Movie review: Tragedy Girls

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Tragedy Girls invites you on a candy-coloured journey bursting with cheerleaders, glitter, hashtags, and bloody, flinch-worthy slayings.
Yep, the horror comedy genre got a Millennial makeover.

Alexandra Shipp (X-Men: Apocalypse) and Brianna Hildebrand (Deadpool) are perversely likeable BFFs obsessed with two things; each other and their ‘Tragedy Girls’ social media page dedicated to all things murder.

To bump up their online cred, the girls kidnap a serial killer, gushing “we’re your biggest fans, dude!” as he struggles against his restraints and spits out a grocery list of heinous threats against them.
Inspired, the girls gleefully go on a killing spree in their hometown with results reminiscent of something from Final Destination with a Heathers twist.

The death scenes themselves never quite hit those horror high notes, but they never sink to beige level either.
One particularly creative murder in a school workshop involving a saw to the face will make you genuinely concerned for the safety of woodworking students everywhere.

Shipp and Hildebrand are believable teen besties and nail the innocent-looking serial killer facade.
But just when you begin to feel comfortable with the casting choices along comes Josh Hutcherson and you’ll spend a good few seconds squinting at the screen; “oh my gosh- is that Peeta from The Hunger Games?”
It is, and he has a fun cameo as a motorcycle-riding, in-tune-with-his-emotions love interest.

The Diagnosis:

Tragedy Girls is bubblegum horror; you’ll enjoy it in the moment but eventually it will close it’s flavour and you’ll forget about it.
While it succeeds as a fun cautionary tale for the evils of social media, but finds the traditional high-school slasher tropes hard to shake.

Essentially, prepare yourself for #cluelesswithknives.

– Ellin Williams

Top 18 Movies the Surgeons team can’t wait to go under the knife

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2017 proved to be a mammoth year in horror, with the likes of Get Out, It, and Annabelle: Creation causing waves of elation and that’s not to forget some awesome movies that rippled beneath the surface, including Gerald’s Game, Hounds of Love, Raw, The Marshes, mother!, and The Babysitter.

What does this mean to the genre as a whole? It can spell good news as the movie business see success and a money opportunity to exploit this genre to the bone.
This could mean an outpour of horrendous carbon copy movies that will grate to the bone, but it can’t be as bad as Amityville: The Awakening, Leatherface, or Jeepers Creepers 3 right?

But let’s not be too hasty on the negative-front. What does look promising is that we could very well get some fine horror films churning out over the coming years.

So with that in mind, the team stitched our collective minds together and come up with 18 of the most anticipated horror movies coming out that we would love to bring into the operating theatre and splice them wide open.

Annihilation

23 Feb / 12 Mar via Netflix

Directed by Alex Garland and starring Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Oscar Isaac looks off the dial.
The fact that it has been picked up by Netflix for a release some 17 days after its cinematic release has left some people scratching their heads as to whether or not this film has merit, but that’s old school thinking.
We at Surgeons see this at as a bold attempt at a streaming company to make their move onto the big arena.
If the trailer is anything to go by this film could be a massive hit and shape up the distribution method in a big way.

Cadaver

23 Aug

Some may instantly see comparisons with The Autopsy of Jane Doe with this one, but this story of a city cop fresh out of rehab, who takes up a role at the city hospital morgue, could very well be a trippy affair, where sanity is on the line.

Halloween

19 Oct

You’d be remiss to neglect this one on the list. With the return of Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle in their respective roles, alongside the creative minds of David Gordon Green and Danny McBride, can we finally see Michael Myers rampaging his way that will delight and reignite the franchise once more?
Here’s hoping.

The House With A Clock In Its Walls

21 Sep

Cate Blanchett and Jack Black lead the charge in Eli Roth’s latest feature about a young orphan and his magical uncle who go in search of a clock that could bring about the end of the world.
Could we see a return of fantasy horror on the big screen? Can Roth extend his bloody touch to go beyond the success of Green Inferno?

Insidious: The Last Key

8 Feb – Australian release

Whilst this has already been released in the States, the Surgeons team who are based in Australia, need to wait with eager anticipation for Elise Rainer and her team of ghost hunters to delve into the Further once more.
Early reports suggest that Lin Shaye continues to impress in her role, but that the franchise may have run its course. We’ll have to wait and see before we cast our thoughts on the latest addition to the franchise.

The Lodgers

23 Feb

2015’s release of The Witch and its success may have reawakened that love of folk horror, which has been embedded in British culture with the likes of The Wicker Man, Witchfinder General, and Blood on Satan’s Claw, has some of our team intrigued by this latest offering.
Set in 1920’s Ireland, a twin brother and sister must endure a sinister presence with a strong hold over them that may result in turning them against one another with drastic circumstances.

The Meg

23 Aug

Movies don’t get bigger than this one.

Sorry couldn’t resist that.

Whether you like him or not Jason Statham has a habit of packing a punch when it comes to ‘balls to the wall, testosterone-fuelled action movies.

Now he must come face-to-face come face to face with a 70-foot shark.

“You’re gonna need a bigger air tank.”

The New Mutants

12 Apr

When Logan was released and with the success that followed, Marvel were then faced with the enterprise of a much darker world.

In steps, The New Mutants which sees Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Split) and Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) among the imprisoned young mutants as they discover their new-found abilities and potential salvation.

It’s a good cast, but will it deliver?

The Nun

12 Jul

Speaking of franchises, The Conjuring universe continues to expand and haunt in more delectable ways to terrify our souls with the much-anticipated return of Valak.

In this instance, Rome is our setting and Father Burke is sent to investigate the mysterious death of a nun. Burke played by Demian Bichir, who I hope is given more time to flex his acting muscles compared to his under-used performance in Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant.

Gary Dauberman from It, Annabelle:Creation, and The Conjuring 2 is back on board to write the screenplay, so expect similar twists, turns, and scares to arise.

In addition, Corin Hardy steps in to direct, who oversaw the surprisingly decent The Hallow from a few years back and has been given the vote of confidence to resurrect The Crow, starring Jason Mamoa.

The Predator

2 Aug

Becoming something of the lesser cousin to the Alien franchise, The Predator universe has never managed to really make a dent beyond its original Arnie feature, which surprises as it is ripe full of potential.

One of the original stars Shane Black is on to direct, so you could argue that there isn’t anyone closer to the source to re-capture the magic of the first film, and he has proven success with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and Iron Man 3, but is that enough to win over fans and the many?

The additions of Oliva Munn, and Thomas Jane, who has had a something of a career comeback with Before I Wake, and 1922 of late, could very well help cement this together.

A Quiet Place

3 May

Where some were left aggrieved following the screening of It Comes At Night, (which is probably the best example of false advertising when it comes to luring your audience in – as an aside its actually a pretty decent and intense movie, just not how it was promoted) will no doubt have their needs met in this movie, which promises an intense and horrific ordeal.

John Krasinski directs and stars in his passion project alongside Emily Blunt as part of a family forced to live in silence from an unknown threat that will attack with the slightest noise.

The Ritual

9 Feb – on Netflix

Another example of how Netflix continue to become a force in the movie market, and another example of folk horror entering into the scene.

The Ritual stars Rafe Spall as a man with a damaged, who joins a group of friends on a camping expedition in the forest only to discover that they are not alone.

Slaughterhouse Rulez

7 Sep

Much discussion has been surrounding this project due to the re-collaboration of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) who both star in and produce this movie.

The story centres on a boarding school that unleashes all hell when a mysterious sinkhole emerges.
Cue comedy and bloody mayhem.

The Strangers 2: Prey at Night

9 Mar

The first film had horror fans divided – a bit like vegemite, you either love it, or hate it. For those that fell into the former category, they can rejoice as the trio of masked psychopaths return to reek havoc on some more prey.

The cast includes Christina Hendricks (Mad Men, The Neon Demon) and Martin Henderson (The Ring, Everest) and is directed by Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down, The Other Side of the Door) but don’t let that sway you as he also helmed the magnificent F, and if he could tap the rage and anarchy unleashed in that movie, we could have a surprise hit on our hands.

Truth or Dare

3 May

Horror production giants, Blumhouse, who have been partly responsible for the rise in recent genre movies will be hoping to keep the trend going and repeat their successes of Get Out, and Happy Death Day.

Truth or Dare follows a group of friends who play a deadly version of said game when those that break the rules start a meet a grisly end.

Unsane

23 Mar

Critically praised film director, Steven Soderbergh enters the horror arena with his usual approach to exploring different filming techniques, in this instance shooting the entire film on an iPhone camera.

The cast is also impressive with Claire Foy (The Crown), entering a mental institution and once again reality comes into question. Foy is accompanied by Juno Temple (Horns), Aimee Mullins (Stranger Things), Amy Irving (Carrie) and Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project).

Venom

5 Oct

If The New Mutants is going to push the boundaires of darkness in the Marvel universe, then Venom will surely rip that apart and enter whole new level of insanity.

With Tom Hardy taking on the titular character, you can expect some hefty weight in the acting department.
It’s a project that is shrouded in secrecy at the moment and just a few screenshots that have been handed out to the media. Lets hope that it will be worth the wait.

Winchester

22 Feb

Helen Mirren takes on the role of Lady Winchester house, heiress to the Winchester firearms, who becomes obsessed with building a house to trap ghosts with one of the most obscure architecture ever built.

From the creative minds of the Spierig Brothers (Undead, Daybreakers), this movie could be hit or miss.

Notable recommendations

Cargo, The God Particle, Hellraiser: Judgement, Patient Zero, Suspiria (remake), Thelma, Thoroughbreds

  • Saul Muerte

 

 

 

Movie review: Our Evil

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There are slow burners and then there’s Our Evil, which trucks along at the pace of a clapped out milk float.
And yes, I’m fully aware of how old that statement makes me but it’s the only analogy I could come up with that gets anywhere close to describing just how slow the pace of the movie is.

There are average cinema-goers who may cringe at the lack of speed, and it is in fairness, both its weakness and its strength.
The longbow that is being pulled is well worth the payoff in my opinion, and could very well be the reason that the film was recognised for its strength in direction at last years A Night of Horror film festival.

Brazilian filmmaker Samuel Galli would take home the “Best Director” award vision, and would the film would also capture the “Best Male Performance” award to Ademir Esteves for his role of Arthur, a man who oozes coolness from the exterior, but deep down holds a secret, that pains him to the core.

Arthur is a man of spiritual nature, who is warned by his mentor that his daughter will become possessed by a demon hellbent on destroying her soul. What would you do when faced with such a proclamation? Why hire a serial killer to protect her of course.

The beauty of this movie is that it somehow manages to ebb and flow through various styles and story-telling techniques that range from the beauty to the most violent and gruesome scenes set to screen.

The fact that it manages to do this with such ease and simplicity without jarring the audience is a testament to Galli’s ability to guide you through each scene that grips you and keeps you intrigued to know what direction he is taking you in.

Added to this is Galli’s decision to use theatre-trained actors and ask them to pair back the performance to the point that it pulls you in further into the dark world that the film is set in. Once hooked, we’re ensnared and taken on a ride that delivers a hefty punch come the conclusion.

 

The Diagnosis:

Galli’s vision is what steers this unique tale that utilises subtle performances to intensify the emotions and anguish on display.

There’s a fine line between, good and evil, life and death, and Our Evil manages to walk that line with perfect balance of both these extremes.

 

– Saul Muerte

 

Movie review: mother!

What went wrong with mother!?

 

In order to answer that question, you need to first look at its creator, Darren Aronofsky and his career to date.
His debut feature Pi, would wow the critics of a man who would be driven by madness and obsession with mathematics as a universal language. This idea of obsession is evident in both Javier Bardem’s character and to a degree Jennifer Lawrence’s too in mother!
Two years later that obsession and dedication for the ultimate thrill would transfer into the deeply disturbing and frightening journey of the central characters In Aronofsky’s sophomore outing, Requiem For A Dream. Only this time it would be in the form of alcohol and drug addiction that would ultimately pull their lives apart in pursuit of said dream.
And then again in The Fountain’s quest for the meaning of life through science and medicine which led one critic to describe as ‘rampant, metaphysical codswallop.’
By this time, Aronofsky was in danger of falling somewhere between genius and insanity with his subject choices.
Arguably, The Wrestler would continue this trend with a fine performance from Mickey Rooney, who struggles to fall from grace, continuously being pulled back into the ring and the fame that comes with it.
Natalie Portman would push the boundaries of brilliance in the next feature, Black Swan, that perfectly tapped into the driven ambition of a ballerina and her search for perfection.
Noticing a theme yet?
Noah similarly sees the titular character determined to fulfil his vision in Aronofsky’s first feature to lend itself to biblical matters, so it’s no wonder that he would again try from the ‘good book’ and delve into the story of Genesis for mother!
This re-imagining would be told from the eyes of Mother Earth, (Lawrence) as she will do everything she can to protect her house (the Earth), the man she loves, the creator, Him, or God if you will (Bardem).
Throw in a dash of Man/Adam (Ed Harris), Woman/Eve (Michelle Pfeiffer), their sons, Cain and Abel, and a sprinkle of humanity gone wild, and you have the chaotic, unstable world that is told throughout the movie.
Aronofsky’s world is so infused with biblical images and metaphors that some would argue that it’s laid a little too thick, and its this depiction that could easily sway the viewer away from the movie and in essence drove a lot of people from the auditorium in disgust or displeasure in its initial screenings.
And its this depiction that could easily sway the viewer away from the movie
However, if they chose to stick around to its conclusion, you see a significantly strong performance from Lawrence, who like her character pours her heart and soul into every decision and choices that she makes.
And Bardem’s drive for glory and attention (again not a flattering image of ‘our creator) is one that is truly captivating.

The Diagnosis:
The pain and passion bleeds on every frame and Aronofsky taps once more into this need for humanity to strive no matter what the cost for faith, glory and beyond.
The viewer can be left feeling bruised and battered in the journey on screen, but proves fascinating as a result.
It will be interesting to see where Aronofsky transcends to next in his own quest for spiritual enlightenment and salvation.

Flatliners (2017)

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Alternate Title: I Know What You Did in the Abandoned Medical Wing

Hollywood loves nothing more than a remake.
In 2017, audiences were subjected to the remake of the 1990 film starring Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts and Kevin Bacon.
Medical students use themselves as guinea pigs in a bold experiment to see what lies beyond death.
By stopping their hearts for a “safe” amount of time to avoid brain damage, they trigger a near-death experience and are then revived to report back about the afterlife. Simples. What could go wrong?

Ellen Page plays a gifted young medical student who is obsessed with finding out what happens after death. (It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why – she is shown in the beginning of the film in a terrible car accident with her sister who does not survive.)
She ropes in four of her fellow students to participate in the experiment – the playboy (James Norton), the beauty queen (Nina Dobrev), the one under her mother’s thumb (Kiersey Clemons) and, clearly playing well outside of his comfort zone, Diego Luna plays the handsome Spaniard who keeps warning them in his charming accent that what they’re doing is a bad idea.

Four of the students flatline and each comes out with apparently more intellectual gifts than they had before such as the ability to recall obscure medical case histories and how to play the piano.
After they have a drunken snowball fight in the street after a near-miss flatline – ain’t it grand to be young and alive again? – they each start to realise that something has followed them back to the land of the living.

Diagnosis:

This film was brought back to life but clearly flatlined for too long. It is a shell of its former self with none of what made the original so enduringly good.
There were a couple of scares but at its heart, this is really just an expensively produced teen drama with a trailer and poster art that is scarier than any moment in the actual film.

Having mentally flatlined watching the full hour and 49 minutes of this film, I can only report that I saw some terrible, terrible things. Cheesy dialogue.
Terrible acting. A totally gratuitous sex scene. And no, I can’t remember how to play the piano.

  • Vanessa Cervantes

The Love Witch

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As summer solstice rolled by last night for those on the Southern Hemisphere it seemed appropriate to delve into a movie that is embedded in the occult and then i remembered a little known movie that was released not so long ago called The Love Witch.

It’s something of a shame though, that this film has drifted under the radar of popularity.
And yet one can understand why this film has been lost in the depths of the celluloid art form when more ‘heightened’ and easily accessible popcorn horror is at hand.

The fact that this movie is unique is both part of its beauty and its Achilles heel.
Billed as a comedy horror of sorts, the light-hearted approach to the films direction which is quite subtle at first and can easily be lost as a result.

Coupled with the style that The Love Witch utilises to deliver its message through a 60s love song to a bygone era, with a modern setting and thinking, one could feel quite brainwashed by the experience of a world not far removed from Hitchcock and Technicolor thrillers.

Directed and written by Anna Biller, The Love Witch stands out with her firm grasp of the setting, and beautiful attention to detail.

Following a White Witch, Elaine (Samantha Robinson) whose look is so fitting and perfect that one could be forgiven for believing that she was lifted straight out of the 60s, The Love Witch follows her journey as she dabbles in Love magic to woo men in her pursuit of love and happiness.

Her callous nature leads Elaine into dangerous territory though, as her potion proves to effective, leading men dead in her wake.

It’s only when she meets the ‘perfect man’ that her troubles start to catch up with her.

The Diagnosis:
The battle of the sexes is firmly on display here with a fresh twist on the female gaze and the lengths of absurdity that is evident through a timeless tale.
The Love Witch owes a lot to the strong and beautifully shot scenes.
It’s not to everyone’s taste but if you let the film absorb you, the feeling you’re left with is absolutely mesmerising and deeply satisfying.

  • Saul Muerte

Movie review: Replace (2017)

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Taking out the A Night of Horror’s “Best Film” award from this years festival, Replace doesn’t match this accolade at face value, at least for the first few minutes, but as the layers are slowly pulled back, an intelligent and beautiful movie emerges within.

The reason for this initial reaction, is through the level of confusion that the viewer is faced with and the style that director Norbert Keil has chosen seems off kilter. The acting seems to be similarly stifled too, but all this is a deliberate device to echo the feeling of despair that our lead character, Kira is confronted with.

As she unravels her situation, Kira has to face up to her situation, revealing some unwelcome truths along the way.

The topic of the movie, deals with an age-old dilemma, that seems to be more concentrated over the recent years with women in particular. Especially with the developments in social media and this continuous fascination with beauty and youth that faces our society.

Imagine then the gravity of the situation when you discover that your skin ages rapidly and begins to wither away. The impact that this has is immense and one that Kira lands head on, but when she further discovers that she can replace her skin with another’s with immediate effect, her journey then transcends into a murderous rampage, fuelled by the need to stay youthful.

If this isn’t a measure of our times, I’m not sure what is.

The cinematography on display is both stylised and stunning and Tim Kuhn deserves some of the accolades thrown his way for luring the viewer in through a hypnotic gaze in places.

The score is equally as mesmerising with its rhythmic pulse driving through the films narration.

Further praise should also be bestowed upon Rebecca Forsythe who manages to display Kira’s vulnerability, innocence, rage, and desperation, with delicate transition and believability that belies her age.

The Diagnosis:
This latest entry into the body horror genre is filled with intelligence and beauty. A lethal combination that hits the mark through Norbert Keil’s stunning vision.

 

  • Saul Muerte

Movie review: Alien: Covenant

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Some time has passed now since Ridley Scott’s latest chapter in the Alien universe was released.

As with most movie franchises that have been so immersed in our psyche and reawakened the nostalgia in us all when the latest adaptation hits the screens, we yearn for that ‘magic moment’ that connected us to the world in the first place.

It only exasperates things further when in this instance there have been two successes from the outset and have left such a strong mark that many have tried to replicate but fallen short of every time, even Scott himself with his prequel Prometheus, which many felt fell short of their expectations.

For good or ill, Scott has chosen to delve deeper into his journey and provided us with Covenant, the true beginning of our favourite Xenomorph.

The trouble lies with trying to provide the audience with all that we fell in love with offering something new in the mix at the same time.

A fine line to walk along and one that will guarantee some unhappy punters regardless.
The journey does carry on where Prometheus left us and David’s (Michael Fassbender) search for the ultimate creation in a God-like pursuit.

When the crew of the Covenant, an ark carrying human cargo to their new Eden, are woken early from their hyper sleep, their troubles begin. Despite a form of salvation appearing in a transmission originating from an inhabitable planet, their journey takes them further down the rabbit hole.
Cue new creatures and a world within David’s playground.

Some fine performances are on display with Fassbender’s dual role of David and Walter, alongside Katherine Waterston’s Dany (the voice of reason and hope), Billy Crudup’s faith driven leader of the group, and Danny McBride’s pilot Tennessee.

Much more could have been made of Demián Bichir’s Sgt Lope and his talents are criminally wasted, but one could put that down to an over-populated cast who one can’t really differentiate as the film goes on. Their expendable for a reason but our care factor is non existent when they are knocked off one by one as a result.

As far as offering something new to the genre, Scott does provide us with some fascinating creatures and a possible hint and something less tribal and intuitive is on hand only to be squashed by the ‘outsiders’. But one can’t help but feel that there is something missing to this tale and if rumours are to be believed that the next venture may completely be remiss of the xenomorphs, then we are left scratching our heads and pondering the end game to Scott’s vision.
It’s little wonder then, that some traditionalists are campaigning for Blomkamps’s vision for an alternate take on the universe to become a reality.

The Diagnosis:
Whilst there are plenty of entertaining moments in this film with some strong performances from the cast and ultimately an enjoyable narrative, the faithful fans of the original movie will be disappointed in this latest direction.
Recommended for those who have never drifted into the Alien universe before, but what does that say when you’re effectively alienating your fan base in a quest for one man’s vision?

  • Saul Muerte

Movie review: Honeymoon

Back in 2014, Leigh Janiak delivered her directorial feature debut with Honeymoon, a film that centres on a newlywed couple who arrive at a remote cabin to celebrate their nuptials.

We are first introduced to the couple through their recorded confessions to camera as to how they met, which is actually beautifully acted.

The homestead for the honeymoon soon unleashes and otherworldly experience that shifts the film into a new territory which keeps the couple and us on their toes.

The film is currently available on Netflix and may have slipped by unnoticed by fans of sci-fi horror.

Riding on the crest of fame that came to the leads Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones) and Harry Treadaway (Penny Dreadful) Janiak crafts a strong narrative of young love.

The problem is that this film relies heavily on its leads to pull the story along, and in stronger hands they could have pulled it off with a blink of an eye, but it has to be said that the players weren’t quite up to the task.

There are moments where the tender moments feel forced and disingenuous and perhaps with more time and space with the actors this could have been reached and maintained to keep within the realms of believability.

It’s unfortunate as there are key moments later in the film when there idealistic notions of romance come unraveled which need the hard work at the front of the movie for it to be pulled off.
But let’s face it, it’s rare these days that actors have the luxury of time to build on their characters and deliver cutting edge results, so I don’t want to appear to harsh because the moments that they do connect, the performances are incredibly touching and vibrant.

Part of this I strongly believe is due to Janiak’s adaptability behind the camera. There is an organic approach to her style that feels polished and we are able to be transported as a viewer from scene to scene with a style that belies her experience at the time.

Since then, Janiak has helmed an episode of Outcast and 2 episodes of Scream: The TV Series, and if IMDB is to be believed, could very well be directing The Craft sequel.

The Diagnosis:

The setting and ambience is incredibly well directed and despite a few little niggles, I found myself strangely drawn into the narrative. I would definitely recommend watching this one.

 

  • Saul Muerte

Movie review: Life

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When life gives you lemons you make lemonade or in this case, when Life gives you aliens you get a carbon copy of everything you’ve seen before, and yet it’s strangely watchable despite its obvious flaws.

When a six-man crew encounter evidence of life on Mars, they get more than they bargained for.

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds who all turn out solid performances as the storyline ticks along at a fairly decent pace.

It’s just a shame that Life doesn’t offer any smart alternatives in the process of its narration.

The only glimmer of difference comes in sacrificing one of its key players in a semi-shock twist moment.

By the films conclusion though, it tries to pull another trick but this resolution could be seen from a mile off and the audience is left disappointed as a result.

The Diagnosis:
Most cinephiles may note the comparisons with Alien and other sci-fi horror movies if its kind, but it is a great attempt at a modern entry into this genre and has enough energy and pace to keep the momentum moving along.
This combined with the strong acting make it compelling viewing despite its flaws.

  • Saul Muerte