Mother! (2017)

Holy Mary, mother of Jesus!

A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.

Mother! is a movie that will cause you to think. This is not a common narrative and it isn’t exactly spoon fed to the audience, it is an unrelenting nightmare that is rather dazzling with a lot to say. Written and Directed by Darren Aronofsky, Mother! has split the audience. It seems the film is either loved or truly hated and it’s easy to understand both sides. Me, I was mesmerized by it!

I went into Mother! knowing little to nothing about the film and for that I am so grateful, as the story is a tricky one to digest at first, but once you understand what is happening everything will suddenly crash into place. I say crash, because as the film moves forward things quickly become increasingly maniacal before becoming an onslaught on all your senses.

Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem are both exceptional, but Lawrence is the star. Her emotional and vulnerable performance is tragic as we see her pushed further and further into madness. The camera never strays too far away from a close up of Lawrence, we are always pushed in tight to her face or floating behind her shoulder. At times it can feel suffocating and you’re just screaming for a wide angle!

Creatively the story is highly metaphorical, but to discuss the underlying themes would be to ruin the experience. From a technical standpoint the film is a marvel, the camerawork is used to instil claustrophobia and dread and this is well-defined in its final act of madness! Don’t underestimate me when I say it is bat shit insanity wall to wall chaos!

7.0 / 10

“You give, and you give, and you give. It’s just never enough”

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It (2017)

Let’s all just agree clowns will forever be scary as shit…

A group of bullied kids band together when a shape shifting demon, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children in their small town of Derry, Maine.

The Gods have heard our prays and delivered a GOOD Stephen King adaptation! After many years of waiting, going through directors changing, actors changing, IT has finally hit the big screen and I could not get enough of this movie, in the span of three days I’ve already seen it twice!

It is fucking crazy that this is Andy Muschietti’s second feature film, the first being the unfairly underappreciated Mama (2013), and now he has delivered a knockout! With a mixture of The Goonies meets Stand By Me, Muschietti brings a coming of age story with visual flair and a perfect blend of humour and horror.

Switching it up from the 1990 miniseries, Muschietti wisely decides to stick with the children’s portion of the story (easily the more favourable side) and the casting is so on point! There are no weak characters and the characterization of the kids is so good, their banter and chemistry felt nothing but organic. These loveable Losers are foul mouthed and funny. I was genuinely surprised by how much this movie made me laugh ala ROCK WAR!

Now to the man of the hour, Mr Pennywise the Dancing Clown played by the rather unknown member of the Skarsgard family; Bill Skarsgard… and boy he is fucking phenomenal! Whereas the 1990 Tim Curry version of Pennywise was played more for laughs, Muschietti’s Pennywise is a twisted version of a circus clown possessed. Skarsgard leaves a helluva impression, the subtle touches he goes with makes it all the more terrifying; the drool, the screwy eye, the rabbit-toothed smile… There were moments of pure terror and his actions felt so unpredictable. Skarsgard’s Pennywise can happily be added to the list of iconic horror villains.

Even with a lengthy running time of 135 minutes, the film never feels like it has over stayed its welcome and there is never a dull moment. Pennywise is cleverly sparsely seen, making it all the more powerful for when he does pop (pop! pop, pop, pop!) up. The locations and set pieces too are amazing and are characters themselves. The Neibolt House (a personal favourite) offers inventive scares in the twisted maze like haunted house style.

Whilst being terrifying, the films also holds some tender moments. Pennywise brings the scares, but the kids bring the heart. At its core the story touches on some quite dark themes; murder, death, grief, bullying, rape, abuse and all that bundled in together can hit you right in the feels.

It brings you scare after scare and Muschietti so kindly doesn’t resort to using jump scares as a tactic. I say it’s scary, but it is scary in a way that a rollercoaster is scary because all throughout the film I was smiling like a mad woman.

The most exciting aspect of It, is the fact that a big studio has spent a lot of money on a horror. In saying that, I don’t think all horrors need massive budgets but it is refreshing to see a horror do so well in mainstream cinema. It’s time to kill the superhero blockbusters and bring in something a little darker.

Muschietti’s It is an absolute classic, the film itself is a gorgeous piece of cinematography and there is the added bonus that all the children actors can act so well. Alas, the film is not perfect with some patchy CGI taking centre stage… I’m looking at you twisted face flute lady, but the film perfectly captures adolescence and overcoming your fears. Bring on Chapter Two!

9.0 / 10

“If you’ll come with me, you’ll float too”

Demon (2015)

Wedding Crashers: Ghost Dimension…

A bridegroom is possessed by an unquiet spirit in the midst of his own wedding celebration.

It feels unfortunate to start a review for a film I adored, to read the news that the director, Marcin Wrona, sadly committed suicide whilst this film was no doubt shining brightly in the film festival circuit. What Wrona has done with Demon is not only create a dramatic twist on the possession subgenre, but have it laced with Polish history and political messages, all the while looking absolutely beautiful.

Demon is 2015 Polish film that is enticing from start to finish. All through out the film there is a sense of unease and everything just feels a little off… Its earthy sepia tones are hypnotic, the wedding itself holds a soft elegant touch of lighting, which contrasts nicely with the dark grittiness of the storm that carries on just outside the doors. The cinematography here is one of the nicest I have seen, it builds such atmosphere that the film begins to sink in your skin.

There are sparks of dark humour that effortlessly blend into the macabre events of the evening and leading man Itay Tiran (Piotr) delivers one of the finest performances I’ve seen in a horror. Tiran undergoes an incredible and physical transformation over the film, that at time feels gut wrenching to watch, but it is played well against the humorous in-laws who are working over time to keep party guests convinced that everything is fine.

Demon is both gripping and sad. Whilst wrestling with cultural conflict Wrona brings an atmospheric ghost story that holds one of the best physical performances in the genre. A somewhat ambiguous ending results in a rather anticlimactic ending, but regardless this is a film that is going to sit underneath your skin for days.

8.5 / 10

“Is it possible… a spirit of a dead person… can appear before us?”

Lake Bodom (2016)

When will teenagers learn… camping in the woods is never a good idea…

Every camper’s worst nightmare came true at Lake Bodom in 1960 when four teenagers were stabbed to death while sleeping in their tent.

Taking a real life homicide case as inspiration for a slasher flick is a risky and somewhat insensitive step to take. But, what Taneli Mustonen has done here has created a sinister campfire tale with more twists and turn than anything else and before not you quickly forget that a group of people really did get murdered at Lake Bodom.

Lake Bodom is a 2016 Finnish film that starts out as a typical slasher but quickly unfolds into something more complex. What exactly is it about teenagers heading out into the woods that makes us drop everything to indulge in what no doubt will be a blend of adolescent crimes, passions and rites? Well, this film has it all; blood, murder, mystery, lies, drugs, alcohol, naked swimming and even a little lesbian romance.

Lake Bodom is energetic in its story telling, but unfortunately the narrative felt a little underdeveloped, as if this was only a first draft and not final. The opening direction of the story I felt was dropped far too quickly, that being Ida (Nelly Hirst-Gee) and Nora (Mimosa Willamo) are two lovely ladies sneaking out into the woods with two fellow male classmates who plan to use the girls to recreate the decades old murder. Sounds interesting, right? I thought so too, but the moment the first murder comes along this storyline is dropped! What follows next, are plot twists that seem a little easy to predict, a quite large expository flashback sequence that some could call lazy writing and an unfortunate anti climatic final scene.

Regardless, Lake Bodom is a fun, gloriously bloody slasher that is shot beautifully and contains one helluva car chase (?) scene that will keep your eyes glued to the screen.

6.5 / 10

“The killer is still on the loose isn’t that reason enough?” 

I Saw The Devil (2010)

I Saw The Devil and It Wasn’t All Bad.

A secret agent exacts revenge on a serial killer through a series of captures and releases.

Kim Jee-woon, from A Tale of Two Sisters fame, delivers what can easily be stated as a modern masterpiece, with his 2010 film I Saw The Devil. This twisted game of cat and mouse is highly stylized with gritty violence that doesn’t shy away from showing you all the details. It’s bloody. Oh yes! It’s bloody and its bloody brilliant.

I Saw The Devil is not going to be for everyone. Not only is it shockingly violent, but it delves into the taboo of casual cannibalism, sexual sadism, paedophilia and torture. The film is relentless from start to finish and for its entire running length of 2 hours and 21 minutes that film doesn’t let up. But, it’s hard to hate a film that looks the way this one looks.

From its opening scene the film is staged beautifully, the camera glides effortlessly over intense action sequences and it is lusciously shot in shades of black, green and blood red. The hand to hand combat choreography is quick and cut throat. Two specific action sequences stand out as being the most memorable in any revenge film I’ve seen. A fight in a green house stands amongst one of the most intense introductions to two characters, quickly followed by a dizzying yet phenomenal out of control taxi sequence that feels never ending as the camera violently spins around the inside of a taxi for an insane murderous sequence.

It’s not just a film about violence, but it’s about the selfishness of violence, revenge and grief which at times is emotionally gut wrenching. Both Lee Byun-hun and Choi Min-sok (title charcter from Park Chan-wook’s Old Boy) bring solid performances both emotionally and physically. Choi is downright terrifying as the leading antagonist and Lee is emotionally obsessive that leaves you grasping for closure.

I Saw The Devil is yet again another Korean film that doesn’t disappoint, it’s tense, dark and demented and at times disturbingly hilarious. The gore level is off the chain, but it never feels ultra violent. Captivating with each and ever frame, I Saw The Devil is an experience that’s all else I will say.

9.0 / 10

“I don’t know what pain is. Fear? Don’t know that either. There’s nothing you can get from me”

Death Note (2017)

I wonder how many people wish they had their own Death Note after seeing this…

Light Turner, a bright student, stumbles across a mystical notebook that has the power to kill any person whose name he writes in it.

Adam Wingard is back and he’s back at taking another stab at a studio remake. It’s a ballsy move to remake/reboot something that is already much loved. Last year he broke my heart rebooting my all time favourite film The Blair Witch Project which I now no longer can just shorten to say Blair Witchugh

Death Note; originally a Japanese magna series from 2003, with major success spawned into an Anime series, several live action films, video games, endless merchandise and now a USA based adaptation for Netflix.

Undoubtedly a cult classic, one that is praised for its exploration into death, murder and power. But, Netflix weirdly has decided to take a different route and not delve into these darker themes, rather montage and breeze through the most interesting aspects and focus more on a forced romantic angle that lacks any real chemistry between Light (Nat Wolff) and Mia (Margaret Qualley).

The characterization is shoddy at best. Leading man Light (Wolff) is a whiny teenager, Mia (Qualley) is underdeveloped and L (Lakeith Stanfield) is a wasted opportunity, his character’s antics felt far too exaggerated. Each character lacks a clear motivation and is hardly likeable, that is except for Ryuk (voiced perfectly by Willem Dafoe) but unfortunately his character only fades in and out of the film, a regrettable action missed as this is a character that could have been far more utilized.

Death Note is another unfortunate misstep for a director I still hold hope for. The kills don’t shy away from spraying blood and brain, they are fun inventive acts and resonant with the guilty pleasure film franchise Final Destination. Wingard’s style can be fleetingly seen, visually the film is very pleasing, at times we are thrown into shades of neon enchantment and the soundtrack has a synth-y 80s vibe, reminiscent of the directors earlier brilliance of The Guest (2014).

With a tighter script and less teenage melodrama Death Note could have been a success. But the uneven tone and building moments of convenience leave this film feeling a little undesirable. I say bring back the Adam Wingard from over stylized memorable thrillers like You’re Next and The Guest and let’s all take a moment to pray that the rumours aren’t true that his next step is remaking I Saw The Devil. LEAVE IT ALONE!

5.0 / 10

“Every human spends the last moments of his life in the shadow of a death god”

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Don’t you dare mistake the name for the 2014 mini-series…  

A young couple move into an apartment, only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbours and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins to control her life.

Rosemary’s Baby is undoubtedly a cult classic of the horror genre. Adapted from Ira Levin’s best selling novel of the same name, Roman Polanski’s 1968 diabolical chiller plays on the vulnerabilities of a young frail woman and the possibility of strange occurrences surrounding her. It’s a frightening tale of Satanism, witches and pregnancy that all lead to a slow trip through paranoia anguish.

Polanski effectively builds an eerie frightening world. The pacing is enticing from the opening scene and its a slow burn throughout with sophisticated and bold intensity. Mia Farrow is perfect as the increasingly frantic title character, Rosemary Woodhouse, her performance is both convincing and committed. Ruth Gordon too is hilariously fantastic in the role of Minnie Castevet.

Rosemary’s Baby successfully blends the moods from a constant state of suffocation to moments of morbid humour. Farrow is enchanting and Polanski’s direction is brilliant. It’s one of the all time slow burners, with its escalating dread that leads to a bewitching finale.

8.0 / 10

“God is dead! Satan lives!”