Happy Death Day

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Happy Death DayRated: M

Directed by: Christopher Landon

Produced by: Jason Blum p.g.a. Blumhouse

Written by: Scott Lobdell

Director of Photography: Toby Oliver

Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Rachel Matthews and Charles Aitken.

‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life’.

Reminiscent of Groundhog Day (released in 1993 where Bill Murray lives the same day, over and over), Happy Death Day has Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe (La La Land)) living the same day, but at the end of her day, she gets killed by a baby-masked psychopath.

Set on the Loyola University campus in New Orleans, there’s that sorority vibe – think: Tree waking up in a dormitory to face Carter (Israel Broussard (The Bling Ring)) the morning after an obviously heavy night on the booze, to the walk-of-shame back to her sorority house to face her fellow sisters.

Thankfully, not too much is made of the college life because jeez, we’ve all seen that too many times before…  It just lends a fun element to an otherwise slasher movie.  If you can call a slasher movie fun.

The story-line of the film is a Happy Death Dayhideous nightmare, where Tree gets killed over and over.  And the killer’s baby mask is freaky.

So, yes, it’s a scary movie.

But the tension is broken with these comic moments of Tree the bitchy, stuck-up character, able to make fun of herself.

Hats off to Jessica Rothe – if you didn’t like her character than the film would have just fallen over.  But there’s a down-to-earthness to her, making the other characters like the snobby house president, Danielle (newcomer Rachel Matthews) all the more ridiculous and funny.

You’d think the same scenario of waking up to the same day would lead to a boring story, but the script (written by Scott Lobdell) plays around with the concept, the changes made by Tree as she becomes aware of her fate, waking up over and over, is offset by the sameness of the day, shown in different ways, the wit making the waking nightmare, fun.Happy Death Day

And I’m happy to say, director, Christopher Landon (Paranormal Activity 2, 3 and 4, he then wrote and directed the spinoff Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, 2014) has pulled all the elements together, collaborating with: Aussie director of photography, Toby Oliver (upcoming Insidious: The Last Key), production designer, Cecele M. De Stefano (TV’s Empire), editor, Gregory Plotkin (Paranormal Activity series), costume designer, Meagan Mclaughlin Luster (10 Cloverfield Lane) and composer Bear McCreary (10 Cloverfield Lane).

And it just feels like the team had fun making this movie.

Particularly showing the range of Jessica Rothe, shining through all the moments from, bitchy to scared to brazen to vulnerable.

Jason Blum has produced yet another cool film.  I always keep an eye out for Blumhouse because I know I’m in for a scary treat.

I’m not saying Happy Death Day is a mind bender that throws you for days like Get Out or Whiplash.  But it’s a great entertainer with a clever story-line.

The Girl With All The Gifts

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MA15+The Girl With All The Gifts

Directed by: Collie McCarthy

Adapted from the novel, ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’, Written by: Mick Carey

Music Composed by: Cristobal Tapia de Veer

Starring: Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close, Paddy Considine, Sennia Nenua, Fisayo Akinade, Anthony Welsh.

After recently starting to watch, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016) and stopping after 15 minutes because I was just so sick of zombies, I surprised myself by taking in, The Girl With All The Gifts.

With Glenn Close starring and my avid love of thrillers, I thought the film looked good.

It made sense to me, fungi infecting the population and turning humans into blood thirsty beasts.  It’s the need for protein that turns the Hungries into killers.

And as, War Of The Worlds has shown us, and frankly this last flu season, it’s the micro-organisms and shown here, the fungi (not a micro-organism, but you get the drift) that will win in the end…

So, the premise of the film was interesting.The Girl With All The Gifts

The film begins with children, about 10 years old, being wheeled into a makeshift classroom, strapped to a wheelchair, wearing matching orange tracksuits.

The soldiers who transfer them from cell to classroom are obviously scared of the kids, yet, Melanie (Sennia Nenua) is a kind and polite, extremely intelligent school girl.

Until she’s hungry and can smell flesh.

After the compound’s attacked by seemingly endless hungries, Melanie’s favourite person and teacher, Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton), along with Dr Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close), Sergeant Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine), and soldiers Kieran Gallagher (Fisayo Akinade) and Dillon (Anthony Welsh) escape, to the outside world, back to London to wait for rescue.

Scottish director, Collie McCarthy (Outcast (2010), Endeavour (TV series, The Girl With All The Gifts2012) has brought a UK flavour to the film which is a nice change from the saturation of the American zombie takeovers, setting the film in London with native accented characters.

And there’s some good acting here – Glenn Close, who can do no wrong, brings a solid performance as the villainous researcher.  And young Sennia as Melanie holds her own as the hybrid fungal/human creature.

But it was difficult to take the hungries seriously when the fungus growing over their faces looked like green fur.

The infected blew the suspension for me – the hungries not always believable, so after the strong opening, the film waned.

There is some blood and guts for the those who like a bit of gore mixed with suspense.   And a few light moments to break the tension.

I appreciated the thought put into the script with some new ideas making the film more than just another zombie movie.

So, not a brilliant film, but worth a watch.

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Flatliners

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MFlatliners

Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev

Screenplay by: Ben Ripley

Story by: Peter Filardi

Produced by: Laurence Mark, Michael Douglas, Peter Safran

Starring: Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Kiersey Clemons, Kiefer Sutherland.

Reminiscent of the, Final Destination franchise, Flatliners is about the avoidance of death only to be haunted in the land of the living.

I was enthralled when watching the 1990 original of, Flatliners.

Directed by Joel Schumacher and staring the likes of Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin and Oliver Platt; I hadn’t ever seen a film like it: trainee doctors stopping the heart from beating, to flat line, causing death only to be brought back to life to research and record what happens after death.  Are there bright lights and vivid colours?  Is there comfort?  Is there life after death?Flatliners

The remake is based on the original story, written by Peter Filardi, but adapted to the screen by Ben Ripley (who also wrote the script for, Source Code (2011)).

And once again, we have five student doctors: Courtney (Ellen Page) as the seeker; Jamie (James Norton) the player, willing to take a ride no matter how wild; the previous fire-fighter, Ray (Diego Luna); Marlo (Nina Dobrey) the competitive; and Sophia (Kiersey Clemons) driven to burn-out by her pushy mother.  All on their neurology rotation, all willing to par-take in the exploration of death and what comes after.

What they don’t expect is the enhancement of their intelligence.  And the price paid as darkness follows, as their previous sins haunt them once brought back to life.

Director Niels Arden Oplev (Millennium: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) and the pilot of, Mr. Robot) has modernised the story by focussing on getting the medical science right and updating the technology by setting the death and resurrection scenes in an abandoned bunker kept fully equipped in the basement of the hospital in case of natural disaster, epidemic break-outs or the end of the world.

The film rests on the belief it’s possible and believable to kill, record brain activity and observe neural function, to try to capture life after death, to then be resurrected.

And there’s suspense in watching those willing to die.Flatliners

I could poke holes and mention things like, why would a bunker of hospital equipment be left unused?  Yet calibrated, software fully up-to-date, with consumables all current (and not expired like the young doctors!)?

And really, why would a doctor risk hypoxic brain injury, let alone death, to go along with Courtney for a chance at fame?  Particularly the charming Jamie – although a risk taker, I wasn’t convinced such a personality would go so far…

All questions aside, Flatliners was still an interesting and scary movie.

Notably, the performance from Ellen Page, who carried the film through those questionable moments.

But what made the original such a believable film was the characters.

The equivalent of the precious Randy Steckle (Oliver Platt) – the only one who didn’t flatline in the original – was Ray.  Yet, instead of the comic relief from Steckle, Ray was the saviour of the group, but really it felt like he was just side-lined.

The effects of ghosts appearing in the shadows amongst the drownings, the bedcovers and under the sheets covering a hospital trolley were used well without being over the top, making the film scarier than expected.

But I wasn’t blown away with the remake.

The dialogue and characters of the original still holds up (even if Kevin Bacon’s haircut doesn’t).  Here, the focus is more on the medical compared to the original which was more philosophical, the students with a genuine interest in the afterlife.

Making Flatliners (2017) intriguing but nowhere near as good as the original.

Mother!

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MA 15+Mother!

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

Produced by: Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin, Ari Handel

Written by: Darren Aronofsky

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer.

Like an introvert’s worst nightmare, Mother! invades the personal space of wife/mother (Jennifer Lawrence) sharing an isolated house with her writer husband/Him (Javier Bardem), who disregards her safety and security, allowing strangers (man/woman (Ed Harris/Michelle
Pfeiffer)) into their home.

From the beginning of the film, there’s mystery surrounding the couple.  Living in the family home of Him that was once destroyed by fire – his wife rebuilds as he struggles to write

The house itself is shown as a living entity that absorbs the emotions of mother, as her world is slowly destroyed.

But the film goes deeper than mere loss of control – there’s religious overtones and narcissism, heart-break, sickness and the sense that the entire world has gone crazy, adding to her loss and further annihilation as her husband steps away to come back only to step away again.

Writing and directing, Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan (2010), Noah (2014), Requiem for a Dream (2000)) has given us something surreal where certain elements will illuminate to some whereas other threads will resonate with others.Mother!

It’s a complicated storyline and I think the success lies with Aronofsky writing and directing.  In comparison, the script of the hugely successful, Black Swan was far more straightforward, his direction adding that otherworldly thread, yet, here he’s been given control over his own writing, allowing a further exploration into the surreal.

Strong performances from the cast allow Aronofsky to delve deep into the strange as the characters are believable: a husband seeming to love and understand, yet, still allowing the nightmare to happen translated through the performances of Lawrence and Bardem.

The subtleties of the male and female need to give and take shift between the husband and wife as priority is given to the strangers invading the house to satisfy the dark and twisted desire of Him.Mother!

Mother! is unique and disturbing and thought-provoking and surprisingly insightful into the female psyche.  The want to be alone with a partner and not having to share the sacred space is just one of the themes that struck a chord.

Psychological horrors/mysteries don’t always satisfy the audience with a conclusion. Yet, I felt Mother! gave some sort of ending, tying off most of the loose pieces.

Through all that strangeness and confrontation where the audience is taken through the increasing nightmare of mother’s existence, the story manages to come full circle.

So, although not an enjoyable experience I found the film successfully scratched at the surface of our existence.

I’m glad I watched the film as it was certainly worth seeing, once.  You have to see Mother! to believe the bizarre nature of the film.  But not an experience I’ll repeat.

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IT

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MA 15+IT

Directed by: Andrés Muschietti

Produced by: Dan Lin, Roy Lee, Seth Grahame-Smith, David Katsenberg and Barbara Muschietti.

Screenplay: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman

Based on the novel by: Stephen King

Starring: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer and Nicholas Hamilton.

Something sinister is going on in the small town of Derry.

Kids are going missing.  Too many kids.

The story begins with Bill Denbrough’s (Jackson Robert Scott) little brother disappearing – first Georgie, then lots of kids.  Sometimes a chewed-off arm is found, most of the time they’re just gone.

IT follows a gang of outsiders self-named, The Losers’ Club, losers because what they have in common is they’re all bullied by, The Bowers Gang.

We all know how cruel kids can be, but Henry Bower and his cronies are the type who start off torturing animals to graduate to full-blown psychopaths.IT

Bill is haunted by his missing little brother, so the summer after Georgie goes missing, The Losers’ Club band together to try to find out why all the kids of Derry are disappearing.

The quest becomes a waking nightmare as the gang follow an ancient horror down the sewers to find a monster literally feeding off the fear of children: Pennywise, the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård).

IT (2017) is the second film translating Stephen King’s novel of the same name from page to screen.

I was terrified when I watched the original, IT (1990), back in the early nineties.  But after a re-watch, I took the horror-thriller off my recommended list as the film didn’t date well; the idea still there but the effects contrived and no longer believable.IT

The film here, directed by Andrés Muschietti (Mama (2013)) is a faithful adaptation, once again, holding onto the ideals from the novel – the perspective from that awkward in-between age of childhood to coming to grips with adolescence and all that goes with it: puberty, love, outgrowing parents, and trying to figure out right from wrong while dealing with the cruelty that is other people when you’re an outsider.

There’s a warm honesty to King’s writing, particularly when from the perspective of kids, hence the horror of being right there with them when battling the monsters.  And the casting translated that authenticity well (hats off to, Rich Delia, the casting director).

My favourite parts of the film were the coming together of The Losers’ club: motor-mouth Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhand), the hypochondriac, Eddie Kospbrak (Jack Dylan), Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis), the girl of the group and the bravest of the them all, the loner book-worm Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor), the African American home-schooled out-of-towner, Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs) and OCD Stanley Uris (Wyatt Oleff) – all courageous in their own way.  And the humour and chemistry of the gang was a genuine pleasure to watch.

The foundation of the story was watching the kids fight the terror of their own nightmares embodied in the clown that is Pennywise.  And here the story was successful.

The horrors that come, and there are many, are unique and surprisingly different to the first adaptation.

This is not a replica.IT

Unlike the novel (and original film), where the beginning of the story is set in the 1950s, IT (2017) begins in the 80s, giving that, Stranger Things (2016) vibe with the 80s outfits and soundtrack revolving around the comradery of outsiders coming together as a gang to battle something other-worldly.

But l wasn’t as absorbed and therefore as scared during the confrontations with Pennywise, as it felt like a succession of scary bits rather than a slow build of fear.

Pennywise became more present as the film progressed, with some clever inclusions into the day-to-day, but it’s just so difficult to translate that subtle Stephen King-esq creeping feeling…

What I found more scary was the psychopathic people – the bullies and the adults in the film who were just, wrong.

I felt the scary Pennywise bits could have been paced differently, perhaps less being more.

But overall, a quality horror-thriller with good bones – looking forward to what’s next, from The Well…

Annabelle: Creation

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: David F. SandbergAnnabelle: Creation

Produced by: Peter Safran, James Wan

Screenplay: Gary Dauberman

Starring: Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Lulu Wilson, Philippa Coulthard, Grace Fulton, Lou Lou Safran, Samara Lee, Tayler Buck, Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto.

Coming out of the cinema whistling, You are my Sunshine, after watching a horror movie may sound sinister, but there was a tongue-in-cheek, wry streak to, Annabelle: Creation.

Set in what looks like the 1930s, Samuel Mullins, a dollmaker (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife, Esther (Miranda Otto) live an idyllic life in the countryside with their daughter Bee (Samara Lee), short for Annabelle.

Then tragedy strikes and Bee is taken from them.

Years later, time has taken its toll on the dollmaker and his wife, but they decide to make their home into an orphanage where several young girls and Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) come to live with them, to bring some happiness back into the household.

It only takes one night for the daemonic Being inhabiting a life-sized doll to make its presence known.  And slowly, the creation of Annabelle, the possessed, is revealed.

Annabelle: Creation

Producers, Peter Safran and James Wan, who brought, The Conjuring series have partnered up once again for, Annabelle: Creation.

Directing is David F. Sandberg (Lights Out (2016)) from a screenplay written by Gary Dauberman who also wrote the first, Annabelle.

Happily, for fans of, The Conjuring, there are threads tying pieces of the films together and the linking of, Creation to the original, Annabelle is seamless.

New to the franchise is the cast with, Anthony LaPaglia as the foreboding husband and, Miranda Otto as the wife.

I can’t decide whether I like Lulu Wilson as Linda who also had a starring role in the recent, Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016).  I liked her better here, with  direction highlighting her, too-good-it’s-creepy personality adding to that wry flavour.

There’s a fine line between comedy and horror.  You don’t want the audience laughing at the movie, you want the audience to laugh with the movie and at some points of the film, particularly with Linda on scene, it was a close call.Annabelle: Creation

But as the film progressed and the ramping of tension increased with Sandberg once again making use of light and darkness and classic devices such as super-freaky scarecrows and sheets over the, ‘not there’, I was happy for a bit of comic relief from young Linda.

But I have to admit I wanted the film to be scarier.

I felt there was a lighter touch here, compared to say, the recent, The Conjuring 2 (2016) (which I gave 4.5/5) as there wasn’t enough reason for the daemonic Being inhabiting the doll to attack some and not others.

Strengthening the backstory would have added so much more.

Sure, keep the mystery but showing more would have added to the fear – it can’t be just because one person is more physically weak than the others, right?

Not the super-scare factor I was hoping for, but there were a few jumps and tense moments with effective use of the soundtrack; and linking to the original, Annabelle and, The Conjuring series will satisfy fans.

It Comes At Night

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Trey Edward ShultsIt Comes At Night

Screenplay: Trey Edward Shults

Cinematography: Drew Daniels

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr and Riley Keogh.

A post-apocalyptic, psychological survival film that digs at those paranoid fears of sickness and who’s going to die next.

It Comes At Night is a quiet film.

It’s all about the suspense, the weight given to silence, misunderstanding and fear.  In the end of days, you can only trust family.

When a stranger (feature film debut for Christopher Abbott) breaks into the isolated home of Paul (Joel Edgerton), Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their teenage son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr), the story of sickness that’s infested the population slowly unfolds.

Don’t expect a flashy, blood-soaked horror, this film’s about the suspense and fear of who to trust and if that trust is the best way to survive.It Comes At Night

Clever devises are used by cinematographer, Drew Daniels who also worked with director Trey Edward Shults previously in the film, Krisha (2014).

The careful pacing and detail shown to the audience is testament to Shults not only writing the story but directing, taking complete control over the unfolding of a mystery so the film’s not about the plague but about the fear of contracting the sickness.

That’s what I liked about the film.  The desperation was held at bay by people you can relate to.  Not losing it.  Just trying to keep it together only to fall apart at a misunderstanding or a bad dream, and the undeniable knowledge of what desperation can breed.

Instead of sickness and madness, it’s the fear that becomes contagious shown by the wearing of gas masks and the feeling of isolation by depicting a stencilled jagged branch against an overcast sky.It Comes At Night

And the story felt authentic.  The audience shown just enough to believe the reality of being isolated during an event unknown, but known enough to be feared.  Like we’re trapped in the forest with the family.  Wondering at the barking of a dog at persons unseen and a locked red door mysteriously opened.

Each character had their part to play and solid performances were given by the entire cast.  The tension between Travis and Kim, the young mother and wife of the invading stranger and only viable female for the teenager, shown brilliantly through a twitch of an eyebrow and the nervous clenching of a jaw all used to show what cannot be said.  Each subtle gesture used to tell the story.

It Comes at Night isn’t a thriller, Shults uses the psychology of fear instead of blood and guts for this unique horror, and I couldn’t help being absorbed by the suspense.