2017 Review

Creep 2

I can’t praise this film enough. Being a huge fan of the first film, I never imagined a sequel being an option. The original seemed to close the arc well enough for me to be satisfied.

Despite the fact that a sequel was perhaps not warranted or even necessary, this was an absolute joy to watch. Mark Duplass is in top form as he revisits his “Aaron” character, and with more depth and absurdity than his previous outing. I found this film to be just as strong as the first because we now know some of the intricacies of Aaron, and these are further fleshed out here.

Sure, the intensity may be slightly weakened due to our expectations, and yes, there is much more humor this time than last, but the unsettled atmosphere works just as well here, if not better since the viewer is ever more watchful knowing what we know.

Further, we now have another character that we are instantly pulling for. Desiree is infinitely watchable and truly convincing as Sara, and as the plot unfolds, we can’t help but grow attached. I will not spoil any part of this film, since it truly needs to be experienced. I will, however, guarantee that this one will leave you wanting more, which also speaks highly of this film.

Killing Of A Sacred Deer

While The Killing Of a Sacred Deer will be dismissed by the mainstream, for it’s very unconventional acting, pacing, and plot, for other’s it offers a discomforting conversation on the dark reality of nature and justice. You aren’t supposed to ENJOY it, you are supposed to appreciate it.

The intentionally cold and flat reactions from it’s characters will turn many off, but give insight into empathy and trust. The subtraction and skewing of emotion allows us to get a closer look at ourselves and our expectations for coping with threats and loss. It’s maddening and incredibly uncomfortable to watch, but that is it’s aim and success. You have to stop wanting the movie to be what you want it to be, and start wondering why it is the way it is, if you want to take something away from it.

While the movie doesn’t meet it’s impact potential by missing some opportunities for heavier moments and more character development, it is still fascinating, challenging, and rewarding for an open mind.

Mom & Dad

The film is a fun concept turning the baseless mumblings of frustrated parents who want to “kill their kids” into a dark horror comedy thriller that brings that often off-the-cuff thought into a warped reality.

That concept, which no doubt all parents can associate with feeling, albeit without any true meaning or intent, blends itself with the ideas of zombie films. and films such as The Crazies, then adds a little bit of the high paced insanity that you will know about if you’ve seen Brian Taylor’s previous work.

The main characters are well written and setup so that you start to have a dislike for some of the teenagers, and grow an affinity with the adults and the frustrations of their adult lives. It’s acted well for the most part, and Nic Cage brings his usual own flavour of insanity to the proceedings.

It certainly won’t be to everyone’s tastes, as other reviews here show, and some people won’t be able to get past the unrealistic nature, and the way it’s portrayed, but ultimately, it’s a fun film, with an interesting concept.

Unfortunately, despite the story, pace and events building up nicely, and keeping you involved, the film is flawed in its lack of explanation or reasoning for this sudden event of mass parent-vs-child violence, along with a rather disappointing lack of conclusion leaving an overall feeling of disappointment at what had the potential to be a good original film; something that is difficult to come by in this age of reboots, remakes and sequels.

Fashionista

Director Simon Rumley has assembled a small stable of actors well-known for their recent horror contributions. We have both Alex Essoe (“Starry Eyes”, “Tales of Halloween”) and the perennial favorite Ethan Embry (“Late Phases”, “Devil’s Candy”). Leading the way is Amanda Fuller (Rumley’s “Red, White and Blue”, “Starry Eyes”, “Cheap Thrills”, and more recently “Last Man Standing”). If for no other reason, this cast makes the film worth a watch.

The cinematography has a strange, unnatural color palette, which seems to be Rumley’s trademark. He (or cinematographer Milton Kam) used a similar device in “P is for Pressure”. Perhaps not coincidentally, “Pressure” also had a certain plot element revolving around fashion / modeling. So is this another trademark of Rumley’s: the love of clothes? Like the characters in “Fashionista”, does he have a “special connection to clothes”? Well, without the addiction or running naked through stores, of course.

The film in general is quite good, though it does take a bit to get going. If you watch only the first half, you get a story about a second-hand store and infidelity. But it shifts gears in the second half to addiction and even darker themes, clearly treading into horror territory. We even get some interesting visual nods – a “Tenebrae” poster, and a “stitch woman” in a dream, which is unlike anything seen in film (the closest that comes to mind is “May”).

The Bad Batch

‘The Bad Batch’ is a story on survival at the end of nowhere. The world here is shown as broken, deserted & horrifically violent. Its a world where cannibalism rules, its a world where people are near danger at all times & survival is their first priority. Its all dry, dusted & dirty!

Ana Lily Amirpour’s Screenplay is comfortably slow-paced & delivers a story that will only cater to a niche audience. The mood & the atmosphere of this story, is certainly not meant for all. I, however, found myself interested in this story for a good part of it. And while the film is overlong at nearly 2 hours, the narrative never gets unbearable. Its thoroughly watchable & extremely well-shot. Ana Lily Amirpour’s Direction deserves brownie points. She has Directed the film with a vision of her own & remains true to the subject matter all through.

Lyle Vincent’s Cinematography is excellent & captures the cannibalistic world, most effectively. Alex O’Flinn’s Editing needed to be sharper. Though crisp in parts, the film needed to be trimmed by at least 15-minutes. Art & Costume Design are brilliantly done. And ‘The Bad Batch’ features a killer soundtrack, featuring some smashing tracks from the yesteryear’s.

On the whole, ‘The Bad Batch’ isn’t bad nor is it great. Its somewhere between good to above-average.

The Ritual

The key to any good horror film has always been having characters that are realistic and that the audience can relate to and care for. Yet so many horror films completely overlook this element in their film. ‘The Ritual’ does not make this mistake. These characters are highly flawed, but they’re also relatable and we as an audience can understand (if not fully agree with) choices and decisions they’ve made. I suspect a lot of this stems from the fact that ‘The Ritual’ was based on a novel as the source material. Movies based on novels almost always contain more depth to their characters for obvious reasons.

So you’ve got yourself a set of great characters, but that still isn’t enough to guarantee a successful film. You now have the obligation to utilise those characters you’ve created. ‘The Ritual’ ticks that box as well. Firstly, it’s a great looking film. They did a fantastic job picking the setting for the film. Creepy and atmospheric, whilst beautiful and endearing at the same time. Secondly, this film ticks possibly the rarest box a horror movie is ever able to achieve these days, which is to be scary. I almost never get any rise in my heart-rate during a horror film any more, but that was certainly not the case here. I was invested in the story and the suspense had me on edge.

The first 3/4 of the film are some of the best mystery, suspense, horror film watching I’ve done in years. This film was almost destined for greatness, but unfortunately the final 1/4 does let things a slip a bit. Once any mystery is gone from the story things lose steam a little and everything becomes a little stock-standard. The ending is quite abrupt too, and I had hoped for a little more. Altogether though I certainly recommend giving this film a watch. It’s about as good as modern horror films come.

Train To Busan

Yoo Gong plays Seok Woo, a workaholic father who hasn’t been enough of a presence in his daughter Soo-ans’ (Soo-an Kim) life. Still, when she yearns for a trip to visit her mother, he agrees, determined to do right by her for a change. But the journey by train is like a sprint through Hell, as an undetermined virus is infecting SCORES of Korean people. It’s up to a select few, including father and daughter, to survive and make it to Busan, which is supposedly something of a safe zone.

“Train to Busan” is sometimes cartoonish and over the top, and does go on longer than is really necessary. The amount of time it takes for the virus to infect a bitten person varies depending on the needs of the screenplay. And writer / director Sang-ho Yeon isn’t averse to succumbing to genre clichés, such as the one cowardly individual who will throw others to the wolves in order to buy himself more time. Fortunately, the director serves up a satisfying smorgasbord of carnage, and often gets by on pure showmanship. He also makes sure that the scenario retains its humanity, never letting the horror get completely out of control. His characters may sometimes be ridiculous, but he does give us some heroes for whom we can root. The performances range from reasonably sturdy to frenzied, and as a leading character Seok is a little unconventional, because he actually teaches his daughter to always look out for # 1 first, rather than be compassionate.

Pretty slick filmmaking and generous doses of gore help to keep this from ever getting boring, plus Dong-seok Ma (the expectant husband Sang Hwa) is a fairly amusing badass type of guy.

The Villainess

Korean cinema has been the most cutting edge and exciting exponent of action thrillers tinged with horror for the past 15 years or so, and I’m a big fan. You have to look far and wide for a very long time to find movies as deliriously twisted yet compelling as ‘I Saw The Devil’, ‘Oldboy’ or ‘The Chaser’.

So I was very disappointed to find a film that sounds as good on paper as ‘The Villainess’ turn out to be such a hectic, empty mess. The script is just plain awful, with every single character behaving in ways that make no sense and changing wildly in nature and motivation from one scene to the next. Characters appear, fall in love, get married and burst into flames in what seems like seconds, so there’s barely enough time to remember if the person on the screen dying is the same person that had a line a few scenes back, let alone be deeply moved, which would seem to be the intended goal.

The ‘villainess’ herself is just a bland, confusing and completely unbelievable maelstrom of stony-faced killer and fragile weeping rose, and the fact that she is played by two different actresses makes the whole thing even more bewildering and hard to keep track of than it would have been anyway. No explanation is given for the title of the movie, or, for that matter, anything she does.

Mansfield 66/67

This documentary is being sold as something that takes a look at the last couple years in the life of Jayne Mansfield but the truth of the matter is that the documentary takes a look at whether or not she was a Satanist and whether Anton LaVey had put a curse on her that led to her death.

MANSFIELD 66/67 is a rather strange documentary but there’s no question that it’s quite entertaining in its own way. If people are expecting something taking a look at her films or various other things she was doing during this period then they might be disappointed. These items are briefly covered but the main focus of the picture is on her relationship with LaVey on what curse he might have put on her.

For the most part this is an entertaining documentary that has some nice interviews but I think it was a bit over-directed. I say that because there are some animated sequences as well as a lot of clips from movies in no way connected to Mansfield. I thought this took away from the story a bit as they didn’t add anything. With that said, it’s still fun to see the dark side of her final two years as the film obviously wants to help add to the myth of her dying young.

Brawl In Cell Block 99

Writer/director Zahler has taken his audience back to an era when films were simpler, direct, and,above all, unrelenting in their pursuit of a single theme or idea. He has manufactured a true guilty pleasure — a film about a man making bad choices that is driven by brilliant characterizations, raw Adrenalin, and a compelling narrative that makes you watch no matter how much you know you should look away.

In the grand tradition of Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood, Vaughn, an actor once relegated to romantic comedies, does “the” physical role of his career and it is a barn burner.There is no pretense at class. This is 1960s grindhouse from start to finish and if you have any doubts just listen to the closing music at the 2:05 mark — a brisk orchestral piece that sounds more fitting to a vaudeville act than a melodrama. Zahler ends the show by signalling that he was messing with your head, overloading your senses, all along — and moreover he was doing it deliberately and knowingly.

Don Johnson, an actor who continues to win SEXIEST MAN ALIVE awards for merely showing up at the ceremony, wanted to try something different and succeeded – his cigar-smoking, sadistic warden is a masterpiece. Unforgettable.

A hard film to review, a difficult film to classify, and an impossible film to ignore. The closest analog in this era would be the highly stylized, and highly violent, films from South Korea that glorify the individual over the system.

Highly recommended.

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