6. Before We Vanish
Body snatcher movies are surprisingly common despite the fact that there are only so many ways to tell that type of story. You would think that writers would eventually run out of ideas, and to an extent, a lot of them have.
That being said, there’s one recent body snatcher movie that feels wholly unique despite its familiar premise. It’s called Before We Vanish, and it was directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, a director who knows a thing or two about unusual genre movies.
Before We Vanish should sound familiar. A group of aliens come to Earth with the plan to eliminate human life. In order to make this invasion easier, they take the form of humans. From there, typical body snatcher tropes fly at the viewer. The first half-hour or so actually does feel pretty been-there-done-that. Then again, a lot of these tropes are practically required for the story to make sense.
For example, they pretty much have to include a scene or two revolving around these characters acting different than normal because, well, they’re not themselves. This is all necessary exposition that eventually leads to a very different movie.
Before We Vanish is so fresh because it never tries to stick to one genre. Yes, it’s a sci-fi film, but it also dabbles in romance, comedy, and even a dash of horror. Movies that defy genre conventions can be good or bad. At times, the blurring of genres can result in some tonal inconsistencies.
Unfortunately, Before We Vanish is tonally uneven compared to something like Get Out. That would be a big issue if the movie wasn’t so damn fun. Thankfully, the campier tone usually takes precedent, and that’s usually the right call. Even when it leans into more serious territory, there’s often something worth watching.
In the end, Kurosawa’s quirky sci-fi epic defies expectations because it’s more than the sum of its parts. There are flaws aplenty, but they seem negligible in the long-run. There’s a lot of good here, and while it’s not as thought-provoking as some of these other films, it does a whole lot of things right. The 129-minute runtime might seem daunting for people with little patience, but it’s definitely worth sitting through.
7. Kill Command
You won’t be finding a whole lot of story in Kill Command, but that’s not really the point of the film. Director Steven Gomez sought to make a movie about people defending themselves against rogue A.I. and he succeeded. There’s a bit of exposition, but a majority of the film is dedicated to flashy action sequences. This will likely steer some people away, but fans of explosions and well-directed action should feel right at home.
This isn’t something like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which tried to pile a nonsensical story on top of action scenes. Kill Command let’s viewers know what they’re in for immediately. It never pretends to be anything more than a fast-paced adrenaline rush. Because of this, it’s hard to fault it. A little more character development would have been nice, but at the same time, there are robots killing people in creative ways so who cares?
A recent comparison from a different genre might be last year’s Terrifier. Terrifier is a slasher movie about a killer clown, and that’s all it wanted to be. Kill Command is a sci-fi action movie about robots gone bad, and that’s all it wants to be. That may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but plenty of people will have a blast with it.
8. Level 16
Imagine if The Handmaid’s Tale was written for young adult audiences. Level 16 is that movie. It has the same general themes, but the characters are younger and the violence and sex are toned down. It’s missing the impressive budget and A-list cast of Hulu’s show, but it’s a solid effort nevertheless.
There are going to be several backhanded compliments in the coming paragraphs, but that doesn’t mean Level 16 is a bad movie. On the contrary, these comments exist to point out the fact that, against all odds, Level 16 is a surprisingly strong effort from a cast and crew that don’t necessarily have the resources to create something legendary.
This all becomes very apparent within the first few minutes of the movie. Let’s get this out of the way: Level 16 is not going to change the way we view cinema. It’s not going to win any major awards and it probably won’t be remembered years down the line, but that’s okay.
It’s okay because, at its best, Level 16 is a strong (albeit amateurish) effort from a group of people who want to keep viewers thinking for the majority of the runtime. Frankly, it’s easy to get caught up in the story and invest in the occasionally thought-provoking subject matter.
At its worst, it feels like a top-tier made-for-TV movie. That probably isn’t something readers want to hear, but when you consider the fact that Slumdog Millionaire was almost straight-to-video, maybe that comparison isn’t a giant insult after all.
So Level 16 clearly has some problems, but there are going to be people who really enjoy it. It’s not revolutionary, but dystopian fiction remains fairly popular even though The Hunger Games and Maze Runner came and went.
More importantly, Level 16 offers a lot of the same themes as The Handmaid’s Tale while also shooting for a younger target audience. This means that younger teenagers can digest this kind of commentary without being subjected to the more gruesome scenes. Long story short, there’s a target audience that will appreciate it.
9. Creative Control
Creative Control was quietly given a limited release before sneaking onto Amazon’s streaming service back in 2015. Despite earning slightly-above-average reviews, the movie was poorly marketed and people weren’t exactly drawn to a black-and-white sci-fi movie that felt a little too reminiscent of Her.
It fell under the radar almost immediately, but a good chunk of the people who have seen it seem to like it okay. Calling it a hidden gem might be a reach, but it’s definitely worth looking into if only because it’s a minor time commitment.
Basically, Creative Control is about a man who uses augmented reality to have an “affair” with his buddy’s girlfriend. The real draw is the gorgeous cinematography, but the strong acting and interesting characters are certainly worth watching. At times, the movie has a tendency to hit viewers over the head with whatever message it’s trying to say, but it’s still a well-made movie with plenty going for it.
10. Time Trap
Time Trap feels like the product of a different era, which is probably why it has slowly developed a sort of cult following. Considering the immense popularity of Stranger Things, it’s only fitting that Time Trap comes out and capitalizes on that retro style.
No, it doesn’t take place in the ‘80s, but it feels reminiscent of Steven Spielbergs’s early blockbuster films. It’s a movie that focuses mostly on adventure as opposed to thought-provoking themes and ideas. It just wants viewers to have a good time, and it’s mostly successful.
The execution doesn’t exactly live up to the premise, but Time Trap still offers plenty of fun. It’s far from a perfect movie, especially because of the flawed latter half, but the build-up is a treat and the weaker moments are still watchable.
We get a handful of archetypal characters fighting for survival with some playful bantering thrown in the mix for good measure. It’s all a little silly, but it’s a thoroughly entertaining throwback film that’s well-worth the minor time commitment.