Rewind Review: The Shining (1980) Returns to Cinemas

Adaptations and reboots of Stephen King’s work are popular right now, what with The Dark Tower, It, and Gerald’s Game recently released and with many others in development. Plus, with it being Halloween it only makes sense to revisit one of the frequently listed scariest movies of all time.

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Heeeeere’s Johnny! 

Look up any “Scariest Movies of All Time” list and you can bet that The Shining will be floating near the top, along with many adaptations from Stephen King. Combine “the master of horror” with Kubrick’s genius, it’s really no surprise this film has such a cult following; and after seeing it for the first time just a few days ago, it did not disappoint.

Before the film, we watched  “Work and Play: a short film about The Shining (2017)” directed by Matt Wells for Park Circus. This documentary investigates the creative process and incredible efforts behind this unique movie; intense research into the horror genre, the innovative use of the newly developed “Steadicam”, and a look into the personal musings of Kubrick and his views on film-making.

Featured in the documentary are: Lisa and Louise Burns (The Grady Twins), Garrett Brown (inventor and operator of the Steadicam), Diane Johnson (co-screenwriter on The Shining), Katharina Kubrick (Stanley Kubrick’s daughter) and Jan Harlan (Kubrick’s producing partner and brother-in-law).

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“It’s easy to make movie…but to make a great film is a miracle.”

If you want to watch something with tension and suspense on Halloween, then The Shining is for you. The music is really stand out for me, combining rapid high pitched strings with slow and deep brass makes you believe something terrifying is about to happen. The long Steadicam shots of corridors, the set and environment make it seem that something may jump out. The music and camera shots were eerie and surprisingly good at building suspense; I could feel myself tensing up and even jumping a little at the changes in instrumentation.

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Shelley Duvall at The Overlook Hotel

Of course, I cannot overlook the incredible acting of Jack Nicholson. His long, dead-eyed shots, creepy mannerisms, and seriously animated eyebrows, portrayed complete insanity with little to no motive or justification required. And he’s not the only one, many of the characters you meet throughout the movie are played in a seriously creepy manner.

If like me you haven’t seen this film before, the short version is Jack Nicholson plays “Jack Torrance” who gets a job as caretaker at The Overlook Hotel  over the winter months during closed season. He brings his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and his son Danny (Danny Lloyd) but the isolation, and something in the hotel’s past, makes Jack lose his mind and turn on his family.

Nicholson is great at being terrifying and Lloyd is good at being terrified, but I was not completely convinced by Duvall. A few things she does seem quite smart and resourceful in a pretty hopeless situation; however, her tone seemed forced and vacant, and she seemed to have little control over her limbs as she ran aimlessly around the hotel. Also, Nicholson gets a lot of praise for this film but I also think Lloyd was very good! He’s a very young boy but plays this part with maturity and intelligence.

Ignoring what I thought of Duvall’s portrayal, which I can probably attribute to the age of the film, this is a great scary movie that will really mess with your mind and the accompanied short is very interesting. I  would highly recommend re-visiting this film this Halloween if you can, and be sure to get there in time for the short! And remember….All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy!

The Shining is in cinemas across the UK on 31 October 2017 accompanied by short film “Work and Play: A Short Film about The Shining” (Director Matt Wells).

Film credit: http://www.parkcircus.com/films/21530-the-shining.

Image credits: © 1980 Warner Bros. Inc. All Rights Reserved. Images courtesy of Park Circus/Warner Bros.

Happy Death Day, It’s A Treat!

Combining the concept of reliving your own death from Edge of Tomorrow, with the 90s Slasher vibe from movies such as Scream, Happy Death Day is one of the most interesting concepts to be put to film this year, and a perfect treat for Halloween!

Jessica Rothe plays Tree Gelbman, your typical run of the mill college student, who after a rough night out, wakes up in a dorm room, unaware of the events of the night before. As we are shown, Tree isn’t exactly the nicest of people,  with her arrogant and dismissive seniority sister demeanor, she builds up a firm following of enemies on campus. This proves to be fatal, as that night, Tree runs into a masked stalker,  who takes her life with the assistance of a very big blade. But all is not as it seems! Following her death, she wakes up back in the dorm room from earlier that morning. She soon realizes she is trapped sort of time loop, in which her death is inevitable every night. Accepting her looming fate, Tree uses the time she has, to narrow down the culprit from her list of suspects!

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Though Happy Death Day has been built up as the return of the Slasher movie, it’s still no where near the sheer intensity of Scream. Yes, there’s a masked stalker, who happens to get very trigger happy with a knife in their hand. But here, our murders are a lot less graphic as films in this genre were , especially back in the 90s! Although it has a horror element to it, it is far more of a mystery movie, rather than a full on scare, so just a few tips to consider before walking into the cinema!

That said, HDD is a thoroughly enjoyable movie,  yes you have all the usual american college stereotypes here, the bitchy mean girls, the stalker, the geek etc., but it never hurts the film. Tree is by far the standout character in the movie,  her comedic chops are on show here, bringing several moments of laughter to the show. Her character also has an engaging arch, from her ignorant past self, to a more modest and understanding person she eventually becomes.

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As mentioned, we have a list of suspects, who each may have a reason to don the eerie mask and go after our protagonist.  Could it be Carter (Israel Broussard), the timid student’s dorm in which Tree wakes up in? Or maybe it’s Danielle (Rachel Matthews), the sorority leader, who is somewhat envious of Tree? Then again, it has to be the teacher she is having an affair with right? There are plenty suspects thrown in the mix to keep you doubts swinging between all our various potential killers!

Though the biggest flaw in the film has to be the very lazy explanation regarding the real killer, their motivation and how they did some of the murders. It’s a long stretch to believe someone would go straight to a blood thirsty killer on campus! Would they really leave a random toy playing a melody in a tunnel? It would make more sense for them to just get straight to the act, without all these curious actions. The plot seems to try to make itself look a lot more smarter than it really had to be, with the lat addition of a suspect which shows up from no where.  There are also several plot points left unsolved, it it just being careless, or resolutions being saved for a potential sequel?

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With far more humour than you would think, HDD is a great concept, that utilizes its college setting very well,  it may not be the perfect Halloween movie, but it has it’s moments of suspense, a vibrant  cast, and dead cert to leave you satisfied once the credits roll.

 

 

 

 

Deathnote – A Neon Mess

Following the underwhelming remake of Ghost in a Shell earlier in the year, the news that Netflix will be giving the popular manga & anime series Deathnote the western treatment was met with concern from many fans. But given Netflix, and their track record for strong TV shows,  fans were willing to give it a chance.

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Deathnote on Netflix takes the story from Tokyo, to Seattle. A change of setting makes sense,  to adapt it to a another market. But more crucially, it also borrows the same characters from the original show,  rather than making its own spin-off.  This is biggest mistake Netflix made here, and essentially destroyed what could have been a fascinating entry to the Deathnote franchise.

The Deathnote series is built upon the battle of wits between our two rivals, Light & L. Each with their own view upon what Justice really is. This duel of intelligence and deduction was the foundation of Deathnote, and what made it such a enthralling show to all of its fans.  Netflix was never going to condense all of the shows drama into a single feature length film,  but instead of focusing of the cerebral nature of the show, what we end up with is a one dimensional, dim, cheap Final Destination rip off.  With more emphasis on how gory the film can be, rather than building amazing characters the source material provided.

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NEON!!

So here, we follow Light Turner, a student who stumbles across the Deathnote, a mystical notepad, in which whoever’s name is written within it, leads to their death.  He teams up with fellow student Mia Sutton, in order to rid the world of evil, taking up the name Kira. It’s not long before his actions get him on the radar of the law, and on his trial, is the legendary detective, L, a mysterious figure, who vows to catch Ligth, no matter what.

If Netflix made their own film, using the concept of the Deathnote,  taking place in the US, it could have done a decent job. Instead, it takes all the characters, and removes everything that made them so charming.  It’s just easier to list the flaws, so here goes!

Light (Nat Wolff)- In the anime, he is depicted as an intellectual, top of his class, popular, yet sick of life, and how crime still continues to live in this so called just society. He is also very calculating, always in control, rarely losing him composure. He does not use the Deathnote for his own personal gain, but his god-complex makes him believe that he is genuinely doing this to create a better world for everyone . In the show, Light is initially uncomfortable with the idea of using the Deathnote, but ends up using it to stop a sexual assault, Turner, uses it because a bully punched him.  Light Turner screams, panics, gets pushed around at school, and most importantly, is not smart.  He is never in control at any point, and is manipulated by everyone. Also, the Deathnote is simply used as a way for him to get a girlfriend. Great plot. Then there’s his now infamous screaming scene, which pretty much encapsulates the entire movie in 20 seconds. Wolff simply was miscast, and had next to zero charisma or personality for the role of Light. (Then again, it was the role he was given, so blame does also lie elsewhere!)

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More neon!!

Mia (Margaret Qualley) – Although in the anime, she is madly infatuated with Light, it’s explained that his actions as Kira, had a consequence of her own life, hence her blind loyalty. Here, she is just the crush of Light, and frankly, is far more interesting as a protagonist! She easily manipulates Light to do whatever she wants, and she is sinply put, a sociopath. She just wants power, and will do anything to get it. It never is explained why shes so deranged, or what lead her to become like this, but hey, she smokes at school, edgy!

Ryuk (Willem Dafoe) – Ryuk is a vital figure, although he is the guardian of the Deathnote, most importantly, he never gets involved with Light, or whatever else is happening. He is simply bored and here to see how everything unfolds. Here, Netflix, seem to be afraid of making Light a true villain, and use Ryuk as the puppet master, who forces Light into all these situations. He is unnecessarily cast as the villain, for no reason. As great as Willem Defoe is in this role, (his motion capture work here is on point!) the character of Ryuk is totally shattered. But at least he eats apples. So that’s something they got right.

L (Lakeith Stanfield) – Probably the character that got the best treatment, but still no means, perfect.  Yes L here still possess his eccentric mannerisms and deductive skills, but he is wildly ruled by his emotions here, following a sequence of events in the film, he totally loses it, and goes on a foot chase waving a gun on the streets.  L, the master sleuth that he is, should have all possibilities covered, and have a back up for it. Not lose his mind and go crazy. He also reveals his face to the public, which seems a very unwise move, even if he keeps the bottom of it covered, in the show, L only revealed himself as a final gambit.

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Our calculating mastermind….

The characters aside, the film is a mess with its pacing. The cat and mouse nature of the chase between Ligth and L was one of the most capturing parts of the show, here, there is hardly any build up, suspense, anticipation.  Instead, L just finds him, reveals his identity almost immediately,  chase over. Now we can focus on all the over the top gore and overblown finale! 

The relationship between Light and Mia is centre screen here, which is what many feared. We have countless scenes at school, we even have the oh so cliched prom scene. Yes Light went to high school, but that never was the main feature, rather his exploits outside of it. We’re forced into watching a pointless love story in a film that really isn’t made for it. 

Deathnote was never really about the deaths of the criminals. In the show, it was a simple heart attack, quick, decisive. Unless Light’s plan suggested otherwise, that was his MO. Here, every death is gratuitously bloody. The deaths occur is wildly hilarious methods, which involve a chain of events, that eventually lead to the demise of the victim. In Final Destination, it worked, here, nope! Director Adam Wingard is much more well known for his work in the Horror genre,  which made it a curious choice, for a series that isn’t exactly a horror, more supernatural thriller. This give the entire movie a far more cheesier feel to it, than the perilous, tone of the show.

There’s the 80s Synth-pop soundtrack,  even though there’s no sign it’s set in that time, the shows original Gothic tone was perfect for its theme, but here, I guess Stranger Things is a huge thing right now? We see them use the Internet to find the identity of people (very lazy story writing!), so clearly it’s set in modern times! It also focuses on Neon an awful lot, making it look more like Atomic Blonde at times! (Actually maybe Atomic Blonde used less neon….)

All that being said, is there anything to redeem this? Well if you go into this without any prior knowledge of the source, then you’ll enjoy a somewhat cheesy, straight to DVD, horror with cheap thrills. If your a fan, then there is frankly very little to say in regards to positivity. Ryuk (from an aesthetic point) and L are decent. But Light is so eviscerated as a character, it reaches a point where Mia would have been more interesting to follow. Maybe in hindsight it would have been better to create this as a 10 episode show, then again, it may have just been 10 episodes of this! 

 

Eat Locals: Laugh Out Loud Fun

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to the premiere of the British made “Eat Locals” at FrightFest in Leicester Square. I met the director, producers and cast, and got to watch their hilarious creation.

With a low budget of just £1.6 million, you are not expecting “Tchaikovsky” as first-time director Jason Flemyng put it in our interview, you are expecting a fun piece of cinema lovingly put together by a group of friends. And that’s exactly what we got. After quite a sincere start, you soon realise that the actors are not taking themselves so seriously, creating a more laid back (and surprisingly realistic) environment than any other modern vampire movie you will have seen – until the violence commences.

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Left to right: Freema Agyman (Angel), Vincent Regan (The Duke), Charlie Cox (Henry), Eve Myles (Vanessa), Annette Crosbie (Alice)

In a quiet country farmhouse, 8 British vampire overlords have met to discuss matters of feeding quotas and territories. Following the death of one of their own, they will also decide whether to turn or kill poor, unwitting Sebastian (Billy Cook); led to the farmhouse by sexy vamp Vanessa (Eve Myles). Before they can carry out their verdict, the vampires are interrupted by a team of Elite vampire-killers sent by the Vatican and under orders from Captain Bingham (Robert Portal) and Larousse (Mackenzie Crook), chaos and blood shed ensues.

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Eve Myles as sexy cougar “Vanessa”, leading Sebastian astray. 

The dialogue in the vampire meeting is natural but quite serious (with a slightly eerie and ominous soundtrack), making reference to some current events and expressing a few opinions on such matters (from a vampire perspective of course). The conversation devolves into quite a grim scenario, but with the introduction of Sebastian humour is injected into these scenes. This is later followed by what sounds like a pretty horrific scene between the vampires and some soldiers. This variety of scenes display a contrast of character and a breadth of acting ability; they attempt to be both modern, civilised individuals, and the viscous vampires they are. Others are just viscous vampires *cough*Tony Curran*cough*.

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Left to Right: Vincent Regan (The Duke), Henry (Charlie Cox), Angel (Freema Agyeman), Alice (Annette Crosbie), Thomas (Jordan Long), Peter Boniface (Tony Curran). 

 

Converse to Tony Curran’s crazy portrayal of vampire “Peter Boniface”; Charlie Cox, having been temporarily poached from Netflix and Marvel, plays a slightly softer vampire than some of the others. His character “Henry” is a vampire who refuses to feed on humans,  and tries to keep the peace between his fellow vampires and keep young Sebastian alive during the battle.  Between martial arts proficient Chen (Lukaz Leong) and sweet old Alice (Annette Crosbie) with an assault rifle, there’s plenty of action for everyone to sink their teeth into. And with Jason Statham directing the fights, it maintains a good level of ridiculousness.

You grow to seriously dislike “Captain Bingham” and “Larousse”, which is always key to making good villains and gets you rooting for the vampires; however, even though he was on their side, I liked “18” (Johnny Palmiero). He was terrified of the vampires and sympathetic to the Thatchers (Dexter Fletcher and Ruth Jones) who own the farmhouse, both of which make him smart and a good person, which I like.

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Bingham (Robert Portal)

There’s a few twists and little surprises, and many, many, MANY laughs. Everyone in the cinema was laughing along, cheering for their friends when they came on screen, and woo-ing whenever anyone did anything cool. Eve Myles was sat in front of me and believe me she was LOVING every minute of it. 

If you want something that is easy and fun to watch, and are a fan of something a little silly, you definitely need to watch this film. But ensure you begin with no expectation of this being a masterpiece of film making. The cast and crew have clearly had a fantastic time making this and we all had an awesome time watching it with them.

It’s also nice to meet people who you’ve been watching on screen for years and find out they’re genuinely nice, funny people.

And Jason, as promised, I think I’ve been pretty nice 😉

Check out the Live coverage and interviews here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYUi79fR1no

 

 

Annabelle:Creation, A Vast Improvement

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Annabelle:Creation is the follow up to the 2014 horror, Annabelle. A spin off from The Conjuring franchise. Although Annabelle was a hit at the box office, it wasn’t well received by both fans and critics.  But as we saw last year with the Origins of Evil, an underwhelming first entry can be saved by an impressive second outing! Can Creation do the same for Annabelle?

Creation is directed by David F. Sandberg, who also directed Lights Out,  which was a fascinatingly created horror using a unique concept and managed to not fall into most of the usual horror troupes! So expectation was raised for Creation, and it’s nice to say, that Creation makes up for the lackluster original.

The sequel tells the story a group on orphans, who are moving in with the Mullins family, who have kindly offered to take in the children following their eviction. The Mullins however are still dealing with the loss of their young daughter, following a car accident, a daughter that they are unwilling to let go off. It’s not long before the orphans realize not everything is as it seems in their lonely, isolated home out in the middle of nowhere….

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Janice (Talitha Bateman) & Linda (Lulu Wilson) are two of the orphans, who the film follows throughout the movie. It’s this friendship that they have that makes the movie feel a lot more immersive than random no name characters who are simply there to be killed off! Janice, who suffers from polio, causing her to require crutches for walking, was a different way to add tension.  The moment it’s revealed she has a condition, the entire theater reacted all the same, she will be the poor girl who gets the unwanted attention of our demon!  Lulu Wilson also appeared in Origins of Evil, and is already making a promising career in the horror genre. Both young actors do a strong job with their roles.

The film is very much a game of two halves. The first half is very much at a serene pace, all about the fear the girls are going through, and the presence of the Mullins, especially Mrs Mullins (Miranda Otto), who happens to never leave her room, and is never seen by the girls, or the nun looking after the girls. Whereas Mr Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) appears to be a stoic person, who displays very little affection towards the children. The movie does a great job in building up the suspense, and there are always something happening in the background! So pay attention! Personally I preferred this part of the film more, as the Annabelle doll really did a wonderful job of being disturbing, irregardless of the fact it never actually moves!! The scenes involving the tea party and Linda firing her toy gun into the darkness, are very unnerving!

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The entire tone of the film changes as soon as the reveal of the demon is made, and it starts going on a rampage! The demon looks pretty generic, and it does talk, which really does take away some of it’s mystique. But, as a horror movie, the intense panic of the 2nd half is required, and it does a fairly good job. It does get surprisingly graphic at times,  considering the subtle tones of the earlier scenes, it does feel slightly out of left field! But the characters are rather well made, and you do root for their survival, rather than hoping they just die for their stupid decisions.

The film still suffers some inconsistent details. Considering the main group of orphans are all young girls, they really don’t act like a young child facing a demonic presence, yes there are some screams and terror at points, but some other parts, they act rather calm, considering the situation they are in! There are also scenes where things feel like you have to just accept the moment.  Considering the home is filled with various other children, the Mullins, and Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman), the home does feel very empty at times suiting the moment!  There are scenes were both Linda & Janice would most likely call for help, rather than just going it alone for the sake of the drama!

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Overall, the positives do outweigh the negatives. Creation gives us a solid horror movie, with intriguing characters, and some genuinely creepy moments! It also give us a look into fan favorite Valak, who will have it’s own spin off soon! If you enjoyed Origins of Evil, you will definitely want to give this a watch too!

 

The Mummy, Should Have Stay Buried

The Dark Universe, which is looking to rely on Universal Studios back catalogue of classical Horror icons such as Frankenstein, Dracula & The Phantom of The Opera to name a few. In order for this to succeed, it is crucial that the first instalment entices the audience for future releases! In this case, it’s the freshly rebooted The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella & Russell Crowe, which has been given the job of getting the franchise to hit the ground running.

So this time around, we have Nick Morton (Cruise), a US military officer who with his close friend Sergeant Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), use their military duties as a cover to ransack ancient temples in order to sell onto the black market. After one operation goes wrong in Iraq, they end up uncovering an Egyptian burial site, with the assistance of archaeologist Jennifer (Annabelle Wallace). Things quickly go downhill as they end up releasing vengeful soul of Princess Ahmanet (Boutella) into the modern world,

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If it was the role of The Mummy to get the audiences enticed, than unfortunately, it’s failed spectacularly. What we end up with a story, which is all over the place, where The Mummy ends up playing somewhat of a support role! Universal Studios seemed way too keen to start setting up its future movies during the entire middle 3rd of the film, with character reveals and plot details for the future. The film had a total of 6 different screenwriters that can explain the lack of cohesion in the plot. The Mummy opens pretty well, with the initial burial site discovery and the dramatic airplane crash scene, which featured prominently in the trailers, is by far the best scene in the entire movie.

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Ahmanet is set up as a menacing foe, with the power to revive the dead and literally suck the life from anyone it touches. The plot for Ahmanet also seems very archaic, after the inspiring Wonder Women, here, Ahmanet’s main goal, to find her chosen one. We end up with the Mummy playing second fiddle as the film decides to explain the appearance of other characters, and loads of dialogue. It’s here where the film sadly loses its momentum. If it had continued the action packed opening half hour, we could have ended up with an entertaining ride, but the film screeches to a halt, and never really picks up again.

The cast are a mixed bag. Tom Cruise is of course box office, but his character here is arrogant and unlikable, which isn’t a bad thing, but his character arc never goes anywhere, and pretty much stays the same throughout. His action scenes of as always, great, so it’s a shame the film really didn’t have more action packed set pieces. Although Cruise is a huge name, even then, it feels like the movie is so focused on him, it feels like Tom Cruise ft. The Mummy!

Jennifer is pretty much just there to get into trouble, and be the love interest for Nick. The problem is, the two never show any kind of interest in one another, nor do you ever really care what happens between them. You barely see them have any meaningful dialogue, bar a few scenes. A very forgettable & bland  persona.  Boutella is by far the best of the bunch, following her captivating roles in Star Trek & Kingsman, she is proving to be a well accomplished star. Russel Crowe’s character is purely there for the sake of future movies, and really could have been cut out entirely, or be reduced to a post credit scene if needs must.

The film does try to include a lot of comedy, mainly with the interactions between Nick & Chris. These scenes don’t ever feel comfortable here, as this movie is much darker than the 1999 version. It really felt like a move to follow the banter that Marvel movies seem to revel in.

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The scenes that show the full mercy of The Mummy across London, makes you expect an action packed finale across the London backdrop, but instead, it all concludes in a dark, underground cavern. Taking away the awe factor of what could have been a far more dramatic conclusion.

To sum it all up, The Mummy is simply boring. The sad thing is, the Egyptian lore and backstory has great material to work with, and if the film was solely about The Mummy v our hero for the entire runtime, that probably would have worked better. What we get is 3 stories attempting to be told at once, with The Mummy barely featuring in a turgid middle act, removing the most interesting part, in an effort to try and get us interested for what may come.

With big names like Johnny Depp & Javier Bardem already signed up for future Dark Universe movies, it is unlikely the franchise will be affected by the lukewarm reviews to The Mummy, but it has a lot of work to do in the run up to the next planned release in 2019, Bride of Frankenstein.

Covenant, Lacks Any Fear

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The 6th instalment of the iconic Alien franchise has landed in cinemas, Alien: Covenant. Picking up following the developments from 2012’s Prometheus, is Covenant a throwback to the original horror, or a follow on from the lore heavy Prometheus.

Covenant, is the story of the Covenant, a vessel travelling to a far flung planet, its mission, to find an alternate planet for colonisation. Each ship is overlooked by an android assistant, while the human crew are in deep sleep. The android maintaining the Covenant is Walter (Fassbender), but due to an emergency, the crew are forced to wake up. Following the loss of a fellow crew member, and with the reluctance to get back inside the pods, our team decide to respond to a distress call, from another potential viable planet for life, which is far more closer to get to then the remaining 7 years left to reach their original destination.

Upon landing on the new planet, things inevitable unravel and the blood starts flowing! You don’t really need to watch Prometheus to enjoy Covenant; the movie does refer back to the prequel, and does a good job in doing enough explanation to not leave anyone who hasn’t watched Prometheus, totally out of the loop.

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Director Ridley Scott has been accuse of losing his magic in recent times, but The Martian showed that he still has the ability to deliver great work.  Covanent follows that up with another strong showing here. By far the best aspect of the movie is the performance of Fassbender, who performs a dual role here. As already mentioned, he plays Walter, on board the Covenant, and also David, the older version of himself that was abroad the previous Prometheus mission. There are several scenes which involve both characters on screen at the same time, and he pulls it off with great intensity. He also plays the role of a synthetic being well enough to not sound completely wooden, which is a trap many who play robots fall into.

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The human crew on-board though, are a very mixed bag, and a majority of them come off as pretty unlikable. Katherine Waterston is Daniels AKA New Ripley, but she simply doesn’t have the presence to play a role such as this, she looks lost and confused for large parts of the movie, and being the supposed lead human, is overshadowed by Fassbender’s presence. The captain of the crew, Oram (Billy Crudup) is written to be somewhat antagonistic, and his traits are very dis-likeable, not even allowing his crew to mourn the loss of a colleague! It was strange to make him somewhat of a secondary antagonist, as the aliens are enough of a threat as it is. Everyone else of the team is largely bland or unremarkable, and make several stupid decisions throughout the film! The only real endearing figure is Tennessee (Danny McBride) as the pilot of the Covenant, surprising, as McBride isn’t usually known for these kind of roles!

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It’s down on the planet where the film really shines though, the opening 3rd seems to drag on for a long time, before we get into the nitty gritty, the Aliens! One thing to understand, is as this is a prequel to the original, this is the story of how the fiends known as the Xenomorphs came into existence, so the threats don’t look like what you expect them too! The film does not hold back on the violence and blood! It’s not just the chest the aliens surprise us from, and some of the deaths our crew suffer are pretty graphic. It may be slightly over the top, but it also empathises how destructive these creatures are. One of the criticisms of Prometheus was that it was very dialogue heavy, and didn’t have enough Xenomorph action, fair enough; as they are the main reason we go to watch these movies! Having watched Prometheus may help you enjoy the film more, but not watching it won’t ruin the experience. The alien saga is explained with careful detail, and it does get us curious in seeing where the next movie goes with all the revelations unearthed here.

The film though does lack the feel of the originals, there isn’t that build up that tension, that feeling of being alone and trapped. The film is very linear in that regards. It is very obvious which character will bite the dust, and the twist reveal at the end is so, so predictable, that it disappointed me they actually went ahead at did it! Also, the trailer pretty much revealed all the set pieces, a damaging habit most trailers seem to fall into nowadays. . It’s a shame that the movie just isn’t as scary as it could have been, as it’s all so telegraphed in its story. Yes some of the scenes can be rather brutal, but is it scary? Not really.

Covenant is no way a bad movie, if you’re a fan of the Alien franchise, or Sci-Fi is generally, it’s an entertaining ride, which gives more plot into how the Xenomorphs came to be, and has the usual Alien tropes. On the other hand there’s isn’t anything new and original to shout about. The film does have some homage to the original movies, but it very much feels like a part of the new trilogy, and not the old.

 

 

 

A Cure for Wellness, Something New!

Finding an original film nowadays can be quite a challenge, it seems most big releases are either a sequel or remake! A Cure for Wellness aims to be a fresh new spin on the horror genre.

Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is your typical high rolling Wall Street banker, who has earned himself a place at the top table at his firm. His employers uncover the underhanded methods he was using to close his high profile cases, which if reported to the SEC, will most certainly lead him on the path to prison. But there is a way out, if he can retrieve the company’s CEO, Pembroke, from a retreat in Switzerland, they can pin the blame on him. Though Lockhart may not be clean,  his employers realise the potential for more money to be made, and in the process, get rid of the CEO who they believe has lost his mind.

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It’s at the Swiss retreat, where Lockhart suffers an accident, waking up to find himself with a broken leg, and having been admitted to the facility. The trailer for the movie gave off a definite Shutter Island vibe, and that can only be a good thing! The Spa retreat at the centre of the movie’s plot is magnificently eerie. From all the endless rooms, corridors and gardens, the Spa is a great setting for this film. It’s here where our protagonist encounters Dr Volmer (Jason Isaacs), the director of the Spa, and a mysterious young girl, Hannah (Mia Goth) who spends her time wondering the facility grounds.

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The film does wonders for Swiss tourism! As this has to be one of the most beautiful looking films I’ve seen. The castle is a spectacle, and some of the visuals that are obtained with the stunning Alpine backdrop is divine. One scene is which Lockhart & Hannah are talking by a water fountain, with the Alps reflecting off the waters surface is one of the many wonderfully shot scenes spread throughout. The cinematography here is outstanding. Director Gore Verbinski has executed a visual treat for movie goers!

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The first two acts of the movie are pretty well done, DeHaan does a fine job as the unlikable money hungry executive,  though he does a few things out of character during the film. Would someone as meticulous as him, just randomly sign a document without reading it through? As impatient as he may have been, it seemed strange to just sign something off, though I suppose, plot development! The entire Spa has a creepy vibe to it, all the patients here, seem to be more than happy to be here, a bit too happy! and its not long before Lockhart eventually discovers the hidden secrets behind everything. The movie does good to avoid relying on too many jump scares, preferring to slowly build up to the reveals, though at times, it feels like it’s dragging on. The film is pretty graphic, warranting it the 18 certificate. If your not a fan of the dentist chair, you may want to look away during one specific scene!

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It’s at the end, where the film totally goes off the rails, and almost feels like a parody. Whereas the everything before the finale, was a wonderfully shot, enticing horror. The inevitable plot twist, is the twist that anyone paying any attention during the film would have called. The fact this is pretty much spoiled to us in a scene earlier on in the film makes it just that much more annoying.It’s disappointing that there wasn’t a swerve, and they went with what everyone thought they were going to go with this. From a macabre mystery, the film turns into an all out action finale, including the final showdown in the backdrop of flames! It feels very much out of place in a movie which spent so much time building things up.

Speaking of time, Wellness is full of filler. A run time of over 2 hr is certainly excessive, and the film could have been cut by 30 minutes easily. One scene spends about 5 minutes, in which Lockhart stumbles into a dark room and discovers what resides in there. There’s building suspense, but then there are scenes that could have easily been reduced significantly.

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The ending aside, Wellness is still one of the better movies out this year, and you have to give the director credit for trying something new and original. Personally, the final act of the movie did taint it somewhat, but that’s all down to personal opinion. If your looking for something different to watch, and don’t mind being freaked out, by all means, give this a try!

 

 

Ringzzzzzzz

It was back in Summer, I noticed a poster for Rings while at the cinema. Even back then, I was sceptical if this was even worth making, for a franchise that’s been dead in the water for years. My doubts were proved right, as Rings has to be one of the dullest horror movies I’ve seen for a very long time!

Rings is a reboot of the original 2002 release The Ring, the successful American remake of the cult Japanese horror Ringu. For anyone not familiar with the lore, The Ring revolves around a mysterious videotape, anyone who happens to watch the tape receives a phone call soon after, a voice telling them that they will die in 7 days’ time. The film is iconic for the vengeful spirit Sadako/Samara (depending on the region of the movie!) emerging from within the TV screen of the victim. The latest release aims to bring the movie into the current generation, a decision that takes the edge off what made the original so great.

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Matilda Lutz as Julia and Johnny Galecki as Gabriel in the film, RINGS by Paramount Pictures

So the plot, our main character, Julia, sees her boyfriend Holt, move to college. After losing touch with him after a couple of days, she decides to go to the college he attends to see what’s going down (instead of simply calling the college and finding out what has happened!). It is never explained why his mates are angry at her, but they are! For some reason. It’s here she discovers a morbid experiment that is being run on campus by one of the Science professors in secrecy, and Holt has been dragged into it. After Julia ends up watching the tape too, it’s a race against time to save herself before the 7 days are up!

For anyone who hasn’t watched the previous films, the only way to avoid your inevitable death, is to pass the curse on to someone else, by making a copy of the tape and making someone else view it, a selfish move, but one you make out of desperation. This concept plays a central role to the film, and while it’s a nice twist, it just feels abit rushed. We start off by seeing the Professor discovering the tape, and the next time we see him, not only has he converted the VHS to digital media, but he has uncovered the trick to getting past it, how exactly did he know this? We don’t know, it’s never explained!

The second half of the movie is incredibly dull & sluggish, as it becomes a mystery movie, we follow our couple to a town in the outskirts, as they dig up clues to unveil the truth. It’s here where the film just goes into 2nd gear and cruises along, the characters are just not charismatic enough for us to be bothered about their journey, and it’s a lot of talking, with random lazy jump scares thrown in every now and again.

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The switch to modern media has definitely hurt the franchise. There is just something incredibly eerie when it comes to VHS, with its static and poor audio & image quality; it simply gives off a far creepier vibe than a high def movie file on a laptop!  The CGI in this movie is another downer, it’s shockingly bad. It’s so overdone, that Samara loses her aura, and looks like a character from a PS3 game! When she first appears out of a plasma TV, it’s so poor, you will end up laughing at how this quality was deemed OK for a big Hollywood release!  The abundance of CGI across the entire movie looks cheesy, and ruins the atmosphere.

The characters are utterly forgettable, Julia goes from ‘you’re so stupid for getting involved in this mess’ to ‘risking her life for this guy’ in one night! We don’t even know how long they have been together! The boyfriend is entirely useless in the movie; Julia does all the work. He hardly contributes anything, and even in the final showdown, he gets knocked out and plays no part whatsoever!  Johnny Galecki aka Leonard from Big Bang Theory seems miscast as the devious professor, and you just can’t take him seriously!  Vincent D’Onofrio does what he does, and is probably the best character in the movie; at least he got some backstory to his role!

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Though it may not be intentional, the move does rip off a scene from Don’t Breathe, which reminds you off a far superior horror film! The plot is predictable, you know when there will be a jump scare, and the choice of music is a curious one. A good score can make a good film great, but here, the soundtrack is overdone. It feels more like a video game than a horror movie. The opening scene on the plane is pretty hilarious, which sets the tone for the film! It would have done better to have more scenes with Samara, and less time seeing our couple wonder around digging up clues.

One other flaw is the blatant sequel baiting at the end, the film could have ended without it, and to end it with a nod to more potential films is poor form, considering how disappointing this film is. The ending is also shown in the trailers, which was a strange decision. So if anyone watched the trailer, they would know what scene is yet to come, another damaging hit to the films credentials. The trailer is also misleading in how the film is portrayed. We don’t see her suffer through 7 days as the curse develops, instead, she seems fine as she goes carries on with her mystery adventure, with no idea how many days have passed.

Rings is by far one of the worst horror films to come out in recent years, even beating The Forest from last year! Even The Forest had an original concept to play with; Rings had some great source material to work with, which is what makes it so crushing to see the movie stumble around.

Split Shines

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan” is a phrase that’s been associated with several cinematic disasters. The less said about the likes of Avatar, The Happening, After Earth and The Lady in the Water have all been savaged by the critics & fans alike. A roll of dishonour! It wasn’t until The Visit (2015) that his slow climb back up to redemption started. Split is the latest release by the eccentric director, will this movie prove that Shyamalan has still got it, or if The Visit was just a one off?

Split, as the name suggests, is about Kevin (James McAvoy), a person with split personalities, 23 of them to be exact! Kevin abducts 3 girls, and it’s via his interactions with his therapist, that we come to find out the sinister workings of our conflicted figure.

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McAvoy is by far the strongest aspect of the film, and does an outstanding job in portraying his various alter egos. Obviously the movie doesn’t show all 23 egos in the film, but the ones that do get screen time are wonderfully unique in their own way. We have ‘Dennis’, the intimidating alpha male, ‘Ms Patricia’, the caring mother, ‘Hedwig’, the immature 9 year old boy & ‘Barry’, the colourful fashion designer. It’s not just the simple costume changes that convey each character, but the body language and mannerisms that McAvoy manages to assign each persona. It’s a great shame the film missed out on the Oscar nominations for this year.

The supporting cast is a mixed bag, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) our main protagonist, and the wisest of the three kidnapped girls, does a solid job as the calm, collected, yet emotionally scarred heroine. As her past is slowly revealed, you do feel for her, and care for her survival. Her other two friends though, feel disposable, and their lack of smarts pretty much makes them forgettable. Betty Buckley as Dr Fletcher makes a challenging foil to Kevin, it’s her interactions with our psychotic kidnapper that really opens up the clashes within his mind.

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The film is essentially told in 3 segments. Kevin, Dr Fletcher and the girls.  The scenes with Kevin & Dr Fletcher are the most intriguing, and provide the best parts of the movie. It’s the scenes featuring the trapped girls, where the film tends to fall into the horror cliches. It’s pretty predictable what will happen to them in their scenes, and slows the movie down a lot.

Split is by far the best movie that Shyamalan has released in well over a decade, after a string of disasters; it’s relieving to see a throwback to his earlier movies, such as Signs, Unbreakable & The 6th Sense, when his directing was more visionary than sporadic. Split builds up the suspense in is tremendous ways, and this is mostly due to the charisma of McAvoy, the plot does well to weave in the multiple personalities, but the ending is quite hit & miss. It’s not as dramatic as The 6th Sense, the finale is a lot more subtle. I can see viewers either loving the ending, or being disappointed by it. Long term fans of Shyamalan will be delighted by the cameo at the end, so stay seated after the final scenes!

January hasn’t been a stellar month for releases over here in the UK, and Split isn’t the perfect movie, but it is by far the best film to hit our shores at the start of this year!

Worst of 2016 : The Forest

With the year coming to a close, it’s an opportune time to take a look back at the best and worst of 2016!

Obviously there are several films that come out over the course of a year, and we can’t watch everything, but one film that I did watch, which left me horribly disappointed, was horror film, The Forest.

2016 has been a stellar year for the horror genre, films such as Lights Out, Don’t Breathe, The Conjuring 2 & Origin of Evil have bucked the trend in the cheap jump-scare filled flicks from years prior. Currently standing at 10% on Rotten Tomatoes, then film not only managed to be one of the worst horror films of the year, it’s one of the worst films of the year full stop!

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The story is based on the infamous Aokigahara Forest in Japan, more commonly known as the Suicide Forest, where twin sister (Jess) of our main protagonist, Sara, has gone missing. So Sara flies over from the States to Japan to find her missing sibling, who she refuses to believe is dead. Natalie Dormer plays the role of both twins here. The film does well initially, in setting up the journey into the forest, but once she sets foot inside, with the help of an American reporter (who isn’t suspicious at all!) & a local guide, the film starts to fall apart.

The film never gets around to explaining why there are ghosts in the forest, or any reasoning to why the suicide forest itself exists. Maybe there are spirits that lure venerable people to it? But nope, we get nothing. Instead we just get a story filled with plot holes. And a very lazy hallucination plot device, which is used a few times to cover shoddy storytelling! The missing sister also just happens to randomly appear in the final few moments of the film, as if to say, “don’t forget about me!”, with next to no explanation on what happened to her before the events of the film, apart from what we already knew.

The Forest could have been a lot more suspenseful, similar to The Grudge series, but we just got a bland story with cheap scares! Luckily we got more than enough excellent horrors out this year to make us forget about this!

“Don’t Breathe” Review

Directed by Fede Alvarez

Starring Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minette & Danielle Zovatto

2016 has been a excellent year for stellar horror films, Conjuring 2, Lights Out & Green Room have all helped revive a genre filled with cheap cash ins and cliches. ‘Don’t Breathe’ looks to add another fine feather to the cap with its home invasion flick.

Director Fede Alvarez is already known among horror fans for his savage ‘Evil Dead’ film from 2013. ‘Don’t Breathe’ is no where near as brutal, but it is one of the most suspenseful films of the year so far!

The film follows the misadventures of a young trio of friends (Levy, Minette, Zovatto) who rob the homes of the rich, but make the grave mistake of attempting to rob the home of a blind army veteran (Lang).

Jane Levy stars in Screen Gems' horror-thriller DON'T BREATHE.
Jane Levy stars in Screen Gems’ horror-thriller DON’T BREATHE.

You could split the film into 2 halves. The first half is truly amazing. After the break-in is botched, and one of the robbers is killed, the film takes on a predator like feel. As the survivors attempt to hide and escape from ‘The Blind Man’. He may be blind, but similar to ‘Daredevil’, he has honed his other senses, in such a way he is still a formidable foe! Stephen Lang does a wonderful job playing The Blind Man, his muscular physique simply adding to the danger of the rabid pursuer. The filming during the home invasion at some points is a cut above the rest. The long tracking shots, as the camera follows the protagonists around the house really cranks up the tension! The scene in the basement in the dark has to be one of the most intense scenes in any horror film!

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After a twist in the middle of the film, the movie takes on a slightly more over-dramatic tone, the Blind Man is still formidable, but the twist seemed like a cheap ploy to make the audience root against him, and the typical horror cliches start to pile up in the second half. The burglars are not exactly characters you feel sympathetic for. Sure one of them is doing this to help her sister have a better life, but at the same time, robbery doesn’t exactly get you points for sympathy! While one of the characters you simply can’t wait to die, as they are so irritating! After a riveting, on the edge opening half, the film does not maintain it’s drama over the entire course of  the run-time, and it does get rather predictable. This should not take away from the sheer excellence of the initial hunting phase of the film. Some may enjoy the twist reveal, some may not! It is certainly a film of two halves!

7/10, wonderful concept, slightly ruined by the over-dramatic second half

 

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