Dark Night: Episode 1

This isn’t just for reviews, I occasionally post my writing, and if you hadn’t guessed I’m going to be doing that again today. Yet another new project to add to the continuing of Headlines, Headspace, Superlee, and Nightmare On Elm Street (as well as a few I haven’t posted on here). This is my current project though and it comes from a facebook conversation, about how superhero movies need to move into other genres, specifically how cool it would be to see a Batman-themed horror film. Hence this, a short series of horror scripts set in the Batman universe.

Here’s the opening to the first episode:

So yeah, a Saw movie with the Joker as the villain. I know the obvious choice would be the Riddler but I’m having one of the characters be a massive Joker fan, someone who worships him and sees him as actually a good guy, like his craziness is to be looked up to. Because that’s what people actually think. Look online and you will see people saying how they agree with the character and he’s actually a hero, forgetting that he’s a sociopathic rapist and murderer. Riddler doesn’t have that sort of fanbase in real life, so it wouldn’t be as effective. It had to be Joker, and I have to make him as cruel as possible for this story to work, to remind people about who he really is. That’s also going to be difficult, to make him an actual villain and not worthy of worship. Considering that on the next page I show him shooting two toddlers just to prove a point, I think I’ve done that pretty well.

Few things I need to change, one of which is I need to figure out who one of the characters is. Done about 40 pages (this is just the opening) and there’s one who I still haven’t really established so I need to do that, then go back and change them. I’m also working on a sub-plot involving the police searching for victims in other similar rooms around the city. I’ve done parts of that (and it involves a simply BRUTAL death for someone which I’m looking forward to showing people) but it’s difficult to slot them into this narrative without it seeming like it’s disrupting the flow.

Also I definitely need better puzzles, I haven’t got too much experience in escape rooms and I think that shows.

Other than that, I feel confident that I can finish this script and make it a satisfying read. I’ve placed enough subtle clues as to where things are going that I hope will provide satisfying resolutions. I just need to actually settle down and do it now. I’m also very excited by other possible episodes as they will allow me to do different kinds of horror. I’m thinking the Poison Ivy episode will basically be a zombie movie, Scarecrow will be akin to Nightmare On Elm Street, and I definitely need to do one set in Arkham. Other than that, not sure yet. Let’s wait and see.

Normal reviews will be back on Friday, with either Sweat or People Just Do Nothing, only saw those films yesterday so haven’t had time to do a review yet, spoilers, they’re getting good ones,

The Columnist aka De Kuthoer (2019)

Quick Synopsis: Femke Boot (played by Katja Herbers) is an author who is fed up with the constant abuse she gets online, so decides to fight back with murder in a slick social satire.

I was looking forward to this since I first saw the trailer. I showed someone it and they said “Oh that looks right up your street”. And it is, it’s funny, has something to say, has a good look, and looks violently fun. The closest to this I’ve seen is probably I Blame Society. But that wasn’t as focused as this is. This has a definitive villain, but also doesn’t. The problem the main character is dealing with isn’t a single person, it’s a societal imbalance. When that’s handled badly it can ruin a film as it makes the characters journey seem hopeless as if they can’t win, what’s the point of trying? But when done well it will annoy you and you’ll love seeing the character fight back. This is in the second category.

It’s a film that’s deeply uncomfortable to watch, in a good way. The handy thing about this type of plot is you don’t need a big breaking point. You don’t need a “oh, this is what set her off”. There’s no “this is the one incident which caused her to be angry”, it’s just “she’s a woman that has expressed opinions about sexism on the internet”, and everybody will automatically understand her rage and annoyance.

The film would fall apart without the performers though. If you don’t buy what the performers are selling, it won’t work. I know nobody in this film, so I went in with a blank slate in terms of expectations, and I love so many of them. Claire Porro plays Femke’s daughter, and she injects a mischievous energy to her performance, making you aware that even when she’s sitting there looking beaten, she has a plan. She’d make a great villain in a Bond-like movie. Tremendous talent for someone so young. She injects a level of fire to a film that’s already burning, simply fantastic to watch.

While Porro is good, it’s definitely a showcase for Herbers. She gives a great performance. It’s weird to judge performances in foreign languages as it’s based almost entirely on physical performance, you’re not aware of word emphasis etc which could be ruining it. So for all I know, she did terribly and her line delivery was terrible. But for me, judging by what I saw, she was great. It’s a difficult role to do as she has to be likeable, but also a serial killer. So she has to have that weird mix of danger and sweetness. It’s a testament to both her performance, and to the writing, that it works as well as it does.

Now onto the writing, I kind of assumed this was written by a woman, or at the very least directed by one. Not the case, written and directed by men. I kind of like that as it shows that it’s not just women who are disgusted by this behaviour, other men are too. It could be argued that they’re taking away women’s voices, but alternatively it could also be argued that they’re using their position of privilege to amplify issues which others face. If they stay silent, nothing changes for them, they can go on and live their lives. They put themselves in the firing line by calling out their peers, and doing it in such a visceral and clever way that it’s hard to ignore.

Trust me, this film is bloody, and this film is violent. But it’s also very very funny. Not just in the actions but the dialogue too. There’s a sense of playfulness to it that is artfully done enough that it never takes you away from the violence you’re seeing. And it’s very violent, there’s a fantastic montage of her killing misogynistic assholes and I’m all for that kind of violence in cinema.

I guess it’s time to talk about the misogyny that drives this film. It’s a story that so many people will be familiar with. A woman posts an article online saying something like “hey, maybe blackface isn’t a good idea and we should really stop it, and just saying It’s Tradition isn’t good enough”, and gets a lot of hate mail, most of which is misogynistic in nature (“This woman should be impaled cunt first”) . Lots of death threats, lots of people calling her an ugly cunt etc. It’s an ugly part of the film, but it’s an honest part of the film. Whether we like it or not, that is what the internet experience is for a lot of women, and it’s, well it’s not “nice” to see a film say this, but it is good to see a spotlight shone upon it.

Weird thing about this film is something that was completely accidental. Now, there was an incident last week where a twatface dickhead shot people because he wasn’t getting laid enough (that’s not me being glib, that’s pretty much what he said). And here’s a picture of him, and a picture of one of the guys in the film who sent the aforementioned “impaled cunt first” message.

There’s…..there’s definitely a similarity there isn’t there? Very creepy, and the fact it reminded me of such a horrible event does slightly taint it somewhat. But that also kind of shows the power of the film and how accurate the portrayal of the culture is. Good satire reacts, great satire predicts.

So, the downside of the film? The ending, it’s in the trailer so you know it’s coming. Although I suppose with this it’s not so much the destination as it is the journey, and it’s one hell of a journey. There also will be some people who don’t think the ending is complete, but I loved it. It just required you to step away from the film and realise the next steps for every character, I love when that happens as it makes the characters seem like real people.

One final thing: De Kuthoer does not translate to “The Columnist”, it actually means “Cunt whore”. So don’t compliment Dutch writers by calling them Kuthoers. That’s a mistake you only make once.

A Perfect Plan (2020)

Quick Synopsis: Four thieves wake up in a warehouse and are forced to carry out a diamond heist. No, it’s not as exciting as that makes it sound.

Occasionally I watch bad films. One of the annoying things about having to review them is it means I can’t walk out. On the upside that means I can usually get a pretty entertaining review fuelled by bile and anger (as was the case for Wolf). Failing that, I can at least make it interesting by suggesting ways the film could be improved (as in the case of Fantasy Island), so at least the review has something to say.

Then there are films which are bad, but I struggle to write about. Films which are not just bad, but dull. Films where I almost have nothing to say, where I can’t begin to suggest improvements or single out issues because nothing about it works. This is one of those films. The concept? The concept is fine. A group of thieves being forced to commit a diamond heist? That works for me. Although considering they have to leave the building they’re trapped in to commit the heist, did they really need to be trapped in their to begin with? Could they not just as easily just be threatened and blackmailed? The film wants them to be trapped, but it also NEEDS them to leave the building and it never really gets comfortable with both those things being alongside each other. I will admit, there is possibly a slight chance that there was a great explanation for all of this somewhere in the film, but it was so incredibly dull that my brain switched off.

I like my heists movies in one of two ways: Fun as fuck, or intricate and smartly written. This is neither. The actual heist itself is incredibly dull, with dissolve cuts showing the character transitioning towards the safe, going through laser trip alarms. Why would you transition quickly through that? That takes away from the “will they manage it?” aspect which is crucial in a film like this. The “going through the lasers” is a trope of these movies, and that’s because they’re SO easy to add tension and suspense to. The audience gets to see how close they are to failing, knowing that a small slipup can derail the whole plan. So getting rid of that aspect is a massive loss to the film. It would be like doing a slasher film and not having the final showdown. It does rely on some of the old cliches, the backstabbing, the “everything is not as it seems”, but they’re so badly done it’s like the writers knew they had to do them, but they didn’t know why.

This would be forgivable if the characters were well written. They’re not. Animated films from the 1930s have more dimensions than these characters. They’re so bland you can eat them between courses to cleanse your pallet. It’s not helped by the performances, I’ve seen some of the actors from this in other things and they can be good, but it seems like they seemed to have picked the worst line reading every time. None of the performances seem natural. It’s like nobody on the film seemed to give a shit about making it the best film possible. It lacks passion, it lacks brains, it lacks anything that I would want to see in a movie.

How bad is it? This is the first film where I’ve got close to just turning it off and binning the review halfway through. I usually post these a few days after I see them so that I get enough time to gather my thoughts and compose them properly etc. I finished this about five minutes ago. I’m posting it because I don’t want to think about this film for a second longer than I have to. Once I post this, it will be wiped from my memory and I will never need to think about it again (at least until the end of the year anyway).

The Suicide Squad (2021)

Quick Synopsis: A group of sociopaths get forced to team up to steal shit from an island. Chaos and hilarity ensues.

This was either going to be amazing or a complete mess. James Gunn managed to capture lightning in a bottle with Guardians Of The Galaxy, but that was a film with (lets be honest) not many people paying attention to it. There wasn’t really much expectations for it. This was the opposite, the critical failure of the last Suicide Squad movie meant that people were waiting for this. Some were waiting for it to fail, so they could continue to decry the DC Universe, they were waiting for the smallest mistake in the film so they could call it trash. Whereas some were the opposite, using anything positive to show that it’s an example of Gunn’s genius.

All I can say is that the first group will be disappointed. This is a brilliant film. It’s incredibly funny, brilliantly slick, and makes the most of the rating it’s been given, being gleefully violent. The violence is strange, it’s kind of horrific in parts, but it’s so out there that it’s weirdly comedic. This is best demonstrated in a scene where Peacemaker and Bloodsport walk through a village killing everybody in a “top this” competition with each other, the kills getting increasingly brutal and sadistic as they walk through the village. It’s disturbing and hilarious in equal measure, but it does a great job of selling you on these characters. It’s storytelling through violence, it actually tells you information. The reveal after this scene of who they killed is also hilarious.

There were early concerns that Idris Elba would be playing Deadshot, replacing Will Smith. I can see why that was thought, the characters are quite similar, and have similar motivations. They’re completely different in the actual films though. It helps that Elba is really good at what he does (but he does sometimes pick terrible movies), as is John Cena. They have great chemistry and make a great double act. It’s still weird seeing Cena swear so much when I normally know him as a squeaky clean hero to all, and I’m really looking forward to the Peacemaker spin-off. Actually the whole cast is wonderful, Daniela Melchior, in particular, is a real highlight and I look forward to seeing her do more stuff. David Dastmalchian is wonderfully neurotic in how he plays Polka-Dot man, taking a character who could be a joke and providing him with depth and tragedy. It really is all about Peacemaker and Bloodsport though.

I reviewed the original years ago, and wasn’t very complimentary. This one improves on it in every way. The performances are better, the story is better (albeit still quite simple), the relationships between the characters are better, and the use of music is much better. The original had an issue where it felt overloaded with music for musics sake. For this the music really suits it, and is placed far enough apart from each other that the film actually has moments of silence that allow you to breathe. There are a few characters returning and they’re all done better in this. Harley Quinn makes more sense, Waller seems more dangerous, and Rick Flag feels like a completely different character.

It also looks a lot better, it’s not as bright, but the colours are vivid enough that it’s a pleasure to actually sit and watch. Plus the actual geography of each scene is much better, even when there’s chaos going on you have a grasp of where everybody is in relation to each other.

Sadly, there is a chance this film may not be a huge financial success. It’s confusingly titled to casual viewers, who may be unsure if it’s a reboot, a sequel, or just a reimagining. It’s hard to tell exactly when this film took place too, as the events of Birds Of Prey are completely ignored. In fact, almost all the films before this are ignored. On the plus side that means it works as a standalone movie. On the downside, what was the point of investing time in previous movies then? Could you have not just thrown in a quick line to explain where Huntress etc are?

That’s a small issue though (as is the fact that they continue to make Harley Quinn herself severely overpowered to the point where it feels like she’s the most powerful being in the film). You will enjoy it, mostly. There’s one moment which you won’t; when The Thinker reveals the truth about project starfish. It’s completely horrifying, and one of the most disturbing moments in modern superhero cinema. Somehow it’s more disturbing than half the world dying in Avengers. It’s just so cold, calculating, and downright evil that it’s difficult to think of far too long without being utterly horrified. And it’s amazing. More superhero films should have the guts to go as horrific as this did. To provoke debate about human sacrifice and government policy.

So in summary, well worth seeing, at the cinema, possibly more than once.

Black Widow (2021)

Quick Synopsis: It’s a marvel action film. Do you need to know anything else?

So, this is it, the first Marvel film in two years. Perhaps more importantly, the first one since cinemas reopened. So in summary, there’s a lot riding on this. I actually saw this the day of release, first screening possible. I did this because I felt if I didn’t, that people on twitter would ruin it for me, much like I’m going to ruin it for you, so there’s your warning about that, as this will have spoilers.

In retrospect, I don’t think I needed to do that. There’s nothing in this film which you would really consider ruined if you were warned about it. There’s no moment where your jaw drops and you think “I can’t believe that happened! This changes everything!”. The closest you get to that is the post-credits scene where a character played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus asks Yelena to kill Hawkeye. I saw “character played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus” because I don’t know who she is. Apparently she’s in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, but that was set for original release after this, so are we supposed to know who she is or not? That moment is the closest we really get to a seismic shift. Otherwise it’s just standard stuff really, Florence Pugh’s character looks likely to be a newer version of Black Widow (albeit more morally ambiguous), and her “parents” are free to do whatever.

A note about her “parents”, and about Pugh’s character too, really. Although they weren’t introduced until now, they existed in this timeline for years, having been operational since just after Civil War. Would Natasha not have thought to get them involved in Endgame or Infinity War? You can argue “she didn’t want them involved” or “they didn’t know it was happening”, but that’s only really true for Infinity War. For Endgame there’s not many people left, and most people she was close to got snapped, so you would have thought she would have got all the help she needed. Or at the very least, they would have tried to find her.

I’m so used to Marvel setting things up, that it’s kind of disappointing there’s nothing here that you can really look back at post Civil War films and go “ohhhhhh, okay”. Basically, this film doesn’t need to exist. It’s a two hour way of introducing a few new characters, and to say goodbye to an older one.

Maybe it’s the timing, if you release a prequel it’s for a reason, and this doesn’t really have one. If this got released just after Civil War I’d have looked upon it more favourably. As it is, it just feels, I dunno, needless? It never feels anything other than a footnote. The cinematic equivalent of money you find in the pocket of a coat you haven’t worn in a while.

Now, the performances? Mostly good. Florence Pugh slots in beautifully like she’s been there all along. David Harbour is a lot of fun and I wish we saw more of him in previous films. He’s probably the best written character in the film. Rachel Weisz does fine, she never really wows but she does what she needs to. The worst performer is probably Ray Winstone. You’d think having him as the leader of a villainous group would be perfect for him. Having him in charge of an underground group of assassins would be great for him. There’s just two issues: 1) he’s not really in it enough. 2) His accent. It’s supposed to be Russian (I think), but really it’s just Russian’ around between a multitude of accents.

It’s not just his performance, the way he’s written is kind of weak too. He never feels like a presence over the rest of the film, when he’s not on screen you don’t get the feeling he’s going to attack or anything, you forget him as soon as he’s not there. Doesn’t help that despite being a big deal, he’s never really been mention to much before this. I’m not saying you needed to introduce him earlier in the franchise, but it would have helped to have the opening scene based on HIM doing something, rather than putting so much thought into some of the needless padding. Trust me, there’s some padding here. There was more than one fight scene where I was thinking “okay, so why are they actually fighting? What is this scene adding?”. Our main introduction to Taskmaster (the other “villain”) was one that wasn’t really needed. It took about 5-10 minutes to advance something that could have been done in a single line of dialogue.

Now onto the good side: there’s some great dialogue in it. The new characters work and provide a good future for the MCU if used properly. We finally find out what the turning point was in Black Widow turning into a hero. It has the potential to kick off some very exciting things for the future (all of the trained Widows are freed, so there’s a group of pissed off trained assassins walking the world, if the MCU doesn’t make use of that, it’s a missed opportunity). I like the idea of more prequels, mainly because I still think we need a film set during the period where half the population was missing. Some of the action set-pieces are tremendous fun (although one does seem a bit too Saints Row 3 for me). Very excited to see what kind of things Cate Shortland can do as a director in the future. Has a great cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit during the opening credits (which may possibly be my favourite opening credits in an MCU film). It’s an apt send off for Johansson, and a lot of fun. It’s just, so very popcorn. It is very very good, it just doesn’t seem important enough, and doesn’t really add anything to the franchise as a whole, it just seems to exist solely as a send-off to the character. Which is nice, but still…

Also I bingewatched Taskmaster (the British show with Greg Davies) so it was hard to unhear Taskmaster quotes throughout. No matter how good a film is, you can’t take it seriously when all that’s in your head is British comedians trying to guess how wide a caravan is in baked beans.

Free Guy (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is a NPC character in Free City (an open-world GTA-like game) who becomes self aware and has to save his world with the help of programmers Millie and Keys (Jodie Comer and Joe Keery)

I had no idea what to expect from this. I say that a lot but I never mean it more literally than I do here, I went to a secret screening at local Cineworld which meant I had no idea what film I was about to see. Truth be told I thought there was a good chance it would be this, and I was hoping I’d be right as I’ve been looking forward to this since the first time I saw the trailer. I’m glad it was this as it’s a really good film, and one I think people will like.

It’s not going to change the world, and it’s not the best film of the year. But it’s better than it should be. It goes a bit further than just pure escapism and at times is genuinely moving. This could have got away with just being dumb fun but the fact it is willing to go beyond that is testament to the work the creators put in.

Turns out a lot of that is due to the non-video game parts. Usually those would be the weakest parts of a movie like this. The boring human parts. But they actually work in this. It helps that Comer is incredible. You probably know her from Killing Eve, but I’ve never watched that so to me everything about her was new and I loved it. Keery was pretty good too, bringing the same neurosis and weirdness he had in Spree. I had no idea there was any non-video game parts in it at all, possibly I’m an idiot. The way they integrate the two plots is really well done too. Plus it’s a logical thing to do really. You need some humanity in it, and if the only notable thing about Guy is that he has traces of humanity, then you can’t just depend on other video game characters to provide that. It also provides the film with the best of the two endings.

Yup, it has two endings. Well it has two worlds, so both worlds need closure. It’s here where we have quite a big misstep, it goes with the wrong one. The real world ending should have been the one, the video game one didn’t have the right emotional nuance to end the film on. I mean, it was nice and warm and funny, but personally I preferred the other one.

Might have something to do with how I didn’t really gel with Lil Rey Howery for some reason. I usually like him in stuff I see him in too which is weird. I genuinely think he was better in Space Jam 2 than he was in this, he was definitely better in Uncle Drew, where he gave his character warmth and humour. In this he comes off just a little bit too “Guy at an improv show desperate for attention”. Reynolds seems to take a while to find his character too. When he develops the personality he’s fine, but in his early “just a video game character” characterisation he doesn’t really suit it. Thankfully that’s only for about ten minutes so it’s not too big an issue.

So in summary it’s not the greatest movie, but it is incredibly fun, and goes deeper than a film like this should be. It’s not a film I NEED to see again, but it is a film I definitely will see again, it’s just so damn good. Funny, smart, has heart, and has a lot of fun cameos. And it has the best posters

Jungle Cruise (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Emily Blunt and Jack Whitehall ask for The Rocks help to take a small boat down the Amazon river so they can find a magic tree.

To say I went into this with low expectations would be an understatement on the scale of “cheese is good on toast”. So much of it pointed to it being a bad film. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Rock and he’s always entertaining to watch, but he’s not someone that will make me go see a film just because he’s in it, he does have a history of films which are kind of forgettable and bland (I’ve seen San Andreas, cannot remember anything from it). Plus as much as I find Jack Whitehall amusing, his character seemed incredibly one note and stereotypical.

I was wrong. Not about Whitehall, his character is quite one note and once you’ve seen him in one scene you know exactly how his character is going to react to everything. You can also guess he’s gay. It’s not explicitly stated, but it is signposted more than Disney usually feel comfortable doing, with him saying that none of the women he was asked to marry “were really suitable for him”. That’s as obvious as they make it, and they count this as progressive, doing the bare minimum.

Other than that, it’s actually fun. It’s not a movie that’s going to change your life. But it is one that you can put on and comfortably watch. It’s the kind of movie they don’t make anymore. A fun adventure movie for kids that will inspire kids. It won’t inspire them to buy merchandise, or to go online, or purchase the video game. It will simply inspire kids to play. To go outside, pretend to be the characters and jump around the park. That’s something weirdly sweet coming from a film based on a theme park ride.

It’s not all fun though, the CGI is unforgivably bad for a film of this budget, normally when I see something this ropey in this type of film, it’s a bridge going over a canyon. The pacing is a mess, and the story is so incredibly formulaic and bland. It also is too obviously hoping for a sequel. It’s also lacking a truly impressive scene. There’s no big action sequence that the film builds towards. No “holy shit” moments. A film like this requires a big marquee moment which everybody who watches will remember. It needs a cinematic mountain to climb, this doesn’t have that. It has the occasional action sequence but they’re more like cinematic small hills. The excitement level stays pretty constant throughout, with no notable highlights.

Maybe kids won’t notice, but adults will. They’ll still have fun though. The film is a wonderful throwback movie to a simpler time. It’s not saying anything major about the human condition or society. You won’t learn anything, and you won’t be changed as a person. But you won’t be annoyed or angered either. You’ll just be taken to a different place for the duration of the film. And sometimes that’s enough.

12 Hour Shift (2020)

Quick Synopsis: A drug-addicted nurse needs to find a spare kidney to stop her sister being killed.

By all rights I should have loved this. It’s an interesting plot, bloody, funny, and it has Mick Foley. For some reason it inspired no bigger reaction than “it was alright”. It was good, but it never felt better than that to me. It never fully grabbed me like I needed it to. I’m not sure why, the performances are great, I’ve only seen Angela Bettis in the 2002 version of Carrie, a film which had many problems but she was not one of them. I think its an issue of the film over-reaching, it attempts a lot more than it needs to. It has so many plates spinning in the air that it never spins them quickly enough. If it cut down some of the unnecessary characters I feel it would be stronger. Because it has so much going on it never really gathers enough momentum to be truly satisfying.

It’s written and directed by Brea Grant, who also gave us Lucky, which was more disappointing but probably had more potential. It’s a shame because she’s obviously really good, it’s just her stuff seems more like stuff I’d see shorts of than features. Not to say this film is bad though, like I said the performances are great, and it’s really really funny when it needs to be.

It’s still weird to see Mick Foley drop the f-bomb considering I always assumed he was allergic. It also looks great, has a kind of washed out greyness too it that really suits the tone. Praise must also go to the uniqueness of the the film. It’s hard to compare it anything because there’s really not much else like this. There’s not nearly enough horror films set in a hospital, especially not one over the course of a nightshift, which is weird as that kind of thing is ripe for horror movie fodder. I feel that may also slightly work against this film, you get the feeling that it’s not quite making the most of the setting and timing. There doesn’t seem to be much in this film that couldn’t be accomplished over the course of a few nights instead of just one. It doesn’t have that race against time that would be great for a film like this. It does seem to do a lot with the location, there are few places this could take place in other than a hospital, although again, it doesn’t make the most of the fact that it’s a night shift. Compare this to something like The Power, which made the most of the creepy nature of hospitals late at night.

Maybe that’s my issue, it doesn’t feel like a horror movie full of darkness and creepiness, it feels a bit like a cheap slasher movie, but the story doesn’t lend itself to that so there’s a real disconnect between tone and story. Also it feels a little too polished for such a scuzzy tale. It needs to feel dirty, but it comes off just a bit too clean. Overall the film suffers a real struggle for tone throughout, and that really hurts it.

This is a film I feel I will like a lot more on a second watch, and I will watch it again someday, just not for a while. Worth checking out though.

I Blame Society (2020)

Quick Synopsis: A struggling film-maker (Gillian Horvat) realises that the skill set to make a movie is the same to commit a murder.

Obviously I had to see this. From the first time I saw the tagline, I knew I had to watch this. The concept was unique, being dark and twisted in a way I really appreciated. It could only go one of two ways: one of my favourite films of the year, or one of the most disappointing.

Thankfully this is squarely in the first camp. It makes the most of the concept, it’s something new and exciting, and the script is incredible. I say that with certainty because it passes one test on whether I love a film or not: it annoys me that I didn’t write this. It seems very me as a concept, and I’m so glad it was handled by someone as talented as Horvat (who directed/wrote this film as well as starring in it). Her background is in short films, and I guess the concept here is best suited for that, there are a few moments where the film seems uncertain of what it’s doing, the ending in particular doesn’t quite hit as it needs to. It also feels quite low budget, but personally I think that works for it. It feels home-made. That’s something that would put a lot of people off, but it really appealed to me and helped bring me into the world. It’s shot like a documentary (of which Horvat has a lot of experience in as a director, and it shows), and it’s not exactly a subject which would allow a big budget as a documentary. In universe, the documentary is not funded by a studio, and she doesn’t have a large crew on which to fall on, it’s pretty much just one woman and a camera. So you do have moments where she sets up a static camera, then people move out of the centre of the frame. There are awkward setting up of shots, the camera isn’t always steady when she’s moving and the lighting isn’t always great. But that all makes sense in universe. It doesn’t seem like “oh, this is low budget and the film-makers don’t know what they’re doing”, it feels more like “this was a stylistic choice to improve the believability of the film”, and I love it.

Now onto the performances, there are a lot of performers in this, but it’s definitely Horvat’s showcase, and she carries it off well. There are a few moments where she doesn’t seem sure what she’s doing, but that feels more like character-work than bad performance. It’s not the best performance of the year by a long shot, but it is one of the most believable. I have no idea what she’s like as a person, but her performance makes me think she’s almost exactly like the character in the film (just less murder-ey, maybe). Again, it’s not something everybody will like, but it really worked for me. It helps with how well-written her character is, so that even when she’s doing horrible things, you root for her. And even when she’s doing stuff that shouldn’t make sense, you can see her logic for it. It’s all very well done.

Another polarising aspect will be the plot. It’s very feminist, and isn’t shy about displaying that. That will be off-putting to some, but I doubt those people will be watching low budget movies anyway because they’re too busy crying that “I displayed basic human dignity to a human female, and she didn’t fuck me. I hope she dies”. With films like this, Lucky, The Power, and Promising Young Woman (which I still really need to see), this is definitely a year of women fighting back in films. A year where they are displaying how fed up they are with dealing with the bullshit they have to on a daily basis, and want to power back against the systems that hold them down. On the one hand: it’s brilliant that those voices are now being amplified and listened to, so that’s great. But on the other hand, it’s depressing that those things still needed to be said.

So yeah, I loved this film, as you can tell. It’s so damn funny and brilliant. It’s a film that will split opinion, but those who like it will really like it. A cult hit that needs a bigger audience, and I genuinely think it deserves it. A film that continues 2021’s streak of fantastic womens films. I will freely admit that Mouthpiece was a much better film, but I have more love for this (and considering how many times I’ve put that film over this year, that says a lot).

How To Deter A Robber (2021)

Quick Synopsis: A young couple (played by Vanessa Marano and Benjamin Papac) face off against a pair of burglars in Wisconsin.

I was interested by this. The concept seemed fun and the trailer? Well my reaction to the trailer was to send someone a link to it and say “this looks like it will be made or ruined by the pacing and directing”. The concept seemed wacky and fun, but the way the trailer was edited made it look weirdly slow-paced. The concept was crime-comedy, but the directing seemed Napoleon Dynamite. It’s a weird mix that doesn’t really seem suited. That was just the trailer though, there was always a chance the actual film would be the opposite.

It’s not. This film is dreadfully slow. It seems like a short film unnaturally stretched out. There are moments here which add nothing and a lot of this film is kind of tedious. You have a lot of the film just setting the plot up, and it doesn’t really do a good job of that. Part of that is that it’s not needed, there are quicker and better ways of setting up what it sets up. It doesn’t help that the situation doesn’t develop naturally. The plot drives the characters actions, their motivations solely being “we need this to happen so the plot can develop”. Chief among this is the “inciting incident” where they think their neighbours house is being robbed, so they break in, and then…….do a séance? Okay then. That’s something believable. They fall asleep and wake up to the house having been robbed. It doesn’t make character sense, and it wasn’t really needed. They could have had the same end result if they just went to the house and found it robbed. The only way this would have changed the plot is would have had to think of another reason for them to move to their uncles house (at the moment they do so because they’re under suspicion of being the robbers because they’re the ones who phoned the police, which is obviously what robbers do after they burgle a house). It’s unnatural and overly written, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason for them staying that nearby if they think they’re in danger. Considering it’s a snowy area they could have just gone with “snow is too heavy” and would have saved time. Plus it would have made the most of the gorgeous setting, something it only really does in the closing stretch. Maybe it’s because Bissell is used to those visuals that she doesn’t realise just how beautiful it has the potential to be. She sees those kind of things all the time so they’re standard to her, but to the rest of the world it’s something new and exciting, and I wish it used it more.

The set-up to the robbery itself is also pretty funny too, when they duct-tape a knife to a roomba, when they get nervous about handling guns etc. It all feels incredibly real. It does still have a few moments where the film is sitting around waiting for the plot to start, but it’s mostly good.

And then the robbery itself starts. And it’s here where the quality of the writing and directing really shines and we get a better idea of what Maria Bissell is really capable of when she’s at her best. It’s slick, smart, and funny as hell. It’s just a shame that doesn’t start to happen until halfway through the runtime. It’s a shame as when the film is good, it’s incredible. Like I said, the robbery itself is a delight to watch (that sounds wrong). If the film was just that, it would have been one of the best things I’ve seen all year. The characters are at their best, and we’re introduced to the robbers themselves, one of whom is played by Abbie Cobb. I’m not too familiar with her work but she is incredible. There’s something of the Anna Kendrick in the way she plays her and I would love to see her do more stuff. The writing is at it’s best here too, the dialogue has a natural flow to it which really makes the situation seem real.

So in summary, see this film, but you don’t need to pay too much attention for the first half of it. As a directorial feature debut, this is incredible and shows a lot of promise. It’s just when it’s compared to other films that it seems to lack, maybe that’s unfair but it’s really the only way you can do it. It has made me want to see what Bissell does next as she’s obviously incredibly talented and has the potential to one day do my favourite film, it’s just she hasn’t quite managed that yet.