The Justice Of Bunny King (2021)

Quick synopsis: A mother of two with a sketchy past earns her keep by washing windows at traffic lights, hoping to earn back the custody of her kids. After promising her daughter a birthday party, she fights the social services and break the rules to keep her word.

I went into this with completely the wrong attitude. I thought it would be more like a feminist buddy road movie. Two women of different generations working together and learning things about life. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll marvel at the power of friendship.

That’s………that’s not what happened. This is bleak. Not in a “everybody is going to die horrifically” way, but in a “you cannot beat the system, it’s rigged against you” way. I haven’t felt this hopeless since The Day Shall Come. Similar to that, you understand every decision the main character makes. You can see her dig herself deeper and deeper. You know she’s making mistakes, and she knows it too. But it’s the only thing she can do. Much like that film, you’re watching it and you can just sense it’s not going to end well. No matter how good your intentions are, there are sometimes when the system fails you. Even if she went 100% through the correct procedures, she would still be waiting months or years to get her children back. When that’s the “right” way, you can understand why she would try another way.

She is frustrated and that is easy to see. You can’t really blame her either. Her husband abused her kids, leaving one of them with permanent injuries, and she killed him in self-defence. Her reward for this method of pest control is to have her kids taken away from her and making her jump through impossible hoops to get them back. It’s strange to know that governments hating women and poor people is a universal construct. She’s punished for keeping in touch with her kids. They actually tell her not to contact her children and if she does it affects her chances of getting them back. So her kids have to feel ignored. One of her kids is severely disabled, and the mother is told to ignore her and never contact her, even on her birthday. How do you think that makes them all feel? That is not the better option, it’s bureaucratic bullshit. The social workers who are supposed to help her aren’t actually helping her. They say they are but it’s all empty platitudes. You can tell this by the fact that they take her kids somewhere and don’t tell her. Leading to this:

“You gave my children away and didn’t tell me”

“I’m sorry you feel like that”.

No, that’s not how she feels, that’s what happened. This is how society works in this world and it’s inhumane. The way they treat the daughter isn’t best for her either. They don’t seem to talk to her directly, they aim questions at other people and get them to answer for her, denying her any agency.

The fact that this film genuinely enraged me is a testament to how believable the writing is. It’s almost perfect, the right mixture of pathos of humour. Crucially, the humour comes from the people, not the situation. There’s no “oh oh, we lost your kids, silly us. Road trip!”, it’s people in despair making jokes to reassure themselves. It’s all very human. The only negative to the script is her decision at the end of holding someone hostage at knifepoint is a bit out of tone for the film. In some ways it makes sense. But it just feels a little bit like they wanted to add unnecessary drama at the end. That section would be great as a whole film though, spread it out to 90 minutes and you’ll have a really intense drama. But for it to come at the end of this particular narrative falls a bit flat.

The performances are great throughout. Essie Davis is almost unrecognisable from her role in The Babadook. Thomasin Mckenzie is completely different from Last Night In Soho. There she seemed like an adult, a naive one, but one you can still imagine pays her bills on time. Here she seems almost childlike and incredibly innocent. She’s not as crucial to the narrative as the pre-release media made me think she’d be, but she is still very good.

So yeah go watch this. Just prepare a nice cup of tea for afterwards to calm down. You’re going to need it.

The 5 Most Annoying Trends In Horror Movies

Last week I went to see the forgettable The Forest when it occurred to me, there’s been no genre with as high a disappointment ratio as horror. In the last two years (or since I started getting a cineworld card), I’ve only seen two very good horror films: The Babadook and It Follows. It’s probably the only genre with more films I’ve disliked (Annabelle, The Gallows, Unfriended) than liked. I’ve figured out that I dislike most of the films for the same reasons, so I looked at those reasons and list them here.

1. Native Americans/Japan

So what’s the cause for this demon that’s haunting everybody? Well, you just need to go for either Native-American or Japanese. The Japanese one is simply the fear of the unknown, but it’s not really unknown anymore. This isn’t the 70’s anymore, we’re aware of Japan etc and we’re no longer ignorant of their culture. So it’s weird that we do seem that a lot of modern horror films just go “because Japan has ghosts” as an acceptable answer. But that’s nowhere near as one that’s almost become cliche: Native Americans. This is a lot simpler, it’s to make do for the guilt of the genocide that took place hundreds of years ago, so we imply that they were a noble people with power beyond our grasp,bestowing upon them a knowledge and power that makes us feel okay with almost wiping them out. There’s not many modern American horror things in real life, there’s not many countrywide urban legends and rituals, so using Native Americans or the culture of the Japanese is just lazy shorthand.

2. Soundtracks.

Quick, what do the following have in common: The Exorcist, Halloween, Psycho? Well, they’re all horrors which have stood the test of time. But try to remember something about this films, odds are you just had the soundtrack to one of them in your head. Which makes me feel sad that this sort of thing doesn’t happen anymore, It Follows is the only horror with a really good original soundtrack I’ve seen in seemingly forever. Most films just go with filling their soundtrack with rock music so they can make more money from the soundtrack. The trouble with this is that familiarity makes you feel safe, so when you’re watching a film and you’re sitting there and you recognise the music then you automatically get taken out of the film, you’re no longer scared. It’s like my nan used to say: Its impossible to be scared whilst listening to Creed. The only exception is if the characters themselves are listening to music, then you’re allowed to have familiarity. But if you’re having a horror chase scene to a song by P.O.D, then I won’t be scared, I’ll be wondering why the hell you chose that song. Please note: I know that Tubular Bells is a Mike Oldfield song that does exist outside of The Exorcist, but there is a difference between the way that the film used that, and the way that modern films use music.

3. Lack Of Originality

Yes, I know there’s been a Point Break remake this year, and there will soon be a Ghostbusters one. But no film genre is as incestuous and mastubatory as horror. Look, I know why this happens. It can be hard to market horror, it can be difficult to make people feel scared in a 30 second advert. So it’s tempting to just do a familiar concept so that people think “oh, that’s another film about killer t-shirts strangling people, I love them!” and go to see it. Companies want to showcase the best moments in the trailers, this is why you get the best jokes from comedies in the trailer. But in horror that’s different, you can take the scariest scene from a film, but take it out of it’s context and it’s meaningless. The best adverts I’ve seen for horror over the last few years have been It Follows and The Gallows. Because they showed absolutely nothing. You left the trailer with more questions than when it started, you wanted to see it to find out what happened. In this sense, less is definitely more. Ok, The Gallows ended up being a dire pile of faecal matter, but the trailer was superb.

4. Final Jump Scare

I blame Paranormal Activity for this. That film (apparently) stayed relatively restrained throughout, but then ended with something jumping towards the camera, thereby making it a feature length version of one of those videos that asshole at work always shows you. The reasoning behind this was that it would mean the audience would leave the cinema still shaking, otherwise, you know, they might have forgotten it was a horror movie and think they just watched P.S I Love You (which is a film which inspires horror and despair, but for a different reason entirely). The trouble with these fourth wall breaking scares is they break the story. By this point the ghost or demon or cannibalistic giraffe has already been destroyed and everyone lives happily, but to then have the thing leap at the audience at the end just means the story isn’t over. And if there’s no sequel then the film is completely pointless as nothing changed, it’s just a story of a demon that kills then kills again. Now, this is different from a downer ending where you feel an unending sense of doom, as they’re usually set up well so you’re walking out scared of the world as opposed to just the tiny amount of fear that jump scares inspire.

Worst Offender: Unfriended

Not only was this pointless, but it ruined what would have been a fantastic ending that almost saved the film.

5. Jump Scares

If you’ve seen a horror film lately you know what this is, quiet quiet quiet, sudden loudness and something happens. This scares the audience. But it doesn’t, not really. It doesn’t fill you with terror and make you scared outside of the film. It won’t effect your life once you’ve left the cinema. Basically; they don’t last. You don’t walk around afterwards with that sense of genuine terror. Look, we get it, being genuinely scary is hard, but if you can’t do it, don’t bother attempting. I don’t want to be fine after your film, I want your film to fuck me up and leave me unable to sleep. And jump scares don’t do that. You can have a few of them, but they can’t be the entire modus operandi.