Mandy

★★½☆ – (2018) – A mild mannered lumberjack goes after the cult that roasted his wife. The first half, while painfully slow, offers high levels of intrigue, while the second half provides all the Nicolas Cage bombast you could ever want or expect. Stylish one moment, basic the next, but always hard to look away from.

Don’t Hang Up

★★★☆ – (2016) – Obnoxious friends who catch a thrill in pranking people are taught a violent and valuable lesson. Mostly borrow parts from other films, and is often predictable, but the filmmaking aspects are professional enough to hold this in high regard. Starts rough, but eventually becomes a rather grueling experience.

Upgrade

★★★☆ – (2018) – A paralyzed man is implanted with a device that allows him to walk and seek his wife’s killers. Starts a little slow, but hits its stride about a half hour in and rarely lets up. Filled with unexpected twists, laugh-out-loud moments, and has one whopper of a conclusion. Borders on silly at times, but lands some mean punches.

A Dark Song

★★★☆ – (2016) – A woman enlists the help of an occultist in order to settle a score over her dead child. Takes a little while to grip, but once it does you’re treated to one unexpected moment after another. Moody, tense, and highly effective in its drama and horror, though some may find the conclusion a little too bonkers.

Borderland

★★★☆ – (2007) – A trio of friends looking for fun at a Mexican border town instead find themselves involved with a religious cult. Opens with a vicious bang, then builds on an involving mystery with plenty of surprises and violent shocks. Characters aren’t always the brightest, and some actions aren’t logical, but this is completely absorbing in the grittiest of ways.

Blue Ruin

★★½☆ – (2013) – A young man returns home after killing the person who murdered his parents, and finds trouble with a vengeful family. Has a few scenes with stomach twisting shocks, and there’s always a need to see how things pan out. Not always on point, however, as some events lean toward the predictable/illogical side.

Revenge (2017)

★★☆☆ – (2017) – A girl who’s raped and later left for dead hunts down her aggressors. Initially has some enticing and shocking moments, but gradually becomes a bland mix of I Spit on Your Grave and Rambo III. The violence is the highlight as this ultimately turns into a bloodbath, but the plot and characters leave much to be desired.

Jigsaw

★★☆☆ – (2017) – Five people play vicious games against murderous devices while detectives and medics try to piece together where and why. Has clever moments and spots of violence that remind us of the days of Saw lore, but there’s never a moment that doesn’t feel unnecessary. Not a complete waste, but the reasons for bringing the series back only add confusion.

Victims!

★½☆☆ – (1985) – A group of female friends take a trip to the desert where they’re assaulted by rapists. Does plenty of preaching about the social statures of men and women, but never signifies a point as this feels more like a rip-off of Last House than anything singular or eventful. Has so much nudity that the mere thought of women’s lib is rendered moot early on.