It pains me to see that current events will forever taint this movie in my memory. This film was the last one I saw at the cinema before the coronavirus happened. So this might be the last recent review we post for a while (an update will be up shortly regarding our status in regards to continuing this site). That’s a shame as this movie deserves better, it’s an incredibly solid piece of film-making, albeit frustratingly inconsistent. It does some things brilliantly but then does the same thing badly a few minutes later, almost like it was made by two separate people.
The main areas of this for me: visuals and audio. There were times where the film seemed to think “music played at a volume that causes it to muffle” is tension. When it happens in climactic scenes and the music is built towards, then yes it is effective, but there are times where it seems just annoying. Similar with visuals, there are some brilliantly subtle moments, where we just see a breath cloud in the background. But this is let down by other scenes which take place in a frustrating amount of darkness. I get the appeal of hiding a lot, Alien etc did it well, but that was done differently. This was done where the main characters were in darkness, so all you could see were blurry shadows moving around slowly.
Now onto the good; the performances. Elisabeth Moss is PERFECT here. Her broken nature is obvious for everyone to see. Even when her partner isn’t on the screen you can see the effect he has had on her just through her performance. She anchors this entire film brilliantly; if her performance wasn’t as good as it is then the film would suffer.
The worry with taking a classic story like this is making it appropriate for the modern age. “scientists and a special magic potion” isn’t really a formula (hah, science pun) that works for modern movie audiences. Maybe this is because people have access to the internet so fraudulent science will be found out easily. They updated this in the best way possible; it’s a suit made of cameras. This not only is a perfectly logical way to fix some flaws in the power of invisibility (vision works on reflection so if you’re invisible, you can’t see either), it being cameras fixes this. Plus it causes a great scene where the suit gets damaged and starts to glitch in and out of visibility.
So in summary; if you get a chance you should definitely watch this. It’s brutal when it needs to be, but is incredibly human too. If the Dark Universe started with this instead of The Mummy (or the Dracula one they attempted to start it with) then maybe it wouldn’t have been dead on arrival. It’s slow but it makes the most of the time, and it has a truly chilling ending.
I should preface this with the following disclaimer: I don’t like Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. I think she tries to hard to be “crazy” and it hurts the performance as it seems incredibly cartooney. It reminds me of “crazy” pro-wrestlers in the 80’s who would just sit in the background and pull funny faces whilst their manager spoke. It hurts films like this as she’s essentially a cartoon character in a realistic world, and I personally don’t think those two worlds mesh well together. It’s my big issue with Jared Leto’s Joker too; the instant that character has “damaged” tattooed on himself he’s no longer that character as, it’s done for stylistic movie effect rather than in-movie reality. Basically, it makes it seem like he’s doing everything for the benefit of an audience, and it hurts the character. That’s my issue with Robbie’s performance. So if you’re a “OMG Margot is SOOOO perfect and wonderful” then you might want to skip this review.
I wanted to like this film, I really did. It received a lot of hate for having the sheer audacity to be a film which features women both in front and behind the screen. I wanted to write this review and be like “no, support women in film, go see this movie”, but I can’t (and not just because all the cinemas are shut now). My biggest issue is it reminded me of Suicide Squad, like they didn’t learn their mistakes. The complete tonal mess? That’s present in this film. The fear that the film wasn’t comfortable with silence so filled everything with unnecessary noise? That’s here too. The fact that a group of people go from complete strangers to bestest buddies forever? Yup. The Birds Of Prey don’t even really occur until the final scene. So much of the film is about Harley Quinn that it forgets about the group, and not in an effective way. It doesn’t make me want to see more of them (with the exception of one character who I’ll get to later). Harley Quinn is all over this film, which when you’re trying to use the film to introduce a 3-person group for a future movie, seems like a mistake. You know how people felt Captain America: Civil War was more like an Avengers movie than a Captain America movie? This is the opposite, it feels more like a Harley Quinn movie than a Birds Of Prey one. Actually that comparison isn’t really apt, this is more like if Age Of Ultron was called “The New Avengers” based on the final scene. This is a terrible sign for the future because nobody will go see a Birds Of Prey movie without Harley Quinn now, why would they when the studio has done such a terrible job of introducing the characters? Although considering how little money this is making, that’s unlikely (personally I think it was a huge mistake to market this film towards teenage girls and then have it R-Rated so they can’t go see it).
The lack of characterisation hurts none of the characters more than it hurts the villain. Ewan McGregor is clearly having a lot of fun, but he’s not really given enough to do. His character isn’t given anywhere near enough detail, which is a shame as when he is on-screen he’s terrifying.
So yeah, I wouldn’t recommend seeing this film, unless you loved Suicide Squad, in which case what the hell is wrong with you? If it’s part of a box set or if it’s on Netflix then check it out, but it’s just not for me. As I said before though, that might be because I don’t like Margot Robbie’s performance in this (LOVED her in I, Tonya though), so that’s definitely tainting my view of the film. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is perfect in it though, and is the only reason I would see a Birds Of Prey film. Her performance, her character, everything is just so wonderful.
I hadn’t even seen a trailer for this before I watched it, but I knew it was supposed to be really good. All I really knew was that it was a South Korean film, and it was VERY good. I don’t think I’ve watched a South Korean film before so I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of cinematic culture. South Korean or Japanese (and yes, I know they’re distinctly different but this point does apply to both so stay with me) films tend not to make much of an impact on the western world unless they are one of the following two things:
Incredibly fucked up.
So when I heard the buzz this was getting I imagined it to have a really fucked up twist somewhere. I think that somewhat hindered my enjoyment of the film, I kept waiting for a twist that wasn’t going to happen, which was especially damaging because there were a few points where I sensed it approaching it and thought “okay now it’s happening”. Really that’s the main issue I had with this film. That’s quite telling that the main issue I had with this film was basically my own idiocy, if the Oscars gave a shit about horror films then the best actress nominations from the last few years would have been a lot more interesting.
The film itself is nothing like what I was expecting. Like I said, it’s a South Korean film called Parasite and it has a seemingly perfect rich family with something hidden in their basement, so you can see why it took me so long to get used to it not meeting my expectations. It’s actually kind of a nice film. It’s about a family. Yup, that’s all you’re getting. They con their way into all working for the same family. The scenes where we see them do that are pretty damn good; brilliantly edited and paced, very reminiscent of a heist movie. There are a few surprises later on, but really you’re not here for the shocks and twists, you’re here for the experience. On that note, I doubt you’ll see another film like it. On the downside, the satirical nature of it may be a bit too subtle. On the bright side this means more people will watch it, but (and I recognise this is personal opinion) I prefer my satire to bite a bit harder. That’s not a slight against the film, it’s just a personal preference. The final scenes do have to be seen though, incredibly heartbreaking and with just a slight touch of hopelessness that overwhelms you, I love it. So yeah go see it, it’s funny, warm, and features a dog eating sausages next to a corpse.
I was actually excited about this. The idea of a group of people getting what they wish for but it leading to their destruction is perfect for a horror movie. Think about it, since there’s really no limits you get to showcase some incredible set-pieces full of imagination. You can use the characters wishes to display who they are as people. Plus the whole “be careful what you wish for” allows for some creative scripting as well, the idea of your dreams being cursed or not up to what you expected. That’s definitely not the case. The script is formulaic, as is the direction and performances. I’m mainly annoyed by two things, two major issues I had with the film:
The horror wasn’t linked to the dreams.
I’ll go into them in further depth. The first one: the way the wishes end up causing deaths is not really linked to the wishes themselves, there’s no sense of clever Twilight Zone/Black Mirror karma going back to get you kind of thing. I’ll go through them here:
She wants to torture someone she went to school with.
How it goes wrong
It turns out it’s not a hologram and she is actually torturing her. I’m going to go into this specific moment in more detail later on. It then gets darker as she breaks the woman free and they end up getting chased by the torturer. So it just becomes a standard slasher film.
What would have made sense
Simple; have Melanie kill her but then realise that revenge doesn’t fix everything and she’s haunted by the memory of what she did. When she tries to sleep at night all she can think of is what she did.
JD And Brax
“having it all” Basically a massive party at a big house
How it goes wrong
The house used to belong to drug dealers who come to the house to kill everyone
What would have made sense
This could have been the most interesting. All they needed to do was show the toll that lifestyle takes. Basically have them trapped in a never-ending party, forever. No sleep, no rest, no escape. Every time they go to leave the building they’re transported back in, every time they sit down they get forced to join a conga line. Show lots of asshole strangers there who refuse to leave the party.
To accept a marriage proposal she rejected years ago.
How it goes wrong
Okay this is where the film gets weird. She gets exactly what she wanted but realises that her new life with her now-husband and daughter doesn’t actually belong to her and she has memories which aren’t hers. Interesting concept for a horror movie, right? This was done magnificently in Happy Death Day 2 U, in this it lasts a few minutes and then she changes her mind and asks to go back to a hotel fire she caused. Now she’s there again she changes the past by………she doesn’t. The fire still happens. It’s very important to the plot though as she sees everybody else from the island (minus Melanie) there on the night of the fire. So really this only happens for plot reasons.
What would have made sense
Have you seen The Butterfly Effect? Make it that. Show how her decision would have impacted her life; have it mean she failed in her career etc. Basically, have her first wish matter.
To be in the army like his dad.
How it goes wrong
The army think he’s pretending to be a soldier and hold him hostage. This section actually provided the strongest moments of the film, he’s transported to the past when his dad was alive and meets him. There are some great emotional moments where his dad realises what’s happened and they have a great reunion and talk about how his dad died saving his troop. Patrick ends up disappointed when his dad goes to leave as he doesn’t want to go on the next mission because (as Patrick told him) it leads to his death. “but you dying saved your men, that’s why I thought you were a hero, you have to go do it” is essentially Patricks argument. An argument which makes no sense, the only reason he died is because he walks into an ambush he wasn’t prepared for, he’s prepared now, so can tell his men to avoid the ambush. His dad ends up dying anyway when they walk into the house where the aforementioned party is going on (in the present, and no they don’t mention the time discrepancies, the closest you get to it is “oooo magic island water”).
What would have made sense
Keep the “transported back in time to see his dad” part, that part works. But change it so it is his dad’s final mission, and he didn’t actually die saving his men in an ambush. He was part of a top-secret mission to attack something non-human; so a demon, a monster etc. Basically, turn it into a monster war movie (similar to Predator). Ordinarily, I would have gone with “show how his dad was not really a hero and instead killed lots of innocent people”, but the emotional moment of the film is the only part that worked, so it needs to stay.
There you go, it’s fixed. Now what you have is more like an anthology film, with each section having a different tone, with different scares, albeit ones which merge together well. Now onto the ending. The ending twist was that the whole thing was actually Melanie’s wish, and she wanted them all to die because she blames them for her not-boyfriend dying in a fire; Patrick because he didn’t rush in and save them, JD and Brax because they were friends with him and didn’t check he had left the room before they left the hotel, and Gwen because she started the fire. This would have worked if we didn’t see Melanie early on act really confused by the fact the powers of the island were real and she didn’t realise the woman she was torturing wasn’t a hologram. But if she was behind it all, then she knew all the time what was actually happening. So why was she pretending? She was alone in the room so the only people who were watching her were the audience. It was like the ending was written by somebody who hadn’t read the rest of the script. It makes ZERO sense and completely kills the small amount of goodwill I had towards this film. It wasn’t even needed, just play the film straight and let it scare people, not everything needs a twist. If you must have a twist, make it a different way. Cut out the fire sub-plot completely. Yes, if you had them all die and this was hell it would have been obvious, but it would have made sense.
So in response; avoid this movie. I can see 2020 having worse films than this, but I can’t imagine I’m going to see one that wastes its potential as most as this. It’s truly awful, not even worth a netflix watch.