Category Archives: Mystery

The Night House (2021) Review

naHzIFZnCJqHVS8DKuVke8RDMUw

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.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

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.

Rebecca-Hall-The-Night-House-Publicity-H-2021

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.

Screen-Shot-2021-03-29-at-9.19.00-AM

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.

https___hiddenremote.com_files_2021_08_the-night-house-003_TNH-SG-01075_rgb

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.

The-Night-House-11-scaled

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.

Last Night in Soho (2021) Review

sinocivsohu

Last Night in Soho

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, sexual violence, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Thomasin McKenzie as Eloise “Ellie” Turner
Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandie
Matt Smith as Jack
Michael Ajao as John
Terence Stamp as Lindsay
Diana Rigg as Alexandra Collins
Director: Edgar Wright

An aspiring fashion designer (Thomasin McKenzie) is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s, where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer (Anya Taylor-Joy). However, the glamour is not all it appears to be, and the dreams of the past start to crack and splinter into something far darker.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

Last Night in Soho was one of my most anticipated movies of 2021. Along with a cast that includes Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy, it’s Edgar Wright’s latest film. While I’m not a massive fan of his non-Cornetto trilogy movies, the premise sounded quite intriguing, and I was interested to see him take on a full-on horror movie. I heard some mixed things from people about the movie before going into it, which was surprising considering most people seem to love his films. While I do like the movie, I agree with most of the criticisms its been receiving.

LAST NIGHT IN SOHO

The first half actually started off quite well for me, despite some issues. You do notice a distinct difference from Wright’s other movies, definitely less quippy and witty, and with less humour. I don’t have a problem with this though, this is a different sort of Wright movie. Not only that, but the attempts of humour in the film don’t hit at all so decreasing the amount of humour was only for the film’s benefit. Wright is more subdued here, I might be in a minority here but I appreciate him trying something different. When it gets to lead character Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) beginning to when visions of the 1960s and seeing Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), that’s where it really picks up. This is where the film is at its peak, it was intriguing and held my attention. Something I do like is that its going back to a setting with nostalgia (particularly a setting that Eloise has nostalgia for), only to show the seedy and dark side of it. It is a cautionary tale about the dangerous of romanticising the past and I do like that idea (even though the execution is not the best).

last-night-in-soho-and-whats-KT8_Mufp2IZ-AEk46T_enC3.1400x787

Then the second half happens. The plot stops being interesting or intriguing as Eloise goes through a descent into madness as she sees visions and ghosts, and we see less of the 60s setting. I think its at this point where I realised that I was more interested in the 60s plotline, and Eloise’s story wasn’t that interesting on its own. It definitely tries to have twists and turns but by this point the twists are very easy to predict. Last Night in Soho is a horror movie and its this second half where you really feel it. I’m not inherently against horror movies not scaring me, since only a few really scare me. However the horror falls shockingly flat, even Wright delivered better results with Shaun of the Dead. I distinctly remember the point that the film started to go downhill for the moment it introduces jumpscares and ghosts that haunt Eloise. Wright must think they are scary because he places these ghosts throughout this second half, and none of them are scary in the slightest. Maybe if it was intended to be camp then they would’ve worked, but Wright is aiming for genuine horror, and as a result it just comes across as really silly (in a bad way). While jumpscares can be used effectively, all of them feel completely clunky here. Even the gore and violence (and this is Wright’s most violent film) doesn’t really have any impact despite it intending to be shocking. The closest the film gets to being scary is a scene halfway through the movie where Eloise/Sandie is running through a club, and it does well at being effectively unsettling and creepy. Outside of that, none of the horror hits.

013395_1382x778_637667145154986202

As the movie enters into its second half, it touches on some really heavy material which I won’t mention by name for the sake of spoilers. It’s certainly ambitious to tackle difficult subject matter like those as long as enough depth is given to it, but the handling felt rather careless and glib here, particuarly with some of the horror sequences. Initially I was wondering whether I was just thinking too deep into it, until I reached the third act. Speaking of the third act, it’s been said by others that this is where it’ll make or break the film for many. I wouldn’t say it breaks the movie for me as I still like it overall. I will say that it certainly breaks the chance of me looking back at the plot in a positive way. It reveals its predicted twist and then rushes its way into a climax. While I predicted the twist earlier on, what followed the twist was something I didn’t predict because it was quite possibly the worst direction you could take the story in after everything that came before. The situation in the climax already feels contrived, forced and avoidable. However, even the simplistic message gets completely confused with the direction it takes in the third act, and just feels misguided at best, tone deaf at worst. Even the ending made me confused as to what kind of movie it was supposed to be, and not in a good way.

3000

This has to be some of the worst character work that Edgar Wright has done. The characters are 2 dimensional and feel like stock roles to fill rather than believable people. The innocent girl, the creepy old man, the mean girls, etc. So it is a credit to the cast that they pulled off good performances playing them. Thomasin McKenzie plays the lead character Eloise and she’s fantastic in this part. While I was not that invested in Eloise’s journey in the second half, McKenzie’s performance kept me on board with the character and with what she was doing. Anya Taylor-Joy is also excellent, embodying her character very well. In a way you could say that she’s underutilised given that she’s only seen during the visions and time travel scenes. However she is great and her presence is felt throughout. Other supporting actors are great too, especially Matt Smith, Terence Stamp, and Diana Rigg in her final performance.

LAST NIGHT IN SOHO

Edgar Wright directs and you do feel it, though refreshingly he does pull back on some of his filmmaking trademarks. For example the editing is still sharp but isn’t as snappy like his previous movies, and I appreciate him being more restrained with it. It is visually stunning to watch with Chung-hoon Chung’s cinematography, I particularly liked the use of colour. It is far Edgar Wright’s best looking movie. The recreation of the 60s time period is solid too, especially with the production designs, costumes and more. I like how they show the time travel, sometimes having Eloise and Sandie in the same room with Eloise being an observer, sometimes Eloise seeing Sandie in her reflection in the mirror. The soundtrack is great as expected given that this is an Edgar Wright movie, the score from Steven Price is also great and fits the tone of the film really well.

last-night-in-soho-trailer-2

I do like Last Night in Soho but it’s by far Edgar Wright’s messiest and most frustrating movie. It’s a shame because the first half showed itself to be a film with great potential, but the second half squandered all of that by the end. Even outside of the plot, there’s still a lot of issues. The characters are rather flat and one note, and the attempts at horror don’t succeed at all. However, I still like the film generally. The first half is good especially the glimpses into the 60s, the visuals and soundtrack are nice, and the actors are great in their parts, especially Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy. For what it’s worth, I do think it’s the best of Edgar Wright’s non-Cornetto movies, though I’m not in love with Baby Driver or Scott Pilgrim as much as other people. It’s not really a movie I want to revisit anytime soon, if only because I feel like my thoughts on it will sour even further. With all that being said, I do think it’s at least worth watching.

1408 (2007) Review

1408-1200-1200-675-675-crop-000000

1408_mech_052407.indd

Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains supernatural themes & violence
Cast:
John Cusack as Michael “Mike” Enslin
Samuel L. Jackson as Gerald Olin
Mary McCormack as Lily Enslin
Tony Shalhoub as Sam Farrell
Director: Mikael Håfström

A man who specializes in debunking paranormal occurrences (John Cusack) checks into the fabled room 1408 in the Dolphin Hotel. As he settles in, he confronts genuine terror.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I heard about 1408 for some time, I knew it as a horror movie based on a Stephen King book that starred John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson and involved a specific hotel room. Other than that, I had no idea what to expect from it, though I did notice some reactions to the movie to be a little mixed. I actually ended up enjoying it, even if I wouldn’t exactly call it a great movie.

weinstein-TWC1021-Full-Image_GalleryBackground-en-US-1483993185333._RI_

The setup of the movie is pretty simple, and the plot moves at a reasonable pace, really picking up from the moment that lead character Mike Enslin (played by John Cusack) first enters Room 1408. The story is pretty fun and kept my interest, especially with the mystery of the room even if by the end it doesn’t live up to its potential and build up. The movie does fall into some typical clichés of the genre and doesn’t surprise too much. With that said, I can say it very much feels like a Stephen King story, for better and for worse. It’s not scary but it is suspenseful and creative as everything is thrown at Enslin and he tries to figure out what to do next. I can’t tell whether some of the scenes are intentionally funny or just unintentionally funny, but some scenes were so over the top that I had fun with them, and not necessarily in a bad way. A particular scene involving a very agitated John Cusack and a mini fridge does make me feel like there was some self-awareness while making the movie. At the same time, there are some genuinely effective scenes, especially in the second half of the movie. I should point out that there are two versions (and apparently somehow three endings) of the movie. Strangely enough, the director’s cut is now the version of 1408 mostly on display for people to watch on Blu-ray and streaming services. Also strangely enough, the theatrical cut ending ended up being superior to the director’s cut. While I liked the initial idea and different direction of the director’s cut ending, ultimately the execution just ends up being really nothing and was unsatisfying. The ending in the theatrical cut, while seemingly less dark, was actually a lot more effective; sadly, you’ll probably only get to see that version if you have the DVD copy of 1408. So in saying that, directly after watching 1408 (it’ll no doubt be the director’s cut), I would recommend looking online at the theatrical cut ending.

1408window2-1440x600

Much of the movie belongs to John Cusack, it’s basically a one man show for him and he does very well. His character is a strong sceptic about ghosts and hauntings as a writer, who is confronted with so much while inside this room and it’s very entertaining to watch him. He’s super into his scenes and embraces his character and all the emotions he’s tasked with delivering. Much of his acting can be hilarious at points, but I think that accompanies the tone of the movie very fittingly. On a side note though, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would’ve been like if Nicolas Cage was in the role instead simply for the over the top insanity scenes (that aforementioned mini-fridge scene certainly felt like a moment right out of a Cage film). Samuel L. Jackson is second billed in the cast but wasn’t in the movie much. However, he’s very memorable and good as the manager of the hotel who warns Cusack’s character about the dangers of staying in Room 1408.

1408-John-Cusack-with-Noose

One of 1408’s strongest aspects was the direction from Mikael Hafstrom. The look of the movie outside of the hotel (and especially during the day) looks a bit off, but otherwise the film looks really great and is shot and composed well. Some strong atmosphere and tension are created early on, and again it shines particularly in the scenes in Room 1408. I don’t think the scares were particularly good, some the jump scares are honestly rather lame and ineffective, but the atmosphere and mystery portions of the film were good. The editing at points can be a little uneven but nothing movie breaking.

EEYKgKuXUAAvI87

1408 does have its issues and I wouldn’t place it as the top tier of Stephen King film adaptations, but I think it’s pretty good. The intriguing and entertaining story, the solid direction and the committed lead performance from John Cusack come together to make a decent horror movie. Don’t expect something at the level of like The Shining, but I do think it’s a movie you might have a lot of fun watching, worth a look.

Noroi: The Curse (2005) Review

Noroi-The-Curse[1]

Noroi The Curse

Time: 115 Minutes
Cast:
Jin Muraki as Masafumi Kobayashi
Marika Matsumoto as Herself
Satoru Jitsunashi as Mitsuo Hori
Rio Kanno as Kana Yano
Tomono Kuga as Junko Ishii
Director: Kōji Shiraishi

A prominent paranormal journalist named Kobayashi (Jim Muraki) goes missing shortly after completing a documentary. What begins as an investigation into strange noises soon evolves into the chilling mystery of a demonic entity named Kagutaba.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I had heard of Noroi: The Curse as an underrated horror movie. All I knew about it was that it was a found footage horror movie from Japan, and apparently it was quite scary. I had been meaning to watch it for a while, and having finally seen it I can say that while it has some issues it was quite good, and definitely should receive more attention.

Screen-Shot-2017-10-13-at-1.04.01-PM

Interestingly, Noroi: The Curse aims to be both a found footage movie and a documentary style movie. Though some of the way it is edited doesn’t quite make sense in the context of the story, I went along with it. I’ll admit that for the first hour I wasn’t quite into the story. It does try to approach the story as a documentary which I understand, but I just wasn’t quite as invested as I’d like to be. The first hour is dense with a lot of information to keep track of, with elements introduced like psychic variety shows, many characters introduced, rituals, backstory, there’s a lot happening. It’s a lot but I admire the commitment to it. It is also a slow paced movie for sure, but even at its slowest I was still paying attention to the plot. It’s in the second half where it picked up for me. That’s when the footage moves beyond being used for a documentary and moves more into the people recording encountering spooky things themselves. There were some effective and creepy moments, some of them were effective, especially in the latter sections of the movie. While I won’t go into too much depth with the plot, what I can say is that the payoff at the end is worth it for sure.

image-w1280

The acting is all around pretty good, it’s not the main focus of the movie but the performances are sincere. Whenever characters are reacting to creepy situations or information, their reactions feel genuine.

noroi-the-curse-2005-3[1]

It’s directed by Koji Shiraishi, and for the most part I think he did a good job. One of the strengths of found footage horror is that it often feels very real. That is definitely the case in this movie, especially in the second half and the last third of the movie. As previously mentioned, it does try to seem like a documentary with the way its edited, however some of the attempts don’t always work out so well. The most annoying parts were the subtitles and title cards at the start of some scenes, which give information of what’s happening, particularly because it doesn’t always commit to having a voice over, nor does it make an attempt to explain what’s happening within the video footage presented. As for the scares, sometimes it worked, and at other times it didn’t work so well. There’s one moment when the camera freaks out during an intense moment, glitches happen and we can see a creepy image through the glitches. After this moment however, the cameraman shows the footage to Kobayashi (the paranormal researcher in the movie), and we also get to see that glitched footage in slow motion, and that felt kind of pointless since we already saw that and it’s not going to make it any scarier. There are also some moments where some visual effects were added into the movie, and they are pretty bad and silly, and can take away from some of the moments. Thankfully they weren’t in the movie a lot.

NOROI-THE-CURSE-2005-1366x445[1]

Noroi: The Curse does have some problems, some of it is to do with the direction and its approach as a mockumentary style film, and I wasn’t fully on board until roughly the second half of the movie. However I still think it’s worth watching, and it’s definitely an underrated movie. It is a found footage movie, but if you at least like any of the movies in that genre, find a way to seek it out, because it deserves much more attention.

The Thing (1982) Review

the-thing-1982-lede

The Thing

Time:  109 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Kurt Russell as R.J. MacReady
A. Wilford Brimley as Blair
T. K. Carter as Nauls
David Clennon as Palmer
Keith David as Childs
Director: John Carpenter

In remote Antarctica, a group of American research scientists are disturbed at their base camp by a helicopter shooting at a sled dog. When they take in the dog, it brutally attacks both human beings and canines in the camp and they discover that the beast can assume the shape of its victims. A resourceful helicopter pilot (Kurt Russell) and the camp doctor (Richard Dysart) lead the camp crew in a desperate, gory battle against the vicious creature before it picks them all off, one by one.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1]

John Carpenter’s The Thing was underappreciated on its release back in 1982, in fact it opened to very negative responses from audiences and critics alike (not helped that it came out around the same time as E.T.). However it found an audience when it released on home video and television, and today it is considered a horror classic, and for very good reason. It remains an incredibly effective and influential horror movie that holds up decades later.

1_nQl2mSH30TcovIouCBcXWg

The Thing is a great mix of sci-fi, mystery and horror. It is gripping from beginning to end and I appreciate and notice new details every time I watch. Essentially it is an intriguing whodunnit mystery, that just happens to have a lot of thrills and gore in it. It has a feeling of claustrophobia and isolation throughout, which is on point and well tuned with John Carpenter’s classic minimalist aesthetics and atmosphere that are present in some of his other movies. It does so well at selling us on how hopeless it is trying to escape from this alien, you feel that sense of chilling paranoia around every corner, much like the characters do. Carpenter’s deliberate pacing and emphasis on the lack of escape also steadily increases the tension. Something which also increases the suspense is the lack of knowledge of who The Thing is at any given time, not to mention the lack of knowledge of what it even is. We also only see it react when its actually being threatened or exposed, and we don’t see the alien and becoming the person. This movie might be known for its effects, but there’s a lot of suspenseful sequences, one involving a blood test especially is a great example of suspense and shock. The ending is also haunting and fitting for the overall movie.

MV5BMjAyMTczOTc2Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjQ0MjczMjI@._V1_

There are some top-notch performances from the cast. The lead character is that of MacReady, who is brilliantly played by Kurt Russell, one of his best performances and roles. He is believable as a hardened but normal guy finding himself up against an all too real alien threat. The same goes for the rest of the cast, for what they lack in development, they still feel like real human beings stuck in a dangerous situation. Every character feels so lived in and shine with what they are given, really playing into the paranoia considerably well throughout. The script doesn’t delve into everyone’s backgrounds, but it does give each of these people their deserving moment.

image

John Carpenter directs this movie, and this is some of his finest work. He is great with atmosphere in his movies, and The Thing is no exception. His use of the cold arctic landscape in this setting further emphasises the crew’s helplessness and isolation from the outside world. All the cinematography and production design are immaculate. There aren’t many jumpscares, but the ones that are here are done well. The Thing contains some of the most mindblowing and gruesome practical effects and makeup in a horror movie, and they hold up after nearly 40 years. The sound design is great, really putting you in the moments. The scores of John Carpenter’s movies are usually done by himself, this time it’s composed by Ennio Morricone. Despite this, it sounds exactly the way he would’ve score it, with simple synthesised tracks that help enhance the sinister mood of the movie. Incredibly simple yet effective.

TheThing02

The Thing is fantastic and an absolute horror classic for so many reasons. Its script is finely tuned to near perfection, the characters are simple but given enough believability and are performed well, and John Carpenter’s direction is fantastic, making the film effectively suspenseful and unnerving from beginning to end. It is John Carpenter’s best film to date, and it has aged very well over the years. If you are a horror fan, definitely check out The Thing as soon as you can.

Malignant (2021) Review

malignant

Malignant

Time: 111 Minutes
Cast:
Annabelle Wallis as Madison Mitchell
Maddie Hasson as Sydney Lake
George Young as Kekoa Shaw
Michole Briana White as Regina Moss
Jacqueline McKenzie as Dr. Florence Weaver
Director: James Wan

Madison (Annabelle Wallis), a young woman, is terrified by visions of the murders of strangers. Later, Madison decides to find and save the victims.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I was quite interested in Malignant, not only was it director James Wan’s newest film, but it also his first original horror movie in a while (the last instance being The Conjuring in 2013). I also found the initial reactions to the movie to be quite intriguing, with some people having no idea what they just watched. Honestly, I wish I had the chance to watch the movie in cinemas to hear the reactions, because it was quite an experience.

_FIDvBRVCjw36xnKzPCQ-X8PP9Q6ymG6clBIDHJQSAw

It’s unsurprising that the trailers didn’t sell the movie that well considering how weird the concept sounds on paper. This is James Wan’s craziest film to date, and that’s saying a lot. There are some over the top moments and even comedy throughout the film, yet it somehow all fits together, managing to not ruin the grounded and dramatic moments. It is definitely an absurd movie, but it is self-aware of what it is, while still taking itself somewhat seriously. You can feel a mix of other horror directors’ influences, including Dario Argento, David Cronenberg and Sam Raimi, it feels like a perfect mixture of different horror subgenres. However, it is still all James Wan, while feeling so totally different from what he has done in the past. You could probably see elements of Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring, but Malignant still has its own distinct tone and feel. The first two acts build mystery around lead character Madison, intriguing you and locking you into the central mystery as she sees a lot of murders being committed by a mysterious killer. However, it is really the big reveal and the whole third act which is the point where you’ll realise whether you’re on board with the movie or not. Even if you’ve predicted the twist beforehand, the details surrounding the twist are so nutty that they have to be seen to be believed. I for one didn’t quite expect it, the third act was surprising, fun and satisfying and I had a blast with it.

3858052-screenshot2021-07-20at17.56.15

Annabelle Wallis is really good in the lead role and puts a lot into her performance. The rest of the cast aren’t bad, but they are serviceable. A lot of them act very odd at times especially with how they deliver their dialogue. However, it does work well for the movie’s campy feel at least. Ray Chase is also superb as the voice of the main antagonist of the film.

MCDMALI WB020

This is a James Wan movie and as usual his work is really fantastic. This movie is visually beautiful to watch. There is also a great atmosphere throughout, greatly helped by the slick camera work as well as the sound design. It really should be said that this is by far James Wan’s goriest movie yet. Without going into the details of the scenes, there are some set pieces that are truly a sight to behold, especially in the insane third act. Everything from the choreography, the blood, the camerawork, everything in that last 30 minutes just turns everything to 11. The design and presentation of the main killer in the story is creative and truly memorable. The soundtrack from Joseph Bishara is great too. There’s particularly a piece of music that sounds like Where is My Mind by The Pixies, and it actually works as the main theme of the movie so well.

james-wan-malignant-trailer

Malignant definitely won’t be for everyone but I found it to be quite a satisfying and surprising horror film, with plenty of thrills, bloody and fantastic set pieces, and is absolutely bonkers. I’d go so far to say that it is one of James Wan’s best films. If you like horror movies, I do highly recommend watching it. Go into it blind, and if you find yourself not feeling it within the first 20 minutes, I recommend at least getting to the third act because it is worth watching the film for that alone.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) Review

Halloween III - Season Of The Witch - 1982

Halloween 3 Season of the Witch

Time: 98 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Tom Atkins as Dr. Daniel Challis
Stacey Nelkin as Ellie Grimbridge
Dan O’Herlihy as Conal Cochran
Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Hospital emergency room Dr. Daniel “Dan” Challis (Tom Atkins) and Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin), the daughter of a murder victim, uncover a terrible plot by small-town mask maker Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy), a madman who’s planning a Halloween mass murder utilizing an ancient Celtic ritual. The ritual involves a boulder stolen from Stonehenge, the use of Silver Shamrock masks and a triggering device contained in a television commercial — all designed to kill millions of children.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

Halloween 3: Season of the Witch is known as the odd movie of the Halloween series, as it’s the only movie in the series to not feature the iconic fictional killer Michael Myers. After the character’s death in Halloween 3, John Carpenter wanted to take the series in a different direction away from Myers, and to be more of an anthology horror movie series, with each entry being a standalone story. The movie was poorly received, and led to the following sequels bringing back Michael Myers. However, Season of the Witch has been receiving something of a cult following more recently, and having seen the movie, I can see why. While it’s not as good as the original movie by any mean, it’s pretty good and I had fun with it.

halloween-iii-1200-1200-675-675-crop-000000

As said previously, Halloween 3: Season of the Witch isn’t really connected to the series. The most you get is footage of the original Halloween as a movie playing in the background at some points, that’s it. The story is campy for sure, and it does have a B movie feel to it. There’s a lot that happens in the movie, robots that look like humans, rituals and a Bond-like villain. That campiness does make the movie quite entertaining, and its quite creative, which was quite a breath of fresh air compared to many of the Halloween sequels which mainly just consisted of Michael Myers trying to kill people yet again. Season of the Witch also plays more like a mystery thriller than a horror film at times, with a sense of suspense and dread. Also, while I said there was some cheesiness to it, there is a good amount of horror, and some stand out gory and grotesque scenes that I’m impressed the filmmakers went for, especially with one particular iconic scene. The ending is really good too, and quite memorable. The movie is just under 100 minutes long and that was a pretty good runtime and keeps you on board throughout, though at times has some pacing issues.

Halloween-Season-Witch-01

The cast do pretty well in their parts. Most of them weren’t anything special, but the standouts were Tom Atkins who works as the main character, and Dan O’Herlihy who works as the rather James Bond-like villain of the whole movie.

ePkwopLmKbYy0Ul9WvRrHIPs3YE

The direction from Tommy Lee Wallace was pretty good, definitely having a pretty good handle of the movie. For one it’s a well shot movie, the cinematography is beautiful and helps convey a spooky atmosphere. It looks straight from the 80s, but it actually works to its benefit, especially considering the tone and overall story of the movie. The effects and makeup are detailed, grotesque and hold up well today. The synth score from John Carpenter is also great, a slower, darker sounding synth score.

pvjlY7vJzUl4g02YVo9ABzpb6g1

Halloween 3: Season of the Witch is surprisingly good, well made, and makes for quite an entertaining and creepy 80s horror flick. While there are many other Halloween movies I have yet to watch, I think Season of the Witch is one of the best movies in the series, and I feel like the anthology approach to the series might’ve been for the better, but of course we know what happened when the movie was released. If was just titled Season of the Witch and ditched the Halloween subtitle (rather than calling it Halloween 3), it probably would’ve done better with people back then. If you haven’t given this movie a chance and you like horror, I recommend checking it out.

Reminiscence (2021) Review

Reminiscence-Hugh-Jackman

Reminiscence

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, drug use & suicide
Cast:
Hugh Jackman as Nick Bannister
Rebecca Ferguson as Mae
Thandiwe Newton as Emily “Watts” Sanders
Cliff Curtis as Cyrus Boothe
Marina de Tavira as Tamara Sylvan
Daniel Wu as Saint Joe
Director: Lisa Joy

Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman), a private investigator of the mind, navigates the darkly alluring world of the past by helping his clients access lost memories. Living on the fringes of the sunken Miami coast, his life is forever changed as he uncovers a violent conspiracy while trying to solve the mystery behind a client (Rebecca Ferguson) who disappeared.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I was quite curious about Reminiscence going into it, I liked how it looked from the trailers, I liked the cast involved including Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson, and the director is Lisa Joy, who is one of the creators of Westworld. I was a little hesitant after seeing the less than stellar critical response, but I wanted to see it for myself. I’m definitely in the minority of people who actually liked it, despite some clear issues.

19reminiscence3-videoSixteenByNineJumbo1600

The premise about investigating the mind is great, and the concept of being able to recall memories definitely gives the film the ability to use flashbacks in a natural way that actually works within the context of the plot. It is definitely reminiscent of other sci-fi movies, borrowing from films like Inception and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but I still like what was done here. However, I think a lot of this could’ve been executed better. The pacing wasn’t the best, it takes quite a while for the plot to really progress, and some of the story is fairly predictable. I liked the story for the most part, I was on board throughout and it never really lost me. With that said, the story is definitely more interesting after a slower first half. Reminiscence is very neo noir inspired and I really liked that aspect of the film. I also really liked the world that is being built here, even if it comes with some issues in the way that Lisa Joy decided to convey it. There is a lot of exposition in this movie as it is establishing the current state of the world and the setting, especially towards the beginning. This is probably why it takes so long for the movie to get to the actual mystery at the centre of the story. While I definitely appreciate the amount of detail and context that Joy tries to give this world, it was a bit too much. A lot of the exposition comes through Hugh Jackman narrating throughout the film, something which I’ve noticed a lot of other people complaining about. I’m somewhat inclined to give this a pass simply because it is a play on hard boiled neo-noir films to a degree. However, the use of it was nonetheless overbearing and just about borders on self-parody. Not only that, but the dialogue a lot of the time is very over-melodramatic at many points. While it does feel like it doesn’t feel like it meets its potential and is a little disappointing, I wouldn’t say that the script is bad by any means.

l-intro-1622733877

While much of the characters feel a little underdeveloped, the acting from the solid cast definitely elevates them. Hugh Jackman does a very good job in the lead role as expected. Everyone else does well, Rebecca Ferguson is particularly a standout, and actors like Thandiwe Newton and Cliff Curtis are also great in their parts.

w1900_h1052_x1500_y1000_AP_32A622007075E33A-96de8b7e7c8bfb91

This is Lisa Joy’s directorial debut, and while there are some issues, I think it’s a good first film. First of all, this movie has some stunning cinematography, and the production design is solid. This noir inspired futuristic setting is gorgeous and fascinating to watch, at the very least on a visual level. There aren’t a ton of action scenes, but they are decent when they are there. There is a particularly creative action scene that takes place inside a collapsing building. Sometimes the CGI is a bit too noticeable but it didn’t bring me out of the movie. The score from Game of Thrones and Westworld composer Ramin Djawadi is great and really fits the tone and vibe of the film.

115133993-5-2

Once again, I don’t think that Reminiscence really reaches the peak of its potential, and it was a little disappointing, with the script definitely being the weakest point. However, I was still invested throughout, I liked what Lisa Joy was going for, and it has some really good moments. Joy’s direction and the performances from the cast (especially Jackman and Ferguson) are also great, and elevates the overall quality of the film. At the very least I do think that it is worth checking out.

Rashomon (1950) Review

rashomon-1200-1200-675-675-crop-000000

Rashomon

Time: 88 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Takashi Shimura as Kikori
Minoru Chiaki as Tabi Hōshi
Kichijiro Ueda as the listener
Toshiro Mifune as Tajōmaru
Machiko Kyō as the Samurai’s wife
Masayuki Mori as the Samurai
Director: Akira Kurosawa

The rape of a bride (Machiko Kyo) and the murder of her samurai husband (Masayuki Mori) are recalled from the perspectives of a bandit (Toshiro Mifune), the bride, the samurai’s ghost and a woodcutter (Takashi Shimura).

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I wanted to watch more films from Akira Kurosawa after watching Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, both of which were fantastic. I set my sights on Rashomon next, it has been said that this movie has been so essential and influential to cinema, and it’s known as a real classic. Having seen it, I can say it certainly lived up to its reputation.

6089f1339d2d0.hires

On the surface, Rashomon about a crime that took place, focussing on who saw the crime and what happened, with the story being told through different perspectives of those involved. I really like the way that this movie narratively unfolds, especially how it is constantly changing with every person who tells their side of the story. I found the plot to be engaging, and it does well at making you suspicious with every version of the story that you hear. The writing is quite clever, only showing you what it wants you to know and when they want you know. The structure is worth noting too, with a lot of non-linear storytelling that makes a lot of use of flashbacks. Its use of both makes Rashomon a unique and game changing movie for its time considering that it was in the 1950s. It’s quite intelligent, well put together, and very compelling to watch. Along with being very clever in terms of a crime thriller, it also has a lot to say thematically. As you can tell, truth and narrative are definitely a big part of the movie, with how easy it is for people to falsify the truth, and how interpretations of the truth can be subjective. However, Rashomon is also about morality and human nature, as well as the human condition. With all this, it packs an emotional punch at the end that surprised me. It is quite a short movie at 90 minutes long but it’s the right length, and despite the shortness still has a lot there that can be delved into. With the different perspectives that are given in this movie, I want to watch it again because I feel like I’d get more out of it on repeat viewings.

0_Cmsgu8w7q-NPRUwa

The acting is all great, from the people in the present storyline debating about what happened in this crime, to the people who are giving their sides of the stories. The performances especially from the lead three, The Bandit, Husband and Wife, really make you question everything about the film. Of course out of all of them, it is Toshiro Mifune who is the standout in his role as the bandit. He is very much a supporting character here but he steals every scene he’s in.

aysegul-dogan-ile-film-atolyesi-rashomon.event.vdzobgflhxdv

Akira Kurosawa’s direction is incredibly impressive as always. For one, it is shot very well. The black and white cinematography is gorgeous and beautifully lit, and the use of natural lighting really makes it appealing to watch. Many of the camera techniques used here also help with the narrative, for example each of the four people who give their side of the story during the trial face the camera directly, as if we are the court in this trial. The editing also played a key role, and it’s incredibly sharp and puts everything together excellently.

screen-shot-2013-10-16-at-23-37-42

Rashomon is a fantastic film, and I can see now why it’s so famous and iconic. It is a simple yet complex crime thriller about unreliable perspectives, human nature and morality, which is incredibly written, directed and acted. I think it’s a must watch, and it is a movie that I’m interested in rewatching.

Censor (2021) Review

7d261e7f9dc279c26dcff54f88688de4

Censor

Time: 84  Minutes
Cast:
Niamh Algar as Enid Baines
Nicholas Burns as Sanderson
Vincent Franklin as Fraser
Sophia La Porta as Alice Lee
Adrian Schiller as Frederick North
Michael Smiley as Doug Smart
Director: Prano Bailey-Bond

After viewing a strangely familiar video nasty, Enid (Niamh Algar), a film censor, sets out to solve the past mystery of her sister’s disappearance, embarking on a quest that dissolves the line between fiction and reality.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I heard about Censor earlier this year, all I knew about it was that it was a British psychological horror film involving censors, it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and some people liked it. I really didn’t know what to expect beyond that and so I went into the movie mostly blind. I’m glad I did, going in with no expectations, I found myself really on board with where the movie went.

censor-2021-niamh-algar-3-1280x640

Censor’s plot is definitely set against a retro backdrop, so it is worth noting the setting. The setting is the mid-80s during the era of the video nasties, in which low-budget exploitation movies were deemed a danger to society and the cause of murder, violence and the like. Censor applies this concept, connecting it to an intriguing character study, in which it focuses on the life and struggles of a film censor. This film censor finds uncanny similarities between the videos she watches, and her childhood experiences and trauma, and she begins going down a trippy rabbit hole. I will say that the movie didn’t have many twists and turns with its plot development, but it didn’t really need to. I was intrigued enough by the story and where it went. As you would expect with a movie having censorship as one of the key aspects, Censor touches on the question about whether watching violence on video or film would make people prone to commit violence themselves. I thought tha and the commentary on censorship was quite interesting. Despite this, the focus is more with the protagonist and her story for the most part, which was probably for the best. Even though it does take a slow pacing through the story, I was invested going along this journey with protagonist Enid. Unfortunately I do think the movie struggles to combine the two strongest parts, the setting with the video nasty era, and the character study. When it’s focusing on one at a time it really works, not so much when the film tries to combine them. In the end the censorship and video nasties aspect take a back seat later on in the movie anyway, and I felt the two elements could’ve been integrated better. Also the movie really feels like two halves, each of which almost feel like different movies. The first half is a slow but intriguing mystery, the second half picks up the pace but probably a little too much, with the change in pace being a little too quick. While I do enjoy the third act and the ending, it does go off the rails here, for better and for worse. Looking back at the story and themes, it doesn’t quite come together. It really needed a longer runtime to bring everything together. Speaking of which, the movie is only 80 minutes long. For some it will feel longer because of the pacing but I was invested in this atmospheric ride, and I think it would’ve been better if it was at least 10-15 minutes longer.

censor

This movie is essentially anchored by the nuanced and strong performance from lead actor Niamh Algar. As Enid she’s hypnotising and a great strong on-screen presence. She is playing a character who slowly unravels as the memories of her long missing sister resurface and intertwine with the movies she watches every day. Most of the movie is just following her, and she carries the movie incredibly well. Although Algar is definitely the highlight, the rest of the cast are all doing great in their roles as well.

Censor-Business

Censor is the directorial debut of Prano Bailey-Bond, and it was quite a good first film from her. Immediately you can tell from the style that its paying tribute and taking influence from a lot of great horror auteurs from the 80s, including Dario Argento, Brian De Palma, and David Cronenberg. At times it does become a little too fond of its influences, but for the most part Bailey-Bond’s direction is its own thing. It is very effective from an aesthetic standpoint, for one it has a throwback look to it, with the production design and use of 35mm film at points. If you also really like neon bathed cinematography, Censor has a lot of that. The editing is great, and the sound effects and score add a lot to the atmosphere that the movie slowly builds. There is gore in this movie, but don’t expect a lot of it.

merlin_188744880_3a718e83-607e-4178-843b-4ab350fd3f2e-superJumbo

Censor will be divisive among many people (even those who like horror) but it was a good ode to the video nasty era and a solid psychological horror thriller. Though it doesn’t feel complete by the end with regard to the plot and themes, and I had some issues with the way the story is structured and turns out, I was intrigued all the way through, the direction was great, and Niamh Algar was fantastic in the lead role. If you like horror, I think Censor is worth a watch, especially if you like the video nasty era that the movie is paying tribute to.