Thursday, 16 February 2017

Rings (2017): Review

Rings is a 2017 supernatural horror film. Directed by F. Javier Gutierrez (Before the Fall) and starring Matilda Lutz (Summertime), Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory) and Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket). The film is the third entry in the American franchise, itself a remake of Ringu (1998).

The film begins with an aeroplane crash linked to the mysterious Samara videotape. Several years later, college professor Gabriel Brown obtains the videotape and Samara’s curse soon starts circulating around the students. This includes Holt, boyfriend of Julia (Lutz) who starts to investigate after not hearing from him in some time. She discovers that a group of students, and Gabriel, have been copying the video and passing the curse along to other people who they refer to as “tails”. However, after Julia herself watches the video, she sets out on a mission to discover Samara’s true origins and end the curse once and for all.

So, after several delays, the belated third entry in the American Ring franchise arrives 12 years after the last entry. In terms of authenticity, it feels very faithful to the original masterpiece (surely one of the greatest English language remakes) and replicates the unique look and feel of Gore Verbinski’s direction. Gutierrez is clearly a talented director with technical flair and the franchise has visually never looked better. The scares are there, and they’re pretty familiar as far as the franchise goes but there were still some neat twists and the atmosphere of the film is undeniable. Also, I personally got a kick out of seeing the infamous tape on the big screen as it’s always had a very unsettling effect on me.

The question you always have to come back to with sequels (and especially threequels) is this, is it necessary? And in this case, I’m afraid it is a definite no. Other than the slight update in technology, which somewhat conflicts with the decision to retain the vhs premise, it hits all the same beats as the original film albeit with a cast and a script that pales in comparison. Much of the cast appears to have been hired for being young and sexy rather than any actual ability, The ring franchise not traditionally being either of these things, and when your strongest performance comes from someone in The Big Bang Theory (a true horror) you know you’re in trouble. Credit should be given to the great Vincent D’Onofrio for his attempt at the Brian Cox character from the original but, unfortunately, the films production delays have now rendered this a pastiche of last year’s Don’t Breathe.

A hell of a lot better than Hideo Nakata’s The Ring Two (forgive me Hideo!) but still standing in the awesome shadow of a modern horror classic, Rings frustratingly offers new scares whilst also overexposing a horror icon. The already convoluted backstory becomes incomprehensible in a shallow attempt to wring every last drop from the franchise and it really is a shame. Hardcore franchise fans, or newcomers, will find things to enjoy but, for me, it left me colder than the bottom of Samara’s well.

** 2 Stars

What did you think of the film? Is this an unnecessary sequel?

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

New Halloween movie gets a writer and director

After being pretty quiet for a while, a whole load of new details have emerged regarding the upcoming Halloween reboot. Not only has the project found a director in David Gordon Green, but Danny McBride has also signed on as writer.

The duo have previously been best known for their work on comedies such as Eastbound and Down, The Pineapple Express and the dreadful Your Highness. However, with Green recently moving into more dramatic territory with Red Oaks and McBride featuring prominently in the upcoming Alien: Covenant, it looks like the pair are really looking to explore new ground with their sequel to the horror classic.

And, as if he anticipated the raised eyebrows at the appointment of Green and McBride, franchise creator John Carpenter has also spoken out as producer, stating McBride's story is much closer to the tone of the original movie with no sequel campiness in sight.

We will have to wait until Halloween next year to see how this one turns out.

What do you think of the Green and McBride being hired? Would you rather a sequel or a remake?

Friday, 10 February 2017

Friday the 13th reboot is dead

News has emerged that Paramount pictures have managed to do what dozens of teenagers couldn't, they've killed Jason Voorhees! The upcoming reboot was due to begin principal photography in the next couple of weeks but has now been axed (pun intended). There is speculation that a poor opening for the "Rings" movie could be responsible for the move but no official explanation.

You could argue, and I would, that 11 sequels is probably enough for one franchise (the most recent reboot being less than 10 years ago) and the iconic character doesn't need any more outings, freeing up resources for original horror ideas. Then again, Jason Voorhees will never die!

What do you think of the decision? Did you want to see another reboot of the series?

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Split (2017): Review

Split is a 2017 psychological horror film. Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan (Signs, The Visit), the film stars James McAvoy (X-Men, Filth), Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) and Betty Buckley (Carrie). The film premiered at Fantastic Fest 2016.

The film follows Kevin Wendell Crumb (McAvoy), a sufferer of dissociative identity disorder and home to 23 distinct personalities. After kidnapping Casey (Taylor-Joy) and her 2 teenage friends, his personalities begin to shuffle whilst they are being held captive in his basement. His most dominant personality Barry (an effeminate fashion student) attends regular therapy sessions with Dr Fletcher (Buckley). However, as she suspects, other personalities are starting to take over “the light” including the surly Dennis, motherly Miss Patricia and childlike Hedwig. As Dr Fletcher struggles to pinpoint the shifting personalities, a 24th personality “The Beast” begins to form, placing the captive girls in terrible danger.

Split is a great concept, but it’s also an ambitious one and the tone of the film is regularly in flux between high concept thriller and schlocky b-movie. That the film turned out as good as it did is a credit to McAvoy who gives an impressive, if slightly pantomime, performance demonstrating his versatility and retaining his “proper actor” reputation, even in genre films. Shyamalan has crafted a tight script that rarely lags as the tension is kept ramped up at all times and his technical abilities make maximum use of the dingy basement setting. The sound design, particularly towards the end, is excellent and helps the film reach nauseating levels of tension.

The strength of the movie is also its biggest drawback, it is a one man show. The teenage characters are entirely superfluous and, although bold characterisation attempts were made for Taylor-Joy’s character, I found it difficult to care about any of them and eager to see which personality McAvoy would unveil next. Similarly, the Dr Fletcher character is there to provide the Basil exposition and gets lumbered with some of the most wooden pseudo-scientific dialogue in the film. Shyamalan has once again opted to forego his traditional shock twist in favour of a more subtle revelation, however, as I haven’t seen the film that it relates to, I can’t speak to its effectiveness. As with “The Visit” it wisely chooses not to hinge its entire plot on a third act twist, but rather, throws in a little something extra at the end for people that care.

A taut and effective psychological thriller that weaves a convoluted plot around a towering central performance, with more than a few forays into silly territory (zoo Animal hybrid anyone?). Shyamalan never quite decides whether he wants to base his central character in reality or use the film’s key hook, the DID, to craft a supernatural villain. Go into the cinema with a cheesy, exploitation mindset and you’ll lose yourself in McAvoys performance and have a great time. If you go in expecting a clever and complex film with everything wrapped up in a neat package by the end, then you expect too much of M. Night Shyamalan.

**** 4 Stars

What did you think of the film? What did you think of James McAvoy’s performance?

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Chucky returns!

Details are emerging on a brand new film in the Chucky franchise, following the surprisingly good Curse of Chucky in 2013. Fiona Douriff will be reprising her role as Nica Pierce, a paraplegic committed to an insane asylum following the events of the last film. Brad Douriff will of course be voicing Chucky once again with the characters of Andy Barclay and Tiffany also returning.

I've always been a fan of the Child's Play/Chucky franchise and it has remained surprisingly consistent over the years. However, it sounds like Don Mancini (writer) is throwing a lot at the wall for the 7th installment, with a lot of returning characters. That being said, he also threw a lot at the wall with Seed of Chucky (2004) and that was a riot. Add to that that he was also able to steer the franchise back from the brink of meta insanity with Curse and I pretty much trust Mancini completely. A sizzle reel has been released to remind you of who Chucky is, as if you could forget!

Are you excited for a new Chucky film? Do you think the franchise has gone on too long?

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Rupture (2016): Review

Rupture is a 2016 sci fi thriller film. Directed by Steven Shainberg (Secretary) and written by Brian Nelson (Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night), the film stars Noomi Rapace (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Prometheus) and Peter Stormare (Fargo, Bad Milo). The film debuted at the 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival.
The film follows Renee (Rapace), a single mother who finds herself kidnapped on the way to a skydiving day out. She awakens strapped to a bed in a mysterious facility where she is subjected to a series of experiments designed to produce excessive levels of fear. Briefly able to escape her room, she discovers there are many other victims being subjected to similar experiments by the sinister staff of the facility. The staff eventually reveal themselves to be inhuman beings who achieved superhuman powers by pushing themselves past the perceived limit of mental trauma in a process they call “rupturing”. Renee becomes converted to their cause but draws the line when they try to convert her son, leaving her position as the “mother” of a new race in question.

Rupture takes a number of ideas done better in other forms of fiction and cobbles them together in a half baked waste of a film. The central premise of torturing victims until they reach enlightenment, or transcend, is so blatantly lifted from the French masterpiece Martyrs (2008). Furthermore, the idea of locking someone in a room and slowly introducing their worst fears is even more blatantly lifted from 1984 (just replace rat mask with spider mask here). This wouldn’t be so bad if the film actually committed to some graphic violence or atmosphere, as those influences would warrant, but the most you get here is some seriously ropey effects for the lumpy headed alien species that made me laugh out loud.

Unfortunately the script is nearly as ropey as the effects, disappointing given Nelson’s previous work, and nonsense lines about “fear altering DNA” and “scaring you past death” are delivered with as much enthusiasm as they deserve. What’s most disappointing about this film is that Noomi Rapace is being completely wasted after appearing in several high profile films that promised to launch her career outside of Sweden. Add to that the completely miniscule role for fellow Scandinavian heavyweight Peter Stormare, and this all becomes a very frustrating exercise. Fleeting moments of suspense and impressive technical direction do appear from time to time but not nearly enough to save the film from being laughably inept.

If you feel like you’ve seen this film before, you definitely have, and there is very little on show to distract from the highly derivative premise. Frankly, almost everyone involved in the film is better than this and would be best off moving on very swiftly, which for Rapace will be Alien: Covenant in a few short months. Have you ever been so scared that you turned into a lumpy headed alien? No, me neither!

* 1 Star

 What did you think of the film? Did you like the premise?

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Rings gets a 2nd trailer

After being delayed for the third time last November, Paramount are once again threatening to release their belated threequel to the American Ring series. This time scheduled for a February 3rd release, a new trailer has been released to kickstart the marketing campaign once again.

Thankfully much shorter and less revealing than the overstuffed trailer from last year, we get a neat montage of scares set to a creepy nursery rhyme to set the tone for Samara's return. Obviously, the fact that the movie has been repeatedly delayed is not a good sign, but perhaps we will be able to see for ourselves when February 3rd rolls around.

What do you think of the new trailer? What are your expectations?