Category Archives: Thriller

Knock at the Cabin (2023) Review

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Knock at the Cabin

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Dave Bautista as Leonard
Jonathan Groff as Eric
Ben Aldridge as Andrew
Nikki Amuka-Bird as Sabrina
Kristen Cui as Wen
Abby Quinn as Adriane
Rupert Grint as Redmond
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

While vacationing at a remote cabin in the woods, a young girl and her parents are taken hostage by four armed strangers who demand they make an unthinkable choice to avert the apocalypse. Confused, scared and with limited access to the outside world, the family must decide what they believe before all is lost.

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Over time, I think M. Night Shyamalan is gradually becoming one of my favourite directors. While there are definitely a few movies in his filmography which don’t really work, he usually is making an interesting movie in a distinct way that has my curiosity. His next movie looked intriguing, a home invasion thriller starring Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff and Rupert Grint. I made sure to watch only the first trailer and went in fairly blind, and I was thoroughly impressed.

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Knock at the Cabin is based on a novel called The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul G. Tremblay, which I haven’t read myself. Shyamalan is known for twists and complex plots, and so most people are going into the film expecting that. However, there’s little of that and it’s a fairly straightforward plot. Within the first act, the central dilemma is clearly presented to the main characters and the audience. The lack of a twist might bother people who were expecting it, but it worked for the story. The runtime certainly is in line with the complexity of the plot, with it being only 100 minutes long. It’s a very lean film that just has the essentials yet doesn’t feel underdeveloped. This is Shyamalan’s most contained film, with it focussing on just these characters at the cabin.  Every so often the movie will cut to a flashback of the main characters, and it not only did reveals things and provides context to them, it also gives welcome breathers between the tense present day scenes at the cabin. I found the movie to actually be quiet hard hitting and emotional. The central family’s story is handled quite well, and is quiet possibly the most human story that Shyamalan has made. There’s plenty of thematic stuff at play, belief, doubts, faith in humanity, and it almost seems reminiscent of the themes of Signs. Shyamalan’s writing has been criticised for being awkward, mainly with the dialogue. While I somewhat agreed with those criticisms, by the time Old came out, I just sort of took it as a part of his style that made his movies distinct. There is some stiff and awkward dialogue in Knock at the Cabin, but I got used to it after a while. From what I can tell, the novel it’s based on had a much different ending and so I can imagine that readers of that book might not like the direction the movie takes at the end. However, I think it works for what Shyamalan was going for.

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There is a limited cast who all deliver excellent work here, in fact I think it’s the best overall collection of performances in a Shyamalan movie. The major family as played by Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge and Kirsten Cui are great; the family dynamic is one of the key parts of the movie and is beautifully written, and is only further strengthen by their performances. Groff particularly ends up being the heart of the film. The actors who played the 4 invaders in Dave Bautista, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abby Quinn and Rupert Grint are all good, presenting their characters and their feelings well. Dave Bautista who shone the most in the whole movie, giving probably his best performance yet. As the leader of this group that gives the family a moral dilemma, he infuses so much humanity in this role. He could’ve just been a menacing villain, which we could easily play. Instead, he is earnest, sincere, soft spoken and reserved and you can really tell that he doesn’t want to do the things he’s doing.

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While people are mixed about his writing, I feel confident in saying that M. Night Shyamalan is a really solid filmmaker. He does well with filming suspense and has a distinct style. Knock at the Cabin just might be his best direction for a movie yet. It is absolutely his best shot movie, the camera movements are creative and fantastic, the angles generate the right feelings needed, and the close ups of faces really helped whether it was increasing tension or capturing the emotions of the characters. Between that, the editing and the score, Shyamalan does well at creating a strong atmosphere.

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Knock at the Cabin is a tense, lean, intimate and gripping thriller, outstandingly directed and with fantastic performances. Regardless of your thoughts on M. Night Shyamalan’s past movies, I think it is well worth checking out, and I consider it to be amongst his best.

Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre (2023) Review

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Operation Fortune - Ruse de Guerre

Time: 114 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, sexual references & offensive language
Cast:
Jason Statham as Orson Fortune
Aubrey Plaza as Sarah Fidel
Josh Hartnett as Danny Francesco
Cary Elwes as Nathan Jasmine
Bugzy Malone as J.J. Davies
Hugh Grant as Greg Simmonds
Director: Guy Ritchie

Elite spy Orson Fortune must track down and stop the sale of a deadly new weapons technology wielded by billionaire arms broker Greg Simmonds. Reluctantly teamed up with some of the world’s best operatives, Fortune and his crew recruit Hollywood’s biggest movie star, Danny Francesco, to help them on their globe-trotting mission to save the world.

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Operation Fortune was one of my more anticipated movies of 2022. Guy Ritchie was on a pretty good streak recently with The Gentlemen and Wrath of Man, with those being among his best films. His next movie would be a spy film starring Jason Statham and it was intended to release in 2022. However it was delayed to the next year seemingly because of the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia, since the movie features villains that happen to be of Ukrainian nationality. As a consequence however, it ended up being dumped in cinemas at quite possibly the worst time: in January and a month after an Avatar film was released in cinemas. Which is a shame, because for all of Operation Fortune’s faults, it is still an entertaining movie.

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Operation Fortune is a pretty standard spy flick, with a plot that isn’t anything special but is passable and serviceable. That being said, its never boring. There is some snappy humour with great comedic timing, witty and biting dialogue, and benefits from a fast pace.

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The characters are pretty forgettable and aren’t memorable, but the cast are very entertaining and definitely help the movie. Jason Statham plays Jason Statham yet again, but he is very good at that. He is enjoyable despite not having a very interesting or dynamic character, and delivers on the action and comedy with ease. Cary Elwes and Josh Hartnett are really good, but the two standouts were Aubrey Plaza and Hugh Grant, both funny and were scene stealers.

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Guy Ritchie work as director is pretty good, definitely less stylish compared to his other movies, but still has an effective style that makes it fun to watch. The action is entertaining and well-choreographed, and the cinematography is pretty good. Chris Benstead, who composed Ritchie’s past two movies The Gentlemen and Wrath of Man also composes the score for Operation Fortune, and again it adds a lot to the film.

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Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre isn’t one of Guy Ritchie’s best movies, it’s the type of movie that he could make in his sleep, which is a little disappointing. Its not even that much better than his other spy movie The Man from UNCLE. Still, it is a decent and entertaining spy flick, with fun action and an enjoyable cast, and might be worth checking out for that.

Resurrection (2022) Review

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, cruelty & offensive language
Cast:
Rebecca Hall as Margaret
Grace Kaufman as Abbie
Michael Esper as Peter
Tim Roth as David
Director: Andrew Semans

A woman’s carefully constructed life gets up-ended when an unwelcome shadow from her past returns, forcing her to confront the monster she’s evaded for two decades.

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I knew Resurrection as a horror/thriller with Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth, but didn’t know much about it beyond that. It turned out to be really good, and I recommend going into it fairly blind.

While it starts off slow and fairly tame, Resurrection gets continually more disturbing as it as shocking revelations are presented. For a large portion it is difficult to figure out what is happening, and that just adds to the uncomfortable feeling. It is a paranoia thriller and does very well as that; it is frantic, anxiety and stress inducing. It feels uncomfortably grounded and is effectively dark and disturbing. Not a whole lot happens in the second act, but I was locked in and riveted. There are definitely some things in play thematically, including emotional abuse, trauma and gaslighting. I feel like the third act is going to make or break the movie for some. Without going into it too much, whereas the first two acts felt grounded and realistic, the third act goes in a somewhat different direction, which really throws you off. Not only that but the ending itself is vague, ambiguous and has you questioning what you just watched. I respect the ending but not sure I understand it yet.

The movie definitely benefits from its fantastic performances, in fact it feels more performance driven than character driven. Obviously the standout is the lead performance from Rebecca Hall, who is phenomenal here. So much of the movie relies on her and she absolutely delivered, conveying terror, trauma and guilt so effectively. One of the highlight scenes was a nearly 10 minute long monologue which was outstanding. This very well may be Hall’s best performance yet. Tim Roth is great as the scene chewing and menacing villain; even with his small screentime, he’s unnerving in his parts and a strong screen presence. There is a very good supporting cast including Michael Esper and Angela Wong Carbone. However Grace Kaufman was the biggest surprise for me as Rebecca Hall’s daughter, she felt incredibly authentic and helped make the relationship between the two characters feel real.

The film also benefits from strong direction from Andrew Semans. It constantly has a sharp and unsettling tone, helped by the striking cinematography, and the brooding and ominous score from Jim Williams.

Resurrection is a tense, anxiety-driven and unsettling psychological thriller, greatly directed and with excellent performances from Rebecca Hall, Tim Roth and Grace Kaufman. The third act might throw some people off, but I should probably like the first two acts if you enjoy other paranoia thrillers.

Barbarian (2022) Review

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Barbarian

Time: 102 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, horror, sexual violence references & offensive language
Cast:
Georgina Campbell as Tess Marshall
Bill Skarsgård as Keith Toshko
Justin Long as AJ Gilbride
Director: Zach Cregger

A young woman discovers the rental home she booked is already occupied by a stranger. Against her better judgment, she decides to spend the night but soon discovers there’s a lot more to fear than just an unexpected house guest.

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I heard about Barbarian for a while; I just knew that it was a horror movie starring Bill Skarsgard and that plenty of people were saying it was best not knowing too much about it going in. I think it was worth all the hype overall.

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Much of your experience with the movie will hinge on how little you know before going into it. I think it is worth watching blind because it goes in directions that you’re not initially expecting. Part of the premise is that Georgina Campbell arrives at the Airbnb she rented and finds that its already occupied by Bill Skarsgard, she then reluctantly spends the night there. That’s as much as you’ll want to know beforehand. Overall. I think the writing is strong. I was unsettled over the course of the movie, there is a strong atmosphere, suspense, and a real feeling of dread. There’s also some surprising humour which fits into the movie well. The humour isn’t so overt that you would call it a comedy, but it is subtle enough that it doesn’t take away from the tension. There is some social commentary here which you can look deeper into. In some ways the message kind of gets muddled and there are some missed opportunities to dive deeper. However, it at least allows room for interpretation instead of spelling out everything for the audience. I do have some issues. The movie is a bit short at an hour 40 minutes and I wish it was a little longer to flesh things out. There are some solid twists which take you off guard, but after the first half, the twists in the second half just weren’t as impactful. The unexpected jumps in the narrative can also cause some issues with the pacing, even though they were helped make things unpredictable. Without spoiling anything there is a bit too much time and scenes dedicated to Justin Long’s character and establishing him in the story. I think they could’ve conveyed all that information in less time, and that probably would’ve helped the film to not feel like it came to a screeching halt when he’s introduced.

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The performances from the cast are really good. Georgina Campbell plays the main character and really sells her role really well, conveying her character’s dread. Bill Skarsgard is also good in this, playing the person already in Airbnb. His casting is particularly used to great effect here, especially considering his menacing and villainous roles in other projects. As a result, during his scenes, you are trying to figure out who he is and what his intentions are. Another bit of great casting is Justin Long, who was a real stand out. Right from his first scene he is shown to be selfish and unlikable but Long plays it very well, and is the source of much of the comedy.

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Zach Cregger’s direction was great, this is his solo writing and directing debut. This one location and setting is conveyed really well, and the parts in the basement look very creepy and unnerving. The camerawork and cinematography are outstanding, from the movements (goes handheld when necessary) to the choice of lens (fisheye at some points). Finally, the score by Anna Drubich is eerie and adds to the atmosphere and tone.

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Barbarian is a great, suspenseful, entertaining, and well crafted horror movie, phenomenally directed, with surprising humour, and great performances from Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgard and Justin Long. Its one of the best horror movies of the year and well worth checking out (but is best going into it blind).

Watcher (2022) Review

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Watcher

Time: 91 Minutes
Cast:
Maika Monroe as Julia
Karl Glusman as Francis
Burn Gorman as Daniel Weber
Director: Chloe Okuno

As a serial killer stalks the city, a young actress who just moved to town with her boyfriend notices a mysterious stranger watching her from across the street.

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I knew only a little about Watcher, just that it was a thriller about Maika Monroe being stalked by someone. While the movie doesn’t have many surprises, it nonetheless works very well at what it sets out to do.

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Watcher is a psychological and paranoid thriller which takes its time as a slow burn. It leans more into subtle and nuanced storytelling and is powerfully effective as it slowly builds its suspense. The tension unfolds slows and there is a real sense of dread and paranoia. Storywise its pretty standard, straightforward and simple, and it doesn’t really surprise at any point. However I was nonetheless riveted and interested to see how it would play out. The added element of the protagonist being in a different country with a language barrier does add a lot to it; it helped to make the lead character played by Maika Monroe feel more isolated even before she finds someone stalking her. In terms of any actual criticisms outside of its familiarity, I thought that the ending was a little abrupt.

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One of Watcher’s biggest strengths is Maika Monroe as the lead character who is being followed. She effectively conveys the isolation, struggle and helplessness of her situation in a very believable performance. She is great and one of the highlights of the film. The rest of the actors are fine but nothing special and there’s not much to say about them. The exception is Burn Gorman who plays the stalker (or titular Watcher). We see glimpses of him before seeing his face and even after the film shows his face, it’s a while before we hear his voice. Without saying or doing much, Gorman is great at conveying this unsettling aura about him.

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Chloe Okuno directed Watcher very well, this is a very impressive debut for her. The cinematography is slick and well done, and I particularly like how it captures the stranger, initially obscuring him and putting you in the protagonist’s position. That combined with the quieter moments, and the unsettling sound design and the eerie score from Nathan Halpern help to make you feel unnerved.

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Watcher is a great paranoia and psychological thriller. Despite its familiar setup, its directed strongly and is led by an excellent and convincing performance from Maika Monroe, making it worth checking out.

The Contractor (2022) Review

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The Contractor (2022)

Time: 103 Minutes
Cast:
Chris Pine as James Harper
Ben Foster as Mike Hawkins
Gillian Jacobs as Brianne Harper
Eddie Marsan as Virgil
J. D. Pardo as Eric
Kiefer Sutherland as Rusty Jennings
Florian Munteanu as Kauffman
Director: Tarik Saleh

Involuntarily discharged from the Army, a special forces sergeant lands a contract with a private underground military force. When his very first assignment goes awry, the elite soldier finds himself hunted and on the run, caught in a dangerous conspiracy and fighting to stay alive long enough to get home and uncover the true motives of those who betrayed him.

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I saw The Contractor advertised on Amazon Prime, it looked to be a military thriller starring Chris Pine. Having watched it, it definitely felt like a streaming movie, but I was entertained nonetheless.

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The script and story are fairly average; if you’ve seen a passable military action thriller (especially a streaming exclusive), then you’ve probably already seen The Contractor. The opening half hour is a bit slow, but it does well in setting up the lead character and showing why he decides to take on a particular job. It also has probably the only thing that distinguishes it from other movies of this genre, as it highlights how veterans are treated by the US military and attempts to tackle some issues about private military organisations. However, by the end it has forgotten about those and becomes another standard action movie. The story isn’t that interesting and is very predictable, not helped by the slogging pacing. The characters aren’t that developed and don’t have the emotional depth needed. I will say that I do appreciate how surprisingly solemn the tone was. Also, whereas a lot of these types of military movies put things on a large scale, The Contractor is comparatively small scale and mostly focuses on Chris Pine trying to survive. While I didn’t care for the story, it was okay enough that I was willing to pay attention to what was happening. The third act is fine and entertaining enough, but it felt like they ran out of ideas and needed to formulate some predictable climax. The ending itself also ends a bit too abruptly.

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The cast are definitely the highlight of the movie. Chris Pine is very solid in the lead role, he carries much of the film. He certainly puts everything in this and helps to make his character feel more vulnerable and relatable. The rest of the cast deliver on their parts too. Ben Foster is quite good as well, even if he’s underutilised, and he and Pine (who co-starred in Hell or High Water) share convincing chemistry. Other actors like Gillian Jacobs, Eddie Marsan and Kiefer Sutherland also work in their screentime, but they are a little underserved. Gillian Jacobs is limited to just being ‘the wife character’, and Kiefer Sutherland’s villain (not much of a twist, it is easy to see coming) doesn’t get enough screentime to land an impression. Eddie Marsan’s scenes are some of the best scenes in the movie, but unfortunately he isn’t in the movie all that much.

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Direction wise, The Contractor is competently made. The cinematography is very basic, but the locations are pretty good, especially in Berlin. The action is solid too, with the firefights and fighting scenes being handled well. The editing did take away from the action and they could’ve used less cuts, but I wouldn’t say its as bad as in some other action movies. These sequences aren’t anything you haven’t seen before, yet are nonetheless entertaining enough to watch. The score from Alex Belcher also works for the movie, albeit isn’t anything special.

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Despite its potential, The Contractor is a generic and forgettable military action thriller, mostly let down by the average script. However, I did enjoy watching the movie; I liked the action and the cast are quite good, especially Chris Pine.

Halloween Ends (2022) Review

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Halloween Ends

Time: 111 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, offensive language & cruelty
Cast:
Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode
Andi Matichak as Allyson Nelson
Will Patton as Deputy Frank Hawkins
Rohan Campbell as Corey Cunningham
Kyle Richards as Lindsey Wallace
James Jude Courtney as Michael Myers/The Shape
Director: David Gordon Green

Four years after her last encounter with masked killer Michael Myers, Laurie Strode is living with her granddaughter and trying to finish her memoir. Myers hasn’t been seen since, and Laurie finally decides to liberate herself from rage and fear and embrace life. However, when a young man stands accused of murdering a boy that he was babysitting, it ignites a cascade of violence and terror that forces Laurie to confront the evil she can’t control.

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I was very curious about Halloween Ends, but admittedly was very nervous going into it. David Gordon Green’s trilogy of Halloween movies following the original has been very divisive. I liked the first movie Halloween (2018) despite its issues, and thought that it would’ve been a solid conclusion to the Halloween series. While the second movie Halloween Kills had its moments, it was a very mixed bag and was a bit of a mess, and so I wasn’t confident in the upcoming Halloween Ends. Once I heard of the initial reactions to the new movie however, I started to be intrigued; so far its probably the most polarising movie in the franchise outside of Rob Zombie’s Halloween II. It definitely has problems and could’ve handled some aspects better, but it was way better than what I was expecting it to be.

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Much of the marketing frames Halloween Ends as this big and epic final confrontation between Laurie and Michael Myers (for the last time), however that is not at all representative of what the movie is about. Right from the opening scene you can tell that Ends is openly goes out of its way to do something different, which I immediately respect especially when it comes to this franchise. Ends is an intimate and slower paced Halloween movie, in stark contrast to the previous movie Halloween Kills which upped the scale, violence, and yes, kills. From the trailers, Ends looked like it would conform to a generic finale, but it almost feels like an aftermath film, with more of an introspective angle for the story. Even the kills aren’t that frequent and are relatively tame until the final act. The cast of characters are relatively small, and aren’t just 2 dimensional people for Myers to plow through. When certain people are killed, they are actually important to the story or other characters, so it actually means something beyond just gore for the audience. I even felt like the family drama aspect with the Strodes works better here than in the last two movies. Many will be (and are already) disappointed in the fact that you don’t see Michael Myers all that much in this movie. Much of the movie focuses on a brand new character named Corey Cunningham; he’s already one of the most polarising aspects of a Halloween movie and that’s saying something. I think that the Corey storyline generally works and is one of the best parts of the movie. An idea that Halloween Kills (and other Halloween movies) touched on is Michael Myers influencing people to be evil. This is something that Ends leans into and fully realises, and its conveyed through Corey’s storyline. With this, the story of Ends closely resembles Christine (from Stephen King and John Carpenter) more than a Halloween movie, and I mean this as a compliment. It is an interesting take on trauma, fear, isolation and guilt, and is better handled than the past couple Halloween movies.

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That’s not to say that all of it works, there is a forced relationship between him and Allyson which comes out of nowhere. Also, Corey’s change was a bit too sudden, and it feels like David Gordon Green didn’t quite follow through on a lot of the ideas that he had. It probably would’ve worked better if it wasn’t also saddled with the burden of being a conclusion. In fact, I think this story might’ve been better told if it had been the start of this new trilogy. It is weird to have it as the ending, and it almost feels like it is underserving Michael Myers and Laurie. Laurie is still a notable presence in the movie, but much like in Kills, her part is seemingly reduced. Also, a consequence of increasing the focus on the Corey storyline is that Myers almost feels like a non entity, you even forget about him at many points. He might not have had a massive amount of screentime in the original film, but he was in it enough to remind you that he was there. Its also very jarring seeing Myers as much weaker and less active after the last movie established him as basically unkillable and unstoppable. The pacing does drag a little in the beginning and middle, nonetheless I was intrigued throughout. The third act has a fight between Laurie and Michael Myers (not much of a spoiler there), and while there could’ve been more to it, the fight felt personal and fitting for the movie’s overall approach, and I was satisfied with the conclusion.

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The performances are pretty strong overall. Once again Jamie Lee Curtis is really good as Laurie Strode. Like in Kills, Ends does distance itself from Laurie somewhat, but thankfully the cast of characters in this film isn’t nearly as crowded and so she gets to do more here. I think that this is the best version of Laurie in this new trilogy, there is a spark of human life here that just wasn’t in the last two movies. Here we see her attempt to move on with her life 4 years after Michael Myers returned in the events of Halloween (2018) and Halloween Kills; she seems mostly fine but everything is still hanging on by a thread. I thought that was handled very well. Andi Matichak also returns as Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson and is really good, she’s also at her best here within this new trilogy as a more dynamic and fully realised character. Rohan Campbell plays the critical character of Corey Cunningham and I thought he definitely helped to sell this character. The change in Corey might’ve been a bit too sudden, but Campbell nonetheless does very well at showing the different sides to him.

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This is the third time that David Gordon Green has directed a Halloween film, and while there are some faults the films, I think that his direction has generally been good. There is a bleak and moody atmosphere here, and it somehow works better with this slower pace. As usual, the cinematography is great, and there are some shots that look more out of a contained and lower budget horror movie than a Halloween sequel (that’s a good thing). There aren’t a lot of deaths and they don’t reach the heights of the more brutal kills in the series, but there are still a couple memorable moments. Some of the best parts of this trilogy have been the new scores from composers John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies. Its incredible as usual, greatly setting the tone of the movie and adding to the atmosphere.

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Halloween Ends definitely isn’t for everyone. The slower paced and introspective approach will be jarring for most people expecting a typical Halloween movie, and that Corey plotline in particular is going to divide people. However it mostly works for me. The ambitious ideas are refreshing and are at the very list respectable, and I found myself interested in what was happening beyond just waiting for Michael Myers to kill again. This is helped by some solid performances, good direction from David Gordon Green, and another outstanding Halloween score. While I do have my issues with this trilogy (mainly Kills), I appreciate that each entry is distinctly different. So while it could’ve ended on a fitting note with Halloween 2018, I’m glad that this trilogy exists.

[REC] (2007) Review

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Time: 85 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language, sex scenes & nudity
Cast:
Manuela Velasco as Ángela Vidal
Pablo Rosso as Pablo
Ferrán Terraza as Manu
David Vert as Álex
Jorge-Yaman Serrano as Sergio
Vicente Gil as Older Policemen
Carlos Vicente as Guillem Marimón
Martha Carbonell as Mrs. Izquierdo
Director: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza

A television reporter and cameraman follow emergency workers into a dark apartment building and are quickly locked inside with something terrifying.

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I haven’t disliked the found footage movies that I’ve seen but its not been one of my favourite genres. One of those I have been meaning to check out was a Spanish film called [REC], which proved to be very popular, spawning sequels and an American remake named Quarantine. I decided to check it out, and it was far better than I expected it to be.

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[REC] is a very straightforward and simple movie. It starts out following a reporter and her cameraman as they cover a night shift at a fire station, but an incident happens, they are locked into a building, and things quickly develop from there. It doesn’t explain too much and the details are very minimal. It is not made immediately clear to these characters what is happening and that goes to the audience to. You are right there with these people as everything escalates. It is a zombie movie, and when you look at the genre, like most of the movies there is definitely a familiarity. You’ve seen these zombie outbreaks happen like this before. However it is very well executed so it doesn’t really matter that much. The atmosphere is very intense, and there is a real feeling of desperation and hopelessness which only increases as the movie continues. It is very chaotic and if I watched the movie again, I could probably identify parts that might’ve been a bit too chaotic for its own good. Whatever the case, from what I experienced, it was incredible effective at giving that feeling nonetheless. One could say that there is a lack of substance to the story, and the characters are one dimensional. But I don’t think that the experience would’ve been as visceral if that was changed. This movie is very short at under 80 minutes, but it utilises every single minute to its fullest and not a second is wasted, so it really was the perfect length of the movie. The plot is very fast moving and never allows itself to drag, making sure it gains momentum over time. The final 30 minutes or so are where its at its peak terror, and ends with one of the most memorable final shots in a horror movie.

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The performances are a bit rough around the edges, but fittingly realistic and intense. The characters are one dimensional, but the actors convey the urgency and threat around them. Even the physical acting of the zombies is good. Manuela Velasco plays the lead character as the reporter, and she delivers a very believable performance.

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The direction from Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza is great and is what made the movie as effective as it was. The movie has a budget of a million dollars, so I’m not quite sure that I would call it low budget. Nonetheless, it doesn’t feel like an expensive movie either, and that only helps the feel of the movie and adds to the realistic and disturbing feel. Much of the movie is confined to one hotel, and it makes you feel closed in and claustrophobic, just like the characters. The shaky camerawork can often work against a found footage movie, but it fits this perfectly. The shakiness is used at the right moments and only adds to the tension and terror. Through the camera lens, you get a first-person view of everything that happens. Not only that but the use of a camera actually makes sense in the movie, the main characters are filming a news report initially and when things go sideways, they try to capture everything they can on camera. The practical effects and makeup are great and seem very real, especially in this found footage look. It is very violent and the gore is very effective.

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[REC] is a lean, mean and tense ride, a simple approach that’s incredibly executed, strongly directed, and has solid performances. It’s my favourite found footage horror movie, and probably one of the scariest movies I’ve seen. If you like horror movies, I think it is well worth checking out, even if you’re not a fan of found footage films.

The Black Phone (2022) Review

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The Black Phone

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Horror, violence, domestic violence & offensive language
Cast:
Mason Thames as Finney Blake
Madeleine McGraw as Gwen
Ethan Hawke as The Grabber
Jeremy Davies as Terrence
James Ransone as Max
Director: Scott Derrickson

Finney Shaw is a shy but clever 13-year-old boy who’s being held in a soundproof basement by a sadistic, masked killer. When a disconnected phone on the wall starts to ring, he soon discovers that he can hear the voices of the murderer’s previous victims — and they are dead set on making sure that what happened to them doesn’t happen to Finney.

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The Black Phone was one of my most anticipated movies of 2022. It would be director Scott Derrickson’s return to horror for the first time in 8 years, it has a simple but interesting premise, and Ethan Hawke as the main villain. While it could’ve been better, I did enjoy it overall.

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The plot takes its time, but for it was, it is an effectively creepy and dark horror movie. I am aware that The Black Phone is based on a short story, but feels a lot like a Stephen King story; bullies, alcoholic fathers, scary killers with masks, vague and unexplained supernatural elements, the only thing missing was it being set in Maine. The story is very familiar and cliched for a horror movie. Familiarity isn’t necessarily bad, but even if you don’t watch the incredibly revealing trailer, at a certain point, it becomes obvious how the rest of the plot is going to play out. But if you read it as a Stephen King throwback, then it plays a little better. It is fairly entertaining, and it was funnier than I expected it to be. However, the script is a bit of a mixed bag. For its nasty premise, it almost felt a little too tame. It could’ve gone darker when it came to the serial killer stuff, and from Sinister we know that Derrickson is capable of going there. However, my biggest issue is that much of the script felt underdeveloped and was missing something, it needed to expand or elaborate on some things. It juggles multiple different threads, including trauma, kidnappings, and psychic elements, but none of them are really handled that greatly. There are some supernatural elements, from the psychic dreams of the main character’s sister, to the voices of the killer’s victims calling on the black phone in the room that he’s trapped in. Not that I wanted a big info dump on everything, but they needed some level of explanation, at least more than what we got. As it was, the supernatural elements did take away from the real world setting and themes that the movie had previously established. The aspect involving the killer called “The Grabber” is also flawed, mainly with his motive. Initially you think that there is more to the Grabber’s deal than just killing children, given that he keeps his victims down in the basement. However, that’s not the case, and we don’t learn anything about him. So you’re waiting in anticipation for a backstory or reveal that just never comes. The third act doesn’t resolve things that well either; the ending is really abrupt and the last scene is particularly tact on and out of place.

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Ethan Hawke is menacing as The Grabber. Most of the time we don’t see his face, we usually just see him with a mask on. I understand why they used him sparingly, but I think we needed a lot more Hawke screentime. Jeremy Davies is also good in his part. However, it is the kids who stand out the most. Mason Thames is good as the lead child who is captured and is trying to escape, and Madeleine McGraw is especially great as the sister who receives the psychic visions.

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Scott Derrickson once again is very good at directing a movie, especially a horror. I like the visual look of the movie, especially in how it places itself in the 70s. The dream sequences had a distinct look to it, reminiscent to the home tapes from Sinister. I liked them all except one scene involving pinball which was very out of place. The scares aren’t special but were effective enough. They didn’t feel like cliched jump scares and it was refreshing for a recent horror movie to not be so heavy and reliant on jump scares. Finally, the Grabber masks that Hawke wears are very memorable and unique.

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The Black Phone has its problems and considering the potential it had, it was a little disappointing. It felt like it needed a few more drafts to flesh out some of the elements that it introduced. However, Scott Derrickson’s direction is effective, and the performances are great, and they make up for much of the issues.

The Collector (2009) Review

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The Collector

Time: 90 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] contains sadistic violence, sexual themes & offensive language
Cast:
Josh Stewart as Arkin O’Brien
Michael Reilly Burke as Michael Chase
Andrea Roth as Victoria Chase
Juan Fernández as The Collector
Madeline Zima as Jill Chase
Robert Wisdom as Roy
Director: Marcus Dunstan

In order to repay a debt, an ex-convict breaks into his new employer’s house to steal a valuable gem, unaware that another masked man has imprisoned the family and has set up deadly traps.

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I had been hearing about this horror movie called The Collector for a while; the few things that I knew was that it was quite gory and had the same writers as some of the Saw sequels. After surprisingly liking the Saw movies I decided to check it out, and I found it to be quite surprising.

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The Collector is a very different take on the home invasion sub-genre, and almost comes across like an R rated Home Alone with the traps, especially with how elaborate they are. As a horror movie it is effective, it has a creepy and intense atmosphere and gets under your skin in a surprising way, even beyond the gore. It helps with how contained the movie mostly is within this big house, anytime the protagonist enters a new room, it makes you feel uneasy as anything could be a death trap. Its definitely not surprising that some of the people who were involved with the Saw sequels were also involved with The Collector, as it takes a lot from Saw. For the most part, I don’t really view Saw as torture porn but if I did, I would say that The Collector also fits into the same category. The first act isn’t the strongest, however it picks up from the point that the main character enters the house and begins to encounter The Collector. As for realism it is really silly and over the top, mainly with how many traps The Collector is able to make in a short period of time.

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There are some good performances in the movie. Josh Stewart made for a strong and likable protagonist in Arkin, and the performance and character really added to the movie. Despite little characterisation, it gives good reason as to why he has to break into the central house in the first place, before getting caught up dealing with a terrifying serial killer. The Collector himself was done very well, from his simple yet creepy mask and outfit to the physical performance from Juan Fernandez, he was a truly menacing presence. Definitely one of the most underrated horror villains.

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The direction from Marcus Dunstan is strong, the cinematography is slick and fittingly grimy when it needs to be, the camera movements are effective especially when it comes to showcasing the rooms of the house. The traps are very creative and unique, unsurprising considering the connections to Saw. As I earlier mentioned, the traps can be over the top with how overblown and what they use, but if you can buy into the Saw sequels, you can buy into The Collector. The violence is very gory, but also leaves an impact when it happens (and it happens a lot). The score from Jerome Dillon was really good, and sets the right tone for the movie.

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The Collector is an enjoyable and underrated horror movie. Its not without its issues but its directed well, and has a strong and likable performance in Josh Stewart and an incredibly creepy and menacing villain. Its definitely a gory horror movie, if you can’t handle the Saw movies then its definitely not for you. If you can however, I think The Collector is worth a watch.