GAME: Until Dawn

I am no gamer. I am not going to pretend I am. No. I like my games super easy, and if you are forever stuck in beginner mode (like me) and enjoy the easy thrills of Assassin’s Creed and Tomb Raider (again, like me) then Until Dawn is perfect for you.

A group of friends return to a remote cabin on a snowy mountain on the anniversary of the death of their two friends, unaware they are being stalked by a psychopath.

Until Dawn breathes horror on every level! It’s total cliché horror and I loved every second of it. I haven’t had as much fun with a choose your own adventure formula since I was a child reading Goosebumps. Until Dawn is clearly designed for storytelling, the whole game almost feels like a movie, with twisted narratives, surprises and fleshed out characters. Using a variety of horror film techniques to scare players, it is easily viable to complete the game in an epic 10-hour run through.

The tongue in cheek nature of the script will keep you thoroughly entertained. Never holding back on exploiting your normal slasher film tropes, Until Dawn introduces you to your general stereotypical horror characters (jock, nerd, slutty girl, final girl, etc.). You will fall in love with all these campy distinct personalities. I was actually devastated on my first time through when I killed off Mike, other characters I didn’t care so much about (I’m looking at you Matt). With a strong rounded cast it isn’t surprising the characters are played with such gusto; Hayden Panettiere as Sam (Heroes), Brett Dalton as Mike (Agents of Shield) and Rami Malek as Josh (Mr Robot), but it’s Peter Stormare who really steals the show.

Stormare is absolutely terrifying as Dr Hill. Dr Hill breaks the fourth wall and addresses you directly to establish your fear and anxiety triggers by showing you a number of images and making you choose which makes you feel most un-easy. Truthfully, it didn’t matter what I chose cause it all made me feel sick to my stomach.

The graphics are fantastic, there is an overall sense of chill to the atmospheric snowy backdrop. The story is very well put together, moulding perfectly in with its butterfly effect. It was an exciting moment when those butterfly wings would light up the screen, as each and every interaction can affect a different outcome. Ultimately meaning you just fucked with someone’s future.

I feel like it should be mentioned too, as the game isn’t very hard, a personal favourite command which requires you to hold the controller dead still while your attacker searchers for you, the slightest jostle of the remote will result in capture and ultimately death. Nifty little trick from the ps4, using the tracking motion of the Dualshock 4’s lightbar.

My one and only true issue with Until Dawn… too much damn walking.

Until Dawn is just as terrifying to watch as it is to play. I look forward to my future run throughs – whether that involves intentionally trying to kill off every single character or being a saint and letting everyone see the sun rise. I am not sure exactly how many possible endings / deaths there are, but I expect it to keep me on my toes. My final recommendation, grab a friend, turn off all the lights and have a night in, as this is an interactive experience that you shouldn’t miss out on.

9.0 / 10

“Understand the palm of my hand, bitch!”

Turbo Kid (2015)

Blender. Mad Max. Bmx Bikes. Nintendo. Synthy pop. Colour. Power Rangers. A dash of eccentricity and gnome on a stick. Turn on blender… and there you have the most colourful post apocalyptic film ever made, Turbo Kid.

In a post apocalyptic wasteland, set in the futuristic version of 1997, a comic book fan dons the persona of his favourite hero to save his enthusiastic friend and fight a tyrannical overlord.

Trio, Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoan-Karl Whissell, deliver their directorial debut by adapting their short film ‘T is for Turbo’ into a feature length version. Full of eccentric pop culture of yester year, Turbo Kid is a welcome addition to the genre mishmash of post apocalyptic / western / past-futuristic(?). I am not alone here describing the colourful film as Mad Max on BMX Bikes, but it really is the most adept way to summarise this campy flick.

This sweet natured low budget film oozes in style and over the top enthusiasm, the wacky characters and goofy sense of humour won’t be to everyone’s delight but I found it endearing. What surprised me about this film was how gory it was. Gloriously gory! Characters are hacked, disembowelled, impaled and showered in blood. All while remaining jokingly gritty, my personal favourite scene has the carnage raining down making a hilarious backdrop for the films most romantic scene.

The film isn’t perfect though, it never quite lives up to the premise it suggests. I really wanted to love this film, as it was bat shit silly! The synthy soundtrack becomes repetitive though, and I very quickly found it grating. I couldn’t help but cringe a little during any of the combat fight sequences. The choreography was touch on the amateurish side, the punches just a tad too slow. It took me out of what could have been totally engrossing, as they nailed the buckets of blood effects!

This cute action adventure is the perfect mix of Mad Max meets Power Rangers. Comically gory, is my favourite type of gore and I will always admire practical FX over CG. The retro affection will have you reminiscing of all the corny 80s flicks that you loved when you were younger. It’s vibrant and corny and really just a sweet ride.

6.5 / 10

“Keep pedalling, you piece of shit”

 

 

The Conjuring 2 (2016)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated with stories about things that go bump in the night. I even read Ed and Lorraine Warren’s biography The Demonologist… So going into the film I was very much aware of The Enfield Poltergeist case and when it comes to horror movies who doesn’t love seeing the tagline “Based on a true story…”

1977 – A single mother raising four children alone in a house inundated by a malicious spirit seeks the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren, when the youngest daughter, Janet, starts showing signs of demonic possession. Plagued with her own battling demons, Lorraine and Ed travel to north London attempting to help the besieged girl.

James Wan, knows all the tricks and treats of scaring an audience. I was lucky enough to see an advance screening of the film, which resulted in a very full cinema where audible gasps and frightened giggles were heard throughout. Unfortunately, the sequel doesn’t quite have the same charm as its predecessor. The characters felt secondary, and it seems this time round Wan focuses more on the scares as opposed to character. Although for a horror movie is that entirely bad?

With spine tingling skill, Wan creates genuinely spooky scenes and a consistent chill throughout the entire film, which is an impressive feat as the running time clocks in at 134 minutes. Experienced in the horror genre, Wan avoids traditional jump scare tactics, knowing it is much scarier to stay in the one wide shot as alike to what the real world is. Although, there are plenty of jump scares the movie isn’t overly reliant on them. The gloomy cinematography provides a richly atmospheric charisma and the elegantly composed and staged period detail is authentically charming.

It too was fun to see Wan’s vision of the infamous Amityville case. You would think I sigh or roll my eyes from again seeing a rehash of the notorious event, but something almost felt pleasing about it. But not pleasing enough to warrant another spin off story, similar to the Annabelle debacle. Plus, there is legit already 15 Amityville movies, no one is asking for another…

The Amityville entry also provides the devilishly good sub plot of Lorraine’s personal turmoil. Reminiscent of Wan’s villainous character ‘Bride in Black’ from his 2011 creeper Insidious, we have the ‘Demonic Nun’. Appropriately nightmarish, there is one specific scene of a painting on a wall that will send chills down your spine.

With chills and thrills galore, there are surprisingly truly funny moments too. As Ed picks up a gigantic old school shoulder camera he happily exclaims “It’s so light!”. The tongue in cheek comedy is a welcome addition, that allows the audience to get their breath back.

I would have enjoyed more character depth, the brothers and sisters are thinly stretched and there wasn’t enough time spent with Frances O’Connor the poor single mother (Peggy). Madison Wolfe (Janet) shines as the tormented young girl, displaying intelligence, charm and a large range of emotion as the sympathetic victim / bitter brute old man.

With twice the scares, Wan unfortunately sacrifices it for a weaker narrative. Although the ending seemed rush Wan knows how to create suspense and terror throughout. His simple scares are the scariest and the film is again another great addition from James Wan.

8.5 / 10

“All I can sense is their own fear” 

Ratter (2016)

Ratter – A derivation of the acronym for a type of malware known as Remote Access Trojan, an unwittingly downloaded program that provides a hacker with undetected access to a user’s internet enabled devices. In other (non-techy geek) words – Creepy dudes can spy on you using your own webcam and the camera in your phone.

Emma (Ashley Benson), a grad student living alone in New York City is unbeknownst to herself having her everyday life watched by a stalker.

Adapted from his short film of the same premise but titled Webcam, Branden Kramer alters his cyber thriller for feature length for his directorial debut. Technically a found footage style film, Ratter’s big brother surveillance approach unfortunately follows no real narrative. As the viewer, we are also made to become the voyeur and endure the many scenes of watching Benson cook eggs, talk to her mum, shave her legs and dance around her living room… And only at mere 80-minute running time, the film feels super long.

If you withstand the first 45 minutes of repetition, a creep factor does begin to slink in. The subtle creepiness is effective, and I found myself becoming paranoid at the slightest noise in my empty house as I watched this alone on a Friday night. It too was refreshing to see Benson not turn into your typical cliché scream queen character, instead she becomes withdrawn, afraid and suspicious.

For a pretty boring movie, the ending is surprisingly very strong. It was a genuinely upsetting and disturbing closing scene. I found it truly invasive and that it was something that I shouldn’t have seen, I felt like a peeping tom and I was rightly terrified.

For a low budget techno horror, it could have used a bit more meat on its bones, it was thin on scares and thin on story. The realistic character reactions and troubling final moments at best keep the film from being a total disappointment.

5 / 10

“I am so paranoid now I just feel like some freak is gonna come grab me wherever I go”

Green Room (2016)

Green Room felt like a trip down memory lane… No, I never fought off a group of demented neo Nazis but rather frequented small hardcore gigs usually filled with a room of questionable looking people. Green Room invites viewers into the grungy gritty world of sketchy small town gigs and arouses the kooky vigour of wannabe metal heads… to an excessive degree.

After witnessing a murder, a punk rock band is forced to defend themselves into a fight for survival against a group of maniacal skinheads who want nothing but to rid the witnesses.

Jeremy Saulnier’s follow up film to the highly praised, Blue Ruin, switches up the colour scheme and delivers a gritty ultra violent intense siege film, Green Room. Vivaciously paced and wickedly nasty, the tenacity of Green Room really evokes the spirit of punk music and the raw energy of survival or death.

A fresh take on siege genre, Saulnier’s style yields a rather simple narrative approach and exceeds in strong camaraderie between bandmates and an upsurge of violence that reaches demented heights. Underneath the shocking violence is a devilish dark humour that plays with the vulnerability and resourcefulness of the characters.

Anton Yelchin is no novice to the horror genre (Fright Night, Odd Thomas, Only Lovers Left Alice) and in my eyes can do no wrong. Yelchin, lurches between defiant and defeated while receiving easily the most distressing violent attack. Macon Blair, the soulful face of Blue Ruin, also appears in Green Room, and is easily becoming a new favourite face to see. An absolute delight, Blair brings authenticity and a sense of morality to the narrative.

The stylized violence, the hardcore soundtrack and setting all comes together nicely in this tautly frenetic original. There is a cool macabre charm to the film, while also being absolutely bat-shit insane.

9.0 / 10

“We’re not keeping you here, you’re just staying”