Split (2017)

Let’s talk about that ending though…

Three girls are kidnapped by a man with a diagnosed 23 distinct personalities, and must try and escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th.

You don’t know happy I was to see veteran horror director, M Night Shyamalan back to his horror roots after an awkward stumble of blockbuster fails a few years back. Following up with his previous low budget creeper The Visit, the old school M Night returns to resounding form with thriller, Split.

I think I will always have a little soft spot for M Night (hello – he did give us The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs!), and I hate how the majority of his audience will immediately jump to the expectation that it will be another disappointment and think “Well, it’s no Sixth Sense” … Like no shit! That’s why The Sixth Sense is so magical! There will never be anything else like it, not now or ever.

I admire M Night for writing and directing his own work, I love his flavour of style and story even if the movies aren’t perfect. Split, indeed has its flaws, it’s a touch on the long side, the differing personalities are thin stereotypes and the heavy inclusion of Betty Buckley’s character dilutes the films tension and mystery, as she spoon feeds the audience far too much exposition. In saying all that, it was so refreshing to see the dissociative identity disorder storyline as the premise and not the twist.

I have to admit I had my doubts for James McAvoy, but he was surprisingly pleasing. McAvoy transitions so easily from one personality to the next, its an impressive feat of acting that a lesser actor seriously could have fumbled and made the whole premise just that little bit sillier. As expected, Anya Taylor-Joy blossomed and I am loving her becoming a regular scream queen, with this being her third horror film entry after The Witch and Morgan.

Yes, this is a movie that may split (sorry) audiences, as it touches on mental health and trauma and not in the most positive light, particularly the side story of Casey’s childhood, which was a little unnecessary. No matter, it is certainly thrilling to see M Night return to genre… and as we watch M Night’s stylish choices unfold we see Split adopt an almost gritty graphic novel inspired look, which fans of his older work will get an absolute kick out, especially in the final electrifying seconds!

7.0 / 10

 “He’s done awful things to people and he’ll do awful things to you”

Red Billabong (2016)

This is what I imagine a Home & Away Halloween special to look like…

In the Australian Outback, two brothers discover old secrets and family lies. As their friends start to go missing they fear they are being stalked by someone or something. But is it just a hoax?

Luke Sparke’s directorial debut, Red Billabong, is terrifying… Terrifying because Sparke’s has quoted he spent seven years fine tuning the script… Really? I personally think it could have been a passable film if the director cleaned up the script, chose practical effects instead of digital and made it much shorter. I mean it’s a joke that this creature feature runs for 113 minutes, at best it is an 85-minute flick.

The film is full of awkwardness and lacklustre direction, the majority of the time the actors look lost in their scenes. No doubt the cringey dialogue doesn’t help. Never have I heard in my life someone exclaim “Let’s get to the partying”.

The characters are deeply unlikeable and cliché. The females are vapid and struggle to think on their own, whilst the men are sexist and have zero redeeming features. The dog is great though.

The problem with Red Billabong is it tries to hard. If you don’t have the budget to do CGI well, don’t do it all, there is nothing wrong with choosing practical effects. Hell, I prefer it! The actual design of the monster is horrible and we see far too much of it towards the end, embarrassingly to much. Take note Mr Sparkes – less is more!

Unfortunately, the interesting indigenous folklore isn’t enough to ignore the unlikeable characters, amateur script writing and laughable CGI. The scariest moment for me was the post credit scene stating… “The Bunyip will return” … Like, can you not?

2.0 / 10

“You don’t know what’s out here. Lions and tigers and bears.” 

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

The most fucked up game of Operation ever!

A father (Brian Cox) and son (Emile Hirsch), both coroners, are pulled into a complex mystery while attempting to identify the body of a young woman.

From the imaginative mind who delivered found footage gem Trollhunter, Andre Ovredal follows up by debuting his first English language feature, The Autopsy of Jane Doe. I’m not gonna lie, I was in no rush to see this film, I saw the word ‘autopsy’ and straight away red flags come up… I was expecting an excessive use of blood, guts and deplorable body horror used as a cheap scare tactic and instead I could not be more wrong. Without a doubt if I had watched this last year it would have appeared in my top five of 2016.

From the beginning Jane Doe oozes with creepiness, the goose bump raising kind of creepiness. The overall atmosphere is chilling and intense, provided by the rich stylized colour palette of dark and dense tones that authentically make everything look murky and dim. But, there is almost a sense of elegance and gracefulness to this masterful morgue mystery. The tension never breaks, the pacing is tight and smooth and enticingly uncomfortable.

It’s always refreshing to watch a horror movie with smart characters, the ones that realistically try to get the fuck outta there once things start to go bump in the night.

The dynamic between Hirsch and Cox is solid, there is a strong rapport and they are instantly believable as father and son. We watch them bicker and bond and act in such veracity, both these characters are filled with such soul. A lesser actor would have fumbled with the script, but both leading men offer such stellar performances. The lifeless Jane Doe, Olwen Catherine Kelly will even command your attention with her blank stare that questionably grows a touch more evil every time Ovredal cuts back to her.

The actual autopsy (cause yes, spoiler alert there is one) is depicted in such crazy detail and incredibly gruesome, but never does it feel gratuitous.

This isn’t a film to pass, its an absolutely chilling clever thriller, if the grisly snap of bones or tinkling of a bell doesn’t frighten you, the explicit but not exploitative body horror will surely make your stomach drop.

9.0 / 10

“Let get the fuck out of here”  

Always Shine (2016)

Always Shine… shines a little on the dim side here.

Best friends, Anna (Mackenzie Davis) and Beth (Caitlin FitzGerald), take a weekend trip to Big Sur, hopeful to re-establish a bond broken by years of competition and jealousy.

Sophia Takal’s sophomore directorial entry, Always Shine, is a powerful slow burner. For two thirds of the film it’s a fantastic tight little psychological thriller, playing out the all too obvious ticking time bomb of this friendship. What begins as an interesting idea, a story driven by obsession and jealousy, ultimately amounts to a lesser inspired generic plot device, but not before Takal can make her statement on women’s role in Hollywood.

Both Davis and FitzGerald are excellent here, but it is Mackenzie Davis who truly shines. Her performance is so fierce here, even a simple hip flexing stretch oozes with intimidation and aggressiveness. Without a doubt the film holds one of the greatest introductions too, Takal plays with the audience’s perspective with a fantastic opening reversal.

The film is peppered with fine art house flourishes, the stylish editing cuts and playful yet tense dialogue really creates a highly stylized atmosphere and although the film isn’t exactly horror per se, these directorial choices create a tense ambience of ultimately a foreboding climax. But, it is here where the narrative begins to lose its creative psychological edge, without speaking too much about the third act, it’s a nasty bit of fun to really see how damaged Anna is, but the switcheroo just feels oddly placed.

Always Shine starts with promise but ultimately the two leading ladies can’t save the film alone with their terrific performances. Unfortunately for me the film is let down, by one very frustrating head scratching line of dialogue, leaving the ending far too ambiguous and open for possible explanations.

6.5 / 10

“Do you ever feel like a whore?” 

Maddison’s “Top 10 of 2016”

Let’s be real. The horror genre was at its finest for 2016!!

Whether it was big studio releases or smaller indies, the horror genre thrived! No longer is horror being subjected as a genre that’s only full of torture porn flicks, but people are beginning to realise the true brilliance of what can be frighteningly fresh. Not only were we exposed to some incredible stories, twists and most importantly spicy death scenes! The horror genre really seemed to be hiding some of the best performances overall – ahem – please give John Goodman an Oscar for 10 Cloverfield Lane.

It was super tricky to make a top ten, and no doubt there were a few flicks I didn’t get the chance to see, that could have a got a good spot on the list.

Below are my top 10 for 2016 –

 

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  1. Observance
    I couldn’t do a top ten without including an Aussie film. They are always near and dear to my heart and Observance was wickedly stylish cross breed between horror and psychological thriller. {Full review}

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  1. Train To Busan

This is the year I discovered Korean horror! {Full review}

Blake Lively

  1. The Shallows
    If you’ve seen my Instagram, you know I have a love of sharks. They are nothing but big fish. Although Shark flicks are a guilty pleasure of mine, I can’t help but feel bad for the fear mongering it causes amongst the audience. {Full Review}

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  1. The Monster

Zoe Kazan boasts one of the most powerful performances of the year in this creeper. Prepared to be hit right in the feels. {Full Review}

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

  1. 10 Cloverfield Lane
    Like I said earlier… someone hand Goodman an Oscar for this. {Full Review}

Jane Levy

  1. Don’t Breathe

Exceptionally stylish, from its cinematography to sound design. This is satisfyingly tense with clever scares. {Full Review}

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  1. Lights Out

Screw you internet. This movie was good. {Full Review}

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  1. The Witch

Visually delicious with startling imagery. The Witch was a kind of horror you felt rather then saw. {Full Review}

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  1. The Wailing 

Bat shit insanity! Cleverly constructed whilst being deliberately disjointed, The Wailing was almost too crazy for its own good. {Full Review}

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  1. Hush

At last, my number one pick for the year! Hush! I don’t know if its just because I have a massive crush on John Gallager Jr, or I think Mike Flanagan is destined for greatness, as soon as he steps away from the studios! Hush was an inspiring cat and mouse thriller, with smart characters and a tight pace. Hush is the reason the horror genre can be so respected! {Full Review}

 

Honourable Mentions

The Conjuring 2 & Nina Forever 

The Conjuring 2 probably deserves to be in the top five, but we all know James Wan is amazing. Wan knows all the tricks and treats of scaring an audience and no doubt delivers the best of the best when it comes to horror. Nina Forever was a hidden gem, it was such a bizarre blood soaked romance. Ghastly, yet gorgeous!

 

So there it is, my top 10! It was such a great year for genre films, and my list of horrors to keep an eye out for in 2017 is already growing!

 

What’s been your favourite??