I know it's a bit late but fell behind with these whilst moving house so better late than never...
When his sister writes a letter home saying she has been kidnapped by a cult on a remote island demanding a ransom for her release, Thomas visits the island to rescue her. This film has major Wicker Man vibes but never reaches the same levels of dread and weirdness. Everything seems to happen too fast after he gets to the island and it never gives any time for the atmosphere or the strange going ons to sink in. There were promising subplots and characters, such as the two teens in love, that could've helped build up its themes a little more with a little more time and made the climax more satisfying.
You Were Never Really Here (2017)
A traumatized man is hired to rescue a senator's daughter who has been sold to a sex trafficking ring. For a film that is focused on mostly being a character piece, the character of Joe is quite boring and never feels real or fully fleshed out. The performances are decent, but something is lacking to make this as powerful as it seems to want to be and there's no real intensity to grip you. I liked its tendency to show the aftermath of its violence but the plot wasn't very interesting and it felt like about 20-30 minutues was missing as it was only as it ended that it started to pique my interest.
Killing Ground (2016)
A couple goes to a secluded camping spot and find themselves fighting for survival when they discover a brutal crime has taken place. This was soo close to getting a 7, but it lost its way towards the end. The pacing and camerawork of the first hour build up some amazing dread with a non-linear narrative and though you know something bad is going to happen, you're squirming on the edge of your seat waiting for it. TA lot of stuff is just suggested but it's still enough to make you angry and disgusted. The 'villains' are pretty effectively slimy and nasty characters and when they
just throw the baby on the ground I was really surprised. I loved that they would make the villains nasty enough to kill a baby without a care, though I was disappointed later when the filmmakers aren't courageous enough to make that leap and keep him dead.
A major issue with the film though is that even with the time it takes to build up the dread, the characters feel thin. I cared more for the family than the couple, and some of the decisions the couple makes could've been more powerful with a stronger sense of their characters, particularly
the guy not doing the typical guy role of being macho and protective and instead running away
The final scene was also pointless since
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
We already know they survived, so why did we need another seen of 'hey look they survived' especially when there was another character whose fate is technically unknown?
An anthology consisting of six different stories set in the old west. I didn't realize this was an anthology film when I started watching it so had no idea what was going on for a second. As I'm not a fan of the Coen brother's, this was really no different and only received such a high rating due to its only good segment; The Gal Who Got Rattled. The 'comedy' was dumb and not funny, the majority of the segments had really uninteresting stories and felt pointless. The absolute worst segment was the one where it was 90% some guy just monologuing some plays, and the initial Buster Scruggs one was pretty bad too. The Girl Who Got Rattled was quite solid, with good performances, interesting characters and a frustratingly good climax.
Brute Force (1947)
A group of inmates led by Joe Collins, fresh out of solitary confinement, plan to escape from their prison and captors, particularly of the tough Captain Munsey. This suffered a little because of it's 'oh gee golly' 1940s style artificial dialogue, melodramatic flashbacks and no real sense of darkness, but was surprisingly still quite good. Munsey was a fun hateable villain character, though the protagonists were a bit too goody-goody considering they're in prison and they weren't particularly likable and more annoying. Their backstories were all just a bit too similar - all with a generic looking gal that was too young for them and looked the same as all the other gals. There is some nice tension and it all comes together well.
El mariachi (1992)
El Mariachi arrives into town looking for somewhere to play his guitar, but his mistaken for a criminal who carries a guitar case. For what it is - a film made for $7000 and basically all made by one man - it's pretty amazing. It's creative, has a sense of fun without being stupid and it's enjoyable enough. But as a standalone experience, it's not as great. The acting is poor, the characters are annoying, the singing scenes are distracting and there are obviously a lot of technical problems - though they are often disguised well. Some of the pacing was a bit off as well, leading to moments that dragged and lost my interest.