Are you excited for Moon Knight? You should be. While the anti-hero won’t be well-known to many, its two main stars in Oscar Isaac (Star Wars, Dune) and Ethan Hawke (The Black Phone, Dead Poets Society) will be.
But we digress. Moon Knight, the upcoming MCU Disney Plus show, is Marvel’s latest attempt to create entertainment with a wider range of tones and genres, and it picked the perfect team of directors to do so.
And, with the Marvel Phase 4 project comprising six episodes, set to land on Disney’s streaming platform on March 30, now is the perfect time to see what we can expect from its visually, tonally and stylistically.
Moon Knight’s confirmed directors are Mohamed Diab, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. The former is believed to have directed four episodes, with the latter two working as a duo on two episodes. Although, online rumors suggest that George Clooney has helmed one of the superhero show’s entries, too.
Egyptian director Diab is relatively new to western screens, but he’s won plenty of awards from around the world, with nominations and awards from film festivals including Cannes, Venice and Chicago. If you want to check out his work, some of his films – including Clash and Cairo 6, 7, 8 – are on Netflix in certain regions.
The power team we’re looking at here, though, are Moorhead and Benson, who have an impressive history of cult-classic films under their belts. The pair’s movies are fantastic at creating eerie atmospheres and plots full of mystery and tension. But their flicks also contain real character stories and stories that are actually resolved, instead of being absolute nonsense like your typical low-budget cerebral-sci-fi story.
The duo are classic do-it-yourself filmmakers, too. They direct, shoot, write – they’ve even starred in their own work sometimes – and often make the most of low budgets, with great location work and scripts that are the stars of the show.
With Moon Knight’s release just over two months away, you’re best setting yourself up by checking out Moorhead and Benson’s back catalog. Below, we run through which movies in their filmography you should check out.
Resolution marked the first time Moorhead and Benson co-directed a feature, which was also shot by the former and written by the latter.
Set in a cabin outside San Diego, as well as the surrounding hills and towns, Resolution tells the story of a man who handcuffs his drug-dependent friend to help clean him up – but the friend’s own self-destructive habits, unfriendly neighbors and a mysterious force make the endeavor a hard one.
It’s impossible to explain what makes Resolution great without spoiling the gripping ending. It could be accused of being a slow-burner but, even when the sci-fi and mystery elements aren’t present, character development and an uneasily-tranquil tension are a fitting substitute.
As the duo’s first film, this is markedly the most low-budget, confined to a cabin and a select few other locations, a limited cast and, for most of its runtime, no special effects. In that way, it’s a far cry from the Disney-funded Moon Knight, but certain themes (which we won’t discuss, for fear of spoiling the movie) provide thematic ties.
Between Resolution and Spring, Moorhead and Benson worked on a few smaller projects, most notably a section for one of the V/H/S pictures, but Spring is the next movie we’d recommend checking out.
Spring tells the tale of a bereaved US expatriate who travels to Italy and falls for a local woman. It’s certainly not a rom-com though and, as the movie’s poster gives away, that woman has a monstrous secret.
This is a great film for fans of the Lovecraftian-style horror aesthetic, especially in terms of monster design. But, beyond it, there’s a surprisingly prescient story about finding yourself through other people, and the potentially-damaging problems of a reliance on relationships to do so.
It’s also an interesting outlier in the filmography we’re exploring. While most the filmmakers’ movies explore male relationships – The Endless is about brothers, Synchronic depicts co-workers and Resolution showing long-time friends – Spring is about a romantic relationship.
Speak to most fans of Benson and Moorhead’s work, and they’ll tell you that The Endless was their introduction to the filmography. It’s the case for this writer and many other people, as it’s arguably the duo’s most popular film.
The Endless is about two brothers, brought up in a cult but left when they were young, who return to the place as adults and notice mysterious aspects of the group that they didn’t before.
As they explore the camp and their understandings of the past, the brothers’ relationship begins to break down, before the real forces at play are revealed. Incidentally, the two brothers are played by Moorhead and Benson, showing their acting prowess is as strong as their behind-the-scenes work.
There’s a reason this is considered the entry point into the duo’s filmography – and that’s because it’s an incredible movie. The different aspects of filmmaking, from the script and performances to the shot composition and audio mix, are all woven with impressive skill to create a story that juggles tension and character development.
Like Resolution, some could consider it slow, but there’s enough going on in every scene and shot to keep you guessing. The pay-off, too, is incredibly satisfying, both from a story and character perspective. Seriously, if you’re going to watch one movie we’ve recommended on this list, make it The Endless.
Synchronic felt like a surprisingly big-budget film for Benson and Moorhead when it came out. Now that they’ve got Marvel money, it doesn’t seem as huge, but it marks a change budget-wise and tonally from previous works.
Starring Anthony Mackie (Altered Carbon, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) and Jamie Dornan (Billy Elliot, Fantastic 4), it’s about two paramedics working in a city which is plagued by a mysterious designer drug which, when taken, has time-skipping effects.
Like Moorhead and Benson’s previous works, Synchronic focuses on characters rather than the sci-fi concept being explored. But, while The Endless and Resolution focus on barely-understandable malevolent forces that the characters must grapple with, Synchronic is about a feasible alternative future. For that reason alone, viewers might find it a bit easier to watch.
Tonally, it feels a little different to the duo’s previous films, but there a a few nods to previous films present for long-term fans to enjoy.
There are many other works by Moorhead and Benson that we’d recommend checking out, too.
Something In The Dirt is one of those – you can’t watch this right now because, at the time of writing, it’s about to debut at Sundance Film Festival. If you’re lucky enough to be attending, though, you’ll be able to catch it. And, if you’re based in the US there are tickets still available for virtual screenings.
Something In The Dirt seems like a return to the duo’s roots as do-it-yourself filmmakers: they’re the stars once more, with what seems to be a relatively low budget and limited locations. It tells the story of two neighbors who witness paranormal phenomena, whose relationship breaks down as a result – the perfect combination of sci-fi and character development that have become hallmarks of the duo’s filmmaking process.
Meanwhile, the pair have also produced a few movies, with two we’d really recommend watching: After Midnight and She Dies Tomorrow.
The first is a relationship drama-slash-horror, directed by Jeremy Gardner and Christian Stella, about a man living in the countryside who’s tormented by a monster after his partner leaves him. It’s an enjoyable story made fantastic by a tense one-take scene near the end, which could well be the best non-horror scene we’ve ever seen in a horror film.
The latter is a horror character drama – directed by Amy Seimetz – about a woman who thinks she’s going to die the next day, and the effect this has on those around her. It’s a great character story and received enough awards attention to make it worth checking out.