Raw


Viewed – 02 October 2017  Online-rental

I think it can’t be argued by anyone familiar with French horror cinema, that they certainly challenge boundaries and cross lines on what is acceptable or even tolerable in a horror movie.  The infamous Martyrs proved that and now we come to this latest, French-Belgian offering that quite literally goes for the jugular.

RAW

Justine (Garance Marillier), a gifted female student starts her first week at Veterinary school where she finds herself involved in a brutal hazing ritual.  Whilst getting covered in Horse blood and generally abused by the seniors, despite being a devout  vegetarian, Justine is pushed into consuming raw meat.  However the experience unlocks a new found craving and it’s not long before Justine finds herself developing a hunger for human flesh.

Part coming-of-age movie, part sexual awakening with a twist … this gritty, somewhat tongue-in-cheek drama is equally distasteful and weirdly fascinating.  The movie jumps from development to development a little too quickly for me, with Justine’s cannibalistic cravings coming as a bit of a leap.  However with at times artfully stylish and unflinching direction from first timer Julia Ducournau – I couldn’t look away.  Even during some of the sicker sequences, with a stomach churning finger-eating like it’s KFC scene almost reaching my limit.  It never gets as gory as suggested though, but is gradually disturbing in it’s rather ‘matter of fact’ approach to something unthinkable.

Certainly not for a wide audience and well, left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth (no pun intended) … but as an example of daring, provocative movie making, this still proved effective.

Verdict:  3 /5

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The Fly


Viewed – 29 August 2017  Blu-ray

It’s hard to believe this movie came out in 1986.  It’s look and atmosphere still feel contemporary and semi-futuristic bar some 80s fashions and hair styles.  This retelling / remake of the 1950’s b-movie has Jeff Goldblum on star-making form as eccentric scientist Seth Brundel, who after inviting a plucky reporter (Gina Davis) to his lab, reveals he has invented a teleportation device.  However after the initial reveal, Brundel decides to teleport himself but makes the mistake of allowing a common house fly inside the pod, therefore setting into motion a grotesque and alarming physical transformation.

The Fly

This is perfect material for director David Cronenberg (Scanners, Videodrome) who has always had an interest in body-horror and transformation in his movies.  However beyond the gory effects (that still impress and revolt) this is a tragic love story.  Helped immeasurably by convincing chemistry from the leads (who were a real life couple at the time) and a strikingly complex turn from Goldblum … watching events play out is both emotionally draining and exciting.  It’s a very unique kind of horror experience, with no actual evil enemy but more a horrible set of circumstances. In that respect it’s not unlike The Elephant Man.  It may be at it’s core fairly simple and only really has three characters … but what Cronenberg achieves with such simple tools is a revelation and made this an instant classic.

The Blu-ray has a decent if slightly soft image but colours are strong and close-up detail is good.  The soundtrack in 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio is also effective with atmospherics and Howard Shore’s obvious b-movie throwback score both doing their job.  The only slight let down is somewhat mono sounding dialogue that whilst still clear could have done with sprucing up.  Extras are plentiful though with an essential commentary from Cronenberg as well as some worthwhile deleted scenes, press kits, behind the scenes stuff and photo galleries.  Overall a decent job for a genuine horror gem.

Verdict:

(the movie)  5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

Annabelle: Creation


Viewed – 24 August 2017  Cinema

I’ll certainly go on record as saying the first Conjuring movie is one of the best horrors of recent years, and it’s follow up wasn’t too shabby either.  Set in the same universe, the Annabelle movie so far has passed me by, Luke warm reviews and generally ‘meh’ word of mouth not helping matters.  However I had heard this follow up was meant to be superior, so I thought I’d give it a chance.

Annabelle Creation

Set some time before the events of the original movie, this has a group of orphans coming to live at a house in the middle of nowhere (of course).  The ageing couple that run the house however hide their own tragic history following the death of their daughter twelve years previous.  However it’s not long that things start to go bump in the night, mystery surrounds the reclusive wife and there’s a closed off room that certain girls should not go poking their noses into.

A solid premise, a creepy location and inquisitive young girls in night gowns wondering around creepy corridors in the dark.  Yes it’s rather familiar stuff and pulls out many a horror movie trope.  However it’s also a movie that wears its clichés like a badge of honour, delivering effective scares and plenty of freaky imagery and nail biting atmosphere that I found genuinely unnerving.  The mostly young cast do a fine job especially lead girl Talitha Bateman and with several nods to both The Conjuring movies this was the whole package.  It gets pretty messed up and nasty towards the end and I left the cinema fairly shaken but thoroughly entertained.  A small tie in with the last movie ends things on somewhat of a ‘ok..er, what?’ and for a movie labelled ‘creation’ it’s still a bit of a mystery just what Annabelle’s origins are  – but otherwise I still got a kick out of this.

Verdict:  4 /5

Patriots Day


Viewed – 12 August 2017  Online rental

I don’t think it can be argued, that we live in scary times.  That also can’t be argued for world history either, but in our modern society, it’s still difficult to accept that such atrocities like 9/11 are even possible.  Aren’t we supposed to be more sophisticated than that?  Apparently not and one such terror incident, the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing is another example of senseless violence in the name of extremist viewpoints and hate.  This latest from acclaimed director Peter Berg (Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon) once again stars his go-to actor Mark Wahlberg as a demoted Police officer on security detail at said marathon when a series of bombs are detonated.

Patriots Day

Wahlberg is probably one of the most likable and watchable A-list stars around and I for one enjoy his performances even if he’s not really going to give say, Tom Hanks cause for concern.  He’s the ideal everyman and well cast in this ensemble piece that gives us several characters to latch onto as events unfold (with appearances from Kevin Bacon, John Goodman and Michelle Monaghan).  Berg’s direction is slick and gritty, offering up a mix of traditional and hand-held camera work for added intensity, a pounding score and an unflinching eye for detail and tense moments.  The scene in the car involving a Chinese guy and a terrorist is particularly unbearable.  The movie itself is eye-opening to what went on and how things played out was fascinating, occasionally shocking and well… humbling.

I’ll never understand the evil that people can inflict on society in the name of their beliefs and it’s something that seemingly has no end or answer.  This was a suitably harrowing watch at times, even if it fails to have anything new to say (leaving the terrorists motives under-explored) … but in our current times, I’d still recommend this.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

The Handmaiden


Viewed – 06 August 2017  Blu-ray

Let me say straight away that I regard Korean director Park Chan-wook as one of the best around and his much acclaimed vengeance trilogy (which includes the famed ‘Oldboy’) speaks for itself.  Add to this his previous American debut ‘Stoker’ being an underrated gem and well to say I was looking forward to what came next, was an understatement.  Once I discovered it would be a period piece though, for a director more known for contemporary (and bloody) revenge thrillers … I did feel a little trepidation.

The Handmaiden

A seasoned crook (Ha Jung-woo) with his eye on a wealthy heiress (Kim Min-hee), sends a trusted young pick pocket (Kim Tae-ri) to pose as her handmaiden.  Once gaining the Heiress’s trust the crook himself poses as an eligible count in hope of marrying the heiress and gaining access to her fortune.  Once plan is set in motion however the pick-pocket/handmaiden finds herself drawn to the lonely heiress who has lived all her life in a secluded mansion, overseen by a controlling and perverted uncle.

This beautifully shot film is full of character and period atmosphere, complete with stunning costumes and spot-on performances.  It’s an intriguing premise that twists and turns, spread over three distinct parts, where we get to see the differing points of view of the various characters and gradually learn about each of their underlying plans and cunning manipulations.  Who will come out on top?  Think to some extent Dangerous Liaisons and you’ll have a good idea what this about.  It’s got a quirky sense of humour (especially during some explicit but not particularly erotic sex-scenes) and some of the Korean / Japanese traditions are fascinating.  For a film by Park Chan-wook however it lacks the showmanship he’s displayed in the past, going for a more sedate, realistic vibe that’s still eye-catching thanks to gorgeous cinematography and lavish locations / set design.  At over 2 and half hours, it’s a bit drawn out, but packs in a lot of personality.  Not as immediately essential as his best work … but still one to check out if your a fan or enjoy quality Korean cinema.

Verdict:  3.5 /5