2020 In Film Day One (The Awful)

This was meant to be posted earlier but I caught COVID so got delayed. And yes, I will be using that as an excuse for everything. “why have you sat about eating chocolate all day?” “COVID”. “Why haven’t you been productive?” “COVID”. “Why did you genetically engineer ducks so they had knives for feet, then try to invade Luxembourg?” “Funny innit? And COVID”

These are the worst of the worst, films I can comfortably say you should avoid. The ones I hate so much that even these short recaps frustrate me. There are two here I think people might disagree with, at least one was highly rated by quite a view people. But again, these are all personal opinions, so fuck it. Eugh, at least after this things can get better.

Artemis Fowl

It’s a good thing I don’t write these immediately after seeing the film. If I did it for this then this section would just be “No. No No. Noooooooooooooo. No.” This could have been good, as it is, it is a film made for nobody. People who aren’t familiar with the books will dislike it because it’s a bad movie, and people who like the books will HATE it due to the changes made. In the original book, Artemis Fowl is kind of a sociopathic genius. In this, he surfs. He’s in trouble at school, but we’re not entirely sure why. He’s not an evil genius, he’s just a kid. It also destroys a lot of the relationships between characters. The relationship between Holly and Root is changed completely due to Root being a woman now, so we don’t have that “you’re the first female here, I put you to a higher standard as you will be used a scapegoat if you fail” relationship. Butler is known by his first name so you don’t have that moment where he whispers his first name to Artemis as he dies. This film inspires nothing but hatred. I know a few people who love the books, I’ve yet to hear a single possible good thing about this.

Original review here

+There’s a chance someone might read the books from this. I doubt it, but there’s a chance.

-What does the thing they’re searching for actually do?

Worst moment: Butler does a twirl. That will mean nothing to those who haven’t read the books but will infuriate those who have.

Babyteeth

Quite a few people liked this, but to me it just sat wrong. The characters weren’t likeable, and didn’t even have a glimmer of humanity yet we were supposed to buy them as a good couple. For this “girl falls for bad boy” film we need to see a reason for her to like him. Yet all he does is steal her shit, break into her house, and kiss other people in front of her. I don’t just not like him, I actively dislike him. And he never gets any better throughout the film, he just continues being a prick. I dislike a lot of films, but this is one of the few films where I actively felt like a worst person for having watched it.

Original review here

+The colours and music are superb. 

-You know everything else I said about this film? Yeah, that.

Worst moment: Three words: Euthanasia Sex Scene.

Bloodshot

The trailer ruined this film. It gave away the key plot point (that he was being manipulated), but that didn’t happen in the film until much later than you’d think. So you can skip most of the film if I’m being honest. That lack of thought and care can be seen throughout the film. There are logical inconsistencies throughout, and some of the background characters are just there to exist, they’re not fleshed out at all. 

+The scene with the flour (although for that to be good, you have to ignore that flour is flammable)

-The lack of thought that went into the script

Worst moment: The trailer. Impossible to enjoy this film when the trailer ruins the plot.

Brahms: The Boy 2

The only saving grace of this film is that it is so forgettable that it’s hard to insult it. I can’t pinpoint specific scenes or moments to tear apart and dissect. I can’t critique a performance or a directorial moment. I’ve got literally nothing. If you were to ask me questions about this film I don’t think I’ll be able to tell you anything. I’m not even sure I can tell you the title to be honest. 

Original review here

+Not as long as some movies

-It gave me NOTHING to work with

Worst moment: The retcon of the first movie. 

Downhill

I like everyone involved in this film, so I should have loved it. It just….it does not work. I feel maybe Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus’s comedic styles don’t work together, they’re incompatible and so when they try to lead a film it just comes off kind of ugly and disjointed. It’s a good idea, a remake of a french film that I think I should watch. But it seems like it’s meant more for an awkward character-based comedy, rather than the “ohuh” kind of comedy this goes for. Maybe Steve Coogan would have worked better? Hard to tell. All I can say is that you probably should avoid this.

Original review here

+Some funny bits

-How small it feels. It feels like a TV episode, not a movie.

Worst moment: None really. There are no peaks and valleys from which to judge it, it’s almost all valleys

Fantasy Island

This looked interesting. I almost expected it to be akin to W.W.Jacobs “The Monkey’s Paw”. A short story about a monkey’s paw (OMG that’s why it’s called that) that grants wishes but with horrific consequences. It’s a tale (or tail, if you want to make a monkey pun) that has inspired episodes of both The Twilight Zone and The Simpsons. It’s an iconic short story that would be perfect for a full-length horror film. They didn’t do that though. It’s nothing like The Monkey’s Paw, and is instead like a big pile of monkey crap. This should have been great, it should have been clever and scary, instead it’s neither. It also features possibly one of the dumbest twists I’ve ever seen. With this, and Truth Or Dare, I think Lucy Hale is becoming a red flag for dumb blumhouse horror movies.

Original review here

+More horror movies should take place on tropical islands. Allows very unique sets.

-The wasted potential.

Worst moment: I’m tempted to say the twist ending. But really the moment where someone asks for a second wish and gets it granted because “plot reasons”. Without her first wish the film has even less emotional impact than normal. Yet without her second wish it would be impossible for the plot to develop. So the script needed both to happen as it wrote itself into a corner. 

Spree

I never brought into this movie. At no point was I sold, outside of the concept. An uber driver/streamer who livestreams as he kills should be a lot of fun. It’s not. I think part of it is due to the character. He comes off as a whiny little bitch. Incredibly annoying to the point where I don’t want him to succeed. And some of the people he kills are also awful racist and other youtubers. So it’s just pathetic people killing horrible people. And the kills aren’t even that imaginative. It could have been an interesting study into how people can be so desperate for fame that it can drive them to do horrible things. That’s a story that’s been told before, but can be very compelling when done right as it’s not done too often. As it is, the film is just “internet bad”, whilst being aimed at people who watch youtubers. It’s insulting to the audience, it’s insulting towards the culture, and it’s insulting to the people involved that they had to work on this.

Original review here

+Good idea.

-The youtube-style editing of constant close-ups.

Worst moment: When he watches clips of a stand-up comedian. We just see punchlines, we don’t see the setups. So we actually don’t know whether she’s good or not, we’re just taking the films word for it. 

The New Mutants

I’m hoping that Morbius will finally give us a mainstream comic book movie with darkness and fear. Maybe my expectations were wrong and I was expecting something it was never meant to be. But then again, even without that, there are still a lot of flaws with this film. Woefully inconsistent characterisation (especially when it comes Anya Taylor-Joys character), CGI that should not be this bad in a film this big, and incredibly unsubtle symbolism. The X-men series seems determined to keep being an embarrassment and every time you think it can’t continue being bad, it proves you wrong. If the series ended with Logan it would have been great, but it’s not just that they continued, but that the films after that are so bad. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as bad as Dark Phoenix. But that’s like saying “well at least the shit I did in my pants isn’t liquid”.

Original review here

+The central romance REALLY works. Even when the characters are just sitting near each other, you can sense the sexual chemistry between them.

-A sad end to the franchise

Worst moment: The narration, it happens multiple times yet doesn’t really add anything. 

Unhinged

This film had an ugly soul. It adds nothing and just seems like someone working through a mid-life crisis. It’s not a film but a series of scenes. Stuff happens but it very rarely matters what order as even after killing people in broad daylight, that doesn’t seem to increase the presence of police. The reaction to it has been even worse, with people sympathising with Russell Crowe’s character in this, despite the character being as despicable as his band was. But this film kind of plays into that. In terms of how the camera treats him, it doesn’t show him as a horror movie villain, it almost films him like the hero in a western. This isn’t helped by the moral of the story seeming to be “let people walk over you, if you stand up for yourself the people you love will be killed and it will be your fault”

Original review here

+Neat idea.

-Very stop start. This would have been improved if it was one long journey of chaos and destruction (sort of like Mad Max)

Worst moment: A long-ish scene that takes place at a restaurant. This occurs AFTER he’s run someone over and killed them, and after he’s burnt his ex-wives house down. Still no police turn up though

Scoob! (2020)

Films are designed with a lot of things in mind. Budget (no point attempting to make Die Hard on a Clerks budget), the directors vision, the writers vision, even the actors vision (Johnny Depp’s performance in Pirates Of The Caribbean completely changed the franchise), but also you have the audience. You need to know who the film is aimed at. There’s not point doing a Die Hard sequel that is a romantic comedy, it will annoy the audience. This is why Birds Of Prey was a weird film, as it seemed to be aimed at young teenage girls, but then the rating made it so they couldn’t see it. I bring that up for this film for two reasons:

  1. To pad out the review.
  2. Because I’m not sure who it was aimed at.

The humour was very childish, but it was full of references to obscure Hanna-Barbera cartoons, one of the main characters is Blue Falcon, who’s television show ended in 1977. People might know Captain Caveman, but only through Family Guy and Simpsons references to the character. It’s just a bit of a weird choice as the intended audience won’t understand the references, and the people who would understand it won’t like the film.

This film seems to not like Scooby Doo that much, seemingly spending a lot of time mocking the characters. There’s a time and a place for slightly cynical and wry reboots, but that time and place will never, and should never be, scooby doo. He is brightness and light in a dark world. A symbol of skepticism and grounded reality-based courage in the face of fear. It’s about facing your demons head on, and realising that 90% of the time, the villain is not some mystical demon from an unspoken world, but a rich old white guy who just wants more money. It’s a childish franchise, with all the joy and wholesomeness that that entails. And trying to turn that into some cynical semi-gritty film just to suit modern audiences destroys the entire point of the character. It would be like doing an Assassin’s Creed game set not in the lush landscapes of medieval Italy, but instead in 1980’s Britain, where you just spend your time sitting around waiting for a bus.

It has some comedic moments, but they’re just enough to make up for how pedestrian a lot of the film is. The animation is….well kind of plastic. It reminds me of video games in the late 90’s. After the success of Mario 64, platform games felt the need to force themselves into 3D designs, even if it didn’t suit the characters. It was done because “progress” and the old 2D games felt outdated. But since the games were so ill-suited to a 3d environment/design, the push to feel modern only made them look more dated, like they were unsuitable for modern audiences (whereas if they stayed 2D, it wouldn’t have been noticeable). The animation for this is similar, the modern animation style doesn’t suit these characters. In 20 years time when people draw the Shaggy, Velma etc. They won’t be doing it based on these designs, they’ll be doing it based on the classic style, because that will definitely outlast this.

This year needed joy, it needed something wholesome. It needed Scooby Doo, and this? This isn’t Scooby. Also, no Matthew Lillard, which is unforgivable at this point as he pretty much IS Shaggy.

Becky (2020)

Hadn’t heard much of this film, but it has Kevin James playing a Nazi and a sociopathic 13 year old hunting him down. This should be a lot of fun. Plus it’s short enough that it won’t outstay its welcome. Basically I wanted schlocky fun.

With that in mind it’s weird how the main issue with the film is how empty it is. It has nothing. The entire film could be done in 4 minutes and you wouldn’t really lose anything. I’m not asking for a Die Die You Nazi Bastards film to double as a philosophical insight into the unbearable lightness of being but I expect it to scratch a little deeper than the surface. I mean, it has 100 minutes to fill, give us something we wouldn’t have got from the trailer. The only added moment is that the nazi’s are searching for a key that will help them with their agenda of saving the world from the curse of black people existing. Why do they need the key? The film doesn’t say. It could be for a weapons cache, but that would be a bit weird as they already have the capacity to kill people, and it’s not as though guns are difficult to buy in America, you just need to prove you’re white and boom, you have your license. The way they treat it, like it is the only thing they need to bring a cuntpocalypse on the world, so maybe it’s something mystical? We don’t know, and to be honest I’m not entirely sure the film-makers do either.

I guess that’s the biggest issue, just the complete lack of care and thought that went into it. It’s like they had the general idea and thought that would be enough to carry the film. The only people that seemed to care were the performers, and the make-up team who do really good work here. There’s a scene where Kevin James’s character gets his eye gouged out so it’s just dangling there, he cuts it off. It looks and feels brutal to the point where you almost have to look away as it happens. Weirdly, this doesn’t effect the film at all. There’s no moment where him losing an eye changes the plot at all. That’s weird, and again shows the lack of thought and care that went into the script. I’m not asking for it to become his entire personality, but at the very least have it change SOMETHING.

So yeah, it’s a shame. It’s worth seeing for the performances, and the weirdness of seeing Kevin James in a role like this, but once you get past that, it really has nothing to offer.

Run (2020)

To say expectations were high for this is an understatement. This was written and directed by Aneesh Chaganty, who gave the world Searching, which was without a doubt my favourite film when it was released that year, and is probably in my personal top 5 of all time.

I was incredibly excited by the trailer, but there was a small niggling in my head that I knew what was going to happen. I mean, the trailer made it pretty obvious that (spoiler) the mother was keeping her hostage so it wasn’t really shocking that that turned out to be the case. To go from the SHOCKING reveal in Searching to this can’t be seen to be anything other than a let down. Searching made you feel dumb you didn’t figure it out, this seems to go the opposite way and try to make you feel smart for figuring it out almost immediately.

But maybe that wasn’t the point. Maybe it wasn’t about the end point, but the journey, and this is one hell of a journey. Everything in this film is expertly done, the performances, the music, the directing, everything is as you need it to be. It’s so well done that even though you know what is going to happen, you’re never bored or distracted throughout. THIS is how you build tension in a movie.

Crucially, it’s incredibly minimalistic, a listed cast of 4 and 99% of the film takes place inside the house. This means that you REALLY feel the characters isolation and desperation. It’s an incredibly smart choice that really suits the film. So many films that try to do this get bored of their locations and characters so break it up with other locations, but this usually breaks the tension completely. So for this film to have the intelligence and bravery to stick to it’s guns for the betterment of the film is admirable.

So yes, go see this film. You probably do know where it’s going, but it’s great. And I haven’t seen a closing scene this genius since Knives Out.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020)

Well this was a shock. The character of Borat was thought to be dead, and for good reason; how can you trick someone when everybody knows who you are? Plus, what would it have to say? Didn’t it say everything it needed to say in the first movie?

So it was a genuine shock when they announced this film, not that it was being done, but that it had already been completed and was being released in a few weeks time. I love a surprise release, and they haven’t come more surprising than this.

What’s a bigger surprise is how easy it was for him to get people to say some really stupid shit. The character may be from Kazakhstan but the film is very reminiscent of Russia, in that it’s funny, until it very suddenly definitely isn’t. And it happens very quickly when he goes into a shop and asks whether one of the gas they sell will kill gypsys. The shop assistant replies that he needs to get the bigger one.

It gets much worse, with a scene late on in the film where he gets a festival full of people to sing that journalists should be executed, after choosing between that or injecting them with COVID. Oh yeah, this film mentions COVID, and brilliantly. COVID is the first pandemic in the age of mass misinformation, and the stuff that people say in this is shocking, but also not unexpected. Maybe that’s a weakness. A few years ago, someone saying that the leader of the opposition in America created a disease in China and then unleashed it on the world just to take down the president would seem insane. Today it’s actually US government policy. So how can it be possible to shock and surprise when stupidity and hate is the default setting of half the population?

Enter Rudy Giuliani, a guy who led New York through the aftermath of 9/11, and has since destroyed his reputation with, well just his general personality, although launching a fundraiser and asking guests to donate $9.11 probably didn’t help. In this film it’s not so much what he says, but what he does, he goes to a hotel room of young woman who is interviewing him, lays on her bed, and then he, well he fluffs himself. It’s incredibly creepy and is filmed in almost haunting silence, like you’re watching a slow-motion disaster. This was huge news, in that it made the actual news. On the downside this meant you knew it was going to happen, on the upside it means that there’s a slight chance (very slight) that Borat decided the election, weird.

What’s also weird is that this actually has a good plot(brilliant segue there, fucking seamless). It acknowledges the first film, and focuses on Borat living in shame and Kazakhstan being ashamed of him (which is very based in reality considering their reaction to the film), which causes him to have to go in disguise for this, travelling US with his daughter. Oh yeah, he has a daughter (Tutar, played expertly by Maria Bakalova), and truth be told she provides some of the most shocking moments. Not only the aforementioned Rudy moment, but she swallows a plastic baby from top of a cupcake and goes to get an abortion, saying her dad put it inside her. To which the doctor tries to talk her out of having an abortion because America.

She also provides a lot of the emotional weight. Particularly when a babysitter (Jeanise Jones), is genuinely shocked and tries her best to help Tutar. She’s not scripted, her initial behaviour was to help this poor woman, that’s her genuine human nature, and it’s wonderful to see it in this film. Obviously people agree, as they raised $150,000 for her. I think that’s thee important message of this film, and I don’t know where it was intentional or not. But when rich white guys are dicks to people, there will always be others there who are looking to help. Whether it’s a black babysitter who is concerned for Tutar, a young white girl who calls her own father out on being a creepy bastard, there will always be kindness in the world, you just need to find it. There’s a moment where Borat goes to commit suicide by hugging a Jew (it makes sense in context) and ends up having a beautiful conversation with a holocaust survivor. Keep in mind he enters the synagogue dressed in what can only be described as “Jewface”, dressed head to toe in hate. And this woman, who has seen what this hate leads to, she approaches him without hesitation and gives him a hug. It’s stunningly beautiful and incredibly heartwarming. Sacha Baron Cohen obviously thought the same as he actually broke character and told her that he was just playing a character.

The most beautiful moment comes at the very end, and I’m not entirely sure if it’s Sacha Baron Cohen as himself, or as Borat. He tells Tutar (or Maria), “you were amazing”. It makes sense in the film to be said by Borat, but he says it in Hebrew, which makes me think it was Cohen. It’s…..it’s beautiful. And weirdly, that’s what I’ll remember from this film, the love. And I NEVER thought I’d say that coming into this.

Underwater (2020)

The opening for this had me very excited. Mainly because they set up the story through the opening credits. They told you there’s a deep drilling operation going on, and that there are rumours of strange sightings nearby. It also points out the normal hazards so that you know that even without the “strange sighting” they are still in danger. It’s a fantastic use of the opening credits and is a great example of effectively maximising time to tell a story.

The music is good too, it’s like a synth Jaws. Creepy and claustrophobic, it will haunt your mind while you listen to it. It gets better once the film starts because you have this intense creepy music, and then….silence, nothing, playing over a shot of empty rooms. It’s really creepy and meant I was fully on board for this film and ready for greatness.

Then it started, and I was disappointed. For a film that did so much in the opening credits, the film itself took forever to do nothing. It’s trying to be a mix of a disaster movie and Alien, and it fails to do either. They’re two genres which are really hard to pull off, because Alien is a very specific subgenre of sci-fi/horror. It’s one which is dependent on the use of silence and tension to effectively affect you. Whereas a disaster movie is built on noise and spectacle. So for this film to work it would need to be a loud impressive spectacle movie with great use of silence. You can see why that be difficult to do properly, and this doesn’t. Also, just a personal choice, I didn’t like the amount of shakey-cam in it. I found it nauseating. I was watching it on a small screen so I imagine it would have been even worse in cinema. It wasn’t during intense action scenes, just standard walking scenes would have it, and it just put me off.

I mean, the performances are good, Kristen Stewart is shaking off her cinematic demons with aplomb, Vincent Cassel is also good in it, it’s a shame that TJ Miller just seems to play himself though, especially considering that who he is is someone who would phone in a fake bomb threat.

Oh, also this is a Cthulhu film, this is discovered near the end and doesn’t effect the film at all. It could just be a random beast and it would have made no difference. Having it be tied to that mythology is a waste and makes it look like they were trying too hard. Also, they kill it with an explosion, Cthulhu don’t go down like that.

So yeah, stay for the opening credits, then leave.

The Witches (2020)

I love the original (as evidenced here), I love Anne Hathaway, and I like a lot of Robert Zemeckis’ work, he has made some great films which are both terrifying yet also suitable for kids (I’m thinking primarily of Who Framed Roger Rabbit). So I was really looking forward to this. Well, I would have been if I had known about it. I didn’t even know it existed until about 3 weeks ago when I glimpsed a trailer for it. I’ve seen more from films which aren’t out for another year than I did for this, it’s almost like the studio had no faith in it, and for good reason, it’s a mess.

First off, the film has narration from the lead character. But the lead character is a child, and the narrator is obviously an adult, so you know that no matter what, they’re going to survive. Also, it’s Chris Rock, which, I love the guy, but he’s wrong for this. He works for Everybody Hates Chris, because it’s a comedy, but he doesn’t inject either the sense of playfulness, or the dread necessary for this film to work.

This film has a real issue with voices, now I think about it. Anne Hathaway is playing it like she couldn’t pick between five different accents, so just decided to do them all, sometimes switching mid-sentence. It pained me to say that, as I LOVE her stuff usually, her performance in Rachel Getting Married is still one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen in film. But her accent in this film is soooooo bad. I suppose it wouldn’t seem quite AS bad if the role in the original wasn’t Anjelica Huston, who is perfect and I will hear no arguments against it.

There is another vocal performance that was much much worse, and almost hurt my ears with how piercing it was, but I won’t name them as I haven’t heard the performer in anything else, so that might be their actual voice and saying it’s awful would be kind of bullying.

The lead performers are great though. Octavia Spencer continues to be amazing, providing the emotional depth the film needs. I’m unfamiliar with the work of Jahzir Bruno, but he gives a performance behind his years here. You can criticise a lot of this film, but you definitely can’t fault his performance. You can’t fault the general feel of the opening of the movie. Before they leave for the hotel the general feel of the film is one that you can’t help but notice, and really from a directing standpoint the feeling of those moments are the highlights of the film.

The actual witch-based moments don’t come off as well, with one exception. When the main character is having the witches described to them, shapes form on the ceiling to demonstrate what is being spoken about, it’s a moment of wonder and brilliance that is truly worthy of the story. The rest? A woeful mix of bad CGI and weird visual choices means that everything looks fake and kind of stupid. One of the most obvious examples of this is when we see a story from Grandma’s youth where her friend gets attacked by a witch, and gets turned into a chicken. It could be haunting but it never comes off as such, it just seems funny. This is especially annoying as it replaces a scene in the original which I love. In the original the girl is cursed and ends up in a painting, never being seen to be moved, but she does move unseen, and she ages in real time until one day she disappears. THAT’S terrifying. A simple “turned into a chicken” isn’t anywhere near. It could have been, if the parents killed the chicken and ate it. But they don’t.

There is one really creepy moment in this film though. The witches in this have claws, a bit like lobsters. There’s a scene where they click them all together and it’s super unsettling, I wish the film was more like it. It’s that kind of unique innovation that the film is lacking. There’s a moment where the witches all get turned into mice (oh, spoilers, I guess) and it’s a very exaggerated moment where they fly up and land as mice. It’s kind of a cool visual but it’s very flat, there’s no musical accompaniment. It could have been a very cool moment (think of the head exploding scene in Kingsman), but instead it’s just nothing.

I suppose that’s the big issue with this, how nothing it feels. It’s over 100 minutes yet it doesn’t feel like it. I don’t mean that in a good way, it just feels like nothing happens. It introduces very few characters and yet they somehow all feel undeveloped. I just….I just want more.

The Personal History Of David Copperfield (2019)

When 2020 comes to an end I will have a multitude of regrets, as will any year. But one of the big film-related ones will be that I did not see this at the cinema. I feel I owed the people involved in the making of this film that much. It truly is worth seeing. Luckily for you it’s easy to watch as it’s available on Amazon Prime. I highly recommend watching it on that, even if you just get a free trial then cancel after.

Anyone who has ever watched a television show is familiar with A Christmas Carol, and I LOVE The Muppets version, but no matter how good an adaptation I see of it, I never feel the urge to read the book. After this I felt the urge to read the original book to see if some of the brilliance is in that, the well-written characters and situations, the dialogue etc.

I just felt entranced when watching this movie, I was lost in the lush visuals created by director Armando Iannucci, who also did the screenplay. I feel I can’t judge the screenplay completely as, like I said, I don’t know what is taken from the original, and what he created. But either way he deserves plaudits for this, if he kept the dialogue then he should be applauded for having confidence in it and knowing to keep it (much like Muppets did with Christmas carol), but if it’s all his own dialogue then it’s one of the greatest scripts of the year. I feel it was a blend of the two with some of the original dialogue merged with specially created dialogue.

The performances too are great. Dev Patel gives what has to be a career best performance as the lead, giving a slight playfulness to a character which in other hands could be seen as a bit annoying and pretentious. It also has a great supporting cast, Morfydd Clark plays a duel role, and plays both great, but her performance as Dora is incredible, giving the character verbal tics which just make her incredibly loveable and easy to root for. Ben Whishaw is normally one of the most likeable people in any film he’s in, he has a kind face which makes him easy to root for. So his performance as Uriah Heep is stunning, he provides him with a level of sliminess where you never ever feel comfortable when he’s on screen.

If I had a downside it would be that some important characters disappear from the plot, in particular the narrative disappearance of Darren Boyd’s Edward Murderstone. This might be unfair though as it could happen in the book.

So should you see this? I feel you have to. It’s a delightful piece of film-making which is guaranteed to have you having a warm feeling inside you when you reach certain points. I haven’t felt this much cinematic magic emanating from a screen since I watched The BFG, and as anybody who has spoken to me can attest, that’s high praise.

Spree (2020)

This was potentially a dangerous watch for me. It’s about a guy who livestreams a killing spree for attention because he livestreams and has zero followers and wants attention. A guy putting his heart out there for the world to see and yet still struggling to get enough views on his content is something I personally relate to, to the point where I did wonder if I was mentally strong enough to watch this film. Luckily for me this film doesn’t have the emotional core to really effect you, and this is obvious from the opening.

The opening doesn’t really grab you. There are moments where the situations were funny but for whatever reason I didn’t laugh, they just weren’t directed well. I think it’s because they were shot like a youtube video, and were edited as such too. That “youtube jump-cut” style of editing doesn’t sit well with the style of humour they were attempting, the jokes need to percolate and have time to hit, but the rapid-style editing means they’re unable to do that. Also, he’s talking to himself/an audience which isn’t there for a lot of the film, so he has nobody to bounce off. Comedy is hard to do when you can’t show reactions, and this just shows it. It gets funnier when he picks up his first passenger who immediately questions all the cameras. But after stating “but what if I’m not okay with it?” he then just accepts “they’re for protection” without argument. I feel this is a waste of a potentially very awkward and funny scene of him arguing about not wanting to be on camera during a livestream. It could lead to the first murder too, have it mid argument or something. Although this does lead to something great where the guy he’s picking up is so mildly racist. Talking about IQ studies on different races. “you’re okay for a libtard”. I’m so glad that shit is hopefully dying soon. Much like the racist, who drinks poisoned water. Kind of annoying writing, he’s racist so it’s okay he died. But the water was poisoned and offered to him before we found that out, so it’s not really a good death in terms of intention. He didn’t intend to kill a racist, he killed someone who turned out to be racist. So it doesn’t really work for me in terms of making him a sympathetic character. Also, the main character wasn’t broken down enough to the point where it seemed like a logical step. There’s no inciting incident which you feel drives him to that point. You don’t really feel his desperation that much, I think part of that is because we only see him as a livestreamer, we don’t know what he’s like when he’s not “on” so we are always aware that the personality we see will be an exaggerated version of what he’s like, and we never see the real him.

The film also has difficulty showing us funny. Like there’s a part where he’s scrolling through an instagram of a comedian and watching some of her stuff, it’s just a mash of punchlines without setups and setups without punchlines. So we don’t really get her character, it would have helped if they showed her doing some one-liners or a whole joke. It’s like the writers couldn’t think of any full jokes so just did those and hoped we’d fill in the gaps. The film also doesn’t lean fully into the gimmick. It’s mostly done via livestream so we can see comments and reactions, but then there’s a lot of moments when it’s not, and they’re some of the most interesting moments where you want to see peoples reactions. I think with a film like this you either need to go super dark and disturbing, or just embrace the insanity and be as off the wall as possible, this doesn’t feel like it wants to fully go either way and feels less because of it.

Overall, what does it have to say? “the internet is numbing us to real tragedy”, well, obviously. You need to go deeper, and this just doesn’t have the intelligence. Also it provides no alternative viewpoint, at no point does anyone point out that this is fucking insane. The film shows us how the internet is a cold unfeeling place, but then also seems to say that it’s the most important thing in the world. This won’t change how you view the world, and it’s just not entertaining enough to make up for it.

On the plus side the central performance is great. Joe Keery is not given a good a character to do, but he plays him very well. Also the general concept is brilliant, it just doesn’t make the most of it.

The Final Word: Day 5 (Final Destination 5)

This is the most expensive blog I have ever done. Time to delve into my personal life for a second here, I’m currently getting kitchen refitted, and during the course of doing this my electrics got shorted, this ended up frying my Xbox, which I use as dvd player. Now I had actually prepared for this blog by putting the dvd in there ready. So I had to buy a new xbox (well, second hand), and then get a paper clip to get the old dvd out. But then the new old Xbox didn’t work, so I had to get another one delivered. Hence, this being later than usual. Also, I know I’ve made some typos in some of the previous posts, and no, I don’t spell-check these. The point of these are that the comments and opinions are off-the-cuff. I watch the film with the IMDB trivia page open, and make comments as I go along, referencing the trivia page if I find something interesting. If I started going over what I’d done I’d start deleting EVERYTHING for not being perfect. Anyway, with that over, let’s do this.

  • I love these opening credits. The music is suitably creepy, it’s the first time it’s seemed like the music has been made for a horror movie rather than just generic rock music. The visuals show things smashing through windows and exploding, so gives you an idea of what to expect, without spoiling everything.
  • It’s a sales retreat for a company named Presage. I don’t need to tell you why that’s significant as I’m sure you’re already aware what that means. But in case you need help explaining it to your stupider relatives, it means “A sign or warning that something, typically something bad, will happen, an omen or portent.”.
  • We meet who I assume are the core group of the film. Peter, the manager of Presage, played by not-Dave Franco actor Miles Fisher. Seriously, google Miles Fisher and then Dave Franco.
  • Sam, played by Nicholas D’Agosto, Peter’s friend/employee.
  • Molly, Sam’s ex, very recent ex, she dumped him like 5 seconds ago. A note about that scene, the backgrounds seem weirdly disconnected, like they used a green screen for some reason.
  • Peters girlfriend Candice, who works as an intern for Peter’s company. Bit weird.
  • Olivia, who wears glasses and is introduced having slept with someone in a band, she then strips to her underwear because this franchise cannot write female characters.
  • Isaac, who creepily hits on Molly in a way that he can conceivably deny when HR pulls him up on it.
  • Dennis, played by David Koechner, who is introduced bitching at Sam for correcting him when he got Sams name wrong.
  • Nathan, who gets pulled away from his job for this retreat, which annoys people he works with for some reason.
  • Sam has been offered a job in Paris. Trips to Paris ALWAYS work out great in this franchise.
  • He’s creeped out by a sign on the bus saying “Watch your step”. Why? Why is that creepy? That’s standard.
  • On that note, anybody else remember when bus’s made you climb like a foot of stairs before getting on the bus? They just really hated disabled people didn’t they?
  • They get on the bus, in a scene which really should have been the opening. Having them waiting for the bus gave nothing. Could have had it start here and talk there, have them drive past more foreboding stuff.
  • Hey, a log truck. Those things are super scary now.
  • Now we’re shown the only thing scarier in this franchise than log trucks: wind!
  • The wind causes the bridge to collapse, somehow. Once it starts collapsing, everybody stands there watching it, instead of, you know, running away.
  • Candice falls off the bridge and lands on the mast of a boat sailing underneath. I don’t think it was safe for that boat to be sailing in that weather, but what do I know?
  • Isaac dies next, he stayed in the bus as he was in the bathroom phoning a “lady friend”.
  • Olivia loses her glasses, didn’t see that coming.
  • She dies, in a way that her losing her glasses didn’t effect at all, a car fell on her.
  • Nathan gets whacked off, and not in a sexy way.
  • The support bars start coming off the bridge, snapping off elastically.
  • Dennis dies next, being covered in hot oil. Again, not in a sexy way. It’s actually pretty horrific to see.
  • Peter dies next, a pole impaling his face in a really bad special effect.
  • And then Sam dies, obviously. Handy thing about this film is that he was in a position to actually see all the deaths so know which order they took place in.
  • But not really as that was a vision, shocking!
  • He immediately gets everybody off the bus, well, all the named characters anyway. What a crazy coincidence.
  • “How did you know? You said you saw it happen, that sounds premeditated to me”. You think he controls the wind? How does he look guilty at all considering it was clearly wind?
  • “Tell me about the break-up, was he upset?” He got dumped that morning, a few minutes before getting on the bus. You think he was able to somehow organise a bridge collapse in four minutes and without actually going to the bridge?
  • 86 people died in the bridge, the news calling it an accident caused by high winds exacerbated by construction work weakening the structure. If that’s the case, then the construction company and whoever approved the construction are at fault, surely? They should have closed the bridge whilst construction was going on.
  • Weird how this is a prequel (oh, this is a prequel btw, but you never find out until the end), and yet this disaster was never mentioned again in the series. Almost like they were making it up as they went along.
  • A mass funeral for the employees, oh that’s grim.
  • Hey, it’s Tony Todd again, being creepy and foreboding. That dude gets everywhere.
  • We now find out why Molly dumped Sam. He got offered a job placement in Paris and didn’t take it as it would mean leaving Molly, she thinks he should have taken the job as it would be better for him. So yeah, we have actual character motivations in this film.
  • Oh damn this death is early. It’s the death of Candice, and is probably the best known death from this film. She’s doing flippy-shit style gymnastic stuff, but it’s not in the Tokyo Dome so won’t earn 5 stars.
  • Lots of fake-outs, and they’re actually well done as we’re not certain about how she’s going to die so you don’t already know to ignore everything irrelevant. There’s a loose nail on a balance beam which is anxiety inducing to see someone work on it. An electric cable laying water looking dodgy.
  • She gets off the balance beam, without stepping on the nail. Is just about to get electrocuted but she stops that by putting a towel on the water running towards her. She didn’t think to notify anybody about the water-logged electrics causing sparks.
  • But nope she dies on the bars when someone else steps on the nail (why she didn’t check and clear the beam off before is lost on me), falls off and knocks that weird white chalk that gymnasts use into Candice’s face, causing her to fly off the bars and land on her neck, her body almost bent over itself. It’s gross, it’s impactful, and I love it (title of my sex tape).
  • Sam comforts Peter about the death of his girlfriend. “I came as soon as I heard”, you have gross fetishes, dude.
  • Olivia’s response to Candice’s death “We should have seen it coming. You’ve seen the crazy shit they do, I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often.” So kind and thoughtful.
  • Isaac is going through a woman’s desk at work and stealing her shit, and being creepy. He goes through someone elses desk and steals a gift certificate for a spa.
  • Peter brings alcohol to work “if I drink it alone, that would just be sad”. Wait, you guys don’t do that?
  • Isaac tries to use his gift certificate at a massage parlour. Asking for a happy ending and refusing to back down when he’s told that’s not happening.
  • His response to an Asian masseuse walking past him? “Yum yum dim sum”. Well that’s racist.
  • He makes comments about the staff at the building, I know this film is set in the early 2000’s but even then that shit wasn’t okay was it?
  • Who am I kidding, if businesses refused a customer just because they were sexually harassing staff members then bars would have no male customers.
  • “I’m sorry, do you come with subtitles?” Super fucking racist.
  • “What happened to the younger version of you?” Only semi racist, an improvement.
  • He essentially gets beaten up by an elderly chinese lady, in possibly the only thing he doesn’t find erotic.
  • Back with the main group still at the office, Peter is moping, as is his right. “Peter, there wasn’t anything you could have done”, I dunno, he could have cleared the nail off the beam.
  • Dennis calls the cop from earlier, explaining that he just saw Peter throw a glass at a wall. I’m fairly certain this scene only exists so we can show the cop at the site of Candice’s death. After hanging up, the cop is somehow freaked out by dripping water and a fan, I don’t know why.
  • And back with the sex pest, boooooo. Getting elbowed in the crotch, yaaaay. He’s about to get acupuncture needles jabbed in him, refuses, and then changes his mind, saying “two billion people can’t be Wong”. He then explains the joke. I highly recommend annoying someone who is about to stick needles inside you. Always works well.
  • Smash cut to him with more needles in, looking like a low-budget pinhead.
  • “now go to sleep for 30 minutes and you’ll feel fine”. It takes me longer than that just to fall asleep.
  • He falls off the table, then has a statue lands on his head. Killing him, ah well. I feel we should have had a shot of the staff there reacting to his death, would have made it feel more real. At the moment we only focus on the main characters so it never really feels real.
  • The group finds out about his death. “who dies during a massage?” Well I experienced le petite mort after one once.
  • That’s a very good joke by the way, you may not get it, but rest assured it’s fucking brilliant.
  • Tony Todd shows up, explaining that this has happened before, people survive a disaster then slowly die one by one. We assume he’s talking about the previous films, because we don’t know this is a prequel yet. But he’s not, so that’s ANOTHER disaster that is never referenced in this series. Damnit, are we going to have to have a prequel of the very first time this happened and find out it took place in Ancient Rome or some shit?
  • He explains you can cheat death by murdering someone, then their life gets added to yours. Wouldn’t that make you a shingami?
  • Interesting plot point though,
  • Olivia goes to get laser eye surgery, throwing her glasses away before the procedure. A little presumptuous don’t you think?
  • They show her being prepped for the procedure, her eyes being forced open, and they do not spare the details, it’s super intense and disturbing.
  • The eye-surgeon person (would it be doctor or optician?) leaves the room, because that’s professional. Whilst he’s out, the machine overheats, and she accidentally turns it on (I’ve had that happen to me before too), the superpowered laser starts burning her eye, and causees severe burns on her hand when she tries to protect it. Why does that laser go that powerful? Do eye-surgeons regularly need lasers they can use as weapons?
  • She struggles off the chair and slips on a teddy bear eye that she tore off earlier, then falls through the window and lands on a car (as opposed to her original death, where a car landed on her). In a nice touch, a car runs over he detached eye. Well, I say “nice”.
  • Nathan accidentally kills someone he works with in an argument, pushing him into the way of a hook that falls through the floor and through his neck. So he should be safe for a while, Nathan, not the dead guy.
  • Peter goes to see Dennis, Peter is going crazy talking about “kill or be killed”. Personally I don’t think this works for his character, it would have made more sense for Dennis to be the character that does that.
  • Dennis turns up in the warehouse, and asks “who wants to be the first to tell me what happened?” to the group of people that don’t work in the warehouse and where most of them weren’t there. Would have made more sense for him to go up to the people that worked in the warehouse, but what do I know?
  • He dies, gets hit in the face by a wrench, killing him, and showing why he will never be a champion dodgeball player.
  • Sam goes back to work, seeing potential death everywhere. I know someone who works in McDonalds and she sees the same things.
  • Seriously though, this kitchen lacks basic health and safety protocols. People walk around with sharp objects facing out.
  • Peter arrives and tells a story about how he almost killed a stranger to get their life, but then realised he couldn’t. So instead he is going to kill Molly.
  • He says he’s not going to kill Sam as he’s about to die soon anyway so he wouldn’t gain anything. Typical selfish person, only killing for his own benefit, what happened to killing for the art?
  • He shoots the cop who has been chasing them throughout, and has added nothing. But then gets stabbed by Sam, giving a nice happy ending to this film.
  • We then get the twist, and it’s a fucking good one. It’s the characters from the first film being dragged off the flight. Yup, we’re on the plane crash. We’ve already seen this but it’s worse now we know more about these characters. It’s fucking heartbreaking to see them get thrown off, and knowing what will happen to these characters, it just fucking breaks you man. It also breaks the franchise as nobody ever mentions “these characters cheated death, and then died in mysterious ways” from this film.
  • Back with Nathan in a bar, where he finds out the guy he accidentally killed was due to die soon anyway, at which point the plane engine crashes through the roof and kills him. I get why they did this, but I feel the deaths of Sam and Molly were so heartbreaking that adding a death after that kind of cheapens it.
  • We then get a montage of deaths from the franchise, set to AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood”. Look, I love that song, but that’s not how you end this film. That’s a “fuck yeah!” song, and everybody in this film is dead, that’s not a fuck yeah moment. It should have ended with Sam and Molly dying, then a slow fade to black and credits over near silence. It would have allowed actual emotion into this franchise.

So yeah, that’s it. This was a lot better than than the previous one, the tone was perfect for it and it was much more of a horror movie than the last few. I’m kind of sad this franchise is over, I think a new one was in development before the plague hit, so I’m hoping they continue it. It’s a unique franchise that feels unfinished, we still have questions we need answers to that aren’t just theories and guesswork. But until that happens, we’ll have to end it with this one.