Film Review “Wounds” (2019) #NetflixReview #Wounds2019 #BabakAnvari

A nerve-shredding slowburn with atmosphere in buckets … [that] sadly goes nowhere.

An evil begins to plague barman Will (Armie Hammer) after he picks up a mobile phone left behind by people on a night out.

The second picture from writer-director Babak Anvari, all fans of his debut Under the Shadow [short review] will know what to expect: a nerve-shredding slowburn with atmosphere in buckets. The sound design played a big part in the terror (just like in his debut feature). The performances from our leads Arnie Hammer and his on-screen wife Carrie (Dakota Johnson) are highly believable. I felt sucked into the world of this increasingly burnt out down-and-outer as his life spirals to the gutter.

And if you are a fan of Under the Shadow [long review] you will know what else to expect: a film that collapses after Act One. Just as Under the Shadow was all set-up, never really delivering on its promise, Wounds also gives us a lot of hope for an immense film, but just goes nowhere. Despite being involved in the world in front of me, I realised we were forty-five minutes in and we were still at the set-up, five minute mark in a normal film. Worse than this overly long set up, there is no properly developed Act Two, no finale, and the film just goes nowhere. Nothing is tied up nor made to make sense. For example, Carrie is increasingly being affected by the evil, mesmerised by a truly disturbing portal, but that plot thread sadly goes nowhere; how can that be?? Some hail this type of thing this as ‘open-ended and subtle’, but it really isn’t. It’s the sign of a filmmaker self-indulgently (although understandably) revelling in the world he’s created instead of doing something with the world he’s created.

Anvari is clearly a talented filmmaker with a unique and disturbing vision. However, I strongly suggest he not take screenwriting duties for the next movie. Sure, we all want to be singer-songwriter, but some folks just aren’t cut out for it (see: David Gilmore). Likewise, Anvari should get a writer on board who can fulfil his undoubtedly powerful and frightening vision. I look forward to experiencing that picture.

Strong on atmosphere, light on plot, vacant of ending.

2/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://hellhorror.com/images/inTheaters/origs/aa8dc-wounds-2019-poster.jpg

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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Film Review “Malevolent” (2018) #NetflixReview #150WordReview

haunted house in the country … and a group of unprepared wallies who strumble in

A group of young scammers go around “cleansing ghosts” from haunted houses much to the emotional comfort of their clients and the financial comfort of themselves. However, the fun and games stop when one of their clients houses actually is haunted and our young leads discover a secret about themselves that they hadn’t bargained for.

Malevolent is a simple film: haunted house in the country with hidden secrets and a group of unprepared wallies who stumble into it. The film is actually very linear and moves forward and concludes in a straight line. It left me wanting more, a little development. None-the-less, it was entertaining with convincing performances from rising star Florence Pugh and Olivier award-winning Celia Imrie. The loan shark plot thread hung loose a little for me, however.

Simple entertainment.

3/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “The Ritual” (2017) #NetflixReview #TheRitual #TheRitual2017 @bruckmachina @AdamLGNevill @JoeBarton_

have these guys never seen a horror film?

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).

3/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/cinemorgue/images/0/06/Ritual_xlg.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20171021010712

Film Review “Mama” (2013) #100WordReview #NetflixReview

sounds like countless other films

check out my movie reviews blog here

An evil apparition increasingly menaces an emotionally damaged family while itself apparently only clinging onto this Earthly realm due to its own unresolved trauma.

This sounds like the outline of countless other films. However, Mama really is fresh-feeling and impressive. This formula is refreshing by the use of this feral child motif which recalls the real case of Genie.

Good acting from all. Very creepy.

But there are some downers. Aunty only exists to be knocked off and never feels like a danger to the nascent family life of our protagonists nor as a fully fleshed out character. Also, the CGI is a little ropey, though not ruiningly bad.

3/5

© 2020-2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “Blood Red Sky” (2021) #NetflixReview #150WordReview

a fairly standard hijacker flick with a horror movie twist.

originally published at my dedicated movie reviews blog

A terminally ill mother boards a transatlantic flight with her son to get specialist medical treatment overseas. However, when the plane is hijacked by a group of terrorists, she is forced to take action and do something she hoped she’d never have to do.

Blood Red Sky is a fairly standard hijacker flick but with a horror movie twist. The horror spin gives the film something extra, but the basic hijacker story is thrillingly acted and directed.

Mother and child are played well by Peri Baumeister (Nadja) and Carl Anton Koch (Elias), but the movie is frankly stolen by supporting acts Kais Setti (Farid) and mesmeric Alexander Scheer (Eightball).

The movie plays slightly better if you don’t know the nature of Nadja’s mystery illness before watching it. Sadly, all of the publicity spills the beans. None-the-less, the film is still very entertaining. A slightly unoriginal story whisks us along in the wake of its taut hijacking.

3/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://image.tmdb.org/t/p/original/e3JXvbbWNARPqMURImTALZBHVME.jpg

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

review first published here

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 “Aftermath” (2021) #NetflixReview

is it too good to be true? (hint: it’s too good to be true)

review originally published here

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.

3/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://teknologimedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/aftermath-netflix-review.jpeg

Netflix Film Review: “Fractured” (2019) #100WordReview @netflix @thefilmreview @kermodemovie @fracturedfilmUK @_SamWorthington @lilrabe

A kind of horror Flightplan

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.

3/5

© 2020-2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://rue-morgue.com/framework/uploads/2019/09/Fractured_1x1-1024×1024.jpg

Netflix Film Review “Escape Room” (2019) #NetflixReview @Escape_Room

the characters didn’t feel like cut-outs waiting to be killed, but like real people.

review originally posted at www.moviereviewsblog.com

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.

4/5

© 2020-2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://image.tmdb.org/t/p/original/8Ls1tZ6qjGzfGHjBB7ihOnf7f0b.jpg