WhatsUp at the Movies: We Review “Us,” “Horror Noire,” and “Arctic”

Capsule Reviews of Three Strong Films

Check out reviews of some of the latest films in theatres and on video. This weekend, we have capsule reviews of Us, Horror Noire and Arctic.

Us (Review by Alexander Harrison)

After taking the country by storm in 2017 with Get Out, Jordan Peele became the new face of original, quality horror cinema, and Us proves his initial success was no fluke. Though much less of a genre-bender than his first outing, Us still blends humor and social critique with horror conventions and homages, contributing to a distinctive tone that seems to be Peele’s trademark. The doppelgänger premise is skillfully handled, made both scary and profound while highlighting the performances of the actors, who all shine in their double-roles. Us suffers somewhat in its scope, which widens just enough to make viewers hunger for answers they don’t receive and lessens the impact of the finale as a result, but this minor frustration fades quickly. What remains is a film that can be endlessly discussed and mined for meaning, another of what I hope to be many elevated horror movies from Monkeypaw Productions.
WhatsUp Rating 4 out of 5 

          

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Arctic (Review by Angela Marandola)

Arctic has all the elements you’d expect of a survival movie set in a frozen wilderness. Miserable luck that only gets worse, a fair amount of gangrene, a serious amount of gumption and, of course, a hypercarnivorous polar bear. Because surviving below freezing temperatures after your cargo plane crashes isn’t bad enough.

The story begins with our surviving hero doing okay. Overgård, played by film maestro Mads Mikkelsen, is making the best of the extreme circumstances of his current situation. Sure, he may be missing some toes but he’s established stable shelter in the wreckage of his down transportation, ice fishes arctic trout and filets it like a pro,  and works toward a rescue that may never come by carving SOS into the snow and signals for help at time intervals throughout the day with a device that is never fully explained.

For the noblest reasons, Overgård ventures away from his security and embarks on a silent journey marked by glaciers,  and steep-as-can-be rock faces that were conveniently left off the map he uses for guidance. Mikkelsen could teach a master class on acting via facial expressiveness alone; however, ultimately we don’t know much about our lead. The dialogue we do hear (minimal at most) is not expository or useful in establishing who our hero is or what drives him to remain hopeful and good-natured while searching for a desperate victory.

Arctic is an excruciating test of strength to behold. The victories won are small with fleeting moments of joy that last only as long as the next inevitable mishap. It’s hard to sit still during this film. Your heart will skip several beats as the nervous anxiety never ceases but ultimately you’ll be glad you got through to the end. Strikingly austere imagery, a platinum performance by Mikkelsen, and a whole lot of thrill,  Arctic is highly recommended for the not so faint of heart. 

Horror Noire (Review by Alex Harrison)    

Based on the book by Texas A&M Diversity VP Robin Means Coleman, Horror Noire is a documentary about the complex history of Black Americans in horror cinema. Switching between direct-to-camera interviews and conversational pairings of Black horror filmmakers, enthusiasts and icons, director Xavier Burgin aims to communicate more than information, exploring the impact a decades-long transition to proper representation can have on spectators. Generally engaging, Horror Noire is at its strongest when diving into specific films or performances, but too often there’s a feeling that the discussion doesn’t go too far beyond surface-level. Maybe Burgin wanted to adapt Coleman’s academic research for a wider audience, or the feeling might just be the result of the film’s lighthearted tone. Still, Horror Noire is a valuable look into an underappreciated subject, and worth checking out on the horror streaming service Shudder. WhatsUp Rating 3.5 out of 5