The Invisible Man


Viewed – 04 July 2020 online rental

There have been many interpretations of the Invisible Man story, from old black and white incarnations to John Carpenter and Paul Verhoeven movies. There was also a proposed Universal monsters outing starring Johnny Depp that never came to be. So we come to this latest that has The Handmaid Tale’s Elizabeth Moss as Cecilia, a woman who in the opening scene escapes an abusive relationship with wealthy scientist Adrian. However after her ex’s apparent suicide, Cecilia still feels someone is taunting and messing with her. Has Adrian come back from the dead, or is something else going on?

Director Leigh Whannell (Upgrade) delivers a clever twist on the stalker thriller, borrowing the blue print of The Invisible Man concept and bringing it bang up to date. It proves for a decidedly unnerving and gripping watch, and plays about with the idea well to really crank up the tension. There are certainly echoes of Hollow Man here with the idea of the enemy being something that can’t be seen, although it’s not quite as visceral as Verhoevan’s underrated entry. It also made me think of Candyman, especially in the second half. Elizabeth Moss is great, as she often is and proves a mesmerising heroine.

Plot-wise its a bit underdeveloped as we learn very little about Adrian, what makes him tick etc. Also the ending is a bit stupid with at least one major lapse in logic. Not helped when the plot raises far more questions than it bothers to answer. That being said this was still thrilling in places with several stand out moments (the restaurant, the attic), aided by decent effects and stunt work. Not quite the full package but worth a watch.

Verdict: Good

Colour Out Of Space


Viewed – 07 March 2020. Online rental

I used to be quite the fan of Nicholas Cage and rank many of his movies as firm favourites. However in recent years his output has garnered little acclaim and although this sci-fi horror is far from a return to past glories it’s certainly an interesting and daring choice for the once Oscar winning actor.

Something strange in the garden…

Cage plays Nathan, a family man who lives out ‘in the sticks’ with his wife (Joely Richardson) daughter and two sons. However one night what at first appears to be a meteorite crash lands in their front garden, bringing with it a weird pink glow that soon begins to have a strange affect on the family.

Directed by Richard Stanley, a filmmaker I’m not familiar with but it’s clear he brings with him a distinct vision and style … with echoes of the much underrated Stewart Gordon gore-fest From Beyond and an atmosphere that’s Stranger Things meets The Twilight Zone. Only what feel like a restricted effects budget holds this back, but it runs with some pretty messed up ideas (especially towards the end). Not surprising when it’s based on a H.P. Lovecraft short story. Cage is decent as are the rest of the cast and as the metorite’s otherworldly presence takes its grip each character gets their moment, although not necessarily for the better.

What it lacks in ambition it makes up for in style, very trippy imagery and just plain ‘out there’ ideas that gives this its own feel like its birthing a whole new sub genre – hallucinogenic alien invasion? Whatever it was … I was up for it.

Verdict: Recommended

Zombieland: Double Tap


Viewed – 25 February 2020. Online rental

I really liked the first Zombieland. It felt like America’s answer to Shaun of the Dead,, and although it wasn’t quite as clever as that Simon Pegg vehicle, it had tons of personality and a great cast. This sequel, which I’d never expected but was hyped for none the less reunites us with our American-state-named survivors Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) etc. during the zombie apocalypse following the discovery of a mutated, even deadlier version of the creatures they’ve become a little too relaxed with despatching.

The gang’s back together…

Clearly the story is a fairly basic excuse to do another Zombieland and although this fails to further build on what came before or flesh out the setting, with barely any exploration of the zombie threat … just being in the company of these chatacters again was good enough. Harrelson, Stone and Eisenberg still have great chemistry and their frequently comical banter is pure joy. Honestly, I dont think i could ever get bored of these characters. Harrelson is especially on brilliant form and steals many of the best scenes. Although, less said about a tiresomely pouty Abigail Breslin as Little Rock and that incrdibly annoying millenial bimbo that turns up, the better.

A shortage of new ideas makes this sequel a bit lazy, but the comedy, some decent zombie killing action and just plain fun characters all sparking off each other, made for solid entertainment regardless – and yeah, I’d welcome a part three with open arms.

Verdict: Good

The Dark Half


Viewed – 22 February 2020. Blu-ray

In the early nineties I was quite the horror nut and on one occasion I recall renting two horror movies from a local video rental store and considering them two of the best I’d watched in years. One was the underrated zombie gem Return of the Living Dead Part 3 … and the other was this movie. Now looking back over the many Stephen King adaptations, it’s a shame that this 1993 effort is generally forgotten. Directed by horror legend George A Romero (Night of the Living Dead) this was the second time the famed author & director had teamed up (previously they worked together for Creepshow), and at the time there was quite a bit of hype for this.

Writer Thade Beaumont (Timothy Hutton) chooses to literally put to rest his writing alter-ego George Stark in hopes of being recognised in his own right and stages a publicity stunt where he has a funeral for his pseudonym. However shortly afterwards people involved in the stunt start getting killed, and Thade begins to realise that George isn’t happy being dead.

It’s classic early nineties fair, but under the watchful eye of Romero is done with style and plenty of sinister atmosphere – the sadly deceased horror master clearly had more to him than the zombie movies that made his name. Hutton delivers a commendable duel performance as both Thade and George, aided by gradually impressive make up effects and camera trickery especially during a fight sequence between the two characters. Support comes from Amy Madigan as Thade’s wife and more notably Michael Rooker as a local Sheriff.

The story is creepy but a little lightweight, not helped by rather tame violence despite an ever growing body count. The climax though, delivers the necessary gore. I was also left with some questions but the credits rolled before the movie could tackle them. Yet with solid direction and a strong turn from Hutton (whatever happened to him?) I still got a lot out of this.

The Blu-ray from Eureka is impressive, with decent image quality that only occasionally suffers from excessive grain. Detail and colours are mostly great throughout. For audio we get 2.0 uncompressed and a new 5.1 DTS Master Audio mix, both of which impress with clear dialogue – and the sequences involving thousands of sparrows pack a punch. Extras are plentiful including a commentary with George A Romero, a making of, an episode of The Incredibly Strange Film Show, a Romero retrospective, behind the scenes, deleted scenes, trailers and a collectible booklet.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

Midsommar


Viewed – 11 January 2020. Online rental

Following a family tragedy, a female student agrees to go on a trip to Sweden with her boyfriend and his friends to attend a religious festival at a secluded commune. However once there she begins to witness the community’s unusual ceremonies and suspect not all is what it seems.

The second movie from Hereditary director Ari Aster certainly has influences from The Wicker Man, with its focus on Pagan rituals, and also bares resemblances to religious cults like The Manson Family and Heaven’s Gate. Yet Aster also sprinkles it with his own ideas and haunting imagery and with an exploration of human drama at the centre of the horror, like Hereditary this again disturbs. Lead actress Florence Pugh is mesmerising as someone already dealing with grief, faced with uncertainty in her relationship and then unfamiliar surroundings that initially seem exactly what she needs – and then something else entirely. The movie also explores passive-aggressive behaviour amongst the various characters which only adds to the tension.

It is a bit long at over 2 and a half hours, and gets predictable towards the end with a little too much foreshadowing … but direction is effective with great use of sound, unconventional editing and (cleverly) daylight to build unease. A movie that further cements Ari Aster as one of the most interesting horror directors working today.

Verdict: Recommended