Archive for the ‘Thriller’ Category

When any big horror franchise declares ‘the final chapter’ in it’s last films title, you can be sure the series will be back. This is sadly evident with this, the 8th film in the Saw franchise. Who’d have thought that 13 years after the first movie we’d have a massive franchise with a deep lore spanning across 8 movies.

The basic plot follows on from the original films while also trying to work a bit like a reboot to grab new fans. With murders seemingly being committed by Jigsaw and a series of sinister traps, cops try to solve the mystery before more people are killed.

It’s a plot similar to the old films in that it features traps and mystery but that is almost where the similarities end. Here the traps are even more over the top and silly, some of which are downright unbelievable. In the older films, no matter how extreme the traps got they were all feasible and kind of believable (apart from the opening trap from part 7 which from a logistics point of view just didn’t work). The ones featured in Jigsaw are just downright stupid and also rely far more on coincidence and luck rather then choice and sacrifice. In 1-7 the traps are beatable and were all meant to teach the victim something about themselves. In Jigsaw all of them rely on someone being in the right place at the right time and looking at the right thing at the exact right moment. It takes away a major sense of fear and tension while also dropping some of the fundamental plot points from the original films.

One of the big problems is that it isn’t filmed like a Saw picture. Over the course of the franchise the Saw films developed their own look and their own feel which was largely helped by the director Darren Lynn Bousman who was responsible for parts 2, 3 and 4. Here though the Spierig brothers seem to throw all of that out of the window to make a glossy modern day horror that just loses all of the atmosphere the look gave to the series. It almost feels like they’ve never watched a Saw movie and have simply made the film on the back of knowing parts of the overall story.

The film also isnt helped by the fact its not that well written (from what I gather not because of the writers, more the fact the directors changed so much). Many people bash the Saw franchise for just being violence for the sake of violence and for being nothing more then ‘torture porn’. This does the whole series a massive disservice as each film is tightly plotted and works as a stand alone film as well as playing a major part in the 1-7 overarching story. Taken as a whole I can happily say 1-7 as a whole story is fantastic and has a near perfect beginning, middle and end. Number 8 fails in this department by trying desperately to link itself into the 1-7 story and failing pretty badly. It’s almost like they couldn’t think of a new idea so they just pasted over some of the plot points from the franchise and tried to slot themselves into the story. The Spierig brothers rely so much on a massive plot point towards the end of the film that just doesn’t work. It’s meant to tie everything together but it fails in every way. It’s poorly constructed and so ridiculously flawed it’s almost laughable.

Ultimately the film is entirely unneeded. The seventh film ended the franchise on a near perfect note and almost brought the series full circle. This just feels like a cash grab and a poor man’s wannabe Saw flick. That said, there are much worse films out there and it is still very watchable. If it wasn’t part of such a well known franchise it would be an ok horror thriller. As it stands it’s a watchable but very average imitation of a series many have grown to love.

It’s a real shame that it just doesn’t work as there are moments when it almost works. I hope they don’t make anymore because as much as I love 1-7 I don’t want to see them drive this franchise into the gutter.

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Written by James Gunn (director of Guardians of the Galaxy 1& 2 and writer of films such as Tromeo and Juliet) Belko Experiment feels like a refreshing hark back to something like Lord of the flies.

A group of employees are locked in a building and are told to kill each if he, otherwise a bomb charge in the back of their skull with detonate. It’s a very simple pemise and one similar to any number of films such as Battle Royale or even Hunger Games. But the office environment gives it a new spin.

At the start no one wants to kill but as the film progresses we all know some are going to change their minds. Gunn gets creative in his writing and keeps throwing in new rules to keep the film fresh and entertaining. Everything leads to a truly great ending which keeps he momentum going until the very last image.

I loved how the film didn’t wait around. There’s always something new happening as we jump between the small groups of people. It would have been easy for the film to get boring and repetitive but it never does.

The cast are great and really work well together. It’s amazing how many pretty big names there are in the film, even if some feel like small cameos for James Gunn (Michael Rooker for example is in almost all of Gunn’s films). Many of these actors play roles very different from their usual styles.

Although directed by Greg McLean it really does feel like and early James Gunn film. It’s fast, witty and violent, all things that Gunn does really well. It’s a breath of of tense almost horror. It’s well worth checking out.

Blind army veteran VS 3 burglars = one hell of a tense film.

The home invasion film has been done to death over the years, from kids films like Home Alone, to more adult films like Strangers and Panic Room. It’s a genre which for the most part works due to the semi relateability of the fear of intruders in your home. The problem is there is only so many times you can see the same thing happen time and time again with just a new family to differentiate the films. 2011’s film You’re Next tried to turn things around with its fun twists and clever pacing and for the most part worked.

2016’s Don’t Breathe aims to get again create something fresh in a seemingly stale genre and it’s nice to say it really works.

The basic premise is 3 burglars break into a house of a blind military veteran but are quickly outwitted when he wakes up and isn’t happy having intruders.

The film is tense from the outset and only magnify as it progresses. Stephen Lang gives a phenomenally creepy performance as the blind man (who seemingly has no name). His whole house becomes an extension of him. Every creaking floorboard, every little noise it’s all part of him and it allows I’m to ignore his blindness and know exactly where the burglars are.

It’s interesting to look at the blind man as he is neither villian or hero. Ultimately his house has been broken into and he is depending himself, but as an audience we are pushed towards rooting for Rocky the sole female of the trio of burglars. For me I was rooting entirely for he blind man and saw him as the anti hero of the piece. It of course unfurls that the blind man might not be as nice and clean as he seems, but that didn’t stop me avidly watching to see if he could kill the three burglars.

I’m not sure if it was intended this way or if it just happens that Lang gives a stronger and more powerful performance then the others but I found it worked. If it wasn’t meant to be this way round then the film kind of fails as the burglars as all unlikable thrives who deserve everything they get.

The direction is great and the law if the film flows beautifully as it builds to the final confrontation (which is both turns good and bad) the film doesn’t freely on jump scares as it prefers to use a slow build up of tension. It’s a remarkably well crafted horror thriller.

If I have any negatives to say about the film they would have to be surrounding the unlikable burglars who I just want to die and the lackluster ending. They aren’t deal breakers as the rest of the film is so strong, but they do detract a little from the film as a whole.

I really enjoyed the film and feel it is a refreshing breath of fresh air in the horror genre. I give it a strong reccomendation.

With so many horror films being pumped out in recent years, it’s easy to see the genre as stale and unoriginal, but in amongst all of the remakes, sequels and zombie films there are some truly great gems. Get Out is one of them.

Going into the film I had no expectations and knew nothing about it apart from what the poster showed me (A screaming man in a chair), which really wasn’t much. What I Got was an intense horror thriller that constantly kept me on the edge of my seat.

Actor Daniel Kaluuya plays Chris, a young African-American who visits his white girlfriend’s parents on a secluded estate in the middle of the woods. What starts as a happy romantic trip quickly spirals into something much different.

In a way the film is reminiscent of the original Wicker-man film in the whole ‘outsider trying to figure out what’s happening’ sense. And it works. Throughout the film there is always something that feels ‘off’ with everyone, something not quite right. This feeling builds at a nice rate as the story evolves and begins explaing itself. Some moments are quute predictable when you see the ditection the film is heading but that doesnt detract from the quality. The acting is great from everyone and every character plays their part in the story. The writing really does help fully flesh out each character and make them feel unique.

Direction and writing are great with both allowing the film to flow at a brisk pace and taking the viewer through a refreshingly fresh tale. It’s rare that a film works from opening image through to credits but this film does and the ending is perfect.

It’s hard to not instantly see the messages about racism both in an historical sense, but also in the now. The film makes some powerful points which many could learn from as racism, as we all know is something that is always around no matter how much people pretend it isn’t. Right at the start of the film Chris asks his girlfriend ‘do your parents know I’m black?’ Her response is to shrug it off like it doesn’t matter. It’s scary that we live in a world where even today the colour of one’s skin effects how people treat you. Even scarier is that the people in charge of some of the most powerful countries in the world allow this and sometimes openly encourage it.

These messages run rife through the film and help give a good base to everyone’s mindsets. What is good is that this provides a level of gritty realism to proceedings. The horror is never forced and never relies on silly jump scares. It’s all about creating tension and intensity through the characters and the script.

I recommend this film whole-heartedly and feel it is one of those horror films that will stay long after it has finished.

Sean Patrick Flanery stands up to a biker gang led by Lou Diamond Phillips. The biker gang don’t take kindly to this and vow revenge. They decide to get this revenge by attacking the wild west show town that Flanery acts in. Flanery must lead the actors in the stand against the bikers. Will he prevail?

I was really excited about this film when I found it cheap on dvd. I really like the two main actors and thought that they could bring charm to a low budget ‘Assault on Precinct 13’ style flick. Sadly, although they do their best, they don’t save this mediocre flick.

It may be because I was expecting more of an action film from what I read on the dvd box and I didn’t get that, or it may have been just because it wasn’t very good. We have a long build up with the odd confrontation between Flanery and Phillips but no proper action until the end. In the way it felt a little like the modern film ‘The Last Stand’ but just nowhere near as fun. This would be ok if the film knew exactly what it wanted to be but unfortunately it feels very much stuck in the middle between character piece and action flick.

The music is ok as is the cinematography. While neither is great they get the job done and make it easier to watch the slow meandering thriller where nothing really happens.

As you’ve probably guessed I didn’t really like the film. It’s not that it’s fundamentally bad, it’s just ‘MEH!’ It sits in that middle ground between being not good and not bad. It could have been a fun little action romp but what we get is a slow build up to a very anticlimactic ending.

I wouldn’t waste your time. 5/10

‘A man returns from the grave to solve the murder that he was accused of committing.’

The first film in the series was, for a time my favourite comic book movie of all time. It featured amazing performances, an amazingly well realised gothic world, and a great script.

The sequel ‘The Crow: City of Angels’ tried to expand on the world created in the first but fell quite short of the first films greatness. (Not that it’s a bad film. I really like it but I can see why a lot of people don’t)

‘The Crow Salvation’ is the third film in the series and bears little resemblance to the first to apart for the basic premise of the crow bring the dead back and the makeup (which I’ll get to soon).

I think the film works better because of the fact it goes off on its own course. It was made for television but is by far the most brutal and violent of the 4 films in the series (the 4th is by far the worst with barely any redeeming features). For a made for television movie it looks surprisingly good with some great camerawork and direction. It also evokes some of the haunting soundtrack of the first two films which helps create a great atmosphere. It has a pretty good revenge story at its heart and it plays out pretty well, even if it is very predictable.

The acting is generally pretty good and almost everyone does their job. The weakest entry into the acting department is probably ‘Kirsten Dunst’ who really isn’t very good in the film, not knowing if she is playing a love interest, a friend or just someone who’s somehow gotten involved in the films revenge storyline. Eric Mabius is great as Alex, the main character. He holds the film together and is really watchable.

For me the biggest fault with the whole film is that it is a ‘Crow’ film. As I said before it doesn’t have much in common with the other two. (The second felt very much that it was set in the same world as the original with the reintroduction of Sarah from the original and the gothic world.) This film feels like it could be set anywhere.

The makeup/scarring is my other major complaint. I know the white face with the black eyes and mouth has become synonymous with the franchise but it doesn’t fit in here. The make up in the first film is done as a copy of a mask Eric has hanging in his house that his fiancée had bought. It was his way of coping and having a bit of her with him (along with the ring around his neck). In the second film the makeup is drawn onto Ashe by Sarah (from the first film) as a way of her remembering Eric. It this film the electric chair burns the scars into his face in the shape of the makeup. WHY? The makeup has no relation to the actual Crow of the story and there are no characters (or at least non I noticed) from wither of the first two films. There is no reason for it and I think it harms the film (well it did for me).

If the film had been a straight revenge thriller with no relation to ‘The Crow’, I think it would have been far better. But on the other hand without the established name it would have probably disappeared in amongst all the other low budget thrillers out there. It’s an enjoyable watch, if a vaguely depressing one. It’s worth watching if you like this sort of thing and it does do what it sets out to do pretty well. 6/10

Andre Stander, one of South Africa’s best police officers. After witnessing the slaughter of innocents at the hands of the Apartheid system (some by his own hands) he becomes disillusioned. One day he decides on his lunch break he decides to rob a bank (as you do). He loved the rush so continued until he was finally caught. In prison he meets Lee McCall and Allan Heyl. They successfully escape and on the outside from ‘the Stander Gang’ and continue to execute elaborate bank heists. (a bit like a modern Robin hood. Except without the giving to the poor. Although they never take from anyone other than the bank.) Eventually their time will run out, but will they escape unscathed?

Based on the real life exploits of Andre Stander during the 1970’s, ‘Stander’ sets out to show the remarkable story to the world and to try and get into the mind of Stander.

Playing the title role is the amazing Thomas Jane who for me is a very underrated actor. He’s appeared in lots of films but it wasn’t really until ‘Deep Blue Sea’ that he truly got in the limelight. he’s since been in ‘The Punisher’ ‘The Mist’, ‘Mutant Chronicles’ (was an ok film but he was pretty awesome in it as always.) just to name a few. Here he isn’t his usual action hero. He feels very much like you would expect the real Stander to have been. He’s likeable but never over the top and he has flaws like everyone does. Lee McCall is played by the equally great Dexter Fletcher, who in my view doesn’t get given enough good roles. His character is much the same as Stander in the fact he is likeable while sitting in that grey area.

The film is beautifully shot and directed which helps emphasise the great script. The pacing of the film is pretty much spot on (possibly loses a little during the prison section) and the film never feels boring. That is not to say it is an action film. It’s more a crime thriller that happens to have some action scenes (Think ‘Road to Perdition’ or ‘Bonnie and Clyde’. although not as good as either of those)

Essentially everything comes together to create a great film that is highly watchable time and time again. (Although never truly breaking into the level of brilliance of some other heist flicks) 7/10

recently I’ve discovered the wonderous back catalogue of films distributed by Odyssey Films. Almost all of them are TV movies but every one I’ve seen has been anything from good to brilliant. Most of the films are ‘based on true events’ which always makes me slightly dubious but here the stories do feel like the stories that inspired them. Many of these films feature some big name stars (generally before they became big) such as, Brad Pitt, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Ving Rhames, Terry O’Quinn etc….

‘Deadly whispers’ concerns the murder of a nineteen year old girl. Every clue leads to her father, but how could a nice, kind family man do such a thing?

Tony Danza gives a brilliant performance as lead male Tom who is nice family man with a dark side. He has the perfect balance and his performance reminds me slightly of Jack Nicholson’s in ‘the Shining’ (not as great but just as creepy). His wife is played by Pamela Reed (who I’d only seen in comedies prior to this). As she is kind of the main character of the piece, it is on her shoulders that the threat rests. If we didn’t feel for her and the kids, the film would be a failure. The good news is she’s great. In fact almost everyone in the film plays their role really well.

The direction is tight as is the camerawork. It does have that feel of ‘TV film’ but it never detracted from the action on-screen.

Overall I really enjoyed the film (not as much as some of the others from ‘Odyssey’, but still…) It’s well worth seeing if you have an afternoon free, although I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to see it again. 6/10

For a film with a tag line ‘A bullet made the orphans. Revenge makes them dangerous’, I was expecting a cheap 80’s action flick. It delivered one part of what I expected, The cheap part.

It looks and feels like a movie filmed on cheap film stock by a film crew who were just out of college. It just looks ‘studenty’ and ‘cheap’. I don’t mind bad-looking films as long as they have something that provides me with entertainment (things like ‘Toxic Avenger’, ‘ Maniac Cop’ etc.) This film wasn’t entertainment really. It was boring, poorly scripted and just not really worth the time.

The ‘Bullet’ of the tagline is featured in a boring flashback that the filmmakers keep cutting back to throughout the duration of the movie. It almost feels like the flashback is a way of breaking up the tedious and boring story. (what little there is)

There’s a scene at the beginning with a shotgun rigged to a piece of cat gut. That’s probably the most interesting thing in the whole film (until we see the man who got shot at point-blank range in the scene after with juts a wounded arm.)

It’ s just a bad film that has no merits at all other than the fact that the director made a piece of film that runs from point A to point B in a reasonably coherent fashion.

Not really worth anyone’s time 1/10

Based on the classic British Tv show about a sect of the police force that use extreme measures to get their perps, this 2012 film had a lot of pressure behind it to be great. Did it succeed? Not really….

It stars Ray Winstone and Ben Drew as the two leads who along with the rest of the squad, go after a group of diamond thieves.

The actors do a pretty good job with the awful script and to be fair Nick Love does a reasonably good job directing the action. The film famously ran into numerous problems during shooting and had to be short within a far smaller timeframe then they expected with far less money then they expected. For what it’s worth the film does look nice and there are some incredibly well choreographed and filmed set pieces.

The first of these set-pieces being a run and gun battle through Trafalgar Square in London. For those who aren’t from the UK, it is probably one of the busiest places in London you can visit and there are rules about not being able to hinder people walking round (so the crew had to work around them.) . The film crew managed to, somehow film a pretty good gun fight across the square and across a few roads in less than a day. It looks like it took them a lot longer by the glossiness of the final footage.  The other great set piece is a car chase through a caravan park which was filmed by the camera crew from the british car show ‘Top Gear’ (as they were used to filming high-speed car chases). It looks very good and makes a pretty good action sequence.

This leads us to one of the films biggest problems; It doesn’t seem to know if it wants to be an action film of a straight police thriller. When it’s not doing action, it’s very poor indeed. Evene the action has been done better (and with far less CGI bullet holes). For a better street gun fight see ‘Heat’, for better car chases see ‘French Connection’ and for a better film featuring british gangsters watch ‘Snatch’ or ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’.

There isn’t much to recommend the film for really. It has a poor script, bad story, OK acting and Ok action. If anything it’s worth renting the DVD just for the making of which was far more interesting and enjoyable then the actual film. 4/10