‘My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To’
One of my favorite horror films of 2021 was this deeply moving, brazenly violent drama, written and directed by Jonathan Cuartas, about a frail young blood drinker and his sibling caretakers. Cuartas has said he was inspired by his family’s own difficult experience caring for his grandmother in hospice; the pain of that time comes through in his profound, empathetic film about mercy and what it means to be bound by blood.
‘The Darkness of the Road’
A young mom (Najarra Townsend) drives down a desolate highway on a dark night as a storm approaches, her daughter asleep in the back seat. At a gas station, she agrees to give a ride to a young woman (Leah Lauren) whom she meets in the bathroom. They don’t get far before a creature lunges in front of the car, and they discover that a doll has replaced the sleeping child. As the women try to figure out what’s behind the uncanny goings-on, they discover that their meeting wasn’t by chance.
Struggling to make it as an actress, Laura (Lorelei Linklater, daughter of director Richard Linklater) returns to her small Texas hometown where her sister Winnie (Maddy-Lea Hendrix) disappeared 10 years ago on Halloween. There, she meets up with identical twin brothers Charlie, the sweet one who prefers nerdy cardigans, and Vincent, the creepy one in black. (Kudos to writer-director Riley Cusick for a bizarro performance as the twins.)
Have you ever waked up naked in bed with a stranger and wondered, “Who are you?” In this lurid thriller from Spain, that’s what happens to David (Pablo Derqui) and Sara (Marina Gatell), except they don’t just wake up next to each other — they wake up sewn together at the abdomen. And they have no idea where they are or how they literally got together.
Jim (Gerald Chew) did something dumb at work and got fired from his engineering job in Singapore. He keeps the news from his wife and daughter for months, and to make money, he starts driving for a ride-sharing company.
One night, he drives a young man who tells him a once-upon-a-time story about a monster who terrorizes a village. The timing of the tale is weird, considering that Jim has been seeing ghastly figures and hearing devilish whispers since he lost his job. As Jim’s prospects for employment plummet, he has flashbacks to a playground incident with his sister that tortures him still, even at 50. Soon, his personal demons become angry real ones.