Who will be the next Kurosawa?

Time to add some movies to your movies-to-see list. I’ve never seen anything by Liam O’Donnell, but his filmography is promising, not because he wrote and directed his one and only feature, Beyond Skyline (2017), but everything that’s led to it and come from it. Beyond is a sequel to Skyline (2010) directed by the Brothers Strause, Colin and Greg, and written by O’Donnell & Joshua Cordes (the ampersand denotes cowritten if you didn’t know).

He is credited as the visual effects creator of the Feebles or Bad Suits sequence in Iron Man 2 (2010). His filmography is slim but he’s an all-around-person with credits for producer, writer, director and visual effects. He may have had some hardcore mentorship when he co-produced Barry (Diner 1982) Levinson’s The Bay (2012).

Up next for him is the third in the Skyline series, Skyline3s (not a typo/2020?). He directed “The Other Side” for the anthology film Portals (2019) about a man who drives through a portal and wakes up in a hospital where a doctor takes his eye out to replace it with–no spoilers here.

Macabre, or its original title Rumah Dara (2009), written and directed by Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel, was a great find surfing my streaming services years ago. Some friends and family, one of them pregnant, offer to drive a stranded woman home with disastrous results involving magic, cannibalism and immortality. The feature is based on their short “Dara” from the Indonesian anthology Takut: Faces of Fear (2008).

The two directors were originally credited as the Mo Brothers when working together and since then have also co-directed Killers (2014) about a Japanese businessman secretly a serial killer who meets a journalist just starting out to be one; and Headshot (2016), a bad-guy-gets-amnesia martial arts film done right and starring Iko Uwais, the hero from The Raid: Redemption (2011) and The Raid 2 (2014).

Tjahjanto directed “L is for Libido” in ABCs of Death (2012) about a man forced to compete for his life by participating in disturbing acts. With The Raid director, Gareth (I-didn’t-direct-Rogue One-that’s-Gareth-Edwards) Evans, he wrote and directed “Safe Haven” one of my favorites from V/H/S/2 (2013) about a news crew investigating a cult trying to propagate a demon.

Okay, I got lucky on this one and watched it while writing this–May the Devil Take You (2018) is much more akin to the dark horror of Macabre and even more so to his V/H/S/2 installment. A daughter and her step-mother and -siblings must fight off a devil that the father had made a deal with. Definitely a top ten horror lister for 2010 to 2020 for me, but maybe for the century so far. I’m looking forward to May the Devil Take You: Chapter Two in 2020 which continues the story of the main character.

The Night Comes for Us (2018) first created as a graphic novel concerns a bad-guy-turned-good-guy-to-save-a-child. It’s a martial arts bloodbath with a half a dozen he-just-killed-a-man-with-a-[fill-in-the-blank]. Next up are JITU: Joint Intelligence Tactical Unit for which I could currently find no summary and The Blind of the Ghost Cave: Angel’s Eyes or Si Buta dari Gua Hantu: Mata Malaikat which seems to be part of a phase 1 cinematic universe adaptation for an Indonesian comic book company Bumilangit.

Tjahjanto writes all of his screenplays unless otherwise mentioned, though he shares credit on The Blind with the comic book author Ganes Thair Santoso. He wrote and directed the “Sarah” segment of Portals, about two sisters escaping zombies and from becoming so.

Fellow Mo Brothers director Kimo Stamboel went on to direct Dreadout: Tower of Hell (2019) about a group of friends who find a portal guarded by creatures–not associated with Portals; and The Queen of Black Magic or Rata Ilmu Hitam (2019 not 1979), some of the summaries for which read like something translated and retranslated, but appears to be about a man who takes his family to the orphanage where he and others grew up and summoned up the titular character. The trailer looks like a tour de force of horror, and when Tjahjanto and Stamboel do horror alone or together that’s when they’re the most original, when they’re auteurs.

It appears Stamboel has wrapped on Jailangkung 3 about a family vacationing out of doors when a child goes missing. The first two films were co-directed by Jose Poernomo and Rizal Mantovani. Jailangkung is a game much like a Ouija board, but seems to have a much deeper cultural history than that.

I started this column to find out what was going on with the directors of some of my favorite movies. As I compiled my list, I sometimes shook my head at my own ignorance. I put Exists (2014) on my list originally, a great found footage Bigfoot movie. It turns out Eduardo Sánchez directed with a screenplay by Jamie Nash–remember that name. Sánchez, Gregg Hale, Daniel Myrick, and others created one of my favorite films The Blair Witch Project (1999) which brought the found footage subgenre out of the closet.

Another film on my list turned out to be his also. Altered (2006), again from a screenplay by Jamie Nash–there it is again–concerns a group of alien abductees who actually abduct an alien. Every time I watch this movie the intestine scene gets me. With one of his Blair Witch Project producers, Gregg Hale, Sánchez co-directed “A Ride in the Park” for V/H/S/2 (2013), which was the riding-a-bike-in-a-zombie-apocalypse segment. Nash wrote that one as well.

I wasn’t looking out for his work during the following time period and missed Seventh Moon (2008) which he wrote, about a couple honeymooning during China’s Hungry Ghost Festival, which is when all the ancestors are let out of hell. Sánchez co-directed the webseries ParaAbnormal (2009) with his usual screenwriter Nash. This is a parody of paranormal investigator shows, which the world really needs. His Lovely Molly (2011) is about a woman and her new husband moving into her father’s maybe-haunted house with Sánchez writing this time.

He directed another web series, this one a found footage film, Four Corners of Fear (2013) and talk about meta. It’s a parody about Eduardo Sánchez directing the third installment of the Blair Witch Project, and stars himself and a majority of the Project cast and crew. I finished this as well while writing this and I don’t know why it didn’t go viral.

After a run of films, Sánchez became a working tv director on shows like From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series (2014-16), Supernatural (2005-2020) and much more. But what has he done for us lately? Bloody Mary is in pre-production. Qu’est-c que c’est? Urban legend?

Sánchez directed “Call Center Part 1” and Gregg Hale directed “Call Center Part II” for Portals, but it’s a solid segment so it must be co-directed. In it a portal opens in an emergency call center and a paranoid man thinks he knows what’s going on.

Gregg Hale, The Blair Witch Project producer and codirector, also produced Altered, Seventh Moon, Lovely Molly, Exists and Blair Witch (2016) in various capacities. He directed the feature Say Yes Quickly (2004). I don’t usually use IMDB’s summary, but it sells it: “A road trip to meet an alien”, and now I have to find that. Jamie Nash, mentioned several times throughout, executive produced Portals. Nash, I’ll catch you again on another Roundup later.

That’s it for now. Find me online and give me some directors to look out for.

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