Most parents will identify with the struggles that they encounter when raising children, and that strange balance of absolute despair and unwavering love that they have for their own kids.
It’s this balance that writer, director, Brian Taylor scrutinizes and tinkers with, asking the question, what happens when that need to protect and care for your offspring has a switch that is flipped and the desire to kill takes over.
It’s a controversial topic that Taylor lifts the lid upon and not only singles out one family, but makes this a global issue. It’s one that needs to be addressed with no real answer offered up by the director, which is interesting position that he chooses to go with.
Whilst choosing to tell the tale as a global epidemic with parents heading out to murder their children, we’re hit with troubling images head-on when a mother deliberately abandons her child in a car upon the railway tracks, as a speeding train plows into it.
A shocking image that as a parent myself, I found deeply uncomfortable to view, and sets the tone throughout the film, and pushes me to areas that I found hard to take as a result. For that end the movie certainly does its job in presenting some horrific scenes, notably when one mother attempts to kill her newborn in a birthing suite.
The global epidemic plays out like something from Dawn of the Dead, with news bulletins, chat shows, and reports playing out on screens in stages as the story unfolds.
One particularly glorious scene involves a ‘zombie-like’ rampage as hordes of parents scale the school gates and chase their own throughout the grounds, with some disturbing scenes unfolding before you.
Part of this film’s appeal comes with the killer casting of the storylines Mom and Dad, with Nicolas Cage suitably restrained and playing to his age, whilst still giving his ‘ham and cheese’ moment which had become his schtick over the years.
It’s the refreshing presence of Selma Blair though that steals a lot of the scenes, showcasing her delicate, caring mother, to a murderous, gleeful, maniacal figure, who is hell-bent on destroying her kin. Blair’s delivery is wonderfully subtle and as a viewer she plays with your desire for her to show that loving spirit her character displayed in the earlier scenes, and cruelly pulls away from that every time. It leaves you wanting to see more of her on screen again.
It’s worth noting that the children, Zackary Arthur and Anne Winters pull off some strong performances that keep you rooting for them to survive their ordeal, but the final scenes are almost completely stolen away by a Lance Henriksen’s cameo.
Some of the director’s style allows the movie to come across as quite sparse in places, but Taylor clearly has a knack for allowing the actor’s room to breathe on screen, whilst delivering a hefty punch.
The subject matter can make you feel uncomfortable in places, but this only makes the movie all the more stronger as a result.
Potentially this film may fall under the radar, which would be a shame as it’s a decent entry into the genre.
– Saul Muerte
I’m not sure what it is about the Day of the Dead storyline that jars so much.
On paper, it boasts an interesting premise of science vs state. Always at conflict in the real world and makes sense that they would come under close scrutiny when faced with a post apocalyptic world full of zombies.
Arguably though, it is the weakest movie from George A Romero’s original trilogy, and yet, it has now mastered two remakes, one released back in 2008 and one Day of the Dead: Bloodline tries to make its own mark on the subject, leaving many to ask, ‘what’s the point?’
The bones of the original film are still present, with an underground bunker containing some civilians reside under the rule of military personnel.
The changes are significant though. The first is a strangely confusing beginning marking the initial outbreak in a typical American street before taking us to a scientific laboratory to essentially show us the outbreak again, but from the viewpoint of lead character Zoe Parker (Sophie Skelton) a medical student who witnesses her friends and peers all wiped out as carnage ensues within the facility.
Before all this occurs though we are introduced to Max (Johnathon Schaech, a creepy patient who has a serious crush on Zoe, and in case you missed the heavy hint, also happens to have a mysterious blood type. Like that’s not gonna come back later.
Just as Max forces him myself in Zoe, the living dead make their entrance, forcing Zoe to go from one ordeal to another.
Both of her worlds will collide again though, as we pick up our story again as we time jump to a few years down the track, where Zoe lives in the afore-mentioned bunker, and formed a relationship with Baca, the younger brother to the Lieutenant running the military outfit, Miguel.
Cue conflict both internally and externally.
It is on a medicinal run back to the laboratory when their troubles really begin as Max who has somehow partially survived, becoming both walking zombie and human, (essentially this version’s Bub) and perhaps the answer to their salvation.
Of course it won’t go swimmingly for the survivors, but by this point everything feels so bland and blah, blah, blah, that we have gone beyond the point of caring.
Schaech gives a decent performance as the ‘villain’ of the piece, but the one small thread that we can hang onto is that Skelton actually gives a solid performance as Zoe, and this keeps you intrigued enough to push you towards the films conclusion, but just barely.
It’s a fairly stable effort, but neither diminishes or improves upon the original film. Characters are two-dimensional and the plot line is weak, leaving you ultimately back to your original thought… what’s the point.
- Saul Muerte
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 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
Or a more accurate description would be ‘Just barely brimming above the surface’, as this movie never really dives any new depths in Shark horror films.
It would appear that this is a tough task to take on, as many souls have ventured into the big blue to tackle one of humankind’s greatest predators. However, since Spielberg’s classic Jaws invented the term ‘blockbuster’ back in 1975, those pretenders have been left drifting with no sense of direction at all.
While director Johannes Roberts (F, The Other Side of the Door) does his best to weave through the tension surrounding two sisters who attempt a cage dive for the first time, only to plummet to the ocean floor.
As there oxygen runs low, they must brave the shark infested water in order to survive.
Australian Claire Holt cuts a fine performance as the fearless Kate and one can see her career escalating beyond The Vampire Diaries from which she became a household name.
Where as Mandy Moore’s Lisa grates, and as twee as she may appear to be, by the end of the movie you’re wishing that she would become shark bait so that we don’t have to endure her shrill voice in every panic-driven scene.
On a lighter note, it was refreshing to see Matthew Modine back despite little screen time.
His role as the boats captain has a subtlety to it that only an actor of his expertise can pull off whilst still being believe able. His presence is a welcome relief during the scenes when the girls are submerged, albeit in the occasionally voice across the comms system.
With the promise of a sequel in the works titled 48 Meters Down, it must be doing something right, and whilst it is watchable, this hardly blows you out of the water.
Best advice would be to get tanked and watch with some mates.
At least then you can rely on the good company.
- Saul Muerte
Straight from the offset, director Roger Scott lures you into his feature length directorial debut, The Marshes with an unsettling feeling deep within unfamiliar territory.
It’s a fantastic achievement as Scott’s attention to detail breathes new life onto the screen and in doing so awakens a fear that may have lay dormant in us all.
His ability to infuse a sense of Australian mythology and mysticism, and weave it into a thoroughly modern world allows the audience to fall deeper into a labyrinth of despair and confusion.
3 biologists who represent this ‘modern Australia’, venture out into the land, which I’m pretty sure has never been captured on screen before. A place deep inland, but instead of dry, red, desert, we are faced with lush vegetation as our setting.
But don’t get too comfortable, as something lurks within that will ensnare you and pull you apart.
The beauty of this Australian horror film is that Scott plays with your senses, clouding the characters thoughts and yours along with it, so that the very question of reality is thrown into the equation.
Speaking of characters, the cast involved, primarily the afore-mentioned biologists, allow for the atmosphere to appear more intimate and intense. Chief among them is Dafna Kronental who plays Dr Pria Ana, a woman that finds herself initially fighting for her place in the University, fighting for The Marshes, and ultimately fighting to stay alive. Kronental is incredibly believable as she goes through the motions and the tension ratchets up.
By the end of the movie, the sense of claustrophobia engulfs the viewer and your striving for the characters to find their freedom and survive their ordeal.
With its unique vision and frightening consequences, The Marshes could well be a modern horror classic.
- Paul Farrell
FRIDAY 1st DECEMBER – 7PM
Buy Ticket from Dendy Newtown Cinemas here.
Roger Scott interview
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes…a bloody corpse down a well and a tin full of dark secrets in the garage.
Two of the four novellas in Stephen King’s Full Dark, No Stars, first published in 2010, have been adapted to film and are now available for your viewing pleasure on Netflix. Both films portray seriously dysfunctional relationships. Both may cause you to eye your significant other over the dinner table with a newfound wariness…and make an appointment with a relationship therapist just to be on the safe side.
Alternate Title: Love Rats!
The expression “You reap what you sow” comes horribly true in 1922, a horror-thriller starring one rightfully vengeful corpse and waaaay too many rats (although, in my opinion, even one rat is too many rats.)
Thomas Jane (so excellent in his role as the loving but ill-fated dad in The Mist (2007), another Stephen King adaptation) plays a very different kind of husband and father. Wilfred James is a farmer in Hemingford Home, Nebraska, a sun-weathered, proud man who speaks painfully through a tightly clenched jaw. Stuck in a joyless marriage with Arlette (Molly Parker), he is more in love with his farm and the 100 acres that Arlette inherited from her father than he is with his attractive, sullen wife.
When Arlette decides that she has had enough of being a farmer’s wife and wants to sell up and move to Omaha, Wilfred tries to convince her to sell him the land and let their son remain with him. When she refuses, he decides that he won’t take no for an answer. After roping his 14-year-old son Henry into a very messy and brutal crime, he sets into motion a series of tragic events that almost (not quite, but almost) makes you feel sorry for him and his son.
There are parts of this film that are not for the faint of heart. (For example, I could have very happily gone my entire life without seeing a rat emerge from the mouth of a corpse.) It was hard to watch the scene where Arlette discovers that her marriage is definitively over. That being said, whoever’s job it was to throw the buckets of blood had a lot of spare time on set as there isn’t too much gore. My favourite part of the film was the scene in which the exes once again come face to face…very creepy. So effective.
It wasn’t released with all that much fanfare but it is a solid film with great performances – especially the nearly unrecognisable Thomas Jane. Don’t miss this one before Netflix puts it out to pasture.
A Good Marriage (2014)
Alternate Title: A Serial [Killer] Monogamist
After 25 years of marriage, Darcy Anderson (Joan Allen) thinks that she knows her husband Bob (Anthony LaPaglia) pretty well. Unlike Wilfred and Arlette James, the couple are happily married with a beautiful home, well-adjusted adult children who love their parents and still enough of a spark left that the marriage bed is never cold for too long. It is, as the title suggests, a good marriage.
From the opening scene of a woman being stalked by an unseen predator, however, the viewer knows that this isn’t a Mike Leigh film about normal happy married people approaching the twilight years of life. We suspect that Bob is not quite as affable and friendly as he seems long before his hapless wife discovers a hidden tin in the garage. Now that she sees both sides of the coin, she must decide what she does with her newfound awareness…
LaPaglia seamlessly switches between his dual (and very convincing) personas and Joan Allen is perfectly cast in her role as a loving wife and mother faced with the terrible knowledge that she has been married to an imperfect stranger for 25 years. I really enjoyed both their performances and the film.
Stephen King has stated that the character of Bob Anderson was inspired by Dennis Rader, the infamous “BTK Killer”, whose wife was married to him for nearly 30 years and yet claimed that she had no knowledge of his crimes. It is a novel premise – what would you do if you found out something truly terrible about the person you loved? – and makes for a compelling film.
- Vanessa Cervantes
Arguably back in 1974, the first iconic horror villain was born in the guise of Chainsaw wielding, human mask wielding psycho we come to know as Leatherface.
Director Tobe Hooper brought him to the screen along with other members of his deranged family who set out to terrorise a group of travellers in the middle of Texas.
Unwittingly, the final shots of Leatherface wielding said weapon of choice as the Sun begins to rise and our final girl makes good her escape has been embedded into the psyche of horror fans across the world.
The fact that it has resonated with so many has lead to numerous sequels and reboots. (7 in total)
This latest effort from directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo was to do the inevitable origin story. (Yawn)
When will creative’s realise that there is nothing to be gained from unearthing the make up of these classic horror villains other than to destroy that mystery and the magic that made them so special to begin with?
The warning signs were already there when the production studios kept pushing back the release date despite Lili Taylor and Stephen Dorff being attached to the project.
Taylor more than held her own in James Wan’s The Conjuring and although Dorff has fallen out of favour in Hollywood and no longer considered A-list material, he still in my mind had plenty of gravitas on screen.
None of this can prevent this movie from feeling like being fed through the meat grinder using nothing but gristle.
There’s so much focus on trying to show how Jedidah Sawyer becomes the titular character that the filmmakers lose sight of any real substance.
As such we’re spoon fed Jedidiah’s journey from a brutal mother (Taylor) who is forcing him to tow the line with the family way, which just so happens to include brutally murdering a guy with (wait for it…) a Chainsaw.
When he and his brother (who in my opinion looked more like our signature Leatherface than Jedidiah did) are separated from their family by a vengeful Texas Ranger (Dorff) and whisked away to a mental hospital.
What follows is a riot that leads to Jedidiah escaping with a few other inmates and a nurse as hostage to make his way home.
The result feels like a story ripped from the pages of The Devil’s Rejects which is absolutely ridiculous when you consider that film has whispers of TCM throughout as something of a nod from Zombie.
Of course Jedidiah will have his fall from grace but this transition seems so sudden and out of left field, which is a shame as once again we’re left with poor character development in the screenplay.
More PVC than Leatherface as this latest instalment struggles to make an impact on this already loose franchise.
- Paul Farrell
Directed by McG and a Netflix original, The Babysitter is one of those films you could easily watch while scrolling through Facebook or feeding the dog and still get the general idea.
Twelve-year-old Cole (Judah Lewis) has the world’s best babysitter, Bee (Samara Weaving). She’s got her sci- fi trivia- down pat, hot tips on beating bullies, and she’s a drop dead gorgeous American dream. As in, pass me the Blu Tack and stick her poster up on my wall kind of hot.
Cole and Bee are the best of friends (go Cole) until one day his parents are away and he stays up past his bedtime. He discovers Bee is eeevilll and plans to use him as a blood sacrifice in a magic ritual (Noooo we thought you were perfect, Bee).
The Babysitter isn’t trying to be brilliant, it tries to mirror your eighties teen slasher flick.
A little bit of horror and a little bit of comedy mashed up with a side of teen titillation. We see a cheerleader get shot in the boob, we see a nerd get his first– kiss, a girl on girl make out sesh and stacks of cheesy graphics.
If the full frame “what the fuck” graphic doesn’t alert you that the plot is taking a turn, then maybe Thomas the Tank Engine might be a better choice for you.
Those who aren’t into McG’s male gazy lens better steer clear too.
If we wipe away the blood and teen slasher film cliché’s the film is really a coming of age story about a twelve-year-old that overcomes his fear of needles, bullies and not being accepted.
Judah Lewis does a great job of pulling on our heartstrings and doing the whole nerd -becomes -hero thing.
The early scenes with Lewis and Weaving are the film’s strongest. Bee and Cole have real chemistry. Even the other villains do what they can to make their cliché characters dance.
McG nails slowing down the background action whenever the pair are together. These scenes provide much needed depth balancing out the one-dimensional horror to come.
Look, you’re probably not going to be talking about this one over drinks at the pub or even remembering what it was about next week (caution: you may lose a few brain cells throughout). However, respect for not trying to be something it’s not and giving us a few cheap laughs along the way.
– Breana Garratt
It’s Victorian London and there’s a serial killer on the loose leaving all sorts of cryptic messages written in the blood of the victims.
In comes inspector Kildare (Bill Nighy) with a suspicion that he has been set up to fail.
He must rely on the help of witnesses to crack the case and bring the lunatic to justice.
This nasty little horror ticks all your, ‘Gee I’m-scared-but-boy-they-have-lovely-accents’ type film with a few blood-drenched charms of its own.
Speaking of charming, can we get a round of applause for Bill Nighy as a Scotland Yard Detective?
Bill Nighy trades his cheeky smiles and winks for a straight one eighty performance. A nice move from Nighy.
As bizarre as The Limehouse Golem is, it’s pretty serious stuff.
Nighy holds our hand and takes us on an ethereal walk through the streets and music halls of Victorian London (Don’t worry he’s cool with it)
We explore the pubs, the court chambers, the apartments, and offices of the period. The verisimilitude is bang on, it’s a fully realised world where you feel like you might bump into Sherlock Holmes or have a few brews with David Copperfield.
No drinks for you Sherlock. Get back to work!
Another charming aspect of The Limehouse Golem is the way it blends fact and fiction.
The Golem is fictional, but music-hall star and key suspect Dan Leno (Douglas Booth) is a real historical character, and how many times have you seen Karl Marx cast as a suspect in a penny-dreadful thriller?
That was a rhetorical question.
The whodunnit/murder investigation-ish aspects of The Limehouse Golem are its weakest elements. The murder investigation becomes a little, well, boring and generic.
You may find yourself more interested in the films other major storyline, the life and career of music hall performer, Lizzie (Olivia Cooke), as the use of flashbacks unlocks the secrets of her past.
Look, the murder scenes are probably not grisly enough for us horror fans, and those who like deliberate, cozy murder mysteries may be deterred the graphic displays of gore.
The Limehouse Golum wouldn’t likely pack out a movie theatre but from the view of the living room couch provides an unsettling two hours of atmospheric charm.
Why not? Team with a bowl of ice-cream and you’re set.
– Breana Garratt