Keeping Up with the Joneses starts with an idiom and doesn’t really evolve a whole lot from there, but in this case the simple premise that’s kept simple works, allowing a likeable cast to shine. Director Greg Mottola, whoseSuperbad tweaked the teen sex comedy formula with great effect, manages to spin the secret-agent-meets-mundanity yarn into something at least a little unique.
It’s a prequel to a terrible horror movie about a demonic board game, so of course Ouija: Origin of Evil is pretty great, right? Right. Hamstrung only by a somewhat confused final act that’s beholden to the mythology established in 2014’s dreadful Ouija, this prequel stands out thanks to the assured direction of Mike Flanagan and performances that sell the drama along with the dread. Though there’s not a whole lot that’s wildly original here, the craft makes the tropes work, getting us invested and effectively creeping us out.
The sights and sounds, and stillness, of Middle Americana set the tone for Certain Women, another mastery of mood and everyday ambiance from writer/director/editor Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy, Meek’s Cutoff). She makes the mundane riveting and finds the relatable feelings present in ordinary routine.
The iron is always hot for a bastardized take on the slapstick performers, and the grimy aesthetic of writer/director Rob Zombie lends itself well to clown-driven unpleasantries. While some of the smeared greasepaint, mixed with blood, and twisted carnival set pieces in 31 are striking, Zombie has nothing to say beyond the look. It’s been a typical issue with the director’s horror oeuvre, outside of The Devil’s Rejects, which shaped some characters within the carnage.