Quick synopsis: A group of people try to film a porn movie at a cabin belonging to an old couple, who strongly oppose the idea and decide to show their thoughts on the matter by writing a strongly worded letter to the local council. No wait, they murder them.
If you are thinking of watching this, go see it at the cinema. Not because it’s particularly great and you need to watch it immediately, but because the title means it’s going to be a bitch to find on a streaming site.
Let’s get one thing out of the way; this is not for everybody. It’s heavily focused on sex and violence, so unless you’re comfortable with both of those things, you won’t like this. It doesn’t shy away from the violence, and it doesn’t shy away from the sex. The whole thing feels slightly grubby, which is something that works in its favour. This isn’t a modern film, it’s a 70’s throwback in terms of style. It does work a lot of the time, and Ti West is a talented enough director that you never forget the time period that it’s set in. Now, as anybody who read my review of Censor knows, I love my throwback films. Especially when it comes to horror. And I don’t shy away from films about sex and killing people (I mean, one of those things is my favourite thing to do on weekends). I also like films about film-making, and am not afraid to see them going weird, as seen in Black Bear). So in some ways, this film was designed for me, yet I’m not that fond of it.
Part of that is because of how it sometimes utilises the throwback style in terms of film-making. The gimmick of “it’s edited like a 70s film” actually kind of gets in the way sometimes. There are far-away shots that don’t really tell us anything, and moments where it cuts to something for a second and then cuts back. It’s jarring, but not in a “horror movie making me feel unsettled” way, but in a way “this was edited manually and they botched it”. So it feels less like a throwback love letter to a genre, and more, just incredibly dated.
My main issue though? The same issue I have with a lot of modern horror films. The same issue I had with The Gallows, Unfriended, Don’t Breathe, Escape Room 2, Fantasy Island: I don’t like the characters. They’re annoying, selfish, not that likeable. So when they die, you’re not sad, or emotionally affected at all. If anything, you’re relieved.
The only slightly sympathetic character is one of the killers. She has a tragic backstory and her motivations do kind of make sense, although it’s never clarified exactly why that drives her to murder. She doesn’t get as much focus as the other characters though. The film spends so much time developing doomed characters, and not the location. At one point one of the characters finds the rotting corpses of a naked man in the basement, and someone else finds (presumably) his car in the lake (in a delightful shout-out to Psycho). Those things are glossed over really quickly. Was that person the only one? Or do they have a long history of this? The film comes close to answering this. One of the characters escaped the couple, and overheard them talking about throwing a body in the river. The actual ending of this is in the trailer, one of the cops finding a camera, “what’s on there?” “probably some fucked up horror movie”, END!
So, is she the reason the police are there? If so, why aren’t they draining the lake? If not, then why are they there? There are no houses nearby for people to have overheard the commotion. Really, they’re there to bookend the story, but it’s done quite poorly. Just full-on ape the ending of Psycho and show the car being retrieved, and then news footage of the discovery of bodies, to let us know this wasn’t a one-time thing, they’ve been doing it for years. I mean, think of the shot that ends From Dusk Till Dawn, where the camera pulls out and you realise the bar is not only built on an Aztec temple, but there are hundreds of vehicles there, all of them belonging to drivers who didn’t survive previous nights there. It’s not talked about often but it’s one of my favourite ending shots because it provides a history to everything, it shows that this has happened a lot before, and we’re just lucky enough to see the ending of a story that’s been being told for years. It hints at hundreds of untold stories just like the one we witnessed, only with unhappier endings. As opposed to this, which ends with nothing of substance.
I think it tried substance, there’s a preacher being shown on the television throughout, and at the end, it’s revealed that the main character is his daughter, who ran away to star in porn. A reveal that changes………..absolutely nothing. It doesn’t change what we think of her, or the situation, or anybody else in the film. It adds absolutely nothing outside of irrelevant backstory. It might as well have ended with “And that house where all the murders happened? It used to be a slave ranch”. It’s like, “yeah, and? Who gives a shit, that’s not relevant. Stop padding your word count”.
None of this takes away from the unarguable talent of everybody involved. Mia Goth continues to usually be the best thing in every film she stars in. Jenna Ortega has a great “final girl” quality (as anybody who watched the new Scream can testify), Martin Henderson has a strange, slightly Matthew McConaughey-esque quality to his performance.
So in summary? Maybe see this, some of you will like this a lot more than I did, and some of you won’t. It just wasn’t for me.
I have a love/hate relationship with “gimmick” films. You know what I mean, the kind where the biggest sell of it isn’t the plot or actors, but the way they made the film. When they’re done well, like Buried (one person in a casket for the entire film), they’re a great piece of film-making, but they have to be great, because if they’re only okay (Unsane), then the fact it’s a gimmick-heavy film works makes it seem worse. The gimmick of this film; it takes place entirely on computer screens. This has been done before; with Unfriended, which considering I now call that “Unfriended. A.k.a, fuck that film” should show how highly I regarded that film, and my expectations for this.
Glad to say I was surprised. This film was good, very good. The worry about doing a story like this is if the audience figures out the ending too soon, if they get to it a long time before the character does, the character looks like an idiot. It’s not just the ending, if the audience comes up with an action that the main character didn’t consider, it can sour the film (as I’ll go into in more depth when I review The House With A Clock In Its Walls, where the characters get to an idea WELL after the audience does). That kind of action makes you feel the film is treating the audience like idiots. This doesn’t treat you like an idiot, but it will make you feel like one. There are multiple times where you’ll think “it’s definitely this person who kidnapped her, definitely, EVIL! EVIL!” and you feel smart for figuring it out, then it turns out you’re wrong. The final twist for this is perfect, as it answers a lot of questions you didn’t even realise had been asked. It enhances the rest of the film as opposed to negating it, and it’s set up so beautifully you’ll immediately want to watch the film again. It’s one of the few films this year where I was genuinely on the edge of my seat for the entire thing (although that might also be because the very nature of the film means everything is in focus all the time, so you lean in to become actively involved so you pay attention to everything). It’s really hard to pick a stand-out moment from this; the entire thing was just brilliant. Even the opening montage was so skillfully done you can’t fault it. It was a 5-minute long summary of a girl growing up viewed through a camera lens; incredibly heartwarming and really pushes the idea of the family, which is what essentially this film is about. It’s about how people hide their full self from family, for fear of disappointing, or being judged. It also says a lot about the human condition; when the news breaks about the girl’s disappearance, a lot of people on Twitter accuse the dad, saying he definitely murdered her. He reads these because of course, he does. It’s a sharp reminder that the words you say as a faceless being on the web, are being read by real people, so don’t be a dick. This leads to a great moment of catharsis where he finds someone who was saying things like that, and just punches him in the face. It’s remarkably therapeutic to watch. There’s also a deliciously dark moment where a company responds to the news coverage of her missing by e-mailing him saying “We do live webcasts of funerals” hoping to use it for publicity. It’s so evil, yet so recognisably true of how a business would react to that. It’s kind of hard to watch because of how accurate it portrays the way people and businesses respond online to tragedy.
This review has been a bit all over the place I know, but that’s because it’s hard to focus on one thing. It does SO much right, and I can’t wait to see it again. It’s so good *spoilers* even the happy ending doesn’t feel forced or tacked on. Some films are so good they inspire you to make similar films, this film is so good it will kind of make you want to give up as you know you will never touch it. It’s apt that I reviewed this after finishing the Saw series, because that series could learn a lot from this about how to craft a decent mystery.
The ending to this film is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen, and I once witnessed a guy fall over trying to kick a pigeon.
The ending to this film is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen, and I once witnessed a guy try to start a fight with a bus. Not the people on the bus, the bus itself.
The ending to this film is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen myself run this joke into the ground long after it stopped being funny
So yeah, I was not a fan of the ending. That’s the thing with horror, as a genre you really need to nail the ending otherwise it clouds the entire experience of the film. A lot of my hatred for both The Gallows and Unfriended is based around how poorly they executed the ending, both of them had great potential endings, but they then kept going. It’s hard to close a horror movie though, you need people to leave being scared, but you have to balance that with providing narrative closure, and usually, it’s the closure that suffers through the use of last-second jump scares and “the killer is still alive”, and if the ending doesn’t provide a satisfactory closure then it can feel like the entire film was a massive waste of time, like the entire thing was a prequel to a film that might not even happen. Side note: if you’re a fan of terrible movie endings, check out The Devil Inside, bad endings are one thing, but that film doesn’t even have an ending, it just stops and tells you to check out the website. So as you can tell, I’ve seen a lot of bad endings in films, especially horror, but rarely have I seen a film fuck up the closing stretch so badly. Part of me wants to spoil it so I can talk about it more, but part of me also thinks you need to see it so you can realise how badly they messed it up. The characters were mostly unlikeable to begin with, and the end of the film is basically them potentially causing the death of every single person on the planet, and it’s played off like this was the right and moral thing to do.
I mean, it wasn’t exactly the greatest film before that. As I said before, the characters were almost completely detestable and annoying, and because of the 15 rating their deaths aren’t even as satisfying as they could be. They’re not inventive enough either, the Final Destination series was great at the “seemingly co-incidental deaths” set pieces, that kind of approach would be great here as a way to kill people (people die if they refuse to do the dare, or if they lie). The first time we see this is pretty unique, a guy pulls out of his dare, and slips on a pool ball, breaking his neck. But even this shows a few problems which plague the rest of the film. For one thing, the person affected has a weird smile which I think is supposed to be creepy, but just looks like a weird snapchat filter. This makes it obvious they are not in control of their actions, which make it not as fun, it would be a lot more fun if they died as themselves due to the universe being set up that way just in case they failed, as it is it just means they get possessed and commit suicide, and nobody notices the physically impossible smile on their face and weird tone in their voice.
It’s not all bad though, it does have some neat ideas, albeit they don’t really do anything with those ideas. It occasionally seems like a satire about the notion of internet fame/infamy and the fine line between the two, but it’s so underdeveloped I’m not entirely sure it’s deliberate. One of the subplots about a homosexual character being scared to come out to his strict father also shows promise, but is never really realised. Imagine if when his truth was “come out to your father”, that even with the threat of death he still couldn’t do it? And then the father found out why he died and is forever haunted by his behaviour towards his son in the past. That would make it a lot more powerful, haunting and depressing.
One last thing, the performances. Oh my science, the performances. Horror has a (deserved) reputation for occasionally having (how can I put this diplomatically?), let’s say, less than stellar performances from actors, all really obvious fake screams and performances which somehow are a mix of overacting and underacting. And this film? The performances in this………are really fucking good. Hayden Szeto (from the incredibly underknown Edge Of Seventeen) is all kinds of great in this, giving his character the emotional depth and nuance that the script doesn’t. Lucy Hale plays her character like a slightly broken bird, and it works. Landon Liboiron deserves to be the smug asshole villain in a spy movie. There’s not really a weak link in the performances here, a magnificent ensemble cast who are giving it there all, it’s just a shame the script didn’t.
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.
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.
NOTE: Everything written regularly is written by Producer Mark. While everything in italics is written by Producer Lee.
I’m sure this gets said every year, but every year there are a whole host of great performances, that choosing one is just too hard, but it must be done…Unless you’re a shoddy internet film blog like this one. So I picked two.
Jason Segel – End of the Tour. Known primarily for his comedic roles in…well everything else he has done, Jason Segal is revolutionary as David Foster Wallace; bringing a subtle but clearly perpetually uncomfortable nuance to his manner. Even as he runs the gambit of emotions from, funny, angry, confidant, overjoyed, and sad, he never appears at home in his own skin or mind, and is a truly authentic take on the troubled genius. And for such an orgastic turn to come from Jason Segel is the cherry on the cake.
Michael Fassbinder – Steve Jobs. It’s easy to make a bad guy unlikable but loveable, to play the asshole that treats everyone like shit and make the audience love him. It is an entirely different and much harder task to play a guy you’re meant to like and have complex emotions for, like a complete asshole. But that’s exactly what Michael Fassbinder pulls off in his embodiment of Steve Jobs. He then takes it further as we peel back the layers that make and has made him the way he is; jumping back and forwards in time to see the building blocks of his character all the way to the complete man he becomes; and it’s all perfectly portrayed to us with barely any of his actual life shown
Al Pacino: Danny Collins. I know, Al Pacino gave a good performance, what are the odds of that? But this is a different Pacino performance than the normal good performance. The usual good Pacino performance makes you want to stand up and applaud, but this is different. You completely buy into his performance in a role which could have been derailed by a lesser actor. The downside is that writing this has made me have the song from the film stuck in my head.
Emily Blunt – Sicario. She’s a badass who’s always in control, but feels constantly out of her depth. She’s tough as nails and takes no shit, but her growing fear of the morality of her job she just can’t quell. Always ready to dive in and fight for what’s right even when faced with an endless darkness, but never shallow enough to not think about and feel the repercussions of what she does. And with all that, she’s never a blank, genderless slate who could be played by anyone, she’s still a woman. Though this may read more like a look at her character than her performance, the fact is you can’t distinguish the two from the other.
Runner-up: Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina
Amy Schumer: Trainwreck. Not the best performance by a long shot, but the film rests so heavily upon her performance that the fact she’s actually really good in it really helps it.
Honorable mention: Phyllis Smith in Inside Out as sadness.
Steve Jobs: It’s an Arron Sorkin film script, so it’s expected that it will be one of the best of the year, but this isn’t just fanfare. Like most Sorkin scripts this is a dialogue driven spectacular that runs the gambit of funny, to thrilling, to heart wrenchingly dramatic, but it is also a complete reinvention for the Biopic genre. Set in three real time acts between the 70s and 90s from behind the scenes at product launches, Steve has to argue his way through his friends, enemies and family to make each launch. What should have been the equivalent of telling a life’s story with both arms tied behind its back is turned into a fascinating character piece that tells us more about Steve Jobs the man than any old cradle to the grave film ever could.
Inside out: It’s the story and ideas that this film tells and so thoughtfully executes that made it too amazing for me not to put it here too. Yes I think the plot isn’t as original as it could have been or thinks it is, and the writing while very funny wasn’t too special; but its imagery behind how the mind is put together and how we as people function is just too genius to not step back and applaud. And on top of that I was floored by its very mature message of the importance and the need for the emotion of sadness, and how it helps bring us together and grow-up.
Lady In The Van. A film like this rests entirely on script and performance. And luckily both shine through. The script is full of hilarious moments (and a rather odd use for madeira cake). The fact it is a (mostly) true story doesn’t diminish the brilliance. In fact it makes it more impressive as it’s framed in a good way and says a lot about the power of the writer.
The Big Game. Because it’s the only film I’VE seen this year that had me turn to my fellow Troubled Production’s producer and say, “We should fucking leave.” For more details look further down. I talk more about it in another section. 🙂
The Gallows. There was a lot of bad films this year but this tops the list for absolutely NOTHING about it working. It was badly shot, the actors were shit, the characters were annoying, the “twist” didn’t make sense in terms of plot and seemed to be an asspull, the jump scare ruined what would have actually been an okay ending (seriously, if you have a moment in your film where a character gives a monologue on stage and then the lights go out and the curtain goes down: END THE FILM THERE!), the characters were the most annoying people I’ve seen outside of Twitter.
Best Film Moment (scene, piece of dialogue or shot etc)
It’s an abstract – Steve Jobs. The moment in which, in the middle of a heated argument with his ex-wife, Steve Jobs turns over the Mac and shows her what their daughter had been doing on it, to prove to her (and in many ways the audience) why the computer is important and what people will use it for; and it turns out his daughter has been drawing an abstract painting in Paint. It’s a little moment, but in a film (and year) of great moments this one struck me just right. The combination of my own nostalgia for Paint, combined with the sweet little exchange between them, leads to the first time the character of Steve Jobs is humanised. It may not be the biggest moment, the most dramatic, or even the most important, but it was the moment for me that Steve Jobs went from an awesome film, to a great one.
Runner-up: and the conversation is the best one I ever had – ending scene to End of The Tour. It was a perfectly touching and an up beat way to close this melancholy true life tale.
Inside Out control room locks up. The best way to describe depression to idiots who think it’s just “being a bit sad”. A truly iconic moment in a fantastic film.
Worst Film Moment (scene, piece of dialogue or shot etc)
Focus- Woo woo. Focus as a whole is fine, it’s an okay caper with a fun return from Will Smith. But it has this one scene that involves conning an over acting Chinese Businessmen at a football game, that is legitimately one of the funnest and most thrilling scenes of the year. It’s so good that the immediate retarded explanation behind the con is such a painful whiplash, it landed itself as the worst moment of the year for me. The process to pulling off the con is sooooo over the top, ridiculous, and silly, it just destroys what was such a bad ass moment and just makes it laughable.
This is very easy for me. It’s a moment that’s so bad it stands out, even in a film made almost entirely of awful: Get Hard. Against my better judgement I watched this film, and I wish I hadn’t. It was unfunny, badly plotted and just not needed at all. I’d like to think Will Ferrell is at the stage of his career where he has his pick of films to be in, and he chose this. That says a lot either about his judgment or his cocaine addiction which I’ve just made up. So the moment: there’s a scene which is like 5 minutes of making jokes about prison rape. Rape jokes are odd as they’re the only thing that become less offensive if you put the word “Prison” before it. But this scene was just ugly, and it wasn’t needed. It was just the same joke repeated over and over again “you’re going to get raped”, and the joke wasn’t funny enough to be the focus of a whole scene.
Honorable mention: a scene in Child 44 where the camera panned to the side to showcase: a wall.
End of the Tour. I have a lot of time for films about writers, that dive into their work, their creative process, and the damage of that; hence why another of my favourite films is Wonder Boys. I also have a lot of time for Linklater-esque stories based around the conversations between characters and their evolving dynamic, instead of heavy plot. So combine those in this true life story of the five day interview of acclaimed writer David Foster Wallace by David Lipsky, played by a typically great Jesse Eisenberg and a revolutionary Jason Segel as Wallace; which cuts deep as it examines the development of their uneasy friendship, the nature of writing and interviewing, and the plights but want of fame, you have my personal favourite film of the 2015.
Runner-up(s):Steve Jobs & Inside Out. Both are great films. Steve Jobs delivering an emotionally charged intellectual punch, while Inside Out delivers an intellectually charged emotional one; and End of the Tour only tops it for me because it does both.
The Voices. And I am soooo glad about that as if it was bad it would have destroyed me. Ryan Reynolds actually seems to be redeeming himself for Green Lantern with this, Woman In Gold and next year’s Deadpool. This is the only film I’ve seen at the cinema this year which I now own on DVD. I didn’t want to wait, I knew I had to buy it. The script is hilarious, Reynolds just seems to be having hella fun, and there’s an absolutely BEAUTIFUL shot in the woods after he kills someone. A very good live action directorial debut from Marjane Satrapi.
Best Film To Look At (a.k.a: the “Serena”)
Steve Jobs. For a film that predominantly takes place inside behind the scenes in theatres this may seem like an odd choice. But its Danny Boyal’s dynamite directing, that transforms rows of seats into complex tapestries, wide shots of walls into film screens, and characters staring at computer screens into complex moments of inner turmoil, that make this a clear winner for me. Really it’s here because this film didn’t need and shouldn’t have been such a visual feast, it just needed to let the words and actors stretch, but it still found beautiful ways to elevate those aspects, and keep you as visually enthralled as you are verbally.
Runner-up:Youth. Shot on location in the Swiss Alps and married with plenty of abstract imagery; never has a testament to youth and age ever looked so beautiful and devastating.
The Good Dinosaur. Yes the film itself was bland and 90’s Disney-esque and the characters looked, well, wrong, just wrong. But the scenery? Oh my god it was gorgeous. A planet that looked lived in and liveable. The way they animated water in particular made it actually look like water as opposed to just “standard with a blue tinge”.
Most Disappointing Film
Legend. Far from a terrible film, but with the talent behind and in front of this camera this should have been one of the best films of 2015 and a major awards contender. But outside a pretty fun dual performance from one of the best actors today, Tom Hardy, it turned out to be nothing but a decently entertaining, if mostly dull and plotless thing that never found its footing.
The Big Game. The worst part of this film is it’s easy to fix. You make the kid actually an effective hunter so it’s about the president of the United States being out of his element but helped by somebody who knows how to use the environment. So basically Rambo turned into an escort mission. Instead they made the kid useless, so it was a president being helped by someone who’s shit.
Honorable mention: The Gallows. Had high hopes for this but in the end was the worst horror film I’ve seen all year. In a year that included Poltergeist remake, Insidious 3 and The Visit.
Most Surprising Film
The Martian. Surprising doesn’t mean you expected it to be bad and it wasn’t. It mean’s surprising. I went in expecting an existential Sci-fi about survival and the human will. And I got all that, but it also happened to be one of the best comedies of the year, that used the blend of dramatic thrills and comedy to make both more effective. From Matt Damon’s optimistic Martian and his crew, to Jeff Daniels smarmy NASA CEO and his quirky team of scientists. It is not an insult to this film to call it a comedy; it is a complement to comedy that this film is one.
Runner-up: Ant-Man. Who would of thought Ant-Man would have been the best Superhero film of 2015.
John Wick. I admit I expected a typical action film and didn’t have high hopes for it. But this film was a revelation. The universe and characters were so well defined it seemed like a comic book adaptation. News there’s a sequel excites me as I want to see more of this world.
The “well I liked it” award
Tomorrowland. What’s with the hate on this film? Was it a perfect feat of science fiction? No, but it’s a fun Sci-fi adventure, with an interesting world, fun likable characters, a combo of goofy and deadpan humour, and is a real harken back to classic Sci-Fi adventures. When the future was something to wonder for not fear, and technology looked like technology. Ray guns are big and bright and silly, and jetpacks are sleek and still make no sense but are too awesome. Is the plotting all over the place, yes, is the first act a bit too much like molasses on sandpaper? Also not a complete over-exaggeration, but it’s got way too much heart to let little things like that get in the way of a good time.
Tomorrowland. I really don’t get the hate for this film. It’s odd as EVERYBODY I know who saw it liked it, but outside of my social circle everybody seems to hate it. But why? It’s nice. It’s the kind of film where if I saw it as a child it would have been my favourite film.
The “I’m obviously not seeing what the reviewers are seeing” award
The Big Game. “As spectacular as it is funny” “Samuel L Jackson has his tongue firmly in his cheek”. I wish either of these statements were true about this still born mess, failing to be dumb fun. The concept is great; a wimpy President played by Samuel L Jackson is chased through the mountains by terrorists and is helped by a badass child warrior. This should be as fun and or as campy as Olympushas fallen, or White House down…but instead, the kid isn’t a badass at all and spends most the film trying to find himself and failing; and though all his lines are wimpy, Jackson still plays it like a badass, so it’s just awkward. For a film apparently just going for fun, it takes its story and characters’ much too seriously, and its biggest failure is trying to distil genuine arcs and development on these blocks of wood.
Unfriended. Seriously, fuck this film.
The “Yeah it’s bad but” award
Chappie: a perfect example of a hot fucking mess. The plot is all over the place, it’s supporting characters are unlikeable and stupid to the point of being endearing, it’s like a child’s film with hardcore violence…How can you not dig this film. Held up by the sheer adorableness and likability of Chappie himself, and some dark, dark humour, Chappie is one giant mess you don’t want to clear up.
Chappie. Always always Chappie. I know this film is bad, the plot is all over the place, the characters are unlikeable and it’s just bad all over. And yet I love it. No idea why. I just think the film works. It’s funny and kind of brilliant despite itself.
Opens on daylight. I like that for two reasons: 1) I think more horror should take place during the day. Daylight makes the audience feel comfortable, and horror should be about breaking people’s comforts. It’s easy to get a scare from darkness, because it’s not really you or any techniques you’re using that’s doing so, half the job is already done for you. If you make people scared in broad daylight, you’ve done a good job. Also people feel at home in daylight, so it becomes easier for them to empathise. 2) It connects to the end of the first film quite well.
“Special appearance by Clu Gulager”. I have literally no idea who that is, I don’t know whether it’s because of my Britishness or my age.
Fat kid at the back of the bus playing music loudly, thereby predicting my daily commute to work.
“He’s right behind us”. No he’s not, he’s in the aisle over from you and behind you. You suck at directions random bitchy high school girls.
Runaway bus gone for so long the natural light changes and then it stops perched on a rock tower as it collapses. Actually a really well thought out set-piece.
“jesse are you okay?” he wakes up screaming every morning, so I’m guessing not.
I don’t know who the girl is who’s playing Lisa but she looks adorable. Like a pre nosejob Jennifer Grey
He slapped his cheeks with a little too much affection there.
A guy pulls down another guys shorts, showing his ass off, then a really bad fight starts. Ended by their coach pulling them apart and saying “Assume the position” Nothing strange there.
Eleven minutes in we find the connection between the two films. The same house. Not the least tenuous connection I’ve seen between horror films but It kind of takes me out of the moment as it firmly establishes the house as somewhat “special”. Which it is to us, as it was the house of the main character in the first film. But it messes with the reality as there were 4 deaths in the first film, a lot of them took place in different places. So that house wouldn’t have more attention to it than the locations of the other deaths. So it kind of reminds me that this is definitely a film. It’s possible I overthink things.
Freddy goes into Jesse’s dream, holds him close and strokes his eyebrows whilst saying “I need you Jesse”
Completely pointless scene of Lisa swimming in her back garden.
So he just found Freddy’s glove in the basement. I suppose that now makes sense for why Freddy seems to be anchored to the house, but it raises more questions. Primarily: why the fuck did the woman in the first film keep it? I touched upon this in the previous blog but I need to go into more detail: if you were part of a vigilante group that burnt someone alive, would you go into the house of the deceased and then take something? No, because you’re not a psychopath, unlike the mother in the first film. Seriously, she’s crazy.
This film has yet more shirtless men. So at least the fan service is equal for both genders.
This film turns into The Birds as the family parrots goes crazy and claw people.
This film turns into Birdemic as the family parrot explodes.
“it’s that cheap seed you’ve been buying”. I love that that is somehow a logical conclusion to a bird exploding into flames. Imagine that with any other animal. Your family kitten explodes “Damnit Veronica, I said DON’T buy Tesco’s own brand cat food”
Wait, so his teacher sees him at an S&M bar and makes makes him run laps around the school gym to punish him (I’m guessing for underage drinking). Let’s look at this from a bystanders point of view: they just saw a teacher take a student home from a bar. Because that’s not dodgy.
This film is actually REALLY gay. Not in a “this is lame” way, more in a “there is so much homoerotic subtext.
It just got gayer. The gym teacher has been tied up in the showers, stripped, whipped then been hit by multiple balls. Which leads us to this:
Time of first death: 35 Minutes. That actually shows remarkable restraint (I would be ashamed of using that pun after the death of someone who was tie up, but the police officer in the next scene brought a naked Jesse home to his parents and told them to “put a short leash on him” so I’m not as ashamed as they should be). But yeah, the restraint: that’s over half an hour before the first death. Almost twenty minutes later than the first death in the first film. Usually horror sequels start killing people as soon as possible as that’s why the audience are there, I commend this film for waiting so long to do it.
Okay the mum from the first film did die. Considering she showcased the hallmarks of a serial killer, I’m glad.
Jesse can’t quite manage sex with Lisa and goes straight into Ron’s bedroom as he sleeps. I refuse to accept the undertones aren’t intentional.
Time Of second death: 57 Minutes. Ron killed, not shown explicitly really but we see Freddy’s claws come through the other side of the door so fairly obvious.
And now the sausages spontaneously combust just after someone complains about the heat in the pool. This film is really doing a lot with heat and temperature, kind of odd, I like it. Temperature is such a simple thing to manipulate for the purposes of death scenes and yet it’s rarely utilised in films.
Freddy just bit Lisa. Considering what he is supposed to have done to underage children whilst alive this is slightly weird.
The Lisa Vs. Jesse/Freddy scene is really creepy. Might be my favourite scene from the two films so far. Well scripted, well shot and well performed. Really effective at showcasing characters too.
After a quite dramatic scene we get almost complete silence in a scene where people are just standing around. It’s a shame more horror films don’t utilise calmness and silence in useful ways and can be effective.
Time of third death: 65 minutes. I don’t even know if this guy has a name. Just slashed across face once. Quite notable in that this is the first death that’s taken place in public (at a pool party, oh so THAT’S why they had the scene with Lisa in the pool earlier, I thought it was just to show the actress in swimwear) with everyone able to see Freddy. If this scene was done in a modern film you’d have to imagine people would film it on their phones, which would actually be a pretty interesting way to set up a sequel. Freddy lives on the fear of people, so that kind of multiple exposure across the internet could do wonders. It would be like The Ring mixed with Unfriended (only a lot lot better than Unfriended. Seriously, f*ck that film)
Time of (presumed) fourth and fifth deaths: 66 minutes. Not much detail is put on these and it can hard to miss the two deaths here: two unnamed characters fall into the swimming pool as it boils and are burned to death. Both of them occur within a second of each other and aren’t the focal point of the scene. Missed opportunity for some truly disturbing scenes there. Although it could be argued that the quickness of the deaths helps us feel part of the film as the characters aren’t paying much attention to what’s happening so why should we be able to? The shared panic of two. Folie A Arghhhhh.
Time of Sixth death: again, 66 minutes. This time it’s just someone falling into fire. Not likely to be on Freddy’s showreel.
Seventh death: 66 minutes 32 Seconds. Wow, after no deaths for a long time this film is really making up for it. My fondness for this death is far more than it deserves. It’s just someone being trampled by the other party guests in their panic to escape. I like when horror films do this, have the characters killed accidentally by the actions of others. It helps us feel the panic that’s taking place. Also there’s a lot of bravado in discussion of horror films, “yeah, I would easily escape”, but what if in doing so you cause the death of someone else? Then you’re not a hero, you’re a douchnozzle.
Eighth death: 66 minutes 36 seconds. Again, unnamed person, this time just stabbed in the gut. Good for showcasing the chaos, not much else.
Ninth death: 67 minutes (yay, we escaped the 66th). A Kerry Von Erich lookalike tries to calm Freddy down, this goes as well as you expect it to and he gets thrown into a BBQ grill. The first sign of Sassy Freddy as his response to “I’m here to help you” is to say “Help yourself, fucker” then kill them. Sassy!
Freddy dies from spontaneous combustion. They’re really pushing the fire/temperature element of this film. It’s working. Also should be pointed out that both time’s Freddy has been defeated it hasn’t involved someone directly fighting him. As such he’s the only villain who could be defeated by a pacifist time lord with a sonic screwdriver and a police box.
Tenth death: 79 minutes. Lisa’s friend who’s name I can’t recall right now has Freddy’s hand pop out from her chest, Alien style in a scene reminiscent of the opening.
Post film notes: done some research and the homosexual undertones were intentional. The theme of repressed homosexuality runs throughout the film. This has been confirmed by Robert Englund and the writer of the film, David Chaskin (which, considering this was his first film should be highly commended for the work he did here). Some people have argued this even effects the casting, with the lead of Jesse played by openly gay actor Mark Patton (described by some as the first male scream queen). In summary I actually really like this film. The scares are unique and there’s some fantastic scenes. Not sure if it works as a Freddy Krueger film, but if have this as a standalone film and it’s superb.