Netflix Film Review: “Fatal Deceit” a.k.a. “Gaslit” (2019)

read the 150 word review of Fatal Deceit Gaslit here

… like something from Garth Merenghi’s Dark Place …

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.

2/5

© 2021-2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix 150 Word Film Review: “Fatal Deceit” a.k.a. “Gaslit” (2019)

Flightplan in the ‘burbs.

Olivia’s (Zoe McLellan) world is turned upside down when her teenage daughter Hannah goes missing just weeks after the death of her estranged husband in a car accident. But when people deny having seen Hannah, ever, Olivia’s whole world rapidly unravels. Has someone taken Hannah, or did Olivia’s sick mind make her up in the first place?

Fatal Deceit a.k.a. Gaslit (2019) is nothing new. It’s Flightplan in the ‘burbs. None-the-less, the basic storyline was entertaining and capably written. Sadly, a key plot twist was clumsily and blatantly telegraphed early on, a real suspense-killer. And Gaslit itself has to be the biggest spoiler-title since “Return of the King”.

The direction was unusual, often ridiculous, but always sublime compared to the acting.

Zoe McLellan’s a decent television actor. She did well. But her co-stars’ performances were so uniformly awful that it made McLellan look like an Oscar contender.

A trashy TV movie for the insomniac — but with redeeming features.

2/5

© 2021-2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://res.cloudinary.com/jerrick/image/upload/c_scale,q_auto/5fac2467bf56e2001c728019.jpg

Film Review “Haunt” (2019) #NetflixReview #Haunt

you are in for a treat

originally published on moviereviewsblog here

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.

Having said that, a wonderful movie!

4/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “Prey” (2021) #NetflixReview #PreyMovie

Pointless, hangover fodder

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.

Pointless, hangover fodder.

2/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “The Block Island Sound” (2020) #NetflixReview #TheBlockIslandSound

Tom ain’t alright

article first published on www.moviereviewsblog.com

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 reviewshort 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.

4/5

© 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

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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

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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

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Netflix Film Review “The Son” a.k.a. “El Hijo” (2019) #NetflixReviews @JoaquinFurriel @martinagusman @cianocaceres @heiditoini @leodago_ @leoysubrayo

check out my film review blog at www.moviereviewsblog.com

Lorenzo is a middle-aged artist who is about to have a baby with his much younger, sweetly vulnerable wife Sigrid. But as soon as she falls pregnant, her behaviour becomes more and more distant, sinister even. Or– is it all in Lorenzo’s head? It’s only when the baby is born that Lorenzo and the viewer truly plunge headlong down the rabbit hole.

The film starts with a hot sex scene. Usually a bad sign. However, not so here: The Son was a tense psychological thriller, brilliantly acted by all. Lorenzo’s headspin into wretchedness and/or madness is masterfully constructed by Joaquín Furriel who is almost unrecognisable. Heidi Toini, who plays his Norwegian wife Sigrid, gives a brilliant performance which, like the candlestick-silhouette illusion, could equally be read in two completely different ways depending on perspective; is she an innocent and worried mother or is she a sinister evil plotter? Lorenzo’s best friends Julieta and Renato are equally magnificently played by Martina Gusman and Luciano Cáceres.

Candlestick, or silhouettes? The Son masterfully plays with our perception of reality.

I couldn’t breathe throughout I was that spellbound.

This is honestly one of the best movies I have seen in the last year or two.

It could also be one of the worst.

Why?

Despite being almost perfect, the ending lets it down. But not because it was obvious or forced or too twisty or too straight-forward. Rather, the film just ends. Abruptly. You’ll understand when you see the film, but it’s like it’s missing the last two minutes. All the plot threads are pulling together when the final incident happens and — we don’t get to see the resolution. I had to think about the ending. That’s not a bad thing, the old thinsky ambigui-ending. And I think I know what happened. No spoilers, of course. But then again, judging from other people’s comments, everyone seems to have interpreted the ending differently. There is a line between teasing the viewer and being a pricktease, and with The Son we’ve crossed it; frankly, this movie will leave you with blue balls. It’s actually unacceptable that a movie this brilliant in so many ways should end with the cheap, “We’re not gonna show you!” shot at ambiguity. The writer and director should have had the balls to pick one of the possible outcomes and go with it. I have to warn you: this film is magnificent, but the bad ending — no, actual lack of an ending — is pretty disgraceful and will be, for many a viewer, film-destroying. Perhaps the book on which it is based can shed some light.

So, four stars out of five, or two out of five? I’ll have to give it a three, the weirdest and most atypical three star movie ever.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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