Wednesday, 22 November 2017

The Nest Of The Cuckoo Birds (1965)

From the final frames of the print of this film, viewed on MUBI: "The Nest Of The Cuckoo Birds was restored in 2017 from the only 35mm release print known to exist. All original film materials are thought to be lost."

There's also a synopsis on MUBI that details a plot about an undercover agent sent to infiltrate bootleggers who gets his cover blown and finds himself in trouble in the Everglades. He finds himself in a pretty isolated hotel, safe from immediate danger but perhaps not as safe as he'd like to be.

I'm glad that MUBI included the usual synopsis here because I have to admit to already having forgotten the opening scenes of the movie by the time the end credits rolled. That's due to this film often feeling like a bizarre fever dream. The inane dialogue, delivered so strangely by almost everyone involved, sent me into some kind of fugue state.

Written and directed by Bert Williams, who also plays the lead role (and takes on a number of other roles behind the scenes), this is a curio piece for fans of bad cinema. Many scenes have a minor level of general competence, technically speaking, but there's a terrible script that can't be overcome by some terrible performers. Williams himself isn't great, but he seems almost decent compared to the strange turns from Chuck Frankle and Ann Long. Jackie Scelza doesn't fare too badly, thanks to her role as the odd and dreamy potential damsel in distress.

To say this embodies the spirit of independent film is an understatement. You can tell that from the opening credits, featuring all of those jobs for Bert and a couple of credits for his wife, Peggy (responsible for the two main songs on the soundtrack). There's also the odd bit of stock footage that doesn't match the rest of the scene it is appearing in, bit players who couldn't act as if they were getting uncomfortably warm even if you covered them in gasoline and set them alight, and numerous scenes that go round and round in circles without actually developing the plot or characters.

Having said all that, it's not without some charm. There's certainly a decent dollop of atmosphere, a couple of darker moments hint at the potential for a much better film, and it may well make you chuckle at a lot of the unintentionally comedic moments.


The Nest Of The Cuckoo Birds isn't available to buy anywhere, so why not treat yourself to the Pusher trilogy instead.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Bag Boy Lover Boy (2014)

One of the films that kicked off the opening night of Dead By Dawn 2016 was a modern day riff on Sweeney Todd named K-Shop. It was the tale of a young man who works in a kebab shop and is eventually driven to murder some of the dregs of society who incur his wrath. I reviewed it here. And I am starting this review with talk of it because Bag Boy Lover Boy walks through similar territory, but moves in another direction very early on, and becomes a much better movie for it.

Albert (Jon Wachter) is a hotdog vendor with limited social skills and no concerns for trivial matters like food hygiene. He has the opportunity to earn some decent extra cash and get close to some gorgeous women when a photographer (Ivan, played by Theodore Bouloukos) decides to use him as inspiration for some of his shoots. This eventually leads to Albert deciding that photography is for him, which leads to him needing women to photograph. But he also has other plans for his "models". Plans that go far beyond even the darkest photoshoot ideas.

A fairly direct descendant of The Driller Killer, this also has some points to make about life in New York and the nature of art. It's easy to see where things could have gone the way of Troma or The Greasy Strangler, but I'm grateful that it remained defiantly its own beast.

Although there are a few decent, although relatively unknown, supporting players here (including Kathy Biehl, Karah Serine, and Adrienne Gori), this film rests on the performances from Bouloukos and Wachter. The former has a lot less screentime, but has fun with what he's given. Wachter, on the other hand, gives a performance pitched perfectly between darkly comedic, slightly pathetic, and properly unpleasant. It's an odd turn, but one that works perfectly with the general tone of the film.

Director Andres Torres, working on his first feature from a script that he co-wrote with Toni Comas, does a pretty great job here, drawing viewers in with small oddities and awkward interactions with Albert that move from the cringe-inducing to the engrossing. The final product is far from perfect, it's difficult to imagine anyone meeting Albert without going out of their way to avoid him completely, but it's an effective peek inside a grimy, damaged mind.

I would tentatively recommend this to horror fans. But I'd definitely advise against eating a hotdog while watching it.


Bag Boy Lover Boy is out now - get it here.

Monday, 20 November 2017

The Big Sick (2017)

Written by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon (husband and wife), The Big Sick is a romantic comedy loosely based on how . . . Kumail Nanjiani met and fell in love with Emily V. Gordon. What could have seemed smug and self-indulgent ends up being something fully deserving of all the accolades it has received over the past few months. On the poster and Blu-ray cover you can see phrases like "easily one of the best rom-coms of the decade", "romantic and hilarious", and "sparkling and heartfelt", as well as a few five-star ratings to help sell it. And all of those statements and ratings, originating from sources as varied as the likes of Variety and Glamour, are absolutely correct.

Very much in line with the other films that have been helped into creation by producer Judd Apatow, this is a mix of comedy and drama that gives characters room to breath in a two-hour runtime. Unlike some of the other Apatow movies I could mention, however, this doesn't ever feel as if it is overstaying its welcome.

That is down to the main performances, and the fact that Nanjiani and Gordon have such a great story to spin into cinema gold. Director Michael Showalter doesn't concern himself too much with adding any bells or whistles, happy to rely on the characters and the dialogue, which is a smart decision on his part.

Although Nanjiani happily plays himself onscreen, his wife is portrayed by Zoe Kazan. Kazan is fine, although she spends a large portion of the movie offscreen, or visible on a hospital bed (hence the title, the plot is basically Kumail and Emily having a big fight and then Emily ending up hospitalised and placed in a medically induced coma, which can make it a bit awkward to kiss and make up). Holly Hunter and Ray Romano play Emily's worried parents, and they are both excellent, which is something I never thought I would say about Romano, considering I assumed Everybody Loves Raymond was a deliberately ironic sitcom about one of the most annoying men on the planet. Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff are both very good, playing Kumail's parents, and Adeel Akhtar is Kumail's brother, Naveed. Other comics are represented by Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant, and Kurt Braunohler, and there's nobody in the supporting cast who drops the ball, including many not mentioned here.

There aren't any major set-pieces here, and few of the laughs aren't BIG laughs, but the laughs are surprisingly consistent, entwined nicely with the drama and the heart of the whole thing. This is from the script and the presentation of the material, but it would be remiss to undervalue just how much of the film succeeds thanks to the sheer likeability of Nanjiani. He has been putting in fun performances for a good few years now, often in material that isn't really deserving of his presence, and I hope we can now see him in some more lead roles.


The Big Sick is out now. Buy it here - The Big Sick at

Sunday, 19 November 2017

12 Deaths Of Christmas (2017)

AKA Mother Krampus.

12 Deaths Of Christmas is a low-budget British horror movie, which means that it could be great or it could be painful. Well, I don't see any reason to beat about the bush here, this is painful.

Considering the fact that director James Klass seems to have made this at the same time as House On Elm Lake (also involving Scott Jeffrey, who was the main writer here), and that a number of small British horrors are appearing with both of their names attached somewhere, and a number of shared cast members, I'd have to say that someone has done their very best to stretch a limited budget even further, and that getting all of these movies on the shelves is a calculated gamble to get the undemanding horror fan to pick them up cheap enough before they realise what a bunch of shit they have in their hands.

Of course, I could be totally wrong. Maybe the other films churned out by this loose troupe are fantastic. I haven't seen them. Maybe I will be brave enough one day. Today is not that day. I have to recover from this one first.

The plot here involves a vengeful spirit claiming the lives of children related to people who at one time banded together to form an angry lynch mob. That angry lynch mob was responsible for killing a woman they suspected of being a child murderer, and there you have the "interesting" backstory for the events unfolding onscreen. There are one or two twists and turns, with none of them being all that surprising, interesting, or even logical, and it's hard to stay interested as the film stumbles from one clumsy, amateur scene to another. I'd given up on it by the time a "powerful" scene was shown with a score that attempted to emulate the work of Philip Glass, coincidentally about five minutes after Candyman had been referenced. No. Just no.

I don't like to throw insults around when writing movie reviews, mainly because I try to remember that it can take a hell of a lot of work just to get any film made, but it's hard for me to avoid upsetting anyone while pointing out specific flaws here. The script is atrocious, with not one line managing to feel natural, the direction from Klass is generally competent, I guess, but then we also have to consider his ability to get decent performances from his cast members. He doesn't manage it. At all.

Claire-Maria Fox is awful, young Faye Goodwin is awful (and I take no pleasure in having to say that about a child who probably relied more on direction than most of the adult performers), Tony Manders is awful, and Michelle Archer is, you guessed it, awful. Tara MacGowran isn't awful, but she just has to show up and look evil before causing people injury and death. So that worked out well for her, and allows me to double my rating for the film. Dottie James and Tom Bowen bring us back to the more usual awfulness, however, and everyone else appearing onscreen manages to stay on their level.

If you will watch ANY horror movie then give this a go one day, if you're brave enough. I would say the same if you watch ANY Christmas movie. But you should always have other, better, options. Including that Christmas roaring fire video that you can usually find online. In fact, here you go, I will save you searching for it. And save you from ever having to watch this film.

If you haven't been completely put off, feel free to waste your money on the disc here -


Saturday, 18 November 2017

Nine Lives (2016)

Here's the thing. I don't tend to always plan this blog. Don't get me wrong, I have moments of clarity in which I remember how much easier I can make my life if I plan more than a day ahead. That means I will start to watch Christmas movies early and plan reviews for December. I will also try to schedule reviews of new releases to coincide with cinema or disc releases, when I remember. But my default approach to blogging movie reviews is to keep watching lots and lots of films and then deciding what reviews I want to write, and when I want to schedule their appearances. Which is why I didn't expect to resurrect this blog and have two Kevin Spacey movies making an appearance in the first week. Feel free to skip over this if you like, but I have already clarified my position at the start of my review for Baby Driver.

There are five writers credited here, and Barry Sonnenfeld is the director, for this very simple story of a businessman (Kevin Spacey) who is so busy with all of his dealings that he is neglecting his family (mainly his wife, played by Jennifer Garner, and daughter, played by Malina Weissman, but he has also failed to appreciate the qualities of his eldest son, Robbie Amell, who works for him). One cat-purchasing encounter with Christopher Walken later, a terrible accident, and Spacey finds himself in the body of the feline that he just bought for his daughter's birthday. Will he learn valuable lessons? Will he be able to ever return to his own body, currently comatose? Will the CGI continue to look worse than most of the scenes in Cats & Dogs (which was over fifteen years ago)?

The cast all seem strangely unembarrassed to be in this, which I have to put down to some very good performances. Spacey only has to give a vocal performance, for the most part, so gets off easier than some of the others, Garner is once again wasted in a role undeserving of the talent that can be drawn out of her, Weissman is very good in the role of the young daughter who still dotes on her absent father, and Amell is just fine. Walken has fun in his small role, Mark Consuelos is the ambitious businessman below Spacey, and there's also a cat, of course, which is cute enough when not being made to look odd with "amusing" FX work to keep it acting and reacting more like a man stuck as a cat, as opposed to a normal cat just being itself.

I could name the five writers here, but their names aren't familiar to me and this hasn't encouraged me to check out anything else they may have been, or will be, involved with. This is bland entertainment seemingly created by throwing words and scenes into a hat, drawing out pairs that are matched up, and then ensuring that all potential fun or excitement is drained from every scenario. And I have no idea how Barry Sonnenfeld ended up directing this, and how he could put this out to viewers as a final product. Everything looks incredibly cheap, making me think that most of the budget went on the cast before anyone realised how much would be needed to get everything to a minimal cinematic standard.

I wasn't expecting this to be the cat's whiskers, nobody seeing the trailer would, but I didn't expect such a stinky hairball.


For anyone deranged enough, the link to buy the movie is here -

Friday, 17 November 2017

MUBI and me, and Pablo Larrain.

Many of the movies that I view nowadays come from MUBI, a streaming service I considered carefully before signing up to me. Other services seemed like easy choices. Netflix had loads of movies, and their original shows were building up into a strong portfolio. Amazon Prime had some decent stuff on there, although if you have waded through the worst selections then you will see that they seem to allow people to upload ANYTHING in order to push quantity over quality, and also had the added advantage of free prime delivery options on many physical items (and I do love my physical media). And Shudder was advertised as Netflix for horror fans. Sold.

But MUBI was at a similar price point to some other streaming services, while only ever having 30 curated movies on there at any one time. I wasn't impressed by the idea, although I found myself browsing their current selection more and more often, and I found myself consistently impressed by a) what was on offer and b) what they had that I had previously never heard of. So I took the plunge, and I can easily say that I haven't ever had to regret that decision.

In fact, I probably use MUBI more than any of the other streaming services I have. Part of that is down to the selection of movies, but a larger part of it is due to the completist in me (one day I want to have all 30 movies watched, and be waiting to see what will be offered up next). I thoroughly recommend it to cinema lovers. Not only does it remove the element of procrastination that can come with browsing the other services, it also consistently throws up some absolute gems.

Two examples that come immediately to mind are Symbol (2009) and Scabbard Samurai (2010), two films directed by Hitoshi Matsumoto, someone I was already unwittingly familiar with, having also enjoyed the bizarre R100 (2013). All three of these films are HIGHLY recommended.

I wouldn't recommend the films of Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz, on the other hand, who not only makes art that just doesn't work for me, but doesn't seem to be satisfied unless his films are at least 5 hours long. I am not exaggerating. It is also thanks to MUBI that I have endured a number of Diaz films. I have enjoyed one or two, have found moments to admire in others, and have been bored to tears as a large chunk of my days off have been used up exploring his filmography. Such is the downside of being determined to never shy away from any movie, and I am sure that Diaz has his fans. I am just not one of them. If you are tempted though, feel free to try this one. It is only 250 minutes long.

Pablo Larrain. Now HIM I am a fan of. And he was another filmmaker that I was familiar with without remembering, having seen Jackie (2016) and been thoroughly impressed by that riveting performance from Natalie Portman. It turns out that Jackie shares a lot of the qualities that Larrain has shown throughout his film career, so far, while also being as different as it needs to be, in order to showcase the story of such an American icon and physical symbol of public tragedy.

Indeed, Jackie sometimes feels more in line with the rest of Larrain's filmography than his debut feature, Fuga (2006), which looks at lives affected by music, madness, and a large helping of melancholia. It's surprisingly enjoyable, although also a bit more ultimately inconsequential than I expected it to be.

Things take a step up with his next film, Tony Manero (2008). Alfredo Castro (who also co-wrote the film with Mateo Iribarren and director Pablo Larrain) is superb as a rather unpleasant man tying all of his hopes to his ability to emulate the character played by John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever (hence the title). Sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes shocking, always entertaining, this is well worth your time. It's both a character study and a little look at Chile in the '70s.

Following that, we have Post Mortem (2010). Featuring another great central performance from Castro, this may not be as good as some of Larrain's other works, but it's still an interesting and worthwhile viewing experience, using the story of a morgue employee and his love for a burlesque dancer to also look, once again, at Chile of the '70s, and the end of Salvador Allende's presidency.

In 2012, Larrain gained a boost worldwide with the generally positive reception, from what I can recall, to No (2012). Gael Garcia Bernal plays an advertising exec type who ends up putting his efforts into the "No" campaign on the run up to the vote on whether or not General Pinochet should stay in power for another eight years. The acting is great, with Larrain-regular Alfredo Castro also doing more good work, Larrain directs with his usual assurance, and there's also a more specific sense of time and place given in this instance (speaking as an outsider not fully aware of the modern changing political and cultural landscape in Chile).

Moving from the serious to the not-so-serious, The Club was released in 2015. Well, I refer to it as being less serious but the uncomfortable subject matter and more squirm-inducing scenes hide what turns out to be a rather beautiful and haunting mix of pitch-black comedy and intense drama. The script is sharp, and all of the performances match it. For me, this remains Larrain's best work so far, but that may be because it relies less on knowledge of Chile, and what it has gone through in recent years. Or maybe it just IS his best film so far.

Which brings us back to 2016, in which Larrain gave us both Neruda and the aforementioned Jackie. Both are portraits of individuals, both take very different approaches. Neruda has a decent script, the lead performances are very good, and the whole thing feels like a very brief look in on the life of the main character, as opposed to a detailed overview of all of his achievements. Jackie feels like a more complete, traditional, look at a figure, framed in a way that allows for the usual moments you would expect from that kind of character study as well as a few times in which viewers seem to see a lot more than usual. A glimpse behind the mask being worn to face public scrutiny.

Larrain was born in 1976, making hiim a year younger than me. Ayear younger, and a hell of a lot more talented, dammit. And I will keep watching whatever he makes. I encourage you all to do the same. You won't be disappointed.

Because of discoveries like this, and others, I would also recommend MUBI to those looking to explore more and more areas of world cinema (note - this is NOT an ad, I just wanted an excuse to celebrate Larrain, and to share my rediscovered love of world cinema).

Buy this complete set, and enjoy -

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Found Footage 3D (2016)

Selling itself as the first 3D found footage horror movie, hence the title (another one of those titles that makes no sense if you end up, as I did, just settling down to watch the thing in 2D), Found Footage 3D is written and directed by Steven DeGennaro. While I am not overly familiar with Mr DeGennaro, I can tell you two things about him right now. First of all, he has been involved with audio work on an impressive number of shorts. Second, he thinks he is much smarter and accomplished than he actually is (cinematically speaking).

The premise of Found Footage 3D is very simple. A group of filmmakers set out to make a 3D found footage horror movie and quickly find themselves in the midst of their own spooky scenario, with a lot (okay, ALL) of the main “real” incidents being foreshadowed by the elements put in place during the plotting of the film.

This is all an excuse to get very meta, and get very meta is what it does. From the opening scenes, and then right through to the final moments. That would all be well and good if it was a) handled in a way that wasn’t as unsubtle as a sledgehammer to the temple, and b) presented in a way that didn’t feel completely patronising and derisive of the target audience. The worst thing that Found Footage 3D does is assume that lazy jump scares and a shoddy approach to the material are sins absolutely forgiven because they have been specifically acknowledged by the characters. That's not how it works. If we were enjoying a day out in a park, having a picnic or something (I don't know why, just go with it), and I made a joke about drowning a bag of cats then that wouldn't stop you from being a little bit pissed off, I would hope, if I later took a bag of cats and threw them into a river. That might seem like an extreme example, and it is, but the underlying principle is exactly the same. Making an observation or joke doesn't help to improve any direct example of that coming along in the near future. And JUST doing that isn't really being meta. It's being very lazy.

There are many specifics that I would like to get into, especially as the third act feels like the DeGennaro was going through a checklist of everything he had previously mentioned, but I won't spoil things for anyone else who may enjoy it more than I did.

Let me finish by running through the cast. Carter Roy is fun as Derek, the writer and money man who wants to control most of the film, Alena von Stroheim is all over the place as Amy (although she is not helped by the script), Chris O’Brien is Mark, the guy filming the "making of" that shows us everything happening, and Tom Saporito is the suffering director. Scott Allen Perry is the sound guy, Jessica Perrin is an assistant named Lily, and Scott Weinberg turns up for a couple of scenes in which he plays Scott Weinberg. A mixed selection of skill levels are on display, but nobody is helped by the general lameness (which I believe is the proper technical term to use in this critique) of the film that they are trying to make work.

Found Footage 3D is currently available on SHUDDER.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Tonight She Comes (2016)

I have been hearing about Tonight She Comes for a good few months now, or so it would seem. Unless there's a different film with a very similar title that has been garnering praise from horror fans (no, don't worry, I am not confused with the very good It Comes At Night). But I am pretty sure it was this film. Words like "fun" were used, "throwback", "splattery", and one or two others that made me prick up my ears.

So I had only one question on my lips when the end credits rolled. "What movie did you all watch?"

While Tonight She Comes certainly isn't the worst film in the horror genre, because the worst horror films rank with the very worst of cinema, it's not all that good either. There's a certain degree of technical competence here and there, but the actual story and tone are all over the place. If I cared more about the unfolding events then I would call this a bit of fun. I didn't care though, so I can;t even say that.

Written and directed by Matt Stuertz, this film thinks it is being cool and amusing and playful with all of the genre tropes it utilises. It's not. It's just a hodge podge of potentially good moments ruined by amateur errors and frankly bizarre decisions.

The cast try, with Larissa White particuarly enjoyable in her main role. She's supported by Jenna McDonald, Cameisha Cotton, Nathan Eswine, and Adam Hartley, among others, and the performances are a bit uneven, but not truly terrible.

You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned the actual plot here. That's because I really can't be bothered. To describe it in detail would require turning a rambling mess into something that might seem decent and enjoyable in text form. Trust me when I say that the plot isn't worth me describing here.

And yet, despite the many flaws, I didn't hate Tonight She Comes. I liked a few moments, I disliked a few more, and the rest just played out while I tried to figure out if I was going to muster up any interest in the plot developments. Spoiler . . . I didn't.

4/10 (and why the hell is this £10 for the DVD but £13.99 for the online version???)

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Aliens Vs College Girls (2017)

AKA Aliens Vs Titanic.

There are some movies that overcome their low budgets, ladle on the charm, and make the most of their shortcomings to become something that, while never topping any all-time favourite lists, can become a nice little recommendation to keep up your sleeve when fellow film fans want to find something that hasn't already been given too much exposure.

Aliens Vs College Girls is not one of those movies. Directed by Jeff Leroy, it's a hot mess that tries to throw enough silliness and gratuitous nudity into the first 10 minutes to keep the easily amused viewer attentive for the remainder of the, thankfully short, runtime. The writer is credited as Cameron T. James, which I assume is another "witty" gag, but IMDb has a story credit for Keith Parker so we'll let him share the blame.

The plot, as slight as it is, goes as follows: The spaceship Titan-1C is struck by a space meteor shower, and in the rocks that hit the vessel there are small aliens. It turns out that these aliens can invade hosts and control them, with humans proving to be quite perfect as a potential breeding ground for their kind. A small band of survivors, nominally led by Lana Vickers (Tasha Tacosa), eventually figures this out and tries to survive until the end credits roll.

Don't get excited by the paragraph above. I have inadvertently made the film sound a lot more interesting and exciting than it actually is. After those opening scenes, which at least have Bree Olson cavorting around for a while, it's all downhill. The characters are hard to care about, at all, the film feels padded out throughout most of the middle section, and most of the first third, and a lot of the finale, and there are special effects on display here that fall far below the standard set even by the very first series of Red Dwarf (coming up for thirty years old next year).

Sadly, Jeff Leroy is capable of doing better with this kind of schlock, as he showed when he gave us the enjoyably daft Creepies. If this had some better humour running through a lot of the scenes, if just a little bit of extra time was done to polish the CGI, or if there was a better way to scatter the nudity and sex throughout without it feeling boring then this could have been easy entertainment for whenever you didn't want something that required too much concentration. It ends up being one to completely avoid instead.


Monday, 13 November 2017

Baby Driver (2017)

Okay, let's address the supporting elephant in the soundbooth, metaphorically speaking. As a movie-related blog, there will be things mentioned here that involve people who have been guilty of very heinous acts. That includes both stars from the past and stars from the present. I will still watch movies starring these people. I still really want to see House Of Cards (I wonder if Netflix will keep it available). And I still hope to enjoy Baby Driver when I next watch it, despite the presence of Kevin Spacey in a supporting role. Different people have taken very different stances recently, in light of events that seem to have led to a dozen revelations a day, with major accusations being levelled against the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Spacey, Louis C. K., Brett Ratner, Bryan Singer, and more. If you want to try and avoid ALL of these people then you do what you have to do. I am still going to be watching as many movies as ever, and playing catch up (the default position of any cinephile), so I am sure that this won't be the only film to feature someone who turned out to be a real piece of shit offscreen. And I am still going to do my own part to help anyone around me feel and stay as safe and unthreatened as they should be, in both the workplace and just in day to day life. Call people out on their behaviour, speak up if a situation is taking a turn for the worse, remove any level of acceptability for the mindset that has led to this world of poisonous clouds and booby-trapped environments that women have had to navigate for FAR too long. What I won't ever do is, for example, buy an autobiography written by Kevin Spacey entitled: "How To Make A Non-Apology And Distract People With Gayness." That will not be happening. If we're all on the same page . . . then we'll begin.

Written and directed by Edgar Wright, who had certainly been thinking about the idea since he made the above music video for Mint Royale, Baby Driver is an astonishingly well-crafted mix of audio and action. If, like me, you have ever wandered around with an iPod soundtracking your day, or just waited for the right tune to get you motivated and moving, then this is a film for you.

The story is fairly standard stuff, and we've seen it all before. It's the "good" criminal (Ansel Elgort, playing Baby) aiming for that one last job that will free him from the clutches of a very bad criminal (Kevin Spacey). But will the last job go smoothly, and will Baby actually be allowed to go free?

The cast are all great here. Elgort is as naive and quiet as he needs to be, livened up when he has his music on, and selling all of the moves and rhythms of his character. Spacey is fine in his role, but Jon Hamm is the best of the supporting players, despite solid turns from Jamie Foxx, Eiza Gonzalez, and Jon Benthal. Lily James doesn't make as good an impression as she should, but that is the fault of Wright more than anything to do with her performance.

But how does it fare as a car flick? Well, the driving stunts are damn impressive, with some practical work that showcases precision and style in exactly the way that should be the norm for this kind of thing (*cough* F8 *cough*). Wright shows that he can hande the action unsurprisingly, but that is only half the story. Lest we forget, Baby Driver is also a piece of musical entertainment. It's not traditional, but you could argue the case for this film to sit alongside the likes of The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg, All That Jazz, and even La La Land (the most traditional of those three, funnily enough). If you disagree, watch the film while paying particular attention to the choreography, be it of the characters, the editing, every mis en scene element, and then feel free to tell me if you still think I am talking nonsense.

The whole thing is a marvellous conceit, but it's also makes for a film that won't have too many people just thinking it is okay. I suspect most will love it or absolutely hate it. For me, Wright has crafted yet another winner, even if it doesn't have the rapid-fire gag delivery of his previous works (which is no great loss when it allows him to show that he has more than one string to his bow). It will be very interesting, however, to see if he can use his next film to move even further away from what has been his fairly established bag of tricks.


Now let's end with a song/the opening scene.

Buy Baby Driver here (UK) or here (USA).
Catch up with me and some other guys talking movies at Raiders Of The Podcast (here).

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Fanning the flames.

I was asked recently why I had left my blog to gasp and die. And I wasn't sure of my answer, even as I was verbalising it. I know that there were times when it started to feel like an obligation. I know that there were times when it felt like adding a teaspoon of water to a sea already rising up enough to send us all into the kind of environment we once mocked when Kevin Costner starred as a merman. And I decided that not writing about movies would give me more time to actually watch movies. You can watch movies without necessarily sharing your opinion of them with others, right?

But that itch has been growing in recent weeks. A small, glowing ember has been fanned into some small flames that may well lead me back here on a more permanent basis. I no longer have the NEED to blog daily, but it's starting to feel like I have the desire again.

That is down to a mix of a few different things.

First, I am still trying to watch as much as I can on Netflix, Amazon Prime, MUBI (no idea why it took me so long to give that streaming service a try), and also SHUDDER.

Second, I am still as big a shopaholic as ever, thanks to Arrow Films, Powerhouse/Indicator releases, Eureka!, and numerous other labels, both big and small. I have been acquiring some great reading material, from booklets enclosed in lovingly-packaged releases to the selection from the impressive Spectacular Optical. And Dark Bunny Tees is still my clothing supplier of choice (all gift cards greatly appreciated). I am not bankrupt yet, but it often seems like it's not from a lack of trying.

Third, I have been enjoying the world of podcasting. Yes, I caved in and joined a few good friends to assault your ears with Raiders Of The Podcast. We're on Twitter (as Raiders Of The Pod), Facebook, and many places were you can quench your podcast thirst. I even do a daily Instagram for movie-related goodness. And my Letterboxd allows me to keep track of all my viewings.

Fourth, last, and by no means least, I have had some wonderful cinema experiences lately. The kind of experiences that make you want to wax lyrical about the power of the moving image. Films like Blade Runner 2049 (okay film, amazing time at IMAX), Thor Ragnarok (blockbuster of the year? maybe), mother! (messy, not an easy watch, and quite brilliant), and 70mm screenings of both Dunkirk (Nolan has won me round again) and Lawrence Of Arabia (gold-plated classic).

I make no promises (or threats, depending on how you view my ramblings). Let's just say . . . . . . . maybe meet up here again tomorrow?

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Alien Covenant is BAD and Ridley Scott should feel BAD.

It's been over a year since I added something to my blog, much to the relief of some (I am sure). I have, basically, given up writing reviews to allow myself more time to watch the actual movies. Which is all well and good, but there are still occasional moments when I need to have a good bloody rant. And this is one of those times.

Did any of us watch Alien (1979) and find ourselves wondering just how the deadly xenomorph came about, or why the eggs were all waiting there in the first place? Okay, some people may have wondered just that, and there was a LOT of speculation about the figure referred to as the "space jockey", but part of the appeal was not knowing. All that mattered was that the alien was a fucking shark, covered in tougher material, with acidic blood, and rampaging through a ship crewed by people we started to care about.

Skip to Aliens (1986), a film that shows how to expand a simple premise without spoiling the wonder of the first film.

Alien³ (1992) was seriously flawed, and even the newer "assembly cut" fails to fix everything, but it tried something different in throwing a familiar character into the path of an alien without the advantage of any of the weaponry or handy tech available in the previous film.

At least Alien3 gave us THIS image

And then we have Alien: Resurrection (1997), a film with a director picked for his unique vision and dark humour, that was then lambasted for the unique vision and dark humour. Look, I'm not all that big a fan of the newborn either, or even the bland performance from Winona Ryder, but that cast retains Sigourney Weaver, while adding Ron Perlman, Michael Wincott, Brad Dourif, Dominique Pinon, Dan Hedaya, and a few other greats. So I can't hate it.

Prometheus (2012) is, as we all know, when things seriously started to diverge from the previous pattern. Some still love it, you damn weirdos, but some were a bit pissed off. It didn't help that Ridley Scott seemed to flip flop between declaring it a continuation of the series and stating that it was just a film that shared the DNA of its predecessors. Prometheus is a film of explanations. Explaining creation, explaining that "space jockey", explaining the first stages of the xenomorph evolution. And explaining that, yes, Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender can help to make anything watchable. Seriously, do they just wake up every day and try to run past mirrors to avoid looking adoringly at their own reflections while reciting dramatic soliloquies?

I was fooled. I wanted to believe the best. And I left disappointed. Which is a shame, because Prometheus isn't really that bad a film, if you can ignore some of the staggeringly dumb actions committed by certain characters. It just didn't have enough to feel like an Alien film.

Which brings us to Alien Covenant (2017). Be warned, some SPOILERS are likely to follow.

Ridley Scott seems to have listened to criticisms of Prometheus. He seems to have held his hands up and said "okay, I get it, I will give you what you want." Seems being the main word there. Because Scott can't resist looking back. He can't resist undoing the mysterious origin of the creature that arguably provided the cornerstone for his successful film career. Which leaves Alien Covenant stuck between an airlock and dead space.

This isn't an entire review of the film. I am not going to recap the plot, and I am not going to rattle through the main cast members (although Danny McBride pleasantly surprised me while Katherine Waterston remains a perplexing choice for any lead role). No, I'm just going to moan. About missed opportunities, about the muddled screenplay, and about CGI aliens that were eye-searingly awful. I am not going to say that the graphics were on a par with the awesome Alien³ videogame on the SEGA Megadrive, but at least I remember those images with fondness.

Let's look at what could have been explored more deeply in Alien Covenant, and these things were certainly touched on (but entirely mishandled).

1) Science and faith. This is characterised by both the acting Captain of the crew (Billy Crudup), and also the major chasm separating Walter and David. The opening scenes of Alien Covenant hint at an interesting look at someone heavily involved in science also battling with what he is told by his faith. Things then quickly move on to show that the two don't have to be working against one another. And then it's all dropped because you need alien action. Walter and David have opposing views on the human race, the value of life, and how to help facilitate the whole essence of "survival of the fittest" throughout the universe. There are some stilted conversations about it, and then it's all dropped because you need alien action.

2) The right of life to bear more life. Even more frustrating than the above theme, this was where I thought Alien Covenant was going to actually be brave and prove me wrong for just wanting a rehash of the first few movies in the franchise. David has spent what must feel like an eternity waiting to hatc his plan (no pun intended), and it all stems from the fact that he believes himself better than his creator, who specifically ensured that he could never procreate. You could say that David is driven mad by being told what to do with his own body. You could even say, at a stretch, that the grand finale is all a backlash from someone rebelling against a "pre-exisiting condition" he doesn't believe should hold him back. David is a man shouting up into the eaves of an empty church, raging at a dead god he knows he can improve upon. He's a slave wrecking and burning his workplace now that the master has disappeared. He's a pro-lifer taking things to extremes to make up for the fact that he was created and used as nothing more than a sterile companion (although I am sure there's a LOT of fan-fiction out there saying otherwise). But you know what? It's all dropped because you need alien action.

3) Nativism. Let's not forget that none of the events in Alien Covenant would have happened if the team hadn't found a signal from a planet, recognised a song snippet, decided to explore, and moved quickly to the thinking of "actually, how did we miss this? This could be a perfect place for us to inhabit." It just so happens that, this time around, the disease was waiting to be received by the settlers, rather than vice versa.

4) Androids make "human errors" during moments that are expected to feel sombre and poignant. Yeah, not a big thing, I know, but this bugged the hell out of me.

The fact that these elements were discarded in favour of some of the worst CGI I have seen in a major movie in years is incredibly disappointing. Okay, I was disappointed by Prometheus but, you know what, at least it had the balls to keep moving on a different tangent, with an end coda to try and placate fans of the franchise. And it looked gorgeous.

There are shots here that certainly remind you of how great Scott can be at creating art. There are also some good gore moments. If you can make them out. Yes, that CGI is running around amidst a mess of choppy ending and whipping camera moves, as if Scott knows how bad the final result will be and is wanting to do whatever it takes to distract your eyes from it.

Not from a SEGA Megadrive game!

Which leaves me with very little else to say. It seems churlish to list everything else wrong with the film, although it would be remiss to write about the film without mentioning one of the most mistimed shower scenes in the history of cinema. 
"Hey, most of our colleagues have been killed by a scary space beast and we are in quite a bit of trouble. Wanna shower and make out like we're in a fucking Friday The 13th film?"

No, no, no, no, I will stop there. Honest. And that doesn't just go for this rant. That goes for my faith in any future Alien movies with Ridley Scott at the helm. Because he can surely hear the fans scream, but he's mistakenly thinking that is a good sign.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Dead By Dawn 2016: Men & Chicken (2015)

In some ways, Men & Chicken may seem an odd choice to close a horror festival like Dead By Dawn. But it doesn't take long to deliver the kind of content that you can easily see appealing to organiser Adele Hartley.

Men & Chicken may end up exploring some very interesting ideas about happiness and family, but it begins with scenes of a man visiting his dying father, slightly perturbed when questions are asked about the whereabouts of his brother, while another man attends a date with a wheelchair-bound psychotherapist, most probably because he thinks that a meal and evening out with the lady will be more rewarding, and less expensive, than actually paying for the therapy that he needs. And that's enough to warn viewers about characters they are about to spend the duration of the movie watching.

David Dencik and Mads Mikkelsen play those two men. They are two brothers named, respectively, Gabriel and Elias. Although brothers, their dead father informs them (through the medium of videotape) that they don't have the same mother. And their dead father isn't actually their father. This information sends them on a journey to discover just where they came from, why their father abandoned them, and whether or not they can do better than the miserable existence they seem to be wading through. It turns out that they have a few brothers, all easily identified by the fact that they all have harelips, along with one or two other abnormalities.

Travelling through territory that includes black comedy, seems to reference The Island Of Doctor Moreau, feels at times akin to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and wraps up a surprisingly optimistic core with surrounding layers of cynicism and despair, Men & Chicken is  a slow burn with many small pleasures despite having few surprises. It's certainly an unusual story, don't get me wrong, but most viewers should be able to realise where the third act will end up as soon as the movie starts to properly plot out the slight narrative.

All of the cast do a great job, but most of the laughs come from Mikkelsen, partly because his role here is so removed from other, more suave, characters that he's portrayed in recent years. Dencik also does a great job, despite being almost the straight man of the piece, but singling him out is slightly unfair to the others, who all get at least one memorable moment. Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Soren Malling, and Nicolas Bro may not be recognisable names, at least not to general audiences outwith their home countries, but they easily hold their own.

It's slightly overlong, and strains at times to keep the viewer on board, but writer-director Anders Thomas Jensen manages to take all of the oddness and unpleasantness and turn it into something surprisingly . . . . . . . okay, maybe sweet is the wrong word, but it all feels very human during the final scenes, which is amazing considering the animalistic behaviour of most of the protagonists.


And that is it for another year at Dead By Dawn. Thanks, as ever, to Adele Hartley, her helpers, The Filmhouse team, and everyone who gets along to make the festival what it is. Even my loony mates.

Dead By Dawn 2016: The Shorts.

As there is only one movie left for me to cover in my look back over Dead By Dawn 2016 (I had to miss the last two features, with an import disc allowing me to see Men And Chicken just in time for this coverage) I thought that this would be a good place to quickly review the shorts. All of them.

The 2D & Deranged selection were as follows:

Alt-Tab - mad genius. My personal selection for the best animated short. 9/10.

Francis - a gorgeous campfire tale with an amusing punchline. 7/10.

Other Lily - Interesting and quirky, with a nice line in that particular feeling you get when trying to get to sleep despite feeling terrified. 7/10.

Mute - absolutely brilliant. Would have been my choice for best animated short if not just beaten by Alt-Tab. 9/10.

Frozen Blood Test - most will have seen this by now. It's worth watching again. And again. And again. 8/10.

Then you had some of the usual What You Make It selection, a typically eclectic mix:

La Seance - an interesting look at a very particular branch of photography. 7/10.

The Nest - many will have already seen this Cronenberg short. That doesn't make it any less unnerving. 7/10.

The House Is Innocent - a highly amusing look at the warm and witty couple who own an infamous murder home. 8/10.

How Deep Can I Go? - strong contender for my favourite of the fest until some other choices were shown. You may agree with me when you watch it. 9/10.

Death In Bloom - enjoyable and amusing look at death dealing with a slightly fussy customer who just wants her final moments to be perfect. 6/10.

Saturday had a short programme that reminded us all of Where The Wild Things Are:

Boniato - an interesting and impressive little monster movie that could easily be expanded upon, I think. 8/10.
I still prefer Play Dead, however, from the same talented people. So here is Play Dead for you to enjoy.

The Bridge Partner - very droll, but also very amusing. 7/10.

L'ours Noir - an absolutely hilarious look at how not to attract the attention of bears. 9/10.

Foxglove - strange and flawed, this one didn't really work for me. 3/10.

Bad Throttle - a great punchline makes this well worth seeing on a big screen, but it's overlong when you consider the joke. 6/10.

Three short movies made up the Apocalypse Soon section:

Graffiti - a quiet but enjoyable tale set in Pripyat. 7/10.

The Disappearance Of Willie Bingham - starts decent, gets better, and becomes downright horrifying as things go on. Brilliant, bleak stuff. 8/10.

Monsters - my personal choice for the best short film of the festival. Amazing stuff. 10/10.

Last, but by no means least, we have I Blame The Parents, and this lot included:

Viking - a brother and sister give their dad a send off while also revelling in the fact that he's finally shuffled off this mortal coil. 7/10.

Honor Student - more like a music video, this is no less impactful during its final moments. 7/10.

Black Eyes - almost feels like Harold & Maude remade with two child stars. Wonderful stuff. 8/10.

De Kleinzoon AKA The Grandson - dark, witty, and with a fantastic punchline. 9/10.

Blight - superb stuff, yet another short film that easily feels ripe for expansion. It's all about a priest helping a family deal with their possessed and pregnant daughter. 9/10.

The Babysitter Murders - this won best short film of the festival. While it's polished, amusing stuff, and benefits from a layer of meta winks and nods, it's also far too predictable, and ever so slightly smug. But most people seemed to disagree with me. And I still really enjoyed it, regardless. 7/10.

And that covers them all. If you like what you have seen here then please do share the love for these talented film-makers, and keep an eye out for the other titles mentioned here. You won't regret it.

Dead By Dawn 2016: She Who Must Burn (2015)

I REALLY want to punch Shane Twerdum in the face. REALLY HARD. That's nothing personal against Twerdum, although I understand why that would be hard to believe, but it's a testament to how great he is in his portrayal of a particularly reprehensible character in She Who Must Burn. Watch the movie and tell me I'm wrong.

Twerdum plays Jeremiah Baarker, a fanatic evangelist who ends up leading his "followers" to ever more dangerous and violent acts as they attempt to convince people that everything is part of god's plan. A woman should always do as her husband wants. Everything is justified if it is done in the name of the almighty. And abortion is a huge sin. It's this last part, more than any other, that drives Baarker again and again to butt heads with Angela (Sarah Smyth), a wman who offers advice to other women, and in some cases help to escape abuse.

There are a number of other characters mixed in to the plot of She Who Must Burn and I'm not ignoring them here as any comment on their depictions, or the talents of the actors in those roles. I'm simply choosing to focus on Jeremiah and Angela because they represent the eye of the storm here. Despite the two characters not actually sharing too much screentime together, relatively speaking, the film often feels like a two-hander in the way that it's either showing events as viewed through one filter or the other.

Twerdum may have been thinking of giving himself the best role when he wrote the script with director Larry Kent, but this never feels like any kind of vanity project. It's not even as morally simplistic as it could be, mainly thanks to a quietly audacious and thought-provoking finale that will lead to some interesting questions and conversations after the credits roll.

Smyth is also very good, despite the fact that she has the less showy role, and she's believable as a woman with no major aims or agenda other than helping out others in times of distress. She's obviously a strong individual, and this comes over in both her moments of comforting others and her confrontations with those protesting outside her home.

Abortion and religious extremism aren't necessarily ingredients for a fun time at the movies, and you'll struggle to come out of She Who Must Burn and tell others that you enjoyed it, in the traditional sense, but this is well worth your time. It's an interesting story, it's told well, and some of the attitudes on display serve as a sombre reminder of attitudes that we still need to, sadly, work against in these more (supposedly) enlightened times.

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Thursday, 28 April 2016

Dead By Dawn 2016: Creature Designers - The Frankenstein Complex (2015)

Creature Designers - The Frankenstein Complex is another documentary about the special people who have made our special effects over the years. But what separates this from the likes of Nightmare Factory and other documentaries covering similar territory? Well, first of all, this one isn't just looking at the KNB EFX Group. Secondly, it's both a more specific look at the designers and how their passion has helped craft so many memorable designs over the years and yet also a wider look at the many departments now working together to design and operate one creature. It may start back in the early days of cinema but it doesn't forget to look forward at the potential still ahead of us. Sometimes that is viewed with optimism and sometimes there's an inevitable tinge of sadness as practical work is overshadowed and/or replaced by computers.

Because there's no real plot to discuss, obviously, and no performances to weigh up, none of the usual movie review stuff, I'll just use this paragraph to reel off a list of names. Some, but not all, of the people appearing onscreen to talk about special effects and creature design are: the Chiodo brothers, Rick Baker, Guillermo del Toro, Joe Dante, John Landis, Phil Tippett, Greg Nicotero, Kevin Smith, Tom Woodruff Jr, Mick Garris, and Matt Winston. It's an impressive selection, no doubt, but the notable omission of Tom Savini (who is only ever namechecked once) makes it feel slightly incomplete. And I'm always a bit miffed, as a huge fan of his work, whenever the mad genius of Screaming Mad George is overlooked.

Directors Gilles Penso and Alexandre Poncet do a very good job of getting the right people to wax lyrically about their perspective on the industry, whether it's Phil Tippett sharing his passion for model work, the Chiodo brothers being shown alongside both Killer Klowns and Critters, or Tom Woodruff Jr admitting that he doesn't remember his work on Mortal Kombat with too much fondness. Dante and Landis are both great talkers, as usual, and Kevin Smith speaks for us all when describing how he views any shark to this day because of Jaws.

There's not much else to say about this documentary. Fans of horror, and fans of special effects, should already know that they want to see it. Others can take or leave it, as they see fit. It's certainly recommended for fans of all kinds of cinema though.

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Dead By Dawn 2016: From Beyond (1986)

This review first appeared, in a very similar form, on Flickfeast.

Director Stuart Gordon reunites a few cast members from Re-Animator (Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs) in another movie based on the work of H.P. Lovecraft and while it may not quite reach the giddy highs that the exploits of Herbert West did, it’s a solid horror that holds up surprisingly well.

Starting off with a very similar short, sharp shock sequence a la Re-Animator, we get to encounter Crawford Tillinghast (played by Combs) as he escapes from an experiment gone awry that has resulted in the death of Dr Pretorius (Ted Sorel). Pretorius was working on an invention known as a resonator that would help to stimulate the pineal gland and show more of that which normally remains unseen all around us. It worked too well, unfortunately, and while seeing amazing sights those using the resonator also attract bigger problems. Barbara Crampton plays Dr. Katherine McMichaels, a misguided professional who thinks that the way to help Tillinghast (now staying in a ward for those with mental problems) is to take him back to the scene of the carnage, accompanied by a large security presence in the shape of Ken Foree, and to re-enact the experiment. Of course that should be a good idea. I’m sure nothing at all will go wrong with that progressive method of helping a person many have already assumed mentally unbalanced. Quelle surprise, things start to go bad and then go from bad to worse.

This movie is a whole lot of fun for fans of horror and fans of any of the lead actors. Taking a very slight Lovecraft tale as its basis, it does very well in using the central concept (and let’s not overlook the great Brian Yuzna’s influence in the writing department here) and expanding upon it to create something truly memorable and entertaining. The special effects vary throughout the movie but many of them are very well done indeed, and there are certainly one or two moments that will make you queasy if you’re not already TOO hardened to everything the genre can throw at you.

Gordon paces things perfectly with that great intro then a nice build-up interspersed by a few quick fright/shock moments until we get to an all-out insanely entertaining final reel that feels more like a Frank Henenlotter movie at times but is all the more fun for it. Revisit this film if you have not seen it in a while and, like me, you may be pleasantly surprised at how well it stands up. And newcomers? Give it a try, you may end up liking it too. Although, do be warned, it also feels very much of the '80s (which remains a big plus point for me, although some don't view things the same way).

One final note . . . . . for one scene alone, seared on my memory at a tender age, this remains the lovely Barbara Crampton’s finest hour. Fans will already be smiling in acknowledgement while all other red-blooded males should definitely check it out just to fall in lust with the woman. What a gal.

From Beyond was followed up in this late late Dead By Dawn 2016 show by the superb Dead & Buried. I admit that my eyelids didn't allow me to stick it out until the end, but here is my review from my last viewing of that particular slice of horror greatness.

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Dead By Dawn 2016: We Go On (2016)

After the madness of YellowBrickRoad, writer-directors Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton return with another impressive horror entry. While more traditional in style and aim than their debut feature, this remains something a bit different. Yet it also ladles on the atmosphere and traditional scares with a skill rarely seen at this level (not to dismiss the many fine horror movies we see every year, I am just emphasising that this is a top-tier flick with very few of the flaws we usually see associated with considerably lower budgets).

Clark Freeman plays Miles, a young man who seems to be afraid of almost everything in the world around him. Especially cars. He's one of the few people who doesn't drive. In an effort to release himself from his paralysing fears, Miles overs a large financial reward to anyone who can prove that there is something after death. He wants to take some comfort in the fact that we go on, hence the title. After wading through a large pile of kooks and deluded responses, he narrows his potential candidated down to just a few. Heading off to meet each one, with his mother (Annette O'Toole) in tow, he soon finds that there may not be any proof out there. Until it appears right under his nose. And then he might wish he hadn't started on this journey.

There are only two main problems with We Go On. First of all, Freeman isn't the best lead. He's not terrible, by any means, but it certainly takes a while to warm to his character. After some careful consideration, I concluded that this was due more to Freeman's performance than the writing, which is pretty solid throughout. The second main problem is a surprising lack of tension during some sequences. There's atmosphere and some wonderfully spooky details, and a few fantastic jump scares, but the tension dissipates once some rules are laid down and you know what can and cannot occur. That doesn't make the experience of some of the main characters any less harrowing, however, and it's a minor flaw when the rest of the actual horror content is so well handled.

As well as Freeman and O'Toole (who is wonderful, by the way, in her portrayal of a mother who will go to almost any lengths to keep her son safe and well), the cast includes John Glover in a small role (making the film an extra little treat for Smallville fans), Giovanna Zacarias as an alleged psychic plagued by the presence of spirits around her, Jay Dunn as a lovesick stranger, and Laura Heisler as a young woman trying to keep a dangerous individual out of her life. All of these people interconnnect in ways that feel nicely plausible without ever seeming too contrived, in the context of the main premise.

Holland and Mitton have certainly learned a thing or two over the past few years, although I am still also a huge fan of their debut, and We Go On uses almost every trick in the book to deliver the chills. The visuals and production design are solid, the audio moves up and down to prime you for those big scares, and the script manages to satisfy everyone while also still leaving room for some personal interpretation.

If you enjoyed some of the bigger supernatural hits from the last decade or so (The Sixth Sense, Stir Of Echoes, White Noise, etc) then you should love this one. It's up there with the very best of 'em.

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Dead By Dawn 2016: The Corpse Of Anna Fritz (2015)

Anna Fritz (Alba Ribas) is a beautiful celebrity. And as this movie begins, you may not be surprised to know, she is dead. Her corpse is being held overnight in a hospital morgue before being further dealt with elsewhere. Pau (Albert Carbo) works at this hospital, and he receives a visit from two friends (Ivan, played by Cristian Valencia, and Javi, played by Bernat Saumell) before they are all due to go out partying. Which is when things start to get dark. Very dark indeed.

I'm not going to say any more about the plot details here because the less you know going into this movie the better. Suffice to say that this is a deeply unpleasant and uncomfortable viewing experience, to start with. But stick with it and you'll be rewarded with a damn fine, and extremely tense, thriller that rattles along nicely for the duration of its relatively short runtime.

Director Hector Hernandez Vicens, who also co-wrote the movie with Isaac P. Creus, skates to the very edge of what many will consider immoral and distressing before starting to then add complexity to the scenario and connect more strongly with viewers who will start pondering just what they would do if thrust into a similar situation (not that, I hope to god, any one of us WOULD be thrust into a situation like this).

All of the cast do a fantastic job, although I could easily make the obvious joke about Ribas corpsing on camera, and it's impressive to think about your opinions of each character at the end compared to how you may have been viewing them at the very beginning of the movie. I also won't be going into any more detail here because discussing the character developments could be as damaging to your experience of the movie as discussing the plot details. This is a film about a wild situation, about morality and consequences, and it moves from scene to scene thanks to the actions of the main characters.

Although it's no blockbuster, with the hospital really the only setting of the movie, The Corpse Of Anna Fritz never feels lacking in any way. The budget has been put to great use, with extra focus on the cold, impressive camerawork and framing. Moving between the morgue itself and some other parts of the hospital also helps to release viewers from any potential feelings of claustrophobia and think of the film taking place in a world other than just an unconnected independent movie universe (look, we all love independent movies but we've also all seen a number of films that take place in one room or building with nothing but stock footage trying to convince us that there's still a big world outside).

As a look at the strange allure of celebrity, this works. As a look at the strange effect of testosterone mixed in with peer pressure, this works. As a tense and unique thriller, this works. Basically, yes, this works for film fans who have the stomach to handle the unpleasant premise.

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Dead By Dawn 2016: Antibirth (2016)

I started off laughing at Antibirth. It wasn't exactly a hard film to find amusing. But then it keeps on going and I just found myself laughing less. And less. And less. Until I eventually stopped. But still the movie kept going, throwing quirky black comedy beat after quirky black comedy beat at me. The last ten minutes or so put a smile back on my face, but that still wasn't enough to make up for the preceding 80+ minutes (that felt much longer to me).

Natasha Lyonne plays Lou, a young woman who spends her time getting drunk, stoned, or drunk and stoned. Chloe Sevigny is her best friend, and seems to enjoy spending a lot of her time the same way. And another couple of plot strands feature Mark Webber as a supplier of drugs and girls while Meg Tilly pops up to portray a character I can't even be bothered explaining. I'm sorry. I really can't. She's not exactly Miss Exposition, I guess, but she's certainly not far from it. Anyway, let's get back to Lou. Things get very interesting for her when she finds out that she's pregnant. Unfortunately, she cannot recall how this happened. In fact, she's pretty sure that it shouldn't actually BE happening to her. Has she blanked out during a sex session that led to her impregnation? Or is the explanation a stranger one?

Writer-director Danny Perez sure knows how to enjoy himself. Thankfully, there are times when that enjoyment seeps off the screen. It just doesn't happen as often as it should, or as often as it needs to. And he wears away your goodwill by piling on the quick cuts and clumsy editing as things become more frenetic and strange en route to the finale. Lyonne help to make things bearable, she's always fairly enjoyable and this is just the right type of role that lets her shine, as does Sevigny, Webber, and even Tilly (despite her thankless role I was just happy to see her again - not sure what else she's been doing lately but it's not been on my radar anyway).

If you like your horror to be less horrifying and more steeped in surrealism then this might just be a little cracker for you. And the practical effects used in the final, wild scenes almost make up for everything that has come along beforehand. Unfirtunately, this just didn't strike a chord with me at all. Which left me sitting there in growing discomfort and gloom while others laughed at the collection of disconnected moments of weirdness.

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