In theaters: How do you do a topical story essentially about the Kavanaugh confirmation to the Supreme Court, but set it in 14th-Century France? Ridley Scott offers The Last Duel, our second take-down of the chivalric code this year (after The Green Knight), based on actual events in the court of Charles VI. The more things change... Scott has been doing movies about rape since Alien, but there's a Rashomon twist here that only subtly changes intersecting scenes between the two vain knights/squires and the lady wronged by one (or perhaps both) of them. Not that this is a subtle film in terms of its messaging. But though the variations on events are relatively slight, they do create suspense as to what the ultimate truth will be. Surprisingly funny thanks to the aristocrats in this, Ben Affleck's Count in particular. These dilettantes are above the petty concerns of their knights and squires and take none of it very seriously, and are rightly ridiculed as well as condemned. As for the duel itself, it's worth the wait. I felt every blow and squirmed in my seat. Also have to say that between this and Free Guy, that's quite the range on Jodie Comer who is blazingly good in this.
50 Years of Horror/1988: Though the characters only really enter a Cronenbergian parallel reality in the third act when those... instruments... are commissioned, Dead Ringers is a creepfest from the beginning. It just plays on more subtle elements than traditional horror fare. Some people are creeped out by identical twins, and there's some of that here, paying off with the idea that two brothers share the same women without telling them. That they're gynecologists could make both genders squirm for different reasons, especially once one of them goes off the deep end and becomes dangerous. But beyond the twinning, it's a film about co-dependent relationships and their potential toxicity. Jeremy Irons has to track two characters, dissimilar in attitude, but "synchronizing" as the story unfolds, the more timid one trying to break the bond and suffering a breakdown in identity as a result. If he only sees mutant women, it's that he's part of a singular genetic ecosystem where everyone else is an "other", so could he really ever leave it? Self-actualization in this case leads to madness and tragedy.
Also from that year: Elvira Mistress of the Dark, The Lair of the White Worm, Child's Play
Also from that year: Tetsuo the Iron Man, Parents, Shocker
Also from that year: Tremors, Night Breed
Also from that year: The Silence of the Lambs, The Addams Family
Actual best from that year: Army of Darkness, Dust Devil, Dracula, Candyman
Also from that year: Cronos, Leprechaun
Also from that year: In the Mouth of Madness, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Also from that year: Castle Freak, Lord of Illusions