A Quiet Place


Viewed – 04 November 2018. Online rental

Few. I’m just trying to catch my breath. Well, if this wasn’t one of the most tense and gripping movie viewing experiences I’ve had in a long time, I don’t know what is. The always dependable Emily Blunt leads this sci-fi horror drama about a small family trying to survive in a wilderness where ravenous creatures (aliens?) hunt and kill anyone and anything that makes a sound. So this young couple and their children live a life of silence, sign language and dread. You see, to add to their plight the teenage daughter is deaf,which makes her highly vulnerable and Blunt is pregnant.

This is a film dripping with tension, impending doom and director John Kransinski squeezes every ounce of emotion and fear from the characters, making me care so very much for them. This movie does an incredible amount with hardly any spoken dialogue, relying instead on the rawest of human expression and the threat of death to pummel home its situation that only gets more desperate as the movie progresses. That labour scene alone is one of the scenes of the year for me. The sound here is also pretty much a character in of itself and a decent sound system is recommended to get the full experience.

Occasionally the characters do make some stupid decisions considering the situation and the creatures are nothing that imaginative. However for a concept where I went in expecting just another gory survival horror … what I got was a whole lot more. A must see.

Verdict: 5 /5

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Hereditary


Viewed – 02 November 2018. Blu-ray

Its easy to be skeptical these days when a horror movie gets a lot of hype. However this was getting some very good word of mouth and even Oscar buzz for its lead Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense). So I took a leap of faith and picked up the Blu-ray. This story follows a family coming to terms with the death of the grandmother which casts a matriarchal shadow who’s passing proves polarising to family members, especially Annie (Collette) and youngest daughter Charlie. However as grief and tragedy sinks its claws in, a disturbing past reveals itself.

The directorial debut of newcomer Ari Aster this carefully observed and eerie family drama-come-horror feels like the work of a seasoned pro, not a relative newcomer. The camera work, shot framing, set design and atmosphere is all first rate. It’s a fairly simple tale and may not exactly go places we haven’t seen before, but boasts several top-tier performances and brilliantly staged scares. Toni Collette may be a tad OTT at times and well, Alex Wolf can’t cry for toffee, but with a subtle, understated but convincing dynamic of a troubled, dysfunctional family’s descent into madness … I was left punch-drunk as the credits rolled.

It gets a little hokey at times what with some bizarre CGI and some plausibility going out the window in the final act. Yet the writing plays cleverly with expectation and cliché, leading this viewer in one direction with genre staples like creepy kids and miniature model houses, before sending expectations spiralling to a conclusion filled with nightmare-inducing imagery. It however failed to completely get under my skin and isn’t as scary as it thinks it is … but in all other aspects this was incredibly effective.

Verdict: 4 /5

Veronica


Viewed – 11 November 2018. Netflix

A Spanish supernatural horror hyped as being so scary it caused heart attacks and for viewers to switch it off. I’ve had my fingers burned by similarly worded hype campaigns before, as I recall actually being cautious to see The Blair Witch Project back in the day and well, that turned out to be a pile of shite. However this also had Paco Plaza attached as director, one half of the duo that delivered the excellent [REC] and its equally impressive sequel.

Veronica, a school girl who pretty much runs the house, looking after her younger siblings whilst their single mother works all hours, holds a seance involving a Ouija board along with two friends in a bid to contact her dead father. Predictably things don’t go to plan and soon theirs some sort of demonic entity out to claim the souls of her brother and sisters. So Veronica has to find out how to banish the demon and save the day.

Paco Plaza’s direction is moody and stylish with some clever camera work and decent gradual build up of dread. Set-pieces such as hands coming out of a bed or some ravenous kids are well done but an over-familiarity with the subject matter quickly creeps in and makes this pale in comparison to similar fair like Insidious or The Conjuring. It’s just not all that scary. The principle cast do their job but are all more serviceable than particularly memorable. Not essential then, but if you’ve exhausted most mainstream horror offerings, then there’s still entertainment to be had with this.

Verdict: 2.5 /5

Candyman


Viewed – 30 October 2018. Blu-ray

Clive Barker had a bit of a short run of cinematic adaptations of his work, and few could argue that Hellraiser is a classic. This interpretation of his short story ‘The Forbidden’ may take a bit of artistic license with its source material but turned out to become a bit of a cult classic, and like Hellraiser spawned several inferior sequels. I recall liking it quite a bit, but how does it stand up 23 years later?

Virginia Madsen plays grad student Helen Lyle who whilst writing a thesis on urban myths, stumbles upon the story of Candyman after a local woman is found murdered in a run-down ghetto housing estate. Is he just the boogeyman or is there really someone committing grizzly murders?

Bernard Rose’s movie certainly has that 90s aesthetic and is hampered by rather weak characterisation and cheesy dialogue throughout.. The story is basic and attempts to add some depth with guff involving identical apartment buildings and a less than monogamous husband. However when the second half arrives and a key character is set up for murder, the movie elevates itself to another level entirely. I still really like the direction this movie takes and it turns a rather mediocre tale into something far more effective. For a movie with Clive Barker’s name associated, it’s occasionally gory and at times shocking but nothing all that disturbing. Rose’s direction is atmospheric though, and the cinematography is a lot better that this sort of movie usually gets. That theme is also still very haunting even all these years later. Candyman (Tony Todd) didn’t come off as iconic or as interesting as I recalled but he’s still an interesting creation. However why he’s called Candyman is anyone’s guess.

This new Arrow Video release comes in deluxe packaging that includes a storyboard booklet along with a poster. The movie itself is presented in two cuts, the r-rated u.s. version and the slightly gorier uk theatrical edition. However it’s only the u.s. version that gets the 4K restoration treatment, yet this doesn’t deliver much of a wow-factor image-wise with a very soft picture that whilst occasionally boasting vibrant colours is otherwise disappointing. The soundtrack fairs better and is punchy despite there being little to separate the 2.0 and 5.1 sound options, with no real use of surrounds other than to add a bit of depth. However we do get two new audio commentaries, firstly from the director as well as actor Tony Todd, and secondly from authors Stephen Jones and Kim Newman (sadly not Barker). We also get new interviews with lead cast members, behind the scenes crew members and production people. There’s also a retrospective on Clive Barker original story too. Again with Arrow exhaustive treatment that’s a treat for fans and collectors like myself. The movie itself is good entertainment but mostly not as memorable as I remembered.

Verdict:

(the movie) 3 /5

(the Blu-ray) 4 /5

Halloween


Viewed – 23 October 2018. Cinema

The prospect of a new entry in this long running franchise, for me would always come with a degree of trepidation . Previously Rob Zombie attempted to reboot it with his remake and then the ill-conceived Halloween 2, one of the worst horror movies I’ve seen. So we come to this latest attempt … how does it fair?

A sequel set 40 years after the events of the original 1978 movie has Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode now a paranoid recluse, estranged from her family and still planning for masked-killer Michael Myers’ return. Seems like on Halloween night she’s finally going to get her wish. With production overseen by John Carpenter himself yet directed by David Gordon Green, from the start this feels like familiar territory. However unlike the 2008 reboot it’s only trying to pick up years after, reintroduce characters, see where they are now … and then get on with being a straight forward yet slickly made slasher movie. Gone is some of the tension and stalking but in place is a ferocious force of nature Michael Myers, who doesn’t need analysing or figuring out … he’s just pure evil. So of course it’s time for Laurie to stop him.

The movie gives ample screen time to new characters, most welcomely Andi Matichak as Laurie’s granddaughter and there’s several subtle, clever nods to that original classic. Add to this a newly commissioned score from Carpenter and this really feels like the sequel we’ve always wanted. The important thing here is that the film-makers respect and understand the material and it makes for a thrilling, often unnerving and very effective experience. Granted, it could have been bloodier, some kills being hidden by (a little too) fancy editing, and that lack of slow stalking weakens the atmosphere early on, but considering what’s come before … this remains a triumph.

Verdict: 4 /5