Archive for the ‘Foreign Language’ Category

He spent two bullets on eleven men. He saved your tax money!

Year Released : 2014man-on-high-heels-32390
Director : Jang Jin
Cast : Cha Seung-Wan, Oh Jung-Se, Esom and Song Young-Chan

Recently I reviewed a South Korean movie called “Train to Busan”, and it was surprisingly half decent considering it is a zombie film, a genre done to death in recent years. It was my first glimpse into South Korean film and I decided that if I were to get another opportunity then I would jump on it, and that’s what happened when I was browsing Netflix and found “Man on High Heels”.

For those that haven’t read the site before, I am transgender, and I am automatically intrigued by films about people with gender dysphoria, albeit I won’t just watch a film simply because of that. The film has to offer something that I haven’t seen before and this achieves that relatively well, as I’m never seen a film about a man that wants to be a woman but could comfortably kick your arse if he wanted to.

This does however give me a little trepidation when it comes to this as it does look like one of those typical films in which the protagonist breaks arms without breaking into a sweat. You know what I mean? Those characters who, despite the number and/or size of the enemy, you never doubt they’re going to win, therefore taking any real sense of tension out of the scene….think the majority of the Marvel franchise.

But anyway, we’ll see.

Plot

Unfeasibly good cop Yoon Ji-Wook (Cha) has decided to quit the police force to finally complete his dream, living as a woman, although hormones are not working as is hoped. Virtually no-one knows about his desire other than close friends and a former lover, mainly because he successfully separates the two aspects of his personality.

Soon, after going out as a woman in public for the first time, Ji-wook is visited by one of two gangster brothers, the Heo’s, but Ji-wook easily defeats Bul (Song) in a fight, and this leads to him placing the man under arrest. Bul eventually brokers a deal that will see his sentence halved if he sells out his brother, Gon (Oh). Gon is unsurprisingly unimpressed with the idea once he finds out, and his gang soon kills the prosecutor responsible for the idea.

Meanwhile, Ji-wook has actually gone to Gon to fund his reassignment surgery, unaware of the connection, but as soon as Gon finds out who Ji-wook is, and more importantly his secret, he decides that killing everyone in Ji-wook’s life is the only way to re-establish dominance in Seoul.

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A decent LGBT film?

“Man on High Heels” is certainly one of the more unusual transgender related films that I’ve seen in recent times, and certainly one of those that doesn’t fit the usual mould for films in the LGBT genre, especially given that the character of Ji-wook shows very little signs of femininity when not dressed in female clothing. The best way I could really describe it is if you imagine Neo from the Matrix franchise, and having kicking everyone’s arse, all whilst wearing a dress, that’s the summation of this film.

If you’re going into this film expecting it to be full on LGBT action then you’re going to be disappointed. The character spends around 95% of the film in fully male clothing, with only the odd scene here and there spent in more feminine attire, and whilst the obvious desire to be female is there, you could be forgiven for forgetting the desire to be female for most of the film’s over-two hour run time.

I suppose though that I can personally relate to Ji-wook. I am a male-to-female transsexual and yet I don’t act or dress in an overly feminine manner, and many ways the uncertainty in which the character approaches his feminine side, especially outwardly, reminds me very much of when I initially came out around four and a half years ago. There is one particular scene in an elevator in which Yi-wook realises that others are about to get in to ride down to the ground floor, and she cowers in the corner, facing the wall, because she is afraid of the reactions, which is understandable and very relatable.

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Presentation wise I loved “Man on High Heels” and it has that noir style that I find very appealing personally. Visually it is excellent, with great attention to detail given to each scene in order to make it look like the very vibrant city with a dark side that I’m sure Seoul is (I’ve never been there, or anywhere in South Korea…..or even Asia just for the record). In this sense it strikes me as a very similar city to Los Angeles, another place in which noir films are often set.

I do however have two concerns with “Man on High Heels”. The first of which is that the fighting scenes, whilst not plentiful, certainly don’t have a sense of tension to them as Ji-wook never feels like he is under a genuine threat of being beaten by his opponents. Even when it is ten-on-one at the end, you still get the feeling that he could easily defeat them, and it means that there is no real depth to the fighting. There is no real tension there because like a lot of similar fighting films, you feel that you could see this character against a hundred people at once, and they’d still win.

My other issue with it is that whilst I did largely enjoy the film, at times it is hard to follow. I don’t think this is to do with the language barrier as I watched another South Korean film last week and had no issues with that, but for the first hour, other than the odd scene here and there, I didn’t really get into the story and found it a bit hard to follow at times.

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Summary

“Man on High Heels” is a largely enjoyable film for what it is, but unfortunately it does lack of a bit of depth by not really having any tension in the fights, and more importantly, a story that at times is a little tricky to follow.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I disliked the film, far from it infact, but I couldn’t give it the approved stamp in all good conscience as, whilst enjoyable, I wouldn’t really recommend it to others, and I think that is a big part for me.

Certainly don’t avoid if you get a chance to watch it, but don’t expect brilliant either.

I’ll take you to mom no matter what

Year Released : 20161
Director : Sang-ho Yeon
Cast : Yoo Gong, Dong-seok Ma, Yu-mi Jung, Su-an Kim, Eui-sung Kim and So-hee Ahn

So you may have noticed that after my promise to start posting again regularly, I haven’t posted since, but there is a good reason for that, I got promoted! I have mentioned a few times on this site that one of my jobs was working at a cinema part time, working hard for minimum wage, and it paid off as I was promoted to manager (well, my actual title is Guest Experience Supervisor) at a different cinema in the chain I work for, and long story cut short, I now work in London.

I haven’t actually moved to London yet though, I am commuting and staying in hotels until I can find somewhere to live. The hotel I have spent most of my time in so far has an independent movie nearby, and when I went to watch something there I saw a trailer for a South Korean zombie film called ‘Train to Busan’, and it didn’t look terrible.

Long term readers of the site will know that I have grown exceptionally tired of the zombie genre, but this looks to be a relatively fresh take on things.

Plot

Seok-woo (Gong) is struggling to raise his daughter Soo-an (Kim) whilst juggling his successful fund management career, so much to the point where she wants to go and live with her mother in Busan. For her birthday he decides to grant her wish and the two travel from Seoul. Just after taking her seat, Soo-an notices the train station staff suddenly being tackled to the ground as the train pulls off.

Further down the train a young lady with a bite has managed to get onto a carriage and when checked upon, she suddenly attacks train staff and other passengers, and the chain of chaos starts going down the train. Whilst trying to run, Seok-woo shuts the door on Sang-hwa (Ma) and his pregnant wife Seong-kyeong (Jeong) when they are trying to run, although both are eventually let through, causing blows between the group. They soon realise that the zombies don’t know how to get through the doors.

The train eventually pulls into Daejeon, a city where a military blockade has successfully been put in place, but when they emerge from the station they see that the hundreds of soldiers and survivors have infact turned themselves. Several members of the group falls before a small handful of survivors manage to escape on the departing train, but it’s not only the infected that they now have to worry about as they try and find a place that is safe.

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Reasonable zombie film?

“Train to Busan” reminded me a lot of “World War Z” during the trailer and the entire film has a similar bleak tone, albeit on a significantly smaller scale. Whilst it has it’s flaws, “Train to Busan” is certainly one of the better zombie films that I have seen in recent years. Granted, I know that’s not really a challenge, but there is still something to be said for the situation.

Let’s start with the zombies themselves. Unlike most zombie films, they do feel like a genuine threat because they are the fast-style zombies, rather than the shuffling type. They can run just as fast as the human characters do and I love the feeling that any character can die at any time, although as is typical for horror films, the kids are always fine and you never feel that they won’t get saved at the last second, which does happen on a regular basis.

That is my only issue with this film really, whilst the child character is fine and well acted, you never feel like her life is in a genuine position of threat, and it *spoiler alert* came as no surprise when the only two characters left alive at the end were a child and a pregnant woman. For me that is a big problem with horror films and it would actually be refreshing for a child to die in a mainstream horror movie, and more importantly, that surviving characters are predictable.

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The characters are somewhat one-dimensional, especially arguably the antagonist, but I still found myself drawn to them and wanting the majority to survive, and that is something that I don’t get often. This is because other than the antagonist, they’re all pretty likeable, if a little naive.

Setting the film majoritively on a train is well used aspect as it adds a sense of claustrophobia to the situation, especially a scene where three of the main characters are trapped in a toilet cubicle that has a hoard of zombies directly outside of it. There are no windows in the cubicle and the only door leads them to almost inevitable death, so you feel just as trapped as they are, and this is feeling of being trapped is replicated in a few other situations where the character(s) can’t escape.

This isn’t the first zombie film that is set on a vehicle of some variety (another example being “Flight of the Living Dead”), but off of the top of my head it is probably the best one.

4

Summary

A decent enough zombie film and I would recommend it if you get a chance to watch it, and it’s a rare example of me giving the approved stamp to not only a zombie film, but a horror film in generally.approved

I know that this is a shorter review that normal but I don’t really have a lot to say. It is a cliched zombie film, but it is done in a far, far more professional manner than a lot of other movies in the genre.

Don’t go in expecting a genre-defining epic, but if you do watch this then you will have fun for just shy of two hours….oh yeah, it’s a near two hours long zombie film, which is remarkably long for a film of this type.


Do people in wheelchairs always interrupt? 

Year Released : 2015men-and-chicken.36041
Director : Anders Thomas Jensen
Cast : Mads Mikkelsen, David Dencik, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Søren Malling  and Nicolas Bro

A few weeks ago I moved to a new area of Leeds (hence a lack of reviews recently as I am STILL sorting out my things), and I recently started attending a cinema that is a 20 minute walk from my house to watch films that aren’t being shown at the ones I work at.

If you’re ever in the Leeds area then I’d recommend a trip to Hyde Picture House. You can find out more information about them and the films that they’re showing on their website.

Whilst this has proven to have mixed results so far as one of the two I’ve watched is currently third in my Top 10 for 2016, and the other is in my bottom 10, I am enjoying the chance to see smaller films in the cinema.

I read the programme of what they have coming on and noticed the name Mads Mikkelsen, one of my favourite actors, and from that point onwards I was sold on the film, even though I had no idea what it was about. It’s very rare I go to a cinema without having a clue what I’m about to watch, but that’s what is about to happen (I write this bit before I watch each film I review).

So can Mads make it a trio of positive reviews of his films for this site (the other two being The Hunt and Valhalla Rising), or will it go the way of a lot of films I’ve reviewed recently and steer well clear of my approval stamp?

Plot

Elias (Mikkelsen) and Gabriel (Dencik) are very different brothers. Elias is a self-obsessed and sexually obsessed person, where Gabriel is fair more practical and has a far more realistic view of the world. One day Gabriel visits their father at the hospital, only to see him die. Gabriel informs Elias and the two discover that their father had left them a video. The pair watch it and discover that he wasn’t actually their biological father, revealing the name of their real father.

Gabriel decides to go in search of his father for answers, and reluctantly agrees to take Elias along with them. When they arrive at the large house on a remote island, they are viciously beaten by three men who eventually turn out to be their half-brothers, Franz (Malling), Josef (Bro) and Gregor (Kaas). The brothers are initially horrified by the animal filled house and Gabriel in particular is frustrated at the three’s insistence that they can’t see their father.

Elias starts forming a relationship with the brothers, but nevertheless agrees to help Gabriel upstairs, but what they discover, followed by a later trip to the basement, raises more questions than answers.

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So was it better not knowing the plot going in?

I must admit that if I had read the plot before going in then chances are that I wouldn’t have actually gone to watch it in the first place, but I’m sort of glad I did it this way because “Men and Chicken” is a very enjoyable, if somewhat unusual look at five very different men that are simply trying to find their place in the world.

Let’s start with the story and whilst it might not sound that interesting, there is a genuine level of not really knowing where you’re going to end up. The story keeps evolving as time goes on and that is something that I rarely see in films these days. Often there will be a central plot and it won’t really develop much further, but that’s definitely not an issue for “Men and Chicken,” so much to the point where the title only really takes significant meaning in the final five minutes.

The comedy throughout may not be laugh-out-loud, but it is definitely enough to keep you to the odd chuckle every now and then, but that’s what I like in my comedies, jokes that aren’t obvious. You’ll notice when I eventually get around to my Top 10 of 2016, or indeed the top tens I produced in 2014 and 2015, that not only do I not place many comedies highly, but that I don’t watch many at all, but “Men and Chicken” found the right humour for me.

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Towards the end of the film there is an hilarious scene in which Gabriel has been trying to change the behaviour of his half-brothers by introducing them to the Bible, even though he is atheist himself. The brothers have only ever been exposed to non-fiction books and when reading the story of Abraham and Isaac they sit there summarising why it is ludicrous, rather than simply enjoying it, and the frustration that you feel from Gabriel is genuine and delightful at the same time, especially when you remember the part about him being atheist and a man of science himself.

The acting from all concerned is excellent, and it won’t come as any surprise that I’m about to praise Mikkelsen, who is taking on a very different role from what he normally does. He brings a great depth and level of sympathy to a character that isn’t really that likable, and is actually downright deplorable at times. But for me the highlight comes from the fact that whilst they have a genuine Hollywood star in their cast, the story doesn’t purely focus on him, and each of the characters are given plenty of time to develop, giving the actors concerned a great opportunity to shine.

With five very different characters, you get five very good performances that are very far apart from each other, and for me the surprise came from Nikolaj Lie Kaas, who plays the interesting character of Gregor. Gregor is much like Elias in that he is sexually starved, and he is desperate for love, but he practices by, and there’s no nice way of putting this, having sex with chickens. Much like Elias, you actually get a genuine liking for Gregor because Kaas plays him so well, and with a surprising level of emotional depth.

There aren’t really any negatives I can think of during the film. It kept me interested for 100odd minutes, never felt like it was dragging and just got pretty much everything right.

Mænd og Høns Directed by Anders Thomas Jensen Produced by Tivi & Kim Magnusson M&M Production Photo Credit Rolf Konow

Summary

It’s a rare thing for this site that I review a film that is at the cinema at the time of writing, but when I do they tend to be good, and “Men and Chicken” has continued to the trend. This should be an example to approvedHollywood that you can create a film that has zero special effects and still create a exceptional bit of film.

There is a chance that this will make my Top 10 for the year, so if you get a chance I would definitely recommend it, but be prepared for 100 or so minutes of one of the most unusual plots that you will ever see, especially in the final 20 or so minutes.

 

 

Screw your stuff! You don’t have time

Year Released : 2015bolgen-poster-thumb-300xauto-56104
Director: Roar Uthaug
Cast : Kristoffer Jone, Ane Dahl Torp, Jonas Hoff Oftebro and Edith Haagenrud-Sande

In September of this year I spent my 31st birthday in the Norwegian city of Tromsø, the most northern city in the world. Whilst there I fell in love with Norwegian culture and I can picture myself living there one day. One of the many places I visited during my short stay in the city was the cinema and there I watched Bølgen, a film about an inevitable disaster in the village of Geiranger.

As you would expect with a Norwegian made film, it is in the Norse language and with my Norwegian not being particularly strong, I didn’t really understand most of the dialogue, but you could follow the story easily enough, however, I didn’t want to watch it until I saw it with the subtitles on.

This film has been chosen to be Norway’s representative at the 2016 Academy Awards for “Best Foreign Film”, so is it worth it?

Plot

Kristian (Joner) is a geologist in the small village of Geiranger, but he will soon be moving his family to Stavanger to work in a new industry. On his final day at his job monitoring the movements of rocks in the local area, Kristian notices some odd readings and he can’t shake the thought of it as he is driving his children, Sondre (Oftebro) and Julia (Haagenrud-Sande) to the ferry ahead of their move. He turns around and heads back to his now former office.

Idun (Torp) is less than thrilled about her husband’s last minute turn around and whilst she houses Sondre at the hotel she works at, Julia begs Kristian to take her to the house for one last night. Whilst Julia sleeps, Kristian receives word that the geometric readings are going off the charts and as predicted, a landslide occurs, creating a tsunami of around 80 metres high.

The geologists in the area raise the alarm to evacuate Geiranger, but with less than 10 minutes it’s a race against time for everyone to be saved, but Idun and Sondre have more than simply the water to deal with when they become trapped in the hotel’s basement with Philip (Thomas Bo Larsen), a man who blames Idun for his wife’s death.

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So, worth of being nominated for the Oscars?

The Oscars are a strange beast in that there have been years when some of the films that have been relegated to simply being “Best Foreign Language Film” have actually been better than some of those that have been nominated for the “Best Picture” nod, but this isn’t one of those occasions.

Bølgen may very well be the best film in Norway over the last few years (I don’t have a lot of basis for comparison just to clarify), but despite an excellent opening 75 or so minutes, the remaining 25 minutes really stretch it out to the point where it went from being near guaranteed being given the “approved” tag, to a film which is drastically let down by it’s final quarter.

Let’s start with the positives though and the brilliant visuals in the film. One of the reasons that I have fallen in love with Norway is that it is a beautiful country. This film captures that beauty wonderfully. Locations are regularly one of the few things that independent/lesser known films beat mainstream films on and Bølgen delivers. Even the massive wave looks fantastic.

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The dialogue in the film feels very different from other films and almost genuine. The family have real conversations and very few things in the first 3/4 of the film that doesn’t feel forced. Even the geologists are having more human conversations and you get to know them on some basis, whereas in other disaster films everything is so to the point that there’s no personality to the characters, and you don’t care about them. However, in Bølgen you genuinely feel for the characters and the situation that they find themselves.

In films such as 2012, San Andreas and many, many others of a similar nature, the character building seems to be secondary to the destruction and special effects, but Bølgen is very much the opposite. Even when the wave is created, the film focuses more on the tension of the wave approach, rather than the immediate disaster. For example, Kristian realises he won’t get high enough on a road soon enough, he climbs into a nearby car and watches as the wave very slowly approaches. The tension that builds is done excellent and then the pure chaos when the wave hits is realistic.

Whilst horror might not be the right word, the tension that the film builds as the wave approaches is fantastic, and as soon as the siren is sounded you felt the genuine panic of those that knew what was coming, which is perfectly contrasted by those in the hotel that don’t realise just how serious the situation is and just casually stroll around. The size of the wave also seems very realistic, which makes a refreshing change, and everything about the film feels scientifically accurate. I will caveat that with that I am not a scientist and only got a C.


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However, away from the great visuals and excellent character development, the film is just too long and it wains towards the end. Whilst I was engaged for the first and a bit, the last quarter of the film was no different from your typical ending in a Hollywood film, and that was so disappointing. Before then it was easily going to get my approval stamp, but the final 25 minutes are cliched to the point where I forgot (other than the language) that this wasn’t a mainstream film.

The film spent it’s time so well before then in character development and excellent pacing, but the final 25 minutes just became so predictable that it took a lot of the enjoyment out of it, and judging by the IMDB page I am not alone in the sentiment. I hate predictable films and even when I wasn’t sure what was probably being talked about when I went to a non-subtitles viewing, I was still easily able to predict what was going to happen at the end.

Other than that it should have ended 25 minutes earlier than it did, I don’t really have that much to complain about with Bølgen.


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Summary

Bølgen was twenty-five minutes away from getting an approved stamp. Before that it was genuine, fresh and relatively original. The characters were well developed and built, and you feel like the want the characters to survive.

The film looks fantastic and the locations are brilliant. The terror of the wave approaching is genuine and it creates a genuine atmosphere of tension that is created.

If only it ended twenty minutes earlier.

See the return of local boy, Samuel Lorit! Tonight, feel the heat at Lagrippe! Hip, hip, hip!

Year Released : 2015goalofthedead
Directors : Thierry Poiraud and Benjamin Rocher
Cast : Alban Lenoir, Charlie Bruneau, Tiphaine Daviot, Ahmed Sylla

Ahh, two of my childhood passions combining, zombies and football. Now, before my American readers think this is about their glorified version of rugby, it isn’t. This is very much about the game that the vast majority of the world calls football, you know, the game where you control the ball with your feet.

I have almost mentioned a few times in the past that I love zombie films, and have done since my brother first introduced me to the Resident Evil games in the mid-1990s, so I figure if I am doing this whole month of horror reviews that I should really include at least one zombie film….although let’s face it, it’s probably not going to be the last.

I’ve commented a few times in the recent past that zombies are a movie monster that have long outstayed their welcome. There is very little left to do with the genre, so in many ways I suppose it’s worth combining it with the most popular sport in the world.

Plot

Sam (Alban Lenoir) is a footballer for Olympic Paris FC who is returning to his hometown of Caplounge for a cup match, the first time he has been back since a big money move to the team from the capital. His return isn’t welcomed by everyone, especially local hero Jeannot (Sebastien Vandenberghe) willingly injects himself with something he believes will give him an edge, and within seconds it turns him into a bloodthirsty, semi-aware zombie.

Jeannot is not the only person who isn’t happy about Sam’s return and he is vilified by the locals when he steps off of the team coach and it’s revealed that they still blame him for the club’s loss to Olympic 17 years prior, the game in which he had played well enough to convince them to sign him. The match doesn’t go well either as he is sent off.

Whilst going to drown his sorrows, Sam meets Cleo (Daviot) and starts flirting with her. A TV reporter that has been following Sam around suddenly bursts through the door and shows them the approaching zombie horde. Cleo then reveals that Sam is her father.

With various pockets of fans and players from both sides managing to survive, how long can they all last and/or survive?

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Have the French made a decent zombie film?

It’s hard to say really as it is effectively two different films in one. For some reason the directors decided to direct half of the film each, so whilst the first half is more comedy and character based, the second half is more serious, violent and concentrates more on action. It feels very disjointed having two very different styles of film-making used, that despite having the exact same characters.

The whole disconnected feeling starts when the first half of the film ends and the second half starts with brand new opening credits, presented in a far different style than the first half. The first half’s opening credits were quite unique and enjoyable, whereas the second half’s was more generic, and therein lies the problem.

Whilst the first half is very enjoyable and interesting throughout it’s 55-minute is run time, the remaining hour of the second half feels very much like just a generic zombie movie. There is pretty much nothing in the second half that I haven’t already seen, and I felt somewhat bored during the second half as I could predict what was going to happen, whereas the first half was very enjoyable.

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It wasn’t just the change of style that was somewhat strange, it was also the inconsistencies between the two halves. For example, in the first half you see that the zombies are actually intelligent and are more intent on causing harm rather than eating, ala 28 Days Later, and they infect people by vomiting on them, but in the second half they are the same mindless zombies that you get in any zombie film and the vomiting style of infection is used very briefly in a single scene.

But enough about the differences in style and continuity errors, let’s talk about the rest of the film.

I love that it is basically the story of “absence makes the heart grow fonder” as Sam genuinely expects a hero’s welcome, but gets the opposite. It shows the truly fickle nature of football fans and this aspect of the film was spot on for me. As a fan of Lincoln City, I have seen plenty of players leave the club and whilst most get clapped upon their return with a different club, a lot of others get vilified for the rest of their careers, regardless of how well they did during their spell at the club.

The character of Sam seems completely oblivious to being hated by his hometown fans, then again, when you spend a lot of the opening scenes talking about how old you are and what you plan to do after retirement, it’s not hard to be distracted enough to not realise that people don’t like you. That’s just one example of a LOT of exposition in the film and early on in the film, pretty much the first scene, is a segment shown from a football talk show, and all they do is constantly reiterate how old Sam is, and talk about another character’s imminent transfer to a London based club simply known as “London FC”.

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Visually the film feels a lot cleaner and crisp than most other zombie films, with the only exception I can think of being Zombieland, and acoustically it is also relatively excellent, however, there is just something missing, especially from the second half of the film, that makes the film enjoyable overall.

There is a lot of work to establish certain things, such as what is on a cassette tape, that just never pay off because they’re just not that important or worth while to the storyline. For example, that tape is just a group of five fans singing a brand new chant that they have come up with so that it can be played over the tannoy and everyone can join in. The issue with that is that if it’s designed to get people to join in, no-one other than these five know the words, it would take too long to have any meaningful impact, and so long is spent on it that it never feels like the time you’ve invested in that is going to pay off.

Cleo revealing that she is Sam’s daughter also never really pays off either. It’s briefly discussed in part two but for what is presented like a major twist in the story, again it has very little pay off. The character of Cleo is barely developed or even introduced before this revelation, and it just felt like they were trying to force a sub-plot on you without having any real emotion significance attached to it.

And finally, the worst pay off is the character of Jeannot, the closest thing that the film has to a true antagonist. We first meet the character as he is being injected with whatever the hell turns him into a zombie….and that’s it. There is precisely zero character there at all, not on shred of anything to cling on to or become emotionally invested in. His reason for apparently being so pissed at Sam is because he felt that Sam abandoned him to go and fulfil his dreams, however, that is the only thing we learn about him and he is such a weak antagonist that you never really feel that the characters that do end up surviving are not in any real danger.

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Summary

A film that is divided into two halves for no apparent reason is plagued by inconsistencies and continuity errors, and yet is somehow watchable.

Goal of the Dead is very long for a zombie film, clocking in at just under 2 hours (I have no idea why various sources list it as 144 minutes when from the opening credits to the ending credits doesn’t even pass the 120 minute mark), but you never feel bored watching it, however, after an excellent opening half, the second half is just a generic zombie movie.

The movie, whilst not awful, offers precisely nothing new or majorly original, but if you’ve got a spare two hours and want to see a zombie film, there are far worse available.

Year Released : 2015Untitled
Director : Abe Rosenberg
Cast : Anna Cetti, Michel Chauvet, Mario Escalante and Juan Luis Tovar

So I’m now well and truly settled back into life at home following my holiday to Norway. I’ve spent most of my time since I returned at work, watching films at the cinema or working on a video for my Youtube channel of the aforementioned holiday (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ik6AAcpAN_0 for those that are interested), but then I decided that it was time to review a film.

I was browsing for something to review and I came across this, a 2015 horror about a group of paranormal investigators that go into an abandoned mental hospital to see if the rumours of ghosts are true. If that sounds familiar to you then there is a very good reason for that…..it’s not an original idea. It’s far from an original idea.

In the recent past there have been at least three films that I know of that follow the exact same plot (Grave Encounters and it’s sequel, as well as Hollows Grove). This film screams complete unoriginality before I’ve even started watching it and my expectations could not be lower if I tried.

Plot

I could be really lazy here and just put “See plot from Grave Encounters” but I figure I should actually put some minor effort in here, even if the writer didn’t.

Isa (Cetti), Diego (Chauvet), Mateo (Escalante) and Charly (Tovar) are friends that produce a show in which they go into abandoned buildings that are reported to be filled with paranormal activity. Their latest assignment sees them enter an abandoned mental health hospital, a building that was thriving just a few years earlier, before everyone just left for seemingly no reason.

The group are initially disappointed as none of their efforts are rewarded, that is until one of the devices designed to detect ghosts. They finally make content with a presence and whilst it happily admits to being evil, it almost concedes that it is not concerned with the group being in the building, but that’s not enough for Diego. Diego continues to pester the spirits and decides to go lower into the asylum whilst the others are waiting to go home.

The group goes back into the asylum to find Diego, but the ghosts have now decided that they are not going to let them leave.

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So, low expectations justified?

In some ways yes, and in others no.

Let’s start with the very basic thing and that is that the film reveals in the first three minutes that all of the characters die. Yep, all major tension has been taken out of the film within the first 180 seconds of footage. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not uncommon for all characters to die by the end of found footage style films, for example, by the end of the Grave Encounters films, only one character that enters the hospital survives, but the difference is that you aren’t told that none of the characters die within the first few moments.

For me this ruined any genuine sense of fear within the film as you know it’s coming, you’re just not entirely sure when, and in many ways I was genuinely surprised that it takes until the final 10 minutes of the 75 minute run time to actually see the spirits start to get violent, especially after Diego effectively pokes them with a stick.

The film has a very slow build, very slow indeed. The film may only be 75 minutes long but he feels considerably longer due to it’s slow build. In some places the build works very well, but the problem with a build is that if there isn’t really a lot happening on the screen, you really need to develop the characters and none of them really change in the slightest from when they walk in until they’re all killed off. With only four characters, you really can’t hold on for long.

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In terms of development, the closest thing they get is Diego becoming increasingly obsessed by finding the ghosts. They openly admit to not being bothered by the presence of the four main characters, and it takes Diego not leaving them alone for something to happen, and there is very little about the film that hints at even a vague reason why you should care about the characters.

That being said, there are actually some aspects of the film that I very much enjoyed, the first of which is that all of the effects are practical. I didn’t notice a single special effect in the entire film and this was so refreshing. The actual physical presence of the ghosts on screen only lasts for maybe ten seconds in the entire film, if that, and this adds a level of tension as you’re constantly expecting something to happen, and yet the fact nothing does actually seems to add something somehow.

There is one scene in particular near the end of the film that is insanely tense. The characters throughout the film are able to detect the presence of the ghosts by using a device that beeps when there is paranormal activity (hence why Diego is able to tell that the ghosts mean him no harm at first), and after running from one ghost, the characters are hiding in a pitch black cupboard and only have the light from the device to keep them company.

Tension grows naturally as you’re just sat staring at this five lights very gradually increase in brightness over the space of about a minute. It is the standout scene because it is so basic in nature, you can see literally nothing other than the slowly increasing brightness of the light and all you can hear is the panicked whimpers of the surviving characters, it is an excellent scene.

Ultimately it takes more than just one or two great standout scenes to make the film anything more than below-average and whilst it’s not as bad as I was predicted, and I did feel genuinely tense at times, it was just a bit boring for the majority of the film.

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Summary

I didn’t hate it as much as I anticipated that I would, but it still wasn’t a good film.

It tries hard on what I can imagine was an exceptionally limited budget and does relatively well for what is has to work with, but ultimately there just isn’t enough there to keep you interesting for more than 15 minutes, in other words 1/5 of the film’s run time.

Out of the found footage style films I’ve seen in recent years, it’s one of the better, but that’s not saying a lot.

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.

Year Released : 2013gaten_ragnarok_ver2_xlg
Director : Mikkel Brænne Sandemose
Cast : Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen, Nicolai Cleve Broch, Bjørn Sundquist, Sofia Helin, Maria Berglyd and Julian Podolski

I’ve had a fascination with Norse mythology for some time, certainly long before the Thor movies came out in the Marvel film franchise and much like Greek mythology, I like to take in as much as I can. This started in primary school, was back in the late 80s and early 90s, where we briefly learnt about the folk from Asgard.

In Norse mythology, Ragnarok is a great battle that ends in the death of all of the major Gods, including Odin, Thor, Feryr, Heindall and Loki, followed by the beginning of the new world. Don’t be fooled though, despite the name this film has nothing at all to do with the aforementioned Norse Gods, instead it’s effectively a monster film.

I must admit to being a bit sceptical about this because any Norwegian film that I have seen hasn’t exactly been as good as I had hoped, including Trolljegeren (Troll Hunter), however, it would be harsh to judge every movie coming from one country simply because you didn’t like another.

The one thing I would highly, HIGHLY recommend is that if you are going to watch this, watch it with the subtitles as the English dubbing is diabolically terrible.

Plot

Following on from an unsuccessful demonstration to his museum’s funders, Sigurd (Hagen) receives a visit from fellow archaeologist Allan (Broch) after he has found a rune from northern Norway that could prove that Vikings did indeed visit that part of Scandinavia.

The pair, accompanied by Sigurd’s kids, tour guide Leif (Sundquist) and fellow archaeologist Elisabeth (Helin) travel to Finnmark, one of the most north-eastern parts of Norway, and explore an island in a restricted area of the forest. The group soon finds a plethora of Viking artifacts and plan on taking them back to the museum.

As they prepare to leave, they are betrayed by Leif as he steals all of the artefacts. He is soon killed by an unseen create when trying to re-cross the lack. The rest of the group soon realise that something is trying to keep them from escaping and it becomes a battle to survive against an ancient creature.

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So, is it any good?

Ragnarok is one of those nothing films really. It’s there. In some aspects I did like the film but in others I found it a below par, but I’m going to start with the positive aspects.

The story itself isn’t that bad to be honest, it’s one of the more original monster movies that I have ever seen and to be honest, right up until when the monster, which resembles a mix of a dragon and a snake, kills Leif, you don’t get any clues that there is anything unusual going on. Up until that point I was actually enjoying it for the most part and if I’m honest, as soon as it turned into a monster movie I lost a lot of interest in the film. That’s not to say that the monster isn’t good, it’s one of the most vicious that I can recall seeing in a movie in recent times, but at that point it just lost something.

Aside from that the only positive I can think of is the casting of Hagen and Broch as Sigurd and Allan respectively. Both actors approach their role in a calm way and this laid back approach comes across really well, with a particular highlight being their excitement when they find the Viking artefacts actually feeling very genuine. Hagen in particular impressed me as what I can best describe as a mellow-Indiana Jones approach.

That’s where the positive part of this review ends.

From being impressed with Broch and Hagen, I go right to the other end of the scale with not only the character of Ragnhild, but Berglyd’s portrayal as her. Child actors have a habit of near enough single-handedly ruining the movies that they are in, Dakota Fanning in War of the Worlds springs straight to mind, and whilst Berglyd doesn’t reach that same level of annoyance, she runs it pretty close. The only reason I don’t class it AS annoying as Dakota Fanning was because Fanning always has a smug “I’m better than you” look on her face in any film she is in, she’s under the impression that she’s an amazing actress. She isn’t.

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There are a lot of aspects that this film steals from the Jurassic Park franchise  (more on that in a minute) but the most relevant to this point is that no female character dies (seriously, none of the female characters in any of the three Jurassic Park films has died) and nor do any of the children, regardless of how irritating they are. I really wish the character of Ragnhild would have died….early. She almost single handedly takes this film from being a 6/10 to a 2/10 due to her constant nagging, pessimism and being a selfish, little twat.

She irritates throughout and it’s summed up with an incident right at the beginning of the film when she ironically calls her father selfish for the simple fact he wants to discover something incredible for his country rather that taking her to Spain on a holiday. Throughout she is entirely negative, adds nothing but a nagging voice and I would go as far as saying that I have now reviewed more than 50 films for this site and I’ve not hated a character as much, not even in Frank.

But anyway, I mentioned two paragraphs ago that this film steals a lot from the Jurassic Park franchise, but there are two major plot points from Jurassic Park 3 that Ragnarok outright steals. The first of which is that Allan decides to steal an unhatched egg of the monster and not tell everyone, and (SPOILER ALERT) at the end the monster has no interest in eating the protagonists, but instead leaves them unharmed when they return the now hatched offspring (END SPOILER)

The film is full of clichés and you can call things happening before they have actually happened, such as when the characters are traversing a wire to cross the lake and one slips half-way through. I knew as soon as they started going across that that would happen, but the one thing that I would see in the scene’s favour is that when the monster is coming up to snap at the dangling person, the water pressure and swirl changes as it speeds up, whereas in most Hollywood films they just appear without it affecting the water.

My final point is the pacing of the film and that it’s all wrong. There are some moments where nothing happens for a long time and then there is non-stop action for long time. Whilst the film isn’t supposed to be an outright thrill ride throughout, and it doesn’t claim to be, it’s lack of correct pacing means that when something does happen, you don’t feel the sense of urgency that the situation warrants, and just as you start getting that adrenaline rush, it’s right back to the slowness.

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Summary

I can see why this film has been rated as average by so many. I, like many others according to the reviews and posts on IMDB, were completely mislead by the title and the film has precisely nothing to do with Greek mythology. The only thing about lying about what your film is actually about is going to do is piss people off. I first saw this in a local Asda store a few weeks ago and they were charging £10 for it. Imagine buying this for £10 and then find out that even the description on the back was incorect.

Infact, it’s like a ying-yang, every positive is countered with a negative. The good acting of some actors is outweighed by the terrible acting of others, and scenes where something genuinely interesting happens is countered by long, drawn out sections of the film that don’t move the film along at all. It’s 85 minutes of nothing in many ways.

I’m not even entirely sure what to rank it as because it’s not a horror film and it’s not really science fiction.

Year Released : 2015Rec4_TeaserPoster2
Director : Jaume Balagueró
Cast : Manuela Velasco, Javier Botet, Paco Manzanedo, María Alfonsa Rosso, Ismael Fritschi and Críspulo Cabezas

A few weeks ago I reviewed the [REC] trilogy in advance of the fourth film being released, however, I had the pleasant surprise of having the opportunity to watch the fourth installment before it’s actually released anywhere in the world, so I gladly took the opportunity with both hands and I enjoyed what is scheduled to be the final piece of the [REC] franchise.

I loved the first two films but was considerable less impressed with the third installment, so I wasn’t sure what to expect with the fourth movie in the franchise, especially as it kept the same camera style as the third entry rather than the vastly superior style of the first two films, but thankfully that is the only aspect it did keep, making the third film actually completely irrelevant to the rest of the story.

Whilst it is a vast improvement on the third and a decent end to the franchise, it is not as good as the opening two films

Plot

Angela (Velasco) wakes up imprisoned on a boat following what happened in the apartment building in Barcelona. She has no memory of her being infected with the parasite and doesn’t understand why she is being kept prisoner. She is not alone though as anyone else who survived going into the apartment building, including a SWAT Team (not the same SWAT team from the second film).

It soon emerges that they have been quarantined whilst doctors ensure that whatever caused the events in Barcelona have finally been wiped out. After studying the video tapes from all of the cameras that were present in the building, the crew are horrified by the footage of Angela being infected with the sizeable parasite and set out to cut it out of her.

Meanwhile, someone has released an infected monkey and soon the infection starts spreading throughout the ship and with no-where to hide, it becomes a matter of time for everyone concerned, with the only hope being to destroy the parasite.

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So why is it better than the third film but not as good as the first two?

Well let me start out with a question that I asked myself at the end of this film, what the hell did the third film have to do with the rest of the franchise? It’s not even remotely similar to the other three in terms of style, atmosphere or even characters. Other than a brief reference at the beginning of this film, there is no connection between the events of Genesis and the rest of the franchise. It seems almost completely pointless. Had Apocalipsis been the third installment in a trilogy then it would have been one of the best horror trilogies of all time. Granted, it wouldn’t have ended with a bang, but it would have been a far better franchise without the addition of the third film.

So anyway, what’s good about this film? Well at the beginning of the film the characters are still in Barcelona and you see some of the infected characters from the first film return to very small cameos before they are eventually seen off by the SWAT team. It was nice to have that familiarity present in the opening scene, even if it didn’t continue. The return of Angela is also extremely welcome, and she has made the full transition from someone who has a generally happy and ambitious demeanour, to a far, far darker character. You are left guessing until near the very end whether she still has the parasite inside of her as her behaviour suggests that she doesn’t, but then again it was the same in the majority of the same film, and that level of intrigue is very interesting.

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When characters start becoming infected they are seen struggling to fight against it, and the desperate pleas of some recently infected as they beg the rest of the crew not to kill them before being shot in the middle of the forehead. With a confined environment it is very likely that any infection would spread fast and therefore the merciless nature in which some of the characters are killed is very realistic.

One aspect I did also like is that the virus acts differently than in previous films. The Alien franchise uses an interesting aspect which is that when a living thing is covered by a face-hugger, the resulting alien that bursts through the chest is not only the DNA of the alien, but also the DNA of it’s host. For example, in Alien3 the alien comes out of a dog and is considerably more canine in appearance and behaviour, the hybrid at the end of Alien vs Predator inherits the latter’s separating jaw and the one at the end of Prometheus is considerably sleeker than normal thanks to coming through what is effectively an octopus.

You may be wondering why I am mentioning that, it’s because the virus sources from different creatures in the franchise and the reaction/mutation is completely different. In the first two the infection comes from a dog and the symptoms are very similar to rabies, whereas in this the characters develop welts, become considerable more simian in appearance (such as the teeth in the below picture) and the virus mutates when it travels through different species, which again I like.

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Much like the first two films, the characters are believable and you can become invested in them because of this (but they’re not perfect and I’ll go into why), something which I definitely can’t say about the third film. There is a scene towards the end where the closest thing that the film has to an antagonist traps another member of the crew in a room with infected, and you see that character go through the anger and then fear of what is about to happen and knowing that there is nothing that they can do to stopping.

Despite that, there are a few flaws with the film and one of them is much like the third film they add in a fat character with a beard with an attempt at some comic relief. It doesn’t really work as the character just isn’t that interesting.

There is also something that I realised as I was watching the fourth installment and that is what is referred to as “The Indiana Jones Effect” in The Big Bang Theory. In “Raiders of the Lost Ark” Indiana Jones doesn’t actually impact the story at all, every event would have still happened, regardless of whether he was there or not, and it’s the same in pretty much the whole [REC] franchise with Angela. Angela doesn’t really affect the story in any major way throughout the franchise. You could take her out and the events of all of the films remain largely the same.

In the first film the people in the building, including the fireman and policeman would still get infected, regardless of whether Angela was there or not. The SWAT team and the kids from the second film would have still gone into the building, Father Owen wouldn’t have found a viable source of blood from the original source and in the fourth installment, those infected would have still been quarantined on the boat and people would have still gotten infected from the monkey. Angela, other than maybe the final two minutes of the second film, has precisely zero major impact on the plot of any of the three films that she appears in. Upon realising that I suddenly found myself becoming detached from her as a character.

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Infact, despite the very real feel of the characters, and that you feel invested in them, they aren’t actually developed well at all. The characters are somewhat predictable, one dimensional and typecast really. They’re not awful characters, don’t get me wrong, but only one of them (the main antagonist) ever really shows more than one dimension.

My biggest criticism of the fourth installment though is that they keep the third person perspective from the third one. One of the (main) reasons that the Genesis doesn’t work is because third person isn’t scary. Not that keeping it first person would have helped Genesis climb from the “poor” category but it would have made it scarier, and that could have helped here.

I don’t feel the same tension with third person that I do with first person because you don’t experience it as the character would. If you don’t see it from the character’s perspective then it becomes considerably more predictable and I was able to call what was happening throughout and for me there is nothing more tedious than watching a predictable horror film.

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Summary

It’s a nice way to round of the franchise. It’s a decent enough film without ever getting close to the emotional impact as the first in the franchise, although it would have been hard to have that same level without using 1st person again.

It’s not a bad horror film at all, I’ve seen far, far worse (Genesis for example), but ultimately it rounds off a franchise where the best two films were the first two. It could have stopped there and it would have been a much better franchise.

When it eventually gets realised I would recommend it, but don’t judge the rest of the franchise on this installment.

Fuck my granddad and his stupid fucking hearing aid!

Year Released : 2012rec3
Directors : Paco Plaza
Cast : Leticia Dolera, Diego Martín, Ismael Martínez, Àlex Monner and Borja Glez Santaolalla

As you have probably guessed from my reviews for the first two films in the [REC] franchise, they are amongst my favourite horror films and they were just one decent addition away from having one of the best trilogies in the horror genre.

[REC] Genesis is a complete departure from what made the first two films so enjoyable and successful, and whilst it would not have been awful on it’s own merits, it will always be compared to the first two films and in that sense it fails miserably to complete what would have been a near perfect trilogy of films.

It is so incredibly disappointing to have two of my favourite horror films followed up by something that doesn’t do them justice and I can only hope that the fourth installment, which is also scheduled to be the last, makes up for an installment in the franchise that has very few links to the others.

PLOT

Family and friends have gathered for the wedding of Clara (Dolera) and Koldo (Martín). The beautiful occasion is an extravagant celebration of their love and all is well until Koldo’s uncle falls from a balcony after seemingly having far too much to drink.

As family members help him up, he suddenly violently attacks other members of the family and they themselves start attacking others. Koldo and Clara are separated but are determined to find each other.

The numbers of infected increase to the point where very few are left, but has one of the survivors found a method of keeping them at bay for good and more importantly, will it be too late to save those that are left?

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That doesn’t sound too bad…..

There are two ways that I could review this. I could review it as a stand alone film and treat it like it isn’t part of the [REC] series, for which I think it would have been more enjoyable, or I could go with comparing it to the predecessors in the series. Ultimately, as it sports the [REC] name I have very little choice but to review it compared to the other films in the series and because of this, it’s very hard to review it positively.

Well where to begin? Let’s start in the easiest place and that’s right at the beginning where you are literally thrown into a slideshow of the newly married couple during their childhoods with a happy, romantic song playing in the background. Within the first 30 seconds they have already started to alienate the fans of the first two films and that’s a theme that continues throughout the entirety of the film, gradually becoming more of a stand alone movie as it goes on rather than part of a trilogy.

Infact, the scene where they switch over from 1st to 3rd person perspective it’s painfully obvious that they have tried to make it as symbolic as possible as one of the cameras is destroy, the screen goes black for the title screen (around 20 minutes into the movie) and then it switches to 3rd person and shows the recording light slowly stop flashing. It’s obviously meant to be a symbolic representation of the changing in presentation and perspective, but felt more cheesey than anything else.

At the point people would have realised it had switched to 3rd person and just like a normal horror film, I imagine that’s when a lot of people suddenly lost a lot of interest. When I first watched it I had no idea that it wasn’t all found footage so it took me very much by surprise. At the time of writing [REC] Genesis has a rating of 5.1/10 compared to ratings of 7.5 for the first and a still very respectable 6.6 for the sequel. Both of those scores, especially the first, are excellent for a horror film, and the lower ranking for Genesis is down to several factors, but taking it away from first person and the found footage style did the film no favours whatsoever.

One of the best aspects of the first two [REC] films is that they were showing ENTIRELY in the found footage perspective, and although [REC] Genesis stars in the same style, it soon completely abandons that style and switches to the generic third person view that you see in virtually every other horror film. It abandons one of the main reasons that the first two films were successful and I can’t think of a single good reason for it.

It is one of many strange decisions during the entire film and you’re sat there as it’s going on and if it wasn’t for the title you wouldn’t even know that this was in the same series of films as the first two. There is virtually no relationship between the films at all with the exception that for a very brief moment they show the news being broadcast live from the apartment building of the first two.

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A major problem and arguably the main reason I found it extremely hard to take this film seriously is that some of the infected SMILE or have a stupid look on their face throughout. The first character to become infected, Koldo’s uncle, walks around, even after he has turned, with a weird look on his face, almost like someone who is stoned and is just sat there imagining something pleasant. It’s hard to take the character seriously and in all honesty the infected don’t seem anyway near as threatening as in the first two films.

Or how about when Clara and another guest are being chased in a tunnel but the infected before Clara, complete with a chainsaw, decides to fight them and a dance track is played in the background. Just no.

I had mentioned in the review of [REC] that one of the reasons it worked well was the lack of a soundtrack as it added to the tension, but they have again abandoned this and included music throughout. Now, don’t get me wrong, it takes place at a wedding so I can forgive having music during the wedding celebrations, however, it then starts playing music at various points to add dramatic effect, such as when Clara is walking down a tunnel with a chainsaw and there is a very loud and lyrical song accompanying it. It wasn’t really needed and took a lot of the horror aspect away from the film.

Sound issues throughout continue to make the film less and less like the first two. In the first two films there was no jump-scare sound played when an infected person appears out of nowhere, but this film is full of them and as I mentioned in the [REC] review, you’re reacting more to the sound rather than the actual emergence of an enemy.

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I must say that I am also puzzled with the subtitle of Genesis. For a film with such a heavy religious theme to it as it progresses, it’s amazing that they don’t seem to understand what the word genesis actually means. Just for the benefit of the filmmakers, here is the definition

genesis
noun
the origin or mode of formation of something.
“this tale had its genesis in fireside stories”

Now, from the subtitle it would have you believe that in this you find out what exactly where the infection started, or it takes place before the events of the first two films, but neither is the case. It doesn’t reveal the origins of the virus and as it shows a news report being broadcast live from the apartment building from the first film, you know it doesn’t take place before hand. Even with the religious tone it doesn’t explain the title genesis as the chapter of Genesis from the bible talks about the creationist views of the start of life, and the ONLY reference throughout to Genesis is when the priest starts reading the bible over the tannoy to hold off the infected, but I seriously doubt that it why the film has the subtitle of Genesis.

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Character development is precisely zero and you’re somehow expected to care for characters despite not knowing anything about them. For example, one ofs the wedding guests admits to Carla that she wasn’t sure whether to come to the wedding or not right before she died. Is that supposed to mean something? Am I supposed to care? I really don’t. This is the only thing we get to know about the character so how can I really be expected to give a crap about them?

Infact, it’s almost impossible to like any of the characters because most are very one-dimensional and I’ll be honest, there wasn’t once where I thought it would be worthwhile seeing Carla and Koldo find each other, probably not helped by a lack of chemistry between the two on screen.

At one point Clara is confronted by her infected mother and this is one of the finest examples I can think of, other than the film’s switch from 1st to 3rd person, of the film being significantly different to the first two films. The behaviour of the infected is completely different, they move differently and significantly slower, and seem to stand there waiting for the character to notice them before they try and attack.

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The infected mother just stands there (smiling might I add) staring at Clara for a long time, a lot of which is when Clara is looking in a different direction, and yet she makes virtually no attempt to attack. It’s almost as if the infected have switched from a non-stop threat to a more teasing method of attack. Now, in the first two the infected do disappear for long periods of time so it’s no inconceivable that they use tactics to gain the advantage over their victims, but for them to just stand watching in plain sight isn’t really as enjoyable.

 

Now, this isn’t to say that the film isn’t without some entertaining and interesting parts, such as when a lot of the characters, including children,  try and take safety in hiding on a nearby coach, only for one of the infected to stop the door from closing at the very last second, meaning that all within are doomed as there isn’t a clear exit. Whilst a good scene, it could have definitely been improved if it was in first person perspective and showed you what was happening from the inside of the coach, but either way it’s probably the most enjoyable mini-section of the film once it switches to the third person perspective.

Another aspect that I think sort of works, but also doesn’t at the same time is that the characters in this film knew each other before the setting of the film, meaning that they have a more emotional connection to the infected and you can see it in their faces that they are not only scared, but also extremely upset with what is happening to their friends and family. Now, I say that it works and it doesn’t at the same time, and the reason I say that is because, as mentioned in the review for the first film, the characters develop a “survival of the fittest” style attitude and brings a more realistic human element to how you would treat others in a situation where you don’t know people. Both have their own merits, I preferred the “survival of the fittest” aspect from the first, but there is nothing wrong with the friends/family aspects in Genesis.

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Summary

As a stand alone film this wouldn’t have actually been too bad, I probably would have respected it more, as would fans of the first two, but it’s impossible not to compare this to the first two films and there is no doubt whatsoever that this is the weak link in the series (without having seen the fourth film yet).

Whilst it doesn’t quite ruin the series, I can’t help but feel than this would have been one of the truly great horror trilogies if they had just made a better third film.

I’ve seen far worse horror films from mainstream Hollywood in recent years so in that sense it’s still not a truly awful film, but it just loses too much of what made the first two films great and when you take into account that the fourth film will return to the character of Angela, it really does make you wonder why this was made in the first place.