The Shallows (2016)

I don’t know if it was entirely necessary to have made the shark GINORMOUS! Sharks are fucking terrifying regardless of the size!

Among the seclusion and pristine beauty of a secret beach something dark lurks dangerously close by… Nancy’s perfect holiday is brought to an abrupt halt when she is attacked by a great white shark. Finding herself stranded on a small patch of rocks just 200 yards from the shore, with no one in sight but a friendly seagull and a great white circling and the tide quickly rising.

Jaume Collet-Serra delivers a simple yet cleverly constructed B movie. For a story that consists of Blake Lively in a bikini, a rock and a seagull, The Shallows is surprisingly full of substance. Running at a slick 87 minutes this one-woman show is an inventive dive into the shark attack genre, and effectively lands itself amongst the top tier of shark films.

The gorgeous Blake Lively holds the single character film together as the compelling heroine, Nancy. Leaning towards more survival film than shark film, The Shallows almost feels like a beautifully captured music video filled with breathtaking scenic coastlines and lavish surfing montage moments, that is until it takes a bloody turn…

Its unfortunate that the special effects aren’t as sharp as Lively’s performance. The shark is a questionable grey elastic looking digital monstrosity, but it is rarely seen in full. Collet-Serra does well to ratchet up the tension by transcending the tired shark attack tropes and teases the audience with giving us space between sightings, making it all the more terrifying when the shark does attack.

The subplot is a little melodramatic and I think it could have been a stronger film without the backstory being conveyed through expository dialogue, but let’s be real this film is undeniably trashy, especially towards the end, but it is a cunning movie and its over the top charm will win you over in the end.

7.5 / 10

“It’s okay… No sharks come here”

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The Host (2006)

Why did it take me so long to finally watch this?

 A monster emerges from Seoul’s Han River and focuses its attention on attacking and capturing people. One victim’s family must do what they can to rescue their loved one back from its clutches.

Bong Joon-Ho’s 2006 South Korean monster movie, The Host, is understandably a cult classic. In Bong’s world tragedy and comedy can happily co-exist without diminishing each other, it’s a superbly well crafted film, dealing with the most abrupt tonal shifts. The Host combines scares, laughs and political satire into a riveting monster movie that isn’t just horror but a surprisingly sombre drama about a dysfunctional family.

The CG doesn’t quite hold up after 10 years, but don’t let the cheapness stir you away. This is not a movie to be written off by outdated effects. Rather the opposite, there is a certain bit of bizarre charm and the attitude of a low budget B grade monster movie. One thing for sure though is it’s smarter than your average Hollywood monster blockbuster.

The Host is feverishly imaginative. If you can successfully merge comedy, drama and horror into one story you have something magically. Understandably, the mixed genre may not please all audiences but if you are to abandon it at least stay for the opening twenty minutes. It is by far one of the greatest flee in daytime panic crowd scenes, its absolutely sensational.

There is sweetness at the core of The Host, it is the offspring of a 50 / 60s Science Fiction picture in which exposure to some form of radiation results in very large and ghastly fault. At times funny and other moments terribly sad, The Host is a well acted, superbly shot stylish monster movie. This berserk creature feature truly is a shock of delight.

9.0 / 10

“The Han River is very broad, Mr Kim. Let’s try to be broadminded about this. Anyway, that’s an order. So, start pouring”

Lights Out (2016)

Admittedly I hate walking around the house at night turning off all the lights because I begin to spook myself that I will see someone standing there in the shadows… So, it is as if the filmmaker delved into my mind, saw my greatest secret fear and put it up on the big screen.

When her little brother, Martin, begins experiencing the same events that once tested her sanity, Rebecca works to unlock the truth behind the terror, which brings her face to face with an entity attached to her mother, Sophie.

Based on the acclaimed three minute short of the same name, David F Sandberg effectively expands his original short to a clever and dramatically interesting 80 minute feature film debut. It is clear Sandberg has talent for devising spooky situations, while effectively keeping the humour light. Lights Out immerses you into a very moody stylish world, that has a touch of J Horror swagger. The stylish sequences are aesthetically hair raising and exceedingly entertaining.

A perfect mix of family drama and horror. The performances are fright fuelled and unsettling. Both Teresa Palmer and Maria Bello are exceptional here, Palmer is the gorgeous strong alternative lead and Bello is the convincingly haggard and unbalanced mother. Following the trend of the 2014 hit The Babadook, Lights Out steps into similar territory by treating mental health as the real monster. Without going into too much detail, Diana is a creature of darkness, metaphorically and literally.

My only real issue with Lights Out is that there is quite a vagueness to the actual story, it never really explains what exactly Diana is. In saying so, I felt the monster didn’t abide by its own rules, ultimately leaving the lore a little messy.

Lights Out perfectly exploits our fears of the dark, with skilful chills and intelligent jump scares, Sandberg doesn’t disappoint and delivers an exceptional debut monster movie.

9.0 / 10

“Every time I turn off the lights… there’s this woman… waiting in the shadows” 

Scare Campaign (2016)

My mother always warned me “prank at your own peril”

Popular prank TV show, Scare Campaign, mixes their old school scares with hidden cameras, but in an age of online thrills the team find themselves up against an edgier online community. Forced by the Networks hand the team decide to up the ante on their final scare, but have they gone too far and stooged the wrong guy.

Scare Campaign is the latest venture from the Cairnes brothers, Colin and Cameron. Their sophomore film follows the highly pirated film 100 Bloody Acres, which found brief fame in 2012. This Australian low budget film is clearly a throwback to the classic era of 70 / 80s Oz-ploitation films. Although, with a plainly predictable narrative the witty script and stunningly violent nature creates a satiric horror comedy that is captivating enough for its short running time of 80 minutes.

It’s difficult to discuss the narrative without giving anything a way, unfortunately I think the writers thought the script was far more cunning then it was. That’s not to say the film is boring, the twists and turns of each act are just all very predictable, I must admit though their timing of the initial first twist did pleasantly catch me off guard.

There are some genuinely funny moments in the script, it is clear the actors enjoyed the material they were given to play around with. A particular standout is Josh Quong Tart (Rohan), whose enacts tonal shifts from chilling eeriness to befuddled flippancy. But it is the production design that really shines for the film. The costumes are downright terrifying and the location couldn’t be more perfect, with the brothers opting to shoot the film in an actual abandoned mental asylum; Beechworth Asylum. Truly imparting the ambience of horror and dread.

It isn’t the most original set up, and the Cairne’s brothers have indeed stepped up the severity of tone compared to their debut. A warning to those who are squeamish, the shockingly violent kills could be too much to handle (I personally prefer my chills to spills and at times had to watch this through my fingers), but for all those gore hounds this could be the perfect Friday night flick!

6.5 / 10

“Marcus said,  you know, the best pranks are the ones that go a little off script”