Archive for May, 2017

Year Released : 2015

Director : Stephen Fingleton

Cast : Martin McCann, Olwen Fouere and Mia Goth

I wonder how many times I’ve reviewed a film for this site that has quotes that contain the words “masterful” or “riveting” before? I’d bet it was a low number, and I’d also wager that the amount that actually lived up to those grandiose claims would be even lower.  I had when smaller films do this because they’re automatically setting themselves up for a fall, and more often than not I come out of the other end very pissed off after feeling lied to.

Then again, it’s all based on the opinion of someone else, and if there is anything that I am a firm believer of it is that even if your opinion is different, it doesn’t mean their’s is wrong. That’s the beauty about films, two people could see the exact same movie and have completely different views on it. For example, last year a lot of people raved about “Deadpool”, but I personally didn’t enjoy it, and the same will be said about some other films that have been released so far this year, and will surprise some when I get around to my annual look at the year at the cinema.

But anyway, I came across this film at random, I can’t even remember how, so I might as well give it a chance…..

Plot

An unnamed man (McCann) has been living alone in a shack for seven years following an apocalyptic event. One day he hears a noise outside and there are two woman, mother and daugther duo Katherine (Fouere) and Milja (Goth). He reluctantly agrees to feed them in exchange for sex with Milja. After a few days he agrees that they can stay permanently, but they secretly want to kill him so that they can take his supplies. Before they can though the man becomes aware of footprints in the mud that don’t belong to any of them.

The group has no choice but to hide from the raiders as there aren’t enough weapons to kill them. Soon after this Milja realises that she is pregnant with the man’s child, and she and her mother again conspire to kill him. A failed abortion attempt later drives the desire to kill him further, but he may soon be their only chance of survival as the raiders return.

So, is it worth the praise on the movie poster?

Films set in a post-apocalyptic environment usually fall under one of two categories, masterful and emotionally engaging, or pretentious nonsense that is full of completely uninteresting characters that are poorly acted. This very much falls into the latter.

Let’s start with the acting of the person who is bizarrely given top billing on a lot of sources, Mia Goth. Goth was in the disastrously bad “A Cure For Wellness” earlier in the year and she was one of the worst things about it. With a gormless look throughout “The Survivalist” and an acting style that screams disinterested bystander, she again repeats being the worst part about a film that is far too long for how dull it is. Had this film had a different actress playing the character of Milja then it might have stood a chance, but they went with someone who can’t stir a single emotion out of herself, let alone making anyone else feel any.

I’d love to know what they’re teaching young actresses at acting school these days because so many of them seem incapable of portraying any emotion that doesn’t involve having a gormless expression on their face, even in the most tense or emotional situation.

Away from the awful acting, the film just isn’t that interesting. “The Survivalist” moves at the pace of a snail and whilst this isn’t always a bad thing in some cases, it definitely is here. For a start it takes nearly 15 minutes for any dialogue to take place, and by that point I was already struggling to get engaged. This is one of the least enthralling post-apocalyptic films I’ve ever seen, and the quotes on the poster definitely don’t reflect what the movie, which has a 100+ minute runtime by the way.

Summary

It’s not engaging, it’s not exciting and it is about as bored as I have been watching a movie that I have reviewed for this site. With one of the worst young actresses working today, the movie never stood a chance of being exciting, and I’m almost tempted to ask for my 100 minutes or so of my life back.

If I was to assign a specific word to this film to be added to the poster, it would simply be “meh”.

In two hours we want thirty of you dead. If thirty of you are not dead, we will end sixty of your lives ourselves. Five, four, three, two, one.

Year Released : 2016

Director : Greg McLean

Cast : John Gallagher Jr, Tony Goldwyn, John C McGinley, Adria Arjona, Melonie Diaz, Josh Brener, Owain Yeoman, Michael Rooker, Sean Gunn and David Dastmalchian

So one of the things about working at a large cinema is that there is generally always room for smaller films to come in, and I was genuinely delighted when we got “The Belko Experiment”. I had seen the trailer for this several months ago, but I was genuinely surprised that we were showing it.

Those long term readers will know that survival/last man standing films interest me quite a lot due to the psychological aspect to them, especially when the characters are build correctly. For example, I’ve recently been rewatching “Circle” after it got added to Netflix (it’s a rarity that I will rewatch a film that I’ve reviewed on this site, even if I have liked it) and appreciated it more than I did last time as without a main character, you appreciate how they’ve built various characters very well, and even knowing who survived in the end didn’t change that.

But anyway, now that my cinema chain is no longer showing “The Belko Experiment”, I am finally able to talk about this, ad you’ll find out why in a minute.

Plot

As they had into work the employees of Belko are puzzled as to why anyone who is a national of Columbia (where the company is based) is turned away by an unknown security unit. Other than that the day is running relatively normally until a voice comes over the intercom saying that they have to kill two people in the building or suffer consequences. Everyone treats it as a prank until huge metal sheets raise and cover any possible exit. The employees fail to kill two of their own, so the voice fulfils his threat and kills four at random.

Soon after the voice returns and says that if thirty of them aren’t dead within two hours, then sixty of them will die. Realising what a real threat this is, the group starts heading in different moral directions, with a group lead by Barry (Goldwyn) attempting to gain access to the weapons. They eventually split the large group into smaller ones and start executing people in certain groups (such as the over 60s), but that isn’t enough as only 29 are killed, and those that aren’t killed in the subsequent punishment are told that it is now a case of last one standing.

So why did you have to wait to review it?

Now, I know that some of you will know that I have reviewed films in the past that my cinema chain has been showing, but the reason that I was able to talk about those films was because I was about to give them the approved stamp, and a largely positive review, but unfortunately that isn’t going to be the case here. I am not contractually allowed to criticise any film that my chain is showing.

On paper this is my type of film and I have reviewed many similar for this site, such as “Circle”, but the problem with “The Belko Experiment” is that it has far, far too many forgettable characters, and one-dimensional ones at that. I am going to liken it to “Circle” in the sense that as mentioned above, “Circle” doesn’t have a main character, nor does it ever claim to, you are never sure who is going to survive, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. The primary protagonist and antagonist are obvious throughout the entire film. As the rounds go on, there is somewhat of a lack of engagement because you know which two are going to survive right until the end, so in that sense it is disappointing.

However, other than that it’s actually not a bad effort. I do like the moral conundrum and it left me curious how I would react in the situation, and ultimately I found myself leaning towards the logic of Barry and his group. If you don’t kill, you’re going to be killed and you need to get used to the idea. The way that they deal with those who they view as expendable of a no-nonsense approach that you would need to take, so in that sense I can certainly appreciate it on some level.

I also have to single out John C McGinley as Wendell. He is fantastic. Obviously the majority of people will know McGinley from his time on the TV show “Scrubs” and his comedically genius portrayal of Dr Cox, but in this he is menacing and would make an excellent primary antagonist in virtually every other horror film. In an otherwise forgettable cast of characters, he stands out.

To be fair, no-one puts in a bad performance, the problem is that some characters are simply too irrelevant and forgettable. Before writing this review I had completely forgotten the vast majority of the character names, I only saw the film a few weeks ago. That’s not to say that they aren’t enjoyable to watch, such as Sean Gunn’s conspiracy nut Marty, but realistically you know that characters such as him are never ultimately going to survive the story.

It is a shame that it was just too predictable.

Summary

A high level of predictability plagues this film throughout and whilst you’re never bored, the lack of a central character that makes other films more engaging would have been very welcome. Even in the trailer you can tell who the likely character(s) to make it to the end are, and that level of predictability just isn’t enjoyable to watch.

No-one puts in a bad performance, but there certainly isn’t anything about “The Belko Experiment” that stands out as being unique.

I really wanted to love this, but I just couldn’t.

Playing Russian Roulette with his pecker is one of his new favourite games

Year Released : 2017

Director : Bradley Stryker

Cast : Alex Turshen, Keenan Henson, Caitlin Stryker, Bradley Stryker and Krista Donargo

It is not often that I review a film that has an average rating of less than 3/10 on IMDB, but here we are. I got randomly sent the trailer for this feature and thought it looks relatively interesting, but the 2.9/10 rating has left me with strong doubts that this will prove to be enjoyable.

Of course having a low rating on IMDB means precisely nothing until you’ve seen it. I’ve seen a lot of films with low ratings on there and enjoyed them, infact the first film I ever reviewed for this site was “Exit Humanity”, which had a very average 5.2/10 at the time, and I loved it. Then again, there have been times where I have said that the low rating is still too high for some films.

I guess we’ll just have to see.

Plot

Abby (Turshen) is reluctant to go on holiday until she catches her boyfriend having sex with another woman. She decides to travel to Thailand after all, and within hours she has her bag stolen, but it is returned by Ben (Henson) and Jewel (C Stryker), tourists making a documentary about backpackers. She soon receives a photo of her sister Penny’s (Donargo) feet.

A few days pass before Abby goes to have a video chat with Penny, but she is horrified when she sees her being held hostage by a man in a clown mask, but Ben tries to convince her that it is part of a known prank in Asia in which someone wants someone close to them to start appreciating life, or the right priorities in life.

As time goes on Abby starts to believe that it isn’t actually a prank and convinces Ben and Jewel to go with her to find Penny, but soon afterwards they receive a package with a video of Penny claiming to be fine, even though she is on the verge of tears. Ben admits to his camera that he doesn’t have the heart to tell Abby that the package it arrived in also contained some severed fingers.

How long can Penny survive?

So is it worth a 2.9/10?

Whilst I was watching this I decided to have a look at some of the comments from those that have watched the film already, and one thing that came to mind straight away is something that I have commented on in the past, in other words, people who are involved in the film, or related to them, have given it a good score, and that’s all that is proping it up at 2.9.

The reason I am so sceptical is because, putting it nicely, “Land of Smiles” is a boring, disjointed, piece of shit. Let’s start with the most confusing aspect of the film and that is that it can’t seem to make its mind up with whether it is a found footage movie or not. There are some scenes that are presented in that fashion, whereas others aren’t, I refuse to believe this nonsense from the throw-away line of a guy making a documentary about backpackers so his camera is ALWAYS on.

This lack of a clear structure is made even less convincing by the eyebrow-raising cringy acting from all concerned. For example, when Abby has her bag stolen, she is just stood there with a gormless look on her face whilst they remove the bag very slowly and casually off of their back, she doesn’t do anything to stop it and then they just canter off without Abby even so much as putting up a half-hearted chase. If you want me to care about your character and her plight then at least make it look like she cares herself.

I would normally suggest that the cast just aren’t capable of acting, but Alex Turshen was in another film that I reviewed a few months ago, Boy Meets Girl, and she was decent then, so I don’t get it. It is almost like she just decided “fuck it” just before filming started.

I think that is arguably the biggest reason why this fails as a compelling story, the characters just aren’t that interesting, or even well written. There is very little that actually compels you to get behind any of them, nor even feel sorry for Penny as she is getting tortured, and even then I’m being VERY generous with that. All you’ve seen of Penny for the majority of the film is, other than her sat there whilst the clown makes threats, is that she didn’t like Abby’s boyfriend and acted like a spoilt child when Abby declined to go on holiday with her. Even the Saw franchise built up it’s torture victims better than this, well……some of them anyway.

For me the biggest insult is that whilst it uses the beautiful location of Thailand to make it look very decent for a low budget film, it seems to use it purely to distract you from the poor dialogue on screen. There is one scene in particular that seemed to have the camera set up so far from what was happening so that you could admire the hilly island in the background of the shot, rather than focusing on the characters having a yoga session and an uninteresting conversation.

Other than the use of the location, I can’t think of a single positive about “Land of Smiles”.

Summary

Poor acting, awful dialogue, an uninteresting story and boring characters, I can definitely see why this is rated as 2.9/10 on IMDB at the time of writing. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that this is the worst film I’ve seen for this site, nor would it break into a bottom five position, but there doesn’t change it from being awful.

If you’re looking for an example of good film-making with an exotic location, don’t choose this. Other than the beautiful location of Thailand, there is precisely nothing interesting in this movie at all and it is a waste of ninety or so minutes of you time.

Just avoid.