Tag Archives: horror

Netflix Film Review “Devil” (2010) #NetflixReviews @MNIGHTSHYAMALAN

When the Devil’s near … Toast falls jelly-side down

Devil is a murder-mystery concept piece set mainly in the confines of a lift. Five strangers enter said lift together only to get stuck between floors. Bad enough, you might think. But when one of the five is murdered during a momentary blackout, all Hell breaks loose. Meanwhile outside, our intrepid damaged-goods Policeman tries to solve the unfolding lift-based mystery whilst keeping his shit together.

Devil could have made a good episode of The Twilight Zone (albeit, without the scenes outside the lift). As it was, Devil made for a tense and entertaining horror-mystery. Coming from the mind of M. Knight Shyamalan, there is of course a twist ending, which is reasonably effective, although not totally unforeseeable. And being an M. Knight movie, we can play some Shyamalan Bingo™:

  • there was some flabby and ridiculous dialogue (“When he’s [the Devil] near, everything goes wrong. Toast falls jelly-side down, children hit tables, and people get hurt.”),
  • a somewhat awkwardly shoehorned religious aspect (handled clumsily with the gibbering Mexican Catholic expositor),
  • cheesiness (the awkward mattress salesman and his banter),
  • and a damaged protagonist suffering from a traumatic loss.

Despite this, the story was lean and tightly plotted. The characters were fairly believable. The performances were all decent. The movie had a kind of Eli Roth vibe to it, which is good or bad depending on your viewpoint, and a TV serial feel. Perhaps the film benefited from M. Knight sharing the writing duties.

Very enjoyable, albeit not Oscar-worthy. A middling Shyamalan movie: no Sixth Sense, but thankfully no The Happening, either.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://horrorcultfilms.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/devil-1.jpg

Netflix Film Review “Bird Box” (2018)

read the 150 word review here

… Sandra Bullock rowing her children up a certain creek …

Bird Box is a The Happening (2008) and A Quiet Place (2018) mash-up where an evil presence blown on the wind is causing people to kill themselves (or, in the rare case, become homicidal maniacs).

Five years after an unseen and malevolent presence caused the majority of the world’s people to mysteriously commit suicide or else turn into blood-thirsty maniacs, mother Malorie (Sandra Bullock) is desperately trying to navigate a safe path through this post-apocalyptic landscape to a fabled safe haven for her two young children. The evil force manifests itself as a shimmer and a rustling breeze which seems to instantly infect people who gaze towards it. Therefore, the only way to avoid being infected is to stay indoors, or only go outside with your eyes covered at all times.

We join the story with Sandra Bullock rowing her children up a certain creek, and it might as well be without a paddle as they’re all blindfolded, to a fabled haven. The film is two narratives at the same time, cutting between her river-based journey and recanting the tale of how she got to be on this perilous solo mission cut

For years I wondered to myself how M. Knight Shyamalan could have got it so woefully wrong with his The Happening, based as it is on the absurd concept that nature is out to get revenge on mankind by infecting us with suicide blown on the breeze(!), but Bird Box‘s set-up and premise is what The Happening could potentially have been. We don’t know the source of this evil presence, nor are the details made clear. Why do some people merely become homicidal lunatics whereas the majority immediately kill themselves? Why can the evil force not enter into buildings? But these questions do not matter as the technicalities of this blight are not the focus of the story; rather, the human drama is. And the film excels. Man versus himself, man versus man, man versus time, all three classic dramas are well-played to maximum tension.

At times, The Road-style post-apocalyptic road trip (well, river trip), at times an alternative reality good version of The Happening, at times “the enemy within” dramatic plot thread of 28 Days Later, this film delivers a tense and thrilling horror ride. The cast are all wonderful in their roles. However, this film surely deserves an award for the most bizarrely random cast of all time: Sandra Bullock, John Malkovich, rapper Machine Gun Kelly (or should I say, ex-rapper, RIP, after Eminem (metaphorically) killed him in their 2018 diss battle), British comic actor from The Thick Of It Tom Hollander, jovial comedian Lil Rel Howery, and Bend It Like Beckham‘s Parminder Nagra. But despite this motley collection of all sorts, the casting never jarred: there was no Ed-Sheeran-in-Game-Of-Thrones-WTF moment. I was particularly impressed with Machine Gun Kelly’s supporting turn.

Scary, emotionally terrifying, thrilling, the blight feels real even though the full details are never spelt out. A wonderful movie, what M. Knight’s The Happening could have been.

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://cdn.images.express.co.uk/img/dynamic/36/750×445/1058045.jpg

 

Netflix Film Review “Bird Box” (2018) #150WordReview

read the long review here

Bullock … paddles her two young children up a certain creek …

Take 2008’s The Happening and 2018’s A Quiet Place, pop them in a blender with a pinch of Oscar (Sandra Bullock, John Malkovich) and a dash of randomness (British comic actor Tom Hollander, rapper Machine Gun Kelly, Bend It Like Beckham‘s Parminder Nagra), and voilà! An evil presence blown on the wind is causing people to kill themselves or each other (The Happening) when they look towards it (swapping A Quiet Place‘s sound for sight).

We follow Bullock as she paddles her two young children up a certain creek to an alleged haven. The film interweaves with the tale of how she came to be on this river.

Bird Box is a human drama of survival against odds.

Scary, emotionally terrifying, and thrilling, the blight feels real even though the full details are never spelt out. A wonderful movie, what M. Knight’s The Happening could have been.

4/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://cdn.images.express.co.uk/img/dynamic/36/750×445/1058045.jpg

 

Netflix Film Review “Look Away” (2018)

… this twist was shocking, but I was more shocked at how poorly the film played this strong card.

Maria (India Eisley) is a quirky and lonely teenager, bullied and suffering a barely-fleshed out eating disorder, her only friend is merely using Maria as a personal side-kick and as a kind of depressive foil to make herself look good. A depressed mother (Mira Sorvino) and a philandering plastic surgeon father (Jason Isaacs) make home life equally unbearable. But everything changes when Maria looks in the mirror to see that her reflection is alive. The reflection is called Airam (because, ya know — I mean, work it out for yourself!) and claims to have Maria’s best interests at heart. But does she/it really? Things take a turn for the dark when they swap places.

There’s no real tension regarding who or what the reflection is, the very first shot of the movie spells it out: Airam is Maria’s twin sister who died at birth. There also isn’t any real tension to the way Airam gets justice for Maria. Justice would be served, and I would just go, “Oh, okay, so that’s happened, I guess.” There felt like minimal pay-off. There could have been a slow build-up to key scenes of “justice”, there could have been a creepier tension built between Maria and Airam. Jason Isaacs does steal the movie, however, with his off-kilter and complex portrayal. The film missed another pay-off with certain revelations regarding Airam’s true fate/identity; this twist was shocking, but I was more shocked at how poorly the film played this strong card. There’s an awkward aggressively sexual scene between Maria and her Dad, but this, too, felt like it could have gone in a more interesting direction.

This was an entertaining film, but it kept me wondering why they didn’t explore the concept more. What happens to Maria when she’s in the mirror? Is there a whole other dark world in there, like ours but the opposite? Or is it happy and light, making her not want to come back while Airam is unhappy in Maria’s world? Why wasn’t justice performed more ironically; for example, why was Maria’s school tormenter not, despite having a secret crush on her, punished in a way fitting his relationship with Maria? He just gets kyboshed. And why isn’t Maria made to be more likable? Self-deprecating sense of humour, perhaps. An interesting hobby, maybe. She’s just pathetic and characterless.

Nice idea, some good acting, an entertaining albeit mindless way to spend 103 minutes, but devoid of tension. A Horror-thriller without much of either. The ending also felt incomplete. This film is a wasted opportunity.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://7lwy5tgst9-flywheel.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Look-Away-final-poster.jpg

Netflix Film Review: The Hole In The Ground (2019) @SeanaKerslake @Netflix #HorrorMovie

100 word review here

A gut-churning slowburn … has her son really been replaced, or is it all in her own mind?

The Hole In The Ground is the remarkably well-accomplished debut feature from Irish writer-director Lee Cronin. Single mother Sarah (Seána Kerslake) has upped sticks to the remote Irish countryside with her eight year old son Chris (James Quin Markey). After Chris goes for a mysterious midnight stroll in the nearby forest, Sarah begins to notice disturbing changes in his character. Is this even her son at all? Cleverly, rather than Cronin have Chris’s behaviour deteriorate, the opposite occurs; where once he was sullen, withdrawn, and shy, he becomes calmly positive, controlled, and popular at school. But there’s just something off about this change of character, something that only a mother would notice, and I have to say wonderfully sold by young actor James Quin Markey. Seána Kerslake also convinces.

A gut-churning slowburn, this horror-thriller reminds me distinctly of 2014’s equally nerve-shredding The Honeymoon. It also shares DNA strands with The Babadook; has her son really been replaced, or is it all in her own mind? Just as in The Babadook, we start to fear for what this tormented mother might do to her own child, whilst also fearing that she is right.

The dank forest is beautifully shot and feels ancient, like nefarious creatures from Celtic myths might indeed dwell there, every tree seeming to have its own personality. The sinkhole in the centre of the wood projects an eerie and malevolent presence.

We are kept guessing until the very end: has Chris been replaced, or is his mother losing her mind? Credit again to Lee Cronin for eschewing any of the tempting and obvious potential twist-endings that the film could suggest. Rather, I found the ending befitting and equally horrifying. Without giving the game away, I can say that this family will never be quite the same again.

Genuinely disturbing, the psychological horror builds slowly but powerfully. How does it compare to other “forest horror” films? Fans of The Honeymoon should definitely watch this, fans of The Blair Witch Project might like it, and fans of Cabin Fever could probably give this movie a miss.

4/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://image.tmdb.org/t/p/w1280/wTnFy6B5QCeRgjgCGBGlZaDESJ1.jpg

Netflix Film Review: The Hole In The Ground (2019) #100WordReview @SeanaKerslake @Netflix #HorrorMovie

A gut-churning slowburn … has her son really been replaced, or is it all in her own mind?

The Hole In The Ground is the remarkably well-accomplished debut feature from Irish writer-director Lee Cronin. Single mother Sarah (Seána Kerslake) has upped sticks to the countryside with her eight year old son Chris (James Quin Markey). After Chris goes for a mysterious midnight stroll in the nearby forest, Sarah begins to notice disturbing changes in his character. Is this even her son at all?

A gut-churning slowburn, this horror-thriller recalls 2014’s equally nerve-shredding The Honeymoon and shares DNA with The Babadook. Convincing central performances and potent sound design and cinematography.

We are kept guessing until the very end: has her son really been replaced, or is it all in her own mind? A true delight.

4/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://image.tmdb.org/t/p/w1280/wTnFy6B5QCeRgjgCGBGlZaDESJ1.jpg

Netflix Film Review: Annihilation (2018) #200WordReview @Netflix #Annihilation @AnnihilationMov @AlexGarland

A nightmarish hallucination … utterly unlike anything you’ve seen before

An isolated area of countryside is cut off from the world by an eerie shimmering light which surrounds it; no one who enters “the shimmer” is heard from again. Communication in and out of the shimmer is impossible. And with the shimmer slowly growing in size daily, engulfing the surrounding area, the government is called in to carry out a classified investigation under the guise of a chemical clean-up operation.

An all-female team, led by a biology professor (Natalie Portman) and a psychologist (Jennifer Jason) Leigh, each with their own agendas and ulterior motives, are the latest to enter. The world they find within the shimmer is an Alice-in-Wonderland, LSD trip gone wrong. A nightmarish hallucination, which is both utterly unlike anything you’ve seen before, and completely convincing.

The film is a genre-defying science fiction-horror-thriller-psychological thriller-creature feature which shares genetic strands with Sphere (1998), Event Horizon (1997), Contact (1997), and Cloverfield (2008). But this is all par for the course for writer-director, Alex Garland, whose previous accomplishments include Ex Machina and 28 Days Later.

This film is tense and, yes, genuinely scary. A horrifying slow-burn with some first rate acting.

5/5

© 2018 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://media.aintitcool.com/media/uploads/2018/big_eyes/annihilation-movie-poster-snippet_huge.jpg

 

150 Word Film Review: Honeymoon (2014)

Honeymoon_film_poster
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Perhaps the finest American horror film in years.

Honeymoon stars the ridiculously lovely Rose Leslie (a.k.a. “Ygritte”, of Game of Thrones fame) and Harry Treadaway as can’t-keep-their-hands-off-each-other newlyweds Bea and Paul. Honeymooning in Bea’s family cabin in the woods, things start to unravel quickly for the young couple after Paul wakes up to find his wife sleepwalking in the forest. Despite Bea claiming no memory, it soon becomes clear that something very bad happened that night.

So what did happen in the woods? The film never spells it out. But it doesn’t matter; the nocturnal events are merely a device to explore what becomes of a healthy and seemingly rock solid relationship when one partner is violated in some way.

Brilliant and deeply unsettling, the off-centre performances heighten the tension. Honeymoon gave me repeated goosebumps and made me shiver almost endlessly. Horrific and disturbing. Perhaps the finest American horror film in years.

© 2015-2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/db/Honeymoon_film_poster.jpg

review originally appeared at https://doggerelizer.com/2015/08/17/150honeymoon/