The Bad Batch (2017)

It’s like if Nicolas Winding Refn made his own version of Mad Max: Fury Road…

 Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) is one of the thousands of Americans deemed unacceptable to society and is unceremoniously dumped into a hostile desert wasteland fenced off from civilized society. Wandering the desert in exile, she is captured by a savage band of cannibals and quickly realizes she’ll have to fight for her very existence in this human eat human world.

Following up from the fantastic debut ‘A Girl Walks Home Along At Night’ Ana Lily Amirpour’s sophomore film ‘The Bad Batch’ is a visually stylish, sun scorched post apocalyptic horror meets romance. Slow burner, yes, but Amirpour demonstrates her knack of director/writer combo ability with her illustrious talent of world building.

The Bad Batch is a tricky one to assess. After falling heads over heels in love with Amirpour’s breathtaking debut, I went into Bad Batch ready to be amazed yet again. Boy, was I ever… The opening scene is fucking brilliant. It is nasty and effortlessly filmed but the rest of the film doesn’t quite live up to its savage opening.

Both Suki Waterhouse and Jason Momoa are fun to watch. The both have an absorbing screen presence, but there just wasn’t enough depth there. Giovanni Ribisi is painfully underused and the majority of time spent with Keanu Reeves are drawn out scenes of pretentious blabbering’s.

The Bad Batch begins with little to no dialogue and it was those early scenes that were the real hook of the film. Would this movie have been better if it remained silent throughout? Absolutely! It could have been a bold entry into the post apocalyptic subgenre, and no doubt one Amirpour could easily pull off.

The Bad Batch has it moments. It’s a stylish nightmarish love story that has an absolute killer of a soundtrack. Striking, yet unfortunately a little dissatisfying. It doesn’t help that in its closing moments I was thinking “No, no, no, nooooo” …. Fuck that ending.

6.5 / 10

“Heres the thing, being good and bad… mostly depends on who you’re standing next to” 

The Belko Experiment (2017)

 

California Dreamin’ indeed….

In a twisted social experiment, 80 Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogota, Colombia and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company’s intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed.

Australian director Greg McLean holds the reigns for this B Grade horror hurrah ‘The Belko Experiment’ which is by far a superior follow up from his last muddle of a film ‘The Darkness’. Penned by James Gunn, Belko is nothing more than just pure genre fun with an impressive amount of blood spray.

There is a great ensemble of cast members here. The standouts being John Gallagher Jr, who is fast becoming a genre favourite after memorable appearances in 10 Cloverfield Lane and Hush. Tony Goldwyn, who again finds himself playing the prick of the bunch shines brightly too. There’s a mix of eclectic characters that keep things interesting once the mayhem ensues. The idea of Belko isn’t exactly new, but it is definitely a fun one and with the added humour element the film moves at a fast enticing pace of blood splattered pandemonium.

Belko is bent on being lurid, why it didn’t utilize on the inventiveness of death by office supplies is a complete mystery. Where was the stapler to a face?! Stabbings with a HB pencil? Hell, don’t show me an overextended scene of two characters playing with an ant farm and not bring that back! Clearly, I was quickly enthused with the possibilities. The unfortunate heavy reliance on guns was a little disappointing, however there is an expertly crafted killing spree matched with California Dreamin’ which is maybe the greatest thing I’ve seen this year.

Belko is razor sharp. Perhaps a little too gun heavy, but otherwise an appropriately, gleefully, wave of carnage that should be enjoyed for all its flaws and perfections.

“Your chance of survival increases by following my orders”

7.5 / 10

The Mummy (2017)

What’s the bet Brendan Fraser is smiling right now?

An ancient princess is awakened from her crypt beneath the desert, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia, and terrors that defy human comprehension.

Where to start? Well, would you believe it or not, there were six writers for this… SIX! Shocker, right?! Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy, aka The Tom Cruise Show is tonally a motherfucking mess. Is it an action? Horror? Comedy? Whatever, it was trying to be, what I know is that it’s not the best start for what was going to be the highly anticipated Dark Universe saga.

To have a movie about a Mummy and have no Egypt is almost insulting. However, not as insulting as every character in this 110-minute mess. Tom Cruise, I think is meant to be a loveable rogue but comes more across as unlikeable asshole. Annabelle Wallis’s character brings absolutely nothing to the story, except having to be saved repeatedly by Mr Cruise. Is it getting more obvious that six men wrote this? Lastly, lets just pretend Jake Johnson wasn’t in this film, his ‘comic’ relief is so cringey, it was difficult to sit through. The attempt at comedy here is so on the nose that it hurts, it hurts like a punch in the nose.

The only redeeming feature of The Mummy were Russell Crowe and Sofia Boutella, who both killed it with that they were given. Crowe is charming with his shonky British accent and Boutella is a goddess on screen. It’s just a shame Boutella wasn’t given more screen time to really give her character some depth, instead we are given a very bland exposition heavy backstory.

Technically, Kurtzman has a very well made movie on his hands. The action scenes are undeniably impressive but it isn’t enough to rescue it from still being very dull. There is no balance between action and horror or horror and comedy which is what Brendan Fraser’s 1999 version exceeds so perfectly at. Which is why it is possibly my all time favourite guilty pleasure movie, it is perfectly cheesy in all the right places.

The Mummy has no scares, no laughs and leaves no desire to step into the Dark Universe. Please Hollywood Executives, don’t harm any other classic horror icons with your explosions and bad jokes. Leave it to the people who care about the monsters and not about the money.

3.0 /10

“Welcome to a new world of gods and monsters”

 

Alien: Covenant (2017)

When one Michael Fassbender just isn’t enough…

The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.

Ridley Scott’s next instalment in the Alien franchise, Alien: Covenant, has made its landing. While being ominously atmospheric yet beautifully shot, this sci-fi thriller is a welcoming return to a series that unfortunately seems to hold a majority of people questioning whether we really needed the reboot? Remake? Prequel? Prequel sequel? Whatever you wish to call it.

I may be in the minority here, but I’m rather enjoying the expansion into the Alien universe. Covenant successfully builds upon the franchises core themes; science, religion, man, myth, life, death and creation. It never feels like the creative team have dove in for a quick cash grab that most sequels/prequels fall prey to. Covenant cleverly peppers us with new information on the mythology of its monsters, whilst gifting us with a new kind of evil.

Covenant is far from perfect though. Its major problem is its characters. From a crew of around 15 (?) there are only a handful of memorable personas, the rest remain completely non descript. There is zero time spent building the minor characters any story or depth, and before I could even grasp who’s who they are dead.

A major disappointment to comprehend was that the theatrical cut of the film seemed to drop the essence that this crew was to be made up of couples in relationships, which seemed heavily implied in the films earlier marketing. A curious aspect that that would have worn well, but for reasons unbeknownst it is hardly mentioned and therein these characters lose some edge and depth and any interest in whether they live or die drops away.

Those few characters that do happen to stand out, stand out strongly. Fassbender gracefully plays both parts of good versus evil, and has a completely mesmerizing on screen presence. Katherine Waterston is a fine Ripley-esque female lead. But, the biggest surprise was Danny McBride, who for once refreshingly downplayed his usual caricature playfulness with a much more dramatic turn.

Alien Covenant is grungey as hell and no doubt an upgrade from Ridley’s previous 2012 entry, Prometheus. Covenant is gritty, well crafted, with dry almost campy humour. This new generation isn’t as much about the monsters, but rather a chilling saga for the character of David. Which sits absolutely fine with me. For the next instalment, I expect only a whole orchestra of homo erotic Fassbenders playing musical instruments.

7.0 / 10

“Serve in Heaven or reign in Hell?”

Hounds of Love (2017)

 

Smiths Chips will never be the same again…

 A cold blooded predatory couple while cruising the streets in search of their next victim, will stumble upon a 17-year-old high school girl, who will be sedated, abducted and chained in the stranger’s guest room.

Another gritty Australian entry for the month of May, with Ben Young’s astonishing directorial debut, Hounds of Love. Upon first glance, one would think this simply to be another entry into the poor subgenre of torture porn, but Young has twisted the narrative and instead at its core Hounds of Love is a tragic story of a relationship malfunctioning. For this tale, we are shown the side of the captors, and instead of being a predictable tale of one woman escaping abuse, it’s a tale of two.

Hounds of Love is powerfully acted, it is a trio tour de force of performances from the leading stars – Stephen Curry, Emma Booth and Ashleigh Cummings. For us locals, we recognize Curry as a very much loveable and generally adorable stand-up comedian so it is a complete shock to the system to see him pull off such a terrifying slimy performance of what could be one of the most heinous, sleaziest characters imagined.

It is easily understandable that these subgenres are definitely an acquired taste, but Hounds has more class than any ol’ torture porn flick. It is violent in nature, but mostly the nastiest moments are implied. Young leaves us to use the darkest depths of our imagination to make sense of what is going on behind closed doors.

Young has pulled off a remarkable entrance by successfully traumatising audiences around the world with his low budget gem, the gritty realism is disturbing and the performances are downright riveting. Hounds of Love is a knock out.

8.0 / 10

“I’ll tell you what. How about… you and I… go in there right now and show her who’s running the show?”

Killing Ground (2017)

Not exactly a movie for Tourism Australia…

A couples camping trip turns into a frightening ordeal when they stumble across the scene of a horrific crime.

Writer/Director Damien Power delivers an exceptionally powerful feature film debut with Killing Ground. A classic throwback to the Australian Ozploitation era of the 1970s/80s, Killing Ground is a blunt, bloody and brutal journey of a deadly game of cat and mouse. Don’t expect your normal stalker/slasher tropes, Killing Ground transcends any clichés with a pretty simple storyline but with an imaginative non chronological timeline structure.

The real grittiness of Killing Ground is its violence and what it does to people. There are no cheap scares with Killing Ground and although incredibly violent, Powers avoids showing any graphic displays of gratuitous bloodshed. Rather it is mostly shockingly implied and it is the Australian landscape that will once again terrorize audiences with an atmosphere absolutely drenched in dread.

The performances from Killing Ground are unforgettable, Harriet Dyer as young camper Sam is a strong female lead that delivers a white knuckling performance, followed by Aaron Glenane’s psychotic Chook, which feels almost too genuine. Aaron Pedersen also is strong here, going against his normal type cast and playing into the part of the villainous duo.

A minimal yet powerful story, Killing Ground has a real gritty aesthetic and an authenticity that will make some scenes difficult to watch. The cinematography will undoubtedly keep you holding your breath, the steady tracking shots eerily grasping your attention when you want to look away. Only coming in at 88 minutes, a little more exposition on the malicious men would have been inviting, otherwise Killing Ground is absolutely tense throughout and another great entry into the Australian genre.

7.0 / 10

“There were people here earlier and their heading out to the falls”

The Girl With All The Gifts (2017)

Yes… I’m going to be one of those assholes that screams the book was better… (just)

A scientist and a teacher living in a dystopian future embark on a journey of survival with a special young girl named Melanie.

Previously a novel of the same name from 2014, The Girl with All the Gifts, is an oddly adapted screenplay penned by the author M.R Carey. I say oddly, because the film is completely different to the novel, so much so that major characters have entirely different deaths and defining character moments are completely missing. For me that is just a no no.

Director Colm McCarthy’s vision of the film, is an unfortunate lazy adaptation of the book. The monstrous makeup was exactly that, the crusty rot was overly exaggerated and moments so painfully awkward that there could possibly be no saving grace for the film.

The backdrop of The Girl with All the Gifts is a wonder to admire and both Paddy Considine and Gemma Arterton are powerful in their roles, but the characters are paper thin and the lack of chemistry was noticeably missing. It’s an unfortunate slip for what was a semi-powerful novel to be adapted into another ineffective cringe worthy zombie film.

4.5 / 10

“If I had a box of bad things I’d put you in it and close the lid”

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”