Sunday, May 28, 2017

The X-Ray Fiend (1897)








DIRECTOR: George Albert Smith

CAST:

Laura Bayley
Tom Green

PLOT:

A flirting couple has an x-ray machine turned on them that reveals their insides.








After delving into my first couple of Georges Méliès short films. I decided to tackle a short film from George Albert Smith. In some film circles, he is considered to be the English Georges Méliès. 
Like Georges Méliès, he is supposed to be a movie pioneer. I get the comparisons of these two film pioneers after watching The X-Ray Fiend which is also known as The X-Rays or X-Rays. This short feels very similar to Georges Méliès work. Both in tone and feel.

The X-Ray Fiend runs at a short 45 seconds. As with the other shorts I've reviewed. This doesn't feel very horror. For the late 1800's, this was never going to be a short film filled with scares and blood. That's to be expected. Audiences back then would have sat and watched these short films in amazement and astonishment. Just the visual tricks of a couple turning into skeletons would have been enough to frighten viewers back in that period.

While I have enjoyed the last couple of short films that I've watched. I think The X-Ray Fiend is neither here nor there for me. I didn't love it nor did I hate it. I couldn't fault it for the sheer fact that this is one of those early pieces of cinema that paved the way and for that, I have to respect it. But when it comes to the idea and visuals, it feels a little less impressive than 
Georges Méliès short films. Still, I admire all of the history behind this short film.

Following only a year after a couple of the short films that I had already seen, it feels like this falls short and is a step back regarding cinematography and visuals. George Albert Smith coming up after 
Georges Méliès feels like there is talent there but for my first short film from him feels a little gritty and less polished. This is all very grainy regarding aesthetic. I know this all falls back on the period but for some reason, I think this felt a lot more simple.

Lastly, when it comes to the acting. It's hard to review or even be harsh on the acting as this short is another silent film. There is not one bit of dialogue. No subtitles. All of the acting all feels very theatrical or like a play. This is in the vain of a pantomime or comedy show. For that, the two actors deliver lots of charm and have a lot of fun with their performances. It takes a lot of talent to give a good performance with absolutely no dialogue and only expressions.








DEATH TOLL: 0

BLOOD AND GORE:

- There is no blood or gore in this short film.








The X-Ray Fiend deserves a watch for the sheer fact this is one of those early bits of horror cinema. While I personally don't class this as a straight-up horror and more of a comedy short, the addition of a couple of skeletons lends itself to the genre in that sense. With two very charming performances, this feels very much like a pantomime. I think following up after two 
Georges Méliès shorts, this feels a little more simplistic regarding the story. I can't be hard on it when it runs at forty-five seconds.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

200 Degrees (2017)








DIRECTOR: Giorgio Serafini

WRITER: Garry Charles

CAST:

Eric Balfour
Kristin Cochell
LaDon Drummond
Chris Palin
Larry Wade Carrell
Johnny Sinclair
Joe Grisaffi

PLOT:

Ryan Hinds wakes up to find himself locked in a sealed industrial kiln. As Ryan comes to it, a voice appears over the intercom. The voice begins to tell Ryan that he has two hours to transfer a million dollars to a specified bank account. Every several minutes that he doesn't receive the money, the temperature will rise by three degrees. It will be a race against time to come up with the money. If he doesn't secure the requested amount, he must just end up getting cooked.








As I sat down to watch 200 Degrees. I knew this was going to be one of those films that was set in one location and it would basically be an hour and a half of one man being tortured under a set of heat lamps. I hadn't watched the trailer before sitting down to witness the movie, in hopes that I would be surprised but just going off the poster. I knew exactly what I was in for with movie but still held out hope that this would deliver some solid shocks.

With a movie that spends a an hour and a half with one actor and in one location. You have to cast an actor that can carry a film. Eric Balfour is a solid actor in my eyes. He will be most well known to people for being Jessica Biel's unlucky boyfriend in 2003's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. He also does drama and action very well. He had reoccurring roles in Six Feet Under, 24 and Haven. He even bared all in the very graphic and sexual drama Lie With Me. This guy is talented so I expected to be drawn in by his performance.

For the first act of 200 Degrees. I was right there with Eric Balfour's Ryan. I actually felt sorry for the guy. He spends the first act pleading for his life. We see him slowly adapt to the nightmarish situation he has been thrust into and I was totally onboard and on his side. So for that first act, we are just getting to know the demands of the unknown and unseen voice and a terrified Ryan. The first act is where the film is the most interesting and most intense. After that, things fall apart.

The second act of the film shows Ryan trying to do anything possible to save his own life. He also breaks the rules several times. He makes calls to his police officer brother who tries to track his cell phone to no avail. He begs his parents for cash that he gave them. During the second act is where I caught onto the inevitable twist and eventual reveal. The movie only has a couple of characters who are unseen. You can see that Ryan is a man who has wronged or disappointed everyone he loves. It's not hard to guess. I'm shocked there is no curveball here. It all feels too easy.

Another problem with 200 Degrees is that as the film slogs along. We come to realise that Ryan isn't a very likable character. He steals money from his client, he takes back the money that he has given to his mother that pays for his sick father's care and he also cheats on his wife who he has a child with. So everything they've built in making us want to see this character get out of this situation alive is thrown out the window immediately. I no longer cared for his character or if he got out of this situation. I couldn't care if he burned to death.

Once we get to the third act of the film and the twist is finally revealed. I knew who it was as I mentioned above. So there was no shock or surprise here. When the reason behind why the villain(s) have done this to Ryan, it is just so ludicrous. The motive is ridiculous. I almost laughed when they were trying to tell Ryan why they have done this to him. The movie also tries to then lay another twist down on top of the already silly twist that shows Ryan getting the upper hand and I was done at this point. I was just happy to see this film end.

Sadly, 200 Degrees isn't very intense. A movie where the only possible way of dying is being boiled and cooked to death. It really doesn't offer much else in terms of it delivering many original ways to hurt Ryan. I think this movie loses steam after the first act. Once we see the temperature rising, it becomes rather boring watching him race against time over and over again and seeing the villain try to scare him. After the first or second time, it really doesn't pack much of a punch after that.

Lastly, the film on a visual level is rather dull. There really isn't much of a visual flair here. This is one location that features a rusted and metal industrial kiln with lots of heat lamps. This movie just looks boring. This is a lot of browns and reds and they don't do much with the location. Minus a few split screens or a camera angle in the corner of the kiln. This is nothing to write home about in terms of creativity. In saying that though, this could be due to being lower budget and for that, I can't be too hard on the filmmaker.







DEATH TOLL: 2

BLOOD AND GORE:

- We hear someone burn to death on the other end of a phone call.
- Someone is shot in the stomach.
- Someone is shot in the head.








200 Degrees is a movie that has a decent leading performance from Eric Balfour. The first act of the film is pretty interesting and I was on board. After the first act, it sort of loses steam. The premise feels repetitive. The twist is also predictable. Where the movie also loses points is that it builds us up to feel sorry for a character and throws it all away then try to redeem him and it all feels a little too little, too late. The one location premise has been done more successfully. Watch Phone Booth, Saw or Tape.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Unforgettable (2017)








DIRECTOR: Denise Di Novi

WRITER: Christina Hodson

CAST:

Rosario Dawson
Katherine Heigl
Geoff Stults
Isabella Kai Rice
Cheryl Ladd
Alex Quijano
Sarah Burns
Whitney Cummings
Robert Wisdom

PLOT:

Julia Banks has had a bad run of things. Her previous boyfriend was abusive and she managed to escape with her life. She is now off of all social media and keeping low in hopes that she is never found by her ex-boyfriend. Julia is also in a new relationship. She believes that she has met the man of her dreams and plans on marrying her new boyfriend David. There is only one problem, he has a daughter with his ex-wife Tessa. Tessa is still not over David and plans on ruining Julia's life in hopes that she can win David back and have their family reconnected.







It's been established that I have a thing for thrillers that deal with obsession. I don't care if it's a crazy ex-boyfriend or a one night stand gone wrong. I really just revel in the uncomfortableness of watching someone being watched and stalked, having their entire life turned upside down and then that inevitable final showdown. These movies really do follow a pretty tired formula that I've seen a million times already but I can't help myself, I still enjoy watching these obsession based thrillers.

Going into Unforgettable, I was well aware of what to expect from this movie. Here I was hoping that having Rosario Dawson in the lead and Katherine Heigl as the villain that I'd get to witness some campy enjoyment from the two actresses. At least one or two glaring bitchy stares and a nice violent showdown at the end. For the most part, we get exactly that. But Unforgettable plays like a Lifetime television movie and not a film that feels very cinematic.

What Unforgettable does right is that it gets to the uncomfortable stuff pretty quickly. This movie wastes no time in building up characters or giving us much backstory for the two ladies. We are dropped right into the middle of their drama. We can see that Rosario Dawson is covered in bruises, blood, and scratches. We quickly learn that she has apparently been sending provocative photos to her abusive ex-boyfriend. Right away, we know that Katherine Heigl is really messing with Rosario and we haven't even been introduced to her yet.

The movie takes us back into the past. I assume it's a few months at most. We see that Katherine Heigl is immediately unhappy that her ex-husband has found love with another woman. We see that her character Tessa is very elegant, dresses well, and is also very strict and controlling. She puts up a front that shows she is very strong. She has a dark side though. We watch as she quickly tries to destroy Julia. Creating her a Facebook profile, stealing her mobile, sending photos to an abusive ex-boyfriend, and even undermining Julia at every step of the way when she is around Tessa's daughter. This all happens very quickly.

The best element of the movie is that it never really stops or slows down. The entire movie feels very brisk in terms of these two women coming to blows. In saying that, though. The movie rarely gives us anything new or surprising. If you've watched any movie that deals with obsession, you have seen this film beat for beat. It builds up to the final showdown and while we get one of those, it all feels very quickly resolved. It is over and done with as soon as it starts. The final showdown is all of two minutes of these two woman meeting one last time. It's all very anticlimactic.

The biggest upset in this movie, that will likely anger a lot of viewers is probably the ending. The film has a child in the middle of these two warring women. The ending is one that leaves a daughter without a mother but she now has a stepmother. We are meant to take away that because one woman was strict and wanted to see her young daughter succeed that her death was easier to forget? It ends abruptly and we are all meant to assume this young girl is okay with not having her real mother because she was tough on her. This didn't sit right with me. They quickly try to build that Julia the stepmother is nicer so all is forgotten. Not buying it.

When it comes to being a thriller, Unforgettable is not very thrilling. The film is barren when it comes to suspense and tension. While briskly paced, which is a plus, the film is not at all great as a thriller. There never feels like any danger. There isn't any real shocks or surprises. Minus the ending, this feels very light. For a theatrical release, I am surprised they didn't take this into a darker territory or give us something more bloody. This would have been perfect for Lifetime. Any soap actress could have done this film and tackled these underwritten characters.

Lastly, we come to the acting. Rosario Dawson is a solid actress. You can witness that from dozens of movies in her career. Her she is upstaged by a darker Katherine Heigl. This is her show. If you've ever read the press and how they love to slander Katherine Heigl and label her a bitch. She is giving it to them here in her role as Tessa. She was the most enjoyable element of this movie. Cheryl Ladd is sadly underused here and Geoff Stults is given nothing to do here. He is probably the weakest character in the film. He's pretty but given nothing to do in the movie.







DEATH TOLL: 2

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman is seen with bruises and scratches all over her face.
- A woman pulls herself onto a knife.
- A woman is punched in the face.
- A woman has her face smashed into a glass picture.
- A man is stabbed in the leg and heart.
- A man is hit in the head with a fire poker.







Unforgettable joins the long line of 'obsession' based thrillers. Sadly, it offers nothing new to the subgenre. Minus a questionable ending that is sure to upset some mothers out there. This is all pretty straightforward when it comes to its premise. If you have ever seen one of these types of films, you will know what's coming beat for beat. The standout in the film here is Katherine Heigl who seems to be relishing her chance to deliver a darker role and move away from those cheesy romantic comedies she has been now associated with. Only watch if you enjoy obsession movies like I do and make up your own mind about it.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Phoenix Forgotten (2017)








DIRECTOR:
 Justin Barber

WRITERS:

T.S. Nowlin
Justin Barber

CAST:

Florence Hartigan
Chelsea Lopez
Luke Spencer Roberts
Justin Matthews
Clint Jordan
Cyd Strittmatter
Jeanine Jackon
Matt Biedel
Ana Dela Cruz

PLOT:

When some mysterious glowing lights appear and disappear over Phoenix, Arizona. It happens only once in which they are never seen again. The US government also tries to cover up the lights by calling them a hoax. When a teenage boy who witnesses the event becomes obsessed with it. He and two friends head out with their cameras and into the desert to see if they can document the lights and see if aliens really do exist.







I'm someone that believes in the supernatural. I also believe that it is pretty ignorant to think that we are the only people or life in the vast reaches of space. With so many stars and planets out there in the solar system. I really do believe that we aren't the only ones. I have also always been very intrigued and fascinated with the notion that our government does have secret bases that are there to try and cover up alien life and sightings. They are there to keep it secret so we don't have mass panic.

Going into Phoenix Forgotten, what initially caught my eye about the film was the fact that Ridley Scott was a producer on this film. I thought with his involvement, we may actually get a really solid take on the alien abduction movie. If his trust was placed in filmmaker, Justin Barber to give us something special. All my trust was in Ridley Scott being on board this film. His name alone sold me on checking this one out. We know his record with alien cinema.

Over the last few years, I have grown really tired of this whole found footage genre. Some are over zombies, some were over the whole American adaptations of Japanese supernatural films. For me, it's the found footage movie. We have had a few excellent films that have come out that use the technique but a vast majority of the movies in which I've seen have been less than stellar. Sadly, Phoenix Forgotten hasn't changed my opinion in regards to how I currently feel about this subgenre of film.

The film feels like it can be broken up into three acts. The first act is the Phoenix light incident. We see our two main characters of the sister and brother as children. I really enjoyed the setup. I liked the whole lights over Phoenix scene at the family barbeque. I thought it was creepy enough. I'm well aware of the original footage of the event. I find it inherently eerie that it's never been explained. This opening created a sense of foreboding dread and for that, I think the movie deserves a couple of points.

The second act of the film is where it drags. We follow the now older sister. It sets up the two-time lines for the movie. The present and the past. We learn that her brother and two of his friends had headed out into the desert to find answers but they never returned. The second act is the sister interviewing people and trying to find answers to what happened that night and to her brother. It actually killed the vibe of the film. It feels like it's added to stretch out the running time for the movie. Without it, this would've been a much tighter short film. The second and third act almost feels beat for beat like The Blair Witch Project.

The third act is where the film picks up the pace and we find evidence that there are indeed aliens out there. We see what happens to the three teenagers. I found that I enjoyed the build-up to the alien abduction scene. I thought they managed to ramp up the tension. Where it felt like it loses steam is the final few minutes. I felt like I'd seen this type of ending a dozen times in these found footage films. It feels like they added nothing new here in that final few minutes. It moves from point A to point B which is fine but there are no subverting expectations here. There are no shock or surprises to be found in the movie.

When it comes to the alien action in the film. We get all of two minutes. If you go in hoping to see any alien lifeforms, you'll be sorely disappointed. It's all erratic camera footage, screaming and running through the darkness. While we see bright lights and people being sucked up into the sky, we don't see any aliens here. It all sort of feels like a very long-winded way to get to two minutes of action. The final shot of the film where the camera falls back to Earth was a nice touch though. I can't fault that final visual in the movie.

Lastly, we have the performances. The standouts in Phoenix Forgotten are the three teenagers. We spend most of our time with them. They are given the most to do. The sister character played by Florence Hartigan who gets the entire second act, plays a tough and resilient woman who is trying to get to the bottom of her younger brother's disappearance. While she is fine, here part of the film is what feels like filler. It's the three actors playing the teenagers that are standout here. So I can't fault Chelsea Lopez, Luke Spencer Roberts, and Justin Matthews.







DEATH TOLL: 3

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A lot of dead rotting foxes are shown in the desert.
- A guy is seen getting sucked up into the sky.
- A girl is sucked up into the air by an alien ship.
- A woman starts bleeding from her nose.
- A guy disappears after blood starts pouring out of her nose.







Going into Phoenix Forgotten, I was pretty excited. I've been aware of the lights over Phoenix incident since it first happened back in 1997. I've always been fascinated with alien films and the whole government conspiracy side of things. So when it was announced, I was excited to see what Ridley Scott and Co. would deliver. Sadly, this feels like a missed opportunity. A found footage movie that doesn't take any risks and follows The Blair Witch Project formula pretty closely. While we get a few moments and tension and a committed younger cast. This feels like a case of seen it all before.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Berlin Syndrome (2017)








DIRECTOR: Cate Shortland

WRITER: Shaun Grant

CAST:

Teresa Palmer
Max Riemelt
Matthias Habich
Emma Bading
Lucie Aron
Christoph Frankin
Elmira Bahrami

PLOT:

Clare is an Australian Photojournalist who is holidaying in Berlin. One day while out exploring the city, Clare meets Andi. He's good looking and charismatic local. After a night of partying, they end up going back to his place and sleeping together. When Andi goes to work in the morning. Clare tries to leave his apartment and realises he may have accidentally locked her in. Clare will soon discover that she was locked in the apartment on purpose and has no intention of letting her leave ever again.








As someone who has an insatiable appetite for traveling the world. The plot for Berlin Syndrome is a scary one for me. It hits me on an emotional and personal level. While I never went through what Clare does in the film. I've felt the isolation and fear. While traveling through Greece. I was drugged while out on a night of clubbing, then driven to a deserted location, attacked and left with nothing but my shirt, undies, and high-tops. My passport with my new UK Visa in it, mobile phone and wallet were stolen. To come to it in the dark, while in a foreign country. It was terrifying.

I went into Berlin Syndrome completely blind. I hadn't seen any promotional material for this one at all before going into it. But just going off the title alone. I had gathered that this movie would be about someone who falls in love with their kidnapper. Berlin was going to be the location and this title was clearly a play on the whole Stockholm Syndrome condition. I wasn't sure what route this movie would take but I got a pretty good idea of what this would be like on a tonal level. But boy was I very wrong.

I'm a fan of the film's director, Cate Shortland. I'm pretty familiar with her work being that she's an Australian filmmaker. I was a massive fan of her first movie Somersault. It was a very dark drama that showed a sixteen-year-old girl who runs away from her home and starts up a relationship with an older guy. It dealt heavily with her sexual awakening. It was also the first time I witnessed the brilliant Abbie Cornish outside of a comedic role and where I first took notice of Sam Worthington. So I had faith Cate Shortland could give us something special again.

Berlin Syndrome is a movie that was a bit of a mixed bag for me. While I quite liked this movie, it's hard to say that this is a story that a lot of people will walk out of and love. Berlin Syndrome is one dark and unpleasant little movie. This is not a very nice experience. While the first fifteen minutes of the movie provides the audience with a sense of wanderlust and hope. That is quickly dashed when we start to get a sense that our lead character may have gotten herself into something that she can't get out of. The next hour and a half, while not harrowing is still uncomfortable to watch.

For most of this movie. We witness a woman who is confined to an apartment, which appears to be in an abandoned building and she is emotionally and physically abused. Her identification and her passport are taken off her and she is left to basically suffer with a man she trusted. What I think the film gets right is the tone and atmosphere. Being that we are stuck with her as the outside world moves on, I felt they captured the isolation well. I sat there wondering will her parents back in Australia try and find her? Will they call the authorities? But we never see that happen.

Another element of the film that I really enjoyed was the cinematography and visual aesthetic. For a film that is so dark in tone and themes. I thought that Cate Shortland and her crew brought a very dream-like quality to it. Just like Somersault, there was still beauty to be found in such darkness and brutality. There is a scene towards the end of the film where Andi and Clare are in walking in the forest and it was gorgeous. The seasons of Berlin are captured so beautifully. The visual works as a way to tell how long she has been left in this apartment.

The acting is also top-notch in Berlin Syndrome. Teresa Palmer is an actress that I've been watching for years. I think this may be her most brave role yet. Not only is she completely open when it comes to the sexuality side of the film, she is also brave as some of the things she goes through are pretty horrific. Max Riemelt is also great in the movie. Probably the darkest character that I've seen him tackle. I really grew to hate his character. They both do their respected roles justice. It was great to see both delve into such dark characters.

Where I think Berlin Syndrome goes wrong for me is that the movie suffers from so many stupid character decisions. I can totally believe that after spending a night with a guy, he locks you in his apartment and you think nothing of it. There is a sense of trust there. Even on the second day, I would start to panic and realise something isn't right. After that, I'd spend the entire day trying to escape while he's at work teaching. She had and wasted so many opportunities to escape while he was gone for days on end and she just didn't try hard enough. This becomes seriously frustrating to watch as an audience member. It happens over and over again.

The movie also has a ton of things that made me really annoyed. There is one scene where she has her mobile early on and there is no SIM. I'm under the understanding that most if not all mobile phones now have the ability to call emergency numbers even without a SIM or no signal. The entire apartment looks made up to not allow women to escape like bulletproof glass or doors that are locked and reinforced. With eight hours to spare, she could have escaped over and over. I keep coming back to the point because I really felt they didn't show her trying enough. After three days she just gave up and subjected herself to his abuse.

Lastly, we have several subplots that end up going nowhere like one that involves a previous victim that doesn't get resolved or have much light shed on it. I thought the ending of the film while a happy one, felt like it just ended. After sitting through close to two hours of such darkness, I'd have liked a more well-written ending and another one involving Andi and his father. I know it's meant to lead Andi and tip him over the edge on making a decision that he was not sure about but it felt like a lot of that stuff could've been left out and it wouldn't have hurt the film.
 







DEATH TOLL: 2

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman is held captive.
- A woman is dragged along the floor by her hair.
- A man's head is bashed in with a crowbar.
- A little boy is shown with a bloody leg.
- An old man dies of natural causes.
- A woman is hit in the face.
- A woman's fingers are broken when slammed in a door.
- A woman stabs a man in the hand with a screwdriver.
- A woman is seen covered in bruises.







Berlin Syndrome started out giving me a sense of wanderlust. It actually made me miss traveling. This film quickly becomes a dark and at times unpleasant experience. It's not an easy movie to watch but I think it has enough positive elements to get it over the line. Solid performances, some really beautiful cinematography and a few really nasty moments should keep genre fans happy. Where the movie loses points is unresolved subplots, silly character decisions, and an unsatisfying ending loses the film points. I think this film will alienate and leave a lot of viewers cold but I think it's still worth a watch.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Black Butterfly (2017)








DIRECTOR: Brian Goodman

WRITERS:

Marc Frydman
Justin Stanley

CAST:

Antonio Banderas
Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Piper Perabo
Abel Ferrara
Nicholas Aaron
Vincent Riotta
Randall Paul
Katie McGovern

PLOT:

While a small mountain town is grappling with a series of abductions and murders. Paul is a reclusive writer and recovering alcoholic. After the death of his wife, he is holding up in this rural cabin in hopes of writing a screenplay that will put his career back on track. When a drifter helps him during an altercation at a roadside diner, he offers to give him a place to stay and help around the cabin. Soon things start getting strange when the drifter shows signs of paranoia.







I went into Black Butterfly completely blind. The only thing about the movie that had caught my eye was the poster art for the film. Going off the poster, I was aware that Antonio Banderas was headlining the film and Jonathan Rhys Meyers was also starring in the movie. The poster also felt very reminiscent of Mike Flanagan's moody, familial, supernatural fable, Before I Wake. The use of the entire butterfly motif and the blood had me very intrigued to give this one a watch.

After watching Black Butterfly, I was torn on my viewing experience. I waited almost a week to write my review for the film because I wasn't sure how I felt about it. Right after the movie had wrapped up, I was on the fence still. As the week had gone on, I decided an above average review for the film felt acceptable. While this movie has its fair share of problems. I think the third acts first twist alone, pushes it just over the line and into positive territory.

Early on in Black Butterfly, I thought I was pretty on the ball with where this movie was heading. While watching the movie, I even had one of those moments where I shouted at the television and stated that I knew exactly what the twist was going to be in the movie. It turns out that I was actually right for once. I did end up guessing exactly what the twist was going to be. But here is where I have to give the movie a few points. I had guessed the third of three reveals in the final act.

The movie contains a really solid second reveal that completely blindsided me. I was so wrapped up in what would come to be the third twist that I didn't see the second one coming. It's a twist that I don't ever remember seeing in another movie. Here it felt entirely fresh and original. While the most solid twist in the film is book-ended by two twists that have been done before. I was still completely blown away by it. This for me was enough to win me over after sitting on the film for a week.

The rest of Black Butterfly sits somewhere between a hostage/captive film and a slow burn psychological thriller. The movie doesn't really start to pick up the pace until we see Jonathan Rhys Meyers character start to descend into this paranoid drifter who I believed may be responsible for all the abductions and murders. Once we get to his character starting to show signs of a darker nature, this is where I thought the movie really picked up speed. The first act of the film is rather slow. Once we get past the earlier scenes, the film is pretty fun.

The entire time that I was watching this movie. I kept thinking to myself how closely this resembled the Stephen King film adaptation Secret Window. A lot of the stuff in this movie felt very similar to that film. Sadly, just not as well acted as that movie. I thought the rural cabin, the reclusive writer who is trying to write his next novel or screenplay. Even one of the twists here felt very similar to Secret Window. It's also the twist that sort of diminishes the impact of the first and second twist in the film. It's a case of seen it all before.

When it comes to the thrills in this movie. I didn't find Black Butterfly all that thrilling. A lot of times in the movie when they try to build suspense. It feels like they go and ruin it with lots of silly character decisions. This clearly falls back on the screenplay. It just seems redundant to build up the suspense and throw in characters being run off the road or tripping over while they are trying to make an escape. They kill it as fast as they try to build it. Doing this also seems to hurt the final twist which makes me wonder how bad of a writer Antonio Banderas character is in the film.

Lastly, we come to the acting. Antonio Banderas is fine in his role. He does losing his mind well enough. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is his usual self. The guy always looks really creepy in movies. He has a habit of not blinking and it works for his character in Black Butterfly. Piper Perabo is completely wasted in this film. She is barely in it. She comes back towards the third act but I felt she was underused here. This is the Antonio and Jonathan show so it's understandable but I'd have like to see more of her as she's a pretty fun actress to watch.







DEATH TOLL: 2

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman is taken and presumed murders while on a picnic.
- A man is smacked in the face with a rifle handle.
- A man is stabbed in the back with scissors.
- A woman is seen lying on the floor while bleeding from her head.







Black Butterfly all hangs on the three twists and for me, it worked well enough. The second of three twists knocked me for a six. I didn't see it coming at all and for that, I think it deserves several points. While not thrilling or psychologically damaging, I still think once we start to see cracks in Jonathan Rhys Meyers drifter, it's where the movie picks up the pace. The acting, for the most part, is solid and while similar to Secret Window, I think this movie is worth a once off watch.

Monday, May 22, 2017

IT (2017)








DIRECTOR: Andy Muschietti

WRITERS:

Chase Palmer
Cary Fukunaga
Gary Dauberman

CAST:

Jaeden Lieberher
Finn Wolfhard
Jeremy Ray Taylor
Sophia Lillis
Jack Dylan Grazer
Chosen Jacobs
Wyatt Oleff
Bill Skarsgård
Nicholas Hamilton
Owen Teague
Jackson Robert Scott

PLOT:

In the Town of Derry, Maine. Local children from the area have been disappearing one by one. When a group of seven misfit and bullied locals band together, they form The Losers Club. They must try and put a stop to a horrifying monster that takes the form of a clown. The monster is known as Pennywise and he feeds on the fears of children. They must try and stop him before they too go missing and put an end to his horrific reign for another twenty-seven years.







I remember being roughly six years of age and seeing the iconic image of Tim Curry as Pennywise on TV one night. Holding balloons and standing in the middle of a lake. With an evil laugh and the point of a finger, I was immediately terrified. It wouldn't be until ten or so years later that I sat down to watch the miniseries of IT. As a teenager, it had sort of lost all that scariness that I had built up in my mind from seeing him as a kid. While I enjoyed the miniseries, it sort of fell short at that time due to the hype that I built in my head from when I was a kid.

When it was first announced that they'd be doing a big screen adaptation of Stephen King's much beloved and terrifying novel. I was pretty damn excited. I loved the idea that they were planning for two chapters. The first would handle The Losers Club and then the second chapter would detail them as adults. Just like the miniseries but with a break in between. The announcement of Cary Fukunaga as director was the icing on the cake. When he dropped out and Andy Muschietti took over the helm, I was a little concerned. Not because I disliked him as a filmmaker, but I was worried about trouble behind the scenes.

With Cary Fukunaga now replaced as the director. I was still excited to see how Andy Muschietti would tackle the source material. I remember reading a few articles stating that Cary wanted his vision for IT to be darker and more disturbing. While I would like to one day see just how dark his screenplay would have been. After seeing the new IT film adaptation. The movie is an almost perfect film for me. I couldn't think how much more Cary Fukunaga would improve on this film. After a year and a half of waiting, all that hype had paid off.

As someone who hasn't read the original source material. I can't compare this movie to Stephen King's novel. I don't know how close this movie follows the novel. Going off the movie alone, this is one of the most enjoyable experiences that I've had in a cinema in years. Not since Mad Max: Fury Road and Jurassic World have I felt so alive during a screening. Weird to say as all three movies are so wildly different and it feels odd to mention IT as an enjoyable experience due to everything being so dark within the film but that's how I felt during this story. At two hours, it never felt long for me.

IT not only works as a scary horror movie but also an excellent coming of age story. As a huge fan of another of Stephen King's movie adaptations Stand By Me. Not since that film have I been so moved by a group of kids onscreen. The entire experience of being a kid trying to make it through school, being bullied, finding your voice and also finding that group of friends that you feel like you could pass the days and weekends with, is all over this film. The movie being set in the eighties, Andy Muschietti really does capture the innocence and that time. This is filled with nostalgia.

When it comes to being a scary horror movie. For the most part, IT worked very well. Bill 
Skarsgård as Pennywise had big shoes to fill by following in Tim Curry's footsteps but here he has successfully done the character of Pennywise justice. I think here he's even better and surpasses Tim Curry. He has created a horror icon for an entirely new generation. It feels like he was completely consumed by the role. The film has really solid moments where the tension and suspense are built up to the breaking point. I thought the building of tension here was a lot more successful than the scenes that feature quick and loud jump scares.

The only problems that I had with IT revolved around some of the Pennywise scenes. For the most part, he is terrifying. There are a couple of scenes in the movie that are played straight that fall into almost unintentionally hilarious territory. A scene where Pennywise bursts out of a projector screen and five times his regular size and a scene where he is seen dancing drew laughs from the crowd. I think a couple of the issues that I found fall back on some less than stellar CGI. But I've been wrong before and it may have all been practical. I just felt on first viewing, these moments took me out of those scenes.

When it comes to the violence. IT will not disappoint. Gorehounds will be happy with the violence and gore on display here. Not only is this movie extremely gruesome but most of the violence that takes place is against children. I'm still shocked that a large studio didn't shy away from a lot of the carnage here. Children are shot in the head, dismembered, slashed, and beaten. There is one scene involving a sink and a geyser of blood that was the highlight here. Not since the original, A Nightmare On Elm Street has there been a blood fountain like the one in IT. Bloody goodness.

Another element of IT that I'm shocked to see tackled in a big budget studio horror film are the scenes of Beverly Marsh and her father. While never shown, the hints that her father is molesting her had me so uncomfortable. I was actually squirming in my seat during a few of their encounters. The packed audience that I saw this with was also extremely uncomfortable as you could hear people being grossed out all through the rows. I loved that this film seemed to show the entire adult population of Derry to be really unsavory characters. This felt like it only strengthened the bond between The Losers Club.

Lastly, the acting in IT is standout. I'm not going to list all the actors but all seven of The Losers Club are fantastic. I haven't seen performances from a group of young actors this fantastic since I watched Let The Right One In and its remake Let Me In. The actors playing Bowers and his group of bullies are played perfectly. I hated them as they tortured and abused The Losers Club. I've already said how much Bill 
owns his role as Pennywise. The entire cast of this movie will have long careers if they choose to stay this path. They are all fantastic.







DEATH TOLL: 6

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Pennywise is seen holding a severed child's arm.
- A headless and charred child chases a kid through a basement.
- Someone is stabbed in the throat with a pocket knife.
- A child's arm is bitten off.
- A child is shot in the head with a captive bolt pistol.
- Pennywise is stabbed in the face with a metal pole.
- A young girl is drenched in blood when it bursts out of her sink.
- A teenager carves the letter H into a child's stomach.
- Lot's of rotting and dead children are seen.
- A father attacks and attempts to molest his own daughter.
- A kid is repeatedly punched in the face.
- A teenager is hit in the face and head with rocks.
- A teenager is pushed down a well to his death.
- Pennywise attacks and mauls a teenager.
- A child's arm is broken when he falls through a floor.
- Pennywise bites down on a child's face, drawing lots of blood.
- A man is smacked in the head with toilet tank lid.
- A door opens to reveal a child chained up and split in half.
- A child is chased by a leper.
- A child is slashed across the stomach with a piece of metal.








You can all rest easy knowing that the new IT has lived up to the hype. Not just a beautifully made horror film but an extremely emotional coming of age story. Filled with a fantastic young cast and a career catapulting performance from Bill Skarsg
ård who owns his role as Pennywise the Clown. You won't be disappointed. Minus a few unintentionally silly moments of CGI that took me out of the scenes. This is pretty much close to perfect. This will go down as one of the best Stephen King adaptations to date. Can't wait for Chapter 2.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Eat Locals (2017)








DIRECTOR: Jason Flemyng

WRITER: Danny King

CAST:

Charlie Cox
Freema Agyeman
Tony Curran
Mackenzie Crook
Eve Myles
Dexter Fletcher
Vincent Regan
Nick Moran
Ruth Jones
Annette Crosbie
Billy Cook

PLOT:

When eight vampires who rule over eight districts meet up at an old rural farmhouse for their semi-centennial meeting. They are meeting up as one of the eight vampires has been feeding on children and must be sentenced to death for his crimes. At this same time, one of the vampires has brought along a human to initiate into the group as they always need eight. Little do the group of vampires realise that they are being watched by a group of soldiers. By dawn, there will be a lot of dead bodies.







Over the last several months, I had been hearing rumblings of a vampire movie called Eat Locals. The film had screened at several horror movie festivals and received some solid word of mouth coming out most of the showings. Over the years, we have had a lot of vampire movies coming down the pipeline. Some were much better than others in terms of quality. I was hoping that Eat Locals would join the long list of impressive takes on the vampire mythology.

The thing that really caught my eye with Eat Locals was the poster. I love the use of the fork which is also a metaphor for vampire fangs. Just looking at the poster while never seeing the actual trailer for the movie. I got a very 'They're Watching' type of vibe from the poster. I was actually expecting some Eastern European vampire horror comedy. That's how similar I thought the poster was for this film. The only difference here is that I enjoyed Eat Locals a lot more than They're Watching.

First things first. What Eat Locals gets right is that this film feels pretty original when it comes to its concept. Gone are the gun-totting, leather-glad wearing vampires. You won't find any shimmering vampires in sunlight. Hell, Eat Locals isn't even really that dark. So don't go in expecting some primeval type of blood-sucker. What we have is a group of vampires who are living out their days, watching over their own designated districts. They meet up every hundred years or so during troubled times to discuss tactics. They feel very classy.

While this movie is dialogue heavy at the beginning. It's them introducing us to this group of vampires and a way to reveal that they require a new replacement. One of the eight has secretly been eating children to feed and curb his hunger. This is very much against the vampire rules. So they need to initiate a human into the vamp clan by all agreeing and turning him into a creature of the night. I enjoyed watching these eight different vamps bicker and argue. It was a lot of personality clashing that gave this film a very heavy dose of comedy. For me, the dynamic is what made this film so enjoyable. The banter is the highlight.

As the movie makes its way into its second act. Eat Locals turns from a witty vampire tale into Dog Soldiers with Vampires. Only this time around the army are the villains and we are on the side of the vampires. A rural farmhouse where soldiers descend on a group of blood-suckers. This is where the movie ramps up the action and gore. We get some pretty low-key action set-pieces but for me, I found that while the film was still fun, I much preferred the dialogue heavy scenes as it gave us a chance to really revel in the ins and outs of centuries old vampires.

Where Eat Locals goes wrong for me is that the movie builds and ramps up the action but as we get towards the third act of the film, it sort of loses steam. While both sides are dodging bullets, it sort of just spirals out of control and I stopped caring. A lot of the characters that I had come to enjoy here are killed off. Most of these characters aren't even given a decent send off either. It feels like the third act was extremely rushed. It felt like they didn't know what to do with the ending so they decided a body count was the best measure.

We also have one or two subplots that aren't really fleshed out or seen through to completion which is a disappointment. There is a reveal in the second act that Ruth Jones and Dexter Fletcher who own the farmhouse may actually be serial killers. We get a fridge full of body parts and that's about it. We see Dexter Fletcher's character start butchering people alongside all the vampires and suddenly his character is killed off. We don't get much of a resolution here. It comes back to the story and script not being very tidy and polished.

Lastly, I think this is an extremely talented cast. It was great to see Charlie Cox look like he's having some fun in a role. I love him in Netflix's Daredevil but that's a dark role for him. Freema Agyeman is also another actress who I've seen in a lot and looks like she is having a blast here. Dexter Fletcher and Ruth Jones are hilarious in smaller roles. Eve Myles is quite alluring as a vampire and Tony Curran is owning his role. So many great actors in this film. It looks like they all had a lot of fun with their roles and it shows onscreen.







DEATH TOLL: 30 (Estimated)

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A vampire is shot and staked.
- A vampire is penetrated through the chest with a piece of broken wood.
- Groups of soldiers are stabbed to death.
- A soldier is stabbed in the throat.
- Soldiers are shot to death.
- A vampire is burnt to death at dawn.
- A serial killer is killed by a vampire.
- A group of soldiers is killed by vampires.
- A vampire is dusted.
- A vampire is drained of blood.
- A vampire is repeatedly shot.
- Soldiers have their necks snapped.
- A vampire feeds on a dead soldier.








Eat Locals is quite an enjoyable little vampire romp. This feels like Dog Soldiers with Vampires. I thought the dialogue and banter were great, the cast looks like they are having a ball in their roles and I thought the first act showed the cast having a great dynamic. The movie has problems. The third act is a little rushed, we have a couple of subplots that don't get a resolution and some may find the tone a little off-putting. I think when it comes to vampire films, there is a lot worse than Eat Locals out there. Sit back with a pint and enjoy.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Don't Fuck In The Woods (2017)








DIRECTOR: Shawn Burkett

WRITER: Shawn Burkett

CAST:

Brittany Blanton
Ayse Howard
Roman Jossart
Nadia White
Hannah Herdt
Brian Cornell
Brandy Mason
Kayla Stone
Scott Gillespie

PLOT:

A group of friends decides to go camping in the woods to celebrate them graduating college. The plan is to swim, drink and have a lot of sex. Their fun is ruined, when they are slowly hunted down and picked off, one by one by a blood-thirsty monster. The monster attacks the group whenever they end up having sex. Instead of being able to smell fear, this can smell the sex in the air and it will hunt you down.







Going into a movie with such a great title like 'Don't Fuck In The Woods'. I went into this film with some pretty high expectations. I hadn't watched the trailer for the film and was going in blind. I expected this movie to be a pretty meta sort of slasher. I think when you have a title like this, you can expect this to be inspired by films like Scream or The Cabin In The Woods. I really thought I was going to get one of those clever little horror flicks. Boy, was I wrong?

The movie opens with a couple in the woods. The girl gives her boyfriend head and they start to have sex in their tent. They are brutally killed by an unseen monster. Queue, the set up for the rest of this film. What stood out about this opening scene for me is that we get a close-up shot of a woman's vagina. I was more shocked that the movie showed it than anything else. I soon discovered that this movie plays like Cinemax porn than an actual horror movie.

This is the basic plot of Don't Fuck In The Woods. We get a really dodgily performed sex scene and those characters are cheaply killed off. Wash, rinse, repeat. There isn't anything clever about this movie. It's the same cycle over and over again. We get it, sex equals death. They bludgeon us over the head to make their point. That's pretty much all there is to it. If you wanted something clever, you could watch just about any slasher from the eighties or nineties. They do this a lot better.

The one thing that I admire about Don't Fuck In The Woods is that this movie was made for ten thousand dollars. I can't fault a film crew or filmmaker for going into the woods with a bunch of people and turning out a horror movie. I've never made a film myself and it must be hard. Even if I didn't enjoy the film, I can't hate on these guys for giving it a good go. I think that in itself is worth a point in my book. I may not have enjoyed what I watched but at least they've tried to do something and with a clever title, they'll have people watching their movie.

Coming back to the budget, you can tell the creature is clearly a guy in a suit. The gore effects are also pretty terrible. As I mentioned above, for a film with a budget of ten thousand dollars, you can't hate on them for trying. I found all the creature sequences to be unintentionally funny more so than outright scary. I'm glad that the director chose to go with a man in a suit over those cheap Syfy visual effects as it played more hilarious than I think it's intended. I think had they done the visual effects, it wouldn't have been as entertainingly bad.

One thing that bugged me early on about this movie was the representation of LGBT characters. They managed to come full circle and redeem themselves somewhat by the film's end. A very random scene at the beginning of Don't Fuck In The Woods see's this very stereotypical queen suddenly show up and want to fight one of the main straight guys. It's very odd and we never see him again. The movie goes on to have one-half of the lesbian couple become the hero of the story which I thought was good to see. It wasn't the jock character.

The acting in the film is pretty bad. You can tell this isn't going to be award winning stuff. This feels like a group of friends who have gotten together and gone into the woods to film a cheap horror movie. None of the actors feel like standouts for me. I think this is amateurish. I can't for the life of me really remember much about the characters other than that they are mentioned as the jock, the nerd, the virgin, the cheerleader. They are all pointed out early on and that's about as much character development as we get with these people.

Lastly, I must mention the soundtrack for this film. This movie features a very metal heavy soundtrack. Horror and metal seem to go hand in hand. I took issue though as the metal music plays over dialogue heavy scenes. There is a scene early on where a character is talking about famous Scream Queens but there is metal music playing over her speech which almost drowns out the entire thing. They don't go hand in hand in Don't Fuck In The Woods. It's actually distracting more than anything. This could have been dialed way back in my book.







DEATH TOLL: 11

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman's throat is torn out.
- A man's penis is ripped off.
- A monster rips out a man's throat.
- Someone has a hole punched through their stomach.
- A claw is stabbed into a woman's throat.
- A guy is dragged off by a monster while masturbating.
- Two people are killed by a monster while having sex.
- A monster disembowels a woman.
- A woman is slashed to death by a monster.








Don't be fooled by the awesome title of Don't Fuck In The Woods. This movie is a huge miss for me. This movie harkens back to Scream and the whole meta craze in horror cinema. Only this one plays like a cheap porno more than a horror film or creature feature. The movie features bad acting, terrible gore, and creature design. The whole point of the movie feels like they are trying to sledgehammer you over the head with their point of sex equals death. This isn't subtle at all. Watch any other slasher from the nineties, you're sure to have a better time.