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Friday movie roundup: Pre-Halloween scares

First Published      Last Updated Oct 18 2013 11:20 am

Halloween is getting closer, so the movie weekend serves up some good scares.

Not necessarily from "Carrie," the remake/reboot of the Stephen King classic about the telekinetic teen (Chlöe Grace Moretz) with the bad prom night. That one wasn't screened for Utah critics.

But there are chills to spare in the brooding "We Are What We Are," playing at the Tower Theatre. That thriller follows a rural New York family with an eerie annual tradition — one that draws the suspicions of the town coroner (Michael Parks). Director Jim Mickle ("Stake Land") builds up the tension gradually, with quiet thrills leading up to a gloriously bloody finale. He also benefits from a strong cast, led by Bill Sage as the rock-steady patriarch and Ambyr Childers and Julia Garner as his troubled daughters.

The weekend's most buzzed-about movie is "The Fifth Estate," a dramatic telling of the history of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks and a profile of its enigmatic founder, Julian Assange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch). Director Bill Condon ("Dreamgirls," the "Breaking Dawn" movies) applies plenty of flash to the story, but there's a lack of depth in its attempt to understand Assange's mixed motivations.

Another muddled movie is "Escape Plan," which teams two old action stalwarts, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, years past their prime. Stallone plays a security expert who breaks out of prisons for a living. On his latest job, he's double-crossed and stuck in a high-tech jail — and must join forces with a cagey inmate, played by Schwarzenegger, to escape. The action is sporadic and chaotic, but the real fun is watching these old war horses spar.

On the art-house side, there's the drama "Concussion," which debuted at Sundance this year. Writer-director Stacie Passon's luxe drama centers on a suburban lesbian housewife (Robin Weigert) who takes a walk on the wild side by signing up as a high-price call girl. Weigert's performance is the draw here, brimming with passion and self-awareness.

Also from Sundance is the documentary "After Tiller," which examines the abortion debate by introducing us to the four doctors in America who still practice third-trimester abortions. The film shows the doctors dealing compassionately with patients who are making the hardest, and most heartbreaking, choice of their lives. It's a quiet statement in a debate that's usually punctuated by shouting.