Several years after a six year old girl is brutally murdered, her mother receives a mysterious phone call from a woman claiming to be none other than her daughter. With the help of a retired policeman and a journalist, our mother struggles to find the truth in the face of grave danger from a mysterious force.
Los Sin Nombre, based on Ramsey Campbell’s 1981 novel The Nameless, is a disturbing psychological thriller horror mystery. It’s dark, broody and grimy. It’s not clear until much later on in the film what actually is going on with her daughter and who this mysterious caller is. When the reveal comes, it’s a bit of a let-down as the back story isn’t fully worked out on screen. None-the-less, the first two thirds of the film make this still worth a watch.
A notable and praise-worthy film with a disappointing ending that hobbles it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
is it too good to be true? (hint: it’s too good to be true)
A young married couple who are struggling to deal with a betrayal in their relationship decide to start afresh by moving into a newly renovated dream house in a new, shiny suburban neighbourhood. The dream home for the dream price, but is it too good to be true? (hint: it’s too good to be true)
Aftermath is fairly standard house invasion/freaky stalker living in the walls/is-it-a-ghost-is-it-a-squatter-is-it-in-her-mind schtick. But it’s thrillingly directed by Peter Winther, better known as a producer (of such flicks as Independence Day and The Patriot). This film is a mishmash of other films and the true story of a jealous home bidder. The main plot twists are clear a mile coming (any doubts on what’s going to happen to the family dog?), but the film was riveting.
There were a few melodramatic TV movie aspects, but Aftermath never goes overboard. The acting was also highly compelling. I really found myself lost in the world of the film, and that’s a testimony to all involved including young actress-screenwriter Dakota Gorman.
No classic, but this is thoroughly entertaining stuff.
A troubled couple, Ray and Joanne (Sam Worthington, Lily Rabe), stop at a petrol station where their daughter’s arm gets Fractured in a fall. They rush to the nearest hospital, but something is terribly amiss. Pushy staff keep mentioning organ donation. And when daughter Peri (Lucy Capri) and Joanne disappear during an MRI, the hospital deny they checked in — or even exist at all. Ray must fight to save his family and prove his sanity.
A kind of horror Flightplan, we are kept guessing until the end: abducted family, or imagined family?
Unsettling, thrilling, but slightly shlocky. A good romp.
the characters didn’t feel like cut-outs waiting to be killed, but like real people.
Six strangers from very different backgrounds have been invited to take part in an escape room together. Escape rooms are a chance for people to come together, build social skills, be creative, and have fun — win or lose. But it soon becomes apparent that when it comes to this particular escape room, losing is not an option.
A strong concept piece featuring a motley assortment of characters, Escape Room felt like a horror movie in the model of a classic Twilight Zone episode, an exciting mystery. It had shades of movies I’ve enjoyed so much, such as Cube (1997) and Saw (2004), but very much did not feel derivative. Escape rooms themselves are all the rage now, probably because, as one of our players Danny (Nik Dodani) enthuses, they’re like real life computer games. And so this feels a very 2019 twist on those older movies.
Escape Room had plenty of well-judged humour, scares, moments of real tension interspersed with genuine mystery and a sense of the marvellous, and the characters didn’t feel like cut-outs waiting to be killed, but like real people. This definitely elevates Escape Room above most other examples of the survival game subgenre where character, motivation, and plot are so often very much secondary to the creativity of the games and the kills.
The movie began with a bang and then slowed right up in order to introduce all of the characters and the setting. But then the pace kicked back in and didn’t let up. Thrilling. I particularly enjoyed this playing with pacing and also of realism; the movie stretches and snaps back like a rubber band, never breaking nor going too far, but pushing the viewer to the limit.
Escape Room isn’t the first movie based on this concept — for example, we have the confusingly named and dated Escape Room (2017) dir. Will Wernick and, err, Escape Room (2017) dir. Peter Dukes –, but it’s the best so far. It really felt like I was watching this generation’s Saw. And like Saw, there were twists and turns — although, admittedly, none as shocking as that twist from the original Saw. Just as in Saw, each room / trial is brilliantly imaginative; you almost feel yourself “playing along” at home. And just like Saw, I felt myself thinking, “This could easily be a franchise. I think they could make more! I hope they make more! Although any sequel would be milking this concept dry” As it happens, the films ends not with the hint, but the definite confirmation, of a sequel. I felt excited, but also a little sickened by the self-assuredness of this film: gone are the days of teasing the audience and hoping for the box office receipts to make a second movie profitable, now are the days of the five film Netflix deal. None-the-less, the set-up for the sequel looks anything but milking the concept: it promises to be a thrilling and wonderful development, and it’s to be released in 2021.
A great concept, entertaining and real-feeling characters, thrilling, horrific yet fun, Escape Room was both familiar and yet refreshingly different. I loved it, and I cannot wait for the sequel.
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.