Surrounded / Frenzy (2018) Film Review

A group of young friends run a travel vlog, but on their next trip, their plane crashes into the ocean; the survivors find themselves adrift in the ocean and Surrounded by a pack of great white sharks who are in a feeding Frenzy.

A film so good they named it twice? No. This film is truly awful. I was spellbound by its awfulness; like watching a car crash in slow motion, I wanted to scream out but was frozen by the sheer horror.

The CGI is beyond ropey; I have seen more impressive special effects on free iPhone apps. Quite literally.

The plot is beyond ridiculous. Nothing at all makes any sense. Why does a fragile raft protect them from sharks but a sturdy boat doesn’t? Why do people jump head first at the sharks and try to take them on with a small knife? How could they lasso a rock on an island and pull it off to crush a shark? Why do the sharks act less like sharks and more like slasher movie baddies? And why do the sharks… growl?(!!) I could go on and on.

The acting is embarrassing; I’ve seen far better in GCSE drama. Really, I’m not overdoing this; the worst actors I’ve ever seen in GCSE drama were more accomplished thesps. Unbelievable reactions to everything. Not a thing was good.

Editing is a mess. Things appearing and disappearing. Sharks becoming further away for no reason at all.

There is no tension or sense of horror, and the island and the deep blue itself seem very fake.

I cannot understand why they bothered to make this film. It is so clearly without any value. I’ve seen better things by YouTubers. It doesn’t even work if watched as a spoof. This is one of those rare films that really has nothing to recommend it, nothing at all, not even the “so bad it’s good” factor. Even for a TV movie, this is dire stuff. It’s actually hard for a film to be quite this worthless.

The only good point of this film is that if you are a budding actor/writer/director/producer who’s having an existential crisis and moment of self-doubt, you can look at this and be like, “I mean, that got made, so I at least stand a chance, right?”

Abominable.

1/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8805150/mediaviewer/rm2363059456

 

Netflix Film Review “In The Tall Grass” (2019) @Netflix #Horror

In the Tall Grass is based on the novella co-written by one-man-novella-industry Stephen King and his son Joe Hill. It’s a high concept mystery-horror-thriller that seems like it would have made a cracking little episode of The Twilight Zone.

We meet a dilapidated and forsaken church, as much a character in this story as any of the humans, whose carpark is a de facto layby for weary travellers. This is the only thing for miles around apart from motorway and countless acres of thick, tall, grass. When heavily pregnant Becky (Laysla de Oliveira) and her brother Cal (Avery Whitted) stop to rest, they hear a small lost boy (Tobin, Will Buie Junior) stuck within the thick growth pleading with them to help him get out. So far so simple. But when they enter the tall grass, they find themselves trapped in a nightmarish and constantly-changing maze where the very grass seems alive with an evil presence which is determined to keep them captive.

Such a high concept could backfire (see M. Knight Shyamalan’s The Happening). But In the Tall Grass initially worked quite well, particularly since it seemed like we were watching the marvellous Triangle (2009) but rebooted on a farm instead of the open sea. A silent, evil presence at the centre of the shifting grass maze had serious shades of King’s own The Tommyknockers and was quite convincing.

Unfortunately, what wasn’t convincing was some of the acting, particularly that of the usually great Patrick Wilson. Wilson hams it, chewing up the scenes like a demented Ash from Evil Dead III. Unfortunately, that acting did not sit tonally at all well with the rest of the film. As my wife put it when Wilson cracks open the can-o’-ham, “This is just silly now”. She left the room.

From this point onwards, the film really struggles with its own lack of source material, although this needn’t have been a problem: King’s own novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption proves that a novella can be weighty enough for a magnificent film treatment. Sadly, this novella just didn’t have enough to it. The whole venture descends into a shlocky slasher movie. There is some surreal and disturbing body horror, however, which was gruesome and great!

The film does manage to just about pull itself together for the conclusion which is satisfying. And, Wilson and Whitted aside, the acting is compelling and convincing. But the whole thing just about careens off the tracks as it finishes. It would have benefited greatly from curtailing its length from 101 minutes to an old school 90, maximum; 81 would have done fine. Even if Wilson hadn’t channelled Army of Darkness, there’s no escaping that this film was a Twilight Zone episode spread too thin. A very uneven, albeit enjoyable, result.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://d13ezvd6yrslxm.cloudfront.net/wp/wp-content/images/in-the-tall-grass-trailer.jpg

 

Star Trek: Picard S1E7 “Nepenthe” Review @SirPatStew @StarTrekPicard

No sooner than our two storylines had converged at the end of the last episode, the fellowship has now fragmented into what looks like three separate story threads. This episode, “Nepenthe”, sees Picard and Soji escape to a secluded Eden-like planet with rich, almost magically regenerative soil. Here they have a genuinely affecting reunion with two of Picard’s old colleagues from the Enterprise [names withheld to prevent spoilers!]. Their mission: to recover from a trauma of their own in this paradise. The performances from our two guest starts here was powerful and believable; surely the genuine affection and love between these two and Patrick Stewart, going back years, bled through into their performance. The tranquility allows all of our characters to reflect deeply on their lives, and gives Soji space to begin to grapple with her true nature, the nature of reality itself, and who she can trust (if anyone).

Meanwhile, Picard’s protégé/personal body guard, Elnor (or “Legolas in Space”, as I like to think of him), is struggling to stay alive and fight off the Romulans on the Borg Cube. We see a real deepening of his character to counteract the goofiness and moodiness we have seen so far. He’s becoming a great addition to the series.

Our mole onboard the fellowship’s spacecraft La Sirena is beginning to struggle with what they have done and, indeed, were commanded to do almost against their will. Surely not long become their demons consume them.

This was a very exciting episode with no serious flaws, lots happened, and there was no sign of the old problems: development and conclusion of entire backstories within one scene and heavy exposition. Additionally, it turns out that one of the characters creates invented languages, which is something of an area of interest for me (believe it or not: see Tolkien’s A Secret Vice). “Nepenthe” is characterised by deep reflections by our characters as they struggle to come to terms with the stories of their lives. A heart-wrenching, gut-churning episode; possibly the strongest so far, but it has stiff competition from the previous two instalments.

4/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9420288/mediaviewer/rm1170389249

 

Random Images 42: Face of Evil #Random #RandomImages

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Europe is to EU as European is to ?Europan?

I always make the point that the EU and Europe are not same thing, and how I love Europe, but hate the EU. You can disagree with me on whether the EU is something hateworthy or something praiseworthy, but you cannot disagree with me on this pedantic linguistic point, that the European Union, a political project consisting of many European nations, is not the same thing as Europe, a geographical and cultural area. 

Okay, fine, we can distinguish between “the EU” and “Europe”. But what of the adjective? For both it is “European”. This is clearly a defect of the language. And I think this lies at the root of some of the misunderstandings around Brexit as we confusingly mix the terms for these two concepts. Think of the term “Eurosceptic”; this doesn’t mean sceptical of Europe (or even of the euro), but of the EU.

I think we need to distinguish an adjective referring to the EU versus the usual one, “European”, which refers to the cultural-geographic area (namely, the continent itself). Why? Or else we could end up with an “American”-type situation again where English lacks a word like “United Statesian”, which many languages have (e.g. Spanish “estadounidense”).

I suggest “European” (of Europe, for the cultural-geographic area, that is, the continent itself) and “Europan” or “Europian” (of the EU). These words derived from “Europa”. They should be stressed on the second syllable. I sometimes use “E.U.pean” to make the distinction I am making clearer, but I don’t think that that is a good, long-term, non-derisory word.

I prefer “Europan” as it has a more distinct pronunciation to “European” than does “Europian”.

After thought

Incidentally, I’ve long since thought that one day, we will have EU citizens who are not citizens of their own country + the EU (which is what happens now), but citizens only of the EU if they so choose. Look how many British people wished to keep their “European”, i.e., Europan, citizenship after Brexit; it’s not possible as the EU citizenship hinges on your national citizenship. But I don’t see this situation continuing. This makes my Europan/Europian word all the more needed.

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b7/Flag_of_Europe.svg/1200px-Flag_of_Europe.svg.png

 

Star Trek: Picard S1E6 “The Impossible Box” Review @SirPatStew @StarTrekPicard

“The Impossible Box” (S1E6) zipped along at a terrific pace. Picard and Soji are face-slammed directly into moments from their past that they had deeply repressed. Soji’s world begins to unravel as she is confronted with the disturbing reality of her situation, although we end the episode with her still not having had time to fully understand or internalise the situation. There’s some great Borg-based body horror, disturbing scenes where Picard struggles with the memories of his time being assimilated by the Borg. The flashbacks seem to smash through his, and the viewer’s, skull. This episode reminded us why the sci-fi/horror baddies that are the Borg are one of the greatest in all pop culture. And we finally get to see the show’s two storylines merge together.

All of this horrifying action hurtles along while in the background the equally horrifying situation from the last episode, where one of our crew isn’t quite what they appear, gut-churningly, slowly, steadily, threatens to explode at any minute.

All of this darkness is counterbalanced with a bit of sassy Raffi comedy. Thankfully, the comedy has been dialled back to warp factor one and appropriately served to break up what was an action-packed and terrifyingly dark story.

The genius of this episode was not discovering what happens, as we have known what the characters haven’t since episode one, but watching how it unfolds. A truly thrilling episode, and definitely the best so far from a dramatic point of view, although from a general entertainment standpoint I slightly preferred last week’s episode. My only criticism is that Star Trek: Picard really needs to knock its tendencies for exposition and introducing and/or resolving storylines in one scene/episode on the head.

4/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry