Reviews in Short: June 2023

Knock at the Cabin


I haven’t seen all of M. Night Shyamalan’s films, but of those I have, this is the first time since his breakout hit The Sixth Sense in 1999 that he sticks the landing. And the second act. (He always sticks the first act; nobody does initial “hooks” better than Shyamalan.)

Knock at the Cabin was such a pleasant surprise. It doesn’t have a twist to match Sixth Sense, but then very few movies do. But the suspense is there, and the actors are excellent all-around.

Plot: A vengeful God has decided the time is ripe for Armageddon. It’s up to a gay couple and their cute-as-a-button adopted daughter to pacify The Almighty (or something) — by making an unthinkable choice.

Shyamalan nails the premise, the characters, and most of all, the tension. Release: 2023  Grade: B+






Some thrillers are so dumb, stretching their credibility so thin, that you get tired of the nonsense and stop watching them. Other thrillers are also illogical, but it doesn’t matter because they find ways to compensate. Like Missing does.

The action in this film is so fast-paced and entertaining that it’s only after the end credits roll that the plot holes begin to nag at you.

Story: A teen girl’s mother goes missing and it’s up to her and her Gen Z computer skills to uncover skullduggery and save the day. You can probably guess if she’s successful. Release: 2023  Grade: B






Bill Nighy plays a British bureaucrat who, after learning he is terminally ill, attempts to rekindle a zest for life after years of a “zombie-like” existence as a repressed office drone. Through encounters with two young people, Nighy’s widower learns to live again.

This remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru was screen-written by my favorite living novelist, Kazuo Ishiguru (The Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go). That makes sense, because no one depicts loss and death better than Ishiguru, and those themes are dominant in both Living and The Remains of the Day.

But Remains is the more powerful movie, I think, because the ending is so tragic. The stakes were higher for the butler played by Anthony Hopkins, who came oh-so-close to achieving happiness for the first time in his life with a housekeeper played by Emma Thompson.

Nighy’s bureaucrat might be equally stifled, but unlike Hopkins’s butler, he at least found joy earlier in life. Release: 2022  Grade: B+




Terrifier 2


I haven’t done this since I reviewed The Human Centipede, but I’m going to cop out when I grade Terrifier 2, the sequel from director Damien Leone to his 2016 horror movie, Terrifier.

I am not typically a fan of “body horror” (excessive gore, for the geezers out there) films. They are poor substitutes for genuine suspense and scares. But I admire solid craftsmanship, and the word “horror” does imply unpleasant things. On those counts, this long nightmare about “Art the Clown” is as effective as they come.

The upsides: Leone’s stylish direction has a 1970s grindhouse vibe; the Final Girl protagonist and her family are fleshed out (literally, at times) and likeable; money was well spent on production design and special effects; one sequence in particular — featuring Art and a poor girl who winds up with a stump where her arm used to be — is truly horrific.

The downsides: The movie is much too long; the plot is bare bones: homicidal, supernatural clowns terrorize and slaughter young people, ad nauseum, ad nauseous.

Release: 2022  Grades: A- if you like this kind of thing; F if you can’t stomach it.


Tragically, just about the only time director Leone’s camera shows LESS than what we might expect is during star Lauren LaVera’s shower scene. Above, what you see is all you’ll get.


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