Ursula Andress in The 10th victim, walking away from the camera with a dismissive hand extended behind her.

Talk to the hand. From The 10th Victim.

2021 FINE

Reflections on the first full calendar year of reviews.


I’ve been watching a lot of Italian movies recently. At the end you get a title card that just says “FINE” I know this means “the end,” but it still sounds … sarcastic. The all-caps even makes it sarcastic loud. “And then everyone died. FINE.” Or maybe it’s that tone where someone asks you if you are OK but you’re not really OK and so your attempts to deflect come off sounding defensive. “How are you doing?” “Oh, I’m fine.” Well, 2021 is over. Fine.

According to Letterboxd I’ve watched 272 movies this year, or a little more than five a week. Here, I’ve added Forty-three reviews — little less than one a week. This makes sense; it often takes me several hours to research, write, revise, and post each review. I wanted to talk about a lot more movies than I had time for. I may yet get to them.

Elvira’s Haunted Hills got an excellent release. And I need you to understand that Frankenhooker’s greatest asset is Penthouse Pet Patty Mullen — but for her impeccable comedic timing. We’ll get there. I’d say we’d get there faster if you join my patreon but:

  1. I don’t have a Patreon
  2. That would be a lie anyway
  3. My ego doesn’t need the hit from no-one joining my Patreon.

Here, then, are some highlights from this year.


The greatest surprise for me this year was 2015’s Llamageddon. This is a movie that looks very much like a bunch of college students from Miami of Ohio had a house party and decided to shoot a movie more or less accidentally. It is my every technical measure an abject failure and I love the dickens out of it because everyone is having so much fun.

Several cast members sitting on a couch in a wood-paneled room.

“Oh yes, I thought that some of the metaphysical imagery was particularly effective.”

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue

Although I originally only gave The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue three 🧟, I’ve kept thinking about it, and thinking about it, and re-reading my review, and thinking about it some more. I’m going to call this the “movie review that I got most wrong.” The environmental preaching is more than a little tedious — not the fact that they do it, just the way they go about it — but it doesn’t harm the film that much. You just don’t get that many slow-burn zombie movies.

Cristina Galbó scowling slightly into the distance.

“🧟🧟🧟? But it’s a classic!”

Saturn 3

Saturn 3 is (unintentionally) one of the greatest movies about fragile masculinity. Kirk Douglas drops trou and does manly push-ups at every opportunity; Harvey Keitel’s character just can’t fathom that Farrah Fawcett doesn’t want him. Meanwhile, Keitel the person refused to return for additional line reads so they re-dubbed his entire performance. To top it all off, original director John Barry stormed off the project when the studio hired an experienced director to help him out.

Farrah Fawcett sitting on the edge of a bed looking bored.

“I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go ’round and ’round…”

Shape of Water

The Shape of Water is a difficult movie to discuss without making fish-sex jokes, but this was undoubtedly one of the best movie-watching experiences I had all year. The story is great, the art direction is great, it was just … great. It is far more difficult to write about a movie you love than it is to write about one you hate, and I just wasn’t up to the task. No real review on this one except to say it’s going to be a long time before I feel comfortable writing anything about Guillermo del Toro’s movies.

Also I don’t see much point writing about Oscar winners, everyone else does.

The Shape of Water promo image

Dark Souls Academy

My favorite thing I watched this year that was not a movie was Ellen’s Souls Academy from Outside Extra. These games are well beyond my patience and skill, but everything else I’ve seen about the Dark Souls games looks like fun. So I watched someone else play it. Ellen is an absolute bad-ass of a gamer, and it’s a real thrill watching her learn her way around this game and hearing how she approaches difficult challenges. I’ve been playing video games since the Atari 2600 was sold in Sears catalogs, but this experience may have changed the way I think about video games in general.

Title card for Ellen’s Souls Academy

The Film Optimist

It takes an extraordinary amount of time and effort to produce and release daily twenty-minute videos, but when my brother The Film Optimist gets going, that’s exactly what he does. Here as an example is his introduction to 25 Days of Scrooge, a nerdy deep-dive into different interpretations of the character.

Spookies Rap

Finally, my personal hero in this movie-reviewing journey is long-time Drive-In Film Critic Joe Bob Briggs. Joe Bob is funny, packed full of trivia, and knows the strangest movies. But my favorite thing about Joe Bob Briggs is no matter what he rates a film, he always says “check it out.” If he doesn’t think it’s worth your time, he doesn’t show it. My favorite Joe Bob moment this year, though, was the Spookies Rap by John Brennan.

What’s next?

Looking over the reviews I see the 1920s, 1930s, and 1990s are terribly underrated. I need to get on that. I also expect to write more in general about movies since I have a good library of reviews now to start comparing, contrasting, or discussing patterns. Expect to see more sci-fi, giallo, and — of course — horror. I haven’t seen nearly all of the movies yet.

If you have favorites you’ld like to share, please let me know by pinging me on Mastodon, Letterboxd, or — if we’re friends already — Facebook. Right here at the top of the stack is a movie someone just recommended to me… I’d better get started.