The Killing of a Sacred Deer

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA 15+The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos

Written By: Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou

Produced by: Ed Guiney, Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone, Bill Cam.

Director and co-writer of, The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos, has returned with another psyco-drama, medical mystery, that revolves around Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell), a cardiac surgeon and his family including his ophthalmologist wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman) and son Bob (Sunny Suljic) and daughter (Raffey Cassidy): a seemingly happy family.

They lead a controlled, perfected and always logical expression of everyday life.

Until Steven’s friendship with young Martin (Barry Keoghan), a fatherless 16-year-old who’s expressed interest in becoming doctor, becomes increasingly sinister leading to Steven having to make an impossible choice.

It’s only in crisis any individual of the family shows any emotion.

And this constant calm while faced with the truly bizarre sets the tone of the film.

The nature of Martin matches the sociopathic behaviour of the family, husband Steven taking Martin under his wing, to befriend and become one with his family.The Killing of a Sacred Deer

The scene of Martin getting to know the children highlights the strange nature of the characters in this story, making the impossibility of unexplained sickness believable.

Showing surgeons talking about the mundane after facing the confronting task of heart surgery is a picture of a surgeon’s normal day.  But as the film progresses, so does this response – like the bizarre is the mundane: the camera work focussing in, slowly down that narrow hospital corridor, to MRI scans and lumber puncture’s, so real and awful but what happens to many, many times in a hospital setting.

To pan away from Martin, standing in a car park, to daughter, Kim, waving from the hospital window.  Like the normal is on the outside looking in through a window to the inexplicable.  Like the world has been disturbed, inverting Martin’s absurd world onto the focus of his revenge.The Killing of a Sacred Deer

It’s a strange story but shown well with the hint of the disconcerting given with the opening clang of rising clash of the soundtrack.

And there’s some heavy weights in the cast with Colin Farrell (after featuring in, The Lobster) returning in his role as Steven, and Nicole Kidman as his wife.  Nicole’s performance was exceptional as Anna, being able to express a probing puzzlement and shock, looking for explanation for why her children are becoming sick, all in a look from an obviously intelligent mind.

And yes, the story works.

But it’s just such a heavy, absurd story.

This film took me to dark places, so much so, I was reminded of an article I recently read entitled, ‘The Dark Side of Doctoring’ – posted by an ENT, Head and Neck Surgeon, discussing the depression and suicide of doctors when they experience loss of control, support and meaning because of their career.

I like dark humour, but most of the time I found, The Killing of a Sacred Deer troubling.

Unlike, The Lobster, that allowed moments of lightness – dancing and love (of sorts), there was an unrelenting here that waved more into the dark.

I’m still frowning in wonderment.

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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The Wall

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Directed and Produced by: Doug LimanThe Wall

Written by: Dwain Worrell

Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena.

A taunt psychological thriller set in 2007 when President George Bush declared the War in Iraq over.

Rebuilding the country, contractors are brought in to build pipelines across the desert.

After been radioed for assistance, two soldiers, Sergeant Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) an Army Ranger who serves as a spotter to Sergeant Matthews (John Cena), lie amongst the rocks, camouflaged, waiting for movement.  All they see on the dusty ground is the bodies of dead contractors, all head shots, and one marine holding a radio in his dead hand.

All is quiet, yet they wait, watching, trying to figure out the story behind the dead and if there’s still a threat.

As the story unfolds, so do the men as they’re stripped, piece-by-piece by the faceless, hidden sniper who pins Sergeant Isaac behind a crumbling wall, to then speak into his earpiece, to burrow like a worm into his mind.

Although, The Wall is about soldiers, this isn’t a movie about war, this is suspense created through stretches of quiet: a patient relentless waiting of a killer who plays with his intended kill like a cat with a mouse.

The soundtrack is the wind whistling through the bricks and the distant clap of metal sheeting and the crackle of voice; of men fighting and hiding behind words.

Director, Doug Liman (Mr & Mrs Smith, The Bourne Identity) has taken a solid script from first-time screenwriter Dwain Worrell and made a low budget film into a simple yet very effective suspense thriller.

Dwain Worrell researched the daily life of soldiers extensively, including PTSD.  Creating a story of strangers murdering each other.  About legendary Iraqi snipers creating a paranoia that comes to life.

The Wall

Adam Taylor wrote an article in, The Washington Post, in January 2015: “There were similar legends of Iraqi insurgent snipers.  Probably the most famous was that of ‘Juba’, a sniper with the Sunni insurgent group Islamic Army in Iraq, whose exploits were touted in several videos released between 2005 and 2007.  Some attributed scores, even hundreds, of kills to the sniper, and accounts from the time suggest he got deep under U. S. troop’s skins.”

The idea of psychological torture reminded me of the original, Saw film (2004), similar in that the characters are trapped and tormented through the words of a faceless enemy.  And dang it, after the film finished and I was walking out of the cinema, I overheard another critic saying they had the same feel as the, Saw Franchise, because that feeling of being trapped is there.  Yet, The Wall is more about the suspense then the gore.  Giving a glimpse into those suffering from PTSD: the tense waiting for the bad to happen, the waiting being the torture.

A seemingly simple film: two characters, one wall set over the course of one day.  Yet, The Wall was a thoroughly absorbing story handled by the sure hand of smart director.

If you like your suspense, this is a well-paced journey with a well-thought ending.  Much better than expected.

The Beguiled

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Written for the Screen and Directed by: Sofia CoppolaThe Beguiled

Based on the Novel by: Thomas Cullinan

and the Screenplay by: Albert Maltz and Grimes Grice

Produced by: Youree Henley, Sofia Coppola

Music by: Phoenix based on Moteverdi’s ‘Magnificat’

Director of Photography: Philippe Le Sourd, AFC

Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Addison Riecke and Emma Howard.

The Beguiled is set in 1864, three years into the American Civil War.  Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman), Edwina (Kirsten Dunst), Alicia (Elle Fanning) and four younger girls remain cloistered like nuns behind imposing wrought iron fencing that encloses the Southern girls’ boarding house, where Miss Martha and Edwina used to teach.

Three years is a long time for women to be hidden away, following a daily routine of sewing, lessons and the half-hearted attempt to control the Southern jungle threatening to overgrow the old plantation house and all those in it, like the wild vines, mosquitoes and mist represent the wild nature of the women, barely held in check by their day-to-day routine.

When Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell), a Union soldier, is found injured amongst the old cyprus and oak trees, he’s brought back to the well-ordered school-house where he’s nursed back to health.  The presence of a man in the house after so many years changes the atmosphere, creating tension.

Canons explode in the distance and the heat continues but the insects don’t seem to be noticed as much when there’s a man in the house.  A charming man who’s able to relate to all the women, each of them special from the strong Miss Martha to the quiet yet beautiful Edwina, the bored and precocious Alicia, to the innocence of the younger girls.  Corporal McBurney charms them all.  The Irishman believing himself to be truly lucky to have such attention, not knowing the danger of a lonely woman’s heart.

And like good milk left out in the heat turns sour, the women’s hold on normal life slowly twists into something dark and cold.


The Beguiled

Director Sofia Coppola knows how to show the danger of love turned bad.  She’s adapted the original film, staring Clint Eastwood as a man trapped by the women he conned into loving him, and turned the story to the point-of-view of the women.

The cast is so important in this story as the film is all about the behaviour and interaction between the women when a man enters their isolated world.  And Coppola has returned with an imposing cast with Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning who worked with Sofia previously.  You can see the actors are comfortable here and insight into the character is given by each solid performance.  Nicole Kidman was made for her character, Miss Martha.

Did I like the film?

The Beguiled is a quiet film, kept simple with minimal dressing.  Needing a quiet audience, it took me a while to get absorbed into the story.

The southern climate and setting of the beautiful old plantation house were the highlight for me. All recorded on film (with the older aspect ratio of 1:66/I) to show rays of sunshine through mist and the romance of candle light glowing in this isolated house like a glass eye.  The setting enveloping the audience only to turn a blind eye to the happenings behind closed doors.

The backdrop needed to be simple to show the complicated nuances between the characters because the film is all about the subtle and not-so-subtle behaviour of women around a man – the instinct hard to deny and always simmering under the politeness of society.

But where is society during war?  What society is there for bored, isolated, Christian, red-blooded women?

Sofia Coppola says she made the film with, Misery (1990), based on the novel written by Stephen King, in mind and there is that element of the horror of being trapped because of love and obsession.

But, The Beguiled is more subtle, showing how a woman can turn when in competition for a man’s attention, that shift demonstrated well here with skilled performances from a cast well-handled by a careful director.

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.

Before I Fall

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Ry Russo-YoungBefore I fall

Producers: Marc Bienstock, Brett Boutier, Jessica Held

Written By: Maria Maggenti (screenplay)

Based on the novel by: Lauren Oliver

Starring: ZoeyDeutch, Halston Sage, ElenaKampouris

As a reviewer, this film was a rollercoaster of sorts.

The outline excited me at first, a teen who relives her last day on Earth, as it brought to mind philosophical questions. Although, I must also admit that I struggled as I endured the teenager’s squeaking while the story built up. Luckily for me, my companion, someone who had read Lauren Oliver’s young adult novel (that the film is based on), reassured me to stay in my seat.

So I did. And I was pleasantly surprised.

Structure-wise, the film has a similar motion to Groundhog Day, where Zoey Deutch’s character (Sam) wakes up to the same day over and over until she figures out the only way to escape is to change.Before I Fall

Behind the scenes, every single person involved in this project was set to rehearse and explore their characters in depth, which transcends onto the screen.

Russo-Young did this early in the process, and was thorough in doing so, providing more texture in characters such as Kian Lawley’s (Rob), Sam’s boyfriend, who becomes more than just a highschool cliché.

RyYoung-Ross, the director, spoke about the changes made in the film, in particular the re-setting of the location from Connecticut in the novel to the Pacific Northwest in the film.

In her own words: ‘Setting the story in the Northwest gave a sense of awe to all the locations: big mountains, big trees, and a dark and foreboding landscape where people are small and dwarfed by the natural landscape, which reinforce aspects of the story for me. It suited the material well.’

As a viewer I cannot agree more with the above, there was something about the dramatic setting that really captured Sam’s struggle between life and death.Before I Fall

Ry Russo-Younghas received accolades from the New York State Council on the Arts, the TriBeCa Film Institute, the LEF Foundation, the Sundance Institute and Creative Capital. She majored in film at Oberlin College and grew up in New York City. Her work has been praised by The Wall Street Journal, Variety, Vanity Fair and The New York Times, among others.

As a post-release review, I would lie if I said I haven’t read what others had to say about this film before I set to write my own thoughts about it. And to tell you the truth, I was genuinely surprised to find mostly reflections on the bullying themes as well as other teen related behaviours that are portrayed in the film.

And there is nothing wrong about that. But, in my humble opinion, this film was much more than that. It is a tale about the search for identity and authenticity, of empathy and acceptance, and ultimately of the courage it takes to do the right thing by yourself as well as others.

Sam’s post-mortem journey is a powerful story that leaves you pondering about your own existence. It is a book that, I have been told, was in the Australian school curriculum a few years ago and I hope still is for the sake of the coming generations.