Horror fans will possibly draw comparisons between this and disturbing 2008 French horror Martyrs, due to it being from the same director Pascal Laugier … yet that would be unfair as Martyrs is a polarising movie and this, despite similar themes, is a little more conventional. Following a home invasion when she was a teenage girl, successful horror novelist Beth (Crystal Reed) finds herself having to return to the house where the incident occurred after receiving a phone call from her traumatised older sister, who seemingly has never recovered. However once back in the family home, Beth begins to realise the nightmare of that night may not be over.
Laugier has delivered an intense experience that’s dripping with foreboding atmosphere. It dabbles in the horror conventions of The Texas Chainsaw Masacre and Hostel but also turns such conventions on their head with a strong focus on psychological trauma along with some clever twists. The two characters that invade the family home sent chills, especially the tall thin one with long black hair. The constant imagery of dolls may be a genre cliche but manages to feel freakier than usual, especially with how it plays out.
Creatively shot throughout, with an unflinching tone (even if the score is a tad too in-your-face at times), Laugier does not hold back. This goes for it with a number of frantic, very violent encounters Some of the smaller details do get lost in the chaos at times, with motives and background left to one’s imagination. However as a slightly more mainstream horror, this is probably the director’s best work to date and certainly a must for horror junkies.
When a plane disaster kills Stephanie’s (Blake Lively) family, the government make out it was an accident. However when an ex-MI6 agent appears with information that suggests it was terrorism instead, Stephanie vows revenge. A quick glance online, this hasn’t had the most positive buzz, which is curious as overall I found it an enjoyably gritty thriller with a strong lead performance. Yes it’s a tad derivative of similar movies like French classic La Femme Nikita. Even though it lacks the style of a Luc Besson movies. This still delivers a semi-realistic experience with Jude Law on hand as another former agent who helps Lively become an Assassin.
Lively’s performance definitely has echoes of Noomi Rapace’s turn as Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, especially the down-trodden, self-destructive characteristics, and proved quite believable. The movie lacked a bit of exposition with the plane crash not being shown and the why ‘s and wherefor’s behind what really happened rather unclear. At time’s the cinematography lacked style also, with an overly murky atmosphere despite some glamorous locations. That being said one car chase and a fight do stand out. Jude Law also proves an enjoyably tough-talking mentor.
Apart from Stephanie’s motivation for revenge, why Jude Law or those that aid Stephanie turn to her in particular is anyone’s guess – considering she has no underlying skills to build on to make her an ideal assassin-type. It’s like the filmmakers really wanted to make a ‘girl with a gun thriller’, and didn’t concern themselves with the details. I’m guessing the book this is based on fairs better. Yet nit-picks aside this was still effective in places and Lively was decent.
Although Kristen Stewart has appeared in some big name movies, including Twilight and Snow White and the Huntsman, she’s often overshadowed by either co-stars or the movies themselves. She can be an actress that seems a bit one dimensional but regardless I’ve always felt there’s potential. This latest effort puts her front and centre so let’s hope it delivers.
This has Stewart, as part of a deep-sea mining crew that following a disaster have to journey to another facility, crossing the sea bed along the way. Only problem is there seems to be a group of deadly creatures hunting them. So a battle for survival commenced in the depths of the ocean. I got a distinct The Abyss meets Alien vibe with this and it didn’t go unnoticed that Stewart is rather Ripley-like even if she’s no Sigourney Weaver. Despite lacking the ambition of either of those titles, the movie does deliver an at times intense and claustrophobic experience that’s often quite unnerving. With a disaster right at the start it’s a movie that hits the ground running and barely let’s up ‘till the credits roll. The sea creatures are more freaky than scary and unfortunately the horror is a tad watered down (pun intended). The beginning also suggests the plot might explore the psychological effects of being so deep under the sea, but this gets abandoned almost instantly.
Stewart is decent though, proving both gutsy and vulnerable at all the right moments. Support comes from thedependable Vincent Cassell and T J Miller (who’s predictably the comic relief) and direction throughout is focused and atmospheric. This is a good looking movie with some stylish sequences but ultimately is let down by under-developed characters and an over-resemblance to better movies. Solid entertainment, but lacking its own personality.
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.
Next to Psycho, this is probably one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s most celebrated movies. Starring James Stewart (It’s A Wonderful Life) as a former cop turned private detective who is hired by an old friend to follow his wife Madeline around. Concerned with her strange behaviour, the friend believes she’s reliving her long dead grandmother’s life, who committed suicide at 26. So it’s up to Stewart to figure out the mystery whilst at the same time battling his own crippling Vertigo.
Hitchcock’s movie is bathed in a wealth of garish colours that really make it pop off the screen. The cinematography showcasing San Francisco as well as avant-gard restaurants and the like, is gorgeous and rather surreal looking, giving the movie that classic Hollywood sheen with a hint of creepiness. Stewart is great, likeable and fascinating, as is Kim Novak’s dangerously alluring Madeline. The atmosphere here is often haunting and a bit weird but works perfectly. I’ve not seen all that many Hitchcock movies but this one definitely has its own vibe even if the everyman in a bad situation and the femme fatale are typical tropes of the director from what I hear.
The ending came about a bit abruptly and the love story felt rather forced. What it was all about in the end wasn’t as interesting as the build up either. Overall though, with its haunting atmosphere, distinct look and solid performances … I still had a good time with this.
The Blu-ray image is very pleasing even if the darkest scenes seem to get a bit too murky. Detail on a whole is impressive though. The soundtrack is effective too, helped by Bernard Herman’s at times intense score. Extras consist of featurettes covering the movie’s restoration, Alfred Hitchcock’s collaborators, and a period of foreign censorship. However the highlight is a commentary by director William Friedkin (The Exorcist). Impressive stuff and overall a stellar package.
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