Retrospective: Scream 3 (2000)

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Wes Craven: The Scream years part 4 – Scream 3 (2000)

There would have been a three year hiatus for Ghostface to reappear again on screens following the successful sequel. This time around Wes Craven returning as director without his writing collaborator Kevin Williamson, (those duties now fell to relative newcomer Ehren Kruger who had previously worked on Arlington Road) would thrust Sidney Prescott further down the rabbithole and dreamland to create his slasher trilogy. And what better place to set their playground in, than the place where ‘dreams are made’, Hollywood. It’s a great choice and plays nicely into the metaverse that was initially set up in the original and its sequel with the Hollywood version of the Woodsboro murders film series, Stab.

Once again the film hits hard by writing off a previous character, Cotton Weary (Liev Schrieber) still capitalising on his fifteen minutes of fame and about to cameo in the next feature in the Stab series before succumbing to the return of Ghostface’s killing frenzy.

Here we are introduced to a new character in Detective Kincaid (Patrick Dempsey) who calls on Gail Weathers (Courtney Cox) to aid him in his query into the murder and its possible relation to the previous murders. When Gail arrives on set, she discovers that Dewey (David Arquette) has been working on the film as an advisor and once again their on/off relationship sparks off. It’s not until another Stab 3 cast member is killed that they realise that a possible serial copycat killer is in their midst. Time to call on Sidney Prescott once more, who has become a recluse since we last saw her and helping abused women via a phone helpline, turning the instrument that fuelled her trauma into something good.

The charm of this movie is through the way Craven and Kruger play with the hollywood versions of the Scream characters and the way that their larger than life selves search for their own gain in the midst of the killings. It is inevitable that they will meet their maker at some point along the way. The casting of these characters is also on point, notably Parker Posey as the fictional Gail and Emily Mortimer as the fictional Sidney. A mention should also go to Lance Henriksen as the Director of the movie John Milton, who is always stoic in his performance.

Along with this was the return from the grave of fan favourite Randy Meeks, albeit by the genius of a home movie, from which he spits the lores of film trilogies to the survivors. Sorry to wax lyrical about Randy. What can I say? I guess for some reason, I identify with the guy 😛

Once more though, it is in the final act and the reveal that things get a little lost on me with the reveal of a characters’ plan that they were behind the whole thing from the very beginning. A little far-fetched, yes, but the fun is in the journey, the number of kills, Dewey getting brutally wiped out and left for dead again, and both Sidney and Gail kicking ass along the way.

The third instalment may not have been as well received compared with its predecessors, falling victim to the last instalment curse, but it still reaped its fair share at the box office, hinting that Ghostface wasn’t down and out yet. In fact, it would be a decade before the masked killer would rise again, bringing with him the director that launched his profile for what would be the last time for Craven.

  • Saul Muerte

Movie Review: Scream (2022)

10 Scream inspired movies

Retrospective: Vampire in Brooklyn

Retrospective: Scream (1996)

Retrospective: Scream 2 (1997)

Retrospective: Scream 2 (1997)

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Wes Craven: The Scream years part 3 – Scream 2 (1997)

The original Scream released one year prior would prove to be a financial success, capturing $85 million at the Box Office, and prove to be a critical success for Wes Craven and Dimension Films so that it was inevitable that a follow up would be in the making.

Part of its lure in attaining Craven back into the director’s chair would be the offer of a three picture deal. Two of the pictures would be the proposed sequel and a possible third film of the Scream franchise (dependent on success, of course), but for Craven it would be the the movie sandwiched between the two slasher films, and a step away from the genre that was the dangling carrot. That film would turn out to be Music From The Heart, starring Meryl Streep.

Writer Kevin Williamson would also be enticed back into the fold for his penmanship with a lucrative seven figure deal, along with returning actors Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Jamie Kennedy, and Liev Schrieber in their respective roles. The former trio in this group would be given some decent chances to flesh out their characters with a strong continuous arc that would serve well throughout the entire franchise.
Supposedly the actors would only find out who the killer/s would be in the final two weeks of filming when they were provided the last 20 pages of the script.

Despite being so closely guarded though, the production team would have to suffer under the wake of the internet when the first 40 pages of the script were leaked online, albeit just the first draft. This would tighten security on set, and raise both intrigue and the profile of the movie ahead of its release. 

Part of the sequels’ appeal would be the meta-infused dialogue that was so prominent in its predecessor, none more so than the killer opening scene; set in a cinema screening and introduction to the film with a film moment called Stab, where we witness Heather Graham taking on the Drew Barrymore role from Scream. The audience are placed in the shoes of a Black American couple played by Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett. They are quick to point out the foils of ‘White Americans’ and their actions whilst being pursued by Ghostface, only to be subject to a horror trope of their own, where the non-white person rarely survives the movie, in this case they only last for the pre-credit sequence. Pinketts role is particularly harrowing as she is stabbed in front of a full auditorium, many of whom wear the infamous ghostface mask, hiding her killer in plain sight, and with it, the notion that…

 Everybody’s a suspect.

Forever banked in my memory though was the demise of the person who quoted that line, Randy Meeks. He was the horror film guru, and some of the fans favourite character, so his death was received with mixed opinions. What it did set out though, was a recurring theme for the franchise. That no one was safe, and just because you might know the rules, doesn’t mean that it would save you from meeting your maker by the film’s conclusion.

The other cool component was in giving Liev Schriieber a beefed up part as the wrongfully accused Cotton Weary from the original movie. Schrieber is a phenomenal actor and he shines here as a character wishing for his own 15 minutes of fame, stopping at nothing and in doing so, throwing him once more into the limelight as a potential suspect. Let’s not forget Jerry O’Connell too who plays Sidney Prescott’s love interest and also falls prey to suspect territory thanks to Sidney’s last boyfriend/killer scenario, Billy. Trust will always be an issue for our heroine.

If there is a let down here, it’s in the climax and ultimate reveal that proves to be something of a Scooby Doo moment and a half-baked attempt at revenge. This could also be a ramification for the fast turn around in getting this from page to screen.

Despite this, Scream 2 would bank over $172 million at the box office, more than double than the first film, and with it open the doors further to at the time a third and final instalment in the trilogy.

  • Saul Muerte

Movie Review: Scream (2022)

10 Scream inspired movies

Retrospective: Vampire in Brooklyn

Retrospective: Scream (1996)

Retrospective: Scream (1996)

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Wes Craven: The Scream years part 2 – Scream (1996)

It’s hard to no where to begin with what is arguably the last significant changer for slasher films, such is the iconic status that Wes Craven’s Scream brought to the sub-genre. 
What is apparent is that the infamous director who had been the mastermind behind two previous horror franchises in The Hills Have Eyes and A Nightmare on Elm Street initially turned down the option to direct, having his eyes set on crafting a remake of The Haunting based on the Shirley Jackson novel.
History would tell a different story  with that movie falling into the hands of Jan De Bont, starring Liam Neeson and Lily Taylor.
Craven would actually turn Scream down for a second time before being enticed into the directors’ chair. That light bulb moment to pull him in came through the notion of a dark and violent beginning that hadn’t been done before.
It’s still to this day one of the most harrowing and surprising starts to a film, doubled up by that cameo from Drew Barrymore.

That reawakening of a stale genre combined  with my own deep immersion into horror as it fell into my late teens. The meta dialogue provided by Dawson Creek’s Kevin Williamson hooking the generation of the time with a delicate balance of D&Ms (deep and meaningfuls) with the lead characters and genuine scares infused with a whodunnit mystery. It was this latter element that Craven liked to play with on screen and in truth, despite being labelled as a horror director, his dalliance with the thriller component was where he played best.

It was also imperative to work with bright and upcoming talent to serve as the teen victims, who are strong enough to ground the movie in the own right, leading the charge was Neve Campbell (as this generations’ scream queen through the role of Sidney Prescott), who would go on to great success following the movie. Equally though her supporting cast of Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, and Jamie Kennedy more than bring their A-game.

That’s not to mention the other leads in David Arquette as deputy Dewey and bringing some star appeal with the success of Friends was Courtney Cox as the cold-hearted journalist, Gail Weathers. Part of the strength is that no one is painted as they first appear, adding to the intrigue and mystery on show.

It helps that the masked villain uses a cool guise in Ghostface, repeated on numerous occasions and parodied in the comical Scary Movie franchise, the name for which is borrowed from Scream’s working title.

The success though would speak volumes through the box office with $85 million in takings, marking Dimension Films with their first real win, opening the door for a sequel already being discussed 3 months after the films release.

Watching it back now, 25 years after it came out on the big screen, still triggers the nostalgia vibes, a significant indicator that it has resonance with its audience and with the recent Scream sequel hitting screens at the time of writing, will no doubt resurrect a whole new audience into the fold.

  • Saul Muerte

Movie Review: Scream (2022)

10 Scream inspired movies

Retrospective: Vampire in Brooklyn

10 Scream inspired movies

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If you’re as hyped for Scream (2022) as I am and you’ve rewatched Scream 1 – 4, here’s 10 more Scream inspired movies to keep the anticipation and celebration going:

1. FREAKY (2020)

This one got lost in the pandemic a bit.
A great horror comedy mash-up (“Freaky Friday” meets “Friday the 13th – originally titled “Freaky Friday the 13th”), like Scream this movie puts characters first and features one of Vince Vaughn’s funniest (and sweet) performances in a while (if not ever?).
The writer has another mash-up horror comedy coming this year, “Time Cut” which is a cross between “Scream” and “Back To The Future.” 

Movie review: Freaky (2020)

2.YOU MIGHT BE THE KILLER (2018)

A slasher killer is on the loose at a summer camp, and a camp counselorz is trying to survive.
Luckily, he has his horror fan friend on the phone to give him tips on how to make it through.
The friend is played by Alyson Hannigan. It doesn’t get more late-90s meta horror inspired than that!

3. I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (1997)

Obvious? Yes.
Also, a fantastic slasher written by Kevin Williamson who wrote Scream.
This is more of a straightforward 80s inspired slasher than Scream with possibly the most 90s cast ever and one of the best cat-and-mouse stalk sequences in slasher history featuring Sarah Michelle Gellar.

4. I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (1998)

When it comes to slashers, “ya gotta have a sequel!” 
Not as good as the original but in true 80s slasher style, far more bonkers and fun! Our survivors are off to a tropical island featuring Jack Black as a stoner employee, a cameo from Jeffrey Combs and the killer in pursuit.
Extra batshit points for the Killer’s iconic “I Know” message appearing in the lyrics on a karaoke machine, the killer “reveal” being all in the name, and a 90s pop song by Jennifer Love Hewitt in her own film.

5. THE FINAL GIRLS (2015)

A meta movie about a young woman who is grieving the loss of her mum (hello Sidney) but gets to reconnect with her when she gets sucked into a 1980s slasher movie with a group of her friends, one of which is a horror fan.
The mum was a 1980s Scream Queen! Sounds silly and it is (the movie knows it!) but there is also plenty of heart here, and while it is not big on the gore, there is a little blood shed (along with some well-earned tears!).

6. URBAN LEGEND (1998)

Riding on Scream’s success comes this slasher about a killer who uses urban legends to dispatch their victims.
You know the one about a dog in the microwave, or the person who wakes up in a bath full of ice with their liver missing?
Cameos from Robert England, and Brad Dourif along with Joshua Jackson’s character acting unimpressed by the Dawson’s Creek theme song add to the 90s fun.
It’s the Killer’s final reveal and monologue (complete with PowerPoint presentation) that rivals the crazy killer monologue performances from Scream 2 and 4 that really makes this a slasher stand out!

7. URBAN LEGENDS: FINAL CUT (2000)

Another sequel that brings more slashing and silliness. Released the same year as Scream 3 (which takes the killings from Woodsboro and Windsor College to Hollywood), this Scream sequel knockoff isn’t hiding the “inspirations” with a story set at a film school where the main character is making a movie about urban legends.

8. HAPPY DEATH DAY (2017)

A horror comedy that, like Scream, puts a new spin on the genre.
This time a slasher gets the “Groundhog Day” treatment when a college student is forced to live her death over and over again until she can uncover the killer’s identity. The movie is more comedy than horror but features an incredible final girl performance by Jessica Rothe whose arc that goes from harsh bitch to heartfelt hasn’t been this good since Gale Weathers.

9. CHERRY FALLS (2000)

This one came out at the end of Scream knock-off era and might be an acquired taste (that being “What the hell am I eating/watching?”).
From the director of Romper Stomper comes a slasher where the killer is targeting virgins.
The only way to survive is have sex!
The studio became nervous (because of the content and ailing box office for slashers at the time) and the film was heavily cut and dumped.
It’s a shame because this entertaining oddball oddity with excellent performances from Brittney Murphy and Michael Biehn is well worth seeking out for hardcore fans of the genre. 

10. READY OR NOT (2019)

Not a slasher but a comedy horror (maybe more comedy thriller?) directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett who have the mammoth task of taking over directing duties from the great Wes Craven on Scream (2022).
Another brilliant final girl performance from Samara Weaving, a common theme on this list and the key ingredient to the success of the Scream films – all hail the queen that is Neve!
Ready or Not demonstrates these directors have exceptional skill at balancing scares, laughs, tension and drama and is all the proof you’ll need that the beloved Scream franchise is in very good hands.

Movie Review: Ready or Not (2020)

Movie Review: Scream (2022)

Retrospective: Vampire in Brooklyn

Movie review: Scream (2022)

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Back to Woodsboro we go.
As a horror fan (the original Scream along with A Nightmare on Elm Street are solely responsible – thanks Wes), this franchise has always been high on my list (is it the most consistent horror franchise?).
I love Scream 3 and 4 just as much as 1 and 2 for different reasons!
With Scream (2022), Wes Craven is sadly gone (still hurts) but so are the Weinsteins (still feels good) who as producers notoriously messed with production and the original vision of the first 4 Scream movies. 
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett have directing duties now, Kevin Williamson is a producer but not the writer and the trailer pitched a legacy style sequel that dropped the number 5 and lacked the meta humour and wit found in the original series.
Of course, I was excited, and I wanted to be hopeful BUT…
Like Ghostface leaping from nowhere, let’s cut to the chase.
Fans of the series have nothing to fear. Scream (2022) is not only lovingly true to the series but knows when to break those all-important rules to deliver something that also feels fresh.
Make this the last review you read to avoid spoilers. The marketing team have done their best to avoid giving away too much including how meta and witty the movie is, reflecting on the current state of horror, the Scream franchise, movie fandom, and legacy sequels (that number 5 was dropped for a reason and the movie is aware!).

The new cast are great (especially Jenna Ortega – The Babysitter: Killer Queen and Jasmin Savoy Brown – Yellowjackets) and the legacy cast get to do some of the best work they have done in the franchise. Bettinelli-Olpin & Gillett have discussed wanting to honour Wes Craven with this film.
The best way to do so that was to create a funny, scary slasher film that subverts expectations.

The Prognosis:
Consider the Master honoured.
Scream (2022) does just this with the directors maintaining their own style and voice.
The fans (dressed as legacy characters) at the advanced screening I attended, applauded at the end.
I joined them.  

10 Scream inspired movies

Retrospective: Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)

Retrospective: Vampire in Brooklyn

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Wes Craven: The Scream years part 1 – Vampire in Brooklyn

In my #gutreaction Letterbox’d review I remarked that Vampire in Brooklyn was the result of a Murphyfest disaster. While in part this is true, there is an element here of two artists striving to reinvent or find new aspects of themselves but are trapped by the fields that had elevated their careers in the first place. On one side we have the larger-than-life character that Eddie Murphy portrays on screen with his observational, raw and at times vulgar or cruel look at America, paved his career with his stand-up performances and Saturday Night Live sketches, along with some big hit movies throughout the 80s such as Beverly Hills Cop and Trading Places. Murphy had grown tired of the kind of roles that he was being offered and desired to get his teeth into a more serious role. Vampire in Brooklyn provided the chance for Murphy to showcase his more serious, dramatic chops with his vampire Maximillian with the promise of more of his usual stuff through a few supporting characters that he would deliver via the means of make up and in-your-face stereotypes.
On the other side is Director Wes Craven, who having recently played his last active contribution to the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, was still looking to shirk his horror genre persona and looking to tap into the more comical mainstream that Murphy’s presence offered. The trouble is that in their search for their alternate selves, both Murphy and Craven would be subject to producer and fan expectations that would muddy the waters of their pursuits and clash in an almost forgettable movie. Murphy would go on record blaming his hair extensions for the film’s failure but it’s clear that there is a barrier placed in the way that no matter how hard Craven would try to navigate around would be a constant obstacle to success.
Vampire in Brooklyn would begin life through the writing collaboration of Murphy, his brother Charlie, and Vernon Lynch and would initially walk a similar path to Bram Stoker’s Dracula with a unmanned boat docking (albeit comicially here) and revealing a huge wolf-like beast as its only surviving passenger. This creature would transform into Murphy’s Maximillian, a Caribbean vampire in search of a bride to continue his bloodline. 
One of the witnesses to Maximillian’s early misdeeds in the film which included ripping the heart out of previous Craven collaborator Mitch Pileggi’s hoodlum characters’ chest, is Julius Jones (Kadeem Hardison); a down-on-his-luck character that could be fashioned from Stoker’s Renfield character. 
Another actor who has worked with Craven before is Zakes Mokae (The Serpent and the Rainbow) who appears as a wisened soul who could very well be likened to the Van Helsing in this world, although with not as large a part. 
The rest is the piece is fairly loose in substance as Maximillian finds the bride he is searching for is none other than half-human, half-vampire Detective Rita Veder (Angela Bassett). Bassett, who had recently come to the fore with her portrayal of singer Tina Turner in What’s Love Got To Do With It, thankfully provides some much needed weight to the screenplay. Without her involvement, there really isn’t a lot on show. There are some cheap laughs to be had but the film lacks any originality and for Craven (who would be on the tipping point of creating a whole new wake in the horror genre, and the birth of yet another franchise in Scream),  would prove to be an example of how a greater budget and lack of creative control can lead to poor results.

– Saul Muerte

Retrospective: Night of the Cobra Woman

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It may fall short in the screenplay department but unfortunately can’t rest on the laurels of acting prowess of it’s cast. The film feels like a dodgy soft porn film in places, especially with the soft focus presentation in the copy I watched it on.

There are moments of discomfort on display in the representation of women through the male gaze, and rapey content. With smarter writing the filmmakers could have leveraged this perspective using what is essentially a cool premised despite being dubbed as ‘silly’ by some critics.

Through mythology, snakes have often been viewed as mystical and deadly creatures that tie in with transformation, healing and immortality. This combined with the sexual ties to both birth and fertility.

Marlene Clark is simply devine as the troubled Lena, a woman who is bitten by a cobra in the Philippines and is given the unique ability of defying age and the ability to transform into a snake in order to take down young men. Clark would go on to define herself in black horror film history the following year in the magnifient Ganja and Hess.

Here though, her presence isn’t enough to lift the weak, predictable script. The subjectification of her character is handled poorly throughout and is unfortunately indicative of the time the film was made.

It’s a shame as the premise was a great one and Hammer productions film The Reptile starring Jacqueline Pearce springs to mind in handling the story element in a far more effective fashion and was released 6 years prior to NotCW. I would love to see this re-envisioned in a modern setting and placing more power in the hands of the snake priestess Lena.

  • Saul Muerte

Retrospective: The Brute Man (1946)

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The Brute Man would mark Rondo Hatton’s final film credit having tragically passed away due to heart problems. Cast in a number of films due to his physical presence which would make him an ideal on screen villain, which started out as supporting roles for a few crime, mob-related features. By the 1940s, Hatton would see his star elevated to leading roles for movies such as The Pillow of Death and House of Horrors, the latter of which alongside this movie would see him as the iconic Creeper character. This character would be so embedded in Universal’s golden era that it would be homaged in the 1980s feature film, The Rocketeer played by Tiny Ron.

Here, Hatton’s Creeper is out for revenge for those he believes disfigured him, starting with Professor Cushman (John Hamilton). Among those whom he pursues is a couple, Clifford (Tom Neal) and Virginia (Jan Wiley), who form part of a love/hate quadrangle with the Creeper who shows a heart of gold when trying to help Helen (Jane Adams), a blind pianist. This last part of the shaped motif is a little nod to Frankenstein’s monster who also befriends the blind flutist in James Whale’s 1931 version.

Despite these attempts to pay homage to the past and create terror in the cinema again, writer George Bricker (a gun for hire to create Production companies, B-features) would struggle to strike fear in the hearts of the audience. Likewise, director Jean Yarbrough would find it hard to break the mold of the low budget horror features that he had been accustomed to. So paltry was the final product that audiences responded negatively to it, and the film is now more closely associated with being the target for grilling in Mystery Science Theater 3000.

It would be a significant turning point for Universal, who were starting to see the effects of their golden years ebbing away and losing the magic touch it once laid claim to in the field of horror. Throughout the 50s their journey would take them in a completely different direction, but that will  be for another series of articles.

  • Saul Muerte

Retrospective: The Cat Creeps (1946)

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Billed as a horror whodunnit, The Cat Creeps was released at a time when the magic from classic genre themed movies that Universal built its name upon was beginning to wear off. Not to be confused with the 1930s feature bearing the same name, the feature would also struggle without any of the big name stars such as Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff to carry the horror torch into another generation of scares. Forming part of a double feature alongside She-Wolf of London, The Cat Creeps would also herald the last of the horror features for the film production giant for the 1940s.

Retrospectively watching the movie today, you can sense the lack of sparkle in the films narrative, centred around a black cat that is suspected of being possessed by an elderly lady who was murdered possibly for inheritance. 

Character actor, Noah Beery Jr., does his best to fill the screen with presence and humour; an early indicator that serves the same comical tone that Abbott and Costello would bring to their movies through the late 40s and early 50s for Universal. The issue here though is that Beery Jr grates more than pleases in his role of Pidge “Flash” Laurie, forcing a disconnect from a modern audience. The film canters along with this black humour pace without much care to the end of the film slowly bumping off the usual suspects along the way until the real villain of the piece is revealed. 

If you like a half-decent murder mystery, there’s plenty on show, but the predictability is too great with an old formula being utilised to capitalise on former success. Unfortunately, there it lacks in appeal with nothing new to show, emphasising the stale end that the decade would bring for the company.

  • Saul Muerte

Movie review: Blood Red Sky

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One of the most refreshing and rewarding movies to have been released this year has come from streaming platform Netflix; a British/German, vampire, action, horror movie from director Peter Thorwarth. It comes across like a Passenger 57 style movie, but instead of a kick ass retired secret service agent taking down terrorists aboard a plane, we’ve got a vampire in the mix. Thorwarth and his co-writer, Stefan Holtz do incredibly well to pack in the folklore and depth in character background into the screenplay. The writing duo aren’t too shy to steer away from flashbacks to ground the story further into the mythology that they are creating, particularly when it comes to their lead protagonist. This care to detail provides strength to their cause with significant payoff by the film’s conclusion.

To add to the drama we’re presented with a mother, Nadja (Peri Baumeister), who appears to be suffering from leukaemia; a naturally anxious person fuelled even more so by the need to care for and look after her son, Elias (Carl Anton Koch). The reason for their travel plans is so that Nadja can visit a specialised doctor to help her with her ailment.
There are a few elements at play here too which elevates the story above the usual action flick, with a look against stereotypes, especially when it comes to Farid (Kais Setti), a physicist who befriends Elias, and Middle Eastern appearance plays with our misguided expectations of him being a possible terrorist when the plane gets hijacked. Among the hijackers and leading the group is Berg played with the usual brutish klout by Dominic Purcell. His orchestrated team and all their best laid plans soon fall out, when they encounter the parasite on board. The moment this is unleashed, the turbulence soon picks up fast.

The prognosis:

Blood Red Sky relies heavily on its high energy, adrenaline-fuelled sequences, but thankfully it has plenty of bite too with well-rounded characters with heart, coupled with downbeats that have meaning. 

It pulsates with purpose and for that, makes you care about the outcome of the lead characters.

– Saul Muerte