Spiral: From The Book Of Saw (2021)

Well this is interesting. It’s a horror movie, specifically a Saw movie, starring Chris Rock. I wouldn’t necessarily say I was excited by this film, but I was curious. I thought at worst it would just be a train wreck, like it would go too Chris Rock and be way too comedic. Thankfully it keeps the comedy away from the horror, you don’t often get characters making jokes in the presence of a dead body, for example. There are still a few too many comedic lines though, and they do detract away from the movies tone. They’re the typical Chris Rock jokes too, him calling other cops motherfuckers and insinuating they’re idiots. Those moments don’t suit the style of the film, they’re more like a buddy cop film, which would have worked if more of the film was like that. It’s like it’s trying to be both a buddy cop film and a horror and that mix of genres doesn’t really work.

It’s not helped by the run-time. Usually I complain about films being too long, but this is the opposite. This is supposed to be an atmospheric horror, and those require long scenes of build up, then a payoff. I mentioned earlier it has shades of a buddy cop movie, and those require the following scenes:

  • Renegade cop saves someone.
  • “you’re too dangerous, renegade cop” “fuck you” “you need a partner” “fuck you, I work alone”
  • Car ride of tension between the two where the partner makes jokes, they discuss their families.
  • First case.
  • They start to warm to each other.
  • They become friends investigating something else.
  • (sometimes) one dies and the fallout from that.

Those scenes can’t be done in less than a minute, they all require set ups and pay-offs. And they’re very dialogue heavy so again, take a while. Having both genres and trying to do them in a 93 minute movie is a recipe for disaster. Well, maybe disaster is a bit harsh, it’s not an entirely unpleasant viewing experience, it’s just a bit pedestrian. Not the traps though, the traps are wonderful. By which I mean they’re horrific in the best possible way. So when the movie is actually a Saw movie, it works. When it’s not? It’s kind of dull. Saw movies are can be heavily criticised (and for good reason) but they’re never usually dull. Also, they’re never normally as predictable as this one is. If you’ve seen a film before, you can probably guess the ending. You know it has to be a character the film has already introduced, and there’s really only one (at a stretch, two) characters it could be, REALLY weak plotting. Also, his fake voice is fucking weak. It doesn’t feel like a voice that’s going to inspire fear, it feels more like a voice that’s going to tell it’s mother to go get more hot pockets and mountain dew, and no mom I can’t pause the game I hate you I wish I’d never been born *flounces out room*.

Other examples of weak script: there are a lot of moments where unless something happened EXACTLY as it happens in the movie, nothing would have happened. Okay, admittedly that’s something which has been the case for a lot of the films, a lot of the time, if someone moved ever so slightly to the left, everything would have been avoided. It makes you realise you’re not in reality, but watching a movie, something which is definitely the case with this movie. I’m going to spoil the ending of this movie in the next paragraph btw.

So at the end, Chris Rocks dad (Samuel L Jackson) gets kidnapped by the killer, the police move into the building, his arm gets raised in a mechanical contraption, so the police shoot him. Meanwhile, the killer walks away using the service lift. The film ends there. Now, all it would have taken is for the police to realise that the person they’re shooting was clearly not in control of his limbs, or for Chris Rock to tell them that and just get them to take a step to the left and avoid getting shot (it was all automatic so the path was fixed, the arm wouldn’t have been able to be moved from left to right). Plus, unless EVERY police officer went into the building, there are going to be some outside, ready to catch the guy as soon as he steps out of the lift. Shit, they could probably see him from outside the window as he made his escape.

On the plus side, as I side, the traps are great, the story itself is probably one of the best in the series (just weakly told), and the performances are what they need to be (the “jigsaw” voice being the obvious weakest part). It also looks pretty damn good, it has a summer feeling to it that the others lack. The others felt almost entirely about the killings, but this one at the very least seems as though the city is a real breathing entity full of untold stories. It feels more fleshed out than the actual characters.

There’s definitely potential here, it’s just let down by the pacing and the tonal shifts. Oh, I bingewatched Taskmaster before this, which created a very strange mash-up in my head. I’m not saying this film would have been improved by having a seven-foot tall British comedian routinely insulting everybody, but, well actually it would.

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

I really enjoyed the first one. Probably one of the best all-round superhero movies of the last few years. When I saw the trailer for this I thought it looked a lot of fun, it brought to mind Thor: Ragnarok. I felt sure that this would be incredibly fun, just balls out insanity and slickness. Then it came out, very quietly, in December, I think. That was not a good sign. If it was a film the studio had faith in, they would have delayed it until the cinemas were open (like what happened with A Quiet Place 2), or made a bigger deal of what streaming sites it was on to purchase (like Disney+ have been doing with their stuff). The way they released it had all the hallmarks of a “let’s quietly put this out and hope nobody notices”. I delayed watching this as I was certain it was going to get an actual cinema release when they re-opened.

So yeah, that put a few worries in me, and then those worries increased when I heard people talk about it. Well, they didn’t talk about it much, which was the problem. The only time I’ve heard it mentioned was when I made a reference to The Monkey’s Paw in an earlier review and someone asked if it was about this film. The fact that nobody talked about this film is not a good sign. Now I’ve seen it has my opinion changed? Well I’ll say this, the fact that I knew NOTHING about the post-credits cameo is a sign of how few people discuss this film. I’ll spoil it here, it’s not really relevant to the plot so I think it’s okay. It has Lynda Carter do a cameo, the original Wonder Woman, she turns up, saves a child, says she’s been doing this a while, then winks to camera. Holy crap the implications for this and the future of the DCEU are huge, yet nobody talks about it.

Turns out there’s a reason for that, this film is not great. It seems like the type of sequel that was made by completely different crew from the original, which is weird as it had same director for both. Although it has to be said that Patty Jenkins only directed the first one, she didn’t write it, whereas she did write this one, so maybe that’s the problem. The script is just so poor, full of logical inconsistencies. A big issue is that it is a prequel, yet the events of it were not mentioned in Justice League or Dawn Of Justice. Nobody seems to have remembered the time a guy gave everybody in the world a wish and how it led to chaos. It doesn’t seem like everything from it was forgotten, just the effects reversed (although considering a few people died due to wishes, do they come back? The film doesn’t say). Also, she doesn’t use some of the things from this film again, and they would have come in very useful.

Also the way the film plays with the wishes is inconsistent. At one point the villain says he can give out any number of wishes he wants because he is the wish-stone, yet before that he asks someone to make a wish on his behalf. And some of the wishes only seem to work in a way that advances the plot, it’s like it knows it has a narrative to fulfil. It’s a shame as it could have been interesting, if they made it smaller. Having it all over the whole world makes it TOO big. If it was focused on one city it would have allowed the audience to get a better look at the effects of the negative side of the wishes. Instead we spend way too much of this film in watching people travel. Plus, it would have given plausible deniability for this film never being mentioned again. You’re telling me that a worldwide event like this wouldn’t have caught the attention of Mark Strong’s character from Shazam?

Here’s the thing; if I wasn’t thinking, I might have enjoyed this film. It looked good enough and the performances were good. But as soon as you think about this movie for more than a second, the flaws are too apparent to ignore. Some are just basic storytelling mistakes like how the main villain had a difficult childhood, a fact which informs a lot of his decisions during the movie. Also a fact which isn’t properly explored until right near the end of the film, bit of a weird choice, and not a good one. Also the opening scene isn’t needed. There’s a whole opening set during an athletic event in Wonder Woman’s childhood where she got caught “cheating” and admonished for it. seems to be just so they can tell her about the dangers of not putting effort in, but there must have been a much more natural way to do that, and one that doesn’t take about twenty minutes. The film is two and a half hours, and does not justify that length at all. I could have forgiven the film not making sense, but I can’t forgive how dull it is a lot of the time. Looks great though.

So in summary; see it if you must, but there’s nothing saying you must.

The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021)

This film ended up on my good side with one of the opening quotes: “Every family has its challenges. From picture day to picky eaters. For my family our greatest challenge? probably the machine apocalypse.”. It then follows it with “i did what any outsider would do, made weird art”. A film which shows film-making not as a “I want to be Scorsese and important” but sometimes “I need to make some stuff”. It’s about film-making not as a way to showcase something or to make a point, but because you can’t not do it.

Truth be told, it was in my good graces from when I first saw the trailer. It looked unique and weird, but there was a slight concern that it would basically be “Technology bad! Old way good!” boomer bullshit. I should have known by the writing talent that it would be a lot better than that. The script is mostly incredibly smart, with believable characters and great scenes. I mean, it features a scene where a kid phones up everybody in the phone book and asks if they want to talk about dinosaurs, what’s not to love about that? It’s really weird, but the kind of weirdness that seems natural for certain kids to do.

Like I said, they NAIL the character work here. Everybody seems to have their own motivations. You could read the script with all the names blanked out, and automatically know who each character is due to how differently defined they are. That’s for the ones we see anyway. There is another family, the archetypical “perfect” family who are their neighbours/friendly rivals. Here’s one thing I think the film could have improved upon. The other family are not featured in it enough. It would have been entertaining to see them in it too. There’s a moment where they use teamwork to escape the initial attack, they then get captured later. Would have been better if throughout the film, whenever we see the Mitchell family struggling, the other family are coping easily. Yes, it would have meant the main characters aren’t the only ones to escape, but that shouldn’t have been the case anyway. When you watch Shaun Of The Dead, the main group aren’t the only ones in the world fighting back, and it makes it seem like it exists in the world. The story is driving the family, rather than the other way around, which is what it feels like in this. It’s a real shame as there was potential for those characters to be involved in a way that really developed the story.

Now onto my next negative point: the animation. This is just personal opinion, and it might just be the way I watched it, but it just seemed a bit….off. There’s a weird texture on everything. It reminded me of the way that The Wolf Among Us was animated, mixed with “taking your glasses off while watching a 3D movie”. Really weird and made it kind of hard to enjoy at times.

I know that sounds like I’m being negative, but there was a lot to enjoy. The dialogue is hilarious at times, the voice acting is great (Olivia Colman is obviously having a lot of fun), and it’s so emotional it seems like a Pixar film at times. I would have liked to see it at the cinema, but I suppose the fact it’s available on netflix means you can all watch it. Not now, when I’ve finished review.

The film is good.

NOW you can see it.

Mortal Kombat (2021)

This was always going to be a weird one to see. Video game movies are known for being kind of terrible, but they’re slowly getting better. The last few years have seen Rampage, Tomb Raider, and Detective Pikachu kind of break the curse. A curse which it can be argued, also hit the original Mortal Kombat movies. Movies which are liked despite their cheesiness, but they do have great music.

It’s really hard to do a Mortal Kombat movie as there are SO many characters in it. The first game alone has seven characters, all with unique backstories, plus a story for the tournament itself. And that’s just the first game, if you base it solely on that you’re missing some of the fans favourite characters such as Jax, Baraka and Shao Kahn. That is based solely on playable characters by the way, if you included the bosses you’d have three more, all are highly rated by the fan base. So is it actually possible to do this as a film? Would it work better as a series? Doesn’t matter, as it’s a film we’ve got, and it’s a film that obviously isn’t too bothered about sticking to the lore, for better or worse.

For better as it means they can actually tell a cohesive story, for worse as some of the choices they make are just weird. Champions are identified by a dragon birth mark. Well, I say birth mark, but you can also get it if you kill someone who has it (kind of like conkers). How “Military veteran kills someone in Vietnam and then five days later gets a birthmark in shape of a dragon” ISN’T a well-known urban legend in this universe is beyond me. The main character in this film was someone who was born with it, and had no idea what it meant. Considering they have the fate of their realm at stake, you’d think they would have been given some training to help them. Would it have not made sense for one of his best friends to have been turned out to be looking after him and guiding him in the correct path his whole life? Also, Johnny Cage is a champion, and a famous actor, and seemingly nobody has noticed the dragon-shaped birthmark he has (it doesn’t say nobody has noticed, but nobody mentions “oh, you have a birthmark just like that actor”). If The Rock or Vin Diesel had one of those, you can bet we’d know. The birthmark thing didn’t even add anything to the story, so why did it happen? Why bother writing it in? Just seems like poor storytelling.

Other poor things about this film: the main character. Why are they making Cole Young the main character? His special skill is he gets strong armour when he’s being attacked in a narratively important way. Yup, he has literal plot armour. If there’s one thing Mortal Kombat is not short of, it’s characters. I know they’re saving Johnny Cage for the sequel, which I think is a risky move that doesn’t really play off (unless they get this guy). Really, it should have been Liu Kang as the main character. It would mean going against traditional MK lore, but you’re doing that anyway. Almost everything else you can keep the same. They’re both of Asian descent, both established as fighters, and (this is where you’ll have to change the mythology) in the film the main character is descended from Scorpion, and Liu Kang is known for having fireball attacks, so it would be a really easy link to make between the two. In fact, it’s such an obvious link that I had to double check that it hadn’t already been made in the games. They do have Cole descended from Scorpion, but have none of his powers, which is strange. Leads me to my next point actually, the ending shows the spirit of Scorpion giving advice to Cole, in Japanese. There’s no indication that Cole speaks Japanese, especially not Japanese from the 17th Century. Would have loved if after Scorpion disappeared, Cole just stood there like “I did not understand a word of that”.

So that’s the bad, there’s also some stuff that’s just kind of weird from a technical standpoint. There’s a moment where Kano goes to bite Sonya and there’s a lions roar accompanying it. There’s no attempt to disguise it either and it’s just really strange, especially since Kano is essentially human, and humans don’t make that noise while they’re eating. If it was something from another realm. you could have JUST about made an excuse for it. The visuals are a bit strange too. Why would you have a badly CGI- reptile when the game has precedent for him wearing green-ninja style clothes?

Now onto the good. Sub Zero is a great character in this, and I would watch a whole movie about him assassinating people. Plus, the idea of using snow as a portent of doom is genius. Using beauty to display something dark is something I will always be a fan of. It’s why I love horror movies set in daylight. Also, there’s nothing inherently awful about this film. It just makes a lot of mistakes which could be easy to fix. I should note: the negative parts of this film do not reflect badly on the film-makers themselves. Cole was a studio decision, they insisted on it. Not entirely sure why they would, can’t really see the benefits. And considering that character is the main source of derision by viewers, the person who made that decision should not be in that job anymore. Bit harsh, but when you make a misjudgement THAT badly, you should not be paid millions for your decision-making.

Oh, one last thing. The time it took you to read this is probably longer than the total screen-time for Scorpion. Probably hiding him for the sequel (wooo, sequel baiting is always a good sign). Also, very strange I’m reviewing this just after Godzilla Vs. Kong considering the posters are REALLY similar in terms of colour schemes and how they use space.

Godzilla Vs. Kong (2021)

One of thing most annoying things for me about the pandemic has been the closure of cinemas. Don’t get me wrong, certain films are great to watch at home, and there are quite a few where the location doesn’t matter. But there are some where you NEED to watch them at the cinema. You need the big screen, the darkness, the pageantry of the cinema experience. Some films I was looking forward to, I have watched them at home and still liked them (The Mitchells Vs. The Machines etc). But this? I avoided this at home because I knew I NEEDED to see it at the cinema. I’m not watching these films for the plots and the dialogue, I’m watching them because they’re spectacle, and it’s harder to get immersed in spectacle cinema when you have to change the volume so it can be heard over building work, you are aware of daylight, or there’s a cat clawing at your bedroom door because they’re desperate for attention.

A big worry for me coming into this was how overpowered Godzilla was compared to Kong. The film rectifies this by making it so Kong is older and much larger than the last time we saw him. On the upside that means the sizes match up. On the downside, and I’m not entirely sure if it was deliberate or not, but Kong looks old. This isn’t Kong as Rocky, this is Kong as Rocky in Creed, he looks exhausted.

Now onto the scale, there are a few moments where we truly get to see how massive Kong and Godzilla (referred to in this movie as Titans) really are, you place them alongside humans and it provides an impressive visual. You don’t really get the same effect when they’re next to buildings for some reason. It might be because during these moments they’re filmed from an angle that’s high and wide so you can get the entire fight in. But this means you lose all sense of scale, the Titans become your measurement for height, because the buildings they’re fighting amongst get destroyed so quickly that they’re ineffective for measurement sake. So having them tower over buildings doesn’t make the Titans look big, it makes the building look small. This film DESPERATELY needed more low angle shots of the fights.

Other than that, the fights themselves are actually pretty damn entertaining. You know what you’re getting in a film like this, you’re not going to get a John Wick style action scene, you’re just going to get two mountains smashing into each other, and that’s what you get. I will say this, the punches look like they hurt. It’s not like Transformers where it looks like interchangeable things just banging against each other, you feel the pain every time one of these monsters is hit.

Praise also has to go to the moment where they enter Hollow Earth, which they need a map to find, because going straight down isn’t an option for some reason (although later in the film Godzilla finds it just by fire-digging straight through the floor, so it’s inconsistent). A world where it’s basically the inside of a circle and the world is round, but inverted. So you’re always on the floor and gravity changes depending which side of the ball you’re on. It contains truly impressive visuals and would lend itself to some truly inventive action set pieces, if they spent more time in it. See, that moment is just for about 20 minutes. They genuinely could have got an entire film out of that. There’s no way that was cheap, so it’s baffling to think they spent that much on something so small when it could have been the basis of something much bigger. It does lead to a cool moment of Kong sitting on a throne, but then the film continues. Surely the entire Hollow Earth sub-plot should have been it’s own movie, and then you end the film with Kong sitting on the throne? You don’t throw all of that into the middle of this, it’s an incredibly poor choice from a narrative standpoint. Especially since Godzilla HEAVILY dominates this franchise, this is the 4th movie with him in, but only the second Kong. If they did the second Kong movie set in Hollow Earth, then THAT sets off the events of this film, it would feel more even. And you wouldn’t have so many characters to introduce. The last Kong film was set far in the past, so this features no characters from that. There are two returning Godzilla characters that I can recognise, there might have been more, but the characters from those films have left zero impact on me with the exceptions of the two in this, and 3 others who I think are dead I can’t remember.

That’s not the only negative. Nobody watches these for the human characters, but we spend so much time with them that they should be written well. There are some amusing lines with one of the subplots, but they don’t feel natural. It feels like they wrote the jokes and then did the story to fit them in (it definitely seems like they did that with some of the other scenes too). It never feels natural, is incredibly overwritten, plus having that many comedic moments means you never feel scared. There are two (well, three at the end) giant beings beating the crap out of each other and not caring about the collateral damage to humans. That should be utterly TERRIFYING to the human characters, but they don’t seem that bothered by it. They seem more focused on “but what if the monsters get hurt?”

As you can probably guess, the script is pretty poor. Managing to feel both bloated and rushed at the same time. The hollow earth scenes I mentioned? Guess how they impact the script? It’s how they get the power for Mecha Godzilla. Yup, a good chunk of the film is essentially “we’re picking up a battery”. That takes up a good two thirds of the film. I’m not saying open the film with Mecha Godzilla (oh yeah, that’s the main non-human villain btw, for one scene), but at least have it so it seems like the script is naturally building towards it, hint towards it instead of it just being there.

So in summary: watch this at the cinema, you will only watch it for the visuals anyway. Although I should note, the visuals aren’t always great. During action scenes they look fine, but when people are just talking? The visuals look kind of ugly a lot of the times there. It’s weird.

Undergods (2020)

I was intrigued by this. Anthology films are always really interesting to see. I like seeing how the different stories interact with each other and how the writer tells different stories in the same universe. Also it looked like it could be fascinatingly brutal.

It’s not though. It’s not brutal. It’s bleak, there’s a difference. There’s not really many “holy shit” moments, it’s just an unending sense of dread, the cinematic equivalent of a boot stamping on a human face forever, then laughing as they do so. I think that was what made the film not for me. It was just so bleak and nihilistic that I didn’t really care or get emotionally invested. I wasn’t even emotionally devastated by the bad things that happened to these people, I was just so apathetic that I didn’t give a shit. I don’t think it helped that two of the stories seemed somewhat similar, in fact, all the stories were so similar in tone there wasn’t much emotional difference between the three. It felt like it was just three ways of making the same point. I can’t really remember the stories themselves in terms of how they unfolded, I can remember bits and pieces of them, but none of them really stuck with me, which is a shame. I think part of that is a location. The stories, and the way the film looks (and more on that later) brings to mind more Eastern European work, something about it just screams “former Soviet country”, but the story is in English, just seems kind of strange.

Now onto the good: from a technical standpoint it was pretty damn impressive. The music was cool, kind of synth-ey in a way that made it seem both retro and timeless. Reminded me of Come True, which as anybody who has been keeping up with these reviews knows, is pretty high praise. The look is good too, the use of colours to create the universe is brilliantly done. I don’t know when they filmed this, it could have been in the middle of summer, but the use of colour and set design makes it look absolutely freezing. You feel cold just looking at it (which probably leads to me feeling it feels more like a Soviet state).

The messages are depressingly timeless too, the themes present throughout the narrative are ones you will always see in art that has something to say. It’s just concerning that it happens to people who we don’t care about, and is dependent on characters behaving in a very certain way.

So in summary, I’m much impressed by Chino Moya’s work as a director than I was by his as a writer. I wouldn’t be tempted to see a film he only wrote, but I wouldn’t hesitate to watch something he only directed. It’s a film you’ll be impressed by, but not one you’ll really feel anything for.

Lucky (2020)

Was curious about this ever since I first saw the trailer. It looked genuinely interesting, and kind of like a reverse Happy Death Day, whilst in that film the main character was getting killed every single day, in this film, a woman is being hunted by a killer who she survives every single day. This film was impactful, and the performances were great (Bea Grant was really good in it as the lead, but my favourite performer was probably Kausar Mohammed, who isn’t in it much but has one of the best scenes). It had a compelling narrative that contained a real mystery within it. So I was with this film every single step of the way. But as I watched it, cracks in my affection started to appear. A few shots where the colour scheme wasn’t quite right or the shot composition seemed a little ropey or the lighting was the wrong choice, a few moments where the make-up and gore looked incredibly fake, some moments where the music went from “creepy and unsettling” to “well this is just annoying me now”. I ignored those negative thoughts, as I was sure the closing stretch would be superb. I felt it was building towards something great.

I’m usually pretty good at sensing timings in films. I very rarely have “is that it?” moments when the film ends. This film had that. It felt like it was slowly approaching something, and then it skipped a few steps. Also, I’m gonna say it, I was not a fan of the ending. I completely get what it was going for and I commend them for it, but it turned a literal story into a metaphorical one, and unless you were following the metaphor, the story didn’t make sense. There are a hundred different ways they could have done the ending which would have satisfied both the narrative, and the metaphor. It would have been difficult, but it would have been possible.

Yes, I am aware this is a personal preference and a lot of you will love this film because of the ending. I can’t hide it anymore so I’ll tell you what the ending is, and do my best to explain my own interpretation of it. Her partner comforts her and is genuinely creepy, then she gets attacked by him again. She stabs him and collapses alongside him, where his face starts transforming into all the other male characters from the film. This, combined with a moment earlier where seemingly every female character was also being attacked by the same mysterious masked figure, combines to form this as the ending and central theme:

Women are under constant attack, not just by a specific man, but by patriarchal power structures and men in general. That the constant barrage of “you need to lose weight”, “you need to stop being skinny, I prefer a bit of meat on my bones”, “how can you leave the children with someone else while you go to work?”, “how can you quit your job to spend time with your kids? How will you afford things?”, “you should wear make-up”, “why are you wearing so much make up?”. Just this CONSTANT barrage of unwanted and contradictory unasked-for opinions that women have forced upon them by society and culture is fucking exhausting and is leading to severe mental and physical health problems for women. And even the ones who aren’t killing them, they’re making things worse for them by disbelieving them, minimising their fears, downplaying their achievements (shown in this film by having the police not believe her, and her agent saying it was all his work that got her a good contract). Essentially it’s about how women are being constantly gaslit

I agree that this is a noble point to make, it’s a point that is very important, one that needs to be said, and said loudly. But it feels like such a cop-out for the narrative which until then played it pretty straight. It would be like if you watched a hockey movie, where the underdogs had to beat the best team in the country. You follow the team train, lose games against the better team, and just generally follow standard sports movie tropes. Then at the final game the opposing team take all their helmets off and all the people are the same as the good guys, the real villain was lack of self confidence. Yeah, it’s a powerful metaphor, but then outside of the metaphor, who were they ACTUALLY playing out there on the ice? It’s a shame as up until they I had very warm feelings for this film and was fascinated to see how they would pay it off, so it’s very disappointing to find out that they didn’t. I just…..I wish the ending was more narratively satisfying, or if it was just a short film. As a feature length I feel like I wasted all that time in a story that doesn’t exist, it’s just another form of “it’s all a dream”.

Like I said, it’s a real shame as this film had a lot to like about it. The characters were engaging and it had a lot of really cool moments. Chief among those is a scene where she’s being interviewed by the police and they randomly start singing at her. It’s really weird and creepy and cool and inventive and I loved it. It also had some fantastic lines full of pathos and uncomfortable truths. It also has one of the creepiest moments I’ve seen in a while where one of the female characters suddenly has a scar on her back, when she’s asked why she goes somewhat robotic and says it’s the price of being there. This again makes sense later on when you realise she’s actually that’s the price of being a woman in the modern world, but with that in mind she seemed to say it in an unnecessarily creepy way. Why wouldn’t she mention it in this scene, knowing that the main character is going through the exact same thing?

So overall, kind of a disappointment. Shame as the opening moments and the setup is incredible, but then it kind of falls apart. Reminds me of Steven Moffat stuff, where he sets things up and you wonder “how is this going to get resolved? Such a mystery”, then it turns out the answer is just a general handwave.

Sound Of Metal (2019)

This got nominated for 6 Academy Awards, I love Riz Ahmed, and friends of mine who’s opinions I trust had said good things about this film. So to say I went in with heightened expectations is an understatement, and it exceeded them. I expected this film to be good, I never expected it to hit the heights it did. Maybe the Academy Awards slightly worked against it for me as it meant I expected a certain type of movie, I expected a movie that was, for lack of better words, “nice”. I expected something cosy and schmaltzy, with a message like “it’s okay if you are deaf, you still have your friends and family and that’s all that matters, it doesn’t matter that you’ve lost your hopes and dreams, you’ll manage, after the film, we’re not showing how”. Either that or it will go the other way and be like “Your life is ruined and everything is miserable because nothing matters, this is an IMPORTANT film so it must be sad”. Truth is, it’s somewhere between the two. Spoilers coming up btw.

The closing sections of this film involve the main character, Ruben, getting cochlear implant surgery so he can hear. This upsets the community he is currently in, who view deafness not as a handicap to be cured, so he leaves. Once he has his hearing back he realises that while he can hear, it’s heavily distorted and makes it difficult for him to live the life he did before (which the film doesn’t shy away from showing, it uses audio to really put you in his place, in a way that’s kind of uncomfortable, but meant to be). He also meets up with his old girlfriend, but they both realise that they no longer suit each other. He walks away, and removes the implants, sitting there in complete silence, finally being comfortable with hearing nothing. It’s a heartbreakingly beautiful ending that is both happy and sad. It’s also really the only way this film could end logically. Once the narrative dominos were in place, there was only ever really one way they were going to fall.

Usually if I do post a spoiler for a film, I do it somewhere near the end, or at least not right in the second fucking paragraph. I feel comfortable dropping it early on here because this is not really about plot. I mean, the plot is really good, but I don’t feel you would lose anything if you go in AFTER reading the plot on wikipedia or something. The plot is not the selling point here, the performances and the way they tell the story, those are the selling points. The little heartwarming moments of Ruben playing with the kids at the shelter, THAT’S a selling point. The technical prowess in how it really puts you in his shoes, THAT’S the selling point.

You watch to see everything come together to create a truly stunning work of cinematic art. It’s not one thing, you watch this to see the whole package (lol, penis). This is one of the best examples of film as art you’re likely to see. I know that’s usually what accompanies a film that’s super bleak and depressing, films that kind of break you. This film doesn’t necessarily break YOU, but it does break the characters. Ruben is put through emotional hell in this film, and there are scenes where you can tell he is going through some deep shit, and it’s astounding to see. It’s not just him, when Ruben tells his friend Joe at the deaf shelter that he got the surgery/implants, the look on Joe’s face will just break you. I can’t even remember if he cries or if you can just tell that he’s going to, either way it’s great.

So with what it puts the characters through, why doesn’t this break you too? I think it’s because of how heartwarming this film is. There’s one moment in particular which stands out: when he gets integrated in the community and starts playing with the kids there. The pure joy is a sight to behold and just warms you completely.

In summary: go see this film. It’s really hard to talk about how good it is because it’s hard to pinpoint one specific thing it does well, it just does everything brilliantly. One question though, it was made in 2019, only got released recently. What the hell man?

The Power (2021)

There are many ways you can get a gauge for a nations identity: through food, through sports, and through film. One of the most interesting ways (and the most convenient for me writing this blog) is through the myths and monsters of a country, and the urban legends. Due to the terrain, Bigfoot makes sense in a country like America, but wouldn’t work in a place like England, where there aren’t really that many places it could logistically hide without running into a bunch of drunk teenagers. Countries with more woodland are more likely to have creatures of the night that hide in the trees, due to the way that a mix of darkness and the ambient noises can cause your brain to form shapes which aren’t there in the shadows. Whereas in the city, you tend to get more urban legends around specific places, “oh, that’s the house where this girl was murdered”.

City ones are the ones I find most interesting, and they’re definitely the ones where you find out more about the history of the place. Every condemned building has a story about the past and the horrors that took place, sometimes these horrors are true, sometimes they’re just stories told by people to scare others. A lot of British ones that take place in those locations are about institutional horrors, historical cover ups that were later exposed. Children’s Homes which turned out to be slave labour camps, hospitals which were doing inhumane procedures, and schools which hid child abuse scandals for decades.

It’s for that reason that this is possibly one of the most British horror films I’ve ever seen. Obviously the location. But also the political subtext. The film is set during a time when the power had to be turned off at night, even at hospitals (this, by the way, is the “good old days” people refer to. Idiots). This is perfect as it explains why this horror film is is set in the darkness. FINALLY a horror movie heroine has a good excuse for not just turning the lights on. It’s also wonderfully multicultural, with a lot of the divides coming not from race, but from class (and also a little a bit from race). The disdain people the management feels for people is not based solely on race, but also because a lot of of them are poor or come from orphanages. If the child is Sri Lankan, then yeah, they’re also going to refer to them as “animals”, but if the child is white, they will also get insulted, just with 10% less disdain. That’s kind of what you need in this movie, you need certain characters to be so damn hateful, but also have the charm to win people over to their side. They need that innate sense of superiority which causes them to think of themselves as untouchable, and all their actions justified.

Spoilers coming up in next paragraph btw

Like a lot of good British horror movies, there’s a sharp social commentary to this film. It’s essentially about how systematic power structures do their best to keep people down, particularly women. The main character is a woman (played brilliantly by Rose Williams, seemingly acting as a mix of Brie Larson and the really good looking guy from a few episodes of Scrubs) who was abused whilst younger, and forced by the police and school to recant the accusation, so now everybody thinks of her as someone who lied to get a poor innocent man in trouble. This is something which happened a lot back then, and sadly, still happens today. Institutions like that will always protect their reputation before protecting people, and part of that reputation is with the people they employ. They will do their best to silence and discourage anybody who dares speak up against the systematic abuse that happens in these places. It’s a fucking depressing way for the world to work, and it’s a way that’s accepted far too readily by a lot of people. So while it’s not nice to see a depiction of it in a film, it is important.

Two nurses sitting opposite each other in an interview setting. One is saying to the other "I'd like to think I have a feel for children"
In the 70s this sentence didn’t set off any alarm bells

Horror is often described as a director’s medium, with that in mind, I’m going to need to keep an eye out for more work from Corinna Faith. I’m not that familiar with her work, but after seeing this, I want to be. Her use of space and light in this film is the perfect use of the location and the story, intertwining them in a beautiful marriage of delightful cinema. There’s something so wonderful about how small yet expansive this film is. It takes place almost entirely within the hospital, so you feel kind of trapped. But the corridors seemingly go on forever, so you also feel lost and disorientated. It’s a great mix which adds up to one of the creepiest films I’ve seen in a while.

Corinna also wrote the film, and did a great job too. Even characters who only appear in one or two scenes seem to have their own motivations and feelings. Everybody in it feels like they exist outside of this film. The character dynamics are great too, they’re not set, and also aren’t only effected by massive events. It’s not like they’re all friends until one moment, then they hate each other, or vice versa. Instead, the dynamics are fluid and ever-changing, every conversation changing the relationships between the characters involved.

If you’re a fan of “jump scare” horror, you won’t like this, if you’re a fan of gore, you won’t like this. This is a film based not on moments, but on atmosphere. It’s a film I truly wish I managed to see at the cinema. It is available on shudder, so if you have that service (and if you’re a horror fan, you really should) then you definitely need to check this out.

Plus, it gave us this for an opening:

Text: Trade Unions And The Government Are At War. The economy is in crisis. Blackouts have been ordered to conserve power. Plunging the nation into darkness every night."

Love And Monsters (2020)

Hmmm, a YA film on netflix, starring someone who was in the Maze Runner films? This could be terrible, this should be a film I start with low expectations, expectations which the film still might not be able to meet.

And then the film starts, and I realise it’s actually a piece of greatness. I’ve spoken before about how some films have turned me against them in the opening scene. The obvious ones being the new version of Hellboy, which showed me that the film is going to replace actual maturity with swearing, and Wolf (or The Wolf, I don’t know, and I don’t care) which lost me with the sub-par directing choices and performance in the opening moment (I will NEVER have a film that freefalls in my opinion as much as that did in the opening scene). This is one of the few cases where the opposite happened, where a film completely won me over. It was funny, had some great art involved, and told a compelling backstory. And the film only got better from there on.

Truth be told, I was going to skip this film, just ignore it completely, until it was recommended to me by someone who called it “Delightfully quirky, horrific, and thoughtful in almost equal measure”, and I can’t argue against any of that. It’s such a good watch, and yet another film that I wish I saw in the cinema. A film that looks as fantastic as this, deserves to be seen on a big screen. Although part of me is glad I saw it on netflix, it meant I could truly savour some of the moments, I could rewind them and have another look at moments I loved.

This is a film awash with new experiences. The soundtrack is full of songs I want to listen to by bands I should be into. The director is someone who’s earlier work I now want to watch. And with a few exceptions, most of the performers are ones I’m unfamiliar with and whom I now want to see more of. Ariana Greenblatt, for example, has a great future ahead of her if she continues doing performances like this.

This is the best kind of YA media, it doesn’t treat young adults as idiots overrun by emotion, but as people with untapped potential who need to learn some things. It’s a film about growth, about realising what you’re capable of if you push yourself. It’s also about love (and monsters) about how people change, and that’s okay. He spends the entire film putting his life on the line to try to find his ex girlfriend, only to find out (spoilers) shee’s changed, and they don’t really belong together anymore.

He takes this, not in an angry way, not even in a “but we belong together, I’ll prove you wrong” way. But in a “it sucks, but I get it” way that displays the characters emotional maturity, and a way which is weirdly not seen much in films, but probably should. It’s an important lesson, how to deal with rejection in a normal healthy way. Rejection does hurt, but if you dwell on that and use that as a form of revenge and as your sole motivator, you’re fucked.

Special mention also has to go out to how damn good this film looks. Reminds me of the live action version of The BFG with how it used colours and soft shapes to create great beauty, and then used size and texture to create ugliness. The monsters don’t look too fake, they look like they belong in the world the director has created. So does Mav1s, a robot who isn’t in it for very long, but definitely leaves an impact on you with how robotically sweet she is.

In summary, I’d say you definitely need to watch this. It charms even a cynical bitter bastard like myself.