One of the surest signs of the New Year is that there is some almost certainly mediocre-to-dire horror picture straining at the gate to be the first movie of the year. This year is no different, and apart from the 2015 stragglers, it doesn’t seem likely to get better any time soon. Savor the holdovers from last year while you can. The next couple of months could be grim.
Of course, there are those holdovers still to come, but either there seem to be less of them than in years past, or I’m just not as excited by them as I’m supposed to be. The fact is that there’s nothing from 2015 lurking in the shadows that I’m all that enthused by. (I don’t think there’s anything of note I haven’t seen.)
In the hold-over realm is Todd Haynes’ Carol — opening Friday at The Carolina and the Fine Arts. It’s reviewed in this week’s paper and is one of the movies I’ve been asked about most often. I most assuredly do not for a moment doubt that it’s quality filmmaking all the way. Nor do I question the performances of Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. They are everything they should be and more. And yet…for reasons I can’t quite make clear the movie — except in bits and pieces — only rarely touches me on an emotional level, and that’s after two viewings. I seem to be in the minority on this, so you may well be more engaged by it than I was. And I do admire the film no end.
Then there’s Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant — starting Friday (with the usual Thursday evening shows) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, and Regal Biltmore Grande. It is also reviewed in this week’s paper. Again, as filmmaking, it’s hard to fault. It is a remarkable technical achievement. The question for me is to what end? I am hard-pressed to find one. Maybe I’m missing something, but watching a bedraggled, bruised, bloodied, and battered Leonardo DiCaprio lurch through the frozen wilderness for two-and-a-half hours just isn’t my idea of a good time, no matter how brilliantly it’s handled. Once more, I am in the minority.
And that brings us to the first release of the New Year, Jason Zada’s The Forest — starting Friday (with the usual Thursday evening, etc.) at The Carolina, Regal Biltmore Grande, and UA Beaucatcher. (It may be at Epic of Hendersonville, too, but it’s not down for it at the moment.) If you’ve never heard of Jason Zada, well, neither have I. He’s listed as one of the writers on The Houses October Built (2014), a movie I confess I didn’t get more than 20 minutes into before having a life-is-too-short moment. Apparently star Natalie Dormer is on Game of Thrones, so that may be some draw. The studio blurb for this PG-13 spook show merely says, “Against the backdrop of Japan’s Aokigahara forest, where people go to end their lives, an American woman braves the mysterious, uncharted terrain to search for her missing sister.” It has been shown to no one (quelle surprise) and only seems to be resonating with horror-centric websites that think it’s noteworthy when anything goes bump in the night. It is my lot to see it. Exercise your freewill.
Since the Fine Arts is splitting Youth (1:20, 4:20) with The Danish Girl (7:20, Late shows Fri-Sat at 9:50) and The Carolina is keeping a full set of each, we aren’t losing anything of note this week. But I would not leave them too long — especially not the wholly remarkable Youth, which is a must-see.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show starts the New Year with Michele Soavi’s The Church (1989) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Jan. 7 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is still off this week. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Spring Symphony (1983) on Sun., Jan. 10 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is running Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Plainsman (1936) on Tue., Jan. 12 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress and in the online edition.