Category Archives: Horror

Crimes of the Future (2022) Review

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Crimes of the Future (2022)

Time: 107 Minutes
Cast:
Viggo Mortensen as Saul Tenser
Léa Seydoux as Caprice
Kristen Stewart as Timlin
Director: David Cronenberg

As the human species adapts to a synthetic environment, the body undergoes new transformations and mutations. Accompanied by his partner, celebrity performance artist Saul Tenser showcases the metamorphosis of his organs. Meanwhile, a mysterious group tries to use Saul’s notoriety to shed light on the next phase of human evolution.

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I was interested in Crimes of the Future. It looked quite intriguing, had a good cast which included Viggo Mortensen, Lea Seydoux and Kristen Stewart, but most of all, it would be David Cronenberg’s first movie in many years. Not only that but it would be a body horror movie, and the last one he made was in the late 90s. I’m glad to say that I quite liked this movie.

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Something worth noting is that David Cronenberg had previously made a movie called Crimes of the Future back in the 70s, although it seems that this new film has nothing to do with that. This newer film tells an intriguing and bizarre story that I was pulled into. It is certainly a weird movie with a strange potential future. Viggo Mortensen is essentially a man who can generate new internal organs and collaborates with Lea Seydoux as performance artists, with Seydoux removing said regenerated organs in front of live audiences. In Crimes of the Future, humans have adapted to live in a synthetic environment, with their bodies undergoing numerous transformations and mutations; most humans don’t even feel pain anymore. In this futuristic society, surgery has become performance art (which Mortensen and Seydoux takes part in). Cronenberg does some great worldbuilding, and it is an interesting setting to watch. It was a very unique vision of the future of human evolution, and I was interested in learning about this new world. Admittedly it can be full on, in the first hour alone it thrusts you into this world with so much jargon, and requiring you to keep up with the information provided so you can grasp what is happening.

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One of the most advertised aspects of Crimes of the Future was the body horror, not unexpected of course (especially with Cronenberg returning to this subgenre). So the trailers and images focussing on the gore and grotesque (including to by not limited to a man with ears all on his body) is somewhat understandable. That being said, its not quite the disturbing and graphic body horror that it was advertised as. It felt more like a dystopian sci-fi futuristic thriller with some body horror aspects and a good amount of neo-noir mystery elements. As for the body horror itself, it works to serve its concept and story and never feels like its there to provoke a reaction in the audience. That being said, if you don’t like body horror at all or can’t deal with gore, then you still won’t be on board with this movie. As you can expect, there is a lot happening thematically. There’s a clear fascination with the human body and how it evolves over time, and poses interesting and thought provoking questions. There are even little moments of humour throughout which accompany the bizarre nature of the movie wonderfully. The pacing is definitely slow, but I thought it worked; I wouldn’t want it to be rushed at all. Crimes of the Future was an hour and 50 minutes long, and honestly I wished that it was a little longer. It felt a little abrupt, to a degree I was hoping for more. I liked the note it ended on, but the story did feel incomplete. It left me wanting a sequel to see what would happen next, and I can’t tell whether that is a good thing or a bad thing.

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There is a good cast involved. Viggo Mortensen and Lea Seydoux are great as the lead characters, while Kristen Stewart is a scene stealer in a very meek yet creepy and twitchy performance as a voyeuristic bureaucrat. She left an impression, but I just wish she was in the movie more. Other actors like Scott Speedman also play their parts wonderfully too.

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David Cronenberg’s direction is on point as ever. The cinematography is outstanding and beautiful. That and the production design helped to convey the vision of the future excellently, and it feels very lived in. The practical effects, especially those involving the body, are fantastic. There are definitely moments of gore, but they are used sparingly and when appropriate. If you’ve seen some of Cronenberg’s other movies, Crimes of the Future doesn’t push boundaries on that front, in fact it feels comparatively tame. Howard Shore composes the score and its one of my favourites of this year as well as one of his best yet, and that’s saying a lot.

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Crimes of the Future is a welcome return to form for David Cronenberg. It’s a bizarre, fascinating, intriguing and thought provoking film, which is directed excellently and has some great performances from the cast. There are parts where I wanted more and it was a little incomplete, but I liked what we got. If you really don’t like body horror, then this won’t be one for you. With that said, don’t go in expecting a gore fest, it’s a lot more than just that. So far, Crimes of the Future is one of my favourite movies of 2022.

Men (2022) Review

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Men

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language, suicide themes, nudity & content that may disturb
Cast:
Jessie Buckley as Harper Marlowe
Rory Kinnear as Geoffrey
Director: Alex Garland

In the aftermath of a personal tragedy, Harper retreats alone to the beautiful English countryside, hoping to find a place to heal. However, someone or something from the surrounding woods appears to be stalking her. What begins as simmering dread soon becomes a fully formed nightmare, inhabited by her darkest memories and fears.

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Men was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. I like Alex Garland as a writer and a director, and I particularly liked his directing work with Annihilation and Ex Machina. His next film would be a full-on horror movie and would have the excellent talent of Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear. Unfortunately, I had to wait an extra month before I got the chance to see it here, but in that time, I heard the very mixed reception from people who watched it. Men finally released here and I’m glad to say that I liked the movie, even if I didn’t like it as much as I hoped I would.

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Men starts off well at the very least. The first hour is very intriguing as we follow main character Harper (Jessie Buckley) as things about her traumas are revealed to us, and tensions rise as she encounters unsettling things in her new environment. There’s an uneasy atmosphere and seemed to start out as a mystical folk horror, which I thought was effective. Much of the movie can be a bit vague and leans more into atmosphere and vibes over the story, and while not everyone will like that, I thought it worked. I was intrigued to see what would happen next. The tone was interesting; some moments were a bit funny, but I couldn’t tell whether they were intentional or not. This is especially with the ‘horror’ moments. Intentional or not, they result in an off-kilter tone which I actually enjoyed. The third act of is one of the aspects of Men that will linger in the minds of most people who watch it. Some may call it “craziest movie ever”, its really not that crazy or insane for the most part, but the ending certainly is. I can certainly see the metaphor that this gory and grotesque climax is going for, so I won’t reveal too much about what happened, nor the message it was trying to convey. But it just can’t shake the feeling that its only here to be disturbing and memorable. The worst part may be that despite its efforts to be shocking, it generated more laughs than scares with how over the top and goofy it is. This combined with Jessie Buckley’s underwhelmed reactions made me wonder whether it was another intentionally funny moment from Garland. Shock and gore aside, it just doesn’t work as a satisfying conclusion in any way. The ending is so abrupt with no sense of closure, and doesn’t even work as a horror movie ending. Men is a tight film at just over an hour and a half long but it felt like it needed more, the narrative was a little underdeveloped by the end. I think it would’ve been better if it was made as a short film, or if it was longer and fleshed out more of its ideas.

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Third act and tonal issues aside, the problems stack up most of all when you look at the film on a thematic level. Unfortunately, you can’t really watch the movie and understand it without looking at it metaphorically in some way. It doesn’t work when you watch as a simple horror movie, it won’t make sense on any level. Some viewers have labelled Men as pretentious. I try to refrain from calling movies pretentious, not only because it’s a rather blanket statement, but its also very easy and there’s usually a better way at highlighting the specific problem. It is certainly a movie that wants to say something, from some of the conversations and all the symbolism and imagery especially with religion. Despite that, it doesn’t end up having much to say. The themes in Men are blatant which isn’t inherently bad; my problem is that they are a bit too easy and simple, yet the film lingers on them for so long. Men is yet another horror movie about trauma. There seems to be a lot of those especially nowadays, and if you are getting tired of these kinds of horror movies (especially with it being another one from A24), the film might irk you because it practically ticks all the boxes. I will say that it is a decent portrayal of trauma, but it is not an exploration of it by any means. It’s definitely a present aspect throughout the film, but it doesn’t go into depth any depth, and is overall a very basic take on grief. This is probably because even though we spend time with Harper in pretty much every scene, we don’t learn much about her as a character. The other main theme which you can probably guess from the title is about men, masculinity, patriarchy, toxic masculinity, etc. As far as I understood, the theme of Men boils down to “men are all the same, and men are all bad”. Perhaps Alex Garland has a lot more to say, but whatever that is, it doesn’t come across here. Now that theme isn’t necessarily bad, but it doesn’t really lend itself to much interpretation or analysis. It really doesn’t help that its not as propound as the movie seems to think it is. Looking at the plotting and the themes, Men’s script feels like it is very close to being really good, but could’ve done with more drafts in order to nail it. As it is, it felt like it just missed the mark.

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The performances are some of the best parts of the film. Jessie Buckley as usual delivers another outstanding and powerful performance here. You follow along with her as Harper, and while the film really doesn’t give the character much, Buckley sells it so well. She feels like a believable person and makes it all work whether it be conveying the trauma and grief, or the reaction to the present horror events at her new location. I would say that Buckley’s performance alone makes the movie worth watching. The overall cast of the film is quite small, Rory Kinnear makes up most of the supporting cast. He plays almost all the men in the film, separate characters with their own personalities but with the same face. It is an interesting and intriguing gimmick. However outside of a metaphor about men being all the same, the movie really doesn’t do much with that concept. There isn’t even a moment where Harper reacts to this, even when she’s in a room with 4 Rory Kinnears. Nonetheless, he is great here, and his performances are ambitious to say the least. He effectively jumps between different levels of sinister and conveys the differences between of the characters. Kinnear is generally a supporting actor who is in the background in most movies he’s in, but he really gets to shine in Men.

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I think that Alex Garland’s work is once again great here, for all its faults, it is strong on a technical level at least. Rob Hardy’s cinematography is amazing, the visuals are stunning and really take advantage of the beautiful locations, with nice shots of the English countryside and the great production design is put on display well. Without spoiling what happens, the effects for the third act are strong and effectively gory. One of the first things I noticed in the movie was the sound design and sound mixing, which are excellent and were integral to some intense scenes working as well as they did. The soundtrack by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow is really good at setting the right tone for the film and helps to make you feel uneasy. There are a couple of hiccups on a technical level, there is a boy who has the face of Rory Kinnear CGI’d onto him. It looks very weird and uncanny, but I guess it works to make him look unsettling. As previously mentioned, the film didn’t succeed at scares despite its attempts, and came across as being funny than anything.

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Men is a very flawed movie and I think it is definitely the worst of Alex Garland’s directing work so far. I do understand why some people really don’t like the movie. It could’ve used a lot more fleshing out for many of its ideas. While there are clear themes on display, the movie doesn’t seem to have much interest in exploring them despite fixating on them so much. Even outside the themes it does suffer from other issues, including some failed attempts at horror and a third act which might be trying just a little too hard to provoke a reaction. With that said, I still like the movie. I enjoyed the atmosphere and off kilter tone, Alex Garland’s direction is pretty strong with some outstanding visuals (which were amazing to see on the big screen), and the performances from Rory Kinnear and especially Jessie Buckley were fantastic. Men is a divisive movie and its hard to tell who the movie would be for, but I do think it has some great aspects that make it worth checking out if you’re into horror.

Godzilla Raids Again (1955) Review

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Godzilla Raids Again

Time: 82 Minutes
Cast:
Hiroshi Koizumi as Shoichi Tsukioka
Setsuko Wakayama as Hidemi Yamaji
Minoru Chiaki as Koji Kobayashi
Takashi Shimura as Dr. Kyohei Yamane
Director: Motoyoshi Oda

Fishing scout-pilots are startled to discover a new monster named Anguirus alongside a second Godzilla. The monsters make their way towards Osaka as Japan can only brace for tragedy and relive the horror of Godzilla once more.

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I was surprisingly impressed with the original Godzilla released in 1954. Despite how old it is, it has aged very well and remains a stunning, thematic and all around great monster movie. It was such a hit that 6 months after its release it got a follow up titled Godzilla Raids Again. Unfortunately it just did not work nearly as well as that first movie despite its moments.

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First of all I should clarify what kind of film Godzilla Raids Again is. Whereas the first Godzilla was a political thriller with a dark and heavy tone, the sequel abandoned that in in favour of being more of a popcorn action flick with a lot of monster fights. It also lacks the thematic weight of the first movie with its themes of nuclear holocaust and the fear of the H bomb, so there’s much less to analyse and unpack. So at its core it is a dumb monster movie, but I don’t necessarily think that approach is a bad thing. Godzilla Raids Again is essentially about Godzilla fighting another new Kaiju monster, which seems like the most basic direction to go with for a sequel, but there’s some potential and novelty in that concept. However even as this, I feel like it could’ve been a lot better. Unfortunately the film just doesn’t really fully commit to campiness as much as it should’ve. The story itself is boring, underwhelming and feels rather dull. The human story in the first movie was surprisingly strong, however the obligatory story in Raids Again is just bad, it just sort of exists and I barely paid attention to it. Really none of the characters are worth getting invested in and it was difficult to stay invested when they were on screen. This movie is also very poorly paced even at 80 minutes long. It spends too much time rehashing the events of the first movie, and it drags when Godzilla isn’t on screen.

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There’s really nothing to say about the human characters except that they are boring and feel one dimensional. There’s really no one to gravitate towards or like.

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The direction from Motoyoshi Oda is a mixed bag. On the surface it does look similar to the first Godzilla movie. Some shots are nice, and the miniature work is impressive. The action is passable but doesn’t have the same gravity or weight that the original did. The fighting between Godzilla and Anguirius (the new monster) can be pretty fun. With that said, on a technical level, Raids Again it has held up worse than the first movie. The effects really do feel dated, and the fight scenes aren’t nearly as hard hitting. The fights particularly feel like two wrestlers in large rubber suits who can’t see anything slamming each other into buildings. Not that some fun can’t be extracted out of watching that however.

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Godzilla Raids Again is a major step down in quality from the previous film. I wouldn’t say that it is bad by any means, I’m guessing that a lot of the Godzilla movies are at this level of quality anyway. However, it is really something when you compare it to the movie that came beforehand. The scenes of the fighting can be entertaining but at the same time its at the film’s expense given how silly it looks now. The plot is uninteresting, the characters are dull, and the film drags despite its short runtime. Even a silly B-level Godzilla movie should be better than this.

Sunshine (2007) Review

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Sunshine

Time: 107 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence & offensive language
Cast:
Cillian Murphy as Robert Capa
Chris Evans as James Mace
Rose Byrne as Cassie
Michelle Yeoh as Corazon
Cliff Curtis as Searle
Troy Garity as Harvey
Hiroyuki Sanada as Kaneda
Benedict Wong as Trey
Director: Danny Boyle

A team of astronauts is assigned the huge responsibility of saving the sun. Things, however, take an ugly turn when an accident occurs and the lives of the crew members are endangered.

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I’ve been meaning to watch Sunshine for a while. I knew it was a sci-fi thriller directed by Danny Boyle that a lot of people liked. I went in knowing about the cast, director, and that it apparently had some horror elements. It more than lived up to the praise.

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The script by Alex Garland is great. The movie at its core is about a crew and their mission to save humanity by reigniting the Sun, and doesn’t only shows the events on the large scale, but also shows the crew trying to maintain their sanities and morals during these times of isolation and ethical dilemmas. The film really does well at showing the stakes and emphasising how one small mistake could snowball into a colossal obstacle. The film starts itself off by introducing its characters, exploring their personalities, their roles, and their chemistry. It does a great job at establishing the importance of each crew member, even though some characters definitely get more screentime and attention than others. There is very atmospheric throughout, it’s bleak, emotional and suspenseful. There are also some effectively unnerving moments, with both physical and psychological horror on display. In that sense, Sunshine reminded me of Event Horizon at times, which also had a blend of interesting sci-fi concepts with traditional horror thriller beats, especially in the second half. I thought the horror elements were weaved into the story rather nicely. Where most of the criticism of this movie lies is in the last third, specifically the last act. After the first two acts of fairly serious sci-fi, the film suddenly has something of a slasher-esque climax. While this shift is a jarring mismatch in terms of the film’s tone, it does still work as a great conclusion for the film thematically, and it felt right for the movie.

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The cast is excellent and give wonderful performances. The main cast are the 8 crew members of the ship, and they act very well in their parts. With a small cast and a large amount of special effects, there was a risk that the visuals would overshadow the characters. However the cast hold their own, even though some get to do more than others. There aren’t any weak links, but some characters aren’t given much to do, and a longer running time probably would’ve benefitted the characters more. Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, Cliff Curtis, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benedict Wong, and more are great, with Cillian Murphy and Chris Evans giving the best performances of the film.

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Sunshine is definitely elevated by Danny Boyle’s stylish direction and visuals. In fact, even for a sci-fi movie, a lot of Boyle’s style can be recognised here if you’ve seen some of his other movies. While it’s not a horror movie from beginning to end, it still manages to be tense and gripping throughout, with a claustrophobic atmosphere. When it becomes a slasher movie it maintains the tension when it could potentially go off the rails quickly. This movie is also visually striking with some amazing cinematography and special effects. The production and set design is also strong too, especially for the interiors of the ships. The editing is brisk, and adds a lot to the movie. The soundtrack by John Murphy and Underworld is magnificent, epic and operatic. It perfectly fits the tone of the movie and further adds weight to some of the most dramatic moments of the film.

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Sunshine is an amazing and visually spectacular sci-fi horror thriller. It is definitely ambitious and I’m not certain if it sticks the landing with everything, but I thought it was great. It holds up well today with some fantastic visuals, it is directed excellently, and I was invested in what would happen from the very start to the very end. The story is given a lot of stakes and weight, and it is further elevated by the excellent performances. One of my favourite movies from Danny Boyle, and one well worth checking out if you haven’t already.

X (2022) Review

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X

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence, horror, drug use & sex scenes
Cast:
Mia Goth as Maxine Minx/Pearl
Jenna Ortega as Lorraine
Brittany Snow as Bobby-Lynne
Kid Cudi as Jackson Hole
Martin Henderson as Wayne Gilroy
Owen Campbell as RJ Nichols
Director: Ti West

A group of actors sets out to make an adult film in rural Texas under the noses of their reclusive hosts, but when the elderly couple catches their young guests in the act, the cast finds themselves in a desperate fight for their lives.

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I had been hearing of X leading up to its release. I wasn’t familiar with director Ti West’s past work, I only knew that it was an A24 horror movie starring Mia Goth. I didn’t watch the trailer, but it looks reminiscent of the low budget horror slashers from 5 decades ago, so it intrigued me. Overall, I was quite satisfied with the movie and it delivers on what it set out to do.

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X is definitely a slow burn with a lot of build up over the course of the film, in fact it is quite a while before the first kill happens. However, I thought that it worked for the movie, and it never really dragged across its hour and 45 minute runtime. It definitely has a lot of love for the slasher movies of the 70s like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and pays tribute to them. The tone was appropriate for this story, you take it seriously enough. but at the same time it has its fair amount of humour and self-awareness that makes it fun to watch. There’s a lot happening thematically, transgressive art vs puritanical values, repression, sex and beauty. It’s also a surprisingly sex positive movie, especially considering that this is a slasher film with its setup being the main group of characters making a pornographic movie. In terms of issues, I wished that more things happened at the ending, it felt a bit too abrupt in the last minutes of the film. Also, for all the ideas and themes that it touches upon, X doesn’t seem to do much with them by the end. In that sense, I wish it either committed more and delved deeper into those topics, or focus more on the grindhouse homage.

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The acting from everyone is great. Mia Goth stands out among the cast in two stellar performances, one of them playing a completely unrecognisable character. Other actors including Jenna Ortega, Kid Cudi, and Brittany Snow also deliver, the main cast works together incredibly well with natural chemistry.

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This is the first movie I’ve seen from director Ti West, and now I really want to check out his other work. As I said before, X clearly has a lot of love for the grindhouse horror subgenre, and it embraces its silly and bloody nature. It nails the 70s aesthetic and style, and absolutely nails the eerie atmosphere. At the same time, it’s not stuck being only a grindhouse homage and manages to be its own thing. The cinematography is great and takes advantage of its locations and sets, the use of zooms were particularly effective in building up the tension. It is less aiming for jump scares and is more intense and suspenseful with the feeling of lingering and growing dread. There are some great practical effects with top notch sloppy gore with the creative kills (again very grindhouse-esque). The makeup is also excellent, especially with one particular character. The editing also does a lot for the movie, especially with the split screens and harsh cuts. The score from Tyler Bates and Chelsea Wolfe also added a lot to the feeling of the movie.

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X is a solid, suspenseful, gory and darkly funny horror movie and homage to the slashers of the 70s. It’s stylishly directed by Ti West and has great performances from the cast. If you like slasher movies, particularly those leaning towards the grindhouse side, I definitely think that you’ll really like it. Apparently, West has already films a prequel to X and is currently working on a sequel, and after seeing the first movie I’m already interested in them.

The Empty Man (2021) Review

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The Empty Man

Time: 137 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, horror & suicide
Cast:
James Badge Dale as James Lasombra
Marin Ireland as Nora Quail
Stephen Root as Arthur Parsons
Ron Canada as Detective Villiers
Robert Aramayo as Garrett
Joel Courtney as Brandon Maibaum
Sasha Frolova as Amanda Quail
Director: David Prior

On the trail of a missing girl, an ex-cop comes across a secretive group attempting to summon a terrifying supernatural entity.

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I went into The Empty Man blind and unaware of what to expect from it. All I knew was that it was a horror movie whose release was essentially shafted during the merger between Disney and Fox, but gained positive word of mouth. Knowing only that, I went into the movie open minded and I think that it may well be one of the most pleasant surprises from 2021.

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For what it’s worth, I do think it’s worth going into The Empty Man not knowing anything about it. The plot at first sounds like another creepypasta like the Slender Man, and the premise is simple at first as its about a missing girl and the protagonist detective trying to figure out what happened to her. However over time it becomes more than what is expected. Essentially The Empty Man is a psychological detective thriller with a supernatural element. It is definitely horror, but more of a hybrid horror film which mixes grim detective thriller with elements of cosmic horror and surreal doomsday cults. There’s even a surprising amount of existential dread throughout, with a constant ominous tone which keeps you unnerved throughout. There are some compelling ideas and the film isn’t afraid of being ambiguous at times. The opening 25 minutes are really strong, and it is practically its own movie as it seems so far removed from the rest of the film, but still ties back into the main plot in a meaningful way. I found the plot compelling and riveting as it takes its twists and turns, and I wanted to see where it would go. The final act is captivating and it has one of the most memorable horror endings in recent years. The movie is very long at around 2 hours and 20 minutes long, and it is definitely a slow burner, so it requires a lot of patience. However I was so invested with what was happening that the runtime didn’t prove to be a problem, even if the pacing stumbles here and there.

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The acting from everyone is good but it mostly comes down to the lead played by James Badge Dale as a detective investigating the missing girl. It’s a very strong performance and he does very well at carrying the movie himself. He effectively captures the terror, confusion and even the pitch black humour of the character, and he was compelling to watch throughout the film.

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This is David Prior’s directorial debut, and this is a very confident and great first film from him, with evidently a clear vision. Prior has actually worked with David Fincher and you feel his influence throughout, especially when it comes to the investigation side of the story. The Empty Man is incredibly well shot with beautiful and moody cinematography. The visuals are interesting and the imagery is memorable. There’s also a very haunting sound design which goes towards helping its ominous atmosphere. The scares themselves mostly come from the eerie atmosphere and thick tension, and they are very effective.

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The Empty Man definitely won’t work for everyone, its slow pace and more subdued nature might turn some people off. However I thought it was great, a great mix of investigation thriller with cosmic and cult horror, making for a very effective film and one of the best horror films of 2021. I’m interested in whatever David Prior does next; I hope he gets to direct more because his work here is fantastic.

Lamb (2021) Review

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Lamb

Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language, sex scenes & nudity
Cast:
Noomi Rapace as María
Hilmir Snær Guðnason as Ingvar
Björn Hlynur Haraldsson as Pétur
Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson as Man on Television
Director: Valdimar Jóhannsson

In rural Iceland, a childless couple discover a strange and unnatural newborn in their sheep barn. They decide to raise her as their own, but sinister forces are determined to return the creature to the wilderness that birthed her.

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I had been hearing about Lamb for a while, it was the new upcoming A24 horror film, this time focusing on a half human and half lamb baby. I didn’t look at the trailer beforehand, but I knew the central concept and went in just knowing that. Having watched it, I can say that at the very least it’s an interesting mix of ideas and elements even if it doesn’t do much with them.

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I’ll say right now that it’s probably best to go into Lamb not knowing much beforehand outside of the central concept. I also recommend not watching the trailer, it reveals about half the movie and misleads about the type of movie it’s going to be. It is also worth noting that while it has some horror elements, it is less of a horror movie and more of a foreboding and unsettling folktale. Much of the movie is focusing on the main couple raising this lamb-baby. It’s certainly a slow movie as it very steadily builds over time. I am fine with slow storytelling, and it does serve to build up the eerie atmosphere of the film. However, there is a bit of an over reliance on it. The most notable part of the film is the concept, and you certainly get that here. Surprisingly there are some fun family scenes with the half human and half sheep Ada, and I enjoyed those scenes. It also got much more interesting whenever it got odder. The film is so committed to being serious despite its absurdity, and I can’t tell whether its deliberate or not. Despite the cool premise, it really is squandered. It doesn’t go far beyond its initial intriguing idea. In fact, in a way it feels like a short concept film extended to feature length. Not much actually happens in this movie and it doesn’t build up to much. A weird inclusion of the movie were title cards letting the audience know of the different chapters, but this structure was ultimately pointless and doesn’t really add to much. There are some themes at play, including parenthood, loos, nature vs nurture, etc. Despite the amount of topics and themes around the film and concept however, there really wasn’t much to interpret in this allegorical film.

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There are some subdued yet solid performances from the cast, including Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason. The cast are small, but they do their parts well, especially Rapace.

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Valdimar Jóhannsson is the director and his work on the film is great, definitely the strongest part of the film. He does very well at building up this dark and cold atmosphere over time, helped by the ambient sounds and mostly absent music. The cinematography is amazing and takes advantage of its location with the fog and the mountains in the background. The score is minimalistic but effective when it’s there.

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I admire Lamb more than I liked it. It certainly has a lot going for it, it’s great on a technical level with gorgeous cinematography, the performances are good, it has quite a strong atmosphere, and I appreciate its very weird premise. However the main issue for me is that it doesn’t really amount to much by the end, feeling more like a concept film than a fully realised idea. If the premise sounds intriguing to you and if you like some of A24’s horror movies (even if Lamb isn’t exactly horror), then I think it’s worth checking out.  

The Night House (2021) Review

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The Night House

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, sexual references & offensive language
Cast:
Rebecca Hall as Beth
Sarah Goldberg as Claire
Vondie Curtis-Hall as Mel
Evan Jonigkeit as Owen
Stacy Martin as Madelyne
Director: David Bruckner

Reeling from the unexpected death of her husband, Beth (Rebecca Hall) is left alone in the lakeside home he built for her. She tries as best she can to keep together-but then the dreams come. Disturbing visions of a presence in the house call to her, beckoning with a ghostly allure. But the harsh light of day washes away any proof of a haunting. Against the advice of her friends, she begins digging into his belongings, yearning for answers.

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I didn’t go into The Night House expecting a lot. I just heard it was a horror movie starring Rebecca Hall that’s meant to be good. So I went into it fairly blind. However it was one of the biggest surprises of the year, especially for horror.

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The Night House is a psychological horror focusing on a widow who is going through a journey uncovering his life and who he was. Horror movies that explore grief and trauma isn’t anything new, in fact it’s becoming more prominent and overdone these days. However for what it’s worth, The Night House breathes new life into this very specific horror subgenre and is one of the better examples of that in recent memory. There’s a lot of genuinely scary ideas as it plays on the fear and acceptance of death. When the film eventually introduces supernatural elements, it fits in well with the rest of the plot and doesn’t feel out of place. Despite how it leans much stronger into horror in the third act, I really like how subtle and less flashy the horror is in the first two acts. The scares are there, but its not to the point where it’s too jarring or takes you out of the film. Helping the movie is the eerie atmosphere, there’s always something intensely uneasy that lingers throughout the runtime of the film. It is definitely a slow burn of a horror movie, but I appreciate how it took it’s time to build up its atmosphere and tell its story. In terms of faults, I did have some issues with the ending. While I liked the direction it went in and the overall idea, the ending itself was a little too abrupt.

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One of the highlights of the film is Rebecca Hall in the lead role, who gives one of her best performances yet. We spend most of the film with her alone for the most part, and she conveys so much even when she has very little support. This is her show, embodying her character’s feelings of loss and emotions when she makes some discoveries about her dead husband. The performance definitely helps the film work as well as it does. There are some decent supporting performances from the likes of Sarah Goldberg and Stacy Martin, but again this is Hall’s film.

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Another strong aspect of the film is David Bruckner’s direction. Some years ago he made The Ritual, another horror movie which I thought was good. However his work on The Night House is superb and another level. I love the visuals, the cinematography was striking and made great uses of optical illusions, architecture and symmetry. The sound design is also effective, and it has a fitting score from Ben Lovett which added to the atmosphere. The film delivers in creating an eerie and creepy atmosphere filled with tension. There are definitely jump scares, especially in the third act, but they don’t feel cheap and don’t break the atmosphere its been building up.

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The Night House was one of the biggest surprises of the year, especially for horror. The take on trauma and grief felt fresh, the direction is superb with a tense atmosphere, and Rebecca Hall’s performance was phenomenal. It is well worth checking out.

Halloween Kills (2021) Review

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Halloween Kills

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, offensive language & cruelty
Cast:
Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode
Judy Greer as Karen Nelson
Andi Matichak as Allyson Nelson
Will Patton as Deputy Frank Hawkins
Thomas Mann as younger Frank Hawkins
Anthony Michael Hall as Tommy Doyle
Robert Longstreet as Lonnie Elam
Dylan Arnold as Cameron Elam
Charles Cyphers as Leigh Brackett
Kyle Richards as Lindsey Wallace
Director: David Gordon Green

The nightmare isn’t over as unstoppable killer Michael Myers escapes from Laurie Strode’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) trap to continue his ritual bloodbath. Injured and taken to the hospital, Laurie fights through the pain as she inspires residents of Haddonfield, Ill., to rise up against Myers. Taking matters into their own hands, the Strode women and other survivors form a vigilante mob to hunt down Michael and end his reign of terror once and for all.

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I was looking forward to Halloween Kills. I quite enjoyed Halloween (2018), it definitely had its issues but as a follow up to the original film set decades later, I thought it was really good. After the success of that movie, two sequels were announced, Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends. I had high hopes for Kills despite receiving one of the most divisive receptions for a Halloween film. While I’m prepared to say I like the movie, it is very disappointing.

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I could tell early on that the movie had some issues. The first 10 minutes are actually a flashback of the night of Halloween (1978). As well done as it was, essentially it’s just repeated information and doesn’t add a whole lot. That aside, plotwise it’s all a mess. While there were a number of characters in Halloween (2018), the focus was mainly on the Strode family. However after the ending with them almost killing Michael Myers in the last movie, Halloween Kills underutilises and sidelines them. Laurie Strode gets the worst treatment at all, having less than 15 minutes of screentime. The story mostly moves into a story about mob mentality as the people of Haddonfield are hunting down Michael Myers. While there were some good ideas and an effective scene or two, the attempts at social commentary and exploring cultural issues were misguided and didn’t work in execution. Some of the scenes where the people attempt to kill Myers are fine, they’re at least better than the scenes where people stand around and just declare that “evil dies tonight”. The movie also introduces the idea of Myers’s influence potentially turning the people of Haddonfield into monsters. However it only lingers on that idea for 5-10 minutes max before forgetting about it entirely. I really didn’t like was how they brought back characters from the 1978 film who were somewhat affected by Myers. It’s partially because it feels like the movie is relying so much on nostalgia, and tying all these people into the plot just felt so contrived.

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The other aspect of the plot is that of Michael Myers continuing to kill. Although I like the portrayal of Myers here, his scenes just weren’t the best. Halloween Kills definitely leans into him being superhuman, he’s comically unkillable. While the kills are definitely there, the encounters with him are more ridiculous and not scary, and they generally feel the same way with little variety or emotional impact. It doesn’t help that you already know that Michael Myers doesn’t die in this one, given that the next film is titled Halloween Ends. So any expectation or tension that he might die in this movie is just not there. The third act is where it becomes a conventional Halloween movie and gives up trying whatever they were attempting before. While I would generally call it a lazy fallback, it definitely works a lot better than most of what came before. The structure is a mess as it jumps between these three aspects of the story, none of them done very well. The story is dull and lacks the suspense and atmosphere from the 1978 and even the 2018 film. Even looking outside of the plot, the script is a mess. First of all, the tone. Halloween (2018) had quite a bit of humour in the film that felt quite out of place, but you were able to see pass them, and it at least focused up in the second half. However, the tone in Halloween Kills is all over the place. There is the aforementioned story about trauma, as well as the town getting ready to fight the shape that haunted them. However, it increases the jokes and silliness, and as much as I want to say that this is deliberately leaning towards camp (especially with the over the top kills), it is still taking itself seriously. The dialogue is definitely schlocky and silly but unfortunately not in an intentional camp way. Worst of all was how expository it was, dumping a lot of information on you and spells everything out in a rather insulting way, especially when its just repeating information from the past films. I think for all the issues it has, the most damning thing about Halloween Kills was how reluctant it is to move its story. It doesn’t really serve to have much purpose outside of following the last film, and doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do. Only a few notable things happen, and not a lot is learnt. It just feels like it’s there to be a filler movie before the actual finale with Halloween Ends.

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The acting and characters are a mixed bag. Out of all of them, the highlights were the Strodes. While there is unfortunately much less of them, the trio of Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer and Andi Matichak are great. It’s a shame that they don’t get many scenes together and they feel rather wasted. Laurie Strode’s Jamie Lee Curtis is shockingly underutilised especially given the last movie. This leaves Greer and Matichak to have more screentime, and they do work well in their parts at least. Unfortunately, Halloween Kills makes the decision to rely more on its supporting characters, a number of them meant to be people who were around for the night on Halloween 1978. It certainly doesn’t help that the characters in this movie make some really dumb decisions. This is a movie where someone makes a big rousing speech and declares that they will stay together as they hunt the killer, and shortly afterwards they split up. This is also a movie where a couple discover that someone is in their house, and their first instinct is to go inside and confront him. It only makes the non-Strode scenes even more frustrating to watch.

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David Gordon Green’s direction was one of the best parts of the previous movie, and his work here is good, if not as great. The cinematography is gorgeous and stunning but devoid of the smooth long takes that made the first movie so effective. The atmosphere just isn’t there for this movie, and doesn’t really build up much suspense. Michael Myers himself is certainly one of the best parts of the movie. I liked his look with the burnt mask, and he is effectively menacing. However, his kill/scare scenes are a bit of a mixed bag. The title for the film is certainly apt, and the kills do deliver. This is one of the most violent Halloween movies, up there with the Rob Zombie films. It is brutal, gory and violent, so credit for that. However there was always something that irked me about those scenes. First of all the executions are what I imagine much of the Friday the 13th kills are like, not for scares or horror but for the audience to see the killer violently dispatching people. In fact, they felt more like Mortal Kombat fatalities more than anything else. There’s also something rather mean spirited in the way they just throw these kills in for the pleasure of the audience, and for as creatively violent as they are, ironically only 3-4 were memorable. One of the strongest aspects of the last Halloween movie was John Carpenter’s score which was amazing. While I don’t like his Halloween Kills score as much, it’s still one of the highlights and is distinctly different.

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Halloween Kills is unfortunately quite disappointing. The script is an absolute mess that tries to be so many things and can’t deliver on any of them. Ultimately it feels like a placeholder and filler movie, a movie just to draw out the conclusion with only a few things that move the film forward. It’s not without its strengths. It is generally well directed, I liked Michael Myers, and although they were under-utilised I liked the main three actors. I just hope that David Gordon Green and co. can pull off Halloween Ends because I’m much less confident in it after watching Kills.

Candyman (2021) Review

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Candyman (2021)

Time: 91 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, horror, suicide & content that may disturb
Cast:
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy
Teyonah Parris as Brianna “Bri” Cartwrigh
Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as Troy Cartwright
Colman Domingo as William “Billy” Burke
Vanessa Williams as Anne-Marie McCoy
Director: Nia DaCosta

For decades, the housing projects of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green were terrorized by a ghost story about a supernatural, hook-handed killer. In present day, an artist (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) begins to explore the macabre history of Candyman, not knowing it would unravel his sanity and unleash a terrifying wave of violence that puts him on a collision course with destiny.

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I was looking forward to the new Candyman movie, the original film was a horror classic and for very good reason. The 2021 film had some very talented people involved from Jordan Peele as one of the writers, to Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as the lead actor, and I really liked the looks from the trailers. I went into it not really knowing what to expect, and while I definitely have issues, I do like it on the whole.

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Before watching Candyman (2021) I highly recommend watching the original Candyman released in 1992, because there’s callbacks and references which won’t hit the same way if you haven’t seen it. This latest Candyman is very much a sequel set decades later, and you’ll get more out of it if you’ve seen the first film (on top of it being a really good film that’s well worth seeing). Plotwise the premise is initially similar as the protagonist is trying to uncover the local legend of the Candyman. It starts off well with a good setup, so I had a good feeling about it initially. I liked the horror elements, and I particularly liked how it made an effort to build upon the mythology of the Candyman as established in the original. However I have to say that overall the script has a lot of issues and is easily the thing that holds the film back from being great. First of all, the actual writing is mixed with some wonky dialogue, out of place humour and generally dull characters. Storywise it is a bit of a mess too, I wouldn’t say I was bored but there were some dull moments. The film introduces a lot of subplots but they don’t go anywhere and most of them aren’t concluded properly. The same goes for the character arcs, its almost like the film is a bit rushed or cut down. By the end much of the story felt underdeveloped and the conclusion was rushed, and so I felt unsatisfied. Candyman 2021 is way too short at 90 minutes long, it should’ve been much longer to flesh things out.

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Another aspect of the writing worth talking about is the themes. Like the original film there’s a lot of social and political commentary, and I was interested how the movie would handle them. The 2021 film has  some particularly timely and relevant themes its working with, including gentrification and police brutality. Unfortunately the way they handled the themes was a bit messy to say the least. It’s very blunt and on the nose, and it’s not inherently bad to be less subtle about it. However it’s to the degree where the film tells the audience about the themes. Candyman (2021) is definitely more into telling over showing. Instead of allowing the audience to interpret the themes of the film, it has characters literally talk about them. Not only that but they try to cram so many ideas into this one movie (a particularly short movie at that) and while that is certainly bold and ambitious, it doesn’t really succeed. By the end it touches on a lot of topics but doesn’t really explore them or end up saying much by the end, which was disappointing.

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There’s some good acting in this film. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is in the lead role here, and he’s great as to be expected. Teyonah Parris was good in her part, Colman Domingo was also good, although his character’s arc felt cut short. Outside of those three however, there’s some bad supporting roles and weak side performances.

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This is the first movie I’ve seen from Nia DaCosta, but she’s definitely shown herself to be a great filmmaker here. The film is visually striking and stunning with beautiful cinematography and camerawork. Some of the best scenes of the movie were sequences that made use of cutout puppetry animation, often used for exposition, I loved the presentation of them. It does a fairly decent job at building up its atmosphere and tension. The horror is great with some well staged death scenes, although the use of CGI is a little distracting. Finally the score is eerie and haunting, really setting an effective mood throughout.

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Candyman (2021) is in some ways rather disappointing. It had some good ideas but with its script it felt both overstuffed and undercooked, and it is holding back much of the film. With that said I still think it’s good, from the main performances to Nia DaCosta’s impressive direction. If you watched the original Candyman and liked it, I do think this new film is worth checking out.