By Tony Beal

“Five Nights at Freddy’s”
A security guard discovers a chilling secret behind the animatronics at a children’s restaurant.

While “Five Nights at Freddy’s” boasts a cast of talented actors, the film struggles to deliver a compelling horror experience. The narrative takes an excessive amount of time to progress beyond its initial setup, resulting in a sluggish first act. The remainder of the film seems to experiment with various elements—such as dream sequences, playful encounters with animatronics, and a murder mystery—but these aspects feel underdeveloped. The actors, despite their capabilities, are constrained by the film’s uneven direction and lackluster script. Furthermore, the cameos, although potentially exciting, come across as overly indulgent. This movie, even for younger audiences who might be new to the horror genre, falls short in providing the engaging, thrilling, and genuinely scary experience that can be both entertaining and a suitable introduction to the genre. In summary, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” misses an opportunity to captivate its audience with the kind of horror that is both enjoyable and memorable.

“When Evil Lurks”
The citizens of a small town are at the mercy (or lack thereof) of a demon which will destroy anything in its path.

“When Evil Lurks” may initially seem like a jarring experience for those new to the horror genre, particularly due to its graphic content. However, the film primarily suffers from its characters’ lack of depth and rational decision-making, reducing the impact of their fates. While featuring unlikable characters can be an intriguing approach in horror, the film misses an opportunity to develop these characters beyond superficial traits, which diminishes the emotional investment in their outcomes. The gore, although competently executed, may not stand out to viewers familiar with more intense horror films like “Evil Dead 2013.” The film’s attempt at visceral impact falls short, leaving little impression of actual terror or pain. Additionally, the portrayal of autism in the film raises concerns about sensitivity and accuracy. Overall, “When Evil Lurks” struggles to leave a lasting mark in the horror genre, lacking both the thrills and the depth that could have made it more memorable and engaging.


“Pain Hustlers”
A high school dropout joins a low-level pharmaceutical company where she engages in their shady practices.

“Pain Hustlers” falls short in its attempt to delve deeply into the complexities of its subject matter. The film appears to skim the surface of the opioid crisis, rather than offering a nuanced exploration. This superficial treatment may give the impression that the filmmakers and cast are more focused on emulating a Scorsese-style approach rather than developing a unique voice. The direction, editing, and performances come across as overly deliberate, possibly detracting from the film’s intended tone and impact. Regarding its commentary on the opioid crisis, “Pain Hustlers” presents the idea that greed is detrimental, a theme that has been more intricately and compellingly handled in other films. The message, while important, doesn’t seem to add new insights or perspectives to the conversation. Furthermore, the film’s approach seems tailored for immediate, short-lived attention on platforms like Netflix, relying heavily on its cast to attract viewers. This strategy might contribute to the film being quickly forgotten after its initial release. Overall, “Pain Hustlers” may disappoint viewers looking for a deeper, more original examination of a critical and complex issue.

“The Killer”
A hitman goes on a revenge killing spree where he starts questioning his own methods.

Nearly three decades after “Seven,” David Fincher and Andrew Kevin Walker reunite to create a film that surprisingly blends dark humor with its narrative. Michael Fassbender shines in the lead role, portraying a character who is as much a pitiable loser as he is dangerous. His quest for vengeance is driven more by personal ego and pride than by a pursuit of justice, adding layers to his character. The film’s approach to its antagonist’s targets is noteworthy, featuring a series of mishaps that could be likened to a comedy of errors. These encounters often end unexpectedly, either through accidental circumstances or quick, unceremonious conclusions, deviate from the typical climactic showdowns common in the genre. Fincher’s use of handheld cameras marks a departure from his usual style, contributing significantly to the film’s dynamic and intense mood. This technique is especially effective in a standout fight scene towards the end of the second act, which is both thrilling and visceral. The film’s strength lies in its simplicity and straightforward storytelling, avoiding unnecessary complexities. The reunion of Fincher and Walker is a welcome one, as they bring their unique talents to a film that successfully merges elements of humor and action in an engaging and entertaining way.

December 1
“Silent Night”
“RENAISSANCE: A Film by Beyonce”
“The Shift”
“Godzilla Minus One”
“Eileen” (Limited)
“May December” (Netflix)
“Candy Cane Lane” (Amazon Prime)

December 8
“The Boy and The Heron”
“Poor Things” (Limited)
“Leave The World Behind” (Netflix)

December 15
“American Fiction” (Limited)
“The Zone of Interest” (Limited)
“Chicken Run: Dawn of The Nugget” (Netflix)
“Finestkind” (Paramount+)
“The Family Plan” (Apple TV+)

December 22
“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom”
“The Iron Claw”
“Anyone But You”
“All of Us Strangers” (Limited)
“Rebel Moon: Part One – A Child of Fire”

December 25
“The Boys in the Boat”
“The Color Purple”
“Occupied City”