Category Archives: 4/5

Netflix Film Reviews “Lost Girls” (2020) #150WordReview #NetflixReview

will surely haunt you

Lost Girls is based on the disturbing true case of the Long Island Serial Killer, where upwards of 16 young ladies, all sex workers, were murdered and buried in a field behind a gated community. The killer has yet to be identified. The film focuses on the story of Shannan Gilbert whose disappearance and subsequent police search led to the gruesome discovery of this string of dead bodies.

Nobody wanted to listen, but Shannon’s mother, Mari (Amy Ryan), was tenacious and made it happen. Deeply flawed individuals. Amazing acting even from those with very few lines. The casting was fantastic.

The obligatory credits sequence where we see the real people involved was particularly grisly and gruesome, especially when the fate of the surviving members of the family is revealed.

I don’t want to overegg this sell. Just watch the film. Fans of crime, thriller, documentary, and true stories will all love this deeply disturbing tale that will surely haunt you weeks later.

4/5

© 2020, 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “Below Zero” a.k.a. “Bajocero” (2021) #NetflixReview #100WordReview

[we’re] parts of an essentially uncaring machine.

Prison Officer Martin (Javier Gutierrez) is driving across country to deliver a batch of prisoners to another facility when, suddenly, him and his partner Montesinos (Isak Ferriz) find themselves under attack by an unknown assailant (Karra Elejalde). Face almost certain death by leaving their armoured vehicle, or remain locked inside as the inmates threaten to riot?

Below Zero is an action-packed crime story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The ending, particularly the last moment where we see Martin look at his locker, brings home how everyone involved — officers and prisoners — are just parts of an essentially uncaring machine.

4/5

© 2021-2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Review “The Guilty” (2021) #200WordReview #TheGuilty #NetflixReview

you’ll need to follow this movie up with something suitably light, such as four straight hours of back-to-back Blue’s Clues and You, just to take the edge off it.

Jake Gyllenhaal is a burnt-out cop, Joe Baylor, who’s been demoted to the 911 call centre pending an investigation into his alleged misconduct. Between abusive callers, crank callers, and non-emergency timewasting callers, Joe’s car wreck of a life — oh yeah, his wife’s left him and taken the kid, too — finds temporary sharp focus when a kidnapped woman calls without the knowledge of her abductor. Joe throws himself into a race against time to find and save this woman before it’s too late.

The Guilty is a truly breathtaking thrill ride. A kind of Donnie Darko does ‘The Call’ (review here), The Guilty is a film of disturbing twists and turns both within Joe’s fractured mind and out there in the real world. We are taken on a journey through the morally ambiguous nature of all people without losing clear sight of objective morality, all in a non-preachy way.

This is somewhat dark film that may be a bit of a downer for some. Certainly, you’ll need to follow it up with something suitably light, such as four straight hours of back-to-back of Blue’s Clues and You, just to take the edge off it. But art, like life, ain’t always pretty.

4/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “Haunt” (2019) #NetflixReview #Haunt

you are in for a treat

A group of friends out on Hallowe’en stumble upon an “extreme” haunted house which promises a real life nightmare. However, it soon becomes apparent that something is very wrong in this haunted house, this is one nightmare they won’t wake up from.

A kind of Halloween-cum-Saw-cum-Escape Room, this movie is in no way derivative or exploitative. It’s thrilling, disturbing and tense. I have to say, I haven’t enjoyed a horror this much for a while. From co-writer-director duo Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the minds behind the wonderful A Quiet Place, you are in for a treat.

This kind of movie usually ends with a stapled-on plot twist which “explains” the motivations of the baddies, even though this ending never follows on logically from the movie itself. Ya know the kind of ending: “It turns out the baddie done it because (s)he’s mad with grief after his son killed himself with drugs as a result of depression caused by failing a single physics class paper set by his teacher — the mother of the protagonist!” On one hand, it was a relief not to have to deal with this kind of movie-ruining ending; on the other hand, the total lack of rhyme and reason for how, why, when the baddie did all of this stops the movie being five stars. There just is no reason or sense to why the baddies do what they do, how they were able to set up their elaborate trap, where our baddies came from, and why nobody have rumbled them before.

Having said that, a wonderful movie!

4/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “The Lodge” (2019) #NetflixReview #TheLodge

Everything is believable, which is itself quite incredible … phenomenal writing, acting, set design, and direction

At a remote cabin in the woods, two mourning children and their soon-to-be step mum get snowed in together and cut off from the rest of the world. But as their frosty relationship starts to thaw, strange events begin to imperil our not-quite-family as their cabin reaches the boiling point of a fever dream.*

The Lodge features standard horror tropes. Cabin in the woods, weird stuff happens. A step-mum who is awkwardly replacing a mother who recently died in traumatic circumstances. A dad who inextricably takes off. But this film is far from standard.

This feature takes things in an interesting direction. The viewer starts to lose all sense of up and down. A kind-of twist near the end really up-ends us, and the ending itself, although open to interpretation, is surely bleak.

Child abuse and the trauma it leaves, the fragility of the human mind, the reality of growing up in a cult, and trying to start a new life. This movie deals with a lot of stuff. But it doesn’t feel overloaded. It’s a real slowburn, and it builds surely, steadily, and frightening to its climax. Everything is believable, which is itself quite incredible given the extreme actions of our three leads late on in the film. That I was completely sold is testament to the phenomenal writing, acting, set design, and direction.

Not an uplifting movie at all, but a wonderful one.

4/5

*Did you enjoy the pretentious extended metaphor?

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “The Block Island Sound” (2020) #NetflixReview #TheBlockIslandSound

Tom ain’t alright

On a small, isolated island, deadbeat Harry (Chris Sheffield) still lives with his self-professed only friend — his Dad, Tom (Neville Archambault). But Tom ain’t alright; he’s starting to display bizarre behaviour, such as blackouts, catatonia, and sleepwalking where he terrifyingly finds himself repeatedly on his boat in the middle of the sea, apparently drawn there by a malevolent force. What’s happening to Tom? And does it have anything to do with the dead animals that keep washing up on Block Island or the new windfarms? Harry needs to find out before Tom does something to harm himself — or his family.

The Block Island Sound is a disturbing slowburn that keeps you riveted; what is the mysterious source of Tom and the island’s malaise, and can it be reasoned with? And just how much of a threat does it pose to Tom and his family? The evil presence, if it’s even real, is reminiscent of works like The Tommyknockers and Honeymoon (long review, short review).

The Block Island Sound is a solid movie with great acting. Unlike other similarly mysterious films, BIS has a very clear, almost spoonfed conclusion which kind of turns the whole film on its head. I’m not sure whether it qualifies as a “twist”, rather it just gives a different viewpoint, a new set of glasses through which to view the film. This ending, combined with the frankly horrifying nightly appearances to Harry of Tom, and the magnificent sound design, push this film from being a solid and memorable movie into being something a little extra, a little special.

4/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “Apostle” (2018) #NetflixReview #150WordReview

Part Meet the Amish, part The Village, part penal colony

Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens) goes undercover on a dangerous mission to the isolated island of Erisden where his sister is being held hostage by a wild religious cult. The task is not easy; the island’s magnetic leader Malcolm (Michael Sheen) is becoming increasingly paranoid, and the island is ruled by a kind of religious police who control people’s actions and movements.

Apostle is an original film. It portrays the cult-village believably. Part Meet the Amish, part The Village, part penal colony in 1905, the egos of the main characters are believably presented. The cult itself is increasingly bizarre and it turns out there may be truth to the mysterious preachings of their prophet Malcolm. None-the-less, the supernatural aspects of the film are secondary to the psychology.

Good performances from all. A believable cult, a convincing community, a bizarre but original supernatural secret at the heart of the island, Apostle is a really good film. However, the full-on gore and body horror aspect might be too much for those expecting a period drama.

Writer-Director Gareth Evans reminds of a Welsh Neil Marshall, a rising star to watch, for sure.

4/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Film Review “Get Out” (2017) #NetflixReview @GetOutMovie #GetOutMovie @JordanPeele

a refreshing mix of familiar ingredients in a new form, the hallmark of much groundbreaking work

Jordan Peele’s feature debut as writer-director, Get Out, is the story of young African-American Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his Caucasian Apple Pie American girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). They take a road trip to meet Rose’s posh WASP family for the first time. Chris is nervous, but Rose reassures him: “They woulda voted for Obama a third time if they could!”. Her family greets him with warm and open arms. But something’s amiss, and Chris just can’t put his finger on it. But as the hours and days go by, Chris begins to realise something is very wrong with the Armitages.

Get Out is a wonderful and surprising horror-mystery-thriller which keeps you guessing until near the end. It’s quite different: a refreshing mix of familiar ingredients in a new form, the hallmark of much groundbreaking work.

It’s thrilling and mysterious, and at times surreal and funny. I thought this worked well, but surrealism and comedy might be a discordant turn-off for some viewers.

Peele says it’s a “social horror”. And it’s certain that it’s on the back of this antiracist message that the film picked up four Oscar noms and one win. Indeed, the point he makes — that white liberals can have a racism every bit as dangerous if not more so than hillbillies can — is important and not often made in cinema. Sad,ly the message was undercut by the thoroughly surreal nature of proceedings; surrealism is a key part to making satire effective, but I feel things stretched too far in this picture. Frankly, this film is best viewed as a horror-mystery-thriller and not as some sort of satirical social commentary (although your Guardian-reading friends surely sold it to you as such).

The final twist seemed a step too far into absurdity to make its social satirical points. But worse, it isn’t quite consistent with what comes before. Although fair play to writer-director Jordan Peele: the ending wasn’t merely tacked on as so often is the case with the shock twist, but was clearly the direction we were headed in all along, with hindsight. Nonetheless, it doesn’t really work. And the biggest twist is revealed through something unbelievable (a scheming character just leaving something incriminating lying about).

Original, refreshing, thrilling, albeit with an ending that doesn’t quite work. Just don’t watch it as a serious take-down of racism.

4/5

© 2020-2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “The Motive” a.k.a. “El Autor” (2017) #150WordReview #NetflixReviews

Beautifully portrayed by sociopath-on-demand Javier Gutiérrez

Álvaro (Javier Gutiérrez) is a worn-out notary who harbours dreams of becoming a successful writer of high literature and is thoroughly tired of people constantly going on about his successful wife Amanda’s (María Leon) latest novel. “Writing about what you know” doesn’t yield great results when you’re a boring clerk, so Alvaro decides to cause conflict in his own life and the life of those around him in the hope that this will bring better results.

The Motive a.k.a. El Autor (‘The Author’) is a slow-moving, delicate yet thrilling character study. Beautifully portrayed by sociopath-on-demand Javier Gutiérrez (see The Occupant), we can see the cogs turning in Álvaro’s brain by the slightest pause or flicker of the eyes. Gutiérrez brings everything to this highly believable portrayal.

The script, based on Javier Cercas’ 1987 novella, is highly believable. But despite its strengths, this film will not to be everyone’s tastes. There isn’t a lot of “action”, but there is a lot of scheming. Nonetheless, a fantastic movie.

4/5

© 2020-2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “Retribution” a.k.a. ‘El Desconocido’ (2015) #100WordReview #NetflixReview

a 102 minute long white knuckle ride

When Carlos (Luis Tosar) decides to take his kids to school one morning, he imagines that the breakfast time argument with his wife Marta (Goya Toledo) is the worst thing that would happen to him. Little does he know that his car is rigged to a bomb which will explode when they leave the car. But who is this mystery stranger responsible, and what does he want?

Retribution a.k.a. El Desconocido (‘The Stranger’) is a 102 minute long white knuckle ride, a crime-action-thriller so tense that I found myself agitatedly yelling at the screen. Believable, and with good performances from our leads including the stranger (Javier Gutiérrez).

Taut.

4/5

© 2020-2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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