Movies

‘Southbound’ And ‘Sicario’ Head A List Of On-Demand Titles You Should Be Watching This Week

Film is no longer relegated to theaters these days, and a slew of titles that are in cinemas, and not yet on DVD or Blu-ray, are available to stream and download on your TV and devices. With so much content in various entities, we’re hoping this bi-weekly column will help you in weeding out the weaker entries. There’s a plethora of On-Demand providers out there, and we’re covering all the major ones, with applicable links for whatever service you choose. Check out these seven films, four recent titles and three older films with a shared theme. They’re all available right now, or whenever you like.

Southbound 

This horror-anthology film — which weaves together five tales of carnage — does exactly what a horror anthology is supposed to do: put viewers in the middle of terror with maximum efficiency in one story after another. Many anthologies make missteps with their pacing. Not Southbound. Each entry is skillfully paced and plotted, and it doesn’t hurt that the cinematography and the CGI are top-rank, especially for a modestly budgeted film. The entries cover everything from a home invasion to a cult ritual, and one-tale deals specifically with the film’s shared setting: a valley that is basically Hell, where the guilty go to spend their last days. Think of Southbound as five episodes of The Twilight Zone, stories of seemingly ordinary people thrust into extraordinary situations. The writer/director/actors known as Radio Silence (V/H/S) book-end the film, with other segments directed by Roxanne Benjamin (V/H/S), David Bruckner (The SignalV/H/S), and Patrick Horvath (The Pact 2). It’s a wicked treat that doubles as an introduction to some up-and-coming horror talents.

Providers: Google Play, Vudu, Amazon, Xfinity, YouTube, iTunes, Time-Warner, DirecTV

1982

1982 deals in a lot of weighty issues — drug abuse, abandonment, prostitution — and in the hands of a director with a less direct connection to them than newcomer Tommy Oliver, it’d probably skid off a Philadelphia freeway faster than a bicycle cruising through an oil slick. Oliver knows these subjects well, however, because he lived through many of them. Growing up with a drug-addicted mother, he had to persevere in spite of her self-destructive habits in the same small Philadelphia home that the film is shot in. Tim (Hill Harper), too, has to persevere. His wife, Shenae (Sharon Leal), is an addict who rarely comes home, and the pair have a daughter who is privy to the fracturing relationship. Shenae’s ex and drug supplier, Alonzo (played with surprising resonance by Wayne Brady), is the antagonist here, but really the villains are the vices that constrain those locked in the urban jungle. 1982 is tragic at times, but also gorgeous — the frames are sunbaked and bronzed, and even the quiet moments, when Tim is reflecting on his struggle, are full of energy.

Providers: Microsoft, Amazon, YouTube, Time-Warner, Google Play, Fios, Vudu, iTunes

Sicario

The opening moments of Sicario give viewers the kind of explosive action they might come to expect following the film’s trailer, but don’t depend on that wagon to maintain its course. Like a master swordsman, Denis Villeneuve knows exactly when to slice his sword, and with how much force to put behind each blow. Audience members are firmly planted in the shoes of Kate (Emily Blunt), a narcotics officer who finds herself part of a task force sent to Mexico to try and take down a cartel cell. The only problem: Kate has no idea what protocols to follow, and the mission begins veering outside her semblance of jurisdiction. To make matters worse, an enigmatic companion Alejandro (Benicio del Toro in magnetic form) follows no code.

Sicario is more of a psychological thriller than action film; this is evident during one scene in which our protagonists taxi a prisoner across the Mexican border amidst a cavalcade of potential threats. Villeneuve wants us to feel the tension that Kate feels: car windows become dangerous portals; pedestrians potential killers; her companions are embedded, cogent, while she stays on the outside looking in. We, too, are looking in, as Kate travels down the narco rabbit hole with del Toro playing the Mad Hatter. Villeneuve and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan don’t follow the rules here, eschewing the slam-bang of films of this type to stuff us down a tight, tense corridor of which Alejandro warns, “Nothing will make sense to your American ears.”

Providers: Microsoft, Xfinity, Google Play, Fios, Vudu, Cox, Dish, iTunes, Cablevision/Optimum

Deathgasm 

Had the late John Hughes donned a GWAR outfit, he might have written something akin to Deathgasm, a coming-of-age comedy-horror film that acts like a lust letter to death metal. Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) is the hero of this tale — a high school student who is a social outcast. This dynamic changes when Brodie, Zakk, Giles, and Dion — a hopeless garage band — play the notes to a song dubbed the “Black Hymn.”

Deathgasm works partly because it doesn’t take itself seriously, with crude humor (one scene has Zakk and Brodie fight a pair of demons with sex toys) dominating. But that’s just one piece of writer-director Jason Lei Howden’s puzzle. The New Zealand director is technically, which is evident during some of the action-heavy sequences that has the camera canting and switching points of view within moments of each other. The result is bloody bedlam of the most enjoyable kind. It’s hard not to recall other kitschy gorefests like The Evil Dead and Dead Alive when watching Deathgasm, and while those films had a much more restricted budget, Howden — like Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi — is a talent to watch.

Providers: Google Play, YouTube, VuduDirecTV, Amazon, Xfinity, Time-Warner, iTunes

Also Playing: Three French thrillers you should catch

13 (Tzameti)

When a young man (George Babluani) follows the path of his former employer in a quest for money, he unintentionally dives headlong into a brutal, underground Russian roulette ring, where gamblers bet on the man who will survive the tournament of death.

Writer-director Gela Babluani embraces noir and neorealism in the opening half of this black-and-white 2005 film, which makes the horror that follows in the second half even more piercing. There’s a gritty aesthetic at play, one that would not do well with a glossier version, and it’s been tried: Babluani created a Hollywood remake with Jason Statham, and Mickey Rourke in starring roles, and it withered under the glare of too many lanterns. What makes Tzameti so enthralling is the “bomb under the table” conceit that drives many thrillers, but what makes it different is that although we can see the bomb, or in this case the gun, we never know when it is going to go off.

Providers: Fandor, Vudu

High Tension

Providers: Xfinity, Google Play, Amazon

High Tension is a home-invasion film with twists and turns that may not delight smart moviegoers. But if you take the film for what it is — a violent, female-centric horror-action film — you’ll have a grand time watching it. Alexandre Aja’s fingerprints are all over this 2003 movie, and it’s a shame that his career hasn’t really risen to the heights of some of the more grandiose moments in this film since coming to Hollywood and helming the Hills Have Eyes remake, Piranha 3D, and other films. With that said, Aja is in magnificent form here.

The terror comes quick and bloody, and if you were to take out some of the more gruesome instances (and there are many), you’d still have a tense, polished thriller that serves only to make each setpiece more exhilarating than the last.

With a Friend Like Harry

Alfred Hitchcock’s influence is all over the 2000 thriller With a Friend Like Harry. Sergi López stars as Harry, an imposing man who bounces, unexpectedly, into the life of Michel (Laurent Lucas). As Harry closes his distance in on Michel and his family, they become increasingly aware that Harry has ulterior motives on his mind.

A similar premise was done with Joel Edgerton in 2015’s The Gift, and while that film was fine, it lacked two things that Harry has: subtlety and Lopez. Lopez maintains a superior, villainous presence, rivaled only by his performance in Pan’s Labyrinth. German auteur Dominik Moll boils the tension in scenes with Harry, especially when he’s alone with another character — like a still cobra, you never know when Harry will strike.

Providers: iTunes, Amazon

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