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.
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.
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.
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.
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.