film that rarely gives viewers time to breathe. Snappy editing combines with even snappier dialogue, resulting in frequent blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments which have a tendency to feel exhausting. That’s why it’s better to take a moment and look at the bigger picture.
Yes, there’s a lot going on in Velvet Buzzsaw, but the anarchy results in a hilarious mishmash of nonstop entertainment with a satirical bite to it. Frustrations aside, Velvet Buzzsaw is honestly a lot of fun. It occasionally oversteps, but it rarely feels like it’s hiding its intentions. You can see the satirical ideas hidden in plain sight, and even if you miss some of the bigger picture, you should still appreciate the paint-soaked chaos.