Brightburn


Viewed – 19 June 2019. Cinema

I love it when I go in blind to a movie and come away surprised and impressed. This novel take on the superhero origin tale has a young couple, desperate to have a child get their wish granted when one night something falls from the sky. Soon they discover a baby boy and decide to bring it up as their own. However as he grows older ‘Brandon’ begins to develop violent tendencies and before long it becomes clear this little fella ain’t going to become superman.

A cast of familiar faces headed by Elizabeth Banks and a strong central performance from Jackson A Dunn as Brandon, makes this sci-fi horror immediately intriguing and under the watchful eye of producer James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) this is smart, refreshing and rather freaky. Atmosphere is piled on in a Twilight Zone meets Friday the 13th kind of way and liberal doses of effective gore (glass splinter to the eye?) and a great build up to some pretty messed up moments … I was quite taken back by this out of nowhere gem.

it plays loosely with some horror movie cliches (investigate the weird noise) and the ending left me contemplating sequels – asking where can they take such a concept? Yet that’s a good thing regardless whether we get any of that. If you’ve grown tired of all those comic book adaptions and fancy something a little different, check this out.

Verdict: 4 /5

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Summer of ‘84


Viewed – 23 April 2019 online-rental

Eighties nostalgia is really trendy right now and as someone who grew up in that decade I’m certainly in approval. In the wake of hit Netflix series Stranger Things, breakout horror It Follows and that recent IT remake, this has a similar group of teenage friends during a time when a series of children disappearing lead the Police to believe they have a serial killer on the loose. One kid, a nerdy conspiracy-theory obsessive jumps to the conclusion that the mysterious man on his paper round might be the killer.

This is very much Goonies meets Fright Night, and the likeable gang of kids certainly bring back memories of both movies … as we watch them stalk and investigate their neighbour and gather evidence. It’s not quite the horror the trailer has you believe, more a comedy-drama filled (likely intentionally) with cliches – the hot girl next door, the outcast kids, parents who don’t listen etc. The movie also rushes over smaller details that become important later on (sighting a kid in the man’s house – blink and you miss it). Yet the movie kept me guessing and with some clever use of red herrings and decent twists, I found myself really invested.

In its reliance on nostalgia it loses a bit of its own identity and characters beyond the main protagonist are wafer thin and under-explored. The ending however floored me. Recommended.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

The Void


Viewed – 20 April 2019. online-rental

A movie that starts with a woman being set on fire in a field, certainly isn’t messing around and so begins this uproarious if somewhat rough around the edges horror movie. A cop stumbles upon a delirious man injured whilst escaping his pursuers, and quickly takes him to a nearby hospital. However it soon transpires the man has run away from a cult group who quickly surround the hospital, cloaked in white and sporting an ominous black triangle symbol. So sets forth a battle for survival as events quickly descend into hell.

Immediately it’s clear this is fairly low budget stuff and skimps on any star appeal in favour of ‘limited’ performances from its cast, especially the cop acting as the movie’s main protagonist. Thankfully a frantic pace helps disguise such shortcomings and delivers lots of violence, gory set-pieces and some decent practical creature effects. This movies wears its influences proudly and I recognised nods to the likes of From Beyond, Hellraiser and The Thing. It lacks the tongue-in-cheek appeal of say a Stuart Gordon or John Carpenter movie and takes itself a little too seriously. Also at times the film making gets rather amateurish with incidents of confusing editing and shots where it’s not that easy to tell what you’re looking at.

The second half of the movie however cranks up the craziness, monsters and horror … and this turned up the entertainment factor for me immensely, meaning that overall I’d say check this out – especially if 80’s-style throwback horror is your jam.

Verdict: 3 /5

Pet Sematary


Viewed – 10 April 2019. Cinema

I went into this with expectations dialled down mostly because I don’t consider the 1989 adaptation of Stephen King’s novel all that great. However, a remake is a chance to improve upon a concept so there’s every reason to hope this one fairs better. A doctor (Jason Clarke) and his family move to a rural town and soon befriend the kind old man across the road (John Lithgow) who eventually introduced them to the Pet Cemetery in the woods, located on the family’s land. However following an unfortunate incident involving the pet cat and a lorry, the old neighbour suggests burying the animal beyond the pet cemetery. So of course, the cat comes back and sets in motion a spiral of increasingly macabre events.

Pet Sematary

The movie quickly resorts to cliches like ‘we should never have moved here’ way before that sort of thinking seems reasonable. Also, John Lithgow surprisingly fails to have the screen presence of the originals Fred Gwyn with delivery for such iconic lines as ‘the soil of a man’s heart…’ and ‘sometimes dead is better’ coming off rather half-arsed. However Jason Clarke is decent aided by a memorable turn from Jeta Laurence as his daughter. Flashbacks to the wife’s memories of twisted-spine sister ‘Zelda’ is also cranked up in the freakiness and jump-scares department and really, turns out to be the movie’s most disturbing aspect. Also changes to the final act help explain-away some of the more ludicrous developments of the original, but also come off as even sillier somehow.

So this remake wasn’t terrible and at times genuinely scary, but like the original … I can’t help but feel that the concept is overall flawed.

Verdict: 3 /5

Ring


Viewed – 22 March 2019. Blu-ray

Following the mysterious deaths of a group of students, a rookie female reporter investigates links to an urban legend revolving around a cursed video tape. The movie that started it all. An international sensation that spawned several sequels as well as an American remake. So how does this 1998 original hold up? Well, what Japanese horror does well and this does equally well is that ‘unsettling stillness’. Dark Water, by same director Hideo Nakata, avoids clichéd jump scares or gore, favouring gradual menace this movie cemented and made a genre all its own. Add influences from traditional Japanese folklore, and traditional detective stories as well as Japanese ghost stories spawned what we now know as J-horror.

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More an eerie drama than full-on scare-fest, this feels rather lightweight despite its reputation, even though that slow burning ticking clock plot device helps deliver a sense of dread that makes that famed, often satirised and copied ending all the more powerful. However, performances are largely only passable and often overly theatrical.  Thankfully, Nakata’s direction is restrained but suitably creepy, helped by a great sense of unease if avoiding full on chills mostly., and that incredibly effective, freaky soundtrack does crank up the horror.  Yet overall, this is rather dated today and the plot doesn’t make much sense, leaving many questions unanswered.  A girl trapped in a well, a curse, deaths but er… how does that connect to videotapes? It seems to me like a convenient plot device.  It’s also  to me this was a clear influence on recent cult hit ‘It Follows’ amongst other movies.

The new 4k restoration from Arrow Video boasts a decent picture with effective sound treatment in DTS HD master audio 5.1. The movie is rather stilted and bland to look at yet this only adds to it’s atmosphere. Extras consist of a fascinating commentary from film historian David Kalat. We also get a complete version of the cursed video (date you watch it?) and several worthwhile featurettes.  There are also trailers and a photo gallery. Decent treatment for a classic that whilst diluted by modern standards, still deserves its place in horror movie history.  And yes, I prefer it over its Hollywood remake.

Verdict:

(the movie). 3.5 /5

(the Blu-Ray)  4 /5