As the industry has continued to fight to regain its feet after Covid, we’ve been treated to a mixed bag of belters during blockbuster season.
From Chris Hemsworth’s triumphant return to godhood in Thor: Love And Thunder to ‘The Cruise Missile’ (we will make this nickname happen) jumping back in the cockpit in Top Gun: Maverick, the goosebumps have been rife and the box office takings have been bountiful.
Now that the kids are getting back to school and we’re moving towards the autumn, the feast of fine flicks shows no sign of faltering, and this week’s offerings are eager to delight fans looking for their fix.
At the top of the bill, Halina Reijn’s Bodies Bodies Bodies is looking to curry favour with devotees of black comedy horror, and the director is pulling out all of the stops in her English-language debut. With a talented young cast taking centre stage, this one is looking to take the horror-comedy crown from the immortal Scream, just as flicks including 2009’s Jennifer’s Body have sought to do before. A tall order maybe, but we love a bit of ambition.
Elsewhere, in the midst of the buzz reverberating following the long-awaited release of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Viggo ‘Aragorn’ Mortensen is back on the silver screen, though not as the rough and ready ranger we remember from Peter Jackson’s world-breaking trilogy.
Starring in David Cronenberg’s new sci-fi body horror yarn, Crimes of the Future, Mortensen joins Léa Seydoux and Kristen Stewart for an unnerving ride into a disturbing setting looking to challenge viewers’ views of, well, everything.
Ready to get comfy? Let’s take a closer look...
BODIES BODIES BODIES (15, 94 mins)
Released: September 9 (UK & Ireland)
Death frequently becomes the depraved and the deserving in slasher films.
Teenage fornicators are doomed to a grim demise along with drug takers, unwanted intruders, abusers, bullies and miscreants responsible for the beleaguered hero’s deep physical and psychological wounds.
A resourceful babysitter in peril or the sole survivor of an unprovoked attack are clearly telegraphed as protagonists to root for.
Vengeance is theirs, bathed in lashings of blood and gore as they turn the tables on merciless aggressors (until the inevitable sequel).
In director Halina Reijn’s twisted satire Bodies Bodies Bodies, none of the characters are particularly likeable or sympathetic.
These hedonistic twentysomething brats would be easy fodder for slaughter in another horror film so when a children’s game in the dark spirals wildly out of control with tragic consequences, screenwriter Sarah DeLappe provides no clear instructions about who we should trust.
Her script brilliantly captures the vapidness of a self-absorbed generation, which lives and dies by social media and its own relentless self-promotion.
Characters are insufferable and deluded – rich pickings for a gifted ensemble cast led by Rachel Sennott and Amandla Stenberg, who ratchet up the hysteria with lip-smacking aplomb.
The gnarly resolution of a central whodunnit is less satisfying, relying on coincidence and some questionable logic to deliver a final narrative gut-punch.
Sophie (Stenberg) and her new girlfriend Bee (Maria Bakalova) travel along winding hillside roads to a hurricane party at a remote mansion hosted by Sophie’s best buddy David (Pete Davidson) and her coterie of rich friends.
“They’re gonna be obsessed with you,” Sophie assures Bee, who is being granted entry to this privileged inner circle for the first time.
Shortly before the downpour of rain begins, Bee is introduced to David and his girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), Alice (Sennott) and her older boyfriend Greg (Lee Pace) – another first-time addition to the group.
Their response to Bee isn’t particularly warm or welcoming.
As alcohol and drugs flow, and Bee unknowingly devours a cannabis-spiked chocolate cake, the group elects to play a game of Bodies Bodies Bodies during a storm-related power outage.
Tension between revellers explodes in the darkened house and one member of the hedonistic party plays a murder victim for real.
CRIMES OF THE FUTURE (18, 108 mins)
Released: September 9 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)
How do you solve a problem like microplastics – tiny particles created for commercial use or broken down from discarded single-use items in the environment – and mitigate their impact on delicate marine ecosystems?
Cinematic provocateur David Cronenberg’s audacious solution is a queasy, futuristic nightmare in which evolved humans consume the plastic they manufacture and discard, chomping hungrily on the rim of a wastepaper bin or snacking on beach detritus including water bottles.
Save the planet we have relentlessly pillaged and poisoned by exploiting a dominant species’ gluttony and greed.
Crimes Of The Future harks back to the Canadian writer-director’s glorious past and his popularisation of the body horror genre with stomach-churning features including Shivers, Rabid, Videodrome and The Fly.
Here, surgery is “the new sex” and self-mutilation is elevated to an orgiastic artform: a rush of blood to the head and loins that renders obsolete old-fashioned expressions of intimacy.
“I’m sorry. I’m not very good at the old sex,” apologises Viggo Mortensen’s performance artist after a lacklustre physical kiss with Kristen Stewart’s smitten admirer.
Arousal is reserved for an operating table where fully conscious, nude characters quietly moan and whimper as scalpel-wielding robotic arms controlled by human hands slice through their gently heaving skin and extract extraneous organs.
These clinical extractions in front of enraptured camera-wielding audiences are one of many blackly humorous titillations in Cronenberg’s curiously erotic and languorous picture.
In an unspecified bleak future of pronounced decay and pollution, developments in human evolution have largely eradicated physical pain.
A government department called the National Organ Registry (NOR) is responsible for cataloguing new organs that donors such as world-renowned performance artist Saul Tenser (Mortensen) grow within their own bodies.
Saul’s partner Caprice (Lea Seydoux) surgically removes these unwanted growths as the centrepieces of their well-attended artistic endeavours.
NOR officer Wippet (Don McKellar) and his sexually repressed colleague Timlin (Stewart) take a special interest in the couple’s activities.
Timlin fixates on Saul and he entertains her advances, appraising his new admirer as “rather attractive… in a bureaucratic way”.
Their fates collide with underground revolutionary Lang Dotrice (Scott Speedman), who hopes the artists will perform a live autopsy on his eight-year-old son Brecken (Sozos Sotiris) to publicly challenge prevailing wisdom on the human condition.
TAD THE LOST EXPLORER AND THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY (U, 89 mins)
Released: September 9 (UK & Ireland)
A decade after construction worker turned treasure seeker Tad Stones began his award-winning computer-animated escapades, the accident-prone hero faces creatures from the Egyptian underworld in a third big screen mission helmed by Spanish director Enrique Gato.
A 10-year anniversary gift is traditionally made of tin or aluminium.
Alas, some of the humour in Tad The Lost Explorer And The Curse Of The Mummy sinks like a lead balloon, particularly one freewheeling joke about a yellow jersey Tour de France cyclist who is denied his rightful place in sporting history by a runaway bathtub.
The Mona Lisa also suffers an ignominious fate on the walls of the Louvre.
Tad Stones (voiced by Trevor White) wreaks havoc on a dig site in Mexico led by The University of Chicago’s archaeological department and his sweetheart Sara Lavrof (Alex Kelly).
He impetuously pushes a stone relief inside an Aztec temple and activates a trapdoor mechanism that leads to a vast chamber and – curiously – an Egyptian sarcophagus.
Booby traps reduce the temple to rubble, but not before Tad’s excitable pooch Jeff has swallowed a golden pendant.
Tad leaves Mexico in disgrace, deemed “a danger to archaeology”, and returns crestfallen to Chicago where bandaged, decaying misfit Mummy (Joseph Balderrama) is secretly holed up in his apartment.
Soon after, crackpot TV supernatural investigator Victoria Moon (Elena Sanz) contacts Tad with an outlandish theory about the golden pendant from the temple.
Tad The Lost Explorer And The Curse Of The Mummy unravels at a breathless pace, contriving conflict between Tad and his crew before a pithy distillation of life lessons about friendship and self-sacrifice.
Gato’s picture doesn’t excavate any bravura action set pieces or heartfelt emotion from the globe-trotting buffoonery but it’s short and sweet at a blissfully breezy 89 minutes.