The Night House


Viewed – 13 November 2021 Disney+

After a woman’s husband commits suicide under mysterious circumstances, she finds herself experiencing strange visions and creepy goings on during the night in the lakeside house where they lived together.

A fairly typical premise granted, but with effective atmosphere and a few genuine chills along the way. Rebecca Hall stars as Beth and is convincing as a woman struck by grief who begins to uncover a secret life linked to her husband. As the movie progressed it began to develop from standard haunted house fair to something more disturbing and I began to think – this was getting interesting. However a final act seemed to disregard much of what gets suggested in dreams and visions, instead choosing not to give the viewer any real answers.

Hall is very good however and the concept was an interesting take on a cliched setup. I just wished it had delved further into the more creepier ideas that may or may not have been real. I guess the director wanted to leave it ambiguous, but all I was left with was disappointment and frustration.

Verdict: Poor

Jumanji: The Next Level


Viewed – 10 November 2021 Netflix

This sequel to the ‘reboot’ of the classic Robin Williams fantasy, has the same cast of high school now twenty-something misfits who find themselves returning to the mystical video game world. Choosing to return that is only after one of them decides to go back of their own free will.

A rather weak set up this time gives the previous movie’s concept of unlikely personalities trapped in the bodies of their video game avatars, that being The Rock, Karen Gillan, Jack Black and Kevin Hart … a slight twist by swapping characters around and also throwing in Danny DeVito and Danny Glover. Meaning it’s occasionally a bit confusing who’s who. Thankfully banter between all the characters is consistently engaging and funny.

Plot-wise the quest within the game is nonsensical, and is just an excuse for several set pieces including an ostrich stampede and an elaborate sequence involving suspended bridges. However the real-world backdrop that includes a touching subplot between two old friends almost makes up for this. As a sequel it adds nothing to the first movie, failing to build on the mysticism of the game and its origins. For fans of the first movie – give this a watch. It’s still a lot of fun but very little else.

Verdict: Good

Wrong Turn


Viewed – 06 November 2021 Netflix

I can’t say I approached this ‘reboot’ latest entry in the long running franchise with much excitement. I also wasn’t the biggest fan of the first movie despite the appeal of Eliza Dushcu. This time around a concerned father (Mathew Modine) arrives in a small town looking for his missing daughter. Flash back several weeks earlier and said daughter and her friends decide to go hiking in the rural mountain region, despite warnings of ‘stick to the oath’ from the locales.

So far, so predictable. However after stumbling onto the booby-trapped territory of a local cult (in place of hillbilly cannibals) the friends must battle for survival. What made this feel a bit more fresh and to a degree more realistic is that the cult are some sort of throwback to early settlers who have shunned modern society and prefer to be left alone. It’s not until the hikers treat them as a threat that they turn nasty. Interesting approach. Add to this the father and daughter subplot that bookends the movie and I admit I got rather caught up in what was happening.

There’s some memorably gory deaths, which is to be expected and a few cliched characters, yet with lead actress Charlotte Vega delivering more than the usual ‘final girl’ performance… this may not rewrite the rule book, but still managed to be effective. Worth a watch.

Verdict: Good

The Guilty


Viewed – 26 October 2021 Netflix

Jake Gyllenhaal is probably my favourite actor at the moment, so anything he stars in will grab my attention. This latest has him as a troubled LAPD cop doing a night shift at a 911 call centre. When he receives a call from a frightened sounding woman giving the impression she’s been abducted, he decides to make it his mission to save her.

Your call is important to us…

This is one of those single location movies, and I have often felt despite the limitations of the concept, these can be more engrossing that you might expect. The same can be said here, with a focused, intense script cleverly putting the viewer into various situations where they have to picture a scene or characters only going by a voice or how Gyllenhaal’s character interacts with them. It’s very effective and I’m guessing will be different for each viewer, with them having different ideas of what certain characters look like etc. It’s a way of telling a story that lives or dies based on how much attention you pay and how you picture events you don’t get to see. Thankfully, Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) squeezes every ounce of tension and drama out of the idea, so that the your efforts are worth it.

Jake Gyllenhaal is very convincing, delivering a character with more than a few problems of his own. I certainly sympathised with him even if some of his actions were occasionally questionable. So I came away from this rather impressed … and quite emotionally exhausted. Check it out.

Verdict: Recommended

Freaky


Viewed – 23 October 2021 online rental

There’s not many new ideas in the horror genre, but on reading up on this slasher take on Freaky Friday from the Director of the equally unique Happy Death Day, I thought I’d give it a go. A serial killer has been stalking a small town and offing teens. So the local kids are a bit nervous. During one after-school party however, social outcast Millie finds herself the killer’s latest target when her mother forgets to come and collect her. However after being attacked, something strange happens, and despite surviving the encounter, following morning Millie wakes up to discover – she’s swapped bodies with the killer.

I’m not myself today…

A great idea, making for a fun little slasher comedy-horror. After the body swap occurs, Vince Vaughn as the masked killer gets to play decidedly camp and is clearly having a ball. Kathryn Newton as Millie in serial killer mode is basically The Terminator, portrayed fairly one-dimensional. We get some entertaining kills, plenty of energy and a decent soundtrack. Yet the movie is also one of a glut of ‘woke’ message movies of late, particularly portraying the concept of male masculinity as something evil or wrong… sigh. It’s again very forced and completely unnecessary. However I still had fun with this.

I’d have liked some back story for Vaughn’s killer, especially how he knows about the mystical knife that causes the body swap, but anyone looking for depth should probably go elsewhere. Overall this was dumb, occasionally gory, frequently funny entertainment that’s still worth a watch … but is unlikely to become a classic of the genre.

Verdict: Good