Movie review: Another WolfCop

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Back in 2014 Lowell Dean followed up his debut feature 13 Eerie, (a straight up horror sci-fi starring Katharine Isabelle), with a more comedy focused horror vehicle about deadbeat alcoholic cop, Lou who is transformed into a werewolf by a strange cult run by shape-shifters.

To say that it was a little off kilter is something of an understatement, but this was part of its appeal. WolfCop provided a quirky, light-hearted comedy with some amped-up, injected B-Horror.
It was a film that was a much-needed addition to the horror landscape with its heart and fur blazoned proudly on its sleeve.
So it was little surprise that it developed a decent following and even less surprising that Dean would look to follow up WolfCop for further instalment, this time titled Another WolfCop.

Returning as the booze-addled lycanthrope, Leo Fafard provides the same shtick that we came to love from the predecessor, but with the chains a little more unleashed.
Coming back to the role of Tina is Amy Matysio who somehow keeps a straight face effortlessly throughout all the mayhem that ensues.
Also returning is Jonathan Cherry as Willie Nelson, which might sound odd for those that have watched WolfCop before, but Dean does his level best to crowbar Willie’s resurrection in order to utilise the same chemistry that made that film so enjoyable the first time around.

Whilst that chemistry is still evident, it feels a little strained in places indicating that the ink may have run dry in the comedy stakes.
I hope that this isn’t the case as I do enjoy the adventures, as wild as they appear, and like the idea of WolfCop being a returning franchise.

Some of the humour slips into crass territory and feels vaguely familiar. It’s only when Kevin Smith appears on the scene as the town mayor that the slight shift in comedy makes sense.
Whilst I have loved Smith’s work in the past, Another WolfCop comes across as a distant cousin to Yoga Hosers or Tusk in places, which isn’t his finest hour.
You do tend to forgive this decision, but only partially as fans of the franchise will be willing to be dragged through the crazed antics in order to see WolfCop ripping it up again.
And hey, any reason to see Yannick Bisson (Murdoch Mysteries) ham it up as the villain of the piece is a good a reason as any.

 

The Diagnosis:

More alcohol fuelled anarchy from the WolfCop team that delivers a hefty punch, but the impact that lands isn’t as memorable as the first outing.
Having said that, it’s still a fun ride and worth it to see Lou Garou and the gang delve into another deranged journey.

 

 – Saul Muerte

Movie review – The Cured

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Back in 1968 George A Romero created what is now commonly accepted as a zombie in modern mythology with the classic Night of the Living Dead.
Since then the celluloid screen has been saturated with reanimated corpses ranging from 28 Days Later to The Walking Dead and everything variant in-between stretching into the Rom-Zom-Com, Warm Bodies and TV series iZombie.

Each example has tried to inject something different into zombie make-up to differing effects, and some may argue, (much like how vampires cornered every pixel to exploit the popular phase that it was going through), that zombie stories are becoming stale and decadent as a result.
So it’s heartening then to see that as the genre starts to shuffle of its mortal coil before reawakening in a brand new cycle, that we get a fresh take delivered by the creative mind of writer, director David Freyne with his feature debut, The Cured.

Conceptually it looks at the aftermath of a zombie outbreak where a cure is found for at least 25% of those that were infected, but the catch is that they can recall everything last gory detail of the time when they were consumed with the virus.
This leads to animosity from the wider population who are more than skeptical about allowing ‘The Cured’ back into society.
With this proposal set in place, we have a very different movie unfolding for the audience.
One that centres on isolation, segregation, racial hatred, and the extent humans will go to in order to establish security, and separate themselves from those less fortunate. Suddenly this movie becomes a smarter proposition.
Throw in the Irish setting, which as a country has seen its fair level or turmoil and unrest, and the acting talents of Ellen Page and then it becomes heavily grounded in its storytelling.

Told through the eyes of Senan (Sam Keeley) who is one of ‘The Cured’ returning to his hometown to live with his sister-in-law Abbie (Page) and her son. Not only does he have to struggle to fit back in, but also harbours a secret that he carries from the time that he turned.

The tension mounts as he tries to contain his guilt and the pull he has towards fellow ‘Cured’ survivor Conor in an added component to mythology has become an alpha zombie, displaying strong telepathic skills over the zombie horde and fellow survivors. He utilises these traits to plot against the current regime and tear down the walls of civilisation and the security that accompanies it. The metaphor on terrorist acts in Ireland isn’t lost here.

Only Senan knows the truth about Conor’s plans, but does he have the strength to expose them without unearthing the truth about him? Should he stick with his own kind knowing that goes against his beliefs or hold on to the last piece of humanity that he can?

 

The Diagnosis:

It’s a bold approach and much like the film Cargo, it ventures primarily into the drama genre more so than horror, but manages to weave in the latter with great effect. Not all horror lovers will warm to the choice in storytelling, but with great direction and superb acting, The Cured does enough to offer a new slice in the zombie world to feel fresh and inviting.

 

  • Saul Muerte

Movie review: Boar

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You could probably count Killer Pig movies on one hand, and leading that charge would be Australian B-Movie brilliance, Razorback that established a firm cult following back in 1984.
So when I heard that director Chris Sun would be ensuing his middle-of-the-road, but promising feature, Charlie’s Farm with homage (of sorts) to the rampaging boar, my heart fluttered with anticipation and glee at the thought of such a premise.

I was also intrigued as to how Sun would present said hog throughout the feature and hats off to the effects team, who pull off an impressive animatronic beast to entice you in, whilst the directive is to go with CGI more towards the films climax.
It’s just a shame that Sun chose not to tease out the creatures full presence a bit longer, as it kind of takes away from the scares and you’re left relying on character development to pull you along as a result. (More on that in a moment.)
It has a promising start though, with a glimmer in the pre-credit sequence and then its lower jaw is all that is visible in the next kill scene.

Much to Sun’s credit too, he has some great pulling power in his casting, enticing Bill Moseley (House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects) back to work with him as patriarchal family man, Bruce.
Also returning to collaborate with Sun is Megaman himself, Nathan Jones as Bernie, the larger than life Uncle and is used to great effect when squaring off against the beast.
Joining the cast is a who’s who of Australian actors, notably John Jarratt (Wolf Creek) and Roger Ward (Mad Max) who offer one of the more comical moments in the movie, riffing off each other in true larrikin style.
In addition, there is also Chris Haywood (Quigley), and 90’s pop icon Melissa “Read My Lips” Tkautz, but its actually a cameo turn from Steve Bisley (Jim Goose – Mad Max) as town drunk Bob, that almost steals the entire movie with a brilliant performance that captivates the audience.

Ultimately though, Boar strides onto the screen with its tusks bared emanating its predecessors in the Ozploitation scene and Sun throws as much blood and guts to accentuate this style in the feature and fans of this genre won’t be disappointed when these moments are thrust in the audiences faces.
It’s a shame then that the film suffers from the dialogue on display.
Too often the audience is left feeling adrift in vacant and vapid conversations that have no place in the movie and pulls the movie down as we’re left dragging our hooves. Personally it felt that either the conversations or camera shots were left too long.
My attention drifted, and the curiously long running time became hard to bear, as I was willing for the film to reach its conclusion.
Some people may forgive the choices made in edit, (which on occasion left the movie feeling like a first cut, rather than a polished movie), and thrive on the gore element, but for this reviewer it kept throwing me out of the picture.

The Diagnosis:
All guts, no glory for Chris Sun’s fourth outing in the director’s chair.

 

  • Saul Muerte

How did Winchester offer to scare but vanish without trace?

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On paper Winchester appears to be a delectable proposition for any filmmaker to undertake.
Filled with mystery and intrigue, the infamous Winchester Mystery House is amped with so much ammunition to fire up the fantastical and ghoulish experiences that have allegedly occurred in this historical location and transport to the screen in order to scare the masses.
The tricky part though is in its delivery. Ghost stories have been a difficult medium these days to project on the big screen, unless your name happens to be James Wan or with the possible exception of The Woman In Black starring Daniel Radcliffe, both managing to make empty spaces and the dark fill with fear and dread.
Interestingly, Winchester was first acquired by Hammer films, (the production team behind The Woman In Black), but somewhere along the way it changed hands to CBS Films.

To strengthen the appeal of the film came with the casting of Helen Mirren as Sarah Winchester, who found became incredibly wealthy after the death of her husband with a 50% holding of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.
Along with this vast fortune though, she became convinced that she and her family were cursed and churn that money into the house by building numerous rooms with doors and stairways leading to nowhere in order to trap and confuse the spirits that found their way into her home.

So, where did the film go wrong?
The problem arises through the films narrative. There’s no story here besides what is printed in the history books and unfortunately it seems that the script writers lacked the imagination to weave any creativity into the real world to create anything presentable to fashion a twinkle of a scare, let alone grip you to the edge of your seat.
Instead we’re presented with a hodge-podge of convoluted storylines that line-up with the individual characters but (much like the great house itself), when combined there is a misconnection and feels tacked on with no rhyme or reason.

The actors do there level best with what they have, Mirren at least looks like she’s having fun in her role, and Australian Jason Clarke manifests as much acting muscle that he can muster with his tortured Dr Eric Price, fighting with a past that haunts him. In doing so, Clarke continues to skirt along the periphery of the film scene waiting for his big break to come.
For the rest of the cast are grossly under-utilised, especially actors Bruce Spence and Angus Sampson (Insidious film series), but none more so than Sarah Snook (The Secret River, Black Mirror) who as far as this writer is concerned deserves greater recognition than she is currently receiving.

Ultimately, the filmmakers try to wrangle every trick in the book that ghost stories of yester-year proved successful.
There’s the haunted house, the possessed child, the medium, and the hero with a problematic past.
The end result, just leads the viewer in the garden house without a plot to string everything together.
The Spierig Brothers have offered so much promise since their directorial debut Undead, and their follow up, Daybreakers, but have since slid into a state of nothingness with the latest Saw instalment Jigsaw and Winchester proving to be mediocre affair. Where they go from here is anyone’s guess.

 

The Diagnosis:
The Spierig Brothers offer too much substance and no collective thoughts in this mis-mangled construction of a movie, that wastes the talent of actors that are on display. It’s a shame, as it could have been so much more, but ends up being more of a whisper than a full-blown apparition of epic proportions.

– Saul Muerte

Movie review: Unsane

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Steven Soderbergh’s bold venture into the horror scene would display his usual flair for the experimental by shooting the entire thing on an iPhone and utilising the sublime acting ability of Claire Foy, who seems to be on a massive trajectory right now following The Crown. Keep an eye out for The Girl in the Spider’s Web and First Man, both due out later in the year.

Foy certainly owns this movie too, eking out every ounce of her physical and mental prowess to deliver a cracking turn as an incredibly unhinged Sawyer Valentini. Her intrinsic mannerisms have you questioning her actions from the outset as she appears quite reserved and a little rude with one of her colleagues, to then venture outside the office building to talk with her mother, fabricating every detail of her day in order to appease, before venturing back inside. This leaves you wondering who is Sawyer Valentini?
The plotline takes a significant left turn however when Sawyer is committed into a mental institute for 24 hours after she visits a counselor and unwittingly signs a consent form volunteering her to do so.

Once inside, she tries to pull all the stops to be released but has a violent encounter with a fellow patient, Violet (a magnificent Juno Temple) and she has to resort to calling her mum (Amy Irving – Carrie, The Fury) to try and bail her out.

The convoluted narration has a few more twists up its sleeve though as we discover one of the doctors happens to be her stalker that she has been trying to run away from. The stalker in question is played by Joshua Leonard (Blair Witch Project) lends weight to the strength of the casting in this film as he excels as the main antagonist, David.

There’s even a superb cameo from Matt Damon as Detective Ferguson, who advises Sawyer on how to stay protected from her stalker.

The twists and turns that Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer provide with their screenplay is both Unsane’s genius and its Achilles heel as the viewer is dragged along Sawyer’s descent into hell through a crazed labyrinth before a climax that questions all that has unfolded.

 

The Diagnosis:

People will either love or hate this film, there’s no in-between. It took me a little while to register my feelings towards Unsane as I was mesmerized by Foy’s performance on screen, proving she is a force to be reckoned with. And yet, the storyline can leave you a little baffled and unsure of how it makes you feel by the time the end credits roll.

Movie review: Pyewacket

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For a while there, it felt like you couldn’t watch a horror flick without stumbling across a shuffling animated corpse or a creature of the night as everything from vampires and zombies was thrust at us. And while there has been a significant shift in the genre with films like Get Out, Raw, Don’t Breathe, and the recent A Quiet Place have proven to offer new light in the dark world we love so much, there has also been a growing development in stories around the Occult.

Stemming from The Witch and Netflix’s The Ritual, folk horror is definitely on the rise and with the impact that Hereditary has had on the cinema audience, you can sure as hell expect that this will spell the beginning of delving into the dark arts in film once again.

Which is why I felt it a good time to resurrect a discussion around a movie that was doing the rounds at festival circuits last year called Pyewacket.
This sophomore outing from director Adam MacDonald following his debut feature Backcountry, stars Laurie Holden (The Walking Dead, The Americans) and Nicole Muñoz who play out a fractured mother/daughter relationship.

Holden strikes a formidable force on-screen as the over-bearing mother, who is barely keeping it together following the death of her husband and trying to support her only daughter, Leah.
Whilst she is pained by how much Leah looks like her husband, the manner in which she expresses this to her daughter is beyond cruel and makes it hard to warm to her.
And yet Holden can flip the switch and show compassion and caring that makes you question how you could have felt so ill towards her. It’s a terrific performance and amplifies how much she should be in more movies.

Muñoz more than holds her own against Holden as she is forced to move away from all that she knows, in a wooded terrain in the back of beyond.
When her mother poses the notion of moving schools, thus segregating her further from all that she knows, Leah delves into her passion for the occult as a way to self-regulate her emotions in all the wrong ways.
We empathise with her plight despite her drastic methods to evoke a witch in order to kill her mother in a fit of rage, anger and turmoil.
Once the wheels are in motion and the spirit is on its destructive path, the tension mounts as Leah struggles to take back her actions and stop the creature at all costs.

The Diagnosis:
This movie deserves more recognition than it has received thus far. Not only does it tackle what could easily be remised for teenage angst, Pyewacket offers powerful performances in a slow-burn drama that s believable and tension-packed to its conclusion.

  • Saul Muerte

Short movie review: Liz Drives

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Liz Drives: trailer from Mia’kate Russell on Vimeo.

 

Making a serious impact on the festival circuit over the past year, Liz Drives manages to raise some serious questions within its 8 ½ minute timeframe.
Director Mia ‘Kate Russell states ”Thematically the film is pretty loaded. Family, race, guilt. I tried to squeeze a lot in those eight minutes” and whilst that may seem like an awful lot to register and could very well consume most professional directors, Russell manages to allow the story to flow without feeling constrained by these strong subjects presented within, which was inspired by her father’s death and the last moment that she saw him alive.

Liz Drives is a female story focusing on two estranged sisters, Liz (Sophia Davey) and Elle (Cassandra Magrath – Wolf Creek), as they go to visit their mother.
As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that Liz feels part of that estrangement has come from how their mother views the two of them and favours Elle more.

Both leads are exceptional in this short feature providing compelling depth to their characters that is a testament to their strength on screen and their ability to harness from an incredibly powerful script.

The Diagnosis:

Liz Drives takes the audience on a journey that questions preconceptions, misconceptions, and asks what we would do if we were faced with a dilemma that challenges our natural behavioural instincts.
Mia ‘Kate Russell has entered the celluloid world, offering a unique voice that should cement a place for her in the industry. Remember her name.

 – Saul Muerte

Movie review: Hereditary

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Being dubbed “The scariest movie in years” was always going to be a tough statement to stand by. The bar has already been set pretty high in the horror scene and if, like me, you live and breathe the genre, then you’re going to want them to stand by such bold convictions.

So, with the gauntlet thrust down, I stared down the barrel of torment, chest exposed, ready to receive the thrills that I had so been longing to receive in the class that I’ve come to love so dearly.

Whilst Hereditary didn’t tweak the amygdala to produce deep and charting scares, it did throw me into a river of disturbance and terror that was positively haunting.

One might find the pace of the film a little slow but the current is a steady one, offering enough pain and suffering to propel you on the perilous journey that the family face, which has a lot to do with the stellar performances on show.

Toni Collette is a huge standout and somehow oozes every ounce of crazed anarchy, agony, and deterioration as she struggles to come to face up to the impact that her mother’s death has had on her and her family.

Director Ari Aster in his directorial feature debut carves our an intricate and detailed portrait of grief and the extent one goes to in order to reconcile with those feelings that takes you places you may not ordinarily be willing to go to, and plays with the vulnerablity that you may encounter with each action you take leading to drastic consequences.

Supporting Toni in her delivery of Annie Graham is Gabriel Byrne as her husband Steve, who has the tough job of bringing a delighting with enough subtly, so that he can allow other key players to shine, namely the two children Charlie (Milly Shapiro who draws out an incredibly haunting character) and Steve (Alex Wolff who also deserves the accolades for his character arc).

Hereditary has been likened to the old school horror movies that were being produced in the 70’s such as The Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby and whilst it does appear that we’re about to go through a reawakening of this era (especially if the new Suspiria trailer is anything to go by), I struggle to find this movie matching the chilling feeling that you got from watching those movies from that time.

Instead we’re faced with an incredibly detailed and evocative feature that takes the audience on a trouble and unsettling journey.

The Diagnosis:
Hardcore horror fans will be left wanting, but those who like to have the brain stimulated by smart and disturbing terror can expect a movie to resonate and tingle the senses.

 
– Saul Muerte

Movie review: The Midnight Man (2018)

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Having Lin Shaye and Robert Englund in the same movie can only be a good thing… to a degree.
Whilst the film is greatly improved by their involvement thanks to their acting prowess and years of experience.
You’d forgive them if they just phoned in their performances but they give it there all, which is a much-needed blessing to churn the film along.
The problem arises in the leads, who struggle to bring the admittedly ropey dialogue to life. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen worse performances on screen but it did feel like pulling teeth on more than one occasion.

From the start, The Midnight Man ticks the usual horror tropes with a trio of kids in a haunted house set up and protecting themselves within a chalk circle from an unknown entity that wants to pick them off one by one.
Fast forward to present day to find the sole survivor now and elderly woman (Shaye) who’s granddaughter, Alex (Gabrielle Haugh) and her friend Miles (Grayson Gabriel), pay her a visit, only to discover a game in the attic that summons the titular creature.

So far, so same same. And that’s the problem with this movie. It has so many options to create something new by playing with a fairly decent urban myth.
I mean, the very concept of a creature who can sense your innermost fear (think a darker version could of Red Dwarf’s Polymorph) and to turn that fear against you has so much fodder.
Instead we’re presented with lazy writing and wooden performances producing poor choices from the characters, which ultimately leads the audience to care little about what becomes of them.
Especially when a third party comes into the equation, only for them to become an easy victim.

The Diagnosis:
The Midnight Man could have and should have been so much more than it delivers. Instead we’re treated to a mediocre fare and wondering what Englund’s Freddy would have made of the pretender to the boogeyman throne.

  • Saul Muerte

 

Movie review – Thoroughbreds

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Cory Finley’s directorial debut has been likened to Heathers and American Psycho, which felt like a long reach for me.
The trailer plays with a vibrant, youthful pulse that would lend weight to this likeness, but that’s purely down to marketing and editing of said piece.
The crux of the film rests solely on the lead female characters as the driving force; both offer deep layers of complexity, which as they unravel provide more than meets the eye. The rub though is in their vacuous demeanour, which finds them hard to warm to, especially as we originally journey through the eyes of Amanda (Olivia Cooke – who seriously must be questioning her film choices at this stage, The Quiet Ones, Ouija, The Limehouse Golem) who is revealed to have an unspecified mental disorder where she is devoid of any emotion.
Whilst Cooke plays this with a decent level of macabre and melancholic humour, it leaves you struggling to know who to connect to.
In some sense, you could argue that this attachment comes with Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy – who keeps churning out captivating performances in her work) but her elitist view on the world and lifestyle embedded in high society can alienate you from her motives and place them purely as petty and spoilt.
Whilst the late Anton Yelchin injects an interesting balance as drug dealing dropout, Tim, balanced in juxtaposition to coldness, and yet strangely pleasurable to see the women gain the upper hand in the triangle relationship as they plot to murder Lily’s stepfather, Mark (gloriously played by Paul Sparks – House of Cards, Boardwalk Empire).

Back to Finley who also wrote the screenplay for Thoroughbreds and for his first feature cuts together a decent enough plotline to keep you interested and definitely with enough twists and turns in the narrative to keep you intrigued.
In some cases, there is a sense of superiority in the way the dialogue is delivered, venturing on the side of trying too hard to be clever, which can feel a bit verbose and alienate its audience.

The Diagnosis:
It’s a fine first effort from Finley, which relies on the strength of the two leads to pull a fairly weighty script into what feels a long 90min running time.
Thankfully there is enough intrigue and playfulness in the script to pepper the audience along to its conclusion, but this is not groundbreaking, nor will it win the hearts of hard-core horror enthusiasts.

– Saul Muerte