Another Netflix original movie that caught my eye. This sci-fi thriller is about a girl named Julia, who goes about earning money by pick-pocketing and swiping goods off people in night clubs then selling them to the local dodgy backstreet dealer for a small cash return. However, one night she is kidnapped from her apartment, and wakes up strapped to a chair inside an elaborate high-tech house, run by a genius yet unhinged scientist and his advanced A.I.
Mika Monroe is an actress with the typical Hollywood good looks but often brings a vulnerability to her performances, which worked well in movies like The Guest and especially It Follows. Here she’s initially all attitude, but delivers a more complex character arc on realising the best way to deal with her situation is to befriend ‘Tau’ the house’s A.I. (voiced recognisably by Gary Oldman). It’s this relationship that forms the heart of the movie and less the battle of wits between Julia and the scientist, mostly because it doesn’t bring much to the table and that troubled-genius-shtick was done far better in Ex Machina.
The movie has some hit and miss effects, with the robotic security guard pretty well done, but some A.I. drones that look a little naff. Add to this some alarming jumps in narrative that come out of nowhere towards the end (hand surgery…) and an ending that leaves far too many questions. Yet I was still impressed how affected I was with the character of Tau to the point of really feeling sorry for it, and yes the movie borrows heavily from better movies but still manages to create an enjoyable 90 minutes regardless.
Another recent horror that had gained praise from critics and seemed like something different amongst the slew of remakes and paranormal activity sequels. This tells the story of Jay, a nineteen year old student who goes on a date with a local guy she’s been seeing. Only thing is after they have sex he reveals he has passed a curse onto her of some relentless ‘being’ that has been following him. It’s now going to be following her, and she should not let it touch her and try and pass the curse on herself as soon as she can.
This is a cool idea for a horror movie. It involves the viewer like I haven’t seen in a long time as I found myself watching every part of the screen for someone lurking and following our main character. Also the frights are mostly well done with only a few being a bit predictable, and there isn’t an over-reliance on jump-scares. Maika Monroe who was very good in The Guest once again proves herself an actress to watch. Helps she’s pretty hot too (don’t judge me!). Supporting cast, which apart from one guy don’t get a lot to do, still felt like real people. It’s also obvious the whole idea is a not-so subtle metaphor of the dangers of teenage promiscuity (the ‘It’ being perhaps similar to an STD). The movie also pays welcome homage to late seventies / early eighties horror movies like Halloween and A Nightmare On Elm Street with both it’s camera work and it’s intentionally old-school score.
That’s not to say it’s without fault. Sometimes the actions of the main character are bizarre to say the least (sleeping on a car bonnet?) and at times the story gets awfully vague, leaving some puzzling moments to your imagination (the guys on the boat). That being said, this still delivered a genuinely unsettling atmosphere and some effective scares … making for a quality evening’s viewing.
From the trailer alone this looked like an interesting action thriller with a twist. Even if during the opening credits it’s difficult to judge the tone, with the title appearing ominously as the lead character jogs down a dusty highway, a rural house in the distance. Yet on further inspection it bares more than a passing resemblance to Park Chan-Wook’s excellent Stoker with newcomer Dan Stevens playing David, a mysterious soldier who turns up on the doorstep of the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their recently deceased son. Naturally the grieving family welcome the charming and pleasant David into their home, but as days go by a spate of unexplained deaths seem linked to his sudden appearance.
Stevens nails the sinister / charming act really well, befriending the young geeky son who is getting bullied, whilst casting a watchful eye over the rebellious teenage daughter whose friends seem less than ideal. I had a lot of fun watching this nice but clearly highly trained soldier front up and protect the family, especially in one bar room scene that had me almost cheering. Yet as the move hits it’s stride it takes a dramatic turn, and not necessarily for the better. Supporting cast including a weirdly flirtatious Sheila Kelly (why was I expecting her and David to get it on?) as the mother and Maika Monroe (?) as the suitably spunky sister, all do their jobs well. It was also easy to care for these characters as events began to turn deadly. Yet it lacked some of the intelligent character observation of the aforementioned Stoker and what began as a complex portrayal by Stevens as David quickly replaces character for brainless action and bloodshed, as if the writers just ran out of ideas.
For a great initial concept however, a star-making turn by Stevens and some unexpected shocks – I’d still give this my recommendation. I just wish it had maintained it’s brains throughout.
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