Category Archives: 4/5

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

featured image from https://pics.filmaffinity.com/the_lodge-962048778-large.jpg

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

featured image from https://www.tvqc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/ELAUTOR_CARTEL_800x1143_web.jpg

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

featured image from http://pics.filmaffinity.com/El_desconocido-444971289-large.jpg

Netflix Film Reviews “Eye for an Eye” a.k.a. “Quien a Hierro Mata” (2019) #NetflixReviews

if you can suspend your disbelief … enjoy the ride

Mario (Luis Tosar), a nurse in an old folks’ home, and Antonio Padin (Xan Cejudo), a legendary drug lord now residing there, make an unlikely double act. But when they meet, they just seem to hit it off, almost as if they have a bond which runs deeper. Certainly, they’re bonded by suffering.

Mario looks forward to a bright new life with his heavily pregnant wife Julia (Maria Vazquez) whilst trying to push away demons from his past which just won’t lie. Meanwhile, our feared drug lord Antonio has interred himself in an old folks’ home and is just waiting the inevitable while his two sons, Kiko (Enric Auquer) and Tono (Ismael Martinez), busily ruin his empire.

Eye for an Eye a.k.a. Quien a Hierro Mata (‘Who Kills Iron’) is a story of pain and revenge, it has some truly shocking moments. For the most part, a believable film, but my only issue is that the entire second half hangs on a very James Bond Villain’s Speech which one character gives to another; without this speech, the film doesn’t crank up a gear, yet it was totally unbelievable that this particular character should launch into that monologue. But if you can suspend your disbelief, then you can enjoy the ride.

A great character study set against the background of a drugs deal gone awry.

4/5

© 2020-2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://pics.filmaffinity.com/quien_a_hierro_mata-621396350-large.jpg

Film Review: “I See You” (2019) #NetflixReviews

Horror now has a new iconic image to add to its scripture

The Harpers are struggling to deal with a recent tragedy in their family when a mysterious and evil presence begins to torment them within the sanctum of their already fractured home. A recent spate of child kidnappings adds further pressure on pater familias and local detective Greg Harper (Jon Tenney). Can Greg and his wife Jackie (Helen Hunt) and teenage son Connor (Judah Lewis) hold it together? And what is the evil force which has begun to terrorise them?

I See You is a crime-horror-thriller that thoroughly involves you in its mythology from the start. It’s also an interestingly structured and plotted film without being overwrought in the least. Split quite neatly into two halves, the second offers us a completely different perspective on the story thus far and develops the plot in unforeseen ways. Yet despite the unexpected twists, I See You is never a shlocky twistomatron, throwing up mindbending twists for the Hell of it. Quite the opposite: everything moves and develops in a completely believable way. Indeed, at the half way point where we begin to see the story from a different angle, so to speak, I felt momentarily deflated that the “reveal” was so soon. Yet this half-way point reveal was only the beginning of what was a wonderful ride indeed.

The music and sound design was thoroughly disturbing from the very beginning. It combined with the cinematography to unsettle and rivet us simultaneous. Never a boring moment. I kept waiting for the film to careen off the tracks as so many of this kind do in the second or third act. But it never happened. The writing was first rate and all the actors convinced. But the cherry on the cake? Horror now has a new iconic image to add to its scripture (see the poster above). This movie has all the traits I associate with a franchise-spawning beast, and I foretell a slew of much worse sequels coming from this bad boy.

You may have noticed that I haven’t said too much about the plot details-wise. Well frankly, I don’t want to ruin it for you. Just watch this movie. Highly satisfying in every way.

4/5

© 2020-2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://cdn.traileraddict.com/content/saban-films/i-see-you-2019-poster.jpg

Netflix Film Review “Don’t Listen” a.k.a. “Voces” (2020) #NetflixReviews

a very standard movie … [but] never felt staid or boring.

Daniel (Rodolfo Sancho) and Sara (Belén Fabra) lead an itinerant life: they buy houses, do them up, sell them off, and then move on to the next project, but in the meantime they live in their worksite. This has caused their son Eric (Lucas Blas) some emotional problems as he can never embed himself properly into the local community — until the most recent community, that is, which Eric has been traumatically ripped from. So when Eric begins to hear voices, his psychologist thinks to look no further, but the source of the voices is far more disturbing.

Don’t Listen a.k.a. Voces (‘Voices’) is, in a way, a very standard movie of its kind. Old and possibly haunted house, evil presence, kid picks up on it first, bad stuff starts to happen, the terrorised family turns to an “expert” in pseudology or whatever, final showdown, etc. However, Don’t Listen never felt staid or boring. The presence is genuinely disturbing, the signs of a person affected by the presence are also disturbing and believable — and this is sold wonderfully by first victim (played by Beatriz Arjona).

The twists and developments never feel forced. The reactions of the characters are believable. Just when you fear the film may fall apart by Hollywoodising in the final act, the movie triumphantly soars.

A great mystery horror.

4/5

© 2020-2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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