Happy Death Day (2017) – Film Review

Another horror flick from production company Blumhouse Pictures, ‘Happy Death Day’ released in 2017, does at least extend-out of the usual range of Blumhouse horrors to become more of a horror-comedy than just a straight-forward teen slasher. But similar to the rest of their associated franchises e.g. ‘Insidious,’ ‘The Purge’ and ‘Paranormal Activity,’ both ‘Happy Death Day’ and it’s sequel definitely have their fair share of issues, with some being far more severe than others.

Plot Summary: Waking-up in the dorm room of a boy whose name she can’t remember after a night of heavy drinking, self-centered college student: ‘Tree Gelbman’ intends to continue her trend of avoiding her birthday, but little does she know that later that night on her way to another party, someone is waiting to murder her. Only after being killed, ‘Tree’ awakens in the same dorm room, soon realising she is being forced to relive her brutal night of murder over-and-over again until she discovers her killer’s identity…

‘Happy Death Day’ similar to many other day-repeating stories in the past, takes most of its inspiration from the comedy classic: ‘Groundhog Day’ from 1993. Yet unlike many of the other films that are inspired by this beloved comedy flick, it becomes clear over-time that ‘Happy Death Day’ is quite derivative of: ‘Groundhog Day.’ As the film’s story not only utilises the comedy’s plot without much innovation (only throwing a killer into the mix). But the film even steals the main point of the narrative, that being its main character and their correlating character-arc, using the time-looping concept to in a way punish the protagonist for their cruel behaviour towards others.

In spite of this however, the protagonist: ‘Tree’ portrayed by Jessica Rothe, is by far the best element of the film. As while ‘Tree’ does go through a character-arc that is all-too-familiar as previously mentioned, Rothe makes a fantastic first-outing as an actress through her very enjoyable performance. Then of course, there is the killer, whose identity remains a mystery throughout most of the runtime. Known as ‘The Babyface Killer,’ the killer’s outfit is actually the mascot of: ‘Bayfield University’ where the film takes-place, and although the costume itself is far more goofy then intimidating, the mask/costume was actually designed by Tony Gardner. The costume designer behind the now-iconic: ‘Ghostface’ costume from the ‘Scream’ series, which does help redeem to the killer’s undoubtedly petty motivation.

The film’s cinematography by Toby Oliver isn’t anything amazing overall, but does still back-up the story effectively in a variety of scenes. Whether that’s through its use of wide sweeping-shots when the characters are in an intense chase, or when more shaky hand-held camerawork is used to reflect ‘Tree’s break-down when she first realises she is stuck in her current crisis. Yet similar to much of its story, the film never leans enough into a more outlandish/experimental nature when considering what the film could accomplish with its cinematography.

Talented composer Bear McCreary handles the film’s original score, which isn’t very distinctive from most of his other work within the horror genre. But despite the score’s lack of memorability, it still does feel as if there is a decent amount of effort put into it, as the soundtrack actually has quite a lot of range even if some of the tracks don’t always fit with the tone of the film. This also goes for many of the songs used throughout ‘Happy Death Day,’ as nearly all of the film’s song choices massively differ in both genre and general popularity.

But still, the biggest problem ‘Happy Death Day’ suffers from is the inconsistency of its tone. As although the film does attempt to have scenes featuring both scares and humour alike, many of the film’s jump-scares and jokes range in quality, and occasionally even cancel each-other out. Additionally, the film also takes an unusual approach to its violence, as while ‘Tree’ dies countless times throughout the film in a number of different ways. The film never allows for any creative or darkly amusing deaths due to its lack of any blood or gore. Yet this wasn’t always the case, as the original screenplay for the film did actually include more violence, so much so in fact that it would have gained the film a higher age-rating, with plenty of scenes having much grislier deaths that were later altered by director Christopher Landon (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) during pre-production.

Altogether, whilst the signature performance from Jessica Rothe does help to make ‘Happy Death Day’ a far more enjoyable viewing, in addition to the film’s idea of a protagonist being repeatedly murdered having plenty of potential for a horror-comedy. The film just doesn’t do enough with its story, feeling almost as if its a little restrictive on-itself, never delving enough into being either funny or freighting respectively. So, if you desire an amusing horror-comedy to stick on one evening, maybe just go back to your more accustomed choices over this mediocre slasher. Final Rating: 5/10.

happy_death_day_xxlg

The Bye Bye Man (2017) – Film Review

Simply from the laughably atrocious title of the film alone, I’m sure many can guess why 2017’s ‘The Bye Bye Man’ fails so miserably as a horror flick. Coming acorss more as a student film project rather than a feature that actually made its way into cinemas (mostly due to its amateurish acting and filmmaking alike), ‘The Bye Bye Man’ is an incredibly lacklustre and mindless horror down to even its last few painful minutes of screen-time.

Plot Summary: When three college students move into an old house just off-campus, they unwittingly unleash a supernatural entity known as ‘The Bye Bye Man,’ a dark creature that preys upon any victim that discovers its name. Now, withholding this knowledge, the group attempt to keep the existence of: ‘The Bye Bye Man’ a secret whilst also trying to save themselves…

Despite the film’s title implying otherwise, the actual antagonist of the film hardly appears in full throughout the runtime. In fact, the story on which the film is based: ‘The Bridge to Body Island,’ actually has a much more complex mythology for the creature than the film itself. Originally being born albino in New Orleans in 1912, who eventually ran-away from home and began murdering people and cutting-out their eyes and tongues, which he would then sew together and bring to life using voodoo. The original story of: ‘The Bye Bye Man’ is far more interesting and disturbing than what appears in the film, which is nothing short of undeveloped and even fairly boring in terms of both his design and his abilities.

Relatively new actors Douglas Smith, Cressida Bonas and Lucien Laviscount, unfortunately, all lead the film with quite poor performances. As while the cringey and often moronic writing certainly doesn’t help, their performances are lacking in both urgency and charisma, so it becomes quite difficult to care about them once the supernatural occurrences begin. Surprisingly, though, the actor behind: ‘The Bye Bye Man’ himself is Doug Jones, known for his fantastic creature/character performances such as: ‘Abe Sapien’ in the ‘Hellboy’ series, and ‘The Amphibian Man’ in ‘The Shape of Water.’ Yet even though Jones may seem like too much of an accomplished actor to be in such a minimal role as this, with talented actress Carrie-Anne Moss also making an appearance, its possible that at one point in time the screenplay for this film may have actually contained some creative ideas.

James Kniest’s cinematography is another area in which the film lacks, as the bland camerawork only allows for a couple of visually interesting shots throughout, usually resulting in the film having a very flat and occasionally cheap look. However, one shot the filmmakers must have been pleased with is the shot of a large industrial train traveling at night, as this shot is continuously reused at multiple points. But what’s confusing here is that this shot’s inclusion is never explained, nor does it having any bearing on the plot whatsoever, only appearing at random within the protagonist’s dreams and once in the real-world nearing the end of the film.

The film’s original score by The Newton Brothers isn’t memorable in the slightest, simply being a standard piano/strings-focused horror score with the exception of the track: ‘The Bye Bye Man,’ which feels very out-of-place when compared to the rest of the film’s soundtrack, as the creature’s main theme sounds like something ripped straight from an episode of: ‘Goosebumps.’ Also worth a quick mention is the film’s corny use of the recognisable ’50s song: ‘Bye Bye Love,’ which is just far too on-the-nose for me.

From its constant jump-scares to its many typical horror clichés (e.g. a group of college teens, creepy scribbled drawings, an old foreboding house, a protagonist who looks-up the creature’s origins in a library), the film is teeming with much of the usual problematic writing that floods many modern horror screenplays. Only this time, the film has simply nothing else to set itself apart from others within the genre. The only aspect of the film that could’ve been remarkable would’ve been ‘The Bye Bye Man’ himself and his ‘Seeing-Eye Hound,’ made from pieces of his victims. But as already mentioned, the film does nothing with its antagonist or his hound, only utilising the dog creature to stand alongside ‘The Bye Bye Man’ through some truly abysmal CG effects.

In conclusion, ‘The Bye Bye Man’ is one of the last films I’d recommend to any horror fanatic. Completely absent of any likeable characters, an intriguing/threatening antagonist or any sense of an eerie atmosphere, its hard to believe that the film has any positive reviews at all. And yet somehow, it does. All we can do is hope horrors such as this fade into obscurity and never receive a sequel, prequel or anything else of the sort, as this genre has already suffered enough in recent years with the likes of: ‘Truth or Dare,’ ‘Chernobyl Dairies,’ and ‘The Gallows,’ just to name a few. Final Rating: 1/10.

bye_bye_man_xxlg

It (2017) – Film Review

Finally, after many years of waiting, horror and literature fans alike got their wishes granted in mid 2015 as director Andy Muschietti (Mama, It: Chapter Two) signed on to direct a reboot (or readaptation) of one of Steven King’s most iconic and beloved horror stories, this, of course, being: ‘It.’ And due to its excellent cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung and incredibly memorable performance from Bill Skarsgård as the demonic clown ‘Pennywise,’ ‘It’ is certainly one of the better Steven King adaptations in recent years, even with the array issues the film still suffers from.

Plot Summary: In the summer of 1989, a group of unpopular kids known as ‘The Losers’ Club,’ band together in order to destroy a shapeshifting monster known only as ‘Pennywise,’ a creature which has been terrorising their home town of: ‘Derry’ for decades and can disguise itself as whatever it’s victim fears most…

Following the film’s incredibly successful release in 2017, ‘Pennywise’ has quickly become a modern horror icon despite only having about four minutes of dialogue in the entire film. But its easy to see why this is, as not only does ‘It’ share the familiar fun tone of classic films of the 1980s such as: ‘The Goonies,’ ‘The Gate’ and ‘The Monster Squad,’ yet ‘It’ also manages to adapt the novel’s antagonist: ‘Pennywise’ fairly closely from the original source material, resulting in a mostly entertaining novel-to-screen transition.

The main cast of: ‘The Losers’ Club’ features Jaeden Martell, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer, Chosen Jacobs and Wyatt Oleff who all share pretty great chemistry with each other, as alongside the film’s terrific writing, the children truly feel like an actual group of kids, with the group constantly cursing and sharing in plenty of quippy banter with each other. In addition to the younger cast, ‘Pennywise’ is this time around portrayed by Bill Skarsgård, and while I have always loved Tim Curry’s cheesy yet menacing portrayal of the iconic clown. Bill Skarsgård is a stand-out aspect of the film for sure. Capturing the eerie qualities of the character as well as his unworldly nature perfectly, truly embracing the idea that ‘Pennywise’ isn’t just a psychotic murderer dressed as a clown, but something far stranger…

The cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung is surprisingly brilliant for a modern horror, featuring a number of attractive shots which blend extremely well with the film’s story. The film does have one recurring shot which is quite irritating, however, as during many of the scenes where ‘Pennywise’ appears to his victims, the film utilises a shot in which the sinister clown approaches the camera straight on, sprinting directly towards the screen, and while I understand what the filmmakers were trying to accomplish with this shot, I feel it only comes off as fatuous and appears extremely out-of-place when compared to the rest of the film’s visually enthralling camerawork.

Admirable yet flawed, the original score by Benjamin Wallfisch ranges from being your typical horror soundtrack to eventually becoming more emotional for the more character-focused scenes. The main issue I take with the original score are some of the tracks which feature deep bass-like sounds, as I feel these tracks really don’t fit with the film’s tone or time-period. Regardless, the tracks: ‘Paper Boat’ and ‘Derry’ do serve the film’s story delightfully well, with one of the film’s final tracks: ‘Blood Oath,’ also being a beautiful send-off for these characters before their inevitable return.

From ‘Pennywise’s uncanny appearance to the abandoned house ‘It’ lives within on ‘Neibolt Street,’ many of the film’s designs are also pretty memorable despite their limited screen-time. These fantastic designs are dragged down by the film’s poor CG effects, however, as the film always seems to resort to CG visuals during many of its more tense moments, which can take away from their impact. This is also where ‘It’s most substantial problem comes into play, as ‘It’ has really split audiences down the middle when it comes to its focus on horror, as while the film does have a few eerie scenes and creepy visuals, this adaptation seems to be more focused on being the coming-of-age story the novel mostly is. Although some viewers may be disappointed by this, desiring a narrative based more around the story’s darker elements, I feel the film’s distracting CG effects and constant barrage of jump-scares are made-up for by its interesting delve into its themes of childhood fears and growing-up.

In my opinion, 2017’s ‘It’ is a solid Steven King adaptation, as while certainly let down by its weak CG visuals, over-reliance on jump-scares and occasionally inconsistent tone, the film still is a pretty enjoyable watch throughout its two hour runtime, mostly due to the film’s great performances and general memorability, and with ‘It: Chapter Two’ turning-out to be an underwhelming experience for most. I’d say it further proves that this film is the direction to go when it comes to adapting King’s work. Final Rating: 7/10.

it_xxlg

The Snowman (2017) – Film Review

Despite being directed by Tomas Alfredson, head of some great films in the past such as: ‘Let the Right One In’ and ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,’ ‘The Snowman’ is a complete mess of a thriller from start-to-finish. Mostly as a result of the variety of issues it faced during its production, from a rushed filming schedule to plenty of scenes and story elements being left on the cutting-room floor. Although the film’s isolated location alongside the visually pleasing cinematography by Dion Beebe may be very effective at points, they simply aren’t enough to save the film from its weak writing and boring/confusing narrative, even with the film’s decent source material.

Plot Summary: As a rough detective (Harry Hole) investigates the disappearance of a woman whose scarf is found wrapped around an ominous-looking snowman, he begins to fear an elusive serial killer may be active again. So with the help of a brilliant recruit, ‘Harry’ must now connect decades-old cold cases in the hopes of outwitting this threat before the next snowfall…

‘The Snowman’ is based on the novel of the same name by Jo Nesbø, also known as: ‘Snømannen’ in Norwegian. However, although this is the first time audiences are seeing the character of: ‘Harry Hole’ portrayed on-screen, ‘The Snowman’ is actually the seventh entry in the character’s novel series. Making the narrative itself feel very underdeveloped and even a little out-of-place, almost as if the viewer hasn’t been informed of any of the film’s in-world events before the current story begins (this may also be why the film is brimming with overly long flashbacks).

Michael Fassbender portrays the protagonist: ‘Harry Hole’ within the film, which is unfortunately one of his weakest performances to date, not only due to his poorly-written character (who is incredibly cliché as an uncaring alcoholic detective) but also as a result of his fairly bland line delivery. The rest of the cast featuring Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jonas Karlsson and even a short appearance from J.K. Simmons, are all decent with what they are given, although they also suffer from similar poorly-written characters. Many of the characters throughout the film also never seem to react very realistically to situations, as characters usually just shrug off horrific sights with ease, never delving into how traumatic these experiences would actually be for a person to witness.

The cinematography by Dion Beebe is undoubtedly the best aspect of the film, however, as the beautiful yet isolated locations of the story really add to the film’s enormous array of wide-shots and uncomfortable close-ups. Needlessly to say, this doesn’t really help with the lack of tension within the film, as although the film makes more than a few attempts at crafting tension-filled moments when ‘Harry’ investigates various crime scenes, the film never quite manages it, usually failing to build-up much of an eerie atmosphere.

Marco Beltrami handles the original score for the film, and although this composer usually does terrific work, his score for: ‘The Snowman’ is mostly very dull. As with the exception of the tracks: ‘Main Titles’ and ‘Down the Harry Hole,’ the entire soundtrack feels as of it could’ve been taken from almost any other generic thriller, which is a huge shame, as I personally feel a more impactful score could’ve really helped with the film’s total lack of tension.

The film’s location probably intrigued a large number of viewers just on itself, clearly taking inspiration from films such as: ‘Deadfall’ and the dark comedy classic: ‘Fargo’ from 1996, the film’s snowy Norway setting really gives the film a distinct look, with the bright red blood from many of the killer’s victims standing-out immensely amongst the white snow. These visuals also help to distract from the film’s slow-pacing, as the film’s main mystery usually feels like quite a drag, with clues only being revealed very slowly over the course of the film.

In conclusion, ‘The Snowman’ definitely fails in more categories than one, as despite its interesting location and pretty fantastic cinematography, the film’s messy story and bland performances make the film pretty unappealing when considering it’s over two-hour runtime. Whilst I’m sure ‘The Snowman’ had the potential to be a great semi-Noir thriller at some-point in time, especially considering it was initially going to be directed by the legendary Martain Scorsese, who eventually left the film to pursue other projects. ‘The Snowman’ is still far from the chilling crime tale it attempted to be, and overall, is a complete disappointment. Final Rating: 3/10.

snowman_ver3_xlg

Kong: Skull Island (2017) – Film Review

Jordan Vogt-Roberts directs his first major film with ‘Kong: Skull Island,’ another reboot of the iconic monster this time set within a different time-period and featuring plenty of vibrant visuals. Resulting in ‘Kong: Skull Island’ being a pretty entertaining monster flick overall, despite the film still being plagued with a range of issues throughout its two hour runtime.

Plot Summary: Shortly after the Vietnam war in 1973, a team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, without knowing it, they soon venture into the domain of the mighty: ‘King Kong,’ and must fight their way through an onslaught of dangerous creatures to escape the deadly: ‘Skull Island.’

Just from a quick glance at the film, it’s obvious that the film takes heavy inspiration from the war epic: ‘Apocalypse Now’ when it comes to its visuals, which is by no means a bad thing, as ‘Kong: Skull Island’ really embraces its 1970s time-period. Making every set, costume, and piece of military equipment fit well within the world the film builds on, which really gives some style to what could’ve just been your standard action blockbuster.

The all-star cast of Thomas Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, Tian Jing, Thomas Mann, Toby Kebbell and my personal favourite, John C. Reilly, are all decent in their respective roles despite their characters not being given much depth beyond a few short scenes, as due to the enormous size of the cast, many characters end-up becoming nothing more than clichés through their rushed introductions. Aside from Samuel L. Jackson and John C. Reilly as ‘Preston Packard’ and ‘Hank Marlow,’ however, as both of their characters receive the most development and play into the film’s main theme of the damage war can have on the mind, which I personally found very interesting and wish the film explored further. Rather than focusing so much on many of the awful comedic moments the film crams into the story, which aside from a few improvised lines from John C. Reilly, fall mostly flat.

The cinematography by Larry Fong is fairly creative throughout the film, as in addition the film’s very ranged colour palette. ‘Kong: Skull Island’ does have an array of visually interesting shots, many of which contain plenty of movement and give the audience some stunning views of: ‘Skull Island.’ The cinematography also lacks many of the shots that made the ‘Godzilla’ remake from 2014 so impressive as a creature-feature, that being shots that display the true scale of: ‘Kong,’ yet the lack of these shots may also be due to the ‘Kong’s ever-changing size, which did begin to irritate me after a while, despite ‘Kong’ still managing to feel pretty imposing and powerful throughout the film.

The original score by Henry Jackman does help to make-up for this, however, it being of his better scores, in my opinion. As throughout the narrative, the soundtrack always adds to the adventurous tone of the film, utilising large tribal drums to give each character’s confrontation with ‘Kong’ genuine weight. The film also uses a number of classic songs from the ’70s to further push the film’s time-period, and whilst this does sometimes work effectively, with an early helicopter scene featuring the iconic: ‘Fortunate Son’ being the most memorable. It can also feel very forced at points, mostly due to the sheer amount of songs featured within the film.

One of the best aspects of: ‘Kong: Skull Island’ is its action scenes. As throughout the story, the film constantly throws its characters into plenty of intense encounters with the terrifying (and equalling unique) creatures of the island, and whilst the film does have a few too many scenes which feel overly cheesy due to an over-reliance on slow-motion. Each action set-piece is entertaining in its own way, usually making effective use of each monster’s various abilities and their surrounding locations. My personal favourite definitely being the sinister and brilliantly designed: ‘Skullcrawlers,’ ‘Kong’s main adversaries. All of these creatures are obviously displayed through the film’s CG effects, which are decent enough throughout the runtime, yet certainly aren’t flawless.

To conclude, ‘Kong: Skull Island’ is enjoyable, as whilst the film is undeniably filled with a number of problems, mainly in regards to the film’s weak characterisation and fairly simplistic story, the film still manages to be exciting through its fantastic use of CG effects and thrilling action scenes, all backed-up by a great original score and a constructive use of the 1970s time-period. So, although its in need of some improvements, I feel you can still get something out of this creature-feature. Final Rating: low 7/10.

kong_skull_island_ver2_xxlg

Geostorm (2017) – Film Review

Directed by Dean Devlin, best known for producing the original: ‘Independence Day’ as well as the first (infamous) American ‘Godzilla’ remake from 1998. ‘Geostorm’ takes a much more traditional disaster route for Devlin’s directorial debut, attempting to capture the usual scale and destruction associated with the genre, along with a few elements of international terrorism and sleek science fiction thrown-in for good measure. Unfortunately, however, this still isn’t enough to save the film from its many, many faults.

Plot Summary: When a network of satellites designed to control the global climate begins to attack Earth, it’s a race against time for its original creator to uncover the real threat before a worldwide ‘Geostorm’ wipes-out everything, and everyone…

From the first scene all the way through to the very last, the film felt incredibly cliché to me, as the film definitely follows a very similar structure to the majority of other disaster flicks, as well as also carrying over much of the cheesiness and terrible comedy from many of them. As although the film does have a few exciting action scenes and some entertaining weather-related chaos throughout its runtime, the film never really manages to break-out of its predictability.

Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, and Abbie Cornish are all decent throughout the film, as while they still suffer from having the usual generic characters for a blockbuster. They do the best they can to keep the audience engaged throughout the story (for the most part). However, the film also has a few side characters which left we more than often questioning their inclusion in the film, as most of them added very little to the plot and only appeared in a few short scenes.

Roberto Schaefer handles the cinematography within ‘Geostorm,’ which aside from the occasional attractive shot is mostly bland and uninspired, with many scenes throughout the film also seeming to have far too many different shots, as a simple scene of two people talking could have anywhere from three to seven different shots. The CGI within the film is also another unusual aspect, as although it’s decent throughout most of the film, there are quite a few shots where I felt it dipped massively in quality. Some of the NASA scenes during the film were actually filmed at a NASA facility in New Orleans, however, which I did feel added to the film’s story despite the location’s limited appearances.

There are also multiple points where the film attempts to be very emotional and dramatic, yet usually falls completely flat, with the film putting a large amount of focus on the original score by Lorne Balfe, which is your standard action film score, coming off as an almost entirely forgettable and bland soundtrack.

Whilst watching the film I also couldn’t help but think that there were many missed opportunities throughout, as due to the film’s mostly serious and grounded tone, the film never takes any of its weather attacks to any truly creative places, with the film usually just going for a decently entertaining, (if not very experimental) action set-piece. Although I understand the lack of disaster films in modern cinema is a great way to make the film stand-out, I do still feel a more absurdist tone along with over-the-top action scenes could’ve at the very least, made the film more memorable and unique.

In summary, whilst I didn’t really have high expectations when I first sat down to watch ‘Geostorm’ going off the mostly inexperienced director and the poor reviews from both critics and audiences alike, the was a genuinely dull experience, which I’d say isn’t really worth a watch, being a mostly bland and boring disaster flick despite some original aspects. There is the odd entertaining action scene or interesting visual for any massive fans of the disaster genre, but for me, I don’t feel any desire to return to ‘Geostorm,’ especially not anytime soon. Final Rating: low 3/10.

geostorm_xxlg

Free Fire (2017) – Film Review

An interesting film for sure, ‘Free Fire’ directed by Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers, High-Rise), thrusts it’s audience straight into a world of blood, bullets, and amusing quips. Setting the entire story in one single location, which truly helps the film in setting itself apart from other films within its genre, and I really do appreciate the effort that went into this film in order for it to be as entertaining as it is, and whilst not perfect, the film is still mostly entertaining and amusing throughout.

Plot Summary: In an abandoned Boston warehouse in 1978, a small-scale arms deal goes awry, turning the warehouse into a chaotic fight for survival with bullets flying in every direction…

As the film is set in the 1970s, the film is littered with ’70s style. Everything from the costumes, to the original score, to even the colour palette gives fit extremely well with the film’s tone. It’s clear from the style of the film and the witty dialogue that director Ben Wheatley was obviously inspired by early Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese films, which makes complete sense as crime seems to be his go-to genre for the most part.

The entire cast here are all doing a great job of fitting film’s tone, as although there are a few comedically dark moments, the film is mostly light-hearted, as the cast’s performances back-up this tone very well, giving the film an over-the-top and comedic outlook on the situation. I also enjoyed the sound design for the weapons in this picture, as I felt like each gunshot actually had an impact, not just that the actors were playing with props. I would say Armie Hammer as ‘Ord’ as well as Cillian Murphy as ‘Chris’ were easily my personal favourites of the cast, as I always found myself enjoying their very charismatic and cocky personas throughout the runtime.

Despite it being nothing amazing, the cinematography by Laurie Rose is decent enough throughout the majority of the film. Although I do believe there is a bit too much of a reliance of a hand-held camera at points, as I feel a still shot would be welcome more than a few times and as already mentioned, the original score by Geoff Barrow backs up that time-period very well. However, the soundtrack itself is pretty forgettable outside the rest of the film.

The best compliment I can give this film is without a doubt the writing, as even though the characters get barley any development throughout the narrative (relying mostly on the actor’s charismatic performances) the writing never fails to implement humour, or extremely tense scenarios nearing the end of the film. This is a shame, however, as I do feel a character-arc would have worked very effectively for one of the greedy, egotistical characters on display.

Overall, I would say I enjoyed ‘Free Fire.’ The film definitely isn’t perfect due to its weak characterisation, over-reliance on hand-held shots and maybe a few missed jokes here and there. But still an enjoyable watch, and a nice 1970s throwback, nevertheless, plus the original concept of the narrative always intrigued me, and must be appreciated for its creativity alone. Final Rating: 6/10.

free_fire_ver18_xlg

Wish Upon (2017) – Film Review

A hilariously awful attempt at horror, ‘Wish Upon’ comes to us from director John R. Leonetti. Mostly known for his cinematography on the first two ‘Insidious’ films as well as the first entry in ‘The Conjuring’ series. With him now recently delving his hand into directing, working on films such as: ‘Annabelle,’ ‘The Silence’ and obviously ‘Wish Upon.’ However, after watching all of these films, I think I would really rather he just stick to cinematography from now on.

Plot Summary: When a teenage girl (Clare Shannon) discovers an old music box that carries strange abilities and can grant her any wish she desires, she believes all her dreams have come true. That is until, she realises that there is a deadly price for each one…

Although the film’s plot does take inspiration from W.W. Jacobs’ iconic short story: ‘The Monkey Paw,’ ‘Wish Upon’ itself rarely feels like an actual horror film. Of course, the fact that the film has little-to-no atmosphere as well as an enormous amount of weak jump-scares throughout, it’s very clear that this film was clearly meant to pander towards horror-loving teenagers. ‘Wish Upon’ is truly one of the least tense horrors I’ve watched in a very long time, even being unintentionally hilarious at various points.

This is also one of the few films where I can safely say that every character in the film is not only poorly portrayed, but also incredibly stupid. As the entire cast of Ki Hong Lee, Sydney Park, Shannon Purser and, of course, Joey King as the protagonist: ‘Clare Shannon.’ All make ridiculous decisions throughout the entire runtime, in addition to never really acting very intensely to anything, no matter what it may be. The writing also doesn’t help, however, as none of the characters in the film talk like actual teenagers, and the script is full of incredibly cringey, cliché and cheesy lines.

All of the cinematography throughout the film by Michael Galbraith is very bland and uninspired. Normally using just simple shots without any attempt to integrate any creepy elements into them. The lighting also doesn’t help, however, as most of the film looks like a cheaply made for TV film due to being very bright and clear throughout.

The original score by ‘tomandandy’ is your usual horror affair, with nothing really interesting or particularly memorable of note about it. However, the choice of songs throughout the film is memorable for all the wrong reasons, as the film chooses to use terrible pop music at various points during the film, which comes completely out of nowhere and ruins whatever little tension or atmosphere the film had up to that point, making the film feel almost like more of a teen comedy than a horror. Simply due to how distracting it is, this was easily the worst element of the film for me.

Only a very small detail, but I feel the only aspect of the film I actually enjoyed is the music box itself, having a very creepy and unique ancient Chinese design. It’s clear the filmmakers were trying hard to make the item iconic in its own right. Whilst obviously not truly successful with this, I still like its design, and the eerie tune that it plays as a horrific event unfolds, the film also has a very surreal and entertaining end title sequence, but this obviously adds very little to the film overall.

In conclusion, ‘Wish Upon’ is a true mess of a horror film, everything from the writing to the cinematography to the original score is either very poorly done or extremely dull and generic. Often coming across as unintentionally hilarious and lacking any truly terrifying scenes, ‘Wish Upon’ is far beyond saving. But, at the very least, the film does have plenty of memorable moments if you decided to watch it with some friends for a laugh. Final Rating: 1/10.

wish_upon_xxlg

Get Out (2017) – Film Review

Actor and comedian Jordan Peele tests his hand at directing for the first time with this intelligent thriller, as ‘Get Out’ utilises its original story and some great performances to become a definite step-up from Blumhouse Productions’ usual standard for films. However, although many viewers think this film is phenomenal throughout it’s most of it’s runtime, I personally don’t agree, as I actually feel there is more than a few areas in need of some improvement.

Plot Summary: When a young African-American man visits his white girlfriend’s parents for the weekend, his simmering uneasiness about their reception of him eventually reaches an extreme boiling point. Leading ‘Chris’ to believe more sinister forces may be at work…

As already mentioned, the film’s narrative is original, and any regardless of quality, I always appreciate originality when it comes to storytelling. Despite ‘Get Out’ being initially pitched and advertised a horror, however, the film is really anything but, as the film actually has many inclines of comedy mixed-in with some tension-filled moments here and there, and although the film is entertaining, ‘Get Out’ never really manages to build-up an eerie atmosphere or becomes particularly creepy, which is why I believe that the film is now classed as a thriller rather than a horror by most.

The best aspect of the film for me is by far the performances by the cast, as Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, and Catherine Keener are all exceptional throughout, with Daniel Kaluuya as the protagonist: ‘Chris Washington’ in particular really keeping me engaged. As he gives a very ranged performance, managing to portray a very likeable and realistic character within only a short period of time. Unfortunately, not all of the supporting cast quite level-up to this standard.

The cinematography by Toby Oliver is a decent throughout the film, as although there are plenty of attractive shots (most of which make great use of the large open spaces the majority of the story takes place in (especially in the opening scene of the film, which is executed perfectly). There are also a variety of fairly bland shots, this may also be due to the film’s colour palette, however, as throughout the film the use of a very restrictive colour palette results in the film feeling a little visually dull, rather than using its colours to play into its story or genre.

Personally, the weakest element of the film for me is the original score by Michael Abels, as the entire soundtrack itself feels very unusual, and although unique, it usually comes off as incredibly distracting throughout many scenes within the film. Using an orchestra as well as vocals, the score attempts to reflect some of the more surreal scenes nearing the end of the film, and although I appreciate the attempt, I simply don’t think it works, with the track: ‘Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga’ feeling particularly out-of-place as a result of its bizarre lyrics.

Although the original score may be lacking, the writing throughout the film is brilliant throughout. As writer and director Jordan Peele balances the screenplay’s comedy and horror, in addition to building-up an engaging mystery throughout the story, as every piece of dialogue contains many subtle clues and hidden meanings which come into play later in the narrative. Of course, with a plot such as this one, there is also an enormous amount of themes and social commentary underneath the story itself, and while I did find the majority of the film’s ideas very interesting and thought-provoking, I also found that some of the themes of racism and social issues can often overshadow the film’s main story.

In conclusion, ‘Get Out’ is a decent thriller, as despite the fact that the performances and writing on display throughout the film is definitely impressive, I still feel the lack of an eerie atmosphere in addition to a suitable original score for the film’s tone really hurt the film. Regardless of this, ‘Get Out’ is still a thriller will plenty of entertainment value, while nothing absolutely amazing, the film definitely has it’s moments, and I would say the film is a solid watch if you enjoy the occasional thriller. Final Rating: 7/10.

get_out_ver4_xxlg

Colossal (2017) – Film Review

Nowadays, it’s common to hear complaints about the lack of originality in cinema, and when you’re staring-up at a marquee filled with countless sequels, prequels, spin-offs and reboots, it’s hard to argue otherwise. But that originality hasn’t gone away entirely; you just have to know where to look. Case in point: ‘Colossal’ from 2017. An unusual film that I can say with confidence isn’t for everyone, ‘Colossal’ is a charming comedy-drama from director Nacho Vigalondo (Time Crimes, V/H/S: Viral – Segment: Parallel Monsters, Pooka!) that combines some phenomenal performances from Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis with a superb visual flair. All coming together to create a memorable and very amusing indie flick.

Plot Summary: ‘Gloria’ is an out-of-work party girl forced to leave her life in New York City and move back to her small home town. Whilst reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul in South Korea, as she gradually comes to the realisation that she is somehow connected to this strange phenomenon…

Although the narrative of the film leans heavily on the mystery of how the monster and ‘Gloria’ are connected. An element of the writing I really enjoyed is that none of the characters are treated like a fool, it doesn’t take our protagonist long to figure out the truth nor does it take her long to convince other people of it. Every decision made by the characters is understandable and realistic within reason. Despite also being an unlikeable character for a large majority of the film, Anne Hathaway manages to keep her character interesting and likeable enough for the audience.

As previously mentioned, the performances here are outstanding, both from Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis, and although he doesn’t appear much throughout the film Dan Stevens is also decent. All the cast have great comedic timing and genuinely excellent chemistry, and along with the film’s well-balanced tone can quickly change to very dramatic. Tim Blake Nelson and Austin Stowel also have small roles in the film, and despite also not having too much screen-time, they are very memorable as ‘Oscar’s close friends.

The cinematography by Eric Kress gives the film a nice visual appeal. Alongside the colour palette consisting mostly of dark blues, greens and purples. Alongside a few brighter blues and yellows. The film really just has a nice look overall, without being too colourful or obnoxious. Any scene containing the giant monster are obviously scenes which use large amounts of CGI, and despite not having a huge budget. Every one of these scenes is fantastic, truly showing-off the enormous scale of the creature and it’s trail of destruction to the fullest extent.

The weakest element of the film for me is the original score by Bear McCreary, although I usually enjoy this composer’s soundtracks. Creating such memorable scores such as: ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ and AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ (including the now-iconic opening theme). This score just feels somewhat lacking, while not particularly bad, the original score simply lacks any character or originality. Aside from sounding somewhat similar to a classic monster score at points similar to ‘Godzilla,’ for example.

Overall, ‘Colossal’ is the perfect comedy-drama, in my opinion, balancing great performances with an original story and some brilliantly executed emotional/funny scenes. The film is extremely enjoyable all the way through. The film keeps us a decent pace and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, yet still leaves the audience satisfied. The film really just has a great personality to it, and is filled with plenty of memorable scenes throughout its tight runtime. So, I’d say definitely check this one out if it sounds like something you’d be interested in. Final Rating: 8/10.

colossal-2017-movie-poster