Like much Argentine cinema … a great idea … but ultimately an unsatisfying mess
Strange events and a murdered wife brings a motley collection of investigators — a cop, a doctor, and a paranormalogist — to this Buenos Aires neighbourhood to investigate. Will they get to the bottom of the case and stop this evil from spreading?
Terrified a.k.a. Aterrados is a disturbing horror film. It never allows you to get your bearings. And asides from a dodgy bit of special effects early on, the film is darkly creepy with a disturbing evil presence.
Unfortunately, the film’s apparently deliberate decision to have no character-based central narrative thrust or fixed protagonist makes it hard to get into and stay with this movie. The effect is that a bunch of weird and disturbing stuff is happening, but without any reason focus or point. It’s frankly hard to care about what happens.
Like much Argentine cinema, there is a great idea here, and some wonderful acting, direction, and film design, but a film that none-the-less is ultimately an unsatisfying mess that goes nowhere. No matter how good these other things are, if the central narrative doesn’t work, it’s game over for the film. Sadly.
Five friends decide to celebrate a stag do in an alternative style: with a manly cross-country hike in the deepest darkest woods. Uh-oh. They inevitably end up getting stalked by a lone marksman who terrorises them.
The whole point of Prey is to see how pressure exposes unseen cracks in the fellowship causing our team to battle against each other and themselves as their friendship threatens to self-destruct. Can they keep it together, will they destroy themselves? Sadly. this descent doesn’t work at all, as it was impossible to understand why these friends were friends to begin with; they hated each other from the get-go. So it’s all rather undramatic and boring.
As for the marksman, the film’s pathetic attempts to explain their actions makes no real sense whatsoever. Indeed, there’s no real motivation for anyone’s actions, including the decision to go on a hike instead of a booze-up. It wants to be a German Ritual (2017), but it’s really not.
A nerve-shredding slowburn with atmosphere in buckets … [that] sadly goes nowhere.
An evil begins to plague barman Will (Armie Hammer) after he picks up a mobile phone left behind by people on a night out.
The second picture from writer-director Babak Anvari, all fans of his debut Under the Shadow[short review] will know what to expect: a nerve-shredding slowburn with atmosphere in buckets. The sound design played a big part in the terror (just like in his debut feature). The performances from our leads Arnie Hammer and his on-screen wife Carrie (Dakota Johnson) are highly believable. I felt sucked into the world of this increasingly burnt out down-and-outer as his life spirals to the gutter.
And if you are a fan of Under the Shadow [long review] you will know what else to expect: a film that collapses after Act One. Just as Under the Shadow was all set-up, never really delivering on its promise, Wounds also gives us a lot of hope for an immense film, but just goes nowhere. Despite being involved in the world in front of me, I realised we were forty-five minutes in and we were still at the set-up, five minute mark in a normal film. Worse than this overly long set up, there is no properly developed Act Two, no finale, and the film just goes nowhere. Nothing is tied up nor made to make sense. For example, Carrie is increasingly being affected by the evil, mesmerised by a truly disturbing portal, but that plot thread sadly goes nowhere; how can that be?? Some hail this type of thing this as ‘open-ended and subtle’, but it really isn’t. It’s the sign of a filmmaker self-indulgently (although understandably) revelling in the world he’s created instead of doing something with the world he’s created.
Anvari is clearly a talented filmmaker with a unique and disturbing vision. However, I strongly suggest he not take screenwriting duties for the next movie. Sure, we all want to be singer-songwriter, but some folks just aren’t cut out for it (see: David Gilmore). Likewise, Anvari should get a writer on board who can fulfil his undoubtedly powerful and frightening vision. I look forward to experiencing that picture.
Strong on atmosphere, light on plot, vacant of ending.
A nurse struggling to overcome a recent tragedy starts work at a rundown hospital where an evil presence menace the young wards under her charge.
Fragile features a measured and convincing performance from Calista Flockhart. Sadly, her co-stars don’t quite convince, especially Elena Anaya (nurse Helen) and mandatory mental kid Maggie, Yasmin Murphy.
The story was fairly generic, but none-the-less decently constructed. It’s just that this is something we’ve seen many times before. None-the-less, the “abandoned” part of the hospital has a believably thick and creepy atmosphere, highly believable, and this kept us watching (more-or-less).
Not bad stuff at all, but subpar and fairly forgettable. Better execution from all players and the special effects department is what Flockhart deserved for her performance.
See Happiness (1998) for what writer-director Oren Uziel was trying (and failing) to achieve.
Shimmer Lake tells the story of a bank robbery gone wrong, in reverse order. An interesting concept for this mystery crime drama / black comedy which focuses on the petty small town characters and their pathetic lives.
Sadly, the comedy and mystery crime were discordant, and very few jokes made me laugh. See Happiness (1998) for what writer-director Oren Uziel was trying (and failing) to achieve.
The biggest flaw, however, was that from the get-go we don’t care about the characters or follow the plot or even want to follow what is, on paper, an alright story. There was no way in to empathise or connect at the beginning of the film, merely a mess of stuff. Even the concept falls apart; the movie thinks it’s Memento or Pulp Fiction, but it really isn’t. The smug wink from one of the characters at the end was a bum note of smuggery. If told in the right chronological order, our response to this film would be, “okay, so…?”
Miles (Jackson Robert Scott) was different from the day he was born, a genius far ahead of his peers. But when he starts to exhibit a sudden and disturbing change in behaviour, his parents become concerned that there might be darker forces at work.
Prodigy is a fairly standard example of the weird kid horror genre. John and Sarah Blume (Peter Mooney and Taylor Schilling) always wanted a child. Finally, and with great effort, they get him. But he’s a troubled child who starts to go off the rails. What force is behind this horrible transformation? Luckily, an expert is on hand with a kooky theory — that the Mum initially dismisses out of hand, but then comes to see is real. Nothing much is added to this rather staid formula bar some reasonable acting, including from young Scott who previously appeared in Stephen King’s It, and a few very scary moments.
Nothing you haven’t seen before, Prodigy is a well-made movie which only doesn’t score a three due to its general unoriginality.
Samantha (Brooke Newton) has no family whatsoever apart from her mother who was herself adopted. So when her mum suddenly dies, pregnant Samantha’s world is plunged into chaos only to be saved by the unexpected arrival of her grandmother (soap stalwart Robin Riker) who is looking to make up for lost time. But does Granny have ulterior motives?
Lineage of Lies, also colourfully known as Psycho Granny, is classic network TV movie stuff. Low budget, over-acted, melodramatic, massive spoiler in both titles, and with things that make no sense. For example, how is our psycho granny able to lug 200lb dead bodies about, in public, without being seen or putting a hair out of place? Why does she only look just old enough to be Samantha’s mum, let alone grandmother? Why does someone who is self-evidently so brilliant at deception make the most rudimentary and careless errors, such as leaving dead people’s mobiles lying around for our protagonist Samantha to find? We also had plot dead-ends: why don’t the people from her past deceptions, who we are introduced to, catch up with or threaten her or her schemes in some way?
Having said all that, I loved it. This is typical student / unemployed / housewife / hungover / late night / corona furlough guilty-pleasure viewing. As for the plot, we know from the outset what Granny’s game is, and the fun is in seeing how she goes about bringing her plan to fruition. What I particularly liked about the film is that granny is after emotional not financial enrichment. Very human.
There’s no way this film can be considered “good”, but it’s enjoyable nonsense, none-the-less.
Does she have a crushing Faberge Egg habit to support that only a senior manager’s salary could enable? No.
Things couldn’t be better for Derek (Idris Elba). He’s got a beautiful, adoring wife Sharon (Beyoncé), a healthy, happy toddler, and has just received a massive promotion which has sent him stratospheric. However, his world comes under threat when femme fatale temp Lisa (Ali Larter) goes a-hunting in her new office and decides to put Derek between the crosshairs.
Obsessed is a very standard psycho-stalker thriller. It draws obvious comparisons with Fatal Attraction (1987). But where Fatal Attraction would still have been daring and bold in 2009, Obsessed would have been staid and trite for 1987. Obsessed was not only paint-by-number, it was rather restrained: Derek never allows temptation to spiral his life out of control. But that itself could have been an interesting angle. Elba, Beyoncé, and Larter all give convincing, characterful performances. Sadly for Larter, the script makes no attempt whatsoever to explain Lisa’s obsession nor her crazy behaviour. Not a hint. Nothing. She’s clearly attracted to him, he is friendly but doesn’t lead her on, she randomly tries to bang him in the toilet. And she doesn’t let up. The lack of any kind of motivation is bizarre. Did Derek lead her on? No. Was she bullied by Sharon at school and now wants to ruin her life? No. Does she have a crushing Faberge Egg habit to support that only a senior manager’s salary could enable? No.
Larter and co make the best of finding a throughline. And I must say that the final show-down was genuinely exciting and enjoyable. Sadly, the script is the big problem with this film, and that is a big problem with a film, indeed.
See the review for the first film in the trilogy here
seemed like an overlong episode of any … TV police show.
The Legacy of the Bones is the second in the Baztan trilogy based on the successful book series by Delores Redondo. This instalment sees our lead, Inspector Amaia Salazar (Marta Etura), return to her childhood home and try to solve a case that, once again, is inextricably linked to her own past. The evil seems intent on coming for her and her family.
The second film of a trilogy often sags. The reason is that it doesn’t really have a beginning or an end, it merely serves as a bridge for the first and last parts. However, the Baztan trilogy is more a serial than a series, each episode’s story connected to previous ones but a fresh story. Sorry, did I say “episode”? Whereas the first film, The Invisible Guardian, felt filmic in a good way, this seemed like an overlong episode of any good TV police show. Is that a bad thing? No. But it wasn’t a movie. The plot wasn’t substantial enough. I felt like I was watching a TV series. Which brings me back to the point: this trilogy is a serial of three separate stories, so the sag is not really understandable.
Good performances all round, great photography, good costume design, and the plot was well-rendered, although the lurch deeper into hocus pocus was silly. It’s hard to see how this is a movie. A big step down from the first film.
imagine a Scary Movie where the wonderful Anna Faris and Regina Hall actually thought they were giving solid dramatic turns.
A baby-sitter finds herself trapped in a house playing cat and mouse with a masked serial killer. Sound familiar? A Stranger Outside is standard ’90s Scream-style shlock, albeit without the self-awareness. But it wins points for some interesting plot ideas. For example, the baby-sitter is really a nurse who has taken the gig as a way of getting some easy cash after suffering a career and confidence crisis due to the death of a vulnerable child in her care.
The first half of the movie was trite, and the acting was a little over-the-top, although our lead Brittany Underwood was giving a decent turn. The less said of the performances by her co-stars Mark Grossman (boyfriend Jeremy), Michael Chandler (incompetent Dr Mixer), Jet Jurgensmeyer (baby-sittee Toby), or best friend Kaci (Shanica “No Relation” Knowles), the better. Things really fall apart in comedy style when the killer starts a-killing. The Scary Movie-like knife thrusts, slicing through pieces of paper, cowering beside counters, and hysterical screaming were beyond absurd; imagine a Scary Movie where the wonderful Anna Faris and Regina Hall actually thought they were giving solid dramatic turns.
This film is also oddly disjointed. The first half, a 90s throwback cliché, albeit mildly entertaining. The second half, a spoof movie not realising it’s a spoof movie. Indescribably awful, but in its awfulness, thoroughly enjoyable nonsense. A jumble of decent scenes and terrible scenes, passable acting and insanely awful acting, make for a diverting 90 minutes.