Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
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Completely undeserving of the 40% rating the film appears to have achieved (as of January 19). The Strangers: Prey at Night is a camp and fun horror vehicle that drags the potential franchise out from the depressingly bleak and dreary atmosphere surrounding 2008's "The Strangers", bringing with it a killer soundtrack including Kim Wilde and Bonnie Tyler. Whilst the characters really are thinly written and just pin cushions for the titular killers to pick off one by one, the performances are surprisingly committed. The film has its fair share of moments that are genuinely intense and it has a high re-watch factor.
A great little horror with brilliant special effects that have definitely stood the test of time. Watching Pumpkinhead now, it's almost like a love letter to times gone where there was a lack of computer special effects and the monsters were actually made by human hands and had a real revolting and demonic look that no one has been able to mimic with the use of CGI since. Pumpkinhead teeters right on the edge of the nineties when this kind of horror had started to go extinct. Real good old fashioned scary stories instead of remakes or sequels. Lance Henrikson gives a brilliant performance.
Horror is at its most visceral and paranoid when it's British in my opinion and Kill List supports this opinion massively. A little bit of a hidden gem, in Kill List a troubled ex-army officer resumes his humble day job of carrying out assassinations for large sums of money and inevitably finds himself tangled in a contract that will burrow under his skin and eventually consume him. Firstly the direction is entirely offbeat and has a dream-like ambiance to it as the protagonist staggers through happenings that get stranger and stranger as time progresses, resulting in a showdown that will be pretty hard to forget with a brilliant plot twist right at the end that leaves a burn on the brain. The real horror is in the crumbling of the human psyche and also the family unit. The disintegrating relationship between the characters of Maskell and Buring is so well acted by both actors that it's really quite devastating to watch as it can be all too familiar. I'd definitely recommend this gem to everyone.
Mom and Dad is so so good. It mashes a story reminiscent of Stephen King's novel cell wherein a cellular plague strikes that causes all who listen to a strange signal turn feral and begin attacking people at random. Mom and Dad is similar, however in this it is parents that turn on their young and attempt to kill them by any means necessary due to witnessing a static transmission. Nicholas Cage gives a performance that is standard for him, it's a good performance but is extremely over the top as usual and he is calmed by Selma Blair's stony, sultry expressions throughout. The only thing I can say about Mom and Dad as a negative is that it has a very unsatisfying and unusual ending.
Tragedy Girls is a very interesting horror film as its two protagonists (antagonists?) are probably two of the most relateable serial killers in film history and whilst their cattish on screen behaviour is fluid in the vein of comedy, their unrelenting hunger for recognition and the lengths they'd go to achieve fame, whilst updating their Instagram and blogging about their exploits is actually cleverly terrifying. It's a horror on all parts but definitely has a good amount of black comedy which is bolstered by the performances of the two leads who give brilliant comic performances from the get go, particularly Alexandra Shipp. The zany horror and social media tagline was just about to run it's course, however Tragedy Girls has definitely ensured that this won't happen for quite a while.
Robert Pattinson gives a fantastic performance in Good Time as Constantine Nikas, a young thief and urban outlaw who embarks on a downward spiral in his efforts to save his mentally challenged brother from incarceration. it's a mad frenzy of a film and definitely quite experimental in its approach to a crime thriller. Unlike anything I've really seen before, the wildly talented Safdie brothers have created a great film here. One of the brothers, Benny Safdie also gives an amazing performance as Pattinson's brother and definitely deserves recognition for this.
Lady Bird feels almost like a memory shared collectively by its audience, nostalgic, familiar and warm to everyone even though the film isn't telling our story, but the titular Lady Bird's who is relateable and likeable underneath the angst and rebellion she desperately tries to demonstrate. Greta Gerwig is definitely one to watch, bounding through mumble-core to get her foot in the door of helming a film that will most likely grab Oscar nods this coming March. Lady Bird's coming of age story is both darkly hilarious and really really sad in places too and all the while acted superbly by Saoirse Ronan who manages to read her script without moving her lips and can explain scenes with just a look and sad, distant glance. Laurie Metcalf is also very good in this.
Halloween 4 may just be good because it reintroduces everyone's favourite pale-faced psychotic to the Halloween franchise, that was so clearly suffering from a Michael Myers shape void, evident in entry three, season of the witch. It may also be good because of the young, now a horror veteran Danielle Harris' performance as Jamie - Laurie Strode's abandoned daughter - who is really good in the film. Or it could just be that the film ups the ante, ups the gore and thickens the soup of the story. Either or, The Return of Michael Myers is the best of the franchise after the original Halloween.
Not bad by a long shot and enjoyably violent and sadistic from the get go, clearly paying remembrance to the unrestrained and far-superior original film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that inspired it, 2017's Leatherface is non-canon and kinda non-relevant in regards to the attempted re-branding of an already legendary villain. Lilli Taylor's performance is a highlight as it always is, who seems on her way to formulate a comeback filmography worthy of a "scream queen" to helm, however her talents are slightly wasted in this production and she could do better. Nevertheless, one to watch but not one to really watch again.
One of Cruise's best and bravest performances, the fantastically directed Born on the Fourth of July is a tribute to veterans, America and Ron Kovic, whilst also being a huge compliment and showcase of the talents of Tom Cruise and Oliver Stone. The best of Oliver Stone's war trilogy.
Deftly emotional and sincere with its story, Coco carves its own edge into Pixar's brilliant track record and stirs up a tale of music, family and purpose all intertwined with the backdrop of the Mexican celebratory day of the dead. Like Monstropolis or Andy's Bedroom before it, the Land of the Dead is both intoxicatingly deep and also viciously energetic. At some points of the film I did feel like it went a little off track and the film also unfortunately suffers from an extremely under-developed main villain and this was an aspect of the film that felt pretty rushed, but apart from that everything else was pretty much perfect. The few songs that are in the film are all extremely memorable and soulful and the voice acting is brilliant, particularly Anthony Gonzales as the protagonist and Gael Garcia Bernal as Hector. There weren't as many "wink wink nudge nudge" moments as are usually present in Pixar films, so this may be one for the adults to avoid slightly as there wasn't much comedy present there for more mature audiences, however the emotional punch of an ending was definitely something that all would be able to appreciate.
A showcase of the undeniable talents of Freeman and Tandy - the latter of which became the oldest actress to receive an Academy Award for best actress. Driving Miss Daisy cleverly and briefly touches on themes of prejudice, alienation and segregation and whilst these themes are only touched on briefly, this seems to almost normalise them and therefore makes the film's time and location seem ever more present. The absence of focus on the time the film is set allows the audience to focus on the warmth and familiarity that slowly grows between Daisy and her chauffeur Hoke. The ending of the film seems rushed and I'm unsure why they didn't include a bit more in the film to highlight the ageing of the two and the mental decline of the titular character, as such sudden jumps are made to years later and then suddenly the film's credits are rolling, it seems strange. At just under 99 minutes, the film could've done with being a bit longer perhaps.
A staple of fantastic modern British horror, the Descent relies on two things to terrify it's audience; the bolstering and passionate performances of the all-female cast who present genuine and relateable characters and also the steady direction of Neil Marshall who magically manages to make a potholing tunnel in an underground network of caves seem even more claustrophobic and tiny than it actually is. The pacing of the film is incredible, with shocks and frights occurring when you least expect them, suggesting the ideas behind the film are creative and committed. Macdonald and Mendoza lead in matters of quality of performance, yet all of the actors are fantastic. The creatures that reside in the cave are merely coincidental as the real horror comes from the girls' having to face their own demons and more horrifyingly, each other and the darkness that seems to get darker and darker until it eventually envelopes them completely. The Descent can easily swear you off any extreme sports for life, particularly spelunking or potholing. The horror is both psychologically biting and physically strong in the Descent.
Return of the Living Dead II would've been more acceptable had it been made by the same team and same man, but Ken Wiederhorn's effort unfortunately comes across as a poor imitation of something that is really quite great and genuinely amusing. The special effects are of a better quality and are still as ingenious and the actors do seem to understand the basic principles of their performances and what they should be - that the original actors knew of too - that made the original so great. It's occasionally funny, but will always be in the shadow of the far greater film that preceded it and what it so desperately tries to imitate throughout. For eighties Zombie sequels, you can do worse.
Return of the Living Dead is zany, gross and really quite messy throughout. A madcap, punk-fest of a zombie flick that isn't afraid to gross out it's audience and fling guts out of every corner of the screen wherever it can. Return of the Living Dead interesting coined the phrase, "braaaaains" associated with the zombie genre and is memorable not just because of this, but also because of it's cast of dedicated actors who go above and beyond to deliver some of the cheesiest yet enthusiastic performances seen in any mid-eighties horror film. It's almost a love letter to punk and Dan O'Bannon was just that in his attempt to make a zombie film that would stand the test of time. It's dated by today's standards, but the humour involved is timeless.
Peter Cushing's second outing in a Hammer Dracula film as Van Helsing, the main protagonist and vampire hunter. Terence Fisher's The Brides of Dracula features a romantic and lustful subplot amidst vampires rising from the grave and alot of screaming - a standard affair for a Dracula outing, making it a successful one too. The characters are interesting and charismatic enough to carry the film, asides from the slightly irritating main character of Marianne. The script may lack the enthusiasm of the predecessor's juicy subject material, however what the film lacks in real invention it makes up for in beautiful scenery and a Gothic atmosphere that will continue to attract Hammer fans for decades.
Fascinating, creepy and well written throughout, Southbound offers up a gory Love Actually with the combined talents of three artistically committed directors and a huge helping of blood and supernatural intrigue to help bolster the film down the road. The real villain of the film seems to be the stretch of anonymous American highway that encompasses the film in a Silent Hill-esque vice grip and frames the separate stories, loosely narrated by the brilliant Larry Fassenden as the omnipresent Radio DJ that all of the characters encounter on their drives. The film is starkly different to any horror road trip movie and it's definitely worth a watch.
A "my first horror film" type of flick, as if a teeny bopper obsessed with Groundhog Day and Scream Queens had a eureka moment, grabbed a pen and began writing his first film that blended the two together, creating Happy Death Day. Fresh faced Jessica Rothe is both assuredly capable at playing a leading scream queen and yet also unfortunately unremarkable and forgettable as an actress. Her performance definitely keeps the film going and her pluckiness and sharp wit are reminiscent of some classic teen films before it such as Heathers and Easy A. Whilst the plot is dark, the film itself is devoid of any scares whatsoever, besides a lingering feeling of claustrophobia that we've already felt before with Groundhog Day. The laughs are frequent more than the scares for sure and it doesn't help that the film lacks any type of gore whatsoever. It's definitely a film for teenagers or people new and maybe a bit sensitive to the horror genre. Too many of the characters are stereotypical, for example the sweet, sensitive and average looking man who ends up stealing the heart of the bitchy, self-obsessed final girl who goes down a redemptive path becoming a decent human being, the "best friend" who is a complete narcissist and gets her just desserts. The film even has a dorky Asian girl who makes a cameo every now and then. Oh, and don't forget the good looking jock who is secretly gay. Nevertheless the film was entertaining enough to keep my eyes on the screen and a director/writer who actually has slightly original ideas is something that the horror genre needs above any other type of genre.
It's not great to be honest and falls smoothly beside Saw: The Final Chapter (or Saw 3D, whatever) in terms of quality. Where hardcore gore hound Saw fans are concerned, it's an instant classic as it again manages to bring the entire bloody saga to a perfect circle without stepping on the toes of the previous entries. It's not a terrible film but it could of really easily been. If it didn't have Tobin Bell in it, if it didn't have a massive devoted fan base and if it didn't actually call itself "part of the Saw saga" it would be a huge mess. Thankfully, if you're going to sit down to watch the eighth entry in the Saw series, you already know what to expect and probably won't be that disappointed. It's no where near on the same level as the brilliant first three entries in the series, the rest of which after can be skipped in my opinion. The acting isn't bad and the direction is competent, but we've seen this all before, haven't we?
Yorgos Lanthimos leads the pack in the gang of "is this a horror film or not? if it isn't, then why am I so scared right now?" kind of films. The main cast all read their lines as if they are all on drugs and are literally talking without really thinking, bolstering the lurid dream-like feeling that the story demonstrates in the audience's perception of what is really going on in the story. It's unforgiving in its efforts to be confusing and relents from explaining anything that is really going on in the dark story, leaving you to determine which characters have their morals and motives in the right place and which ones don't, or leaves you to ask the question, is anyone really capable of honesty and morality? Everyone involved gives stunning performances, but an ovation has to be dedicated to Barry Keoghan's haunting portrayal of the insidious Martin who exults an aura of agitated intensity throughout and never drops the ball on the tension. The score is also fantastic as was also the case for Lanthimos' The Lobster - where the score glides fluently with the camera in every angle and frame.