Review / Hush ★★★★☆

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Blumhouse have an excellent track record when it comes to producing low budget horror, if anything, a lower budget gives a horror a far more visceral feel.  Hush, on Netflix is another such example. With a relatively speaking, tiny budget of $1m, they have still managed to produce a compact, tense, vulnerable home invasion slasher.

The spin here is that our protagonist, Maddie, is a deaf author, living out in the woods, away from the hustle of the city. One night, she unfortunately lands in the path of a serial killer. Once our killer figures out that she is hard of hearing, he decides he will have a bit of sinister fun, and drag out the events, rather than simply committing the ordeal. Isolated in the wood, on her own, as a deranged murderer is stalking her outside,  and to top it all off, without the sense of hearing, it’s down to Maddie to find a route of escape from this nightmare.

The home invasion genre does produce plenty of engrossing films, The Purge, Don’t Breathe & Panic Room are all great examples, though you also have busts like the awful Breaking In, from earlier this year. Hush lands on the good side of that mark, using the lack of hearing gives the film a different edge from your usual break in thrillers. This allows the movie to set up some truly suspenseful moments, as our killer taunts Maddie.

At a run time of just 80 minutes, things are kept very concise, we never really know who or why our stalker is picking off his targets. But sometimes, it’s better to keep things simple, it’s just a crazed guy, picking of victims who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. No need to add in a backstory if it’ll just add unnecessary layers.

The film does have two distinct flavors. The first half of the film, is an eerie horror, as our silent stalker tracks down our deaf target. Which sets up some great set pieces for the audience. Once the two eventually confront each other, it switches up to a thriller, as the two attempt to gain the upper hand in this deadly duel. I would have preferred if the tense horror vibes of the first half were stretched out a bit longer, the film would have been far more captivating. But that being said, the action capers once they start attempting to take each other out, is also done rather well.

There really isn’t too much to say in terms of true negatives, the short run time doesn’t really leave much time to fill out the plot, and we don’t get too much regarding why it’s happening. Why was she chosen? Was it just bad luck, is he picking certain targets? And the action at the finale does get a little too dramatic, but with a low budget movie, you adjust the expectations accordingly. If you browsing Netflix and just want a quick film to watch, Hush is definitely worth a view!

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The Foreigner Does Enough

Jackie Chan is not usually seen in a serious tone in his movies over here in the West. Although he may be great as a comedic actor, he is also well known for his more dramatic roles back in the East. So fans were intrigued to see that the latest Chan movie to be released here, was a shift away from the norm here, and places him in a far more melancholic surrounding.

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The Foreigner directed by Martin Campbell, is a fairly typical revenge thriller. Quan (Chan) is a worker, living a simple life in London, but following an IRA terrorist bombing, he loses his teenage daughter (Katie Lueng). Using all his military expertise from days gone past, he sets out on a relentless pursuit for answers, and to find the people responsible. This leads him to the doorstep of the deputy minister for Northern Ireland, Liam Hennessy (Brosnan).

Taken, this isn’t, but The Foreigner is still an enjoyable movie to sit down and watch. It’s far more interesting to see Chan as the broken down father figure, rather than what he  is usually type cast as, and all his scenes carry great intensity. There are several action scenes that make use of Chan, but they are not as vibrant as they usually are, it’s far more visceral and calculated. Brosnan is excellent as the charming deputy minister, bringing a strong gravitas to a film that really isn’t flooded with big names. His witty exchanges with his fellow cabinet members and staff still exude that 007 aura he had, even down to getting his hands messy if needs must.  The cat & mouse interactions between Quan & Hennessy are by far the most fascinating parts of the movie, though Hennessy insists he was not involved, Quan is adamant he must have known something, considering his powerful political position.

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Where the film struggles is the overall story arc, the entire IRA subplot really does slow down the movie, and it gets drowned in a lot of dialogue and conversations.  The plot attempts to be far more intricate and layered than it really should have been. Any scene which does not involve Chan or Brosnan really feels like a drag.  The whole affair plot line has a resolution, but even then, it feels like it could have been written in a much more captivating manner.  Also, there could have been more scenes with Chan, as that really is the film’s strongest points.  Seeing Chan take out elite soldiers in the woods is far more interesting than political power plays. Quan is almost a secondary character compared to Hennessy. As good as Hennessy is, most people would be tuning into this for Chan, and they really didn’t make the most of that factor.

Overall, the movie does seem to drown itself with its plot at times, but the star power of Chan and the charm of Brosnan has enough to make The Foreigner worth a watch.

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! 

 

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