World on Fire: Four Favorite 2020 Film Releases

For whatever reason (Pandemic fatigue? Regurgitated film plot fatigue?) I wasn’t very impressed with most of the new releases I watched this year. Halfway through screener season I just gave up and stopped watching new movies because I was bored. Despite my misgivings about the year in general there were a handful of films released in 2020 that I really appreciated. Here are my Top Four.

True History of the Kelly Gang directed by Justin Kurzel

Kurzel is one of our best working filmmakers right now. If you haven’t made time for Snowtown or his adaptation of Macbeth, do yourself a favor and catch up with them. He also made a video game movie, but I haven’t seen that yet. I might be biased but I loved this modern, fanciful, freewheeling and rather brutal interpretation of Australian history that hit close to the bone for numerous reasons including the fact that I’ve apparently got Kelly blood in my veins thanks to my 2nd great-grandmother (Ellen Kelly) on my father’s side of the family.

Possessor directed by Branden Cronenberg

Like an extended, more developed, more cerebral, and more violent, episode of Black Mirror with one of the bleakest film endings of the year, and that’s saying a lot because bleak endings were typical of most of the new films I watched in 2020. Young Cronenberg is obviously heavily influenced by his father’s work and that’s a good thing.

Gretel & Hansel directed by Oz Perkins

I’ve raved about Perkins (son of Anthony) a lot for anyone keeping tabs so it’s not surprising that I loved his very dark and unsettling interpretation of this classic Brothers Grim tale. I’d also like to give a special shout-out to Alice Krieg who has scared the crap out of me ever since seeing her in Ghost Story (1981) many years ago and she’s perfect as the cannibalistic witch feeding on children’s fears and flesh.

Color of Space directed by Richard Stanley

I’m so glad Richard Stanley is back with a bang! (True confession time: I went through a serious cyberpunk phase in the 1990s and painted “No Flesh Shall Be Spared – Mark 13” on the back of my leather jacket in tribute to Stanley’s Hardware. I also still maintain a massive crush on Carl McCoy and had the great pleasure of seeing Fields of the Nephilim live in the 1980s!) Color of Space is just a whole lot of fun and reminded me of Stuart Gordon’s Lovecraft films from the 1980s. In other words, this felt like a throwback to a bunch of things I love so it’s not surprising that I enjoyed it so much. It pressed buttons that I forgot I had. I hope we’re blessed with more Stanley films in the near future.

Honorable mentions for various reasons: The Beach House, Hunter Hunter, Swallow, Sputnik, Shirley, and Peninsula: Train to Busan II.