Archive for March, 2015

He doesn’t mind if you shoot him. He said he’d rather be shot by real men than be ripped apart by those things out there!

Year Released : 2013Frankenstein's_Army_DVD_cover

Director : Richard Raaporst
Cast : Karel Roden, Joshua Sasse, Robert Gwilym, Alexander Mercury and Luke Newbury

I mentioned recently that there were times when you are automatically attracted to a film just by it’s poster and without a doubt, as soon as I saw this one, I was interested. I soon switched to the trailer and I don’t use this phrase lightly, it was one of the most unusual and unique films that I have ever seen a trailer for. I’ve literally never seen anything quite like this.

Whilst there have been a few films about zombified Nazis, such as Dead Snow or Outpost, to name just two, I can’t say I’ve ever seen one quite like this and that’s what I love about films, there’s always expansion to explore something that hasn’t been touched upon before. Directors and writers can literally let their minds go crazy and come up with something new. More often than not it doesn’t work, but when it does then it can be fantastic.

On this site I may give a lot of flack to a lot of the films, but the one thing I would say about most films that I do review is that they’re unlike most of what I have watched, and for that the writers and directors will always have my respect. But anyway, enough of me waffling on trying to fill three paragraphs of vaguely related information about the film I’m about to talk about.

Plot

During World War Two a group of Russian and Polish soldiers are wandering the countryside and stumble across a church with a group of dead nuns outside of it. Once they enter the church they realise it’s actually a factory of some kind, and inside they find an unusual creature. Upon touching it, the create comes to life and kills Novikov (Gwilyn). It is eventually taken down but the group are understandable disturb by what they have just seen.

Further investigations into the area sees them locate a farmer and after a very brief and violent interrogation, he agrees to take them down to where there are supposedly a group of Russian survivors of what killed the nuns. However, upon following the farmer, it becomes evident that he has tricked them into an underground maze that is full of creates similar to the one previously encountered.

The group are gradually killed one by one before it emerges that the camera-man, Dmitri (Mercury) actually knew this would happen and was using the group purely as test subjects. The group soon abandons him down a shoot for dead bodies, and he must survive on his own, but he soon encounters the man behind it all, Viktor Frankstein (Roden) and experiences his experiments first hand.

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Sounds odd….

The first thing that I have to say is that it is presented in a found footage style, but given the setting of the second World War, it is impossible to take seriously in that sub genre of horror. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome to see a new time period being used in the found footage style of film, and the footage is edited well in the sense that you’re constantly getting lens errors, flares, spots and very old fashioned film mistakes, not to mention the constant (and I do mean constant) noise of the roll of film constantly moving, making it feel authentically old, but it’s hard to just “accept” that the quality of cameras back in the early 1940s was that good.

Other than that obvious problem with the time period, the film looks fantastic and all of the buildings, clothing and countryside look time appropriate, other than the occasional telephone pole making it’s way into the picture. Nothing is glamorised like in other World War Two era films, near enough everything looks time appropriate and it is nice to see a film using that technique.

This helps with the atmosphere and you are constantly left with a feeling of being on edge, especially in a scene outside of a church early on in the film as a group of nuns have been killed but by an unknown force, although obviously the soldiers that the film follows believe it to be the Nazis. In that scene you’re not once at ease and this is exactly what the characters must have felt at the time, and that is what makes a film, especially horror films, relate-able. If you are generally left feeling what the main characters feel, and this continues as they enter the church and eventually discover the first monster.

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The monster moves in a very creep way, almost like you would expect from an assembly of dead bodies being reanimated for the first time, and the movement reminds me a lot of the scene with the nurses in the first Silent Hill movie. The characters look on in bizarre bewilderment, and I was the same. I was not sure what to make of the first monster, although obviously you know it’s not going to be a good thing. The way that the monster awoke and the sound effects were fantastic. Bones moving for the first time, the gas bubbles in the body popping and the body parts moving around for the first time was creepy and brilliant that the same time, and the sound editing throughout was incredible.

In many ways the monsters in “Frankenstein’s Army” are amongst the most dangerous and terrifying that I have seen in a London time as they are exceptionally dangerous, can easily creep up on you, have odd body shapes and because they’re already dead, they are exceptionally hard to stop permanently. I would liken their threat to the Nazi zombies encountered in films such as Dead Snow or Outpost, the latter of which is an unstoppable force that overwhelms the protagonists and subsequently win.

Some monsters do look ridiculous and rubbery, for lack of better words, but the ones that they took their time on do feel genuinely unsettling, and the unsettling feeling isn’t restricted to just the monsters that are pursuing the characters, but also the potential characters that you see being built, including a woman who has been decapitated and yet is kept alive, only to be then mechanically and surgically attached to a teddy-bear. It does make you genuinely curious what they were going to end up doing with her and that is just as exciting and creepy as it gets.

Later on in the film you are introduced to the mad-scientist that is creating these creatures and you see an entire laboratory of people being worked on, and you are left wondering exactly what they are doing to them as you see people’s spinal cord being several just above the way, breasts being fitted with drills coming out of the nipples and various other oddities, it is quite unsettling, but also intriguing at the same time.

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I have often criticised films on this site for poor pacing, especially horror films, but “Frankenstein’s Army” has done surprisingly well in that sense as you never feel bored when action scenes are happening, but you alternatively never like you’ve been overwhelmed. Action sequences are used relatively sparingly, and in between it gives a nice break to recover and think about what you’ve seen, whilst almost moving the plot along relatively smoothly.

The main antagonistic style character in the group, Vassili, is very interesting and intriguing to watch, but it is certainly something that can’t be said for most of the rest of the group. Vassili is power hungry, willing to do what no-one else wants to (such as kill the captain when he is clearly suffering) and isn’t afraid to take control of a situation with violence.  He is comfortably the most interesting character amongst a group of otherwise bland and undeveloped characters.

However, it’s not all positive and the character development is absolutely terrible, infact, if suffers a lot from what I like to call “Hobbitus”. Those that read my review of my favourite films of 2014 will know that I wasn’t keen on “Battle of the Five Armies” due to many reasons, but one of them was what plagued the entire series, there were too many characters that you knew nothing about. Seriously, there were 13 dwarves in the company of Thorin (yeah, I’m a nerd) in the Hobbit trilogy and although I could tell you the names, for some I couldn’t tell you what name applied to whom, or indeed anything about the character because even over the space of three films, they failed miserably to even start to develop at least half of the dwarves. How am I supposed to care about half of the group when I don’t know a single thing about them, and that’s a problem with “Frankenstein’s Army”.

The problem doesn’t end with a lack of character development though as there are far, far far too many simple errors with the film, including continuity, anachronisms and the Viktor experimenting on a dead soldier and clearly saying “You can see that the body is no longer breathing” before he pulls his head away and the body is quite clearly still breathing.  It’s such a simple error, if you’re going to claim that the character isn’t breathing, don’t have a living person playing the supposed dead body, especially when the body has already been mangled, changed and cut to pieces. It’s such a basic error that it’s hard to ignore.

Other than the issues with character development and getting the basics right, “Frankenstein’s Army” was a surprisingly enjoyable film.

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Summary

I was genuinely surprised how much I enjoyed “Frankstein’s Army”. It is remarkably unique and does a great job of telling a story, approvedunsettling you and making you want to turn off, but you don’t, and that for me is a success.

The film has a lot of flaws and I can see why it didn’t get a main-stream release, but if you’re into anything gothic, cyber-punk or anything of a similar nature, then I think you will enjoy this film. I’m not going to lie though, I don’t think it appeals to the masses and I can see in many ways why it does have a fairly average rating across numerous sites.

Whilst the monsters, in the majority, don’t look believable, the film-makers have tried something relatively new and you have to applaud them for that, and if you have a spare 80 minutes and feel the need to watch something unusual, well this is for you.

 

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Happy birthday and go fuck yourself!

Year Released : 2013Untitled
Director : Emmanuel Shirinian
Cast : Michael Cohen, Emma Fleury, Aaron Abrams and Anna Hopkins

I had a question sent to me via email recently that asked me where I kept hearing about the films and review and they come from a mixture of different sources. Some are films that I have seen in the past, others are films where I stumble across the trailers randomly on Youtube and there are others which I gain from a roulette system that I found online.

The system is basically a button that you press and it gives me a random film to watch, and I dedicate myself to watching whatever film comes up, regardless of how crap it looks, and this is why I end up reviewing some diabolically bad films. Sometimes it works but in the majority, it fails miserably. So after a while I ended up going to the roulette system and what came up was a film that I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy before it started.

“It Was You Charlie” didn’t look like a film I wouldn’t normally watch, I’m not going to lie, nothing about this film got me excited whatsoever. It didn’t look particularly interesting, it didn’t seem to have a particularly interesting plot, the main character seemed devoid of being noteworthy, I was thinking of skipping it entirely, but I had nothing better to do on my Monday evening, which tells you it’s own story.

Plot

On his 40th birthday, Abner (Cohen) is left heartbroken when Madeleine (Hopkins) confesses that she loves his brother, Tom (Abrams). Two years later and Abner has thrown away his career as a professor in sculpture and works as a receptionist at a hotel. Struggling in life, Abner regularly makes half-hearted suicide attempts. He soon realises that he is being followed for reasons that he can’t figure out.

Tom gets in contact and tries to re-establish the formerly positive relationship, but Abner wants nothing of it as he is still exceedingly jealous and becomes exceptionally angry when he discovers that they had a child. Meanwhile, he meets Zoe (Fleury), a free spirited taxi-driver that tries to get Abner to open up to the world again, but he is a reluctant subject and is constantly shunning her advances.

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As bad as I was expecting?

Yes. I’m going to start with the suicide attempts. It Seems almost like he’s trying to commit suicide as a cry for attention rather than a genuine attempt. In the first scene he tries to jump out of his window but gets stuck. After that he gives up. If he was adamant that he wanted to commit suicide then he wouldn’t let that stop him, he would simply force his way through. It almost seems bizarre in a way that he tries to jump out of a window that is almost as tall off of the ground as he is. There is virtually no chance of his attempt to jump through his window will actually work the first time around, and it within seconds of the film beginning it has made you feel really unsympathetic towards the character.

The film does try to re-establish him as a sympathetic character but it fails miserably and most of the opening fifteen minutes are shown with him rearranging his apartment and food, going to work, obsessing over a young couple and breaking into what I assume is their apartment. They move into his past and his failed love interest in Madeleine and how it tore him apart, but again, I failed to feel sympathy for the character throughout the film’s near 80 minute run time.

You are meant to believe that he is lonely, but then it shows you exactly why he is lonely. He is a social outcast, spends most of his spare time inside, often playing with a recreation of a car-crash he had, treats his family poorly and the women who do show him any affection or kindness are quickly shunned. If the guy is selectively lonely, how am I supposed to feel sorry for him? Yes, I understand that he loved Madeleine and was disappointed that she didn’t choose him, but other than that there is no reason to feel any positive emotion towards this character.

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However, the character is played relatively well by Cohen. He plays the childish 40something amazingly well. You genuinely believe that he is unstable because of how well Cohen plays him. I think part of the success comes in that Cohen looks, and I don’t mean this in a disrespectful way, a bit like Danny Devito looked in Batman Returns. He has that creepy and unusual look to him, and that works well. As he becomes increasingly paranoid, Cohen captures that level of insecurity exceptionally.

Cohen isn’t alone in acting well in the film, with all of the cast members doing a very good job and the acting holds what little plot there is in the film together. One scene I exceptionally loved is when one of Abner’s colleagues invites him into his apartment and they go through a rather one sided conversation about the afterlife and an earlier conversation in which Abner largely ignored him. The scene takes an exceptionally tense turn and the music works fantastically as he questions Abner why he bought a gun before then attempting to kill himself with the gun, only for it to turn out to be unloaded. Abner’s fear throughout is believable and honest. The scene is easily the most emotionally engaging few minutes in an otherwise completely flat and lifeless 80 minute venture.

Location wise, the surroundings match the tone of the film in many ways, with a generally dull and lifeless environment. Large, open expanses are often used with a less than active colour chart and this matches the tone of the film reasonably well. The bleak nature and tone of the movie is well captured in this and it is one of the few things that works exceptionally well.

Whilst the film has many flaws, the worst is that it feels directionless. At the time of writing this sentence I am about 45 minutes into the film, and other than that he is getting followed and has started a friendship with a taxi driver. there’s not a lot really happening. I’m half way through the film and it hasn’t moved beyond the set-up stage for it just feels poorly paced. The problem is that random characters are being introduced and nothing is being done with them. I’m more than half way into this film and for the most part, I couldn’t really tell you anything that is going on because the film hasn’t drawn me in.

The film ends with a bit of a twist. I’m not going to go into it but much like twists like The Sixth Sense, the signs are obvious when you think about it, and again, although I won’t go into it, I was able to pretty much call the the twist before it even happened because it was that obvious. The good twists are the ones that you can’t see coming.

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Summary

For lack of better words the film seems pointless and there was a quote I saw the other day that I think sums it up quite well, and that is “being indie for the sake of being indie”. Great indie films tell a message of some variety without using the big budget (and more often than not, star power) of major films, but this isn’t telling a message of any variety and is just a very slow, uninteresting, largely bland story about an unlikeable man who claims he is lonely, but shuns every single opportunity to end that.

Abner doesn’t have any redeeming features and this makes him impossible to route for, and a film that doesn’t have a single character that you route for is destined for failure. Cohen is brilliant as Abner but sometimes you could be the best actor in the world (I’m not saying that Cohen is) and yet it’s worthless if you don’t have the film to back it up.

With an actual plot this might have actually succeeded, but it doesn’t and that is the reason why pretty much all reviewers on the internet that have seen this has deemed it as mediocre, at best.

It takes the end of the world to meet some nice people!

Year Released : 2014

2535348Director : Andrew Patterson
Cast : Sydney Daly, Manuel Monsante, Doug Lowe and Enrique Arellano

Everytime I write one of these intros I try and make it relevant to the review, whilst also trying to give my thoughts on the genre or similar type films, but in this case I can’t really do this as whilst it’s a film from a tired and often worn out genre, it’s arguably one of the more unique films that I have seen due to it’s rather unusual, almost lazy method of making a film.

There are some movies where you just know from the off that they’re going to be bad and that was the case with this one as the poor quality came through within seconds of the trailer. However, there are different levels of bad, there are those that are just outright bad, those that are bad because of a lack of one simple thing, or in this case, films that are laughably bad.

Previously I had reviewed several very bad zombie films, such as Zombeavers and Zombie Apocalypse  and they were generally terrible, and whilst I would also put Let There Be Zombies into the same sort of category, at least it was still entertaining. That’s not to say that LTBZ is a good thing, it’s not even close to becoming a good film, but it is entertaining, even if I very much doubt that it was suppose to be entertaining as it all comes from having an exceptionally poor script, even worst acting and a less than convincing plot.

Plot

Drew (Daly) is a teacher that has a less than convincing level of authority over her class. Whilst getting a dressing down from her principle, she learns that there is a zombie outbreak and she heads out into the country to try and survive. She quickly runs into the overweight Jeff (Lowe) and Jose (Arrellano), but despite the best efforts the group can’t find safety.

Eventually they find an RV but are tricked into giving the owner fuel and he abandons Drew and Jeff to an approaching crowd of zombies, whilst also kidnapping Jose. Drew and Jeff survive before eventually making their way to a farm and they encounter Red (Monsante).

After settling in, the group soon starts to realise that despite the isolated location, they won’t remain free from zombies forever, so they start fortifying the surrounding areas, but the horde of zombie proves to be far, far bigger than they were expecting and they struggle to hold them at bay, especially when reinforcements in the form of passers by are quickly taken out.

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Laughably bad?

Zombie films are always going to be hit and miss, more than often the latter. There are many reasons for this but the main one is that it needs to be scary, or at least somewhat threatening. In any horror film, the first thing you need to have is a threat, but the zombies in this just aren’t really that threatening, and I found myself laughing more than being scared. Infact, I was even remotely scared once. Having said that, I’m not convinced with the way that this was made that it was meant to be a horror.

The delivery of the lines is just exceptionally bad. I could give you all sorts of examples of a poor delivery but the film is just one bad delivery of a line after another. Low budget films are infamous for bad acting and/or bad delivery of lines, but more often than not it’s restricted to only a small section of the cast, not the entire cast. Not a single cast member comes off well in this film,and even though the script is awful, the cast make seemingly no effort into giving a believable delivery of the lines.

I could use many examples of this, I really could, but I would more than likely only end up writing the entire script, but the one I’m going to use is from when Jeff and Drew first meet and they are sat at the open back door of a people carrier. Jeff starts pondering and looks around before the following conversation takes place…..

Jeff : “I think there were more people in this van!”

Drew : “What? Where are they?”

Jeff : “I don’t know! *sees them approaching from about 20 metres away* “Oh, there they are!”

Doug Lowe’s delivery of the last line in particular highlights one of the main issues with the script. The characters, although saying that they are worried, never actually genuinely appear worried about the situation that they find themselves in. The “oh, there they are” line and the lack of urgency with it’s delivery is so casual and uncaring that they are in danger, and throughout the lack of urgency is unreal. In one scene there is a horde of zombies approaching Jeff and his glasses come off, but rather than simply grabbing them and walking away, he carefully starts cleaning them.

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Infact, I absolutely hate the character of Jeff because he is just a dickhead, all he does throughout is come up with racist, homophobic, sexist or any other bigoted comments, and although he rarely contributes at all to the battles against the undead, he keeps calling others on their lack of contribution. Every conversation he becomes involved in turns into something irrelevant and he actually adds nothing to the movie. Granted, the poor acting of Lowe doesn’t aid in making him a likeable character, but even then, there’s only so much an actor can do a terrible script.

It’s not just the acting that is terrible and seemingly uncaring about the situation, but the soundtrack is lackadaisical. It’s 90 minutes worth of stock music rather than music created for the film. The film-makers try to add tension with the stock music but they use it inappropriately. For example, there is a scene early on where Drew finds an abandoned camp site and the music, along with the camera, makes it seem like she is being watched, but she isn’t. It feels almost pointless and takes away a lot of the tension for not only that scene, but the rest of the film.

When the films living characters finally have a lot of the undead coming towards them at the end, the background music wouldn’t sound out of place in a Mortal Kombat style film, but instead it is used when Drew is simply seen trying to poke a zombie with a rake, and not even the sharp, pointy bits. There’s no real action taking place and yet the music would suggest that there is.

As bad as the main four characters are, the supporting cast are even worse as they’re all on scene for a few minutes before being killed off, and in the majority of cases you don’t learn anything about them. Two teenage girls join the fight right at the end, both are killed within the subsequent two minutes and the only thing we learn about either is that it’s one of their birthdays. Am I supposed to care about a character that is on screen for such a short amount of time and has no traits other than that they cry a lot?

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Summary

This film is just laughably bad, but it makes it sort of enjoyable. Just when you think you’ve seen all the bad acting and scripting that they could possibly throw at you, you keep getting more and more.

If I did scores, I would actually be tempted to give this a good score because it is memorable and as I say, it kept me glued to the screen, which is what a movie is supposed to do, but on the other hand I would be tempted to call it for what it is and that is a terribly made movie. I like that they have tried to do something different and with a half decent cast that were actually capable of acting, they might have had some luck, but unfortunately the cast that they did have had no abilities whatsoever.

Give it a try but do not expect a good film.

I will give you two hours to find the man who did this or you bring me two people to kill!

Year Released : 2014i9veequ
Director : Kristian Levring
Cast : Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Mikael Persbrandt, Jonathan Pryce, Eva Green and Eric Cantona

In a recent review I mentioned that one type of film that you don’t see often enough these days is a western, so I decided to try and find one to review, and when I saw that there was one with Mads Mikkelsen in it I was sold. Those of you who read my reviews for The Hunt or Valhalla Rising know that I am a big fan of Mikkelsen and I near enough literally, well, nowhere near literally, jumped at the chance to watch this.

My only reservation with watching this was the supporting cast. I don’t enjoy watching any of the rest of the cast and I can only think of one role between them that I have enjoyed (Morgan as The Comedian in “Watchmen”) but other than that, I was largely unmoved, but it wasn’t only that. Westerns that are made these days tend to be terrible, and whilst the remake of “True Grit” was enjoyable, “A Million Ways to Die in the West” and The Proposition were bad for all sorts of reasons.

Even then, I decided to give it a chance.

Plot

Jon (Mikkelson) is living in America following Denmark’s war with Germany in the mid 1800s, and he greets his wife and son off of the train. As they board their horse drawn carriage to go home, two men force their way on and as the journey progresses, they become more and more aggressive towards the family, eventually kicking Jon out (literally). When he eventually catches up, Jon discovers his family have been slain and he subsequently kills the two men.

As he buries his family, Delarue (Morgan) receives the news that his brother (one of the two men) has been killed and he continually threatens the townsfolk with death unless the man responsible is found. Jon is soon captured by the local sheriff after selling his house and is then released to Delarue and his men.

Whilst being tortured, Jon is suddenly rescued by his brother (Persbrandt) and the two set out to end the tyranny of the group once and for all, all whilst uncovering a conspiracy to sell off the town for considerably cheaper rates so that the oil pits nearby can be used without opposition.

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So, is it better than The Proposition?

Yes, it is, but I’m going to start this by talking about the negatives and first of all, about something I hate in cinema and that is completely pointless characters. Eva Green plays Madelaine, a mute woman that is seemingly incapable of feeling or displaying any emotion whatsoever (then again, that could be Green’s exceptionally poor acting skills), but the character adds precisely nothing to the film. I didn’t start noticing this until a few years ago when there was a scene in The Big Bang Theory where one of the characters points out that in the film “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” that you can take Indiana Jones out of the film and the plot is still largely the same, if not completely unaffected.

Below is the scene from The Big Bang Theory that explains it….

The reason I bring this up is because Green’s character has precisely zero outcome in the plot, she is a completely irrelevant character and for the life of me I can’t think of a single reason why she is in this film. Being mute she doesn’t contribute to the script and you could take her out of the film altogether and nothing would change. The exact same events would happen in the exact same order, she doesn’t have any influence on the plot at all.

It’s not even as if Green’s performance is any good. She is her usually terrible self. Her character gets raped and yet her face is completely devoid of emotion. It’s impossible to feel sorry for her because of this because if she doesn’t appear to be upset about being raped, how can we feel sorry for her?

Secondly, I hate when someone is given star billing when again, they barely contribute to the film. This film has Eric Cantona in it, the former Manchester United striker, and he is in it for a fair old chunk, not just the odd scene here and there, and yet he only says four lines in the entire film. It’s not even as if his character is actually a decent character, he’s just there as part of the gang and that’s pretty much as far as the character development goes. Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with Cantona’s portrayal of the character, but it was a very unimportant role and yet he still gets billed as one of the main stars. Look at the poster, his name comes third, even before the main antagonist.

Jon doesn’t say a lot throughout the movie but even giving him a few lines more would have made things a lot less tedious in some places. For example, when the eventual rapists are asking his wife questions, Jon doesn’t let them know at any point that she doesn’t speak or understand English. He just lets them constantly ask questions that he knows she won’t be able to answer, and this is long before they turn antagonistic towards the family.

I really don’t care for how careless the filmmakers were with such basic errors. When Jon is mourning his family and his brother walks in, the dead wife is still clearly breathing in and out, and even though on isn’t saying anything at the time, the camera stays on him and the apparently dead wife. The scar on Madelaine’s upper lip also keeps disappearing in many scenes and there are many more examples of this. It’s just careless in it’s approach to making sure that there aren’t such obvious errors on screen.

The Salvation

But anyway, enough of the things I didn’t like and onto the positives.

Firstly, this film is actually very nicely put together. I’ll start with the setting and the gorgeousness of the environment. The location manager did a stunning job to find such a wonderful and seemingly untouched bit of scenery to film in. The location feels almost like another character in the film and you are constantly drawn in by the open world feel to the movie. Almost every scene set outdoors has a vast expanse in the background and it’s hard to not admire the scenery, almost in a Lord of the Rings fashion.

During the film I was thinking to myself that this is very similar in many ways to the computer game “Red Dead Redemption” and it uses the sweeping and seemingly never ending landscapes to a similar degree, almost making the film seem a lot bigger in terms of scope than it actually is, and I will never knock a film for using sweeping views of the surrounding area.

It isn’t just the setting that makes the film feel a lot more open though. The soundtrack works exceptionally well and rather than having it blasting out furiously through the speakers, the music is used in a very subtle and thought out manner. It doesn’t try to trick you into feeling tense when there is nothing on the screen that warrants it. You don’t get that often enough in films and the best example I can think of is when he finds the carriage that was holding his family and sees the men that killed them, the music eases you into the situation and makes it feel like something is about to happen, whilst also still allowing to you to hear the minor sound details.

Mikkelsen is again fantastic, he commands the screen with an amazing presence and although his facial expression might change as often as Eva Green’s does, the difference is that you can read his emotions and what he’s feeling so easily. Mads will never be accused of over-acting and will more often than not be portrayed as the dark and moody guy, but it works well with him as he is one of the few actors that can make you feel the sense of their emotions, even when they’re not portraying them themselves.

Finally, the film borrows quite well from several other films in terms of scenes, often copying it completely, and whilst this would normally annoy me, it’s done very well in a scene when Peter appears to accept that he is going to be stuck in a prison cell before he starts taunting the only police officer nearby. The police officer takes the bait and moves to hit Peter, only for it to backfire and having his keys stolen. Imagine a mid 1800s version of the scene from “The Dark Knight” when the Joker asks the cop if he would like to know which of his friends were cowards in order to get him close enough to secure him as a hostage.009

Summary

A decent enough modern day western. It has a reasonable plot and a brilliant performance from it’s lead actor, even if the rest of the approvedcast don’t really contribute in a positive way.

Whilst it has some fundamental flaws, it is still worth a watch.

There’s not really a lot else to say really.

Being unsatisfied is a sign of ambition

Year Released : 2014Untitled
Director : Onur Tukel
Cast : Onur Tukel, Anna Hollyman, Dakota Goldhor, Jason Selvig and Dustin Defa

A few days ago I reviewed a film called Suburban Gothic and called it one of the most bizarre films I’ve ever watched, but now I have found one that is quite possibly even weirder, but in a very, very, very good way. I’m not going to lie, looking at the poster/DVD cover, I was not even slightly convinced that I would like this film, but I did like that it mocked it’s own main character so openingly, so I decided to give it a chance.

I’ve reviewed various types of film on this site including zombies, monsters, ghosts, dinosaurs and various others, but I never thought to myself that I would watching a film about a socially awkward, sex obsessed man who turns into a vampire. Vampire films, a lot like zombie films, vampire films tend to be hit and miss, you’ve got the brilliant Interview with a Vampire, the reasonable, if slightly average Daybreakers, and the less said about the Twilight franchise, the better.

I’m not even entirely sure how to write this review because it’s a film that just breaks into so many new aspects of characters in films that I have never seen before and that is what I love. I love seeing something new. There are too many similar style films these days, highlighted by my recent review for Hollows Grove, so it’s nice to see something unique for a change.

Plot

Jody (Hollyman) proposes to the socially awkward Erik (Tukel) but he says no as he has no interest in getting married. Jody subsequently dumps him and gets with literally the first man that comes along. Erik starts dating again straight away but alienates the three women with his off-colour humour and views of the world. Feeling down his luck, Erik goes on a sorrowed walk before being approached by a stranger and after a brief discussion, Erik reveals that he wishes to die. The man suddenly lunges at Erik and bites him.

Erik wakes up bloodied at work and is quickly fired for not attending a meeting, but he soon finds a new lease of life and re-dates the three women from before, each successfully and he appears to have turned his life around. He soon realises that he is now a vampire and doesn’t fight his urges, regularly biting strangers and acting on his sexual desires, including having a four-some with the aforementioned dates.

Despite his increased success in love and sex, Erik is still obsessed with Jody and will do everything to get back with her, but can he win her back with his new sense of bloodlust?

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So…..

I’m going to start this with the only negative the I can think of from the film and that is that is starts on a ridiculous premise and quite possibly one of the biggest clichés in cinema, and in life in general, a woman no longer wanting to be with a man who doesn’t want to get married. I can appreciate the fact she doesn’t want to stay with him after he always says he doesn’t want kids, but it was already a deal breaker for her when he advised that he doesn’t want to get married. The reason for this is that it is kind of ridiculous and clichéd that a woman thinks that the only way to prove your love to someone is to get married to them.

The fact that Jody splits up with him simply because he doesn’t want to get married is ridiculous. It is a massive cliché that marriage is the be-all and end-all of relationships as far as women are concerned. As one of Erik’s early dates sex, marriage isn’t for everyone but that comes after they’ve already introduced the cliché of a woman who thinks the only way to show that you love someone is to marry them, and literally breaks up with him within three minutes of him saying that he doesn’t want to marry her.

He doesn’t want to break up with her, he makes it clear that he still wants to be with her but she just isn’t interested and it made me hate her as a character, and within the first few minutes this wasn’t a good thing. She shows throughout the entire movie that she just isn’t a likeable person at all and her immaturity after they break up is beyond tedious.

Erik is very odd, I’m not entirely sure how to sum him up properly because he just…..*exhales breath in an exasperated fashion*, I really don’t know. He’s a middle aged man and yet doesn’t have a single social skill. In a way it’s quite enjoyable to watch, whilst almost making you want to face-palm throughout, which funnily enough is the reaction that he induces in most characters.

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I thought I was socially awkward Erik makes me look amateur. Soon after he splits up with Jody, he goes on a date and within the first two minutes is suggesting to his date that an Asian gentleman is hiding a bomb in his background on no basis other than the fact the gentleman is Asian. Understandably this brings a negative reaction from the date  , he also later tries to have sex with her after calling her a dumbass. He also asks a black lady if she has ever dated a black man after admitting to her that he hates Tyler Perry’s films without having ever actually seeing one.

Tukel does an amazing as the socially awkward man. I’d never personally heard of Tukel before this and yet found him to be very engaging and warming as a character. Despite all of his social awkwardness, inability to act like a normal human being or even not try and sexual harass his female co-workers, he is actually a remarkable character. Tukel plays him really well

The early dates are amazing to watch, they are smooth, transition exceptionally well and feel real. Erik also does the “Groundhog Day” feel of how he uses what his previous dates have said in other to try and secure sex on the subsequent dates. Infact, almost like Groundhog Day you are just waiting for him to somehow mess it up with what he says or does, and typically on the one that does prove successful in terms of him getting sex, he fails to perform to her liking and that’s it for that relationship. Another cliché right there.

So onto the rest of the film. When Erik is turned into a vampire, I love that the only thing that you can hear is Erik’s heartbeat and how it slows down until he collapses on a nearby staircase. The early part of his transformation is also fascinating to watch as he completely changes his personality to be very aggressive at work, leading to his firing, and his subsequent first victim, whom he bizarrely starts a conversation about his education with, whilst at the same time trying to drain the kid of his blood.

The casual conversations through feeding on humans continue when he recounters the vampire that turned him and they discuss the pollution in the water whilst feeding off an unsuspecting victim. Despite the situation, it’s a remarkably warming scene where you see that Erik is no longer socially awkward and has found a sense of belonging, and I love that. It’s great to see the character developing over time. As the film goes on he actually finds some happiness and that is comforting because despite his quirks and awkwardness, Erik is actually very likeable.

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Summary

Before watching this, I was desperate to find a film that I actually enjoy and that’s exactly what I got from this. There are one or twoapproved moments that were tedious and the first five or so minutes were exceptionally frustrating, but after that I thoroughly enjoyed this.

This is definitely more of a realistic vampire film than the Twilight franchise, but has the fun factor that a lot of the other vampire based films, afterall, there is a conversation between Erik and a character called Penelope compare Jesus Chris to Jiminy Cricket (the character from Pinocchio, you wouldn’t get that in any other film of any variety, and I love the random aspects of this film.

If you’ve got a spare 86 minutes, I’d definitely recommend this.

You’ve been back 24 hours and this place is a slum! Tidy the hell up!

Year Released : 2014Mommy-by-xavier-dolan-cannes-poster
Director : Xavier Dolan
Cast : Anne Dorval. Antoine-Olivier Pilon and Suzanne Clément

Back in the early days of this site I stumbled across the films of a Canadian director by the name of Xavier Dolan. Tom à la ferme and  J’ai tué ma mère were two of my favourite films that I saw in 2014, they were exceptional, character driven masterpieces that I gave them arguably the best reviews I’ve given on this site. “Tom à la ferme” was an engrossing story of Stockholm Syndrome, whereas “J’ai tué ma mère” gripped you with it’s simple and yet very deep

I loved them. I was less impressed with Laurence Anyways but from the trio of reviews, I still walked away from them with Dolan being one of my favourite new directors and I would jumped at the chance to see any film with him in, and that chance came along when one of my friends had bought “Mommy” and invited me around to her house to watch it.

Now, there are many reasons why I didn’t particularly like Laurence Anyways and I’m not going to lie, when I saw that this film lasted a massive 138 minutes, I became less enthusiastic as the running time was one of the issues with the aforementioned, however, I can’t just one film from a director based on one of their other films, so I just went with it.

Plot

Die (Dorval)’s day is already going badly when she is involved in a car accident, but it soon goes to the next level when she receives a phone call from the boarding school where her son Steve (Pilon) is and they tell her that he is being evicted. It emerges that Steve had actually set the kitchen on fire, severely injuring another user of the school. Steve has a hyperactivity disorder that makes it exceptionally difficult for him to interact normally in society and all of the local schools refuse him.

A heated argument between Die and Steve turns violent, with the latter getting injured when a shelf falls on him. Die hides in a cupboard for several hours, emerging to find her neighbour Kyla (Clement) treating his wounds. Die is sacked from her job but can’t take up a new role due to Steve being subject to a court order that would see him sent to a mental hospital if he is not supervised 24/7. Kyla steps in and agrees to teach him, although she is uneasy with Steve’s behaviour, including purposefully fondling his mother’s breasts.

As time goes on Kyla does start integrating with the family but a letter to Die from the family of the boy that Steve injured changes everything as they announce their intention to sue. Die tries to find a solution, but Steve’s behaviour, including threatening to kill someone who mocks his singing and a suicide attempt, only  alienates everyone that tries to help, including a lawyer who is attracted to Die, and eventually she reaches a breaking point.

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So, does Dolan have another masterpiece on his hands?

I’m going to put this bluntly, no. I really wanted to like Mommy, I really did, but it’s just tedious in so many respects. The worst of this is the lengthy run time of 138 minutes, and there really isn’t enough content that’s worth watching to make the 138 fly by. It drags and it drags badly, it never seems to be reaching a conclusion and when 90 minutes has already gone, and there is still close on 50 minutes to go, you sort of start wanting to turn it off. Much like Laurence Anyways, this film could have really done with being considerably shorter, and 90 minutes would have been a nice length.

There is also a LOT of bad language in this film and it’s rarity to find a sentence in the first 30 minutes of the film that doesn’t contain at least one swear word. It’s just not needed. If you must insist on using swear words as a director, you really have to use it effectively and it has to feel natural. This film feels like it’s not using it for any purpose other than shock value and I’m not going to lie, I found the overuse of swear words to be quite immature from Dolan. Don’t get me wrong, I still do love Dolan, he has a very interesting way of making films, but again, if you’re going to use swearing in your films, make it effective and not just swearing for the sake of swearing.

The soundtrack is all over the place and whole songs go by with montages on the screen, but the issue is that the montages don’t really add anything and it seems almost like it’s just filler. The entire song of Wonderwall by Oasis, a song that lasts 4 minutes and 40 seconds, passes with nothing much happening other than Steve travelling from one point to another. There is so much of this film that is completely needless. Die has a daydream at one point about Steve getting married and them both celebrating at his wedding, but she hasn’t once during the entire film hinted that that is something that bothers her or not, and that also lasts for quite some time.

It is strange in many ways that there is so much filler because there are big opportunities for plot points that would have been more interesting than the filler. For example, when Steve first arrives in town he has a member of what looks like a hockey team staring at him in an inquisitive way and it would have been far more interesting to watching Steve’s interactions with those around the community rather than random daydreams or dancing for seemingly no purpose in the kitchen.

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It’s not all negative though and the relationship between Steve and Die is quite unique and interesting to watch and you never know what you’re going to get going into the scene. There are scenes where you believe that they are perfectly happy but they end with an antagonistic argument, or indeed vice-versa. Their relationship is unpredictable and I like that because you never know what you’re going to get. It links in with Steve’s hyperactivity disorder, and the scene where they are in a physical fight is exceptional because you genuinely think that Steve could kill her.

I really enjoyed the character of Die as she is quite clearly someone who has gotten by on her looks in the past, so much to the point where she gets fired from her job because the new female boss won’t put up with her substandard work, unlike her previous boss that was mainly infatuated with her. That come down for the character happens early on and this only adds to the difficulties that she has because of Steve, mainly due to the financial difficulties of raising a son without a job, especially a son who spends the money without thinking of anyone else.

Steve is an interesting character in that respect and in many ways, he is arguably the most interesting character of all of Dolan’s characters. He could literally kill someone without a second thought and that is terrifying when you think about it. He is played exceptionally well by Pilon, especially in the scenes where the character is in pain and/or anger. There is a scene towards the end of the film where Steve realises that he has been tricked by Die and Kyla, and his reaction, one of anger, confusion and desperation feels exceptionally real, and that is a theme throughout all of Dolan’s films and he is exceptional at it. The emotion always feels real in Dolan’s films and he again achieves this.

One of the reasons I do like Dolan is that although he knows what works in many aspects, but he isn’t afraid to try something new and he uses an aspect ratio of 1:1 for the picture, in other words a perfect square. This brings an unusual visual aspect to the film as most films use either 4:3 or 16:9, but I’ve ever seen a 1:1 aspect ratio. It doesn’t distract from the film so it works relatively well, but it does severely limit what can be shown in the image. Add in the strong amber filters and you’ve got a relatively unique looking film.

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Summary

I wanted to like this. I really wanted to like this, but I couldn’t. Whilst it’s not an awful film, it’s far, far, far too long and it doesn’t grab your attention for most of it. I found myself walking off for minutes at a time and coming back to find that they were still in the middle of the same conversation, and when you’re able to do that, it’s not a good thing at all.

Whilst Dolan does retain some of what made his other films largely enjoyable, out of his four films that I have seen so far this has been by far the least enjoyable.

The only way I would really recommend this is if you’re on a Xavier Dolan marathon.

Please stop throwing dead animals at me!

Year Released : 2014posters
Director : Craig Efros
Cast : Matt Doherty, Sunkrish Bala, Val Morrison, Bresha Webb, Matthew Carey and Lance Henrikson

If there is one type of movie that emerged and then subsequently died a very quick death over the last fifteen or so years it is the found footage movie. Most genres last decades before they become tiresome but that wasn’t the case with found footage movies.

Before the beginning of the 20th century, the list of found footage films could be placed onto a post-it not, but then along came a certain film by the name of “The Blair Witch Project” and after that the market was saturated with them. This isn’t to say that they weren’t good, with films such as [REC], Cloverfield and Diary of the Dead doing a reasonable job, but soon after that they soon took a turn as film-makers realised that it is a very cheap way of making films.

The popularity soon wained, almost to the point where every found footage film over the last few years has been very poorly received, and there are many reasons for this, not least of which that it is principally used in the horror genre and once you have seen one, you’ve seem most of them really.  Whilst some films have tried new ideas, such as the VHS franchise and the surprisingly enjoyable “As Above, So Below”, which made it into my Top Ten Films of 2014, the majority are near enough identical to each other and that is why I wanted to watch this film.

I initially saw the trailer several months ago and it automatically reminded me of a film called “Grave Encounters” and the reason for that they appeared to have near identical plots, and that is literally the only reason I decided to watch it.

Plot

Harold (Carey) is given the chance to accompany his old friends on the filming of their popular TV show “S.P.I.T”, a show that goes into abandoned buildings in search of paranormal activity. Whilst catching up with Tim (Doherty), he is told that the show is 100% fake and all the jumps and scares are programmed by technical whizz, Bill (Henrikson).

For the latest episode the group are heading to an abandoned orphanage named Hollows Grove, and the research shows that it was rife with disease and murder when it was open, with an average of two children dying every day. Everything seems to be going as expected at first as they explore the home and they think that Bill has outdone himself by moving wheelchairs, balls and various other things whilst they are in the rooms, as well as he normal tricks.

As the evening goes on things start turning more sinister as Chad (Morrison) is shoved down a set of stairs, doors that were previously locked are suddenly open, lights turning themselves on and off and shadowy figures moving behind stained-glass doors. The group largely laugh things off until they find Bill has been tied up and his throat is slit by an unseen force. At this point they realise that this is now very serious and they must find a way out before it’s too late.

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Why does that all sound familiar?

Well as I mentioned earlier, this looked near enough exactly like “Grave Encounters” and the reason it looked exactly like that film in the trailers is because it is exactly like that that film. The only minor difference being that it’s not set in a mental hospital, but rather an orphanage. There are so many elements that are stolen from Grave Encounters that it is a bit beyond a joke, and I’m not actually kidding, it is such a blatant rip off. If it was just one or two things then I wouldn’t mind, but major plot points, scares and even the basic premise are exactly the same.

Both films are set around a TV crew from a show investigating old buildings for paranormal activities, but both openly admit that the show is fake. Both TV crews are warned against going inside by the caretaker for the building and once inside, both TV crews set up an where they can store all equipment and a lighting rig. Both then go and explore the building, finding a window that someone was thrown out of in the past and one of the characters is thrown out of later in the film.

Both have a character that is slammed up and down by unseen forces like they’re fighting Ermac from the Mortal Kombat franchise and both find that when they go to leave the building, there is no longer any route out and all windows are now bordered up tight.

I could expand on that but it would cause too many spoilers but believe me, if you have seen “Grave Encounters” then you have seen this film. It’s about as close to a blatant rip off as I have seen in recent years. It doesn’t even rip off from “Grave Encounters” either, oh no, it rips off from various other horror films and there’s not really a single unique idea in the entire film. Another such example is that they think that the effects, bumps and exploding water pipes are all down to the special effects guy, only for them to later find him in a position where it couldn’t possibly have been him *cough*House on Haunted Hill*cough*.Hollows-Grove2

The main problem with “Hollows Grove” is that the presenters are just absolutely awful at presentation. They deliver lines like Tony Blair used to do and yet it’s supposedly a very popular show. There’s no possible way that this would be a popular show because the delivery of the lines is just diabolically poor. Other than that though the way the TV set up is presented isn’t actually that unbeliveable as they are shown in a production meeting and actually have a good chemistry, which means that you do connect with the characters on a tiny basis as they are at least shown to have personalities and a relationship with each other.

Whilst the film has many issues, the biggest one for me is the pacing. The film seems to be going fairly nicely, slow building for a while….and a while longer…and a while longer….and all of a sudden they realise that they only have about 10/15 minutes left and they really have to have something happen, and all of a sudden everything turns from maybe 20mph to over 100mph and they try and fit in too much, too soon. The characters even show this as they are fine with the situation that they are in one minute, but then  within seconds they see a ghost or two and all of a sudden they are fighting with each other and the characters start dying off at any exceptionally quick rate. The final ten to fifteen minutes don’t really give you a chance to breathe and you’re left thinking that they could have realistically eased up on the slow build and have things happen far sooner and quicker than they do.

So are there are main positive points that I can give to the film? I’m not going to lie, I am struggling to think of a positive that can’t be countered with a negative. For example, I like that a lot of the changes, such as objects moving, are subtle, but even though they are subtle, they are exceptionally predictable. The thing with horror movies, especially found footage films, is that they are incredibly predictable. For example, they spend a lot of time on the second floor of the building and there is a wheelchair in the corridor that keeps moving long before the characters notice, but the issue is that as an audience member, you notice and you predict it happening as well.

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Summary

I can’t give the movie a positive review. Whilst I didn’t hate it, it has too many issues that are hard to ignore, with the main one being it’s carbon-copy nature to “Grave Encounters” and whilst I obviously don’t know if the director has seen that film, I’d be amazed if he hasn’t given that it shares far too many similarities to be a coincidence.

I’m not going to lie to you, this isn’t a good film. Even though it’s only 80 minutes long and that does go along relatively quickly, it’s hard to enjoy it because of how predictable it is.

Don’t waste your time.

I can feel myself changing!

Year Released : 2014Clown_(2014_film)_poster
Director : Eli Roth
Cast : Andy Powers, Laura Allen, Peter Stormare and Christian Distefano

It’s not often that I write a review for a film which has only just come out, infact, I think only once have I wrote about a film that has been at the cinema within the last month and that was the excellent Black Sea, a film that made it into my top ten films of 2014. Could “Clown” continue that trend?

I’m not going to lie, I had no intention of seeing this film, none whatsoever, but what convinced me was when Eli Roth described it as being similar to the classic 1986 horror “The Fly”and that’s a pretty bold claim from a director that has been exceptionally hit and miss throughout his career, leaning very much to the latter. The Fly is arguably my favourite horror film and to even start comparing a new film to that is almost certainly going to lead any film to a comparison that it’s not even going to stand of chance of winning.

I tend not to find horror films scary anyway, infact I think I have actually only ever seen ONE horror film that scared me, Psycho 2, and I was probably only about 12 at the time. As I mentioned in a previous review horror movies treat fans like idiots these days and for once, instead of me moaning about  horror films and how crap they are, I am going to leave a video just below from my favourite Youtube based film reviewer, Chris Stuckmann, as he delves into the problem with horror movies today.

I’ve been subscribed to Chris for around a year now and his videos inspired me to start writing reviews, I wouldn’t be here writing a review for a film that I had no intention of watching otherwise. Chris has a unique way of reviewing films and that’s why I enjoy watching it so much, and his hilariousity reviews are just insanely funny. Once you’ve finished with my review, go and check out Chris’ channel.

Anyway, onto the review….

PLOT

When Meg (Allen) receives a phone call to confirm that the clown for her son’s birthday party won’t be able to make it, she phones her husband Kent (Powers) to see what they can do. Whilst searching for something to entertain the kids, Kent finds an old clown outfit and decides to wear that. After an exhausting day he falls asleep with the clown suit still on.

Several hours later he awakens to find that he can no longer remove the suit, wig or nose, all of which appear to have embedded themselves into his skin. They do eventually get the nose off, whilst taking half of Kent’s nose with it, but soon Kent starts displaying odd behaviour before going into hiding.

Confused, Meg seeks out Karlsson (Stormare), a man who managed to somehow escape the clown suit. Karlsson reveals that it is not actually a clown costume, but rather the skin and hair of an ancient demon that possesses and transforms the body of whomever is wearing it. Meanwhile, Kent’s continued transformation includes an appetite for young children.

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So…..

I’m going to start off by referencing something that I mentioned in the opening section and that is Eli Roth comparing this film to “The Fly”. Roth said about his film “It’s new territory to make this a version of The Fly, where this guy can feel himself changing, blacking out only to find blood all over his clown suit. You’re sympathetic toward a monster until the monster actually takes over.”

That is about as far from accurate as you can get because the film is nothing like “The Fly”. You can’t compare the character of Kent to the character of Seth Brundle and say that you feel the same about them. There is a fair chunk of “The Fly” where you get to know Seth Brundle before he even begins his transforming. The horror in “The Fly” works because you can do a decent comparison between pre-Fly Seth and BrundleFly, you can tell how desperate he truly gets to be human again, including being willing to risk the life and happiness of his girlfriend, and more his change in attitude towards animals (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen the Monkey-Cat deleted scene).

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Kent is nothing like that. The first time you meet Kent is when he is finding the suit and that comes in the first few minutes. There is no build to his character, he’s just there and in a clown suit. You don’t really get to know anything about him, his relationship with his family or even get the chance to compare him pre-suit to when he starts changing. The only real positive character trait that you can give him is that he does like to make sure that his son has a good birthday, but other than that there is virtually no development of his character. He actually really bland. I found it hard to connect with him as a person.

He certainly isn’t alone in that though, none of the characters are particularly interesting and you never really feel sympathy for any of his family as he’s chasing them as neither Meg or Jack are particularly well acted, and the only actor who has even some semblance of credibility to his acting was Stormare, who had an exceptionally rare outing as a protagonist. Stormare is a very typecast actor and I can’t recall ever see him not playA  an antagonist before, so it was nice to see some versatility.

In terms of the horror, there isn’t really a lot going on to be honest. Right up until the final scene, that isn’t a lot going on that can even be deemed particularly unsettling as the full transformation has taken over Kent’s body. There is one scene that I did like and that’s when Kent is driving along and whilst being attacked, his feet grow to the point where his shoes burst open and his index finger grows to unnatural proportions (although they are really short again seemingly immediately following), that is a bit unnerving but doesn’t move beyond that.

There is a scene set to within an tube system that you see at activity centres for kids but the horror feels more forced than anything as you know that something is in there and inevitably the kid will find it and die. There’s no genuine tension there and I’m not going to lie, the only horror they’ve seemingly tried to do is try and make those that are terrified by clowns terrified by the very thought of being forcible transformed into one, but it’s a flawed concept due that most people who are afraid of clowns, aren’t actively going to watch a film about clowns.

It’d be like being afraid of the dark and then destroy everything that gives off light in your house, or being afraid of heights and then going on a rollercoaster without the safety contraptions done up. If you’re afraid of clowns then chances are that you’d be scared whilst watching this, but if you’re not then you won’t be because there is just no horror there for the vast majority.

You know what? I’ve been writing this review on and off for two days now and in that time I haven’t thought of a single positive to say about it other than one or two fleeting moments, such as the scene in the car. I would say it was crap, but it is disappointing.

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Summary

A horror movie without scares is something that I could overlook, but Eli Roth comparing it to The Fly was outright farcical. I could forgive and overlook that this isn’t a particularly good horror movie had it not been for him mentioning The Fly, but he had to do it. I’ve seen a lot of horror films that were crap, but none of them had the nerve to compare them to any genuine horror movie.

Even if Eli hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be giving this film a positive review. Based on that it’s supposed to be a horror film, there’s no actual horror involved unless you’re afraid of clowns, but if you’re afraid of clowns you are exceedingly unlikely to watch this in the first place. There’s little character development, the acting is bland and worst of all, they do a poor job of convincing me that I should really give a shit that this guy is going through this because everything feels forced.

Do you know me? Do you know me? I’m asking you a question. I’ll tell you who I am, I am a fucking wizard sent from the future in a mother-fucking time machine to tell you that you are an asshole. You’re the type of person that makes fun of fat, short little kids and makes them feel bad about themselves for the rest of their lives because you think you’re so special. Well do you know what? You’re not special. You’re not different. You’re not even particularly interesting. You’re the same, bigoted, homophobic, redneck, football loving, Martin Luther King assassinating, asshole face, son of a bitch redneck that you have spent your entire life rebelling against! And I know that that kills you inside.                

Year Released : 2014suburban-gothic
Director : Richard Bates Jr
Cast : Matthew Gray Gubler, Kat Dennings, Ray Wise, Barbara Niven and Muse Watson

There are some films that have won your attention before you even know what the film is about and whilst browsing a selection of what to watch and review next for this site, this stood out straight away due to it’s odd poster/DVD cover.

I have seen many odd films during my 30 years on this planet but after sitting through this for 90 minutes, I have been struggling to even comprehend most of what I have just watched. It’s hard to put most of it into context because of it’s exceptionally bizarre nature, the loose storyline, pacing which is all over the place and an unusual look. It’s hard to even categorise it as it fits in several different genres all at the same time.

What I would say about Suburban Gothic before we even start is to not go in with any expectations about what you are about to watch, not on any level whatsoever. I went into it expecting something completely different to what I got, and there is nothing that I like more than getting something I don’t expect when I start watching a film.

Plot

Raymond (Gubler) returns to his home town after failing to secure a job after college. His parents (Wise and Niven) seriously disapprove and aren’t welcoming to him at all. As time goes on he begins seeing old friends from school and develops a relationship with Becca (Dennings), who shares his unusual outlook on life.

Meanwhile, Raymond’s parents are having their garden re-landscaped but the works stumble across a wooden coffin with a long deceased girl inside. One of the workers steals a necklace before they all run away. This is followed by supernatural occurrences being noticed throughout the town and Raymond experiencing visions that he hasn’t had since childhood.

The supernatural occurrences turn violent and Raymond must find a way to help protect his family as the ghosts break their bones, all whilst he struggles to convince them that he is not insane.

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Sounds odd…..

It sounds odd because it is. I can’t quite put my finger on it at all but in many ways this is the most unique film I’ve ever seen in terms of it’s look, presentation, acting, dialogue and visuals. The film doesn’t look like a film, it’s vivid use of colours makes it almost seem like what would be a pilot for a TV show rather than a movie. I don’t mean that in a negative way, it’s just usually the case where you see TV shows films in one way and TV shows in another, but this falls very much into the latter. It is very similar in that sense to the TV show “Dead Like Me” and I wouldn’t be surprised if Richard Bates Jr took inspiration from the presentation style of that in preparation for this.

The first thing that I will give it a big credit for is that despite despite being low budget (probably), it’s done in a very professional manner with the camera work. I have pointed out in previous reviews that if a film has poor camera work then it looks me early on, but “Suburban Gothic” doesn’t have that issue. The picture and movement is very fluid, steady and focused, rather than the handheld and/or shaky cam approach of a lot of other low budget films. This “helps” (if that’s the right word) give it the look of a TV show pilot rather than a movie.

Away from the camera work, in many ways this was very similar to 1996’s “The Frighteners” due to the subject matter and the unusual visual approach, although I definitely preferred the Peter Jackson made horror film. There are several reasons for this and it certainly doesn’t help that the pacing is all wrong. At the moment of writing this I am 40 or so minutes into the film and despite the odd mention of what the actual plot point of the film is, the film has largely felt directionless and full to the brim with filler scenes, such as Raymond encountering his old bullies and they threaten to beat him up before he runs away, and they don’t even try and chase him. It adds very little.

That being said, the character of Raymond develops really well throughout, going from his feeling lost aura, right up until his berating a student after she suspects him of being homosexual. He launches into a great rant that I have put at the top of this page and it is one of the best rants I have seen in a film that I’ve reviewed since my look at Laurence Anyways.

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Although the unusual and eerie feeling through is obviously intended , the script, although enjoyable, does regularly feel like it’s odd just for the sake of trying to be odd without actually adding anything to the characters or story. For example, “you’ve just dug yourself a vagina grave” when referencing a bad tattoo, “next time you interrupt your mother sucking my dick then there will be hell to pay”, “I can’t tell you what a pleasure it has been masturbating to you” or even “I’ve just taken some painkillers just incase we have an accident.” It’s just a truly bizarre film based on the dialogue alone, but it keeps you wanting to keep watching just to see what new levels of bizarreness that they can reach next.

Whilst odd, the dialogue does feel like it has a high level of fluidity. Conversations feel largely natural and unlike the pacing of the film in general, the dialogue is spoken in a way and at a rate that is very true to real life. Talking to someone else isn’t always a perfect stream of conversation like you see in films, and through characters interrupt each other, talk over each other and respond in bitchy and sassy ways.

I’m going to finish this by talking about what was one of the biggest positives for me and that is the performance of Gubler. This the first time that I have ever seen a film with him in it and he suits the role absolutely perfect. He has that aura of being an oddball about him (and I mean that in a nice way) and he plays the role of Raymond with seeming ease. He is like a dark-comedy version of Zach Braff in Scrubs and this is one of those roles that had anyone else played it, then it probably wouldn’t have been as  convincing or enjoyable. The character is very likeable throughout and one of the few protagonists from a film I’ve reviewed on this site that I felt I could relate to.

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Summary

If you like bizarre films then this is definitely for you. I’ve seen many odd films throughout my life but this is up there as one of the oddest, and as I say it is remarkably unique. Although I can compare it on a very small basis to “The Frighteners” and the tv show “Dead Like Me”, those are only tiny comparisons.

I’m not entirely sure if I actually like it or not, and it’s obvious why reviews have been largely mixed, but it’s definitely memorable and that is probably the biggest compliment that I can ever give a film. It is certainly one that will stick in my mind for a while.

As time moves on and the technology advances to new levels that were previously thought not possible there are genres that thrive and those that die. Genres, such as westerns, have pretty much died out and are seen as a novelty when released, but others really take advantage and are reaping the awards of biding their time, such as films based on graphic novels and comic books.

There can be few arguments that the genre has enjoyed a major resurgence in the last fifteen years and it is arguable the most popular type of film at the moment, mainly thanks to the gritty Christopher Nolan taken on the Batman franchise with his critically lauded Dark Knight trilogy and the highly enjoyable films in the Marvel Avengers universe. The makers of graphic novels and comic book genre (I will shorten to GNCB after this) have found that winning formula that keeps not only fans of the source material going back to it, but also winning new fans due to it’s approach. As a non-reader of GNCB fiction, I only discover these characters based on the films know nothing about them, but they make me want to read the source material and that is the biggest praise I can give them.

It’s a far cry from the GNCB films prior to the 21st century as there was poor release after poor release and it wasn’t until the aforementioned Dark Knight trilogy started with 2005’s Batman Begins that the genre started to regain a bit of a positive reputation in the films. This was soon followed by films such as (in alphabetical order) 30 Days of Night, 300, Kick Ass, Scott Pilgrim vs the World and V for Vendetta, to name just a few whilst not referencing the Marvel Universe.

The Dark Knight

 

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy’s darker and more realistic approach to the Batman franchise gained critical acclaim and helped majorly towards helping films based on Graphic Novels or Comic Books to become resurgent this millennium.

With numerous stories set in the same universes, crossovers and different visual styles, it’s hard not to get engrossed in the films of the genre, and the pure amount of releases of GNCB films shows exactly how successfully they have turned things around. Although there are only four GNCB films being released in mainstream cinema in 2015 (Kingsman : The Secret Service, Avengers : Age of Ultron, Ant-Man and The Fantastic Four), this is to be followed by considerable more.

All of this is based on current confirmed releases and the numbers could easily increase. In 2016 were will see nine mainstream releases of GNCB films, 2017 will see eleven and then twelve currently announced between 2018 and 2020. That is thirty-two films in a four year period and that is astonishing number and virtually all are likely to make money.

In a previous “Keeping It Reel” I mentioned that the only reason that Resident Evil films keep getting made is because they make money, not because they are good, and whilst the majority of GNCB are good, the only reason we keep seeing the Wolverine character, despite his terrible stand alone movies, is that they make money. By the end of 2020, based on current announcements, there will have been a total of ten films featuring the character and that is too much of one character, but again they keep making money.

In short, GNCB films have turned themselves around and there is another genre that can learn from the example, movies based on computer games. For the sake of this article I am only going to focus on mainstream cinema movies released in the English language and that is for the simple reason that it’s easier this way.

The first computer game to see a major cinema release was Super Mario Bros. The games were very well received (I’m not a fan before anyone asks) but the film, released in 1993, was widely regarded as one of the worst films of the 1990s, and it started a dangerous precedent. At the time of writing there have been 28 cinema releases for films based on computer games as the sole source material, and much like the Resident Evil franchise, the majority only get made because people think that they will make money.

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Milla Jovovich stars as Alice in Resident Evil, the first film to be based on the poular computer game franchise.

The 28 films have made (when rounding the takings to the nearest million) a total of $2.71 billion around the world, averaging out to just shy of $97 million per film, which is an astonishing figure when you take into account that not a single one of them gained a rating higher than 44% on Rotten Tomatoes (Final Fantasy : The Spirits Within) and no higher than 58% on metametric (Mortal Kombat). Infact, taking into account the Rotten Tomatoes rating at the time of writing, the average rating across the 28 films is a poultry 18.29% (rounded up).

This is not to say that I don’t enjoy films that are based on computer games. I enjoyed Mortal Kombat, the first Resident Evil Film, Silent Hill and for my sins, I also liked Doom. One thing I briefly mentioned earlier was that one of the reasons that GNCB films regained momentum was because of films such as The Dark Knight trilogy offering a gritty and more realistic take on things. Pretty much all of the previous Batman films from the 1980s and 90s were presented almost like a comic book in terms of presentation, such as the burns to Harvey Dent in Batman Forever. They almost felt silly, for lack of better words. Turning the franchise “gritty” certainly worked for that franchise and rejuvenated the genre, and in 2010 there was a hint that this could potentially be the future of computer game movies.

Whilst most seem to agree that the first Mortal Kombat film is reasonably ok, it is widely considered that the sequel, Mortal Kombat Annihilation, is just terrible due to several factors, including a considerably reduced budget, actors choosing not to reprise their roles from the first film (such as Sandra Hess replacing Bridgette Wilson as Sonya Blade) and just a shockingly poor delivery of lines, especially by the horrendously bad Musetta Vander as Sindel.

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Anyway, I digress. In 2010, thirteen years after Annihilation, a trailer was released for what was described as a reboot of the franchise and it looked considerably different to either of the previous films and looked more set in reality, unfortunately it turned out to not be a trailer for a new film, but Kevin Tancharoen’s pitch to do a reboot of the franchise. This lead to a new online series featuring several famous actors, including Jeri Ryan (Star Trek Voyager) and Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers), and whilst a film has been spoken about several times, the last update from Warner Bros, who own the rights, was that the budget for a film would be $40-50 million.

Below is the trailer that Tancharoen created.

So why do computer game movies fail? Well more often than not the main people that watch them are the fans of the games and most VG movies are seemingly made for them. Right there you have an issue because you don’t do what GNCB films do and make sure that the films are not just aimed at the fans of the computer games, but also the wider audience. Just limiting yourself to be there for the fans of the computer games is a big problem because not only are non-fans not likely to watch it, but you are under exceptional scrutiny from those who are fans as they will want want made the games enjoyable.

I’ll give you an example, Doom is one of the most popular games of all time, but when the film came out in 2005 and was largely criticised for it’s virtual non-existent relation to the game, other than a brief first-person perspective scene towards the end of the film. The Resident Evil films have suffered a similar problem as other than a few extremely loose references to the game, the only real connection during the film and the early games are the zombies, infact the first film contained zero characters from the games. This issue did quickly get amended as the films did start following the games a bit more, including using characters from the game, although they were only used in name and appearance only, the personalities were not at all like they were in the games.

To put into perspective how important it is to make your film similar in many aspects to what they are based on, imagine if Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit was made after someone read the novels and then decided to add characters in who weren’t in the books or take other characters out of the books entirely…..oh….wait. Whilst Lord of the Rings was widely lauded, the Hobbit suffered greatly from under-developing many characters at the expense of characters who weren’t even in the book, such as Tauriel.

With an increasing amount of films based on computer games coming out in the next few years, surely it’s only a matter of time before one of them is successful on more levels than money.

So I’m going to end this “Keeping it Reel” with a small pitch for a computer game that me and several friends grew up loving. This computer game series has five entries, and although the fourth and fifth entries weren’t particularly good, the first three were exceptionally enjoyable. They transcend genres, age, gender and so many other factors that I can’t even begin to think of that for me it would make the perfect film. Some will argue that the Pirates of the Caribbean films are a very close to this series, and there are numerous nods throughout that quadrilogy which are obvious easter-eggs for those who played the game that I am going to pitch. Ladies and Gentleman, I give you The Secret of Monkey Island.

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The Monkey Island franchise started in 1990 with “The Secret of Monkey Island” and it follows the adventures of Guybrush, a young man who turns up on Melee Island with the ultimate aim of becoming a pirate. As he participates in several trials to prove that he is worthy, he meets Elaine and falls in love, but soon becomes embroiled in a battle with the ghost-pirate Lechuck. This continues through the four sequels, Lechuck’s Revenge, Curse of Monkey Island, Escape from Monkey Island and the Tales of Monkey Island.

Monkey Island was greeted with near universal acclaim due to it’s mix of comedy, romance and action. It was a great all-around game and took nearly three hours to complete, which was exceptionally rare in those days. Even now, 25 years after it’s initial release, I still regularly play the first three games and have conversations with friends about the games on the rare occasions that we see each other. It sums it all up for me about the popularity of the series when the first two installments were given special editions, something which can’t be said about most point and click games, a genre that has been pretty much dead since the early 1990s.

For me there were many reasons why the Monkey Island games, well, the first three anyway, worked and for me the main one of those was that Guybrush was a relatable protagonist. He was a young man with many weaknesses and fears, but tried to overcome those to achieve his dream. That is what a protagonist should be, someone who you could potentially be yourself. The antagonist is also likeable due to the less than serious nature in which his character has been approached.

A Monkey Island film would go down exceptionally well if it paid homage to the games and not someone’s re-imagining.