For what would be the final instalment of The Mummy franchise for Universal Picture and its fourth outing for the shambling mummified corpse of Kharis, I’m surprised and delighted to say that it took an upward trajectory on the satisfaction front, especially following The Mummy’s Ghost, which personally was a huge disappointment.een completely blown free
Don’t get me wrong, the cobwebs haven’t blown away completely and The Mummy’s Curse has more than its fair share of creeks in the plotline, namely the obscure choice to move the location to New England because of its vast swampland. It also suffers from a strange and curiously long flashback sequence using stock footage which feels out of place in the film series.
Lon Chaney Jr returns for the third time as the titular menace and the storyline actually ties neatly onto the ending of its predecessor
The film begins as a company is draining the swamps and along the way one of the workmen turns up murdered and reports of Kharis resurrected and on the rampage soon spreads like wildfire.
From here on in there are the usual tropes expected from the now well-trodden franchise. There’s the disciple of the Arkam sect, Princess Ananka transformed (this time played by Virginia Christie) the central target for Kharis’ drive, and the scientific, archaeologist hero at the centre of the fold.
There are some key significant moments that lift this a little from the quagmire, namely the initial rise of Ananka from the swampy bogs, lifting her hand out from its depths with an image that has now been so often reproduced. Also, Martin Kosleck’s (The Frozen Ghost ) performance of Ragheb, the backstabbing, lustful protege from the Arkam sect.
The central theme that seems to run through the story is one of wrong-doing, mistrust and broken allegiances that literally bring the house down at the end of the film.
There is some familiarity about it all which brings some warmth to the genre, and although it doesn’t offer too much new, The Mummy’s Curse does manage to entertain enough to keep the viewer a little interested in how it will all come to a head in the conclusion.
For one it boasts one of the more infamous settings in Gothic literature, the stormy night that Lord Byron challenged his guests to come up with a story to scare and chill the soul. This challenge brought his physician, John William Polidori to come up with his novel, The Vampyre, but more importantly it bore witness to the birth of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
With that kind of source material cast on the banks of Lake Geneva and set during the romantic victorian period you’d think it would be ripe with potential.
Sadly though it feels more like a blurred dream as director Nora Unkel strives to create her vision in a living nightmare.
The tone seems completely off and out of key, which is a shame.
If I can take any positives out of the film is that it centres on Mary Shelley’s plight as the mistress to the great poet Percy Shelley and the status that she is subjected to because of her position in society. Unkel expertly wrangles out the male chauvinistic attitude that was portrayed at the time and in some cases is still prevalent today. I found it interesting and indeed a bold choice to cast Percy Shelley in a dark light, where he was the perfect image of sentimentality. The brutal truth exposed, but could have been capitalised further and in order to capture the stuff of nightmare, could have sharpened the tools of doom and disaster.
It is during the aforementioned time that Mary stays with her partner, Shelley, her sister Claire, Lord Byron, and Polidori ata the Byron house where all manner of sinister things occur that she begins to hallucinate, drawing her fictionalised novel into reality.
These illusions albeit shocking for the time that it was set, feels too trapped in the romantic side of the Victoria Era and although it does draw forth the dramatic component of the free-living lifestyle that that led, it doesn’t tap into the darker side that the period became known for and sparked numerous classic pieces of literature as a result.
A Nightmare Wakes has the perfect setting and source material to pull from, but rather than rise to the occasion, it shuffles slowly along to an incredibly boring conclusion.
Back in 2017, resident Surgeon Antony Yee cast his thoughts on the Benson and Moorhead co directed feature, The Endless, and for the sake of not wanting to repeat his wise words too much, but after watching their latest outing Synchronic starring Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan, I’m left puzzled about the horror genre attachment to their movies.
Whilst Benson and Moorhead are a craft of their own, which is to be highly applauded in the way they carve unique and compelling storyline into their features, the signature genre should be more attached to Sci-Fi drama. The horror element is but a minor component to the grand scale vision that these masters of storytelling guide their audience through.
Anthony Mackie seriously owns this movie, no disrespect to his co-star, Dornan who does a decent job as Dennis, a married man with children. Dorman’s character is to be the solid, dependable one of the partnership, which is needed for Mackie’s Steve, a guy who can be described as a player. He knows his flaws and owns them, but interestingly has morals, despite his car wreck of a persona.
Both Steve and Dennis are paramedics who stumble across a curious phenomenon among some of the victims or patients they encounter during their late shifts.
There are two key points that occur to the leads that fundamentally change them. For Dennis, it’s the sudden disappearance of his troubled daughter, Brianna. For Steve, it’s when he’s diagnosed with a brain tumour. This latter discovery propels Steve on a mission to search further into this curious drug called Synchronic that seems to connect the strange behaviour in the patients and Brianna’s disappearance.
Unsurprisingly, a common theme in the Directors’ work is at play here; one of time travel and manipulation. It’s Steve’s journey that casts him deeper into mind-bending reality by experimenting with the Synchronic drug in the hopes that if he were to succeed, he could prove his character once again.
This is no horror show, but a wonderfully creative and superbly shot journey that casts the audience into the core of humanity through time.
It infuses a Bringing Out The Dead with a Cronenberg-style psyche and injected with a visual treat from Directors Benson and Moorhead that confirms that they are leading storytellers in the film medium.
The latest original offering from streaming platform Netflix comes from the remote Swedish landscape to evoke fear into the hearts of its viewers.
Director Alain Darborg’s sophomore outing in the director’s chair for a feature film is built on a lot of potential and is strengthened by a solid cast, primarily its two leads Anastasios Soulis and Nanna Blondell who provide the heart and soul of the movie waiting to be ripped apart by the ordeal that they are subjected to.
Their characters David and Nadja hold all the promise at the beginning of the movie with David graduating into his ideal job and riding on the high, proposes to Nadja, who willingly agrees.
The road ahead soon dampens though as we are projected down the timeline to find out that the relationship is a rocky one. Nadja finds out that she is pregnant and is concerned about their prospects as parents, especially as David appears incapable of pulling his weight. He does, however, try to rekindle their relationship by taking the pair away for a winter retreat, camping beneath the aurora borealis.
This is where their journey takes a drastic turn for the worse when they are hunted in the dead of night by a sniper, intent on killing them both.
The film has some interesting twists, turns and reveals along the way, some of it a little predictable and puts a spotlight on the misjudgements of character along the way.
The ending however is a powerful one and highlights the lengths that someone will go to for justice and righting the wrongs of the past.
Despite some of its uniform approach to the thriller genre, Red Dot is still entertaining and keeps the upbeats up and the downbeats at a suitable low to take a breather from the action.
This Swedish horror thriller on Netflix packs plenty of promise but doesn’t quite hit its mark.
The Mummy’s Ghost would be the second of three sequels to Universal’sThe Mummy, following The Mummy’s Tomb and would also see Lon Chaney Jr step into the shuffling bandaged corpse of Kharis.
Unfortunately The Mummy’s Ghost is by far the weakest of the franchise so far, which for me comes down to lazy writing. It feels as though the creative department were happy to rest on their laurels and aim for more of the same in the franchise.
In doing so, it fails to stimulate and to say that it runs through the numbers in the process would be a misjudgement, as there are a lot of numbers that Universal are happy to skip past to deliver the basics in horror for the time of its initial release.
Once again we are greeted with a high priest handing down the duties to a younger member of the fold, Yousef Bey played by a suitably hammy John Carradine (House of Dracula). Kharis is still transfixed by the lure of tana leaves and tramps around for his latest fix while Bey tries to stick to his mission in finding the body of Ananka and return her to her resting place in Egypt.
Ananka however has transformed her soul into the body of another, Amina (Ramsay Ames), which puts a spanner in the works.
Time has not been kind in the passing years, and this feature feels stale as a result and if it weren’t part of a franchise would have been served better entombed in the past.
It’s one saving grace that allows it to stand out happens to be shrouded in its bitter end, with Kharis carrying an unconscious Amina into the swamp, where they can be reunited in the afterlife. This is delightfully offbeat considering its age, and I can only wonder how this came across to the audience of the time. It may have had a more profound impact if more care and dedication were taken into building up a more imaginative narrative to steer away from the now tired formula.
Directed by Vincent Parranaud, who also co-wrote the screenplay alongside Alexandre Perrier, Hunted stars Lucie DeBay and is currently available on Shudder.
The film may speak on a very average sense, but there are some elements that I did enjoy.
While it does tap into that thriller element that we see all too often, with a woman being hunted, or the victim, or being chased down by either serial killers or someone planning to do ill.
Hunted taps into these themes in a big way.
Lucie DeBay plays the central character, Eve, where we get two guys who accost her when they trick her into getting into their car and end up in the woods.
From here all manner of stuff arises as the film becomes a story of survival.
What I kind of like about the film is that it’s basically The Little Red Riding Hood story inverted with a lot of the story elements coming to the fore.
The character Eve wears red throughout most of the movie.
The woods obviously ties in really nicely which includes a twist on the woodcutter component that comes into that fairy tale.
Obviously the biggest image at play is the wolf, which at first comes across as the men, but there is this dog-like energy that comes across the movie and propels the narrative to a bitter and frenzied conclusion.
I like these elements that Parranaud plays with which slightly elevates it above the average movie.
Probably one of the most surprising hits for me so far in 2021 comes Shadow In The Cloud, directed by Roseanne Liang, and starring Chloe Grace Moretz (Let Me In, Carrie).
The reason I was surprised is because on face value it comes across as quite cheesy, particularly if you’re judging from the trailer. What I liked however, (Maybe the surprise factor doesn’t come in when you know that writing duties alongside Liang for this film was Max Landis. Obviously he’s the son of famous director John Landis – An American Werewolf In London.) there’s a lot of great humour in this film.
The premise of this film which is set in World War 2, sees Moretz play an Air Force Woman, Maude Garrett, who’s on a strange mission, which we’re not too privy about from the beginning. Garrett is supposedly carrying secret documents and ends up on flight from Auckland to Samoa.
The problem arises with suspicion centred around Garrett’s character, and who she really is, highlighted by the improper manner in which she gets onto the plane.
Not only that, things become more sour when it is discovered that there is a gremlin that has some stowed on board. This gremlin for good or ill, serves as a great metaphor for harbouring secrets, disillusionment and distrust among the crew.
The more this is heightened and comes to the surface, the more the gremlin pulls apart the machinery and causes great drama.
Primarily though, this is a story of female empowerment; imprisoned against her will, her skills and abilities constantly questioned, and treated like a sex object, until the shit hits the fan, and Garrett could potentially be the one person to save them.
It’s a great little piece. I love the humour of it. Moretz for me, never fails when she performs on screen. I think she’s a solid, solid actress. The energy and the feel of this film makes this for me a real surprise hit and i highly commend Liang’s directorial style.
When it was announced that there would be a remake/reboot of the early 2000s horror feature, Wrong Turn was set for a release, I have to admit that I was a little skeptical, more that I presumed we would be presented with yet another bunch of teens lost in the woods, fighting for survival against a group of mutant hillbillies in the backcountry of the States.
It was also a little surprising that this is actually the 7th installment of the franchise.
Don’t get me wrong. I kind of dug the original feature despite its numerous faults, which were all the more obvious upon re-watching ahead of the 2021 version.
I mean, that may have a lot to do with the casting of Eliza Dusku. And yes, I was always a Faith fan more than Buffy. Sorry folks. Also Desmond Harrington was doing the whole smouldering, moody thing, way before he was eventually cast in Dexter and made it even more his thing.
All this aside, I was pleasantly surprised by the way the 2021 version was presented that ticked the box of a successful sequel.
It managed to stay true to the premise of the original feature and the folklore set around it, whilst providing a whole new slice of survival pie that marked a successful entry into the franchise.
Director Mike P Nelson delivers a solid feature film, learning from his predecessor, The Domestics and centring on the core theme of a battle of survival at all costs.
The manner in which the narrative is presented also goes against the grain of the usual tropes, (which is a good thing in this instance) as we’re introduced to Scott (Matthew Modine – Stranger Things) arriving at a small country town on the outskirts of the Appalachian Trail in search of his daughter, Jen (Charlotte Vega – The Lodgers), who has been missing some two weeks hence.
This method of storytelling allows the audience to not only engage with Scott as a character, but also outlines the guarded nature of the local people, prejudicing us against them and their ‘backward’ ways from the get-go.
Nelson then bravely pushes our preconceptions and forces us to confront them and question not only our morals but our position on communities as a whole.
So quickly we jump to conclusions or presume something of a particular person or group of people before understanding their position, and in doing so, leads to an amount of trouble, aggression, and in this case, bloody revenge on all sides.
Nelson soon casts us among the group of youths, including Jen and straight away challenges our current in build misconceptions around gender and equality, before eventually thrusting us down the rabbit hole of misgivings.
We see these youths as outcasts among the local community, but are equally highlighted as the outcasts among the group with the greater society. There’s the Black American, Darius, whose skin colour has led him and his generations to have been ostricised over hundreds of years, and then the gay couple, Luis and Gary, who have also been oppressed. The trouble is that despite a decent amount of attention laid down on the bones of the plot, it’s a shame that not enough was paid to the depth of the characters. The closest we get for a multi-dimensional evolution comes in Adam (Dylan McTee – The Wind) who at first is your typical red-blooded alpha male, but at one stage shows a human side, before unfortunately resorting back to type. These misconceptions drive the group deep into the heart of America’s wilderness and foundations, where they come face to face with a group of America’s descendents of their founding settlers who carved a new walk of life away from the world to form their own community. When these two worlds collide, both belief systems are challenged leading to a bloody and brutal path that leads to an unknown horizon.
Mike P Nelson directs the unimaginable; a decent and well crafted movie that strengthens and supports the original movie, while still delivering a strong independent movie of its own.
It breaks the rules and conventions of your standard horror tropes and for that it must be commended.
Plus, it projects some delightfully confronting images for horror enthusiasts that leave you wincing, and serves this with some sharp, thoughtful insights into human conditioning and the impact that communities have on the psyche.
The wrong turns are not necessarily the wrong ones, but they will force you into action.
It’s biggest stumbling block comes in the lack of depth in the characters though, who deserved greater attention for the subject matter to truly have a lasting impact.
It’s been 40 years since David Cronenberg’s visionary tale of telepathy, telekinesis and by now a recurring theme in the Canadian director’s work, espionage surrounded by political and government conspiracies embedded in a deeply psychoanalytical point of view.
It’s hard to believe that this is Cronenberg’s seventh outing in the director’s chair, having already produced body horror films such as Shivers and Rabid, the latter of which had been reimagined by The Soska Sisters and is well worth your time. Scanners still has that low budget, earth feel to it that is often expected in the first few films in one’s career, and only two years later he would serve up a double hitter in the classics Videodrome and The Dead Zone.
Another theme that is prevalent throughout Cronenberg’s work is that of an uprising, often from an oppressed group or individual, but also that of misguided intentions that lead to their true calling.
In the case of Scanners, we are first introduced to Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack), who is ostracized from society by appearance at first, being a homeless figure trying to survive on the streets, but we quickly learn that he harbours the ability to read people’s minds and inflict pain on those who torment or ridicule him through telekinesis. This ability comes attached to a group in society known as scanners and when he is detected in a shopping mall, he is soon hunted down and subjected to close scrutiny and rehabilitation by Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan).
Once he conforms to the will of Ruth and with it the Government agency that takes advantage of Ruth’s knowledge, Vale is then charged with hunting down a group of vigilantes led by Revok (Another fine turn from Michael Ironside). Can Revok be controlled? Or is there more to Revok’s revolution than meets the eye?
Scanners can be bookmarked as the film that changed Cronenberg’s career, moving away from the body horror image that had shaped his career at this point, and moving him into the mainstream playing field. It still has some moments that reflect the style and substance that made Croeneberg’s name on screen, most notably this head explosion scene…
Scanners does suffer a little in exposition and the lead performance from Stephen Lack, is somewhat stilted which detracts from engaging with the narrative. Whether this is down to the performance of the actor in question or the director’s choice in portrayal is hard to pin down, but it certainly curbs the film from being Cronenberg’s finest moment. It is still an enjoyable ride though and well worth your time to explore a master visionist honing his craft.
In some circles, there will be some grumblings about the current state of affairs when it comes to female empowerment on the screen and that perhaps that this film serves as a marker for this wave of change. To those people, I simply say, fuck you.
The pendulum is long overdue a swing towards a bevy of muliebral energy and with Emerald Fennell (Killing Eve) at the helm in both writing and directing duties, we’re presented with a sharp, witty and intelligent film that heralds a prime position for tales led with the feminine gaze.
What struck me above the dialogue from this essentially dark comedy piece, was the casting of some of America’s wittiest comedians, ranging from Alison Brie, Jennifer Coolidge, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Molly Shannon. The inclusion of stellar support actors in Clancy Brown, Laverne Cox, Connie Britton, and Alfred Molina further supports the strength of the script, showcasing just how strong Fennel’s writing is to lure in talent, but more importantly the talent that can deliver the narrative in a manner that it deserves. None more so than Carey Mulligan who leads as 30 year old Cassie, a lady who still lives with her parents, ‘a promising young woman’ who drops out of medical school following the rape of her best friend Nina. It is alluded that the trauma of this incident led to Nina taking her own life and charges Cassie with a lifelong mission to seek vengeance on those who wronged her.
When we first meet Cassie, we quickly learn that she is both smart and calculating when she poses as drunk in order to lure men into taking them back home, proving that they generally only have one thing on their mind and to steer them into correcting their behaviour, changing their ways.
This journey takes a more dark and twisted tale when Cassie further learns that Al Monroe (Chris Lowell) the man responsible for the rape of Nina, is due to marry, and propels Cassie down the rabbit hole of revenge that spirals into a climax that appears out of her control.
It is the final reveal however that truly displays the lengths and breadths that Cassie is willing to go to in order to ensure that justice is established. Not only is this a deeply dark view of her purpose, but also a harrowing reminder that despite the gender pendulum is swinging back, there’s still a long way to come when the course of action taking by Cassie seems to be the only one open for certain individuals to sit up and take notice of just how serious things have gone and how far we still need to go.
Fennell is more than accomplished in her first outing in the director’s chair. I can’t wait to see what she produces next.
The script is incredibly on point and projects a fine balance of humour, drama and tension with some powerful performances that bring the melody to the fore. The message is clear and with it, Promising Young Woman delivers a promising start to 2021 genre based movies.