Movie Review: Spree

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Spree is one of those rare treats that will surprise you.
Admittedly I went into watching this film with low expectations and unfairly dismissing it for yet another commentary on the negative impact of social media.

What was presented however can be closely associated with both Taxi Driver and American Psycho as its inspiration. The former is that Eugene Kotlyarenko plays similar beats to the Martin Scorsese classic, and the later for its satirical take on the human psyche. 

Where Kotlyarenko injects his own gaze into the public spectrum is through his offbeat humour and attention to detail in presenting a gonzo-infused view of social influencers on platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. Both director and his lead, Joe Keery (Stranger Things) researched these areas to encapsulate the personality that his character Kurt Kunkle portrays.
Profiled as 23 year old in search of infamy through his social platform who will stop at nothing to reach notoriety, Keery demonstrates a believably unhinged individual, a testament to his acting abilities and the level of attention taken into bringing his character to life. 

Fueled by this desire, Kurt rigs up his car with cameras and signs up for a rideshare app called Spree, where he then ventures out in his shortcut to the warped American Dream by picking up would-be victims. At first, we encourage his maniac exploits as the victims of choice are suitable ugly characters that arguably warrant their fate, but the more disturbed Kurt becomes in attaining his goal, the more chaotic and wild his antics become.
Kotlyarenko’s storyline choices are further cemented with the introduction of fellow social climber, comedian Jessie Adams played by a magnificent Sasheer Zamata (Saturday Night Live) juxtaposing Kurt’s own ascent with a seemingly genuine rise of her own. When Jessie comes across Kurt’s radar, his jealousy boils over and she becomes his new target and in doing so, furnishes the film with a riveting climax.

The film also boasts strong support roles in David Arquette (Scream franchise) as deadbeat dad Kris, Kyle Mooney, Mischa Barton, and John DeLuca. Where it does fall short is that initial trigger point that sends Kurt over the edge, plus it lags in the middle act as it struggles to build up momentum and hold the audience’s interests through the leads indecisive phase in his social lesson. 

The Prognosis:

In the words of gonzo journalism creator, Hunter S. Thompson, “Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride”.

It’s a modern take into the current state of The American Dream through the eyes of a wannabe social influencer on a murderous rampage.
There is much to delight in this gut-wrenching flight of fancy, highlighting just how deranged modern society has become.

  • Saul Muerte

Spree is currently screening at select cinemas and available on PVOD with Foxtel and Fetch until November 11.

It will also be released on digital: iTunes, Youtube Movies, Fetch, Microsoft Store, Google Play from November 25.

Movie review: Antebellum

Tags

, , , , , ,

There was a lot of promise behind this film from the producers of Get Out and Us, but unfortunately it lacks the vision of those films’ creator Jordan Peele.

Instead we’re offered some admittedly stunning and shocking images of America’s slavery past and how it coincides with the current state of affairs from the supposed land of opportunity.

Both of these world’s alone resonate deeply the physical pains of the past and how the mental scars are still very much in the present. The problem in the narratives depiction comes with the marrying of these two worlds through the eyes of the film’s protagonist played by an incredible Janelle Monae. One can not fault her performance as she clearly pushes her every ounce of emotion and deserves praise for this alone. It’s just a shame that this is overshadowed by the clunkiness of the film’s exposition.

The premise presented to the audience is that Monae plays a modern African American woman, Veronica, trapped in a 19th century slave plantation run by the Confederate States Army. Straight away the audience has to endure the stark brutality and the tight reins that are forced upon the slaves who must not speak unless spoken to and any signs of “misbehaviour” could lead to a fatal outcome of the slaves do not tow the line.

As the story unfolds, the audience soon starts to question how the premise fits into the overall story arc. Is Veronica trapped in a time warp or God forbid, are we about to embark on M. Night Shyamalan The Village venture?

Unfortunately the story centres strangely towards the latter and by the time the reveal occurs, we no longer care and a little rushed to a conclusion that all too neatly into this declaration, which is probably the most horrific thing about the movie. By coming out with such strong imagery, the storyteller is left with not much left to shock its audience and we’re left playing the guessing game and neglecting the core message at hand.

Hats off to the support performance of Gabourey Sidibe who steals every scene she is in. I wish more could be said for Jack Huston and Jena Malone, who are equally proficient actors but grossly underused in this instance.

The Prognosis:

A mismatch of style and substance combined with a weak fusion of the obvious similarities between past and present allows the key message to feel too heavily handled and lost in the complexities of what should have been a very straight forward premise.

Based on Monae’s acting alone though, she should have no qualms about her future and promises to continue to deliver some more powerhouse performances.

  • Saul Muerte

Movie review: The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw

Tags

, , , , , ,

The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw is embedded in folklore horror, with a fractured community already outsiders from the common world striving to live the lives of good Protestants and reap the land and prosper.
The seed of doubt is always prominent however and amplified when the crops begin to fail during harvest season, all except the land at the Earnshaw family.
As the villagers predicament grows increasingly dire, panic soon sets in and escalates to a pandemic state, something that director Thomas Robert Lee didn’t initially intend to resonate so deeply with his audience but certainly reflects the mindset of the modern world at large.

The kernel of the town’s plight stems from a particular eclipse that occurred 17 years ago and coincides with the birth of the titular Audrey Earnshaw. What is it about this strange child? Who was the father? And what pact did her mother Agatha make in order to flourish so greatly in her crop production? 

The ingredients are all there to provoke the fear and trepidation in the heart of the most stolic of people with the practice of occultism in the soul. When the wind blows foul, it destroys the mentality of those that come into contact with the Earnshaw’s execution.

All of which can only be produced with the masterful direction of Robert Lee and the strength of the performances from its cast.
Notable standouts for me came from the matriarchal Agatha Earnshaw played by Catherine Walker (A Dark Song) who has clearly made some dubious choices but is slowly becoming engulfed by her equally enigmatic daughter, Audrey (newcomer Jessica Reynolds).
Likewise some of the village folk draw the audience’s gaze through the deeply troubled Bridget Dwyer (Hannah Emily Anderson, who is amazing in her portrayal and fluctuations of emotions that her character has to traverse throughout the films’ narrative); the steadfast husband Colm Dwyer (Jared Abrahamson) whose faith is probably tested the most; and the instantly recognisable Seamus Dwyer (Sean McGinley) as the patriarchal member of the community and never fails to deliver a solid performance. 

The Prognosis:

It’s a slow burn which allows the fear to sink deep into the recesses of the villagers minds. 

The strong performances definitely resonate and help to deliver Thomas Robert Lee’s vision and the cinematography captures the beautiful landscape on scene. 

If there is a flaw to be found is that the focus is so intense that it can become overwhelming with the way it’s directed.

At times the pace is painfully slow and the emotions are slowly pulled through the mangler that every ounce and weight of the characters’ turmoil is felt to the detriment of the audience who have to endure this burden until the films’ conclusion.

The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw is currently screening in selected theatres and will be released on VOD and Digital on Oct 6th 2020.

  • Saul Muerte

Movie review: Sputnik (Спутник)

Tags

, , , , , ,

For a directorial feature debut, Egor Abramenko is able to inject a thrilling, psychological piece that despite not necessarily offering anything new, does deliver a solid dramatical experience. This Russian entry into symbiotic alien invasion, creature feature horror plays its strength through grounding the fantastical elements into something that feels real. 

Whilst most people would associate the name Sputnik with one of Russia’s finest achievements in space as the first man-made satellite to orbit the Earth, it’s literal translation into the English language can mean ‘travelling companion’, both interpretations can be closely connected with this film. The film is set in 1983, towards the end of the Cold War, when two cosmonauts encounter a strange experience on their return journey back to Earth; an encounter that leaves only one human survivor, Konstantin (Pyotr Fyodorov). His partner Averchenko is revealed to have had his skull ripped open and Konstantin clearly inhabiting unspeakable ills with an unknown entity harbouring inside his body. At this stage it is unclear if Konstantin is possessed or something far more sinister, but his ‘travelling companion’ will definitely become more clear as the story unfolds. This creature too, could spell a new world for the Soviet Union, with the first human encounter with an alien species. 

What extent could this finding have on the country and the world is part of what fuels the narrative, and we’re led through this paranormal investigation through physician neuro-scientist Tatyana Klimova (Oksana Akinshina), and her controversial hard-hitting approach that brings her before Colonel Semiradov (Fyodor Bondarchuk), the man in charge of finding out what exactly is lurking inside of Konstantin’s human frame. Tatyana is instantly likeable despite her cold demeanor, thanks to Akinshina’s performance offering a glimpse of humanity and frailty beneath the tough exterior. 

Much like Konstantin’s condition, Sputnik holds a cool exterior but buried beneath each character is a warren of emotions and in some cases when unleashed can herald some darkly disturbing truths. Konstantin himself is troubled by abandoning his son to an orphanage and therefore feels that the alien infestation is no more than what he deserves for his past actions. Semiradov also likes to keep things close to his chest and the more we learn about his motives, the more shadowy his methods appear. This is Tatyana’s story though and the biggest twist in her character arc doesn’t rise to the surface until the film’s epilogue, but is worth the wait.

Sputnik must rest on its depiction of the alien and with some incredible visual effects brings a stunning creature that invokes a combination of fear and vulnerability that spreads dread through the hearts of all those that interact with it. Fueling this animosity is much like the human fear of the unknown is that our own interpretations foster at night when we too are at our weakest. 

Sputnik deserves high praise and is worth your time and attention, a journey into the core of humanity, ripping it apart the soul and unleashing cortisol from which fear and our base animalistic minds can feast upon.


IN CINEMAS NATIONALLY OCTOBER 1

*Excluding Victoria

  • Saul Muerte

Podcast: Season 7 Ep 15: John Carpenter’s In The Mouth of Madness

Tags

, , , , , , ,

“Do you read Sutter Cane?”

This episode looks at John Carpenter’s In The Mouth of Madness starring Sam Neill, a film that was considered a box office failure but went on to receive cult status.

Does it deserve high praise?

The Surgeons team dissect and discuss the movie to find out. Check out our thoughts in the ep below.

Retrospective: The Mummy’s Tomb (1942)

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Yes this movie is reaped in formula and shuffles along a predicable path to its mortal conclusion, and yet it boasts some strong choices for a third instalment. Namely it’s decision to kill off its lead protagonists from the previous film, The Mummy’s Hand.

Bold in that it’s something you may not necessarily identify with a film from the 1940s, and in doing so, Universal Pictures once more indicates how readily it is to move away from the old and make way for the new despite only a two year gap between both movies.

The film like it’s predecessor delivers an exposition in the form of a flashback so that audiences can be brought up to speed with the franchise narrative. This tale is told from the perspective of Steve Banning (Dick Foran), the hero from The Mummy’s Hand, albeit now an elderly Gent who speaks to his sister, his son John (John Hubbard) and his son’s long term girlfriend Isobel (Elysse Knox). Essentially potential victims in the mix. At the same time we see another passing of the baton with Andoheb (George Zucco) guiding his protege Mehemet Bey (Turhan Bey) to reek revenge by restoring Kharis to destroy Banning and his family.

Stepping into the bandaged shoes that were once worn by horror legend Boris Karloff and Tom Tyler comes another legend in horror, Lon Chaney Jr, who had made a name for himself playing the tragic character Larry Talbot in The Wolf Man.

From here on in the film plays with a paint by numbers tale as Kharis is sent to enact revenge and killing off people one by one, starting with the first shock death of Steve Banning. Director Harold Young does a great job of amping up the tension as we the audience can see that Banning’s time is up and fate slowly wields it’s deathly hands around his throat.

In addition the demise of Babe Hanson (Wallace Ford) returns to add to the mythology and serves as a spanner in Bey’s plan and so has to be dispatched in, by the forties standards, gruesome fashion.

The storyline does try to throw in an added element with Bey falling for Isobel and his stunting his trajectory but for the most part it trudges along and delivers an all too predictable ending and underusing Chaney Jr serving as the prototype monster which is a shame.

Saul Muerte

Movie review: The Last Wave (1977)

Tags

, , , ,

Peter Weir is one of the most accomplished directors not just in Australia, but also on the global scene.
Many would know his name in relation to his involvement in the Australian New Wave cinema movement or his high profile American films, such as Witness, Dead Poets Society, or The Truman Show, but back in 1977, sandwiched between Picnic At Hanging Rock and Gallipoli he released a forgotten gem.
The Last Wave is arguably the boldest movie that Weir directed with its apocalyptic tale spun through an Indigenous Australia’s connection with nature and the land, infused with both the positive and negative relationship of the ‘white’ settlers. 

Ever litre of sweat, blood, and tears oozes onto the screen with harmonious energy, rippling through every crevice of the narrative, to explode in a maelstrom of emotion and torment. 

At its heart, the film is deeply grounded in reality and over the course of the story, the emotional weight of our dream-like state breaks through from the human core to reveal an unstoppable force and an ambiguous ending – a message to the viewer of how we’ve lost our souls in an ethereal state, far removed from our ancestral beings.
It’s opening scene is a stark metaphor for this overview, as the familiar barren and dry Australian landscape is suddenly the victim of nature’s wrath as an unforeseen storm descends upon a small remote town, unleashing torrential rain and hail upon a school playing field.

From here, the story unfolds through the gaze of Sydney lawyer, David Burton (Richard Chamberlain), hired to defend four Indigenous Australians accused of murder, following the mysterious death of an Aboriginal man outside a pub.
In accepting the case, Burton finds himself in a world, removed from his own, opening up a parallel existence that he is inadvertently connected to through his dreams.
It is through this alternant state that pulls Burtons professional and personal life apart, and once caught in the rip, he has no option but to give in to the power of water, confront the kurdaitcha tribal elder and be spat back out into the world to confront the remnants of his life in the face of devastation.
Has he awoken, or will he be engulfed with the impending doom, to be washed away with the gulf of humanity?

The respect that Weir pays towards Indigenous Australian culture is its strength and appeal.
Casting Indigenous Australians in their respective roles, among them David Gulpilil as Chris, one of the accused, forced to give up some of his tribal secrets. Gulpilil’s performance is deeply engaging and one of the key reasons that the film is so grounded in reality, serving as a conduit for the audience to connect with the culture and in a way that leaves us questioning our own wake of life.
What does it mean to be tribal?
How can we separate our way of life and re engage with the world? Questions that are so pertinent today more than ever and casts The Last Wave at the forefront of must watch movies. 

Thanks to Umbrella Entertainment, this has become possible and remastered on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD. Its Blu-Ray release boasts some insightful featurettes with Richard Chamberlain, Producer Jim McElroy and  Director of Photography Russell Boyd that are incredibly engaging and further support just how integral this movie is in cinematic history and why it deserves your time.

  • Saul Muerte

Retrospective: The Mystery of Marie Roget (1942)

Tags

, ,

Based on a short Edgar Allan Poe story and often touted as a sequel to The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Universal would produce this film noir mystery during the early forties. Directed by Phil Rosen, a man who would end up with over 140 films to his credits as a director. 

Patric Knowles (The Strange Case of Doctor Rx) returns once again for the production giant cutting a fine figure as an amateur sleuth, Paul Dupin.
Dupin is hired for his medical know-how to identify a female corpse that has been found, her face mutilated beyond recognition.
There are suspicions that it may be the infamous Marie Roget, a notorious musical comedy star who has been missing for the past 10 days.
This all falls south, however, as Marie suddenly reappears, without a thought nor care for those worried about her absence and throwing further mystery around the identity of the corpse.

A lot of this film is convoluted and shrouded in confusion, a mask that it relies upon to hide the obvious killer from the audience, especially as it never clearly labels any other notable suspects into the mix. 

There is a subtle sub plot beneath the surface insinuating a possible romantic interest between Dupin and Marie’s sister Camille, but this is often swept aside by the need to amp up the thriller aspect.

It is only when Marie disappears again, quickly followed by another disfigured corpse that things begin to get more sinister and with a modern filmmaker’s gaze could really switch things in an incredibly dark direction, but the forties were a very different era.

Knowles feels more in his comfort zone this time around carrying a weight of confidence in his methods that leaves one thinking at least someone knows where the plot line is going.

The film has a lot of premise, but unfortunately it all gets lost in creating an atmosphere embedded once again between a murder mystery, and screwball comedy that it never quite hits the mark in either of these areas. 

It does still have a decent underlining, which feels like it warrants another look today as a remake with the right director attached. 

  • Saul Muerte

Movie review: The Babysitter: Killer Queen

Tags

, , , , , , ,

It’s the sequel we never knew we wanted.

Back in 2017, Director McG (Charlie’s Angels) released The Babysitter with its distinctive 80s vibe, injecting a buttload of energy into a mediocre storyline with a pretty decent cast. Chief among them, was said babysitter, Bee played by Samara Weaving who has since gone on to killer success, notably last year’s Ready Or Not. Unfortunately her presence in the film is minimal and its noted as the film struggles to have the same kind of appeal that Weaving brought to the screen.

This time around the cult members have been resurrected including Bella Thorne returns as cheerleader Alison, Max (Robbie Amell) and John (Andrew Bachelor), given another chance to spill the blood of virginal Cole (Judah Lewis). 

Despite only two years passing since we last saw Cole, he’s certainly grown up now and attending high school, but still carries the social awkwardness and is heavily reliant on the medication that his parents insist that he takes. Unfortunately for Cole, his misfit demeanor is not the only thing that ails him. Having survived his ordeal as against the demonic cult, no one believes his tale, subject him further down the ranks of ridicule. The only person who believes him is his friend Melanie played once again by Emily Alyn Lind (Doctor Sleep) and thank God, as she is probably this film’s saving grace. Lind has grown in confidence on screen and it shows, commanding every scene that she is in.

Melanie persuades a downbeat Cole to join her and her friends for a weekend away at the lake, which at first he is reluctant to do, but when it appears that his parents are hellbent on sending him to a psychiatric school, he swiftly changes his mind.

Here the film takes a slight detour from its predecessor. Instead of being holed up at home, Cole has to pit his wits against the cult members, (who have had a few additions along the way) out in the open.

Speaking of comparisons, some of the problem that this sequel offers is that it continues to deliver the same notes from the first film only a little bit more amped up. Also, some of the characters just come across as annoying. Having said that, the film still ticks along at a steady pace and while it does so manages to entertain.

The Prognosis:

Like most sequels, this film never quite matches the energy that the first film laid out, but let’s face it, neither film was setting the bar high. 

What Killer Queen does deliver is pure popcorn. If you give in to its sins, and accept it for what it is, strangely, it comes across as a fun and enjoyable little flick.

  • Saul Muerte