“Tis the season to get rebooted, fa la-la la la la la la, No!”
This year, in our stocking, we got a modern day retelling of the 1974 horror/thriller Black Christmas, a classic of horror suspense about a hostile murderer hiding somewhere within the dorm of a university terrorising the group of young women living there.
Where as the 1974 original had an eerie feel with its point of view shots from the killers perspective, creepy phone calls from inside the house and a genuine sense of fear, this years remake/reboot/whatever plays out more like a student film with a bigger budget. Everything that made the original appealing and unique is stripped away and replaced with obvious setups (from the opening shots) and even more blatant star characters who you just know will be the antagonist. It’s set up to be a story about toxic masculinity and institutional indoctrination of their traditions, something succinctly put by Rick and Morty “Scientifically; traditions are a stupid thing.”
The film sets up a hidden society of male elitist pricks who are using black eye gunk magic to possess new recruits to their cult, of elitist pricks, most of these men being athletically inclined and spout the word “bitch” comically often. My main gripe, among so many others, was the final confrontation; The protagonist is about to die at the hands of said pricks when suddenly a group of her female friends burst through the door armed with bow and arrow and other useless shit and commence a big ol arse whoopin… I remind you that said pricks are jocks and possessed by black eye gunk magic. Putting the main characters in such an implausible position infuriated me as you only insult the position you are trying to emulate if there is no justification for their capability. In the original we didn’t know who the murder was, in this version we see Cary Elwes and know he’s gonna be the bad guy.
The modern telling of Black Christmas focuses on ‘toxic masculinity’ within colleges and educational institutions but also with black magic. The story of a female student who had been sexually assaulted by a male student and not taken seriously is told sympathetically and drives the story quite well. Finding her confidence to continue living her life among the constant slander from other students was the route that worked in this film. There was no need to include black eye gunk magic and a brawl of men vs women in the climax of the film.
If I had a choice twixt the two I would be watching the original over the new version which could have a better if you cut out the last 20 minutes.
A shame too as it had some really good messages that could have been more profound without the supernatural elements or the obvious disdain for men.
My journey into this movie was an interesting one. Based on the children’s late 60s to early 80s TV series that projected the quirky characters Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper, and Snorky into kids homes every week. The timeframe that Hanna Barbera’s part live-action, part animation show was in its prime was just ahead of my time, being extremely young when it drew to a close, but it was present enough in my consciousness for me to have a vague connection thanks partly to an older brother and cousins.
This time around, the film would cast these fun-loving, larger than life personalities with a horror bent, and much like the remake of Child’s Play earlier in the year, which used artificial intelligence gone wrong as its main catalyst, but one could argue that it’s done with a much more efficient way.
The premise is admittedly a simple one, with the show still running in one of the backlots of the film studios and we meet our central characters Harley Williams, a kid who struggles to fit in with his peers, and is taking to the filming of the series by his mother, Beth, his massively unlikeable step father Mitch (guess who’s going to meet their comeuppance?), his older brother Austin, and classmate Zoe. For Harley, it’s a dream come true with the potential to meet his favourite character Snooky (the one that looks like an elephant and coincidentally the one that seems to not be as messed up as the other Banana Splits members).
Inevitably though things go wrong when the Banana Splits – all computer programmed robots – malfunction and begin to hunt and kill the adults in the film so that the kids can have a very bloody, and fucked up version of their show presented to them.
The film is incredibly formulaic, and it’s pretty obvious which characters are marked for a brutal death, but surprisingly there are some decent and gnarly kills that will satisfy the average horror fan. Plus the comedy beats are fun, making this an enjoyable watch all round. Great entertainment for a night in with some pizza and good company.
Some stories have characters or a universe that needs explaining, I always felt that this is not one of those properties. With its origins dating back to its cartoon inception by Charles “Chas” Addams in the 1940’s and faithful live action adaptations starring Raul Julia and Angelica Houston followed by its lesser sequels with Tim Curry’s back flipping interpretation of Gomez Addams, comes the new 3D CGI-animated children’s supernatural fiction fantasy black comedy horror film directed by Conrad Vernon and starring Charlize Theron Moretz and Oscar Isaac as Gomez. One of the things this feature achieves is the creepiest Gomez design which comes off creepier than any other.
The casting choices of Chloë Grace Moretz as Wednesday and Finn Wolfhard as Pugsly are odd choices for their voices. The monotone delivery of Wednesday made her scenes so forgettable that I could feel the data being deleted as it was being written. The inherent excitement that comes with Finn Wolfhard’s vocal talent does not fit with Puglsy’s character.
Some laughs from Nick Kroll as Uncle Fester and Bette Midler as Grandma but what must be a stretch to call a cameo by Snoop Dogg as Cousin It, and listed merely as It for marketing purposes. Outside the family Addams exists the local town with Allison Janney as our realtor antagonist which makes all her scenes remind me of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”.
The film starts with the wedding ceremony of Gomez and Morticia Addams, schmetting the audience in the face with a cheap lime in the coconut reference (this film has too many outdated musical references), which is interrupted by angry townsfolk welding torches and pitchforks, driving the entire Addams and their relatives out of town. Gomez and Morticia flee and run into Lurch, literally, with their car, who is found wrapped up in straight jacket and instantly thrown into slavery as they claim an abandoned mental asylum we assume Lurch came from as their new home, completely disregarding property deeds and possible asbestos poisoning not to mention avoiding property taxes. Thing and Lurch play the famous tune from the TV series on the piano organ that exist in every asylum and with a groan we start a film that feels like its 15 years old. Hammering home that conformity bad and beeee yourself (even if that means you enjoy actively engaging in homicide).
On deeper research, this film starting its production in 2013 after the production of Tim Burton’s Addams Family television series unfortunately ceased. Without doubt his stylistic interpretations could have possibly made for a worthwhile adaptation. Though the film has received mixed reviews from critics it has still grossed $176 million globally on a $40 million budget, so there is obviously a sequel already in production set to be released in 2021.
A family friendly supernatural black comedy that lands a few laughs but if you are going into this movie expecting any kind of horror you may find that the scariest thing about the new Addams Family movie is the run time.
As we fast approach the last month of 2019, I realise that there’s a fair few movies that I need to watch in order to satiate my thirst for horror. Among these was the Netflix feature Eli, starring Kelly Reilly, Lili Taylor, and Stranger Things’ Sadie Sink.
Directed by Ciaran Foy (Citadel, Sinister 2) struggles to make a deep impact despite the strong performances from the cast, and I can’t help but feel that this is a combination of Foy’s inability to shift away out of the generic, failing to provide something memorable, and a predictable storyline that is almost too afraid to deliver anything new to the audience, more than comfortable to sit in the middle of the road.
The premise begins with the titular character played by Charlie Shotwell, as a bubble boy, cocooned from the world due to a rare disease that causes a severe reaction if he is exposed to the outside world. When provided with the opportunity to cure him of his affliction, Eli’s parents (Reilly and Max Martini) head to a specialised clinic run by Dr Isabella Horn (Taylor). When things appear to be too good to be true, it’s often the case, and there’s something dark and sinister behind the great doctor and her practice.
As Eli starts to uncover the mystery, he unearths a secret that once exposed will change everything forever. Dare he open Pandora’s Box and who exactly is the mysterious Hayley from next door?
Medical facilities, skin diseases and dark secrets that fuel this horror feature, should be the stuff of every genre fans dreams, but instead of offering up scares Eli remains trapped in formulaic territory and seems comfortable to sit in safe territory.
As such, it’s a mediocre affair – watchable but never truly wets the appetite of any hardened horror enthusiast.
It’s been a couple of weeks now since Doctor Sleep hit cinemas and as the steam dissipates I’m left in a bit of a quandary. There seems to be some mixed reviews out there and some pushing into the negative which quite frankly stumped me as I thought it was a well composed and structured movie with plenty of heart and some strong characters for the audience to engage with. So why the backlash?
The answer to this is simple and it’s to do with that giant sized elephant in the room, which is called Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Without doubt this film was a masterpiece and helmed by one of the greatest directors ever. His vision was unique and his interpretation of Stephen King’s novel while not appreciated by the originator has been widely received by the horror community. Those who have read King’s novel though will know that it is vastly different from what was initially conceived and plays more like a man with a severe case of cabin fever and the supernatural elements are considerably downplayed. From my perspective I always loved both versions and viewed them as part of a parallel universe, where Kubrick splintered away from the source material and created a movie that looked at the kernel horror that humanity can display.
So when it was announced that Mike Flanagan was to direct a sequel to The Shining, he faced a conundrum. How would he place the film considering that there are two versions to draw inspiration from. It was a tough task, but he decided to amalgamate the two infused with a vision of his own. This was both masterful and his undoing for it would inevitably divide his audience from those devoted to Kubrick’s world and those eager to see new life in the much older Danny Torrance.
It feels to me that audiences have been clouded (by no fault of their own) by Kubrick’s vision and have neglected the source material in King’s novel, Doctor Sleep; a story that embodies the supernatural and belongs more in the sci-fi fantasy world than that of horror. As such, hardcore horror fans will be left wanting, but I believe Flanagan has been incredibly faithful to King’s tale and added a little Kubrick kink to harness these two worlds and the end result is highly engaging and captivating, proving that he is possibly the best craftsmen working in the industry today. Much like King, Flanagan knows how to spin a tale and in doing, allows the characters to really shine in the movie.
If there was one part that jarred with me, it was in the opening few scenes that painted a younger Danny with his mother (Not Shelley Duvall) in order to lay the foundations of how he suppressed his shining and keeps the ‘entities’ of the Overlook Hotel from feeding from his energy by containing them in boxes within his mind. The minor quibble is in that it is clearly different from the actors we connected with the story from Kubrick’s The Shining, but there is no real way around this without CGI technology to capture the original actors in the younger form. As I stated it’s a minor criticism, and its also necessary to set the scene. Once we move away from this we’re introduced to the characters proper – the older, washed out Danny (Ewan McGregor) who try as he might is destined to walk in his fathers’ footsteps and has succumbed to alcoholism. He eventually arrives at a small town in New Hampshire and settles down thanks to a new friend, Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis) who also becomes his AA sponsor and helps him on his new path of sobriety, but in doing so, his shining becomes stronger.
We’re also introduced to some amazing characters in the True Knot (who deserve a spin off series in their own right) a collection of people who feed off the steam (energy) of those who shine. Possibly the most harrowing component from a viewers perspective is that they tend to hone in on children as their shine is stronger. The scene where they lure Bradley, (a kid who is travelling home from his baseball game) to his demise is particularly striking. Led by Rose The Hat (Rebbeca Ferguson), who is the strongest of the group and the lead antagonist in Danny’s epic and climactic confrontation. Other standouts from the group are Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon), who serves as the lead predator and a wise figure in the group, the elder Grandpa Flick (Carel Struycken), and their newest addition Snakebite Annie (Emily Alyn Lind) who has the ability to use hypnosis to lure her victims and deserved much longer screen time.
And finally there’s Abra (Kyleigh Curren), a girl with an incredibly strong shining and when her presence becomes known to the True Knot, she must seek help from Danny, whilst channeling her own powers.
The fact that both King and in return Flanagan pay so much time and dedication in building the background to these characters serves as Doctor Sleep’s masterstroke. We’re allowed to care for all of the characters and in doing so, fall deeper into the narrative and are driven to follow them on their journey to their conclusion.
Flanagan is faced with a difficult task in infusing both King and Kubrick’s Shining worlds to create a highly-entertaining sequel. It is filled with the supernatural and characters that shine beyond the screen, whilst providing an engaging narrative with a more than satisfying conclusion.
There will be the doubters, but for this reviewer, Flanagan has created another little gem that proves that he is a masterful storyteller and possibly the best of our generation. I can’t wait to see which story he generates next as I will definitely be at the front of the queue.
Check out our podcast and further thoughts on Doctor Sleephere:
Ten years ago Blumhouse Productions took centre stage on the horror scene when they released what would become a cult classic, Paranormal Activity. Since then, they have become masters of their craft, tapping into the teenage pulses with the Insidious franchise, Sinister, the Purgefranchise, Happy Death Day, Upgrade, and the latest Halloween movie to name just a few of their hits.
With every win though, there have also been some failures. Personally, Unfriended, The Gallows, and The Darkness are all questionable, but some could argue that in order to stay relevant then Blumhouse can’t always have a 100% success rate. There have to be a few trips along the way as they continue to learn and create new ways to fright and delight.
So where does that leave MA? Released in the States back in May, and with a fairly average Box Office return, the rest of the world would have to wait for the On Demand release which wouldn’t come about until September this year. All this doesn’t bode well and deserves closer scrutiny as to why MA failed to resonate with its audience.
Firstly, let’s look at its strengths, or in this case its one redeeming feature: Octavia Spencer. There’s good reason that she has had three Academy Award nominations and one win to her name and thanks to her talents, the audience is able to stick with this film longer than its weak plot line deserves.
Octavia plays Sue Ann, a local vet who is extends a hand to a group of teenagers looking to buy some booze. “When Sue Ann obliges, the group are beside themselves by there’s more to the pleasant exterior, and Sue Ann slowly reveals her true methods in quite possibly the longest revenge act in history. Hell she waited a whole generation. It’s a shame as with a bit more effort and attention to detail with some depth of character, we may have ended up with a fairly decent thriller. It doesn’t matter how deep Octavia channels her inner psycho, there’s only so much acting chops to dish out before the audience realises that she’s hauling around a cadaver of a script.
The teenagers themselves are incredibly week and two dimensional, with Maggie – new girl to the neighbourhood and our lead protagonist seemingly the only one to see through Sue Ann’s facade. By which time, we couldn’t really care less and when the film tries to let everything off at the hinges, most audience members would have already bolted out of the door or stopped streaming by this point. The actions are tiresome and in some places laughable that we really don’t give a damn what happens anymore.
It does boast a couple of decent supporting roles in brooding Luke Ford as one of the kids fathers, Alison Janney as a grumpy boss, and Juliette Lewis as Maggie’s mother and potentially the second decent thing about this movie. You feel for her plight as a single mother trying to make ends meet and resorting to coming back to her home town despite trying to break free from her old shackles. And hey, it’s Juliette Lewis God Damn It! This lady is always a pleasure to watch.
Octavia Spencer steals the show as the unhinged Ma, but all that’s left behind is dead weight and a poor plot line. This has to go down as a misfire from the Blumhouse canon of work.
Eternal Code is one of those movies in which every scene you ask yourself, “Hey I know that guy/girl. Where have I seen them before?”
For me the biggest moment of “Oh hell yeah, that’s right!!” came from realising that the lead villain in the piece, rich tycoon Oliver is played by Richard Tyson – the guy who played the villain in Kindergarten Cop. “Here he deserves top billing, as every scene he’s in he chews it up and completely owns his character and overshadows those around him.
The premise of the movie (similarly to our latest podcast feature on Wes Craven’s Chiller, with cryogenics and immortality at the centrefold. Oliver is pitted against Bridget (Erika Hoveland – Before I Wake) whose company has discovered the elixir of life, a powerful gift in the wrong hands. When Bridget refuses to bow to Oliver’s demands, he takes the law into his own hands and kidnaps her in the hope that he can get the board to approve of his venture.
All would go according to plan, but Oliver didn’t count on down and out, ex-military dude, Corey (Damien Chinappi), who when we first meet him is at the end of his rope following a relationship breakdown, but is swiftly broken from his darkness when he rescues hooker Stephanie from a brutal attack. We see plenty of his action chops coming into play hinting at more to come down the track. Between kicking ass and saving helpless victims, Corey spends the time living on the streets and helping the homeless and others in need. A bit like The Littlest Hobo, only human.
He eventually teams up with Bridget’s daughter Miranda and Stephanie to try and outwit the hoodlums and rescue Bridget.
As mentioned before there are plenty of cameos along the way including Billy Wirth (The Lost Boys) as Bridget’s husband, Scout Taylor-Compton (Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies) also kicking some serious ass I might add, and Mel Novak (Tales of Frankenstein, Game of Death) as one of the company executives.
It’s a low budget thriller that hits a few of its marks, making it an enjoyable watch, albeit a struggle in places. Part of the fun is in the dialogue, particularly in the banter between Corey and one of the hitmen, Sam, who just so happens to be played by the writer and director, Harley Wallen. Well played Harley, well played. And the afore-mentioned Richard Tyson, who looked like he was enjoying every damn minute.
It’s been over 20 years since Canadian director, Vicenzo Natali left a highly impressionable mark with his directorial debut, Cube. It’s fair to say, that since then he has never quite had the same response from his movies, but always has a visual style that he draws upon to create his vision.
With In The Tall Grass, Natali’s sixth feature length feature (excluding the cancelled Tremors TV movie last year) it may have proven to be a step too far in translating a novella by Stephen King and Joe Hill into a 1 hour 40 min running time, as he stretches his vision across a broad canvas and in doing so, loses its appeal.
The premise is a simple one. A heavily pregnant Becky and her brother Cal are travelling to San Diego to give up her baby for adoption, when they pull up alongside a field of tall grass. It is here that the siblings hear the voice of a young boy calling for help. As soon as they enter the mysterious void, they fall into a labyrinth of despair that calls upon their wits to fight their way out.
Laboured with strong theology throughout, Becky and Cal must weave their way through the strange and everlasting land, but are constantly confronted by their own inner inhibitions. Doomed to repeat their actions with slight changes, the audience is treated to an insight into how often they try alternate methods, only to be lead back to the centre of the field and a mysterious rock that feeds on energy and life.
Accompanying them in the field is another family (a father, mother, and their son, Tobin), equally lost in their myriad of emotions and history. They are lead by an evangelical father figure, played by the magnificent Patrick Wilson, and his hammed up rampage is a much needed pulse to project the narrative forward.
Also introduced into the fold is Travis (Australian Harrison Gilbertson) Becky’s ex and father of the unborn child to provide some depth and dynamic interaction, as their fervour reaches fever pitch and leads the audience on a twisted, convoluted journey of redemption.
Natali seems to love project his protagonists into a tangled web of fear and resolution that shows the kernel of humanity at its core. In The Tall Grass propels this theme further, but is constantly bogged down in a merky plot that draws on and feels repetitive and predictable as it draws to its conclusion.
It’s hard to believe that director Abe Forsythe has been dabbling in the movie scene since he won the Tropicana award for his short feature, Guided by the Light of the Lord back in 1998 at the tender age of 16. Since then, he has carved a career that has seen him mature and expand upon his skills to develop a knack for the unrestful, and unhinged psyche of the human mind, shedding the facade that we project onto others and baring the darker souls that reside beneath. None more so than the 2016 black comedy feature Down Under, which was set in the aftermath of the Cronulla riots.
His latest venture proves that Forsythe is not only a director to take note of, but with Little Monsters is only just starting to hit his stride. By shifting away from crime drama, Forsythe now tackles the horror genre and displays enough confidence to poke fun at the little things such as slow and fast zombies. In this instance, it’s the slow kind ala Dawn of the Dead, but instead of a mall, the shuffling corpses home in on a farm-based attraction.
Little Monsters much like its zombies take a little time to get going, as we centre on drop out, Dave (Alexander England) and his break up from his long-time girlfriend. The montage at the beginning of the film is actually kinda fun and projects Dave in a less-than appealing light, constantly arguing with his partner in highly social situations, and even when he bunks down on the couch of his older sisters place, has evidently still got a lot of growing up to do. Who is the real little monster at play?
Dave quickly rebounds though and thus starts his infatuation with his nephew, Felix’s (Diesel La Torraca) kindergarten teacher, Miss Caroline played by Academy Award Winner, Lupita Nyong’o.
Nyong’o is simply marvelous here as the kind-hearted, bold, and humble kindergarten teacher, who just so happens to be an excellent kick-ass zombie killer. That’s fortunate.
It’s only when Nyong’o enters the scene that the movie really picks up, which is a testament to her acting prowess and charisma on screen as she provides the beating heart in an otherwise undead genre.
When Dave accompanies the Kindergarten class in pursuit of his newfound infatuation, he doesn’t anticipate that they are about to encounter the ambling creepers, and team up with Miss Caroline and kids entertainer, Teddy McGiggle (Josh Gad) in a fight for survival and to protect the kids from the real-life danger and dread that lurks all around them.
This may not hit the mark compared to most zombie flicks with a slow-shuffled start, but Forsythe provides a fun ride with plenty of heart, thanks mainly to the performance of Lupita Nyong’o.
Just when you thought that you couldn’t sink any deeper, Johannes Roberts delves into a sequel to the mediocre 47 Meters Down, only this time, it’s uncaged. Taking the same concept of an underwater dive into unchartered waters only to come face to face with nature’s deadliest underwater predator.
Director Johannes Roberts, who oversaw the first movie knows his element and develops a fun, and thrilling ride that puts our characters to the nth degree in order to survive their ordeal. Let’s face it though. This is not going to rock any brain cells. I’d say that it’s a pretty watered down affair, but then that would be stating the obvious seeing as we spend most of the time submerged.
Peppered with some offsprings from A-List celebs looking for their big break with Corrine Foxx and Sistine Stallone, to add some bite to the cast, but it’s a pretty big pond, and the impact that they have on screen will hardly turn heads… well not in the way they may have hoped… ahem.
Okay, where was I? Ah yes, the plot. So we once again have two sisters, only this time it’s through a mixed blended family. One girl is awkward and a bit of a loner, Mia (Sophie Nelisse), the other, is confident and strong-headed Sasha (Foxx). Needless to say, Sasha finds Mia an embarrassment and tends to steer clear of her, but when given the opportunity to duck out of pre-arranged tourist underwater trip, she grabs Mia along with her friends Alexa (Brianne Tju) and Nicole (Stallone) to have an underwater adventure of their own.
Roberts sets the scene early on by laying the foundations about Mia and Sasha’s father (John Corbett) who happens to be an underwater archaeologist that has discovered an ancient city buried within a cave system and that a shark has somehow found its way down there and gotten stuck. Cue one hangry shark. This allows more time for action and to lengthen the nightmare for the four girls.
Having said that, most of the action gets lost in the murky depths and as such, becomes a little hard to follow. Our connection with the girls is slim and we don’t really care what happens to them by the end.
Equally Roberts is guilty of typical killer shark movie tropes, in particular one scene that feels remarkably similar to THAT moment in Deep Blue Sea.
There are some twists and turns along the way and Director Johannes Roberts continues to entertain but fails to stimulate beyond the usual shark fodder that is already out there.