By Lynn Venhaus

War criminal or war hero? Man of mystery artist and art dealer Han van Meegeren became a man of infamy after World War II. But his true story has been mostly forgotten until “The Last Vermeer,” which recounts this notorious case in a melodramatic and twisty narrative.

The time is 1945 and the place is Holland. The found painting is “Christ and the Adulteress” by Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer of the 17th century baroque period.

van Meegeren (Guy Pearce) is suspected of selling stolen Dutch art treasures to Hermann Goering and other upper echelon Nazis during World War II. Now that the war is over, Joseph Piller (Claes Bang), a Dutch Jew, becomes an investigator assigned to identify and redistribute the paintings. Van Meegeren is accused of collaboration, which is a crime punishable by death. Piller and his assistant (Vicky Krieps) are convinced he’s innocent – despite mounting evidence – and will fight to save his life.


The procedural screenplay, written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, is based on an adaptation of Jonathan Lopez’s, “The Man Who Made Vermeers,” and gets considerable mileage from Guy Pearce as the flamboyant van Meegeren.

The role gives theb Australian actor plenty of scenery to chew, for the art dealer was a smooth operator. After the Germans occupied the Netherlands, he threw lavish parties and showed no signs of a moral compass.

Pearce, who disappears into every role he’s in, from “L.A. Confidential” and “Memento” to “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” and “Iron Man 3,” digs in and is quite saucy about the secrets he’s hiding.  

All that hedonism rubs stoic soldier Joseph Piller the wrong way, although he’s not above resorting to shenanigans to keep the government stooges out of his way. As colorful as van Meegeren is, Piller is lacking in flavor. Bang, so good in “The Square” and “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” both movies dealing with art, is rather dull and stiff here.

The women characters are underserved and the supporting cast plays standard characters all in service to the story, which leads us to a climactic court scene full of fireworks. Van Meegeren’s argument is that he defrauded the Nazis, no collaboration.

The movie’s a tad clumsy under the first-time direction by Dan Friedkin but redeems itself in the final third.

With “The Last Vermeer,” there seems to be an endless stream of World War II characters whose story is enough to build a film around, like “Resistance” earlier this year.

The film’s courtroom drama outshines its thriller elements. It serves a purpose as both a history lesson and an art tutorial.

“The Last Vermeer” is a drama, directed by Dan Friedkin and stars Guy Pearce, Claes Bang and Vicky Krieps.
Rated R for some language, violence and nudity, the run-time is 1 hr. 58 minutes. Lynn’s Grade:: B-. The film opened in theatres on Nov. 20,

By Lynn Venhaus

It’s one thing to see a play; it’s another thing just to listen. A whole new world opens in your imagination, and the cultural icon Tennessee Williams is perfectly suited for such an experience.

To make its three remarkable radio presentations accessible, the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis has been extended through Nov.21-22, and you will be captivated by these three works anew. They are free to listen to at www.1073.org and www.twstl.org.

Williams has such a distinctive voice, and you hear his words interpreted with devotion and insight. The performances by the all-star cast assembled this year brings the works to a new level.

Through this fresh and innovative way, the festival continues to pay homage to St. Louis’ greatest playwright, who lived here during his formative years and was greatly influenced by this region.

All three works are richly rewarding aural and theatrical experiences:

Bradley James Tejeda

“The Glass Menagerie,” a beautifully rendered two-hour production of Williams’ most personal play and one of his greatest and most famous, now through Nov. 22.

“You Lied to Me About Centralia,” a delightful one-act by playwright John Guare, who imagines what took place after The Gentleman Caller left the Wingfields to meet his fiancé, Betty, now through Nov. 21.

“Glass,” an intriguing new play by Michael Aman that imagines the actress playing Amanda Wingfield in “The Glass Menagerie” clashing with Tennessee when it opens in Chicago before it heads to Broadway, now through Nov. 21.

As always, stay after for a few moments to listen to Williams’ scholar-in-residence Tom Mitchell for his insight into each work. It’s interesting and informative, and really adds to the festival’s mission. They want us to know Williams intimately, and it shows. You can also take an audio tour of Williams’ St. Louis and hear education panels on his work.

The fifth annual Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis was going to take us to Italy this spring, showcasing “The Rose Tattoo” and other nuggets from Williams, who was happy soaking up European la dolce vita in a good stretch of his chaotic life.

Then the pandemic hit. The coronavirus public health crisis forced our regional theaters to cancel. Instead, Artistic Director Carrie Houk pivoted with two different sets of programming on radio, partnering with Classic 107.3 FM.

First, this summer, a divine series of Williams’ richly textured one-acts that showcased his yearning and his desire to fit in, all in his distinctive word play. The images of his characters with their fanciful stories were vivid, as were the Southern locations. The attention to detail was strong and the acting talent sublime.

All those engaging qualities have returned with “En Evant!” which means “forward.” We’re moving on, and Houk has discussed the fragility accompanying this year strengthening us in different ways. Williams was a fragile soul, but he also had a strength about him, so necessary to survive in his personal world. A previous season was built around “The Magic of Others,” and this year’s fest also has that aspect – the outsider, the guy not like the others.

In the memory play “The Glass Menagerie,” precious Laura, who is based on Tom’s fragile sister Rose, has too many self-doubts and anxieties to fit in, although she tries. Her inner world is soothed by glass figurines.

Glass – who knew 70 some years later this family’s themes of wanting to be normal, wanting to feel something, and not wanting to be mired in the past, in the fanciful world their mother has clung to all these years, would take on more significance throughout the decades

Elizabeth Teeter

The remarkably poised Elizabeth Teeter, showing her emotional range, will break your heart as Rose.

Brenda Curran is a sympathetic Amanda, although truly a pathetic maternal figure in the pantheon of great mother roles.

She contrasts well with Teeter and Bradley James Tejeda as the protective Tom (Tennessee’s alter-ego).

Tejeda, who is also in “Glass” and was in several of the one-acts this summer, is pitch-perfect in his Williams’ roles. He’s the MVP of 2020. It is a perfect match, like Olivier and Shakespeare, and his vocal work is outstanding. I could listen to him read the phone book.

But that just-right comfortable Southern drawl enhances the character’s development as he draws us in to what Tom is going through – or in “Glass,” what Tennessee is. He’s bursting to get out of town to begin the life he imagines for himself.

He smoothly presents these lived-in characters so we can identify right away. And Williams, ultimately a tragic figure in his own life, is so transparent about his thoughts and feelings that we have an instant attachment.

Chaunery Kingsford, who was in the stunning “A Streetcar Named Desire” in 2018, plays the Gentleman Caller with the right mix of concern and confusion.

Directed by Brian Hohlfeld, a St. Louis native who knows how creative passions will take someone away for their journey, understands the Wingfields. His version is a tidy two hours and hits all the feelings, emphasizing what isn’t said is as potent as what is.

This play takes on new meaning every time I dig in, and it’s never the same experience. If you haven’t read it since high school, listen here – it’s transformative.

Chauncy Thomas

Home, that running Williams’ theme, is used by Guare in “You Lied to Me About Centralia,” featuring the tremendous power of Chauncy Thomas as Jim and Julia Crump as Betty. Julia, who played this part when the TWFest produced it for the Grand Center Theatre Crawl several years ago, is well-suited to play Williams’ roles. She’s convincing as driven Betty, who is immediately defensive for taking a trip to Granite City to see an uncle. She has ulterior motives, which she spills during her conversation with Jim. Chauncy, one of the most powerful actors on stage during his years in St. Louis, exercises a new muscle here – only his voice, and it’s no less effective.

Julia Crump

Directed by Rayme Cornell, this play illuminates the themes of “The Glass Menagerie” in a fascinating way. Just think about how a step or two in another direction could change your life.

“Glass” is interesting in its exploration of personalities and artistic temperament. With Kari Ely playing the diva Laurette Taylor taking on the role of Amanda Wingfield, you can picture her condescending looks and withering stares. And then Tejeda gets in the skin of burgeoning artist Tennessee Williams. This duet is directed by Gary Wayne Barker, a solid veteran on the St. Louis scene.

Ely, an accomplished actress in St. Louis, is flamboyant as a near-has been who wants to be famous again. Will playing Amanda produce the results she seeks? Will Williams get what he wants with his first feature-length play? All conjecture, of course, but Ely and Tejeda are convincing playing these desperate people – one on the way up and one on the way down. This one-act is 90 minutes.

Kari Ely

The vocal work here lulls us into a comfortable place. It’s fun to hear these journeys as these performers create pictures in our minds.

One of the most soothing voices is contributed by Ken Page, who is a masterful speaker. He is the festival’s host and introduces each show with his silky vocals.

So, tune in, turn up the volume, and let the magic of theater take you to new (and old) places.

Presenting sponsor is Emerson.

Donations are appreciated.

The Fabulous Fox Theatre has announced the postponement of the remaining shows on its 2020-2021 Broadway season ticket package due to the continuing Covid-19 pandemic.

This includes Disney’s FROZEN, originally February 10-21, 2021; AIN’T TOO PROUD – THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS, originally March 2-14, 2021; THE PROM, originally April 6-18; and PRETTY WOMAN: The Musical originally April 27- May 9, 2021.  In addition, these specials are postponed: BLUE MAN GROUP, originally March 19-21, 2021 and HAIRSPRAY, originally May 21-23, 2021.

The next U.S. Bank Broadway season is expected to begin in the late summer or early fall of 2021 and will include the return of HAMILTON in the spring of 2022. The remainder of the season will be filled with a combination of shows selected from the pool of those postponed earlier this year, the above titles and new titles. 

“Our Broadway producers have expressed their desire to get shows back into rehearsals and touring again as soon as possible. Titles and dates are shifting across the country as new routes are booked and that unfortunately includes all of the shows originally on our spring schedule,” said Fox director of programming John O’Brien. 

“We will announce a new schedule for what will now be the 2021-2022 U.S. Bank Broadway Season as soon as it is prudent to do so. The good news is that our subscribers are already renewed for that season which will now include the return of HAMILTON in the spring of 2022.”

Dael Orlandersmith’s award-winning piece examining Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of Michael Brown’s death airs nationwide November 15

ST. LOUIS – After the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis commissioned acclaimed writer and performance artist Dael Orlandersmith to create a piece focused on the aftermath and a nation’s struggle for justice and freedom. Until the Flood’s 2016 world premiere at The Rep received critical acclaim, was named Outstanding New Play by the St. Louis Theater Circle Awards and has been produced around the country and in Ireland, Scotland and England.

The Rep, in collaboration with ALL ARTS and other theatres across the nation, will premier Rattlestick Playwrights Theater’s 2018 production online on Sunday, November 15 at 7 p.m. CST on the free ALL ARTS app and allarts.org, a broadcast and digital platform dedicated to the arts. This production features the same playwright/actor, director and design team that originated the piece at The Rep in 2016.

“The Rep is proud to support artists who examine our past, point us towards our future and bring us to a new understanding through art,” said The Rep’s Augustin Family Artistic Director Hana S. Sharif. “Dael’s work helps us examine a moment that forever changed our region.” 

Based on extensive interviews following the August 2014 shooting of Black teen Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson, this tour-de-force one-woman show, directed for the stage and television by Neel Keller, gives voice to a community haunted by injustice and a country yearning for change. Brown’s death ignited weeks of social unrest, propelled the activist movement known as Black Lives Matter and prompted an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Orlandersmith traveled to the St. Louis region a few months after the shooting to conduct interviews with dozens of people. From these intimate conversations, she created eight unforgettable characters who embody a community struggling to come to terms with the personal damage caused by these complex events. Experienced in performance, these voices offer haunting reminders of America’s continuing struggle with racism and justice. 

Awarded a “Critic’s Pick” by the New York Times and acclaimed by critics and audiences across the country, Until the Flood is an unmissable drama that the Chicago Tribune raved, “achieves a great beauty by bringing us together rather than driving us apart.”

Joining Rattlestick in sponsoring the broadcast premiere are The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, which originally commissioned the piece, A Contemporary Theatre in Seattle, Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Milwaukee Repertory Theater and Portland Center Stage.

Following the November 15, 2020, broadcast premiere, Until the Flood will be available for on-demand viewing on ALL ARTS until the Fall of 2023.

For more information, visit repstl.org or call The Rep Box Office at 314-968-4925. 

The Fabulous Fox Theatre has announced holiday tours of the beloved landmark to begin following Thanksgiving and continuing through December.  Inspired by CharlesDickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” this delightful tour is titled “A Dickens of a Tour” and depicts several of that tale’s characters including the ghosts of Christmas Past and Present, Jacob Marley, Victorian dancers and more! 

This unique hour-long tour includes some of the history of the Fox Theatre while it is beautifully decorated for the holiday season.  Guest will visit five stations with access to backstage and the Fabulous Fox stage.  The tours are under the direction of Lara Teeter, Creative Director and Larry Pry, Music Director.

Tours will take place on the dates and times as follows and will be limited to 16 people per departure.

Tour times for Friday, November 27; Saturdays, November 28 and December 5 and 26; Sundays, November 29 and December 6, 13, 20 and 27 are:  1 p.m., 1:10 p.m., 1:20 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 1:40 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 2:40 p.m., 2:50 p.m., 3 p.m., 3:10 p.m., 4 p.m., 4:10 p.m.. 4:20 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 4:40 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 5:40 p.m., 5:50 p.m., 6 p.m. and 6:10 p.m.

Tour times for Friday, December 4 are 7:50 p.m., 8 p.m., 8:10 p.m., 9 p.m., 9:10 p.m., 9:20 p.m., 9:30 p.m. and 9:40 p.m.

Tour times for Friday, December 18 are:  6 p.m., 6:10 p.m., 6:20 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 6:40 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 7:40 p.m., 7:50 p.m., 8 p.m., 8:10 p.m., 9 p.m., 9:10 p.m., 9:20 p.m., 9:30 p.m. and 9:40 p.m.

In order to provide the best possible safety measures for Fox guests and to comply with the city health department requirements, the following protocols will be in place.  Tours will have a maximum of 16 people and will have timed entries every 10 minutes.  Tours will cover 3 levels of the auditorium and the stage, but will not include the narrow underground tunnels. Tours will move in one direction and not cross paths with other tour groups.  Tour participants will be required to wear a mask and observe social distancing. 

Each tour will be accompanied by a Fox tour guide and a monitor to assure adherence to mask-wearing and social distancing.  Hand sanitizer stations will be available throughout the tour. 

Tour tickets are $40 each for adults and $25 for children 12 and under. Parking is included. Season Ticket holders and Fox Club Members will receive their priority purchase opportunity by email this week.  Remaining tickets will go on sale to the public Friday, November 13 at noon.  All tickets much be purchased in advance as the Fox Box Office is not currently open.  Tickets will be delivered to guests by mobile device or for printing at home.  Food and beverage service will not be available during the tours. 

By Lynn Venhaus

As genre mashups go, successfully blending horror and comedy is a tricky task, but “Freaky” turns out to be a real treat. It’s a twisted take on the body swap movie by having a teenage girl switch bodies with a serial killer.

It should come as no surprise to fans of director Christopher Landon, who has hit it before with the time-loop “Happy Death Day” and its sequel, “Happy Death Day 2 U,” two clever and inspired funny thrillers.

This time, he and screenwriter Michael Kennedy smartly mix the teen-adult body swap tropes of “Freaky Friday” with the slasher scares of “Friday the 13th,” and infuse it with homages to the classics.

Seventeen-year-old Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton) tries to be invisible at Blissfield High but then she is attacked on the football field – Go Beavers! – by the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn), the town’s urban legend-serial killer. He used an ancient mystical dagger, “La Doma,” they trade places and have 24 hours to reverse the curse or she lives inside the middle-age maniac forever.

Starting off with two teenage couples partying while one’s parents are away, they set up the urban legend of The Blissfield Butcher, who wreaked havoc Homecoming Night 20 years ago.

You know where it’s going – especially when the dad collects creepy artifacts – but the doomed kids’ demises are particularly gruesome. Be warned, this movie doesn’t cut away from the grisly carnage – and those bloodbaths are responsible for the R rating.

One artifact is a mystical Aztec dagger that The Butcher steals. Little does he know its use will start the harrowing reign of terror at the high school – and of course, the rogue Homecoming Dance.

Cleverly staged with genuine suspense, then expertly edited by Ben Baudhuin, “Freaky” wouldn’t be as effective without this pitch-perfect cast. Their full commitment to appear as terrified in this living hell is matched by the fun they’re having checking off the horror movie boxes.

The story hinges on Vince Vaughn’s hulking shadowy character, not unlike Michael Myers from “Halloween” or Jason Voorhees from “Friday the 13th.”

Vaughn goes for broke here, gleefully conveying an angsty teenage girl who reveals her crush and must convince Millie’s two besties, Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) — who has the bulk of zippy quips – that she is inside the deranged killer. He’s having a blast and demonstrates what a deft comic actor he is.

Swapping with the smaller in stature Kathryn Newton makes the physicality fun to pull off. Newton’s take on the killing machine is harder to achieve, with that “Terminator 2”-like glint in her eye, but the kids at school think she’s transformed herself into an empowered ‘bad girl’(because, of course, she’s wearing a red leather jacket instead of thrift shop frocks).

Only in Hollywood scripts would Newton, as the ‘before’ Millie, be referred to as ordinary and boring. Millie has a lot to deal with – her dad died a year ago, her grief-stricken mom Coral (Katie Finneran) falls asleep by drinking a bottle of chardonnay, she’s bullied by mean girls and the shop teacher (Alan Ruck) — and she’s trying to get Booker (Uriah Shelton) to notice her.

The story’s entertaining aspects help overlook some of the plot’s implausible elements — like where has this psychopath been all these years? And why exactly is she bullied, just for a standard subplot?

The usual horror genre trappings are all here, and that’s part of the fun. Bear McCreary’s score enhances both the humor and the thrills, and the jump scares are executed well.

When “Freaky” is light-hearted, it really is delightful, and when it’s graphic with the murders, I had to look away. Yes, I’m a wuss when it comes to frightening films but Landon’s worth watching – a born entertainer.

But this is a good way to spend a Friday the 13th or a day where you need to escape the realities of 2020. Producer Jason Blumhouse has added another gem in his horror film universe.

“Freaky” is a comedy-horror film directed by Christopher Landon, with screenplay by Michael Kennedy, and starring Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Alan Ruck, Katie Finneran, Misha Osherovich, Uriah Shelton and Dana Drori. Rated: R for strong bloody horror violence, sexual content, and language throughout, it’s run-time is 1 hr. 42 min. Lynn’s Grade: B+

By Lynn Venhaus
Ray Charles “America the Beautiful.” (See below). A reminder that we are all Americans. We’re better together. Right now, we have two Americas, each their own tribe with their own set of facts and their own vision for the future.

I am hopeful. I see people fighting so hard to save democracy. We want to be heard. Right matters. Nearly 100 million people have voted already!We are more engaged after these past four years. We know what the Hatch Act is, 25th Amendment, Emoluments Clause and have a long list of alarming facts and figures that will indeed be part of history when all is said and done.

After the ballots are counted, it would be great to unify, heal and work in bipartisan ways on our problems as this pandemic rages.But we are closer to another civil war than ever before. Terrifying. I pray that what we brace ourselves for will not materialize Tuesday night or days after.

This is the first time in my lifetime where a president may not accept the results of an election, and is ready to have lawyers swoop in, his demonizing rhetoric has made us all anxious. GOP has had a number of cases on voter suppression not go their way — including three on Monday. Marketing intimidation and suppression. Why?

If you, like me, vote on Election Day — do not be intimidated. This is your right. If something is not right with your registration at the polls, then ask for a PROVISIONAL BALLOT. That way, you can still vote for president if not the state and local races.IF you encounter any shenanigans, call 866-687-8683 (OUR VOTE).And if you need help getting to the polls, there are people to help. Reach out. Ride services like Uber are ready to go.

And if you aren’t planning to vote, think it doesn’t matter, how can we convince you it matters? This is your voice.

All over America, election officials have been working hard to insure the integrity of the process and will not tolerate any illegal activity. They’ve been envisioning all sorts of scenarios because of the past few months as the president’s repeated efforts to cast doubts on the election process. Before, the system has gone pretty smooth for hundreds of years — OK, it didn’t in 2000 and the hanging chads in Florida.Have faith in the process and the American people.

We were founded on “We the People” — never forget that. Let’s end this division and get to work on making this country better because we sure need to unite in the face of this unprecedented health crisis.

And end the electoral college and return to three separate branches of government for checks and balances, and…it’s a long list.

But we’re eager to have a good night’s sleep again. Rest up, roll up our sleeves, and restore the soul of our great nation.

By Lynn Venhaus
Trump has lied more than 22,000 times in less than 4 years. We have normalized this Pinocchio, which is really sad and mind-boggling. The fact-checking is exhausting. But this irresponsible narcissist leader’s dishonesty on the coronavirus pandemic is misleading and dangerous.

Today, he said this:”Our doctors get more money if someone dies from Covid. You know that, right? I mean, our doctors are very smart people.” WHAT?

This isn’t the last time he will lie about COVID-19 in his desperate attempt to hold on to power by downplaying his destructive response. But attacking health care workers now?Those of us believing in science and the health professionals know his alternative reality he is babbling about at these super-spreader rallies is false – deny and deflect, his M.O.

We have more than 88,500 new cases. How does this magically disappear in his narrative of ‘turning the corner’?His disregard for the public good is killing people. Blowhard Donald Trump Jr. told egregious hack Laura Ingraham that deaths are down to “almost nothing.” That’s the way he described 1,004 deaths on Thursday.

Our total count is 228,000-plus. They are down-playing this to the detriment of containing the spread. The arrogance and incompetence is unbelievable.This week, Bob Woodward released the Jared Kushner recordings basically saying their coronavirus response was a political strategy. All about re-election. Red states vs. blue states.This is a national disgrace.

Seven months in, still no national plan, health care workers are overwhelmed, bed capacity is maxing out, and surges continue. Everything we did in March, April and May is erased.

Now, Trump is pushing a baseless conspiracy that greedy American health care workers are overcounting coronavirus deaths, besmirching their integrity at a time they’re nearly at the breaking point.

His base still think it’s overblown. Believe at your own peril. No one is going to change the base’s opinion on their cult leader. Facts mean nothing. Only if they have been touched by the virus.

We shake our head because this is where we are, less than 100 hours from the first polling places closing on Election Day.There must be some accountability for making a pandemic political and a polarizing issue. This has resulted in more deaths than it should have.

And the fact that there are people who don’t care is something I can’t wrap my head around, on this 30th day in October in 2020.

By Lynn Venhaus

 Haunting and hypnotic, “His House” is one of the most original horror films in years.

Writer-director Remi Weekes, whose first feature debuted at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, demonstrates assured, smart storytelling, slowly doling out bits of information that add psychological complexities to the couple’s journey.

After making a harrowing escape from war-torn South Sudan, a young refugee couple struggle to adjust to their new life in a small English town, complicated by something evil tormenting their lives.

As they fled, during their boat ride, a tragedy takes place.

Consumed by loss, Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) has a hard time adjusting to a new life, in dingy public housing, But, it’s their home, and she tries to make the best of it. The government has strict rules for refugees, so they must be careful.

Bol (Sope Dirisu) has an easier time adapting, but hears strange noises and begins to see weird things happening in their small place – lights flicker, gaping holes appear in the walls but then close, and then sinister images materialize.

She is spooked, he is trying to come to terms with what’s happening, and their lives are turned upside-down by this hellish existence.

Because of what they have been through leaving their homeland, their struggles have a sadness underneath. The psychological aspect is an intriguing part of the story, which was developed by  Felicity Evans and Toby Venables.

With the characters as asylum-seekers, that gives the haunted house story more weight. They must adhere to the strict guidelines, which has consequences and fleeing again isn’t possible. They struggle to hold it together, but things unravel in a disturbing and unusual way.

Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù, as the troubled husband, and Wunmi Mosaku, as the tormented wife, are mesmerizing in their roles. They bring out layers of emotion essential to understanding what they are going through.

British actor Matt Smith, known for “Doctor Who” and a varied resume, plays their government contact, who starts being suspicious about what’s going on in their home.

This gritty and gripping film has unpredictable scares and surprising developments that deepen the mystery and the trauma.

It’s a haunted house film unlike any you’ve seen, and that’s what makes it special, an instant classic.

“His House,” a horror-thriller, is directed by Remi Weekes and stars Sope Dirisu,Wunmi Mosaku and Matt Smith. Not MPAA, its run time is 1 hr. 33 minutes. Lynn’s Grade: A. Available on Netflix beginning Oct. 30.

By Lynn Venhaus

Had Bong Joon-ho not won multiple Oscars earlier this year for “Parasite,” including Best Director, it’s unlikely that we would have gotten an opportunity to see a remastered version of his second film, “Memories of Murder,” made in 2003. Now considered a crime masterpiece, Fathom Events released it on the big screen for two nights this month, and it is available video on demand, as of Oct. 27, and we are fortunate filmgoers.

Loosely based on the true story of South Korea’s first serial murders, which took place between 1986 and 1991 in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, “Memories of Murder” details a frustrating investigation as more young women are raped and murdered.

Two inept local detectives, Park Doo-Man (Song Kang-ho) and Cho Yong-koo (Kim Roe-ha), struggle to find a culprit after a second young woman is found dead, so a detective from Seoul, Seo Tae-Yoon (Kim Sang-Kyong) joins them, realizing they are searching for a cunning serial killer.

As the mystery unfolds, the details engulf us in much the same way they get in the detectives’ heads, and the small-town setting, with its police force unable to meet the rigorous demands of the cases, heightens the frustration.

And adding to the intrigue, the real murderer was caught last year – although the film does not reference this in the epilogue. Lee Choon-Jae was convicted for the brutal rape and murder of his sister-in-law in 1994, and with DNA evidence, confessed to the Hwaesong murders – nine identified women — and five more.

Although Joon-ho made this film 17 years ago, and he’s been perfecting his craft ever since, his distinctive style was emerging in a noticeable way. He makes room for comic relief and references pop culture, which we now know is a signature move, and he mashes up genres that enhance his storytelling. In addition to directing, he co-wrote the screenplay with Shim Sung-bo, based on Kim Kwang-rim’s play.

For anyone intrigued by crime drama, this film is a treasure trove – a police procedural that Joon-ho turns into a character study on detectives and a blistering indictment on small-town prejudices. He also effectively builds suspense as women are targeted by an unseen predator.

The murders are brutal, as the women are found raped, tied and gagged with their own underwear. Because the town’s two detectives, Park and Cho Yong-koo, are bumbling hot-heads who torture suspects trying to get them to confess, their methods are under attack. The police chief calls in detective Seo, who is smart and practical. When he cracks some of the clues, friction develops between the Big City hot shot and the locals lacking in technique.

How they change on the hunt of the killer is an interesting – and chilling – aspect, and all three actors are superb. There is a madness to these methods. You might recognize Song Kang-ho as the dad in “Parasite,” and he has acted in many of Joon-ho’s films.

The technical elements enhance the bleak story, with brilliant cinematography by Kim Hyung-ku, editing by Kim Sun-min, and a stirring score by Taro Iwashiro.

The film is an engrossing look at cruelty and breaking points, with its last shot a haunting reminder of the devastating effects of criminal minds.


“Memories of Murder,” a suspense-mystery-thriller set in South Korea, was directed by Bong Joon-ho in 2003. It starred Song Kang-so, Kim Sang-Kyong and Kim Roe-ha. Not rated, this remastered version has English subtitles, and its run time is 2 hours, 11 minutes. Available Video on Demand. Lynn’s Grade: A.