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All reviews - Movies (63) - TV Shows (1)

Nocturne review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:28 (A review of Nocturne)

One of a series of independent horror films being produced by Blumhouse, for Amazon Studios, this film is a more horror-centric take on "Black Swan". The comparisons are unavoidable, as both films explore the psychological torment of young women interested in classical performance, who enter into dangerous rivalries with another female. In this film, it's a rivalry between two twin sisters, both hoping to be classical pianists. Whereas "Black Swan" focused much more on pure psychological terror, this one throws some supernatural horror into the mix, almost becoming a riff on Faust in the process.

It could've been an opportunity to explore some interesting areas in the professional music scene, but the film ultimately ends up falling back on clichés, and a spotty script doesn't help things. The characters just simply are not that interesting, and certainly not relatable or likeable. There's no discernable reason for the main character to have such an intense inferiority complex, and thusly, her struggles come across as nothing more than the tantrums of a bratty child. It's hard to care what happens to her when she is creepy and manipulative from the start. Psychological horror is obviously, much more effective when one can empathize with the character suffering it.

Meanwhile, the horror itself is very tame. Most of the creeps come from atmosphere and visuals, neither of which present anything striking enough to be memorable. It's a slow burn, and apparently attempting to adhere to more recent trends in "elevated horror", but it's not up to par with it's more artistic contemporaries. It never becomes tense, disturbing or unpredictable. It does look nice, and the artful direction and cinematography make it easy to look at. The only other thing keeping it afloat are the mostly uniform performances. Sydney Sweeney and Madison Iseman are quite good as the twins, and Ivan Shaw is impressive as a mysterious, bitter music teacher. The film is just well acted and directed enough to remain engaging, only if it tried doing something unique or original with it's far too familiar composition. As it is, this is one of those serviceable films that's not hard to watch, but won't be remembered long after.

My Rating:  5/10

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13 Sins review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:27 (A review of 13 Sins)

This underrated little gem of a film delivers everything that many big budget horror productions attempt to, on a much smaller budget, with a cast of lesser-known actors. Despite it being a remake of a Thai film called "13: Game Of Death", this flick has proven to be one of my personal favorites among more modern horror. Like the best remakes of foreign films, it keeps the plot and many elements of the original intact, but lends a more American flavor to them. In many film's cases, this means rampant jump-scares and crappy CGI, but not here. The premise of both films serves to highlight the corruption of capitalism, the way in which the wealthy exploit the suffering with the promise of riches in payment for unjust actions, and how far one person is willing to go just for a large paycheck. This is highlighted in an early scene, in which the main character is asked to scam a customer out of money, and refuses, thus losing his job. He has to resort to much the same, and even worse, over the course of the "game" that is central to the film.

Audiences will be able to sympathize with the main character here, a decent guy whose life is spiraling out of control thanks to debts, corruption and personal issues. He is played with great depth by Mark Webber, always an underrated indie actor, who gives one of his strongest performances to date here. Daniel Stamm ratchets up a boiling head of steam in the director's chair, making this a truly intense, suspenseful film, where complications and tensions build on top of each other until the result becomes chaotic and suffocating. There's also some incredible set-pieces which provide some of the most memorable, brutal moments of horror in recent memory. The script manages to steadily unfurl a series of jaw-dropping twists, without ever becoming too busy or unbelievable. The whole thing is like a well-oiled machine, mounting to a meaningful, complex ending. It functions both as a genuinely effective horror/thriller and a genre film with something to say. All the while a streak of black comedy underlines the proceedings. Truly a top notch example of what independent genre filmmaking should be, and can achieve.

My Rating:  9/10

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The Wolf of Snow Hollow review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:26 (A review of The Wolf of Snow Hollow)

More werewolf films are always welcome, in my humble opinion. Even better are werewolf films that attempt to do something different with the formula, and "The Wolf Of Snow Hollow" most certainly does that. Whether or not I found it entirely successful is another story. It's the sophomore effort by director/writer/actor/producer Jim Cummings, and is obviously a labor of love for him. But having himself front and center, involved in every aspect of the film may have allowed him to over-indulge just a bit. There's sort of a "Fargo" meets "The Wolf Man" vibe happening here, but the humor is very dark. It focuses more-so on drama than anything else, although it's more horrific scenes certainly qualify as horror. The effects for the titular werewolf are very good, though only briefly glimpsed. Despite this, I believe the attack scenes could have been filmed much more effectively.

Herein lies one of the film's greatest problems. Cummings has an erratic directorial style, which moves from quiet drama and rambunctious comedy, to slow-moving suspense without much of a chance to develop atmosphere or character. This is the story of a man struggling to overcome his alcoholism and protect his family, yet he never becomes a full character. We see him shout, tirade and relapse, but we never glean any insight as to why he behaves this way. Therein further, is another issue. Cummings is simply not a good actor. He overacts at all times, and his presence is simply without a trace of charm. He puts himself front and center, and he simply cannot carry the film with his hammy, at times almost operatic gusto. Lastly, there's a "twist" ending that has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the plotline, and carries no significance. It's actually quite a thinly written film, mostly the story of an unlikeable man's struggles, that we cannot relate to as an audience, when not given the chance to know him. It could've been something special, but alas, just another disappointing lycanthrope flick.

My Rating:  5/10

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Ju-on: The Grudge review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:26 (A review of Ju-on: The Grudge)

Next to the "Ring", "Ju-On" is easily the most infamous horror franchise to stem from the early 2000's J-horror boom. The series has incredible longevity, inspiring not only a slew of Japanese sequels and reboots, but a full franchise in America as well. As could be expected, the films have grown rather rote and predictable by now, but the original Japanese film remains to be considered a classic. And while it is a decent enough offering of supernatural horror, it's far from perfect. It's non-linear narrative is at once the aspect that makes it original, and one of it's downfalls. Because we're simply moving from victim to victim, the film takes on the feeling of a slasher film. At some point we're just watching different, completely un-developed characters be stalked and bloodlessly killed by the evil spirits.

The film's best moments come from a strong sense of atmosphere and dread. It's terrifying to think of the haunting as a curse, that is not confined to one place, and cannot be escaped. The scares are entirely visual, but in this sense, they're hit or miss. Images such Kayako's pale, wide-eyed corpse sliding down the stairs with the movements of an insect, or the spirits of victims waiting outside their friend's window to claim them, are quite horrific. But then, other moments, such as a horde of cuddly black kittens appearing in a woman's bed, or a very poor CGI rendition of Kayako are completely ineffective. Truth be told, the film just doesn't scare me most of the time, and it's images aren't always as unnerving as it seems to think they are. It also doesn't help that the story of the central haunting is so cliched, in comparison to the more outlandish plotlines of other Asian ghost stories. In the end, it's a film that certainly has it's moments of creepiness, but it's a very mixed bag.

My Rating:  6/10

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The Lighthouse review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:26 (A review of The Lighthouse)

I could not have predicted that "The Lightouse" would become my favorite horror film of 2019, much less one of the greatest horror films of the entire decade. One may expect a horror flick about a secluded lighthouse to simply be a ghost story, or a Lovecraftian tale of deep sea terrors. And while this film pays tribute to those notions and legends, it's purely a psychological horror. Robert Egger's direction is fantastic, with a cramped aspect ratio lending a feeling of increasing claustrophobia, and the black and white cinematography making the already dimly lit film, even darker and more ethereal. There is a thick, inescapable and uncomfortable feeling of dread and anxiety smothering the entire film, yet, it's darkness is engaging and hypnotizing. But the utmost praise must be given to Robert Pattison and Willem Dafoe. This is their two-man show, and they both give some of the most shattering, vulnerable, fiery and terrifying performances I have ever witnessed on film.

This is, at the end of the day, a film about the mental deterioration of two men with horrible secrets. Two men who were broken long before they wound up trapped on a tiny island. It's also about masculinity, with Pattison's character always eager to please his gruff boss, and Dafoe obviously wanting for a son, but afraid to let anyone close. I'm not sure why so many are so confused by the film's events. There are plenty of hallucinations, dreams and metaphors, but with at least two viewings, the reality is quite clear to me. It's about guilt, shame, insanity and isolation. Whether it be isolation on an island, or isolation from one man to the other. And the fantastic, brutal performances are what carry the film.

The atmosphere envelops you in a haunting, uncomfortable realm, and the acting forces you to probe the depths of mental illness and loneliness. There is so much craftsmanship and so many small inflections to notice, that each viewing leaves you with more to think on. It's not an easy film to watch, and it won't leave you in a positive mood. But it's truly a disturbing, unnerving film, that terrifies you in a deeper manner than most horror films attempt to. I could rattle on, and on about it, but suffice to say, it's a masterwork.

My Rating:  9/10

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The Orphanage review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:25 (A review of The Orphanage)

There's simply something special about the way Spanish filmmaker's can tell a ghost story. After classics such as "The Others" and "The Devil's Backbone", comes "The Orphanage", another classic tale of the supernatural from Spain. Whereas many American directors treat supernatural horror as brutish, demonic forces of nature, Spaniards revere the spirit world as both a frightening, but potentially beautiful place. Thus, this film, like many of it's kind, has a resonating, human nature that makes it as moving as it is creepy.

Director J.A. Bayona imbues the picture with a subtle, chilling atmosphere, while the script crafts likeable, mature characters that we easily become invested in. Belen Rueda deserves a lion's share of the credit for delivering an utterly wonderful performance in the lead role. She is an actress of grace and incredible emotional depth. Thanks to the script, and her performance, the film is as beautiful a tale of loss and motherhood as it is a haunted house fable.

The scares are very subtle, reliant almost entirely on mood and old-fashioned suspense. More modern supernatural horror could take some cues from films like this one, that don't need a single jump-scare to unnerve and spook their audience. And the twist ending is well articulated and simply heartbreaking, casting the film in a new light that lends it a unique and distinct voice. A haunting, beautiful ghost story in the finest tradition, and further proof that Spain knows how to deliver the goods.

My Rating:  8/10

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Event Horizon review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:25 (A review of Event Horizon)

By the time "Event Horizon" premiered in 1997, sci-fi horror was already quite an over-saturated genre. Films like "Alien" and "Predator" saw dozens of low-budget imitations, with the sub-genre devolving into a collection of clichés. But this little film happened to inject the formula with enough originality to become a cult classic. Refreshingly, the film opts on old-school scares rather than extra-terrestrial terror.

It's pretty much a "ghost ship" tale, but with the ship in question being a spacecraft. Still, the film's namesake vessel is just as imposing and frightening a structure as any haunted cruise-liner. There is great attention to detail regarding it's interior, and some incredibly striking, memorable visuals. It's the long, unending tunnels, dark corridors and strange architecture that create a truly imposing atmosphere. 
The film's scares aren't all that original, and there's a handful of cheap jumps, but there's also plenty of gruesome body horror and grisly imagery. These moments aren't overtly gory, but the fleeting manner in which these nightmarish images are edited leave them lingering in the mind afterwards.

The cast is good as well, and while none of the characters are especially deeply written, they are likeable and believable. Much like the original "Alien", the script smartly makes it's characters relatable workmen, rather than space marines or brilliant scientists. Sam Neil and Laurence Fishburn are especially good in the lead roles. It's not the most original film, and it does have some issues, but it's a very effective, very creepy flick. One that ends up sticking with the viewer more than they might have thought. In the end, it's very deserving of it's cult status, and a must for any sci-fi horror fan.

My Rating:  8/10

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Train to Busan review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:24 (A review of Train to Busan)

In 2016, this film took not just it's homeland, but the world by storm, becoming one of the most internationally successful horror films of all time. The fact that it was able to make the zombie sub-genre fresh again is a testament enough to what a great film it is, and it achieves this through focusing on the very aspect that more recent American zombie films neglect. And that is the humanity and emotional core of an apocalyptic event. The film's bread and butter are it's exceptional cast, and thoughtful writing.

This isn't a collection of faceless victims lined up for the biting, instead you'll grow to genuinely care for and root for these people. Underlying the entire film is a message of selflessness, as the story confronts the life of a selfish businessman who must learn to put others before himself if he wants to save his only daughter. Through this, the film critiques the callousness and corruption of business culture and capitalism, without ever beating the audience over the head.

Thankfully, it's just as good a horror film as it is a humanist drama. The infected borrow liberally from the ravenous, fast-paced flesh-eaters in "World War Z", but without that film's reliance on atrocious CGI. Thus the moments in which crowds of hyper zombies chase the cast through confined spaces are truly intense. And those more suspenseful moments are only made stronger by the well-written characters. It's a true masterclass in how to make an effective, classic zombie film. One that American directors should take notice of. A real crowd-pleaser that offers drama, character, emotion and adrenaline-charged horror all in one.

My Rating:  9/10

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30 Days of Night review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:24 (A review of 30 Days of Night)

Here is a film that has an utterly fantastic premise, yet entirely the wrong execution. The concept of vampires invading an Alaskan town where the sun does not rise for an entire month, is pure genius. Even better is that these vampires are feral, nightmarish creatures and not romantic, mopey pretty boys. There was a chance for this film to be a classic, and while it's decent, it certainly didn't reach the heights it strove for. The most apparent problem is it's completely bone-dry script. There's a lot of fascinating ideas here, but nothing is fleshed out. The characters are barely even clichés. They're simply devoid of any personality or defining characteristics, and the dialogue is rudimentary. There's no one to care about, only in the most general sense. The cast themselves are a mixed bag. I've always been a fan of the vastly underappreciated Josh Hartnett, and he's good here, but only as good as the script allows. Melissa George also gives a good performance, per usual. The supporting members are all interchangeable and some of them can't deliver a line to save their lives.

It's the vicious, black-eyed vampires that steal the show, and provide the film with it's most interesting moments. Danny Huston is especially impressive as the dapper-dressed leader of the pack, spitting out an ancient language at his victims, before ripping them limb to limb. The creatures are merciless, foul and fittingly cold-blooded. There's truly some intense and harrowing scenes of violence and gore, and that's when the film is at it's best. David Slade directs erratically, clearly taking inspiration from the cinematography and fast-moving editing of "The Descent" and "Crank", but he's simply unable to keep pace. The film moves from slow-burning tension to hyper action so quickly that it doesn't gel. And without any characters or plot to latch onto, the film simply becomes a sporadically entertaining genre piece. It simply doesn't have the personality or writing to do it's good ideas justice. But when it gets going, it can be exhilarating and intense. Just a shame that it's not what the source material deserves.

My Rating:  6/10

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Zombieland: Double Tap review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:24 (A review of Zombieland: Double Tap)

It was already a risk making a sequel to "Zombieland" after 10 years. But I never could've predicted it would turn out this badly. Especially with the same great cast, writers and director that gave us the classic original film. But this film makes the cardinal mistake that any truly atrocious sequel does. It's nothing but a re-hashing of exactly the same story we were given 10 years ago. Even in the world of the film, 10 years have passed, but it's hard to believe that, as the characters have apparently gone through absolutely no growth whatsoever. The original film was about a group of loner misfits with severe trust issues coming together and finding family in a zombie apocalypse. And "Double Tap" is about the same people, 10 whole years later, doing the exact same thing. You'd think the characters would have sorted out their differences, or gone their separate ways years ago if this was still the case, but no, Wichita still can't commit to Columbus and Tallahasse still can't decide whether he wants to be brooding loner or brooding grandpa. So the entire film is framed around the characters re-learning the exact same lessons they learned 10 years ago. This is not just lazy writing, this is an active refusal to think of an original plot.

A blatant cash grab, if you will, because the only thing that makes this more than a remake of the original are a slew of new jokes and comedic scenes. Sadly, the humor is massively downgraded as well, and the writers seem to have taken the "irritating = funny" approach this time around. Most of the humor comes from several new characters that are introduced along the way, all of whom are apparently supposed to be comical because of how unbearable and annoying they are. There's only a few moments that are effectively funny throughout the overlong runtime, most of them between Eisenberg and Harrelson, but otherwise there's absolutely nothing to see here. The film isn't funny, it disrespects it's characters by treating them as imbeciles, and the whole shebang is so transparently uncreative that the finale even takes place in an amusement park, also exactly the same as the original. This is one case where I agree with the critics, and I'm dumbfounded at the audience adoration for this steaming garbage. I've no idea how this turned out so wrong, but I can only hope the filmmakers don't further tarnish the memory of the classic original.

My Rating:  4/10

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