A policeman carries around the pain of the mysterious and unsolved disappearance of her best friend from years before when they were on a teenage night out together. But when she finally decides to reopen the case and investigate it herself, she soon finds herself in danger.
Perdida is a mystery crime thriller with some interesting twists and turns, although you can see one of the main twists coming a mile away. Sadly, the just-about-passable acting totally falls apart, our main players totally incapable of even trying to react normally at several crucial moments; indeed, there is no reaction at all at emotional pay-offs. This weird disjunction between what is happening and the performance of the actors is vaguely confusing and certainly ruins the film’s high points.
this post was originally published in 2018, hence the lack of in-text reference to Star Trek: Picard
I’m a big StarTrek fan. So I’ve been massively excited by the new StarTrek TV series, Discovery, and couldn’t wait to see the first episode on Netflix! Will it be a hit or a flop? Only time will tell, though most of my non-Trek friends are surprised to hear there’s a new series. Either way, it raises the question: which Star Trek series is best?
The Original Series (1966-1969)
Okay, so I grew up in the 80s and 90s. Therefore, this show was always hopelessly dated for me. I like the themes, and I am thankful it gave us the Trek franchise, and yes, some of the films featuring the original cast were pretty good. But sorry: the series is naff and painful. It’s truly the Great Aunty Edith of the Star Trek family; there’s no doubting the depth of affection for her, we just don’t want to ever see her again because she is an out-of-date embarrassment.
The Next Generation (1987-1994)
So this is what got me into Trek. I saw my first episode around 1995. To today’s kids, this must look as naff and dated at the original series looked to me when I was a kid (The Original Series was 25-ish years old when I got into The Next Generation, and The Next Generation is now about 25 years old itself). Asides from the early episodes which were very campy and involved soon to be jettisoned stuff like Troy’s bizarre accent and Picard’s peculiar Frenchness, the series was fairly solid with a lot of great episodes.
Deep Space Nine (1993-1999)
For me, this is the best Trek by far. It’s where the franchise decided to bravely seek out new worlds that Star Trek could go. It straddles the old world of rose-tinted optimism and 22 episode seasons of random adventures, and the new post-Battlestar Galactica world of tense, tightly plotted, ten episode seasons, where the world is shades of grey, not a simple good versus evil. From the start of the Dominion War arc, DS9 also foresaw the tight central plot arc and went to dark places not explored before or since in Trek.
Too much, too soon. Next Gen was just winding up, and DS9 had barely begun let alone found its groove. Voyager would have benefitted from a couple of extra years development. Yes, the concept was good: a squabbling crew thrown together on a Federation starship hurled roughly 70 years from home. A female captain was much appreciated. And the show features one of my favourite Trek characters of all time: the Doctor, who was the Emergency Medical Holographic backup program which was forced to run full-time when the actual doctor got killed. A great spin on the non-human coming to terms with and trying to become human (see Data in Next Gen, Odo in DS9). Sadly, most characters were crap, and it took about four years to even get going.
Brilliant costume and set design, a real gritty and primitive edge, wonderful developments of the early Federation: earth is barely united, and the Vulcans are very much senior partners. Great characters, great acting. Yes, it also took a while to get going. Not helped by the name, “Enterprise” as opposed to “Star Trek: Enterprise”, even the program-makers realised their error and re-inserted the “Star Trek” branding in the fourth season. But by then the damage was done. Premature cancellation in season four makes this show a somewhat frustrating, what-could-have-been.
Hardly fair to judge it on the first season alone. And Star Trek is notorious for slow-starting series which only gear up after a few seasons. None-the-less, Discovery has great design and some lovely characters. There were some shocking twists, yet never for the sake of it. I can’t say it was perfect. I think 7/10 is a fair rating. Never-the-less, this might be the best first season of a Trek ever.
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.
read the 150 word review of Fatal Deceit / Gaslit here
Olivia’s (Zoe McLellan) world is turned upside down when, following the death of her estranged husband in a car accident, her teenage daughter goes missing while on a camping trip with the neighbours. But when her neighbours deny taking her on the trip, or even having met or seen any “daughter” in Zoe’s house, ever, Zoe’s whole world, and mind, rapidly unravel. Has someone taken her daughter? Does she even have a daughter?
Fatal Deceit a.k.a. Gaslit (2019) is nothing new. The whole have-they-taken-her-kid-or-does-she-even-have-a-kid thing has been done many times before. None-the-less, the basic storyline was entertaining and capably written by Writer-Director Colin Edward Lawrence and co-writer Erin Murphy West. One of the key plot points was, however, clumsily and blatantly telegraphed quite early on, consequently much of the suspense which was otherwise rather well developed was slightly deflated. And the general release title, Gaslit, has to be the biggest spoiler-title since “Return of the King”.
The direction was — interesting. Some of it was unusual but worked, other shots were like something from Garth Merenghi’s Dark Place: a bizarre, TV movie parody, almost. But the hit and miles wide direction was nothing compared to the acting.
Zoe McLellan is a decent television actor. She seems to know what her range is, and she works to push her abilities. Yet despite being an admirable second-rate TV / small screen actor, she was made to look like an Oscar contender such was the truly abysmal work from her castmates. Daughter Hannah (Stevie Lynn Jones) gave an early and shockingly bad turn which actually caused me to turn the movie off. I took a breather, had a think, and plowed back on. But it was that shocking. The rest of the cast do no better: husband Layne, Matthew Pohlkamp, the neighbour Mary, Stephanie Charles, the friend Bruce, Chris Dougherty: all were poor. Only supporting character Jack, Mike Erwin, gave a half-decent go. It’s no exaggeration to say that Zoe McLellan might wish to use this movie as her new demo reel such is the gulf between her performance and that of her castmates: an average turn/performance has been made to seem quite impressive, just as eggy bread looks like haute cuisine next to a dog’s dinner.
This movie is basically trash. A TV movie for the insomniac. But it’s trash with some redeeming features.
Mother! stars Jennifer Lawrence as “Mother”, a devoted wife to emotionally damaged artist “Him” (Javier Bardem) who is suffering a debilitating bout of writer’s block. She single-handedly rebuilds his childhood home, which had mysteriously burnt down, in the hope that this idyll in the middle of nowhere will reignite his creative, and perhaps even sexual, passions. However, this paradise-in-the-making is disturbed as a series of unexpected random visitors pay them a visit from out of nowhere, to catastrophic results. Weird, unique, challenging: director Darren Aronofsky is back.
The acting from Lawrence, Bardem, and Michael Pfeiffer is topnotch, perhaps even Oscar-worthy. Ed Harris is pretty special in this, too. They really are on top of their game here. The set up and first third of the film is wonderful, classic almost Twilight Zone mystery territory: who are these people, what do they really want, and why is everyone — including her husband — acting so off? The film is both a pensive slow-mover and at the same time a rocket-charged rollercoaster. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.
Sadly, I don’t ever want to set my eyes on it again. The film totally goes off its rocker after an unfortunate incident occurs in the house. The imagery and the acting and set design were magnificent and brutal. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. None-the-less, any pretence of story is launched through the window (or the wall) with all the ferocity of Yuriy Sedykh’s hammer throw at the 1986 European Championships. It makes no sense, nor does it want to. Aronofsky is a challenging but brilliant filmmaker (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream, Pi), but this film just eats itself in pretension (you already noticed the “names” of our two protagonists, didn’t you? “Mother” and “Him”). Both totally open-ended and easy to interpret any way you want — as per our writer’s own work (ooooh meta) — and yet incredibly straight-forward, this movie doesn’t so much think it’s cleverer than it is, but rather it doesn’t give a flying f***. Frankly, it’s bonkers, but in a way that makes no sense (in contrast to Aronofsky’s previous works).
As I have said, this movie has genuine Oscar contender vibes. So why only two stars? Because story has to come first, that’s why; a movie that tosses story out of the window to go down some kind of nightmarish drug trip which makes no sense at all, cannot have a “good” rating no matter how undoubtedly brilliant aspects of the film are. The last section of the film began to genuinely test my patience with its out-and-out nonsense. Being a visionary director who has succeeded in getting first rate performances out of his team is not an excuse for self-wallowy rubbish.
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.
Strangers carpooling together across Italy get stranded in the woods and stalked by an evil presence and must fight tooth and nail to get out in one piece. As one of our characters remarks, “It’s like the set-up of a classic horror movie.”
A Classic Horror Movie, ironically, won’t go down as a classic horror movie. Indeed, it doesn’t even have the storyline of a classic horror movie. It does feel eerily familiar, however, with hints of Evil Dead, Saw, and Cabin in the Woods thrown in. The spooky house in the woods (another classic horror trope) was well-designed and very unsettling. What the movie sometimes lacks in acting it makes up for in atmos.
A suspenseful and gruesome flick with a wonderful post-credits sequence which is just perfect. However, it thinks it’s a bit cleverer than it actually is. Should be called A Classic Horror Story Medley.
Strange events and a murdered wife brings a motley collection of investigators — a cop, a doctor, and a paranormalogist — to this Buenos Aires neighbourhood to investigate. Will they get to the bottom of the case and stop this evil from spreading?
Terrified a.k.a. Aterrados is a disturbing horror film. It never allows you to get your bearings. And asides from a dodgy bit of special effects early on, the film is darkly creepy with a disturbing evil presence.
Unfortunately, the film’s apparently deliberate decision to have no character-based central narrative thrust or fixed protagonist makes it hard to get into and stay with this movie. The effect is that a bunch of weird and disturbing stuff is happening, but without any reason focus or point. It’s frankly hard to care about what happens.
Like much Argentine cinema, there is a great idea here, and some wonderful acting, direction, and film design, but a film that none-the-less is ultimately an unsatisfying mess that goes nowhere. No matter how good these other things are, if the central narrative doesn’t work, it’s game over for the film. Sadly.
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 group of rapidly-heading-for-middle-age friends decide to take a hiking holiday to Sweden in order to rekindle and strengthen the weakening bonds between them and to commemorate a tragedy at the heart of their group. However, things (predictably) start to go awry when our group takes a “short cut” through the woods (have these guys never seen a horror film?).
Probably produced by Norway in order to undercut the Swedish tourism industry, The Ritual is a disturbing horror movie. It has the classic, minimalist horror theme that works so well: a few people alone with their thoughts in the middle-of-nowhere are forced to fight for their lives when an unseen evil begins to terrorise them. Simple but effective. The focus is on our lead Luke, Rafe Spall, as he grows to try and conquer his own demons.
Genuinely disturbing at times, this movie sucks you into its world and makes the unbelievable seem quite real. The acting and special effects were delightful, and the scenery is bleak but profoundly beautiful. Our characters’ choices are never absurd as so often is the case in these kind of films, although I must say I did sometimes feel the characters could do with turning their torches off.
Despite being reminiscent of many other horror movies, it never feels like a rip-off or a mish-mash, but rather its own thing. Nonetheless, there can be no bonus points for originality. A solid and thoroughly entertaining movie with a disturbing and credibly portrayed premise. A must for fans of horror or Scandi-anything (but note: it’s an English language film).