The Innkeepers

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Ti West has been making ripples in the horror world for almost twenty years, with a number of low budget indie entries being well received in the horror community – with The House Of The Devil the praise went farther afield. With The Innkeepers, Ti West tells an updated version of the classic haunted house story, moving the action to a hotel in the midst of closing down, and featuring much of his trademark humour, character focus, and building of tension.

Sara Paxton and Pat Healy are the two leads and take up most of the running time together. They have a certain chemistry which will be familiar to anyone forced to work in a confined space day in day out with the same person or group of people. As characters, they hit if off and clash like an affable old married couple, and as actors we believe that they have been through some boring shit together. They are twenty-somethings working purely to pay the bills and for something to do, with marginally grander schemes and hopes, biding their time in an old Hotel in its final weekend before closure. Aside from their shared flitting aimlessness, both are amateur ghost enthusiasts and have been hoping to record some paranormal activity in their last night on the job – the hotel having a history of spooky encounters and a sordid past. Stumbling upon their relative seclusion and ghost-hunting is a faded Hollywood starlet played by Kelly McGillis (in another interesting horror role for the actress). She just wants a room for the night and doesn’t want to be disturbed, especially by Paxton’s Claire who is a bit of a fangirl. Luke (Healy) and Claire use their ghost-hunting equipment and soon begin to pick up creepy voices and music before the apparitions reveal themselves.

While not West’s breakthrough movie, this is the one which garnered him the most critical attention and became his biggest hit. The film has an old-fashioned horror feel, a subtle, creeping approach to scares, and using atmosphere over jumps and gore. The script and direction are light and playful both honouring the history of haunted house movies while giving them a modern gloss and respect. Once the second half reveals come and the mythology of the house is made known, the scares come faster after the largely comedic, slacker style first half. The three main performances are solid and likable, Paxton and Healy are easy to relate to, and even though there’s nothing new here it feels fresh, especially in an era of loud bang scares and CG blood spatter. It isn’t going to change anyone’s life, but it’s a fun movie for those who don’t mind a bit of backstory and set up before the pay-off.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Innkeepers!

 

Scream

*Originally written in 2004

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Wes Craven proves he’s a master of horror and innovation with Scream, over 10 years since his last smash which pulled a similar trick – A Nightmare on Elm Street. Craven had been a legend for 3 decades, but with this he made possibly his best known film, reinventing a dead genre for better and worse, making horror films profitable again. More importantly it gave horror fans something to cheer about – a smart, funny, sexy, but above all scary film.

Scream’s intro has already gone down in movie history as the benchmark of a shocking and effective way to start a film. Take an established actress, and eventually butcher her to set the tone. The phone, the knife, shocks, inevitability of death, blood, helplessness, and a love of scary movies. Craven turns what we expect on its head, and we know we are in for something special.

We are introduced to Sydney Prescott, a teenager whose mother was murdered a year ago, trying to get on with her life – coping with school, a boyfriend, the court case involving the man (Cotton) who has been charged with her mother’s murder, and intrusion from journalists. She has become strong through this ordeal, but is still vulnerable. Her boyfriend Billy wants sex, but isn’t pushy. The news of a new murder comes as a shock to the whole town though because of the town’s recent history, journalists flock in including Gail Weathers, who had previously accused Sydney of lies. In school the news spreads, and the cops question the students. Sydney’s tight group of friends try to work out who the killer was, believing everyone’s a suspect. Her friends are Tatum, feisty, strong whose boyfriend is similar yet comically manic, and Randy – movie nerd who secretly loves Sydney. When Sydney is attacked, it seems the killer is not done and may have a larger plan. The teens of the town gather together for a curfew-baiting house party all the while debating who the killer is, and who could be the next on their hit-list.

This is clearly one of the best horror movies of the decade, not just an excuse for gore, but clever on many levels, and self-referential. It is more than that, being one of the best looks at teenage life in the last few years. The characters are extremely well drawn, taking stereotypes, but changing them against our expectations, enhanced by some brilliant performances. Every cast member performs well, with special mention to Kennedy, Arquette, and Lillard for bringing the laughs. Cox is good, but Campbell is excellent, going through a myriad of emotions and proving that her character does not have to be stupid like most final girls are typically shown to be.

Craven is in control, feeding us clues as to the identity of the killer, but ensuring that by the end we are surprised. Gore is used effectively, the scares and jokes come thick and fast, but it is the story of Sydney which makes it a classic. She is strong willed, smart, and we go through every emotion with her, aided by Neve’s performance. We feel for her, and are frustrated we cannot help. The film is shot beautifully, with Woodsboro shown as an idyllic place to live, but with dark secrets. I love near-Leone style facial close-ups, and the care given to each character so that we are hurt when one is killed, but suspicious of each. The script is sharp, with many references to horror movies which fan will try to recognise.

Thematically we return to Elm Street territory; We must fight for ourselves in the world, and while our friends are the most important people in our lives, they may not be around forever and we must be able to cope with their loss. Parents are either not around, don’t care, don’t understand, or are to blame. Sydney’s mum seems to be the catalyst for the deaths, the only authority figure to gain respect is Dewey, who isn’t much older than the teens. The opening scene as Casey crawls towards her nearby parents, with the killer behind her highlights this, that the older generation will not always be able to keep us safe. The Headmaster, played by Henry Winkler hates kids, but he cannot organise or gain respect from them either.We are never certain of Gail’s intentions, another point to do with the media’s involvement in society today. Death has become trivialised, the victims just a ploy for ratings or power for those who tell the stories. Our thoughts on violence, on violent movies are challenged – Craven a veteran of criticism over use of violence. In the end it’s up to us as individuals. The film shows that places we believed to be safe -our homes, our schools, have become dangerous places today too, that we are not safe anywhere. In a group, or by yourself, we are still vulnerable. The scene in the school toilets emphasizes this point, and is another beautiful scene. However, the film teaches us that rather than being overcome by fear, by the fact that we are not always safe, we should fight.

I wanted to mention a few of my favourite scenes – Sydney on her porch, staring over the hills; Sydney and Billy in her bedroom while Gus’s cover of Don’t Fear the Reaper plays in the background. It gives a perfect glimpse of what it is like to be in love at that age, and together with Campbell’s beauty makes an odd atmosphere, especially when viewed again, having watched the other 2 films. We become intimate with Sydney, wishing we could save her from her pain.

With the combination of genres subverted, a brilliant script and score, some excellent acting, good scares and jokes, Scream paved the way for a new breed of horror films, none of which, like Halloween and Elm Street, have matched it. We should be thankful for Craven, as he has provided the world with another film which should be watched and talked about as much as those felt to be the best movies of all time. This is certainly one of the best of our time.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Scream!

Seul Contre Tous

*Originally written in 2003

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The follow-up to Noe’s 1991 brutal short Carne begins with a quick recount of what has happened – lead character ‘The Butcher’ has grown up hating the world after becoming an orphan because of the war. He owns a butcher shop and has a daughter, but everything else is sickening to him. He hates everyone and wishes they would all die, as we all die alone in the end. It is him against the stinking world he despises, everything is pointless, nobody cares. These ideas have been done countless times before, but never has effective, cold, or hard-hitting as here although the mood of Taxi Driver comes close. The Butcher kills a man he believed attacked his daughter, but it was the wrong guy, and goes to prison. Eventually he is let out.

Now The Butcher has found a new girlfriend, with her only because she gives him a room, sex, and promises to buy him a new shop. His daughter has been taken away from him and placed into foster care, and he only sees her for short spaces of time. She is the only one who can hold back his anger, and stop him from killing everyone on sight. However, his girlfriend repulses him, her mother is even worse in his eyes, and his grim surroundings only add to his growing hatred and rage. Like Carne, we hear his inner thoughts, how he sees everything as hopeless. Soon his inner monologue mixed with despair and fury causes an unreality and he, along with the viewer become uncertain of what is real, if the actions he takes are just his imagination or not. Soon he explodes with pure rage, beating his pregnant girlfriend on the floor and takes a gun with 3 bullets, intending to get his daughter and destroy everything. As he walks the streets his thoughts continue, and we wonder whether the people we walk with on our streets may be like this.

He is alone. Only the gun keeps him company. Several further shocking and brutal scenes are shown and they are made all the more unbearable because of the relentless pounding of words such as HATE being fired into our heads. That BOOM effect is useful in making the viewer uncomfortable, guns going off as the scenes cut. Our senses are assaulted by Noe’s direction, and Nahon’s performance is extremely impressive, easily worthy of any award. The scene where he repeatedly punches his girlfriend seems to go on forever, with all too real acting from her (Frankye Pain) adding to the horror. One scene with his daughter involving the gun is horrifying, but filmed so oddly beautifully and tenderly that we cannot look away, no matter how much we know we should be. If The Butcher escapes one harrowing act, he quickly replaces it with another. Characters like this are typically only seen in the realms of over the top horror, but Seul Contre Tous is entirely grounded in the real world.

Blandie’s performance as The Daughter is excellent, her vacancy ironic, he passivity revealing. With so much going for it, the film should rightly be seen by all self respecting movie fans, but beware that it won’t be easy. The film would be almost unwatchable if not for the beautiful cinematography, as well as some humour. However, the humour is so tongue-in-cheek that many people simply may not see it. It may leave you depressed with the world, or act as some skewed catharsis and give you hope because of your ‘better’ position. An extremely impressive film that deserves much more notice than it has received, but then again it is not the type of film you would take your partner, parents, or kids to see. Watch it on your own and let the pure emotion, and complete lack of love seep into you. One of a select breed of utterly harrowing films which will stay with you forever.

Let us know what you think of Seul Contre Tous in the comments!

Frenzy (2018)

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Another day, another low budget shark movie. Hey, at least this one tries to be serious, at least this one doesn’t simply slap two scary or amusing things together and get the local drunk to write the script. “Hey Bruce, I have a pitch for ya – ‘SpiderShark’ – has anyone made that yet? Or wait, ‘WereShark – it only comes out when the full moon is high’ – we could probably put together a script for those in a weekend, with names like those they write themselves!” These are precisely the sorts of conversations which go on in Production meetings – I should know, I’m an idiot.

So yes, Frenzy tries to be serious, but in doing so it makes many, many of the things which happen seem all the more ridiculous. Why do the plane’s wing spontaneously drop off? Why doesn’t the dude just gently land the plane when he was gliding about 50 foot above the very calm water? Why do the sharks travel in a pack of three? Why do they attack like that? Why do they look like that? Why can’t the shark rip the dinghy to shreds in two seconds but yet easily knocks two idiots out of a large boat? Why do the two idiots suddenly abort their rescue attempt to attack the sharks? Why did the sister jump in the water when the other sister was probably safe? How the hell did the sister do that counting backwards stunt when the shark was heading straight for her and how did the shark not simply adjust itself and get her anyway? How the hell did that boulder trick work? Why didn’t the shark simply swim further under water away from the fire? Why didn’t they cut the rope from the wooden raft and paddle over to the boat? Why can’t they use a radio? Why don’t they try to climb onto the mushroom shaped island? Why didn’t they throw the ‘distraction rocks’ further than three foot from the raft? Why am I watching this?

To summarize as briefly as possible, a group of friends travel the world making vlogs about the exotic places they visit, and they’re exactly the sort of people you wouldn’t want as friends – always smiley, happy, and gawping about how amazing their lives are. But look – is there… is there something going on between the sister’s boyfriend and the other sister? Ooh, intriguing. No wait, that’s not what I meant – I meant oooh, we haven’t seen that device before, and oooh it’s completely irrelevant anyway and goes absolute nowhere. They are travelling to an off the beaten track excuse for an island – more like a tumor slumped in the middle of the ocean. You can guess what happens next.

The main character is played by Aubrey Reynolds, who looks like someone I can’t quite place. It’s annoying. She does as well as she possibly can. Her, and everyone else in the cast I don’t recognise from anything else and based on the performances here I don’t think that will change in the future. In fairness, they aren’t given a lot to work with. It’s weird how so many films get the ‘I’m trapped in water and surrounded by sharks’ idea so wrong. I can’t be that hard to do it, right? Still, it’s a movie to half-watch with friends, only paying attention when something stupid happens or when the sharks arrive. In the pantheon of shark movies, it’s not the worst but it languishes with all the hundreds of others in the murky depths of mediocrity.

Let me know what you think of Frenzy in the comments!

Birdy

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Man, Nic Cage looks really young here. No wait, Nic Cage looks really old here – what is he supposed to be, sixteen? But he looks like he’s in his twenties. Same with Matthew Modine. It’s all the more strange given the kids they’re playing with are a good two feet shorter and clearly much younger. ‘Nam man, it made weirdos of us all.

Birdy is a film I’d known about since I was first obsessed with the Manic Street Preachers. When you get obsessed with a band (I’m sure this still happens today with current artists but in a much different way), from an era gone by you have to do a lot of work to learn as much about them as possible. It’s not enough to simply buy the albums and learn the songs and know every single lyric. It’s not even enough to see them live and buy the shirt and tell your friends. No, you need to chase down every TV and Radio and magazine interview or quote they ever gave. Before Tweets and Blogs we had fanzines and paper. It’s there that I learned that the Manics were as much consumers of pop culture as they were detractors of it. It’s like the old saying about a rock star teaching you more than school ever did; the Manics certainly opened my mind to stuff I’d never thought about, music I’d never cared about, and movies and books I’d never heard of.

Birdy was one such movie. When you become a Manics obsessive, most people tend to become a Richey fanatic. As the band’s lead lyricist and a central part of their creative vision, he was as seductive and humble and intelligent a mouthpiece as a rock band could ever have. Most interviews he gave (as well as the rest of the band) were a treasure trove of quips and quotes and the media loved him as they knew he would be good for a soundbite – controversial or otherwise. Richey and the band understood this as well as any professional businessman, the difference being that what Richey said came from a place of honesty and understanding. Throw in the tragedy of his mental and physical state along with the mystery of his disappearance and you have a rock and roll, human story as alluring as it is heartbreaking.

It’s no surprise then to those fans who get around to checking out some of the well publicized ‘Richey’s Favourites’ lists discover that many of his most treasured works of fiction deal directly with subject matter he was obsessed with, or dealt with, or displayed, or despised. From Concentration Camp survivors texts, to stories concerned with violence and war, from the collapse of the human spirit and the chaos of a broken mind, to authors who killed themselves or vanished entirely. Humanity’s darkest innards are where Richey rent his most tortured lyrics from, inspired in part by the master works he knew inside out. It’s easy to draw a line between the works he coveted, the works he made, and the life he led.

Birdy is a 1984 movie based off the William Wharton novel of the same name. Both concern the lasting friendship between two men – their adolescence, their harrowing war experiences, and their struggle to adjust back home. When describe like that it sounds like any number of other Vietnam movies – if I can set this one apart from the others I would say that this one has a little more in the way of heart, hope, and comedy. In the book, the War in question is WWII, but in the movie it is Vietnam – a small change, but an important one nonetheless – each war is both the same and different from the next. Nic Cage stars as Al – a typical teenager in a rundown area of Philly, while Matthew Modine is the title character – a bird obsessed, socially naive kid who Al befriends. The film jumps liberally between different time-frames – the mishaps and adventures of the mismatched youths and how their home-life and charms somehow brought and kept them together, to some point after their return from war when Al is facially disfigured and Birdy is mute and unresponsive in an Army psych ward. Interspersed later in the movie are very brief scenes of what happened in Vietnam, relaying how the relate to both events from their youth and of their current state.

I was surprised by the lack of war scenes when I first watched Birdy. That’s another key difference between it and the more famous ‘nam movies. Directed Alan Parker, known more for his musicals, prefers to focus on the friendship and the internal struggles instead of the visceral reality of what happened on the battlefield. It’s a coming of age film as much as it is a portrayal of war horror, and it feels honest and authentic in both to the extent that it gave me some nostalgia for a time in which I didn’t exist. That’s not accurate – it’s the friendship I was nostalgic for, not the time, and it strikes a similar balance to something like Stand By Me. While Cage and Modine are good, and while their friendship is something I enjoyed watching, it lacks some of the fun and camaraderie of Stand By Me, probably because the latter focused on four central characters and on a different point in their lives.

While Birdy is a fairly unique character, the film is smart enough to send a more universal message – one which it is difficult to write about without avoiding the trite metaphors about birds and freedom and cages. At points in our lives we do feel trapped and we do yearn for freedom and flight and friendship – it doesn’t matter that not all of us have experience war or abuse or social scapegoating or growing up on the wrong side of the tracks. Birdy shows us what it was like for these characters and shows enough of the characters that we recognize certain traits within ourselves. Whether we deal with hardship by tackling it face on, by indulging in obsession, by ignoring it, or by falling into fantasy – hardships are going to hit us, and Birdy tackles the subject by showing each of these responses and how friendship is one of our greatest defenses.

Peter Gabriel crafted a thoughtful score for the movie – I haven’t listened to a lot of the man’s music beyond the obvious, but his score for Birdy (which is mostly instrumental) aptly conveys both heart and panic, fear and hope. From pounding drum interludes to inspirational synths, the music can be in your face and drift quietly on the outer reaches. Parker’s film uses ‘Skycam’ heavily to simulate bird flight as well as Birdy’s imaginings and some of the flashbacks. It seems a little silly today but it works well enough for 1984 and probably raised a few eyebrows from a stylistic perspective. The important thing is that the technology serves both character and plot and isn’t just there to show off.

I went into Birdy expecting a heavier drama than what I got, based on my own assumptions of what Richey liked. A war movie about a bird obsessed man on the fringes of society, scarred and left to a careless world? How could that not be a dark and gritty story? I forget than Richey was also defiant and human and hopeful, and in the end that is more what Birdy is about.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Birdy!

Bait

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Why do we do it? Or more specifically, why do I do it? You can count the number of good, truly good shark movies on one hand and yet I watch as many of the bad ones as I can, knowing full well they are going to be bad. Is it my inherent love for the mysterious creatures? Is it because most shark movies are horror movies and an excuse to watch annoying people get chomped to pieces? Is it the hope that maybe one day someone will make another truly good one? I think it’s all of those things – I’ve always loved sharks and horror movies, and I always hope that another good one will appear. Reading the synopsis of shark movies, and knowing the companies and money involved before hand is a valid way of anticipating if the film will be good, but as I’ve said, that won’t put me off; it may not be good, but it could still be entertaining.

Bait has the following synopsis:

‘A freak tsunami traps a group of people in a submerged grocery store. As they try to escape, they are hunted by white sharks that are hungry for meat’

Aren’t most tsunamis freak events? Also, that kind of makes it sound as if the grocery store was already submerged. I assume they mean Great White Sharks too, and the fact that they’re hungry for meat goes without saying. If I was trapped in a grocery store, you’d better believe I’d be looting it to the bone. And I wouldn’t be starting with the meat, no, I’d be filling my face with sweets and crisps first – all that top shelf stuff (matron). Plus, that synopsis makes me think of two other movies I’d like to see – one set in a world where all shops are underwater, like The Jetsons but with water instead of space. So.. Spongebob, I guess. Secondly, a movie about a freakshow tsunami – a giant supafly wave which does funky dances and wears an afro.

All in all, I don’t mind the idea for this – it has potential, merging survival horror with loose disaster movie and siege movie tropes. I imagine John Carpenter having a go at this – it’s basically Assault On Precinct 13 but with sharks instead of gangstas and crap instead of goodness. Honestly, it’s not all that bad. In terms of being a cheap B movie, it’s perfectly watchable and gives enough attention to its characters that we have a passing interest in their fates, if not care. The acting is a notch above what you would expect from these things, with famous faces like Sharni Vinson and Julian McMahon providing the ‘oh, I know that guy’ moments. The film also spends time building up to the main scenario, introducing various characters and conflicts before releasing the sharks. It begins with a tragic event as lifeguard Josh watches his friend Rory be killed by a shark during a rescue. Rory was brother to Tina, Tina was engaged to Josh. Flashforward a year and Josh and Tina have split up, with Josh now working in a supermarket. Tina shows up with her new boyfriend – uh oh. Worse, a couple of criminals show up too in a botched armed robbery – oh no. Worse still, a tsunami drops, trapping the staff, shoppers, and criminals together – oopsy. Then to spice things up further, some sharks have been washed in by the tsunami, and I have a feeling they like the taste of young pretty flesh.

At times it feels like there are too many characters, each with their own crap. There are security guards, criminals, managers, shoplifters, couples galore, dogs, and some are revealed to be intertwined and some are revealed to be dicks. There are a couple of ‘twists’ though I pissed off my wife by calling them out long before they were revealed, as I always do. I won’t spoil them here, but they seemed fairly obvious even to me. There was a great moment where it looked like the dog was killed, only for a later cop-out. Hey, I love dogs but I love it just as much when people who moan about dogs being killed in movies (which almost never happens) are frightened that the dogs will be hurt. The dog here especially is more than deserving of being gobbled. But as mentioned, there is a lot going on, characters trying to resolve their differences all while working together (or not) to try to survive and escape. Certain characters are split off from the main group, some have selfish motives, others are fish fodder.

The gore and kills are as you would expect – a lot of improbable shark action and even more improbable attempts to hunt and kill the sharks. The CG isn’t great but it’s still a level or twelve above Sharknado – you’ll get a laugh out of it but can still suspend your disbelieve enough to not let it get in the way of the story. The film is actually known as Bait 3D – so you know you’re going to get some of those scenes to make the 3D stand out. Naturally I watched in 2D, so these scenes added to the ridicule. In terms of pacing and action, the film rattles along nicely and while it hits all of the expected notes, it does so in a fun way. I was never bored even though I’ve seen it all before. It’s much better than the ‘so bad it’s good’ shark movies, but still a way behind Jaws and… Jaws 2. Thanks to an interesting premise, a decent cast of recognizable faces, and actual attention to building story and character (somewhat), Bait is a film for anyone who enjoys shark movies or animal attack movies in general.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Bait!

Aftermath

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The big man is back, this time he’s gunning for revenge against the bad guy who murdered his family…. except it’s not the 80s anymore and this isn’t an action movie. Aftermath takes the true life story of a mid air collision between two airplanes, and one man’s quest for justice in the (insert title). Those looking for scenes of Arnie gunning down hordes of terrorists and quipping one-liners will be disappointed, but for more dedicated Arnie fans like me who are just happy that he’s still working, this is a unique oddity in his filmography.

Since stepping down as The Governator, Arnie has been expanded his dramatic chops more. He still throws down in old school Action flicks such as Sabotage and The Last Stand, he has made smaller films in quieter dramas such as Maggie or notable cameos like in Killing Gunther. Aftermath sees him star as an unassuming builder looking forward to the arrival of his wife and pregnant daughter, only to receive the news that they have tied in an air traffic accident. The film isn’t only his story, his is paralleled (just like the intersecting paths of the airplanes, get it?) by the air traffic controller who is ostensibly blamed for the incident. The film follows both characters, one racked with guilt, the other fueled by a need to hear someone apologize for what has happened, both suffering from different losses in different ways.

The film is well acted though strangely uneventful. There is a quietness to the emotional content which never wallows in grief or in breakdown, instead showing the simple void of shock and misunderstanding which surrounds loss. It is almost played like a TV drama – in terms of music, direction, writing, there is nothing out of the ordinary beyond the big name cast. It seems like a strange choice for Schwarzenegger as this was never going to be a money maker or raise his profile in any way, so we can only assume it was the story and character he was interested in. Just one side note – while the film ended essentially how you expect it to once its big shock is out of the way (I didn’t think the film would take the turn that it did), it did leave me wishing that one side character got his comeuppance. It’s immature and fruitless, but when dickish characters get away with their dickish behaviour in movies or TV, it pisses me off because I know that’s what tends to happen in real life. We like seeing these scumbags getting tossed off buildings or arrested etc because its escapism. There is a textbook smarmy lawyer in the film (played by good old Terry from Dawn Of The Dead) who refuses to look at a photograph of Arnie’s family, instead smirking with his Gordon Gecko hair and sitting smug in the knowledge that Arnie will never succeed in court. It would have been nice to see Arnie ram his fist into this guy’s stomach and break his Goddamn spine, but alas. The main issue with this is, there’s no way this character is a real person – for such a sensitive event, no firm in the world is going to send such a repugnant asshole – every firm in the world would be bending over backwards to make you feel good and freaking the hell out that they could lose.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Aftermath!

Dark Tide

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Well. Well, that was a piece of shit, wasn’t it? I’m not usually interested in criticizing a film when it’s bad or ripping it to shreds for comedy purposes, but when I’ve already stated that I watch a lot of bad, deliberately bad shark movies, and a lot of low budget, made for TV shark movies with the worst CG this side of me and Microsoft Paint, to say this is worse than those should be everything you need to know.

Halle Berry stars as Kate, a shark whisperer who likes to free dive with Great Whites. Fair enough. I don’t think she’s necessarily miscast and I usually like her, but she has no business being in this film beyond being as a vanity project for her and her husband and co-star Olivier Martinez. Note – I had no idea they were married or together or anything until my wife told me. Note – Olivier Martinez has never been good in anything. Ever. Some other people are in it – doesn’t matter. They are married in the movie and are making self-involved ‘movies’ about swimming with sharks, which involves jumping into the ocean and tugging on their fins. I… I sense something might be about to go wrong. Yes, Quarrel is gobbled by a shark and we flash-forward 12 months to see that Kate is… continuing like nothing ever happened. She doesn’t make the movies anymore and she doesn’t see her husband, but she’s still out on the water, now giving tours which isn’t bringing in much money. Her husband appears on the scene again with an offer to take some billionaire out on a special tour so he can swim with the sharks like she used to. I… I sense something might be about to go wrong…

This movie cost $25 million. Here are some things which could have been done with $25 million instead of making this movie:

Donate to Shark Preservation charities

Donate to me

Go to Space with you and all your friends

Buy your own island (and shoot your own shitty movies there)

Hire a hundred teachers

Buy 25 MRI machines

But 10 CAT machines

Give a hell of a lot of starving people a hell of a lot of food and water

Give a hell of a lot of homeless people a hell of a lot of shelter

I don’t know… a bunch of monkeys to play with.

Yet they decided to go ahead and make Dark Tide. I honestly have no idea why or how this was released in its current state. Filmed in 2010 it flapped around until a limited release in 2012 – clearly no-one (rightly) had any clue what to do with it and decided just to chuck it out there and maybe get a few bucks back on their investment. It is a completely incoherent mess. Halle Berry’s character, we assume is supposed to be traumatized by the death of her friend, yet spends the whole movie smiling and joking like she’s parading down a red carpet. She has spent a year away from swimming with sharks, but dives on in with zero hesitation or post traumatic stress. The wife of the guy who was killed at the start – far from blaming the sheer stupidity of her husband and Berry’s character, she just shrugs it off like ‘meh, he lived his life like he wanted – being eaten’. Berry is meant to be estranged from her husband, has removed his number from her phone, and hasn’t seen him in a year, yet spends the entire film flirting with and fondling him like they’re horny teens on their first date; even though he’s a complete dick the entire time. Later she finally comes to her senses and decides that no, they’re not going to take their clearly falling to pieces ship into the most shark invested part of the world and let some asshole swim outside a cage with sharks, only for the husband to slap her around about, to which SHE apologizes for, and then goes ahead and takes them to dive with the sharks.

Oh, we’re not finished folks. There’s a scene – a completely irrelevant scene early in the movie which… I have not idea why it exists. It sets up a bunch of shady characters who seem to be going poaching? They’re in a dodgy van, they go to a stretch of water, then go diving for oysters, or abalone, or doubloons or something. Right, so these are bad guys and they’re going to show up later and attack Berry’s boat or Berry will have to save them from being eaten. Nope, we see them swim around the water for a minute and then… nothing? They are never seen again, there is no mention of them again, they aren’t attacked? No idea. The dead guy’s wife is apparently psychic, calling the coastguard to tell them that she ‘knows something has gone wrong’ on Berry’s boat and to get a search party out there. It’s okay, she isn’t seen again either. There’s a 10 minute stretch where Berry takes a random family out on a trip – so these guys are going to get attacked and eaten? Nope, she just takes them out, comes back, and then takes out the next group who do get attacked. It’s almost like they filmed the first family and decided they weren’t interesting enough to spend the rest of the film with, but we’ve filmed the scenes so we may as well keep them in the movie.

Oh yeah, the boat keeps breaking – in the character’s own words beyond repair – then is suddenly fixed and working in the next scene. This happens more than once. Every character without fail has zero motivation for anything that happens or anything they do, everybody apparently hates everyone else yet spend most of their time joking and giggling. Berry’s character can hold her breath… forever? She’s down in that water as day turns to night, comes up for a quick puff, and then heads down again for a few hours. There’s a storm coming and their boat is already broken but why the hell shouldn’t they keep going for an hour and a half into the storm and further from shore to get to the sharks. Hell, it’s not like they could go home and come back the next day. They go out to an area which has literally hundreds of seals swimming around after telling us that sharks can’t resists seals. Then they get on the boat and say there are no sharks around so they tie a carboard seal to the back of the boat, drive forward a few yards, and lo and behold a shark attacks the fake seal? Eh? Why would it go for thi, and not one of the other thousand or so real seals around it? But wait – actually, it was a real seal the shark attacked because they put the cardboard on back on the boat, intact. So the fake one is used to attract sharks in an area full of real seals and make them attack the real ones? But wait – the footage of the shark attacking the seal is actually a fairly famous real-life clip of a shark attack that they edited into the movie. Believe me, I’m only scratching the surface here? Not a single moment passes in this movie without something entirely implausible, nonsensical, ridiculous, or pointless happening, completely without explanation.

As I said, it’s not like me to go harping on about a film’s shortcomings as I know how much effort and collaboration, and work goes into making a film to the extent that it’s almost a miracle anything ever gets made. But seriously, how did this ever see the light of day? Director John Stockwell seems to have a fetish for bikini clad women or deep blue seas, having also unleashed Blue Crush, Into The Blue, and the as yet to be imagined Blue Smurfs Have A Blue Old Time Playing The Blues In Blue Blue Sea (Part Blue). The film has a couple of things going for it – good underwater photography in places, and the use of actual sharks. Why bother choosing this over something on the Discovery Channel then? For the chumps being chomped of course, but unfortunately we only get that once in the opening five minutes, and briefly in the final ten. Everything else in between is completely bewildering. Anyway, I’ve watched quite a few shark movies recently but this is the first I just had to write about and publish immediately (having watched it last night). More shark movie reviews to come, and as not great as those movies were, I’d easily recommend those over this.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Dark Tide, especially if you’re one of those weirdos who actually enjoyed it.

Troy: The Odyssey

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‘Forgive me for what you are about to see’ speaks the wise Odysseus, King Of Ithaca, master of the epithet, and nary a wiser more prophetic line didst the Homeric hero spake. I’m always torn when I see film adaptations of the greatest work of literature ever written. On one hand, it’s my favourite story of all time – one which has influenced me personally more than any other book – so I’m always going to watch, plus it’s great seeing others attempting to bring the story to the screen. On the other hand, it’s simply too large, too dense a story, with too many characters, places, and requirements for special effects to adequately bring to screen without hundreds of millions of dollars. Throw in the fact that, while it’s a standalone story, you can’t really do it justice without also telling the story of the Illiad too – the history and build up to The Trojan War, Odysseus and his life in Ithaca before the war, the final stages of the war itself and The Fall Of Troy, all before Odysseus sets off on his journey home. In other words, it’s simply too big a story and world to fit into a low budget, 110 minute movie. Props for trying though.

I’ve said it before – I dream of a world where some company with all of the necessary funding, tools, and resources, and dedication and desire, creates the definitive version of The Trojan Trilogy. I used to think this had to be a big screen adaptation, an extended Universe comprising of multiple films for The Illiad, The Odyssey, And The Aeneid, crossing over where necessary. The more I think of it now, and given the fact that we’re in The Golden Age Of Television, it’s the small screen which seems more suited. Look at long-running big budget shows such as Game Of Thrones, The Walking Dead, even Vikings. They create a visionary world with multiple locations and massive cast telling an sprawling ongoing story. That’s what The Trilogy of books demands, and that’s what is always missing from The Odyssey in particular. Not only is there War; not only are there multiple monsters and creatures to deal with in the visual effects department; not only is there a huge cast of characters who warrant attention – it’s the sheer length of time involved in the story too. In order for the viewer to truly grasp the scope of Odysseus’ journey, we need to see him age – we need to understand the losses he suffers, the mental and physical torture he endures, but we need to see the same for those around him and for Penelope and Telemachus. A series filmed over and progressing through multiple seasons and years would give a much better impression and understanding of that passage of time, and the emotional impact for the audience when they see Odysseus finally make it home after a few years of watching, would be greatly heightened.

Recently The BBC attempted their own version of The Illiad, called Troy: Fall Of A City. While many idiots online vented because they cast a dark skinned actor in the crucial role of Achilles, my main concern with it was that they focused too much on the love triangle between Paris, Helen, and Menelaus, which of course triggers the whole mess. There’s also too much soap opera intrigue and sorry attempt at GOT pandering, and not enough focus on the supernatural/God elements, but it was a faithful attempt at telling the larger story. Unfortunately, it was a ratings mess and will likely discourage anyone else from attempting such an adaptation. I still think though – you get the right people involved, the right script, and have the right dedication, and you’ll have a hit on your hands.

Which finally leads us back to this 2017 film adaptation of The Odyssey. I’m fine with taking liberties from the source material. Homer of course was merely adapting from all the stories he had heard throughout his life, but while I feel his adaptation is the best version of the stories we have, we should try to be as faithful to his adaptation as we can. In a single sub 2 hour movie, we have to take many liberties. The story still follows Odysseus as he leaves Ithaca, fights in Troy and unleashes his wooden horse ploy, and finally attempts his journey home. Unlike in Homer’s version where he leaves with multiple ships and hundreds of men in tow, here he seems to leave in a ship barely large enough to stretch out in and with less than five crew. One of his crew is a Trojan Princess/warrior/priestess/witch called Circe who has nothing to do with the actual Circe from Homer’s Odyssey. She curses Odysseus, and for some reason they are followed home by a Kraken. Presumably these fabrications were added because some people may have heard the names ‘Kraken’ and ‘Circe’ from Clash Of The Titans, Pirates Of The Caribbean, and GOT. Rather than Homer’s sprawling journey, here Odysseus merely lands on an island (called by The Sirens) where the meet an amalgamation of the Homeric Circe, Calypso, and Sirens who bewitch the crew into forgetting their lives. After a few scenes they escape, but must make it through ‘the paths of the dead’ (in lieu of the actual Underworld) where they meet both a Minotaur and a Cyclops before escaping and making it back to Ithaca.

It’s not so much the removal of stuff from the story which bothers me, rather than the inclusion. Why add this fake Circe? Why create ‘the paths of the dead’ which seems to be little more than three corridors which takes all of five minutes to traverse? Why throw in a Kraken? At least we jump back and forth to see how Penelope is getting on with her suitors. Within a few minutes you know that the film is going to be… limited. The acting is mostly static or laughable, the dialogue is that same stilted nonsense almost any adaptation of this sort of story does – why can’t you get a decent writer in there – look at how people in GOT talk – do something like that! The battle and fight scenes are comical and badly directed, with people who don’t really know how to swing a sword performing as some of the most famous warriors in history and maybe two extras lurking in the background to give (no) sense of depth. I could go in depth with criticism of the performances – the bullish, hilariously over the top Agamemnon and the ‘why does she keep raising her eyebrows’ Calypso. What would be the point? The lead performers – Dylan Vox (a predominant porn actor) as Odysseus, Lara Heller as Circe, and Kelly B Jones as Penelope are better, and are watchable, but are little more than mannequins to hang a series of tropes and bad dialogue on. Actually, looking at the cast I see Paris and Helen listed but I don’t remember them being there at all. Oh yeah, Priam has a magic sword too.

So… it’s not great. Is it worth watching, for fans of the story, for fans of this semi-fantasy, semi-action genre? Not really. It’s a cheap knock-off with not a lot to recommend it, but as a Homer super fan it’s still something that interested me. I’m always keen to see a director’s take on the story in the hope that one day we’ll get a good one. As it stands, that Armand Assante version is still the best, and while I got a few chuckles out of this and kept watching to see what other changes to the story the crew would bring, it’s not something I can see many going out of their way to see.

Attack Of The Adult Babies

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As an ardent fan of all things fucked up, I often get questioned by the more straight-laced members of my social circle – ‘what the hell is wrong with me’. I mean, if you have to ask, you’re never gonna get it – right? The truth is, I don’t know. None of us can truly know and people much smarter than me have tried to answer – what drives us to watching horror, or the bizarre, and beyond? What drives people to make art and entertainment based in these worlds, with these ideas? We don’t know, but we are a community, and for better or worse we can smell our own. It’s interesting then that Emmerdale’s Paddy – Dominic Brunt – is a proponent of these creations as he doesn’t seem like ‘one of us’. Of course I’m conflating his character in the TV soap with the real person I know little about. It appears he is one of us; since branching out as a director he has created a number of commendable and interesting films which are likely to never be seen by anyone who isn’t like me – they are low budget, they are weird, and while I can’t honestly say if they’re any good, I enjoy them and will gladly tell other like me to give them a shot. Anyone else? Stay far away.

The film poses a vital question we’ve all pondered upon once or twice – what if the power of the world’s elite was being provided by an immortal God of Feces? What if the way to ultimate wealth, power, and influence was to drink this God’s milk, shit, then feed the shit back to the God and have the God shit giant gold nuggets? That’s what we’re dealing with in Attack Of The Adult Babies, as a family of four infiltrates the country mansion of an elite gathering to retrieve some information – forced at gunpoint by a couple of bumbling criminals. We learn that not all is what it seems within the family, or within the mansion, and what at first seems like some bizarre old white dude’s sex fetish cult becomes even more strange. I think I remember Eurotrash exploring real people who get their kicks by dressing as babies and having sexy nurses ‘look after them’, so the idea is grounded in some fucked up sense of reality. People, eh? Bunch of freaks the lot of us.

The film has a lot of comparisons with former notable works of depravity – The Human Centipede, Salo, Guest House Paradiso, and strives to be a more lurid version of Animal Farm or a British version of Society. There’s no guesswork with the satire but the film seems more concerned with using the satire to allow for lots of gore and loads of, well, shit. Which is perfectly fine for me of course – the film doesn’t take itself seriously in the slightest and it’s much worse when your attempts at mixing satire with exploitation are done in a po-faced, drenched in vanity way. Brunt merges slapstick humour with toilet humour, literally, gore gags, knowing nods, and every so often the jokes land. Like some of the aforementioned films it all becomes so ridiculous that you’re swept along with it, providing you haven’t turned it off.

Stay around and you’ll find a few familiar faces among the mostly amateur or little known performers – Roger Stiles from Coronation Street as the dad, Uncle Peter from Reeves And Mortimer, Faith Dingle from Emmerdale, and Martin from The Human Centipede Part II. With this being a mostly low budget affair, even though British audiences will recognise some of the cast, we do still have to deal with some dodgy acting, some terrible accents, and an overall cheap feel. Thankfully most of the special effects, ranging from practical blood spurts to puppetry and claymation, all get the full attention they deserve – it’s clear this is where the money went. While still cheap, it’s all tactile and done with love and reverence in a way that makes the glossy big budget films feel sterile. You can stride through any number of holes in the plot and asking why there isn’t any security inside or in the grounds of the central mansion (given these are supposed to be the most important people in the country) is futile. I imagine The Daily Mail would have a field day if they got in with their cameras. Actually, The Daily Mail would probably cover it up or blame those loony liberal lefties of being behind it all. Likewise, no-one in the film seems to know how to defend themselves, standing and apparently willing to receive a blade to the eye or a bullet up the ass, and everybody apparently loves to show off their bubbling, gushing wounds before they die.

The film will succeed or fail depending on your love of the different types and tropes of exploitation. We have a number of funny, over the top kills, but then we have an overly long intermission scene which feels too much like a nod to Tarantino. The soundtrack is decent enough and while much of the dialogue ranges from pleasingly puerile to predictable and character names fall into the old trap of naming characters after real life notorious figures or famous fictional characters, it does feature one of the best lines of the year – taken in its context of course -‘missed both me legs’. There are actually some nice shots – near the climax as one battered protagonist stumbles from one end of a room to another and slumps on the floor, followed by a group of axe wielding adult babies is of particular note.

It all leads to a bloody climax a la Braindead, but with added shit.   If you’re a fan of Guest House Paradiso’s vomit-filled climax, then you’ll probably enjoy the closing minutes of Attack Of The Adult Babies – though it’s not the mouth expelling fluid here. It’s even funnier because of the stiff upper lip, super posh high society delivery of the lines, cheesy as many of them are. Just when you think that’s the end, we have time for some trippy stuff which is a bit silly and the film may have been better served without it. Just when you think that’s the end, we get some claymation and a final few minutes which goes all out buck nuts with giant shit Gods, rewinding film, and an alien spacecraft heading towards Earth. In other words, Brunt is having a whale of a time and the rest of us are welcome to join in.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Attack Of The Adult Babies – or am I the only one who has taken the plunge?