Berlin Syndrome (2017)

Home girl, I’m from Brisbane too – I understand the desperate need of wanting to travel!

A passionate holiday romance leads to an obsessive relationship, when an Australian photojournalist wakes one morning in a Berlin apartment and is unable to leave.

Cate Shortland’s third feature film entry comes in the form of a heart pounding claustrophobic thriller Berlin Syndrome. Based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Melanie Joosten, Shortland’s confident and interesting thriller is a slick atmospheric step into the genre.

Both Teresa Palmer and Max Riemelt bring strong sharp performances, they play off one another well in an evil game out cat and mouse. There are moments of truly terrifying spine tingling tension and shocking moments of brutal bloody violence, it is everything you could ask for in a confinement thriller.

The Australian production is beautifully shot but it unfortunately loses its steam half way through, and instead of a slow burn its pacing begins to feel lethargic. Slightly overextended at 116 minutes long, a shorter in length version would have been a far superior film and kept the tension burning throughout.

7.5 / 10

“I wish I could stay”

Get Out (2017)

Next up the sequel… Go Away.

A young African American man (Daniel Kaluuya) visits his Caucasian girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) mysterious family estate for the weekend.

It is hard to believe that this is Jordan Peele’s feature film directorial debut, who impressively also penned the script. Get Out blends horror, satire and social thriller into a smashing mash up of Skeleton Key meets Stepford Wives.

Get Out is a film that has globally hypnotised us all. Certainly due to its strong vein of social commentary that runs throughout the narrative. Don’t be mistaken, Get Out isn’t exactly a movie that deals with racism, rather how some deal with race in general. Peele plays with racism in a way that won’t anger you, but will have you squirming uncomfortably in your seat while you cringe at the awkwardness that poor Chris (Kaluuya) endures from a bunch of white privileged rich folk, who don’t realise they are being racist with their condescending comments.

Get Out is clever and absorbing film that manages to balance humour and horror so fittingly. The actual horror is fairly light, there are more moments of graceless etiquette than moments of terror. Rather the horror here is focused on the slow build up of unnerving paranoia and it is the sound design that will eerily have the fine hairs on the back of your neck stand and the simple chink of a teaspoon against a tea cup that will make you shiver.

The performances of Get Out are wonderfully pleasing. Both Kaluuya and Williams ooze with screen presence and a near unrecognisable Bradley Whitford – my god! – is so authentic as the trying to be hip dad it is chilling. But it’s LilRel Howery (Rod) who steals about every single scene he is in with his side splitting comic relief.

I feel like a proud parent every time I see any form of horror thrive and no doubt Get Out has been a huge word of mouth success. Get Out creates an interesting angle of social and cultural observation, but the narrative does fall a little predictable half way through… it wasn’t hard to guess the villainous twist. Whether you read the films title as a threat or a warning, Get Out will have you hooked with its rich atmosphere, sharp comedy and nail biting horror.

8.0 / 10

“Now you’re in the sunken place”

I Am Not A Serial Killer (2016)

He’s not a serial killer, he’s just emo…

In a small Midwestern town, a troubled teen (Max Records) with homicidal tendencies must hunt down and destroy a supernatural killer whilst keeping his own inner demons at bay.

Originally an adaptation of Dan Well’s young adult novel of the same name, director Billy O’Brien brings the supernatural murder mystery to the big screen. With a mature performance from Max Records, I Am Not A Serial Killer is a darkly funny hybrid of mystery, murder and monsters.

I Am Not A Serial Killer is filled with interesting characters, that are essentially unfriendly folk but ultimately have some heart. Both Max Records and Christopher Lloyd do well to tug on the audience’s heart strings and evoke a sense of sympathy. All round the performances are excellent, with a peppering of wry humour. However, the film is a bit of a slow burner with a rather shocking revelation early on, that unfortunately leaves the second half of the film to suffer with slow pacing.

I Am Not A Serial Killer plays with some interesting dark themes with dry humour. Billy O’Brien blends quirky and creepy rather well and creates a unique little film with an original narrative, that regrettably just isn’t inspiring enough to ever hold for a re-watch.

6.0 / 10

“I have rules to keep me normal and to keep everybody else safe”

Personal Shopper (2017)

New ghost, who dis?

A personal shopper (Kristen Stewart) in Paris refuses to leave the city until she makes contact with her twin brother who previously died there. Her life becomes more complicated when a mysterious person contacts her via text messages.

Olivier Assayas teams up with Kristen Stewart again in poignant supernatural drama, that is both stylish and mysterious. Personal Shopper is a slow burner, a delicate tale of grief and just how vulnerable we become in those moments.

Kristen Stewart is a dream here, no doubt her finest performance yet. Her on screen presence is mesmerising, intimate and handled with such grace.

Personal Shopper is a moody piece, with a narrative never fully explained. The audience is left with more questions than answers. It’s certainly ambiguous and the tone shifts rather back and forth from horror, psychological thriller to family drama, but the essence of the film is rather a soft old fashioned ghost story, that plays out to be hauntingly beautiful.

At times Personal Shopper can feel frustratingly slow and horror buffs looking for your usual thrills may leave disappointed, but for those you can allow themselves to sink into this aching story will be pleasantly treated. Just don’t expect any answers.

6.5 / 10

“So we made this oath… Whoever died first would send the other a sign”

The Void (2017)

Think Carpenter meets Lovecraft… The Thing meets Silent Hill…

Shortly after delivering a patient to an understaffed hospital, a police officer experiences strange and violent occurrences seemingly linked to a group of mysterious hooded figures.

Directing duo Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski take the audience on stylish throwback to sci-fi horror mysteries of the 1980s. The Void is absolutely wild for its use of practical effects. It is a total breath of fresh air to see some practical effects, when recently it feels like we live in a world of cinema where everything has to be created via CG.

The design for this movie is so spot on. From the get go there is a grungey atmosphere settling over a semi abandoned hospital, surrounded by nightmarish hooded figures. It is total lovecraftian territory. But it is the monsters that steal the show. You can never quite grasp what it is that you are looking at, no doubt a budgetary decision to cast the creatures in shadow, but you see enough gore and gooiness to be pleasantly terrified.

It’s true the filmmakers respectfully relish in their own true style, but that’s about all that The Void has going for it. The mythos is a little all over the place and the narrative is muddled and becomes far too ambiguous in its climatic reach. The performances are all pretty bland, but there are moments of hilarity that save this creature feature.

The Void is a nostalgic throwback of low budget 1980s horror. It’s a little cheesy, but good cheesy and I think the filmmakers knew exactly what they were doing here. The Void has got mad style, but unfortunately it’s a case of style over substance.

7.0 / 10

“Statistically you’re more likely to die in a hospital than anywhere else”

Raw (2017)

Who’d have thunk it? A cannibal film that is weirdly relatable…

When a young vegetarian, Justine, (Garance Marillier) undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her.

Raw is an absolute gem and an extremely impressive feature film debut from Julia Ducournau. With such a taboo theme, being cannibalism, one would earmark this film to be another fiercely sick entry into the splatter horror subgenre, but surprisingly it is the narrative that is boldly ravenous. The title itself defines the unnerving tale of grisly self discovery that not only Justine goes through, but is a personal journey we all go through in life. Raw is a beautiful coming of age tale, unlike any other before. It is the story of a young woman figuring out herself and the bond she has with her sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf).

Raw has the perfect balance of body horror and pitch black humour. The media’s hype of how graphic the film is may be somewhat exaggerated, yes there are moments of stomach churning disgust, but it is handled with such elegance and class, that cannibalism suddenly turns into a delicious nightmare.

The chemistry between Marillier and Rumpf is exceptional. Both girl’s performances are absolutely captivating, Rumpf being particularly spectacular. The film refreshingly doesn’t fall into any trappings of caricature nor does it ever start to feel overblown.

Raw is an extreme yet intimate tale. It is a tender subtle film about family and growth, yet disguised as a stylish body horror. Raw is extremely moving and weirdly relatable. Raw will have you squirming in your seat, giggling quietly, gasping and also questioning are all French veterinary schools this intense?

9.0 / 10

“I’m sure you will find a solution, honey”

Life (2017)

When will people in space learn to keep that shit on lock down?

 A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form, that now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

Slick. Suspenseful. Solid sci-fi. These are just a few of the words I would use to sum up Daniel Espinosa’s first venture into the creature feature horror sub genre. Taut and tense from the get go, Life’s rich atmosphere and striking visual style, mixed with grounded performances delivers an ultimately rewarding experience.

Sure, there may be moments that are reminiscent to previous sci-fi wonders, but it is hardly fair that Life has been so heavily compared to Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic, Alien. My personal problem I have with the sci-fi genre to begin with is I believe they all tend to follow the same format – Astronauts on spaceship. Alien on spaceship. Alien kills. The end…

Unfortunately, the only problem with Life are the characters never feel fully fleshed out, which is sadly a missed opportunity with such a talented cast. Every character felt rather paper thin, it was as if each character was given one and only one personality trait. If only Espinosa gave us a few extra scenes to really delve into a little more character depth, because Life has everything, except an emotional impact.

The monster itself is a creative gelatinous nightmare, it is completely unnerving and ensues an extremely memorably stomach churning death scene. Life indeed has some flair, the chilly visual aesthetic is crisp, clean and the camera work is handled with elegance. Despite its character flaws, Life is terrific thriller with the perfect ending.

7.0 / 10

“Every single cell is a muscle cell and a nerve cell”

From A House On Willow Street (2017)

From A House On Willow Street aka Jumpscare: The Movie

After a young woman is kidnapped, her captors soon come to realize that in fact they may be the ones in danger and this young woman has a dark secret inside her.

Alastair Orr, a name I am not familiar with but seems to have a few horror features tucked underneath his belt already, delivers low budget horror; From A House On Willow Street, and after this I won’t be surprised if Orr is still a name people don’t know.

What sounded like a promising premise, Willow Street is let down by its repetitive nature and the sad fact that it solely requires on jump scares to elicit any sort of fright. Again, there is a great concept here, blending the tropes of kidnapping and possession into one, but it seemingly unfolds into another substandard horror. It all feels like familiar territory, the characters are one dimensional, the dialogue is stilted and too many things are happening at once. Somehow a film with a slim running time of 86 minutes feels a lot longer.

Scream Queen Sharni Vinson (from You’re Next) ill-advisedly speaks with a poor American accent, a slight hiccup that can’t go unnoticed with such wooden dialogue. The surrounding cast are hopelessly inadequate at portraying any real sense of emotion, Zino Ventura is particularly bad, being his debut acting performance AND debut producing gig… Choose one mate, you can’t do both.

What I did find inspiring was the practical effects, the makeup was incredibly gruesome, but again was too soon forgotten when poor CGI is needlessly used for moments that felt far too extended.

I think this could have been a great little film, if only the filmmakers worked without their means, stuck to one location, lost a bit of the silliness and kept the narrative as a taut claustrophobic thriller. Willow Street kept me on the edge alright, the edge of wanting to switch over to a different flick.

3.5 / 10

“You should really let me go or your all going to die tonight”

The Devil’s Candy (2017)

If Metallica made a movie this would be it…

A struggling painter (Ethan Embry) is possessed by forces unknown after he and his young family movie into their new home in rural Texas.

Eight years it has been, since Sean Byrne’s unforgettable directorial debut ‘The Loved Ones’. God knows why his sophomore film The Devil’s Candy has been sitting on the shelf since 2015, but alas it has finally seen the light of day. Hallelujah!

The Devil’s Candy is a surprising one. What you think at first will be your standard (but, above average) possession movie turns out to be so much more. Part haunted house, part possession, part serial killer slasher and part family drama, Byrne plays with your typical horror tropes but twists them together into a clever narrative that boasts moments of true terror.

Sitting pretty at riveting 79 minutes, The Devil’s Candy narrative is told in such a slick manner, that after 20 minutes of screen time I don’t think I even blinked. The film is visually pleasing from its stylish framework, gritty colour and crazy cuts. The aesthetic is metal as fuck and the artwork is strikingly terrifying. But what really grasped my attention were the performances. Particularly, Embry, he kind of blew me away, he imbues the character of Jesse with equal parts sensitivity and machismo. He is completely credible as a metal head with an obsession of his own art work, as well as having a fondness for his family. The chemistry between him and his daughter (Kiara Glasco) is wildly charming and between them there a few genuine heartbreaking moments.

The Devil’s Candy balances the tenderness with some shockingly violent moments. The script is taut and tight, along with Embry who is unbelievably ripped here! Thank you, Byrne for the countless shirtless scenes. If the story doesn’t hit you, the soundtrack absolutely will, this is a horror with hard core attitude and heart.

8.0 / 10

“He’s right, you are the sweetest candy of them all”

A Cure For Wellness (2017)

Well, this is undoubtedly the weirdest thing coming out from Hollywood.

An ambitious young executive (Dane DeHaan) is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious wellness centre at a remote location in the Swiss Alps, but soon suspects that the spa’s treatments are not what they seem.

Gore Verbinski’s return to horror is a welcome one. After his gripping 2002 entry of The Ring, it is no surprise that he and his team have fetched another disquieting yet elegant horror to fruition, with A Cure For Wellness.

And what a peculiar film this is! It is classic horror merged with the ugliness of todays greedy executive world. Verbinski opens with a very grim and dank city scape of mindless occupants, before moving us to the picturesque Swiss Alps, where the colour palette suddenly changes to every cinematographers dream! The green / blue tinged visuals and perfectly symmetrical framework are to die for.

Heralded by strong performances from all (Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs and Mia Goth), the trio of talent had me rapt in the sheer lunacy of the story. With every scene there comes a feeling of suffocation, a sense of suspicion and dread. Undeniably responsible from the crisp sound design that echoes throughout the gothic halls and hits your every nerve.

I could praise the film endlessly, yet it has its flaws. Narratively, the pacing lags at some points, which is an issue for a film with a grand running time of 146 minutes. The final act does shift its tone quite drastically to something you would expect from a Hammer film, which seems to be what has jarred a majority of audiences, considering the previous two hours spent in obscurity. Personally, I was feeling Phantom of the Opera vibes (which I love) so could happily sit back and appreciate the nightmarishly approach.

A Cure For Wellness won’t be everyone’s cuppa tea. Hell, some film critics can’t even seem to wrap their head around the inventiveness of the story and give it the love it deserves rather than the abysmal RT score. What is amazing to see is a Hollywood studio hand over such a large amount of cash to a director (for a horror!) and give him free reign to make this wacky creation, following with a larger distribution. This may in fact be the cure the horror genre needs.

As time goes by, the more I realise that there is something rather special here. The film is absolutely gorgeous, every frame is visually stylish, the imagery is striking and the backdrop is aesthetically jaw dropping. A perfect psychological horror with a touch of old fashion folklore. A Cure For Wellness mixes influences of HP Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe for a surreal spell, enrapturing audiences with delectable bravura and heart racing tension. With all its beauty, do not forget this is indeed a horror, there’s a certain scene you expect to have a cut away… it doesn’t… and I legit think I nearly passed out…

8.0 / 10

“Do you know what the cure for the human condition is? Disease. Because that’s the only way one could hope for a cure”