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

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The House That Jack Built


Viewed – 05 March 2019. Blu-Ray

Matt Dillon, who first caught my attention following his star-making role in cult favourite Drugstore Cowboy returns after what seems to have been a long absence from the movie scene. Hats off to him for choosing such a controversial role as ‘Jack’ a man recanting five incidents during a twelve year history as a serial killer.

The House That Jack Built

One of those movies that instantly stirred up controversy following it’s Cannes debut. With a myriad of clever, baffling and disturbing references in an attempt to explore a damaged mind, both revered and reviled director Lars Von Trier’s movie is equal parts challenging, shocking and decidedly clever. Structurally with Jack’s repeated attempt to build a house whilst at the same time descending into madness is a work of ingenious symbolism. In amidst harrowing depictions of breast-slicing or strangulation there’s also a surprising and welcome amount of satire and dark comedy (returning a rigpr mortis-stricken body to the scene of the crime, OCD cleaning up), that comparisons to American Psycho or French thriller Man Bites Dog are valid. However, one scene involving a mother and her two little boys challenged even my admittedly far reaching boundaries.

Dillon is fantastic and very convincing as this unfeeling sociopathic killer and in different material (or if he was Anthony Hopkins) might have got the Oscar nod. Yes, Von Trier gets self-indulgent in his artistic flourishes, throwing in German expressionist-like imagery and footage from the holocaust as well as his own movies to hammer home various points about art and violence. Yet along with Jack’s narrated conversations with disembodied confidant ‘Verge’ … what we ultimately get is a very unique take on the serial-killer subject, meaning I came away rather impressed.

Verdict: 4 /5

My Friend Dahmer


Viewed – 23 June 2018  online-rental

When movies attempt to tackle the subject of a real life serial killer, the results are often sensationalist tabloid rubbish that fail to reveal anything new or a deeper understanding.  This movie tries to show a side of one of America’s most notorious killers during his high school years, before he became a monster.

myfrienddahmer

Jeffrey Dahmer (Ross Lynch) is portrayed as a heavily introverted loner school kid who gets befriended by some other kids who go about promoting yet inadvertently ridiculing him in an attempt to bring him out of his shell.  Jeffrey goes along with such treatment in a desperate bid to find a connection and a distraction from morbid urges, confusion with his sexuality and constantly quarrelling parents.

Director Marc Meyers’  movie fails to delve under Dahmer’s persona to reveal what made him tick or how such urges developed that eventually lead to particularly depraved murders.  Instead we have him as little more than an oddball that would occasionally act out for attention.  Newcomer Lynch gives a subdued, rather weak performance, perfecting a slumped stance but not much more.  The casting of Dahmer’s parents (including a stand-out Anne Heche) is more interesting and from what I hear, pretty much on the nail.  Based on a graphic novel by Dahmer’s high school friend this more than likely throws in some artistic licence with what went on and who Dahmer actually was, but ultimately fails to do much more than showcase a weirdo with a few alarming habits.  Considering who Dahmer became, this barely hints at any of it, making the final scene feel a bit of a stretch …despite the facts.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

I Am Not A Serial Killer


This relatively unknown, low budget indie thriller caught my eye due to it’s concept.  A teenage kid who believes he could become a serial killer due to an obsession with murderers and his own sociopathic behaviour, stumbles on an actual serial killer case in his home town.  That’s a (pun intended) killer concept right there.

I Am Not A Serial Killer

Borrowing a tad from the overall plot of Dexter (takes a serial killer to track a serial killer) and with a ghoulish tongue-in-cheek sense of humour, I was easily along for the ride.  The idea of exploring serial killers and lending that knowledge to tracking one down is interesting, but my gripe with this is that it’s a movie that doesn’t entirely have the balls to follow through on it’s concept.  That being said performances are decent, especially genre legend Christopher Lloyd and young unknown Max Records (who clearly has to open a vinyl store).  I also thought the killer’s motives were strangely sympathetic and at times it did get pretty grim and macabre (the lead character also works in a mortuary, so is surrounded by death).   Now I’m going a little into spoiler territory in the next paragraph so if you want to go into this one totally fresh STOP READING NOW.

(mild spoilers).  My issue is that the killer is not human, but some sort of creature and like movies before it (Jeepers Creepers, IT) that began promisingly with an eerie villain but later descend into ‘its a monster or an alien’ when they’re finally unmasked is both lazy and rather contrived.  Why not make the serial killer a human being?  Or is that a little too close to reality?

Some out of place choices of rock music ruin the mood occasionally, and overall it came off like an extended X-Files episode (not a bad thing).  However I still managed to enjoy this despite it’s shortcomings and a reliance on horror movie convention.

Verdict:  3 /5

Wolf Creek 2


Viewed – 23 September 2014  Online rental

I recall being rather underwhelmed by the popular but fairly lightweight original, and thought it’s lengthy build up to the horror and the reveal of the killer was too drawn out.  In it’s final moments it began to come to life and had at least one stand out, nasty scene (head on a stick!).  So imagine my surprise on reading several favourable reviews of this sequel.

wolfcreek2

Outback serial killer Mick Taylor, a bushman if ever there was a bushman in the wilderness of Australia, spends much of his time picking off tourists and back-packers who come to visit the eerie location of a huge crater, supposedly made by a meteorite.  With a fine line in Ozzy lingo and Australian history, he especially enjoys killing foreigners or anyone not well versed in the land of Oz. 

Shot well and with a keen eye for gore and violence, this feels like it’s on the right track, and is a lot more action-packed, with this time Mick being centre stage.  Now unlike the original, the mystery and atmosphere is missing in place of some stand out kills (the cops…).  Also unlike last time around there’s no real time to get invested in the innocent victims before Mick is despatching them.  Now Mick himself, played larger-than-life by John Jarratt is an interesting creation, but because the movie is all focused on him, his clichéd bushman swagger and often comical lines turns many of his scenes into farce (a truck chase to the tune of The Lion Sleeps Tonight … really?), and loses much of his potential menace – like what they did to Freddy Krueger in the Elm Street sequels.  Oh and would it have hurt to get a bit more backstory on him?  Or any for that matter. 

For the ample gore and plenty of energy, this was still fun, but for a horror it relied too much on one liners and in-jokes than actually scaring it’s audience – a big fail in my book.  Hopefully they won’t bother with Wolf Creek 3.

Verdict:  2.5 /5