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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bol and Rial Majur (Sope Dirisu and Wunmi Mosaku) had fled the brutal civil war in Sudan and fared a treacherous passage across the sea to the UK. After being given temporary leave to remain in Britain, their life looks bright–er. That is, until a menacing presence in their new home begins to interfere with their new lives.
His House begins with a wonderful premise that sees our characters trying to make a new life in a dilapidated council house on, perhaps, the worst council estate in England. The visuals are stunning and it’s genuinely scary — at first, that is, until the jump scare trick gets repeated once too many times. But there is some beautiful visual poetry.
This is a movie which, both for thematic and artistic reasons, I desperately wanted to love. Sadly, the wonderful premise and promise fall away rather quickly as the film really seems to fizzle out half way through act two. There is never enough threat to our main characters, nor mystery about what is going on. This is a real shame.
A film that the critics will wax lyrical over–it’s currently 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, but believe me, it’s not that good–but which actually doesn’t live up to its promise. A visually-engaging albeit ultimately hollow movie.
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.