May 30, 2022

THE UNTOUCHABLES (4K) is Brian De Palma's Best Film

1987 / 119 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😸

Revisiting The Untouchables for the first time in years had me thinking about director Brian De Palma's long, varied and wildly inconsistent career. There are the definite highs (Carrie), the lows (The Bonfire of the Vanities), the underrated (The Fury), the overrated (Scarface), the blockbusters (Mission: Impossible) and the bombs (pretty much everything of the past 20 years).

But even taking the films approaching artistry (Blow Out, Carlito’s Way) into account, I’ve concluded that 1987’s The Untouchables is probably De Palma’s best. Watching it with fresh eyes - aided by a damn fine 4K transfer - is a reminder that he was the perfect director to resurrect such an iconic brand name. In the process, with considerable help on both sides of the camera, he created the quintessential De Palma film. Consider this…

  • While retaining the epic grandeur of classic gangster films, The Untouchables eschews the genre’s inherent complexities, boiling the story down to its essential elements: Good guys vs. bad guys. Its narrative simplicity is as accessible and easy to digest as Star Wars. And unlike Coppola, De Palma’s visual style was perfectly suited for the ‘80s.
  • At the same time, there's a timeless quality to the film that transcends the decade. Sure, there’s style to burn and a slew of scenes reflecting De Palma’s penchant for panache, but unlike Scarface, this one doesn’t reek of the era from which it sprang. Much of that is due to the period setting, but also Ennio Morricone’s sweeping score, the best music he ever composed for an American film. 

"Can we get ice cream after this?"

  • The Untouchables features a knock-out cast, all of whom manage to make their (deliberately?) broad characters engaging. Even Kevin Costner (as Elliot Ness) holds his own against the likes of Sean Connery and Robert De Niro. 
  • Speaking of broad characters, screenwriter David Mamet might be The Untouchables’ unsung MVP, establishing the characters through memorable, succinctly written dialogue.
  • Neither De Palma nor Mamet made any claims of historical accuracy. Ness, Al Capone & Frank Nitti may have been real figures during Prohibition, but perpetuating the legend is far more exhilarating than presenting anything resembling reality. 
  • Nearly every Brian De Palma film - even a few of the bad ones - features at least a scene or two that drops our collective jaws. But overall, The Untouchables is a consistent triumph of production design, editing, cinematography, balletic violence and kinetic action. 
  • Even De Palma’s tendency to rip-off pay homage to past masters works well within the context of the story...most notably, the climactic train station sequence inspired by 1925’s Battleship Potemkin. The Untouchables is also perfectly paced, and with a 119 minute running time, never outstays its welcome. Think about it…how many post-Godfather gangster films can you name that run less than two hours?

In this writer’s opinion, The Untouchables showcases Brian De Palma at the peak of his powers (though he didn’t do it alone). Does it rank among the greatest gangster films ever made? That’s debatable, but it’s certainly one of the best to emerge from the ‘80s. Almost awesome in its simplicity, the film is a classic marriage of epic storytelling and the director’s visual flair (minus his trademark voyeurism, of course). This 4K UHD disc offers excellent picture & sound, though the bonus features, while fairly extensive, are all carried over from previous DVD/Blu-ray releases.


FEATURETTES - “The Script, The Cast”; “Production Stories”; “Re-Inventing the Genre”; “The Classic”; “The Men.”


May 29, 2022

KITTEN COLLECTIBLES #2: An Obscure Action Figure


A Treasure Hunt by D.M. ANDERSON💀

In addition to watching and writing about films, I’ve become something of a memorabilia collector in recent years. Cursed with a teacher’s salary, I ain’t out there bidding on Dorothy’s ruby slippers or anything, but certainly enjoy haunting local antique stores for a variety of movie-related stuff. Or when feeling particularly bold, I’ll occasionally overpay for some retro relic on eBay.

More often than not, I leave antique stores empty-handed. But every now and then, I’ll find a small treasure that doesn’t completely empty my wallet and give it a new home in the Dave Cave.

There’s a small boutique store near my house called The Gresham Toy Shop. I usually pop in there about once a month, often leaving without buying anything. Most of it tends to be stuff I have no interest in…Pokemon, Marvel and Star Wars merchandise. If you’ve ever been to virtually any antique store, you’d know they’re chock full of old Star Wars related toys acquired from ex-nerds who thought their action figures and Landspeeders would now be worth a fortune. For all I know, some of them are, but the fact remains you can pretty much find that shit anywhere.What's the fun in that?

The Gresham Toy Shop isn’t quite an antique store, but the owner obviously does his share of buying and selling, and when he’s not wheeling and dealing Pokemon cards, he occasionally acquires old toys related to films that are comparatively obscure (at least to anyone who's regularly carded when buying beer). During a recent visit, I found an action figure from the 1995 film Congo. 

Based on a novel by the late, great titan of tech-terror, Michael Crichton, Congo was to ‘90s science-fiction what Con Air was to ‘90s action…not particularly good but a ton of ridiculous fun. The film had it all: a talking gorilla, an ancient diamond mine, lost cities, killer hippos, murderous monkeys, hot air balloons, volcanic eruptions, laser guns and Tim Curry…all wrapped up in a breathlessly-paced package that you couldn’t help but watch with a perpetual shit-eating grin.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact the ‘90s were three decades ago. Con Air has achieved such a level of cult kitschiness that it’s remained somewhat culturally relevant (and embraced by Nic Cage fans as his magnum opus). Congo, on the other hand, was left behind in the decade from which it sprang, as has the line of tie-in toys that, until today, I didn’t know Kenner bothered to produce. The Karen Ross action figure sitting atop Gresham Toy Shop’s counter was a genuine antique (and unique among the legion of Transformers on display). I don’t know how Laura Linney - who played her in the film - would feel about that, but actually having seen the film in theaters, I felt absolutely ancient (especially since Linney herself is my age).

Save for Herkermer Homolka (wonderfully overplayed by Tim Curry), Congo doesn’t feature any particularly memorable characters, so I don’t remember much about Karen Ross. I do know that the action figure looks more like Colin Farrell than Laura Linney, but at least she comes equipped with a laser cannon. That, coupled with the relative obscurity of both the movie and the toy, certainly made the thing worth ten bucks. The owner tried to get fifteen out of me, but sorry, it ain’t like he had one of the movie’s killer hippos for sale (I’d have paid twenty for one of those).

May 27, 2022

ROW 19 Has Padded Seats

ROW 19 (Blu-ray Review)
2021 / 78 min
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Inherent challenges accompany any horror movie set entirely on-board an airplane. Passenger jets aren’t exactly dripping with atmosphere to begin with, no matter how creative one is with lighting and camera angles. And narratively, there’s only so much you can do within such a confined setting without becoming rote.

But it ain’t impossible. After all, one of The Twilight Zone’s greatest episodes, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” remains a high tension masterpiece (even with William Shatner’s histrionics). Then again, it was only 25 minutes long. Can you imagine if it was stretched to feature length? That’s way more Shatner than the Surgeon General recommends.

A Russian horror effort, Row 19 has the kind of story Rod Serling might have concocted, including a twist ending similar to those he was famous for. But while the film certainly has its creepy moments, it does feel unnecessarily padded out, even with a scant 78 minute running time. 

"Mom, I need a cigarette."
The story opens with a plane crash that kills everyone but Katerina (Svetlana Ivanova), a little girl flying with her mother. Twenty years later, she’s a successful psychologist and facing her fears by flying for the first time since the crash, this time with a daughter of her own, Diana (Marta Kessler). There are only a few other passengers and the film takes the time to introduce them all, including a couple of strangely behaving flight attendants. 

Once in the air, bizarre things begin happening. A few passengers die horribly, such as one man who somehow manages to burn himself alive. Meanwhile, Katerina sees dark, monstrous apparitions lurking among the seats. Also included are a couple of flashback sequences related to her childhood…which do end up being relevant to the story. Some of the scare scenes are highly effective, the best one featuring dozens of bloodied hands clawing at the windows from outside the plane.

But despite a decent twist ending, Row 19 takes a lot longer than necessary getting to the point, which tends to make the denouement somewhat underwhelming. The first act, in particular, is way too pokey. Considering the low-budget - and questionable CGI at times - the film is pretty well made and watchable. It just might have packed more punch as a short subject.

May 24, 2022

THE BEATLES AND INDIA: A Familiar Pilgrimage

2021 / 96 min
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😽

Keep in-mind that The Beatles and India does not include the active participation of Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr or anyone else who had close ties to the band (though archival interviews of all four serve as partial narration). And except for Pattie Boyd, there are no insights from anyone who joined them during their storied pilgrimage to India. And even though most are well-aware of the Eastern influence on The Beatles’ music - George Harrison’s in particular - the producers of this film obviously had no clearance to use it. But that’s okay…we know the songs by heart, anyway. 

Additionally, their time in India has already been well documented in plenty of other books and documentaries (the best being the boys’ personal recollections in The Beatles Anthology). Since this one features a lot of the same vintage photos and footage we’ve seen over the years, their experience with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is the least interesting aspect of the film.

"Those smelly hippies follow me everywhere."
But not only did The Beatles begin to embrace India’s music and culture as early as 1965 - when George Harrison became obsessed with the sitar - the country reciprocated by taking the band into their own hearts (a rarity for Western artists). These scenes - with plenty of on-screen interviews by various Indian musicians, friends and professionals who did interact with them - are quite fascinating. Rarely have we seen or heard the details of this congenial relationship from India’s perspective.

Of course, no documentary like this would be complete without including legendary sitarist Ravi Shankar, shown teaching Harrison how to master the notoriously difficult instrument. It’s also a friendship which lasted years beyond The Beatles’ break-up. But again, this is also familiar territory.

The Beatles and India works best when focusing on the lesser-known details…such as personal anecdotes from Indians who became acquainted with George, or more amusingly, an entitled British fan who recalls sneaking into a hotel where George was staying, only to be harshly rebuffed. In fact, the best parts of the film involve George, but since he was the one most-enamored by all things India, I guess that’s to be expected.



ASHRAM MAP - A map and restoration footage of the retreat where The Beatles stayed in India.



THE POOP SCOOP: More Summer Kibbles!

😺FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE on Digital & HBOMax 5/30, $K, Blu-ray & DVD 6/28 from Warner Bros
Professor Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) knows the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) is moving to seize control of the wizarding world. Unable to stop him alone, he entrusts Magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to lead an intrepid team of wizards, witches and one brave Muggle baker on a dangerous mission, where they encounter old and new beasts and clash with Grindelwald’s growing legion of followers. But with the stakes so high, how long can Dumbledore remain on the sidelines? Experience the newest adventure in the Wizarding World™ when “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” arrives for Premium Digital Ownership at home on May 30. The film is directed by David Yates from a screenplay by J.K. Rowling & Steve Kloves, based upon a screenplay by Rowling, and stars Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”) and two-time Oscar nominee Jude Law (“Cold Mountain,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley”). The film will also be available to stream on HBO Max on May 30 and will be available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD beginning on June 28.

😺EDGE OF TOMORROW arrives on 4K Ultra HD and Digital July 5 from Warner Bros
An alien race, undefeatable by any existing military unit, has launched a relentless attack on Earth, and Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) finds himself dropped into a suicide mission. Killed within minutes, Cage is thrown into a time loop, forced to live out the same brutal combat over and over, fighting and dying again and again. Training alongside Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), his skills slowly evolve, and each battle moves them a step closer to defeating the enemy in this intense action thriller.  ​Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ sci-fi thriller Edge of Tomorrow was directed by Doug Liman from a screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie and Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth and based on the novel entitled “All You Need is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. Edge of Tomorrow was the first motion picture to be shot at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden. Edge of Tomorrow was produced by Erwin Stoff, Tom Lassally, Jeffrey Silver, Gregory Jacobs and Jason Hoffs, alongside executive producers Doug Liman, David Bartis, Joby Harold, Hidemi Fukuhara and Bruce Berman, with Tim Lewis and Kim Winther serving as co-producers. Supporting Cruise and Blunt is an international cast that includes Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson, Noah Taylor, Kick Gurry, Dragomir Mrsic, Charlotte Riley), Jonas Armstrong, Franz Drameh, Masayoshi Haneda and Tony Way.


😺SONIC 2 on Digital NOW and 4K/Blu-ray 8/9 from Paramount
Produced by Paramount Pictures in association with SEGA Sammy Group; an Original Film/ Marza Animation Planet/ Blur Studio production, the world’s favorite blue hedgehog is back for next-level adventure featuring the all-star cast of James Marsden, Ben Schwartz, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, Adam Pally, Shemar Moore, Colleen O’Shaughnessey, Lee Majdoub with Idris Elba and Jim Carrey. After settling in Green Hills, Sonic (Ben Schwartz) is eager to prove he has what it takes to be a true hero. His test comes when Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) returns, this time with a new partner, Knuckles (Idris Elba), in search of an emerald that has the power to destroy civilizations. Sonic teams up with his own sidekick, Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey), and together they embark on a globe-trotting journey to find the emerald before it falls into the wrong hands. 


😺AMBULANCE on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD 6/14 from Universal
In this action thriller directed by Michael Bay, veteran Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Candyman), desperate for money, turns to his adoptive brother Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal, End of Watch) for help. A career criminal, Danny instead offers him a huge score. But when their heist goes awry, the desperate brothers hijack an ambulance with a wounded cop and paramedic (Eiza González, Fast and Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw) onboard. Will and Danny must evade a city-wide law enforcement response, keep their hostages alive, and somehow try not to kill each other, all while executing the most insane escape LA has ever seen. From Michael Bay, the director behind high-blockbusters such as Transformers and Armageddon, comes an "over-the-top thrill ride" (Nick Schager, The Daily Beast) featuring Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Eiza González. Ambulance is being touted as "Bay's best" (David Sims, The Atlantic) and is now packed with never-before-seen bonus content including six behind-the-scenes featurettes.

May 23, 2022

BLOODY ORANGES Goes Balls-Out...Literally

2021 / 105 min
Review by Fluffy the Fearless🙀

Well into Bloody Oranges, there’s a prolonged, gruesome scene that I’m ashamed to admit I really enjoyed. A young woman, Louise (Lilith Grasmug) is abucted, tossed into a van and later raped. In the aftermath, she manages to escape her bonds while her attacker (Fred Blin) is sleeping. But instead of making a hasty exit, she bashes him in the face with a crepe pan and ties him to a chair. After selecting the right tool for the job, she castrates him, microwaves his balls and spoon-feeds them to him. 

What makes the sequence more rousing than repulsive is that we’re spared seeing Louise’s assault, yet witness the man’s mutilation in giddy, gory detail. She takes great pleasure in drawing out his torment, and so might some sick bastards in the audience (such as yours truly). But hey, the guy had it coming. 

Comeuppance appears to be one of the themes of the film, a series of concurrent storylines loosely connected by a character or two. But Bloody Oranges isn't a traditional revenge picture. The aforementioned ball-baking scene is just the middle act of Louise’s story; the climax is her trial, where she faces assault charges for torturing her rapist. 

Another story involves a corrupt French financial minister (Christophe Paou), whose nasty retribution appears to be symbolic of what writer-director Jean-Christophe Meurisse sees his government doing to its own people. Such commentary might also explain the third storyline, in which an elderly couple tries to win a dance contest to keep the bank from repossessing their house.

Never let your drinking buddies talk you into a tattoo.

Now that I think about it, Louise’s trial prep with her lawyer, Alexandre (Alexandre Steiger), might more of a statement than the violence she endures (and inflicts). She’s ready to own what she did - and the fact she took pleasure in it - while Alexandra insists she maintains being a victim by testifying that she didn’t know what she was doing. An indictment of how the current system puts rape victims on trial? Perhaps, but I wouldn’t presume to know what Meurisse is trying to say, if anything. Maybe he’s just trying to shock people.

What I do know is that the first half of Bloody Oranges is so deceptively mundane that one might be tempted to give up on it. Some scenes don’t appear to serve any discernible purpose, such as the copious amounts of sexually frank dialogue or the dance judges’ histrionic debates over who deserves to win the dance contest. But with almost no foreshadowing, the film turns on-a-dime, descending into depravity that’s frequently tough to watch (even if we’re sometimes silently cheering). Some of these characters’ fates are morbidly amusing, others are distressingly poignant. And with hindsight, we realize many of those seemingly meandering early scenes were necessary to lay the groundwork.

As a black comedy - which it’s obviously intended to be - Bloody Oranges is occasionally successful. But overall, its visceral cruelty - even to characters who might deserve it - tends to smother most attempts at humor. Still, if one can power through the first half - reflecting on its importance afterwards - the film isn’t without vicarious rewards.

May 22, 2022

ONE-ARMED BOXER Gets the Shaft

ONE-ARMED BOXER (Blu-ray Review)
1971 / 93 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

The first thing Western audiences will notice about One-Armed Boxer is the liberal use of Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft” throughout the film, either in snippets or accompanying the opening credits and various montages. While certainly amusing, the music actually fits pretty well…probably because the song’s dramatic urgency transcends the urban setting of the film for which it was originally intended. I can personally attest that it makes a great soundtrack to your morning commute.

Elsewhere, legendary martial arts auteur Wang Yu throws together an almost non-stop barrage of fight sequences, connected by the most threadbare of plots. Which is fine because nobody ever watches these things for dynamic characters or complex themes. But for the record, Yu plays the title character, though he still has both appendages for the first two-thirds of the film. Before then, his fight school is pitted against a rival one that engages in drug dealing, prostitution and - the catalyst of this conflict - beating an old man in an attempt to steal his bird.

Yu loses an arm fighting hired gun Erh Ku (Fei Lung), but manages to escape while everyone else in his school fights to their deaths. In what might be the most comically brief recovery, romance and training montage in film history (total time, maybe 15 minutes), Yu returns to wreak havoc on everyone who took his arm and killed his friends, with new girlfriend Jade (Hsin Tang) tagging along to be placed in peril. His remaining arm is now invincible and lethal after being strengthened by fire.

Free colonoscopies.
Yu’s transition from defending his school’s honor to avenging their deaths is so short that one might suspect a good chunk of the second act is actually missing. Most likely though, Yu simply couldn’t wait to get back to the mayhem. Storytelling was never his greatest strength anyway, so why not simply fast-forward? At least he knows where his skills as a filmmaker and actor lie, which means the fight sequences are the sole reason One-Armed Boxer is worth seeing. 

The action scenes are not only plentiful, they go on forever and follow a similar pattern: jumping, striking, kicking, grunting and spitting-up blood (signifying the loser). It’s ridiculous fun for a while and fans of old school martial arts exploitation will be in hog heaven. But despite appropriating Isaac Hayes’ classic cut to liven things up, casual viewers will probably be ready to check-out after about 20 minutes.

For Blu-ray, Arrow Video offers a decent 2K transfer, presented in both Mandarin and an English dub. This disc is lighter on bonus features than most recent Arrow releases, though the extended vintage interview with Wang Yu is excellent.


INTERVIEW WITH WANG YU - A lengthy vintage interview from 2001, where the director and star reflects on his career. Especially interesting are his early days.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Asian film expert Frank Djeng.


TRAILERS - In addition to trailers for this film, there’s a half-hour collection of trailers for other Wang Yu films.

SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET - Includes 2 essays, “Jimmy Wang Yu and the Birth of the Kung Fu Movie,” by David West,” and “A Farewell to Arms,” by Simon Abrams; cast, crew & Blu-ray production credits.

REVERSIBLE COVER - Featuring new and vintage artwork.

May 21, 2022

THE BATMAN (4K): A Fallible Caped Crusader

2022 / 176 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😺

A scene in The Batman that gave me goosebumps was the first appearance of the Batmobile. Hellishly backlit, the engine revs menacingly - almost as if growling - while bursts of flame pop from the engine. The Penguin (Colin Farrell) and his cronies look on with dread. 

This was gonna be great…

Instead, the car appears to stall or slip out of gear. It ain’t 100% clear if that’s what actually happens, but since it allows the bad guys to get into their own cars - leading to a thrilling, destructive freeway chase - I think it is. There’s another scene where Batman (Robert Pattinson) escapes authorities by leaping from a skyscraper roof. He appears genuinely wary of jumping because it’s obvious he hasn’t quite mastered some of his own equipment, as demonstrated when he smacks into an overpass while trying to land. 

That’s what's cool about the latest version of the Caped Crusader: He’s fallible. Not everything works as planned and he sure as hell ain’t invincible. His gadgets look homemade and scrapped together, his suit looks like it has seen better days, and when he’s riding his motorcycle around Gotham as Bruce Wayne, he appears to keep the suit in a backpack, just in case. In other words, this is a Batman that could plausibly exist in the real world…not a superhero, but a true vigilante. And Pattinson plays him perfectly.  

I know that for some people, the lingering shadow of Twilight loomed large after Pattinson’s name was first announced for the role. But anyone who’s been paying attention would know he’s since proven to be a damn good actor, capable of making people forget he’s Robert Pattinson. As Bruce Wayne/Batman, he’s suitably brooding, somewhat vulnerable and often uncertain, of both himself and those he’s forced to trust. Nor is he entirely trusted. Despite a mutual working agreement with Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), the rest of the Gotham police resent the hell out of him.

Bring Your Bat to Work Day.
Similarly, the other characters - whether enemies or allies - look, speak and act like real people. The villains aren't costumed freaks or deformed psychos, and in the case of primary antagonist The Riddler (Paul Dano), his unassuming appearance and demeanor ultimately renders him more unsettling. As we learn more about what makes him tick - and his motives - he’s not entirely unsympathetic, either. Elsewhere, Zoë Kravitz makes an interesting Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman), while an unrecognizable Colin Farrell steals all his scenes as The Penguin. Depicted here as a mid-level gangster, he may not be the primary villain, but he’s an amusing character and one gets the distinct impression we haven’t seen the last of him.

Though definitely more grounded and character driven than any previous Batman film, the most welcome aspect of The Batman is that it’s primarily a detective story. Batman’s investigation into a string of high profile murders comprises a majority of the narrative, interspersed with excellent - yet mostly believable - action sequences. While the film contains a few too many false endings, the three hour running time is more-or-less justified. 

This is also the best looking Batman film to date. Taking place mostly at night (of course), the combination of gothic and neo-noir styles definitely suits the dark tone, exacerbated by production design that depicts Gotham as crime-ravaged hellhole. At the same time, there's a certain level of visceral beauty achieved by all that ugliness, all of which looks striking in 4K.



“VENGEANCE IN THE MAKING” - Running nearly an hour, this is an extensive look at the making of The Batman, featuring plenty and cast/cast interviews.

FEATURETTES: “Looking for Vengeance” (fight choreography); “The Batman: Genesis” (featuring interviews with director Matt Reeves and actor Robert Pattinson); “Vengeance Meets Justice” (features Paul Dano, who plays The Riddler); “Becoming Catwoman” (featuring Zoë Kravitz); “The Batmobile” (the best of the featurettes, we see how the Batmobile is reimagined, constructed and tested); “Anatomy of a Car Chase” (a breakdown of how it was done); “Anatomy of the Wing Suit Jump” (a breakdown of this highly amusing scene); “Unpacking the Icons”; “A Transformation: The Penguin” (how they make Colin Farell unrecognizable).


Sandra Oh Elevates UMMA

UMMA (Blu-ray Review)
2022 / 83 min
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Despite bringing absolutely nothing new to the table, Umma is saved by two things. First, the short running time keeps it from overstaying its welcome. Second, and more importantly, Sandra Oh’s performance makes the non-stop parade of familiar horror tropes endurable. 

Oh plays Amanda, a single mom with a serious fear of electricity, the result of childhood abuse by her own mother (aka Umma...Korean for 'mom'). She and teenage daughter Chris (Fivel Stewart) live a semi-reclusive life as beekeepers, their farm and house free of any powered device or object. Even their lone frequent visitor, local store owner Danny (Dermot Mulroney), is asked to shut-off his car and cellphone before coming onto the property. Though loving and respectful to her mother, Chris has a pent-up desire to experience the outside world by going away to college.


One day, her uncle from Korea arrives to inform Amanda that her mother has died, bringing along a suitcase with her ashes and a few - apparently sacred - possessions. It doesn’t take a psychic to figure out what happens next. Umma begins appearing throughout the house - mostly at night - serving up enough Insidious-inspired jump-scares for three movies. Amanda’s change in behavior has Chris suspecting not all is right with mom. Of course, those suspicions are confirmed as Amanda becomes possessed by Umma, who’s hell-bent on keeping the three of them together.

Sandra regrets that second cup of coffee.

Despite an over-reliance on simple scare tactics - particularly during the first half - the basic narrative is light on shocks or surprises, following the vengeful spirit playbook pretty closely without throwing in any new moves of its own. But even though most horror fans will know exactly what lurks in every dark room or doorway, the film is tightly paced and doesn’t prolong the inevitable.

However, it’s ultimately Sandra Oh who keeps Umma interesting, instilling Amanda -  tormented by generational trauma - with equal measures of vulnerability and resolve. Her dedicated performance is easily the best part of the film, which is otherwise an assembly-line ghost story…efficiently directed and certainly watchable, but nothing that’s likely to stick with the viewer very long afterwards.