Annette (2021)

Quick Synopsis: The tale of an opera singer (Marion Cotillard), a bitter comedian (Adam Driver), and their opera-singing daughter Annette (a marionette puppet)

Not going to lie, I was apprehensive about this. I thought it would be a bit too “arty” for me to enjoy. Make no mistake, this is a weird film. But it’s weirdly enchanting. This is a real head fuck. I am still in shock. It’s not a film I watched and found myself investigating the characters and the narrative, this is something I watched and just let envelop me. It was an EXPERIENCE. It feels like something unique and special and I really wish I got a chance to see this earlier.

There’s a company called Luna Cinema who do outside screenings of popular films in unique locations (a lot of them are on the grounds of medieval castles). I would absolutely LOVE to get an opportunity to watch this film in a situation like this. One where the screen is comedically large and you get to experience it in a way that you’ll always remember.

There’s a real flow to this. The music flows into each other, the performances flow through with an almost ballet-like precision and rhythm, it’s apt that one of the core scenes takes place on a boat as watching this feels like you’re floating down a river.

The music is PERFECT for something like this. The soundtrack was composed entirely by Sparks (best known for This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us), and their music is perfect for a film like this. The weirdly etheral and violent tone their sound has suits being the musical accompaniment for a film, especially a film that makes the narrative choices this one does. On the downside, their unique vocal takes are INCREDIBLY hard to recreate. There are times where Adam Driver is a little flat but that’s only compared to what you know Sparks themselves would sound like, so considering what he has to do it’s to be expected that he wouldn’t nail it 100%.

So in summary, I’m not sure whether I loved this film or not, I’m not sure I would show it to others, but I know I HAVE to watch it again, I know I have to experience the complete package that this film presents, and I know there’s a chance every single person reading this will absolutely hate it.

Pig (2021)

Quick synopsis: Someone steals Nicholas Cage’s pig.

This……..this was unexpected. From that synopsis, and from knowing what else Nicholas Cage has been in this year I expected it to basically be John Wick but sillier. This is completely different. For a start it’s much more nihilistic, it doesn’t really have a happy ending, it’s just super depressing throughout. It’s also lacking in action/fight scenes. There’s a scene where he walks into a fight club and you think it’s going to be a “kick ass and take names” style action setpiece. Nope, it’s just him being punched in the face by chefs he’s criticised in the past.

It’s a good summary of this film, bleak, dark, and hits hard. It’s genuinely one of the most intimate and personal films you can hope to find this year. Nicholas Cage is actually really good in it too. He has a reputation for his performances being over the top and containing more scene-chewing than that scene in Willy Wonka where they eat the scenery. But in this, he’s incredibly subdued. He’s performing like a man who has lost everything and genuinely just wants to be left alone to wallow in his sadness.

That’s the word that sums it up: Sadness. From the colour scheme through to the story and the characters, it’s all just so sad, but in a cinematically beautiful way. The ending in particular is just someone playing an audio tape and it’s one of the most hauntingly beautiful things you will witness all year.

So yeah it’s a weird film, but one I think you’ll be glad you see.

Red Notice (2021)

Quick Synopsis: An interpol agent attempts to track down a jewel thief. In reality it’s much much more complicated than that.

Disposable. That is probably the best way to describe this. Don’t get me wrong, at no point while watching this will you be bored, you will be thoroughly entertained throughout, and if a sequel came out you will watch it. But will you NEED to see this film again? Probably not. It’s good at what it does, but you’ve already seen everything it does before, it brings nothing new to the table. Ryan Reynolds does his usual shtick, and gets partnered with a violent stronger person who he initially disagrees with and you wonder if they can trust each other before true friendship wins. Blah blah. I’ve seen it all before. It has the usual twist and turns and they are surprising, but again, they’re not new.

The film can’t even rely on the action scenes to carry it through. They’re too video-gamey. You know how back in the days of Tony Hawk’s games the levels used to be designed in a way to be skateable, so the fences and rails would all be placed in a way that was designed with the video game playability in mind first before realism, that’s how this feels. It’s like the world was designed in such a way for action set pieces, so there’s no sense of realism or weight to the scenes, which robs them of any tension. Although let’s face it, you’re not going to get much tension in a film starring Ryan Reynolds and The Rock anyway as you know that the studio is aiming for a franchise, so they’re going to keep both alive.

It has some good parts. It’s very funny. The story has more twists and turns than a roller coaster, and Gal Gadot is funnier than she’s ever been (outside of her Imagine video obviously).

It’s hard to feel too disappointed, but it’s also hard to feel too pleased. It’s hard to feel anything. It’s popcorn movie. Sometimes that’s all you need, sometimes that’s all you want. It’s going to be a success, but I don’t think it will be anybody’s favourite film.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Hah, like you’re watching this for the plot

I went in with low expectations. Everything I had heard about this was negative. If I saw an article online about it it was how it was a disgrace and never should have been made. These articles were backed up by the lack of advertising I seemed to see, I don’t recall seeing a trailer at the cinema for it at all, the only pre-release marketing I saw was the car doing a display at a local shopping centre. I actually went in on my own because I didn’t want to drag anybody else to a disappointing film.

That was a mistake, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I’ll be honest, it has a different energy from the 80s films. Those were madcap quick ones, they had the SNL energy which a lot of comedies had back then (the influence that show had on 80s American comedy movies cannot be understated). This does have an 80s energy, but a different one, it almost seems Spielberg-ian. The warmness, the sense of adventure, the incredibly likeable characters, it’s all wonderful and very lovely.

I wish Paul Rudd was in it more, considering how he was heavily mentioned in the pre-release things I did see, it’s disappointing how small a part he plays in it, especially since his character has such obvious chemistry with some of the other cast members. His chemistry with Callie (played by Carrie Coon) is the main focus when it comes to his character, but he has a really interesting dynamic with Phoebe too. Of all the characters in this, his definitely seems the most underdeveloped and wasted.

I kind of expected that if there was going to be comedy, it was going to come from him. Nope, most of it comes from two other characters. Podcast, played by newcomer Logan Kim is an unexpected highlight. Really this film belongs to one person and one person only. A character who I watched and thought “wow, this is a REALLY good performance, that character could be an insufferable know-it-all but whoever is playing them is doing a really good job of making them likeable”. Then I saw the closing credits and figured out why, it’s Mckenna Grace. I genuinely believe she’s the most talented young performer in the world at the moment. She’s normally relegated to “Young version of the main character” in films like I Tonya, Captain Marvel, and Scoob. But when she is given the chance to lead a film she is incredible. The best example of this is Gifted, where she manages to outshine Chris Evans. Important note: she filmed that when she was NINE YEARS OLD. If she picks the right projects I genuinely believe she could end up being the most acclaimed performer of this generation. She completely nails every part of her performance here and delivers some of the biggest laughs, and some of the weirdest jokes I’ve seen. They’re deliberately bad but also still kind of funny, but definitely weird. There’s one in particular which stood out because I’m still not entirely sure if I dreamt it or not:

“How is a hamster like a cigarette? They’re both harmless until you put them in your mouth and set them on fire.”

There’s also a delightful moment where she makes a geometry pun (which did just remind me of this and this tbh) and then when asked if it was intentional says “yes, that’s why I winked”. It’s delightfully awkward and cute and I loved it.

Now onto what I didn’t love. Theoretically, you could go into this having not watched the originals. It does a really good job of catching you up on the universe and the events of the first two films (the 2016 version goes curiously ignored). The story itself does a good enough job of that. But there are some directorial choices that won’t work for newcomers and are just kind of embarrassing to long-time fans. There are too many REALLY unsubtle references. One that stood out was when the camera focuses on a twinkie for a good five seconds or so. It being in the car was enough of a reference, the camera focusing on it for that long is just embarrassing and is basically the director saying “Hey, I’ve seen the original!”. Like, we hope so considering your dad made it.

The directing is the weakest part, it has the right amount of heart needed, but it’s lacking a sense of playfulness and fun that I feel would help it. It’s in an awkward stage where it’s not directed in a playful enough manner for the comedy, but also isn’t dark enough for the horror elements. He nails the emotion though, especially at the end. I didn’t expect to hear tears in the cinema during a Ghostbusters movie, but there we are. Also, stay around for the two credits scenes. Very fun.

Eternals (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Immortal god-like beings fight beasts, themselves, and their own purpose in life.

This is……it’s far too long. I’ve only seen one film directed by Chloe Zhao before, and that was Nomadland, I feel her skills are wasted here. Nomadland was about the personal, it was about focusing on the small, this is a very big film so it’s a weird mesh of style and story that doesn’t really work. Maybe part of that is the script. It’s trying too hard to feel big. It has to tell the story of this entire group, that’s a lot to do. It also tries to tie it into the history of humanity as a whole. It doesn’t do this in chronological order, it jumps back and forth for the first half of the film, almost as though it’s acknowledging that there’s too much backstory but they feel they need to put it in there somehow anyway. The fractured storytelling also really hurts the story being told. The group have been separated for hundreds of years, the film spends a long time getting them back together and the relationships between them all are strained. But we as an audience don’t feel that. And we don’t feel that because of the non-linear editing. As characters, it’s been a long time since they’ve seen each other, but as an audience, it was only 5 minutes or so since we saw them all together and working as a team, and we haven’t seen the split yet. So we don’t feel that tension between them at all. If they did the “Eternals involved in the history of humanity” stuff as a montage at the beginning, then have them split, then we’ll feel it.

The issues behind the split between the group are weirdly underplayed. There are two main incidents that I feel aren’t explored enough: one is the Spanish Conquistadors laying siege to an Aztec city. This could be a haunting emotional setpiece. The whole group should be emotionally devastated at not being able to help, they should all carry that guilt around with them, as it is only one of them does. It’s quite telling that this film doesn’t even have a “Nightmare Fuel” entry on the films TVTropes page. How is that scene not one that stays with you? It’s genocide on film. Yet we don’t really get any emotion from it. The way they do Hiroshima is better, they have the character completely break down and be overcome with guilt. You FEEL that, briefly, then it passes because the film has more stuff it has to cram in.

So far you may think that since I’m discussing what it missed, that I think it should have been longer. Noooooooooooo. This film is over 2 and a half hours, and it feels it. It’s actually longer than Infinity War, yet it feels like it does less. So much of the time is wasted. This is a short excerpt from the Wikipedia entry on the film:

In the present day, Sersi and Sprite live together in London. After Sersi was left by her partner Ikaris centuries earlier, she is now in a relationship with human Dane Whitman, who works at the Natural History Museum. The trio is attacked by the Deviant Kro, with Ikaris arriving and chasing the creature away. Realizing the Deviants have returned, they travel to South Dakota to reunite with their leader, Ajak, only to find that she had been killed by Kro.

I estimate that just that section, not including the flashbacks interspersed throughout, that on it’s own, takes over half an hour. There is no sense of efficiency to any of it. Now I know action scenes can be like that. “they fight” can be a five-minute battle that entertains the hell out of you. But for that to work, the action scenes need to be amazing, they need to be creative and inventive to truly WOW you. This doesn’t do that, and it should. The characters are basically gods, so why are the action scenes duller than the ones in Shang-Chi? There is nothing even close to the use of space or location for fight scenes that that film had. There’s no inventiveness, no spectacle, basically no fun.

On the upside, the performances are hard to flaw, and it does one thing I was really worried it wouldn’t be able to pull off. It avoids the whole “I will now explain all our superpowers in a completely unnatural way” problem that similar films have. It does something better: it just shows you. That’s a more difficult way to do it but much more impressive. The general look and cinematography is also to be commended, even standard scenes are shot in a way of great beauty. It’s not just individual performances, the cast gel together incredibly well and their chemistry is obvious for everybody to see.

So in summary, to be honest, you probably don’t NEED to see this, it’s relatively unessential and not exciting enough to make up for it. One thing better than Shang-Chi is it could lead to a lot more exciting things. The world being made aware of their existence opens up some possibilities, and there are a few more characters implied who could be fun to watch develop.

Last Night In Soho (2021)

Quick Synopsis: An aspiring fashion designer tries to uncover the secrets of a lounge singer who comes to her in her sleep in this neon horror/thriller by Edgar Wright.

This film had a lot less Anya Taylor-Joy than I expected it to, I’m just going to lead with that. She is very good in this, but this film does not belong to her. This is all about Thomasin McKenzie (who you’ll probably know from Jo Jo Rabbit), and she knocks it out of the park. This could not have been an easy performance for her to deliver, the emotional range needed is off the charts, and she had to do it all in a Cornish accent, and how did they even explain that accent to someone from New Zealand? Have to say, I never noticed though. I knew I recognised her from somewhere, but I couldn’t place where and I assumed it was some random Channel 4 show. The fact that she is this good, and is only 21 is terrifying and exciting. It’s not just her though, the whole cast as an ensemble is fantastic. This was the last role for Diana Rigg, and that’s a damn shame as she brought something truly special to her character. In another actors hands the role could have been just a typical one, but she elevates it to something at times sweet and also chilling. Matt Smith also brings an energy I didn’t expect he’d be able to do. Being truly reprehensible but also charming.

The film itself? They’ve been pushing the director in all the marketing, and for a good reason. Edgar Wright is known for being a very visually interesting director, and him at the helm of a horror movie is something that will excite everyone. He predictably does a really good job here, and it’s different from what he normally does. There’s none of the “Edgar Wright Cuts” that he puts in films (where ordinary actions have dramatic editing). I feel this may be his best directed though. EVERYTHING comes together visually, the colours, the shapes, the set design, the costumes, the music. It all works together in tandem to create a real feast for the eyes.

On the downside, the pacing is a bit off at times. There are narrative tricks that are repeated a few too many times, especially in the middle section. A lot of his films are close to this length, but this is the first one that you really FEEL that length. I’m going to flat out say that this is probably his worst film. But that really says more about the high quality of his other films. It’s just not as engaging as the others for some reason. I think part of that is the aforementioned pacing and repetition.

In summary, you should watch this, preferably at the cinema as the size and scope of it is something best appreciated on a big screen. You might not want to watch it more than once (I definitely will see it again) but there’s no chance you won’t be impressed by what you see.

Antlers (2021)

Quick Synopsis: A small-town Oregon teacher and her brother, the local sheriff, discover that a young student is harbouring a dangerous secret with frightening consequences.

I did not enjoy this film. Normally I like to build up to a natural conclusion before arriving at sentences like that. But I don’t want to lure you into a false sense of security with this review for this. It was an incredibly frustrating experience. Part of that is that it felt like it was doing too much, well attempting to anyway. Horror films are best when the core message is simple: Don’t have sex, he’ll break your necks. Give a hoot, don’t pollute or else you’ll be shoot. You know, simple stuff. This? Is it like a rural zombie movie? Is it an environmental film? The fact the film makes a point to have a radio news broadcaster point out local environmental issues would lead you to think that. Maybe it’s about First Nation myths and legends? Or is it even about family abuse? The truth is it’s about all of them, but because it’s only 99 minutes that means it’s also about none of them as nothing has time to develop itself. It stretches itself way too thin.

It feels mostly it’s trying to be a film about a Wendigo, a legendary figure in Algonquin culture. In the myths and legends it’s a spirit that possesses humans and gives them an incredible thirst for human flesh and murder. We’re told this in passing by a “local Native American”, who turns up, tells this story, and then is never really heard from again. His entire character is to pass on information, be the “magical native” teaching them. So they’re using First Nation mythology, and have a First Nation character as an exposition dump because the film feels it’s more important to focus on the white people in the film. On the plus side, they did actually case a First Nations actor to play the part, but the fact he’s just there to give on information feels a little weak.

Going to go into the lore of the Wendigo now, this really has nothing to do with the film itself and won’t change your mind about it, but I feel it’s something that is useful to know about. Now there are slight variations among the different myths. For Naskapi people, for example, it’s a giant that grows in proportion to whatever it just ate, so it can never be full, whereas in some it takes over a human and provides urges in them. But there are two main differences in the original lore, and how it’s presented in this film, one of which is more a thematic or visual choice, and one which is the entire visual aesthetics of the movie. The first one: it has a heart of ice. Now in this film the final battle ends when the main character cuts out the beasts heart, where it’s glowing orange and burns to the touch. Which is basically the opposite. For Western comparison it would be like if someone did a film about Jesus and they had him drown by walking into water. The second one is one you can’t ignore, antlers. Yup, the films title is based on an aspect of the myth that does not appear at all in the original indigenous stories. It’s weird as there other aspects of the legend that it gets spot on: the drapings of skin and bone in the final form, the original form being an almost transparent white with the bones visible under the skin. It is mainly the heart being fire not ice, and the antlers, which are the modern parts. But the film isn’t called “Long claws” is it? It’s Antlers. It’s focused on a part not in the original.

So yeah it uses First Nation stories but rewrites them for their own purposes, it’s quite weird. And it doesn’t even work to make the film good as it’s still a bad watch. But it is indicative of the lack of care and thought that’s gone into it. Scott Cooper directed this and he’s normally done crime dramas (Black Mass, Hostiles etc) so this is new ground for him. He actually did a good job though. The use of shadow and scale is great to watch and provided the main highlights of this film. His talent shows that there is a way to film someone just walking through a tunnel, and have it be visually impressive and use the difference in size of him and the impending shadows to tell us details about the character. The script is the main part that lets it down. It’s incredibly on the nose at points, but then also weirdly lacking in others. Do you ever watch a film adaptation of a book and feel lost because something important has been lost in the translation from book to screen? Like they missed out a plot point that actually explains the whole thing? That’s what this feels like. Like I napped at some points and wondered why certain people were doing certain things and not taking the obvious steps.

I should commend the performances I suppose. Keri Russell does what she needs to, never really astounds you but never makes you cringe. Jeremy T.Thomas is probably the best performer, providing a haunting energy to his performance. I feel mean picking on child actors but the kid who plays Clint is just annoying. In wrestling parlance, there are two types of hatred or “heat” a character can have with an audience. There’s standard heat, where the audience thinks “I dislike this character and hope they get their comeuppance”. That’s normal, that’s what you should have. And then there’s “go-away heat” (also known as X-Pac heat after a particularly disliked wrestler from the late 90’s). This is the worst. It’s something that can best be summed up with this:

Basically, it’s where the audience doesn’t hate you in a way that they will pay to see you be defeated, they hate you in a way that they turn off the channel. That’s how annoying this kids performance is. It’s not helped by how 2-dimensional his character is.

So, in summary, I would not recommend this film. It had to be legally shown in cinema due to contractual obligations stopping it from being allowed to be premiered on screening services. I wish I knew that before, I would have waited, or avoided it.

Zack Snyders Justice League (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Costumed people punch CGI, in HD

I was debating whether to include this in the reviews for this year or not. I mean, would I count rereleases etc as new films? I wouldn’t so should I for this? Then I looked at the differences in length and realised this might be something completely new. Could it actually be good?

Spoilers, it’s not. It’s not good. There is one word I will use to describe this though: Dull. Now I know this was originally supposed to be released years ago, but it HAS been released in 2021, original intentions be damned. It’s following up a film from 2016, so that’s 5 years and we’re supposed to remember. I know we are sick of seeing Batman’s parents die again, or going through Spider-man’s backstory, but this has gone too far the other way. It would not have killed them to add a few minutes of recap at the start. This is in a weird position because of the “meant for 2017, released now”. Especially since things have happened since that film that we are aware of (even if we weren’t supposed to be when the film was made). Since then, we have seen the Whedon version of Justice League, two Wonder Woman films, and an Aquaman one. This film doesn’t take that into consideration so a lot of the time it aims for dramatic reveals that you already know. Again, this would have been fine if it was released back then, but this has been released now, when we know certain things so we don’t need to see what we see a lot of the time.

And we do see a lot. Too much, it’s almost four hours and it doesn’t exactly use that time well. I don’t mind long films if they justify their length. But this doesn’t, it feels unnaturally stretched out for a lot of the time. There’s a line from the British sitcom Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace that seems to sum up Snyder’s attitude to the film:

That’s how watching this film feels. Like everything is in slow motion. It’s not an exciting rollercoaster, it’s walking through treacle. It moves so slowly that even when stuff happens, because it takes so long to happen it feels like nothing has. I’m assuming stuff did happen in this film, but I can’t remember any of it.

That’s the big issue with this film, it’s just not exciting. As meh as the original Justice League was, it was never as dull as this. This is an actual slog to get through. At no point was I actively engaged. Actually, there was no point where I felt anything at all. Usually, with these, the first step is to compare it to a Marvel movie. With this, you feel it would be more apt to compare it to a Transformers one.

There’s some choices here which are just weird. Like the aspect ratio. He released it in a 4:3 format. Basically this means you have to make do with the black bars on the side of your screen. Snyder did this because he likes the way that format looks on an IMAX screen. One small issue with that: this isn’t released there, it’s strictly home viewing. This means he intentionally released it in a format best suited for a medium for which nobody will be watching it on(weirdly, it looks good on an iPad but that feels weird watching films on there). It’s a bit like a musician releasing a song and saying “oh, don’t worry this is meant to be sung live alongside a group of people” and then never ever playing it live. All these decisions just make it feel dated, like it was “discovered” from back then, rather than specially remastered and with new scenes filmed specifically for a 2021 release.

Not to say it’s all bad, there are some good performances and somewhere in this is a great movie if you cut out a lot of fluff. It feels HUGE in terms of scope and it gets a lot done. Plus some of the action scenes are great to watch.

In summary, I would find it really hard to justify spending 4 hours of your time watching this. Especially since it spends so much time setting up sequels that will now not be made. An interesting curiosity for sure, and I would like to see more films given this treatment (I would actually like to see the original version of Fant4stic just to see whether the studio did ruin it as much as the director claimed), but this is not a good advertisement for doing so.

The Nowhere Inn (2020)

Quick Synopsis: Annie Clark (a.k.a St. Vincent) is having a documentary made about her by her friend Carrie (best known from Sleater-Kinney) and is asked to disappear into her alter-ego to make the film more interesting in this mockumentary/concert film.

This was an interesting idea. I like mockumentaries, and like them even more if they’re not comedies. If they go dark, even better. Also, I love the music of St. Vincent so this should be ideal for me.

A strange film that makes no sense, but in a way the fact it makes no sense makes perfect sense. I was all ready to talk about how it should have been less creepy at the start. About how it should have fooled you into thinking it was just a standard documentary about St. Vincent before hitting you with the weirdness. That would make sense from a film-making perspective to lure people in. But then I thought about it, they allude to the fact that this has been edited and made from what they captured for the documentary, and if the events actually happened to this character and they wanted to tell people about it, they would lead with the weirdness wouldn’t they? Plus, by the end, Annie Clark has morphed into her alter-ego of St. Vincent so she would see no problem with exposing the weirdness of herself.

For the first half of this film, I was fully on board with what they were doing. I was interested and wanted to see what happened. But then it got a bit “too” weird and it became more about the weirdness than the narrative. Now I like weird, but what I will always love is a good story, well told. And this film is so focused on becoming a weird experience that it is lacking the storytelling aspect of it in the second half where it just becomes almost like a student art film.

It started to lose me when the St. Vincent character started to take over. The personality shift is a bit too jarring. She goes from 1-100 way too quickly when it should have been gradual. One minute she’s giving free tickets to someone because she is too awkward to say no, and the next she’s making a sex tape with Dakota Johnson. The aforementioned scene with the free tickets is delightfully awkward though, the interviewer getting her to apologise to her girlfriend for her. It’s delightfully awkward and helps tell you a lot about the character.

Might be a weird thing to state about a mockumentary, but it feels like it lacks truth. It’s like they wanted to delve deep, perform an emotional autopsy, but then shied away at the last second. Like there are times where it feels like the film is just a way for the actors to really discover who they are as people and do an emotional deep dive on themselves, really exploring their personalities. But when it comes close to really exploring who they are, it decides not to.

On the plus side, the performances are perfect throughout to the point where there are times you forget you’re not actually watching a documentary. The characters aren’t quite perfect though. Both characters feel incredibly selfish and stupid in how they react to each other. There are two scenes that follow each other, one is where Annie is hosting an obviously fake scene for the documentary. Carrie then derides that for being too fake, and then takes her to go see her father in prison “so I can get real emotion from you”. Just makes them seem incredibly self-involved and selfish.

If you are a massive fan of the artist you may get more out of this, but if you’re going in not knowing too much then it might feel lacking. You probably will love the music though.

The Night House (2020)

Quick Synopsis: Beth (Rebecca Hall) is trying to recover from her husband’s suicide but her progress is halted by discovering thousands of images on his phone of women who look like her, and that he built an exact copy of their house.

This is an interesting film. In some films, you’re a passive viewer, aware that you’re watching films on a two-dimensional screen. Then there are films like this, films which feel like they surround you like you’re a part of the world the film takes place in, making you feel like you’ve been sucked into the screen. Part of that is the sound, the mixing job for this is superb, it really helps place you in the world.

The script itself is pretty intense too. It’s one of those films where even if I didn’t watch the film I’d want to know the story. So like if it turned out that the director was actually a terrible person and I couldn’t justify paying to watch the film, I would still read the story synopsis to see what happens. The trailer was just that intriguing. I was curious as to how it would end and what would happen. Thankfully it doesn’t disappoint. The way you see it unravel is marvellous and you’re hooked from the first moment. It’s a satisfying mystery, one that you as an audience member WANT to get to the bottom of, one that actively engages you. It helps that the conclusion is satisfying, it’s something that’s hinted at so makes sense, and also redeems someone but not really.

On the downside, it is all predicated on deliberately vague instructions. When her husband committed suicide he left a note that said “There is nothing. Nothing is after you”. Now, spoilers, “nothing” is the name of a demon that is after the main character. There must have been a clearer way of saying that and it feels like it was only written for the “reveal”. I mean, it is still satisfying to watch but it is a bit weird.

There are two people responsible for this film working. The first one is obviously Rebecca Hall, who has always had a lot of promise but somehow manages to find slightly disappointing roles (Iron Man 3, Godzilla Vs. Kong, Dorian Gray), in this she lives up to the potential you always knew she had. She plays a character dealing with intense personal loss, and that loss is written through every fibre of her performance. So even in the horror moments, you are always fully aware that this is a character tinged with sadness and regret. It’s the kind of performance that would be talked about for oscar nominations if they didn’t hate horror movies for some reason.

The other person: David Bruckner. He’s mainly known for doing segments in films such as VHS (where he directed Amateur Night), The Signal, and Southbound. This is actually only his second feature-length. His first was The Ritual, which was a cracking piece of cinema and I always assumed was directed by a Brit. His directing carries the air of someone who has been doing this for decades. The wonderful thing about his style is he doesn’t direct them through the frame of traditional horror with the focus on scares, he treats them first and foremost as cinema. So he uses colours and shapes to create shots which are basically paintings, using space and darkness not to create fear, but to tell you a story about the characters. His films are the kind of ones you want to pause and analyse and discuss every detail. This means that when he does get to the horror moments, they’re impactful because they don’t feel like they take place in a horror movie, they feel like they take place in a standard drama, so the horror has kind of invaded the drama universe. This is how horror works in reality, scary things happen in ordinary lives, and it’s the ordinary which makes the horror scarier.

So yeah, I would highly recommend watching this film. I sadly missed the chance to see this at the cinema, but it is available on Disney+ weirdly enough and is well worth checking out.