Lucky (2020)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Power (2021)

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

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

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

Spoilers coming up in next paragraph btw

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

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

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

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

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

Plus, it gave us this for an opening:

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

Antebellum (2020)

I’m going to hate myself for saying this, but there’s something VERY Jordan Peele about this film. I know how that sounds, “oh, so all horror films starring black people are Jordan Peele ones now?”. Obviously that’s not the case (it just seems like it because the media can only focus on one black director at a time), but this film is very reminiscent of some of his work. Particularly in the use of music to turn seemingly idyllic shots into horror ones. That’s where the similarities end, this is nowhere near as good as Peele’s work.

In fact, this is actually quite poor. The pacing is one reason, it takes over 40 minutes for the film to introduce a major plot point. This meant it was weird watching for me as I remember watching the trailer and being like “okay this is set in the civil war era, but didn’t she come from modern day and just wake up there? Is that not part of the story?”. And it is, it just doesn’t really go into the modern world until too late in the film. It then stays there for a long time. I get what they were going for but all it really achieved was taking you out of the narrative of the plantation.

As I said, I get the logic behind doing it, horror movies need to start with the horror, particularly for modern audiences who don’t care too much for story and character. So if you had all these non-horror moments in there means you wouldn’t get the audience in the correct mood for the film. But doing it this way means you get taken out, and it really disrupts the flow. I’m not entire sure how you’d fix that, either cut it in half and still put it at the start so her waking up in the plantation is the inciting incident, or you could possibly intercut it, so it doesn’t happen all at once, but in small sections. So you have both narratives happening at the same time.

Also, the way it’s done means you guess the ending. I somehow already knew the ending, but even if I hadn’t, the nature of the flashbacks would have told me. If it started with her in the modern way, then she goes to sleep in a hotel and wakes up in the plantation, then there would have been a “oh maybe it was supernatural” element to it. As it is, you know exactly what happened, and it takes far too long to get there.

Having a THIRTY MINUTE flashback scene is overkill, and really doesn’t work. The writers/directors of this film have primarily worked in shorts, and writing for those is very different from feature length. You can’t anchor the entire thing on one killer scene, and you need to pay particular attention to making sure you have a long narrative, and not just a series of scenes.

There is a fantastic story to be told in this film. About how white America is still haunted by the sins of a past it refuses to acknowledge (it’s very telling how Americans describe the Civil War as “a war to free the slaves”, rather than “a war to keep slaves”, which is just as accurate). About how modern racism is still a thing, and just as cruel and sadistic as it was back then. About how the nostalgia for certain time periods is anchored in “back when those people knew their place” (British people are just as guilty for this btw, forever waxing lyrical about the good days of the empire). The film does make those points, but is more interesting in making those points, than building a narrative around those points.

Onto the good: Janelle Monae gives a great performance, definitely the films best, you are with her character every step of the way. The idea of a racist being dragged by a rope around their neck and being killed by hitting a confederate statue is incredibly smart. As I alluded to earlier, the music is great. Plus the moment of her riding through a “battle” on horseback is incredible, and just what the film needs. It’s a shame as I was really looking forward to this ever since I saw the first trailer. Looked like it was going to be an incredible piece of social satire with a captivating story. So fair to say, the result is incredibly disappointing, and should have been guessed by how the US release came and went and I heard no buzz about it.

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.

Brahms: The Boy II (2020)

I’ll freely admit I did not see the first film, but I don’t think that matters as I’m not entirely sure the people who made this one did either considering how it seems to completely retcon the ending. Which raises the question: who is this film for? People who enjoyed the first one won’t like the change, and people who didn’t like it aren’t going to see this film as they would have been put off by the first one.

I suppose it would have been okay if the film was a remarkable improvement, but I doubt that’s the case. Like I said, I haven’t seen the first one, but there is no way it can be worse than this. It’s strange for a toy doll to not be the most wooden thing in a film. Nobody gives a good performance in this, and it’s not due to a lack of talent, it’s lack of effort. It’s nobody giving a single shit about this film. It’s directed without flair, how can someone who has directed 5 or 6 feature films before this seem so inexperienced? They’ve all been horror films too so it’s not as though he’s trying a new genre, he should be great at this by now. He should know how to subtly scare the audience and not be dependent on jump scares and babys-first-scares style of horror. This does not seem like it was directed with passion, by somebody who wants to make it the best he can. This seems like it was directed by computer, no emotion, no idea of why certain horror techniques are used, it just uses them because it feels it should.

The script……I watched this film four days ago and I still couldn’t tell you much of the plot. It left nothing on me. Nothing stood out in a positive way, and trust me, considering I’m writing a horror film, I pay attention to horror film scripts, even if only so I can get inspired. For a film to give me NOTHING I can use is almost admirable. Not a single shot, not a single moment, nothing, it gave me zero to work with. That’s incredible for a film that is nearly three hours long.

Wait, what’s that? It’s only 86 minutes long? Then why did it seem like it was taking ages to watch it?

Oh, okay.

Fantasy Island (2020)

I was actually excited about this. The idea of a group of people getting what they wish for but it leading to their destruction is perfect for a horror movie. Think about it, since there’s really no limits you get to showcase some incredible set-pieces full of imagination. You can use the characters wishes to display who they are as people. Plus the whole “be careful what you wish for” allows for some creative scripting as well, the idea of your dreams being cursed or not up to what you expected. That’s definitely not the case. The script is formulaic, as is the direction and performances. I’m mainly annoyed by two things, two major issues I had with the film:

  1. The horror wasn’t linked to the dreams.
  2. The ending.

I’ll go into them in further depth. The first one: the way the wishes end up causing deaths is not really linked to the wishes themselves, there’s no sense of clever Twilight Zone/Black Mirror karma going back to get you kind of thing. I’ll go through them here:

Melanie

The wish

She wants to torture someone she went to school with.

How it goes wrong

It turns out it’s not a hologram and she is actually torturing her. I’m going to go into this specific moment in more detail later on. It then gets darker as she breaks the woman free and they end up getting chased by the torturer. So it just becomes a standard slasher film.

What would have made sense

Simple; have Melanie kill her but then realise that revenge doesn’t fix everything and she’s haunted by the memory of what she did. When she tries to sleep at night all she can think of is what she did.

Fantasy-Island-First-Trailer-e1573493063804

JD And Brax

The wish

“having it all” Basically a massive party at a big house

How it goes wrong

The house used to belong to drug dealers who come to the house to kill everyone

What would have made sense

This could have been the most interesting. All they needed to do was show the toll that lifestyle takes. Basically have them trapped in a never-ending party, forever. No sleep, no rest, no escape. Every time they go to leave the building they’re transported back in, every time they sit down they get forced to join a conga line. Show lots of asshole strangers there who refuse to leave the party.

Gwen

The wish

To accept a marriage proposal she rejected years ago.

How it goes wrong

Okay this is where the film gets weird. She gets exactly what she wanted but realises that her new life with her now-husband and daughter doesn’t actually belong to her and she has memories which aren’t hers. Interesting concept for a horror movie, right? This was done magnificently in Happy Death Day 2 U, in this it lasts a few minutes and then she changes her mind and asks to go back to a hotel fire she caused. Now she’s there again she changes the past by………she doesn’t. The fire still happens. It’s very important to the plot though as she sees everybody else from the island (minus Melanie) there on the night of the fire. So really this only happens for plot reasons.

What would have made sense

Have you seen The Butterfly Effect? Make it that. Show how her decision would have impacted her life; have it mean she failed in her career etc. Basically, have her first wish matter.

Patrick

The wish

To be in the army like his dad.

How it goes wrong

The army think he’s pretending to be a soldier and hold him hostage. This section actually provided the strongest moments of the film, he’s transported to the past when his dad was alive and meets him. There are some great emotional moments where his dad realises what’s happened and they have a great reunion and talk about how his dad died saving his troop. Patrick ends up disappointed when his dad goes to leave as he doesn’t want to go on the next mission because (as Patrick told him) it leads to his death. “but you dying saved your men, that’s why I thought you were a hero, you have to go do it” is essentially Patricks argument. An argument which makes no sense, the only reason he died is because he walks into an ambush he wasn’t prepared for, he’s prepared now, so can tell his men to avoid the ambush. His dad ends up dying anyway when they walk into the house where the aforementioned party is going on (in the present, and no they don’t mention the time discrepancies, the closest you get to it is “oooo magic island water”).

What would have made sense

Keep the “transported back in time to see his dad” part, that part works. But change it so it is his dad’s final mission, and he didn’t actually die saving his men in an ambush. He was part of a top-secret mission to attack something non-human; so a demon, a monster etc. Basically, turn it into a monster war movie (similar to Predator). Ordinarily, I would have gone with “show how his dad was not really a hero and instead killed lots of innocent people”, but the emotional moment of the film is the only part that worked, so it needs to stay.

fantasy-island-Michael-Peña-e1543879921471
Now is as good a time as any to mention the wasted talent in this movie

There you go, it’s fixed. Now what you have is more like an anthology film, with each section having a different tone, with different scares, albeit ones which merge together well. Now onto the ending. The ending twist was that the whole thing was actually Melanie’s wish, and she wanted them all to die because she blames them for her not-boyfriend dying in a fire; Patrick because he didn’t rush in and save them, JD and Brax because they were friends with him and didn’t check he had left the room before they left the hotel, and Gwen because she started the fire. This would have worked if we didn’t see Melanie early on act really confused by the fact the powers of the island were real and she didn’t realise the woman she was torturing wasn’t a hologram. But if she was behind it all, then she knew all the time what was actually happening. So why was she pretending? She was alone in the room so the only people who were watching her were the audience. It was like the ending was written by somebody who hadn’t read the rest of the script. It makes ZERO sense and completely kills the small amount of goodwill I had towards this film. It wasn’t even needed, just play the film straight and let it scare people, not everything needs a twist. If you must have a twist, make it a different way. Cut out the fire sub-plot completely. Yes, if you had them all die and this was hell it would have been obvious, but it would have made sense.

So in response; avoid this movie. I can see 2020 having worse films than this, but I can’t imagine I’m going to see one that wastes its potential as most as this. It’s truly awful, not even worth a netflix watch.

Black Christmas (2019)

So this will probably be the last film I see this year. In my review of Knives Out I mentioned that I think that probably be the last great film I see this year. After seeing this movie I can categorically say I was I definitely right. This movie is not a great movie. In fact it’s kind of bad, and for reasons I hate to bring up as it makes me sound like a dick. So the reason I didn’t like it? The politics. Now I don’t want to be one of those “keep politics out of films” dickheads. This is essentially a film about how patriarchal power structures silence and oppress women, particularly when it comes to justice for rape victims. That’s a message that is, depressingly, still incredibly relevant and is well worth discussing in a film, the issue is that the film itself isn’t good.  It means well and what it says are things that have to be said, but they have to be said better than this. I haven’t seen anything this hamfisted since Kermit’s date night.

david-cameron-put-private-part-in-dead-pigs-mouth-shock-1651842
Not the worst thing someone has put in a pig though

It deals with themes such as sexual assault and the PTSD that can come from it, but it does it really badly. For a film about someone breaking out and trying to escape that memory, the main character isn’t given much of a personality outside of that. Almost all her actions (and most conversations) in the film come from that one event, so whilst the character is trying to not let it define her, the film insists upon it.

The other characters aren’t written much better either. Nobody is given any depth, especially the villains. Horror movies need compelling villains to kill characters, or you need characters you care about and feel scared for. This film has neither. The villains are so 2-dimensional they’re practically stick figures. I’ve had occasions where trailers have spoilt the film, this almost does it in the opening text crawl. It has a quote about using the supernatural to punish people made by a character who founded the college the film is set at. So when you see a statue of that same person oozing a black liquid then being used on people wearing the same clothes as the killer, you can pretty much guess what’s going on. That’s a big issue with this film; how predictable it is. As soon as I saw one character I literally thought “he’s too obviously evil to be evil”. But no, I was wrong, it turns out that he, and all the characters who you might think would be evil, turn out to be, shock horror, evil!

So the black sludge, the scene with the reveal is where the film takes a weird left turn. It manages to be both weird, and predictable. I get you don’t want to do the same thing as the original film, but when you divert this much from the original then what’s the point of remaking it anyway? It would be like doing a remake of Psycho and it turns out Norman Bates is possessed by a ghost. Actually, that is actually exactly what it is, the villains in this use the black sludge on impressionable students so that they get possessed by the founder of the college. Here, the film misses an opportunity to do two really interesting things.

One: a debate about whether possessed people who kill people are evil or whether the possession is to blame. Yeah, that doesn’t happen here, possessed or not, they all get locked in a room and burn to death.

Two: throughout the film, the main character gets close to a guy called Landon. He gets caught and possessed by the spirit of the founder. The college founder is an old white guy who owned slaves and is possessing men to get them into the positions of power which he feels they deserve. Now I don’t want to cast aspersions on a slave owner, but I don’t think his “only men should rule the world” extends to non-whites like Landon. The intersectional nature could have been a really interesting subject to tackle, but it doesn’t. And I think that’s REALLY white. I don’t get how they can miss such an obvious political point to make.

So should you see this film? Regrettably, I’d have to say no, it’s just not fun, or scary. It’s yet another horror film restricted by its rating as it can’t get as violent as it needs to at some points. This is very notable with one death where we see a dead body on a chair, it gets spun around and before we get a full shot of the face and the damage done to it, it cuts to a reaction shot. If you do that “slow-motion chair spin” shot it should end on a reveal of the face, that should be the closing shot of that sequence, the slow nature of the chair spin is a build-up to that moment. In this it’s like a build-up to the revelation that she’s dead, which is something the audience already knew from the second we saw her, so what was it for?

I haven’t seen the original (or the first remake) to judge whether it’s good compared to them, I imagine people who saw those will actively HATE this film as they change almost everything about the plot. I can’t imagine either of those two films are worse than this, but I can say with 100% certainty that it’s not as good as the song by the same name by former X-Ray Spex singer Poly Styrene

Killer Kate (2018)

I watched the trailer for this before seeing it (something I try to do now with films with bad reviews that I haven’t heard about, a policy I have started since Wolf). The trailer for this got me hyped, it looked kind of shlocky but fun. Plus, the film was under 90 minutes so I thought it won’t overstay its welcome. That goodwill was evaporated in the opening scene. It wasn’t badly shot, it was just weirdly shot in terms of the editing and shot choices. It wasn’t a great introduction to some of the characters, with some showing traits which they don’t show for the rest of the film. It’s understandable that they would be behaving in that way within the context of what they’re about to do (kill a group of people), but if you have that in the introduction to them it feels like it’s a character trait, so for that to not happen is a bit weird. It’s also strange that that’s how they start the film. The first thing we see in this film is a scene about the group of killers, and it stays with them for a good while, which makes it seem like they’re the focus of the story, like we’re following their arc and seeing how they’re going to come together to work as a team to kill people. The actual main characters are a group of young women on a pre-wedding getaway. Out of the four of them, only one of them is introduced to the audience before the fifteen-minute mark, which is about twenty percent of the film. That’s kind of a big issue with this film, the timing. For a lot of the film, it doesn’t seem like it knows how to use the time it has so just pads it out. It’s an 80-minute horror-comedy, those should be really easy to fill time for. As it is so much of this just feels like padding. There’s an almost 2-minute scene where we watch two characters flip through TV channels, they then get a joint out, this isn’t mentioned again in the film. I know two minutes isn’t that long really, but the film is full of minute-long scenes which could be done in seconds, and they all add up to a lot of wasted time. There is a scene after that which had a really baffling moment for me, and I’m not sure if it’s just me being picky. There was a noticeable gap between songs in the background music, and it coincided with a break in the conversation. So you went from lots of noise, to just complete silence for about three seconds. I had to quadruple-check that actually happened and it wasn’t just my laptop screwing up, because that was just a really strange choice. At least after that, the killers make an appearance in the house. This was at the 40-minute mark, again, of an 80-minute movie. That’s way too long, WAY too long for a film like this. Especially one which didn’t even really set up the characters that well in the first half.

Thankfully this is followed by a really smart moment, someone knocks at the front door whilst the women are hiding. They’re not sure if it’s the police, or maybe the killers trying to trick them. In the end, it’s a guy delivering the pizza they ordered earlier. That was a very smart piece of writing, it was set up, and was done long ago enough that you forgot about it when it happened. It made sense. Which is baffling why they then rush through another part. A character is seemingly poisoned and collapses, we think dead. Then about thirty seconds later they wake up when they hear a loud noise. Personally, I feel it would have been better if her “death” lasted longer, and she made a sudden appearance later to save someone at some point. As it is her “death” seems really inconsequential. Her waking up doesn’t have a big moment attached to it either, she just wakes up and rejoins the main characters (and the pizza guy) before running away to get killed by Tiffany Shepis’ character. I mention her by name as even though she is only in the film briefly, she is brilliant in it. Her performance is one of the highlights of the film, she carries herself as someone who knows exactly what the film requires of her performance. Which, to be completely honest, is more than can be said of some of the others. A lot of the performances are a little, I don’t know, one dimensional? This is a big problem, especially with the lead. It’s the first leading role in a feature for Alexandra Feld (who is also one of the producers and married to the director), and she doesn’t really carry it off. She remains stone-faced throughout the entire film and never really feels like anything other than a character in a movie. Part of that could be the writing though, a lot of the characters don’t have much depth to them, and the dialogue is VERY “written” and unnatural. On the subject of the writing, I feel I need to mention the pizza guy again. The main characters lock their phones in their car so they won’t be disturbed whilst they’re there, standard way to stop the audience asking “why don’t they just phone the police?”. But the pizza guy, he doesn’t lock his phone away. In fact, he specifically mentions he tried phoning them on his way there, so she has a mobile phone. He doesn’t use it. He doesn’t use it when he’s there, and he doesn’t use it once he runs away either. We know this as the film soon cuts to the next morning and the police aren’t there (but what is still there? The blood on Kate’s face, for some reason she didn’t feel the need to wash it all night). And “but they don’t know the address” would be bullshit, as the pizza place would have had it listed so it could get delivered. “But maybe he died on the way”, again, the pizza place would have followed that up, he had deliveries to make after this, and if he didn’t deliver any of them then the place would have had a lot of phone calls complaining, so the company would know he didn’t get there, whilst having a list of where he was supposed to be, to be checked out. I mean, I guess the guy could have just completed all his deliveries and just forget to mention it, that would be consistent for how the characters act in this movie.

The fun of a film like this can be the reveal of the motivation, and this COMPLETELY fucks it up. The motivation; someone wants to make Airbnb etc look bad so his hotel gets more bookings. Seriously, that’s it. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that when the news mentions the attacks at the Airbnb, they’re highly likely to mention who owned that one, and his face will be plastered everywhere too, so his motel will also be negatively affected. His motive rant is essentially “urgh, Millenials”. He then gets shot and dies easily, much like all the villains in this movie. That’s a huge problem, none of the bad guys really seem like threats. There are two who are kind of threatening, and they’re the first ones to die. So after that we have; a neurotic guy who is basically Ed Helms but not, a motel concierge who just stays on the phone, and the old guy. There’s no “final boss” so to speak of the film. No “oh, the characters are in major trouble now THEY’RE there”. No sense of escalation, it’s really frustrating.

On the plus side; with the exception of some of the gore, it looks great. The film language isn’t great but in terms of just the general look it’s pretty good. And the music choices are exceptional, bringing a faux-retro 80’s feel to the whole thing. Other than that? I am really disappointed with this, truly. Not scary enough to be a horror, and nowhere near funny enough to be a comedy. I really wanted this to be great, and it’s a real disappointment that I didn’t even find it good.

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (2019)

I saw a trailer for this months ago (I think was about March), and as such, I had forgotten some things about. Mainly, how violent it was. For some reason, in my head, it was like Goosebumps (a severely underrated film btw). You know, not “scary”, but “spooky”, the kind of thing schools would show at Halloween. Yeah, I’m a f*cking idiot. The director, Andre Ovredal, previously directed the Autopsy Of Jane Doe, and is currently working on a film version of a Stephen King novel. So that’s a good indication that this film is not for kids. It’s not exactly aimed at die-hard horror fans either though. It’s aimed at that middle ground. It’s not quite “My First Horror Movie”, but it is like the third or fourth one you watch to help establish yourself to the genre once you realise you like it and want to find more.

This won’t end up in my list of scariest stories of the year, but I will still highly recommend it. The first story (about Harold the Scarecrow) is a truly disturbing piece of body horror, but it’s just too restrained to be truly effective. I’m not asking for full gore, but a little bit more would have helped it a bit. Considering the limitations, Ovredal did a fantastic job here. An uneasy sense of dread hangs over the entire film (kind of reminds of the film Ghost Stories from a few years ago). Even within slightly comedic moments, that sense of fear never leaves the screen. The effects on the “monsters” are also remarkable, genuinely creepy. I’ve looked at some of the illustrations in the book some of the stories are based on, and he nailed it, especially the Pale Lady. I’m not that familiar with the series as a whole, but I can’t help but feel fans of it will be pleased by what they say.

The acting, now horror movies aren’t known for great performances, but they’re getting better. This is towards the higher end of the talented performances spectrum. There’s one performance I wasn’t a particular fan of as it just annoyed me, but looking at reviews and comments I seem to be the only one as a lot of people considered this character a highlight, so what do I know? Zoe Colletti is a revelation as the lead, even if she did remind me of someone I know for a lot of the film. Michael Garza has the potential to be a great obnoxious anti-hero in a family-friendly television series.

I saw this the same day I saw IT: Chapter 2. They’re kind of similar films, young kids in a bygone America fighting evil (for parts of Chapter 2 anyway), as such it would be easy for this to look weak by comparison, especially since it’s going towards a younger audience. I loved IT, and I will say that this film stands proudly alongside it

Child’s Play (2019)

This is the first one of the series I’ve seen in the cinema (The first one I ever saw, incidentally, was the fourth one). So this was quite a big moment for me. Remakes/reboots can be terrible though, particularly when it comes to horror movies. Was curious about this because the trailers didn’t really do a good job of selling it, to be perfectly honest I was disappointed by the trailers, the way it was edited made me worried that the actual film wouldn’t have the right tone.

Thankfully this film works. I’m not sure if it’s better than the first one, it’s an entirely different film. I think this film does more though. It has a lot more satire to it. More interesting human characters (even if they aren’t as adorable as the original Andy), and more interesting kills. I think the issue is people are comparing it to the original series as a whole, and not just the first movie, or even as just a piece of work on it’s own.

The big difference between this and the original? No voodoo. This isn’t a film about a serial killer getting his soul transferred into a doll, it’s about an A.I system. A disgruntled worker removes the safety protocols from a self-teaching robot. This fundamentally changes a lot of things, for one it makes the link between Chucky and Andy a lot stronger. Chucky genuinely cares for Andy (as much as a robot can) so his kills are made not from malice but to protect Andy from those who cause him harm (like when he strangles a cat that scratches him). This creates a much more interesting dynamic between the two, and is a lot creepier. I think it improves it as quite a few of the kills in the original didn’t really make strategic sense. In this the kills are done for a reason, that alone makes it a lot more interesting.

Another worry was that Chucky was no longer voiced by Brad Dourif. His voice was a huge part of that character, and you had to wonder how they were going to cope with replacing such an integral part of the franchise. Which unlucky bastard would they get to attempt to fill the void of one of the greatest vocal performances of horror? Oh, they got MARK FUCKING HAMILL? Yeah, I’m all for that. He NAILS the performance here. Coming off not as a manipulative killer like Dourif’s Chucky was, but like a broken angel. He sounds genuinely hurt and confused when Andy doesn’t respond to him like he wants him to. His voice performance is surrounded by other great performances too. The main 3 kid characters are great, the dynamic between them reminiscent of the Losers Club from IT.

And now onto the bad. It feels a little restrained, especially in the final section. The closing stretch takes place in a toy store, where Chucky takes control over all the wi-fi enabled toys (which is a lot). I expected this to be a true highlight, pure chaos and thrills which will build on the earlier kills to be all-out mayhem and one of the highlights of the year. As it is, it’s just another scene. With the exception of the BRILLIANT opening kill (well, the kill itself is kind of meh, but the way he kind of stumbles about whilst in costume and sprays a random kid with blood is brilliantly brutal), it feels lacking. It’s missing that sense of chaos and brutality that I felt the scene needed. It’s got multiple characters locked in a room full of things that can kill them, yet not enough happened for me to remember it (I can remember about 3 things that happened, and that’s it). Maybe if I didn’t have such high expectations I wouldn’t be so disappointed but as it I can’t help but feel a little bit let down.

So in summary; if you enjoyed the original series, I think you’ll enjoy this. It’s an entirely different animal altogether, but one you’ll still enjoy. It also has a piece of music that is both cute yet kind of creepy (sung by Mark Hamill).