GoMovieReviews Rating:


Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Writer: M. Night Shyamalan

Producer: M. Night Shyamalan, Jason Blum, Marc Bienstock

Executive Producer: Steven Schneider, Ashwin Rajan, Kevin Frakes

Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula

Director and writer M. Night Shyamalan (Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000), The Visit (2015)) is back with his unique, sometimes tongue-in-cheek style of horror thriller, this time featuring Kevin (James McAvoy): a man suffering (or is he suffering?) from DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder).

After the kidnapping of three young girls, the audience is given a taste of the 23 different personalities inhabiting Kevin’s body.

Shyamalan together with clever camera angles (from cinematographer Mike Gioulakis) use the change in personality to amp up the horror the kidnapped girls experience when they realise their captor is using completely different voices to have a conversation, with himself.

It’s Kevin’s psychiatrist, Dr. Karen Feltcher (Betty Buckley) who speculates whether DID caused through trauma is a weakness or a strength.  And whether the Split is a way of tapping into the plasticity of the brain, creating pathways into parts unknown.

An interesting premise and the main thrust of the film.


Shyamalan really takes the idea of tapping into the power of the mind as far as he can. The result being a thought-provoking horror with a bit of dark humour thrown in the mix.

Thankfully, the few snorts of laughter I had were meant to be provoked, but jeez, there’s a real push of that suspension of belief, the suspension achieved through the believable and truly phenomenal performance of James McAvoy as all those differing personalities.

McAvoy’s great at those parts that require equal measures of
nice guy versus evil.  I kept thinking back to the character from the film: Trance (2013), another thriller that delves into the mind.

And Anya Taylor-Joy was well-cast as the, well, out-cast, Casey Cook.  Anya looks different here, compared to her unforgettable performance in, The Witch (2015), but you can’t miss those sanpaku eyes…

I think people will either swallow the story and enjoy the film, or they won’t.  There’s certainly a unique flavour here.

I liked the exploration into the realm of neuroscience, the idea that thought and belief can change the organic.  To make imagination into reality.  And I enjoyed the interaction between the personalities of Kevin and Dr. Karen Feltcher, the sessions giving much needed authenticity through the grounding dialogue.

However, I found myself wanting to get sucked in then jolted out of the film with that weird sense of humour that’s all Shyamalan.

SPLIT is something different to watch, that reaches for those edges. And if you don’t mind a bit of weird you’ll be rewarded with a unique story well executed.

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Ouija: Origin of Evil

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MOuija: Origin of Evil

Director: Mike Flanagan

Writers: Mike Flanagan; Jeff Howard

Starring: Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Annalise Basso, Henry Thomas; Parker Mack.

Feeling weary after a heavy day, I wondered if it was the right night to watch Ouija: Origin of Evil.  But, what the hey, I thought I’d perk up once I got there, then I’d get into it…  The start would get me there… Or maybe, by the end…  I guess you can see where this is going – there was no perking up!

Sure, Doris Zander (Lulu Wilson), the possessed little girl, was scary; all freaky-eyed and way too enthusiastic about all things occult.  There just wasn’t enough of a hook.

I liked the 60s style of the clothes and the house of the Zander family, the style somehow adding an authentic flavour.  The characters were all believable and the story was decent.  And that’s what the film was, decent.  There was no zing for me.  The story felt like a formula which reminded me of other films but without the punch because I could see what was coming:

A story of a fortune teller selling closure to people who’ve lost someone.  The fact that Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser), the widowed mother of 2 girls, was a sham doesn’t matter.  It’s all about looking after her daughters, Doris (Lulu Wilson) and Lina (Annalise Basso) while feeling like she’s helping others, even though she’s making money out of grief.

It didn’t ring true to me, the idea of Alice sending her kids to a Catholic school and the priest, Father Tom, being ever so obliging to someone working in the occult.  The religious aspect didn’t quite fit.

Playing with a Ouija board isn’t a new horror narrative, and Origin of Evil had a fresh feel; the look of the film itself depicting the ‘cigarette burn’ in the corner of the picture on screen, my thinking, on purpose and timely, making the 60s setting more authentic.  And the transformation of the little girl, Doris, was sophisticated in the reveal of possession.

But I felt there was a holding back.  Not that I want gore or to be disgusted.  I prefer a suspenseful horror.  I just wasn’t shocked or surprised.

I’m always looking for that ultimate horror thriller that gets past the seeing, past the eyeball and burrows its way into the brain, to the place of imagination, and Origin of Evil didn’t do that for me.

There was a quality of execution and I believed all the characters, but the scare factor that gets under the skin just wasn’t there.

Blair Witch

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA+Blair Witch

Directed by: Adam Wingard

Written by: Simon Barrett

Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson; Valorie Curry.

The creators of the original film, The Blair Witch Project (1999), and now executive producers of Blair Witch, Myrick, Sanchez and Hale wanted the sequel to be true to the 18th century myth of Elly Kedward – the woman accused by the children of Blair of being a witch.

Left to die of exposure in the woods of Maryland, Elly disappears without a trace. When the people of the town begin to disappear, starting with the children who made the accusation, the killing, the missing, the myth of the Blair Witch begins.

No-one can accuse director Adam Wingard (You’re Next, V/H/S and V/H/S2) and writer Simon Barrett (once again collaborating with Wingard on their 9th feature film, including V/H/S and V/H/S/2) of wavering from the original concept. Blair Witch, like the original Blair Witch Project, is also made up of video and images from the found footage of missing documentary makers.

James (James Allen McCune) is the brother of Heather, who is one of the three characters who go missing in the original. Heading back to the Black Hills Forest, James sets off with his good friends and documentors, Lisa (Callie Hernandez), Ashley (Corbin Reid) and Peter (Brandon Scott) to try to find his sister.

Does James really believe that his sister is still alive? This question amongst many other red herrings go unanswered.

Yes, there are some very weird happenings, but the characters don’t seem to notice or question. To the point where the only explanation could be characters in shock.  There’s definite skimming over some scary moments that could have evoked real terror with greater exploration.

It’s difficult to review Blair Witch without comparison to the original. It’s also another ‘lost in the woods’ scenario where the darkness, rain and the weird noises of the woods seem determined to make the search for James’ sister difficult.

A noted difference is the addition of two locals, Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry, who you’ll recognize from The Following) giving the film another dimension. I was never sure what they were going to do. And in this respect the tension was allowed space to develop.

The quality of the camera work is far better and easier to watch here.

But I felt there was a lack of imagination, a lost opportunity to really ramp up the terror by giving meaning to the scary bits rather than just the shock factor: the terror didn’t resonate.

The original had the benefit of surprise as the concept of basing a film on ‘found footage’ hadn’t been done before. Here, I was expecting more of the myth so was disappointed as the scary bits weren’t enough.

Honestly, the 2nd Blair Witch, Book of Shadows (2000), had a better story-line.

For those who haven’t seen the original, Blair Witch could easily be watched without need of introduction. And the house was scary and the camera work was well done.

But I think this was a superficial scare with a lost opportunity to really ramp up the depth of terror.

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Lights Out

GoMovieReviews Rating:


Directed By: David SandbergLights Out

Screenplay: Eric Heisserer

Based on a Short Film by: David F. Sandberg

Cast: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Alexander DiPersia, Billy Burke, Maria Bello, Alicia Vela-Bailey, Andi Osho, Rolando Boyce; Maria Russell.

Although a sometimes tense horror-thriller, Lights Out felt lightweight.

This is a difficult story to tell and I don’t want to give too much away.  Suffice to say Rebecca’s (Teresa Palmer) mum’s (Maria Bello) having a meltdown and she’s scared her kid brother’s (Gabriel Bateman) in trouble.  Like she was at his age.  When she was being haunted by her mum’s imaginary friend, Dianne.

Director David Sandberg (who also created the short film) puts effort into the atmosphere of Lights Out.  The soundtrack is a creepy backdrop to the shadows and glowing eyes of the creature that is Dianne.  And the screenplay itself is well-thought with a backstory of how Dianne became.

The missing element to the film was the lack of depth of character.

Rebecca, the rebellious daughter and protagonist of the film was dismissive and her boyfriend, the ever faithful Bret (Alexander DiPersia) was frankly, too nice to believe.  Not to sound bitter but do guys like Bret actually exist?

Martin, the kid brother, was a bit strained; the mother, Sophie the only really believable character.

I love a good horror, and there were definite tense moments.  I jumped at least once.

Clever devices were used: plastic sheeting covering the bodies of plastic, life-sized models is creepy.  And tapping into the deep-seated fear of being scared of the dark was well shown with the character of Dianne conversely being scared of the light.  But because the other characters weren’t believable, it became difficult to hold the suspension of reality concerning Dianne.

The film was missing that heavy weight, the surprise I’m coming to expect from modern horror directors such as James Wan (note here he was the producer not the director for Lights Out).

Better than your average trashy horror but I’d say Lights Out was directed at a younger audience.

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The Conjuring 2

GoMovieReviews Rating:


Directed by: James WanThe Conjuring 2

Writers of Screenplay: Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, James Wan and David Leslie Johnson

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Francis O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Simon McBurney and Franka Potente.

Similar to the original (The Conjuring (2013)), Paranormal Investigators, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren reflect on a past case (those of you familiar with The Amityville Horror (2005) will understand the need to reflect) and worry about their future in a world that’s quite literally hell on earth.

With a call from the Catholic Church to investigate a haunting of the Hodgson Family in Enfield England, Lorrain’s premonition of Ed’s death could put her fear of the future firmly in the present reality.

Director James Wan (also director of the original ‘Conjuring’ and a favourite of mine, Insidious (2010)) uses a vision filled with archetypes to bring demons to life.  Bringing old fears into a new world by combining a great narrative with a perfectly matched soundtrack (Joseph Bishara) to keep the audience on the edge of their seat; keeping the story and characters held in suspense and letting beings not of this world to enter.

There’s a flavour to the Wan films – a true talent who creates horror without gore.

The story taps into a deep-seated fear of archaic evil our grandparents were scarred of and their grandparents before them.  This is biblical.  To the extent that 20% of the audience left a quarter of the way through the movie because they were too scared (I’m not kidding!).  So be warned, this is a pretty scary movie – but seriously people, if you’re scared you always have to watch to the end, otherwise you’re just left hanging…  Anyway…

Joseph Bishara was also the composer of the film Insidious, the success of both The Conjuring 2 and Insidious lying largely with the suspense created by the creepy soundtrack.

Wan is genius in his use of not only the soundtrack, but also the trickery of shadows, slips in time, old toys; a focus on the eyes or a terrifying portrait brought to life.  Seemingly simple devises, but used so well.

And the two characters that make the couple, The Warrens, are likeable.  The audience is with them, all the way, all through the terrors.

There’s a journey here.  An invitation to take hold of a hand  – a, Gotcha, then I’ll let you go a bit… then, I gotcha againThis time, I gotcha good.

James Wan is creating his own brand of horror thriller, and I’m very much enjoying the show.

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The Witch: A New-England Folktale

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director and Writer: Robert EggersThe Witch: A New-England Folktale

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson; Bathsheba Garrett.

A serious film that picks at the heart of our psyche – being part of the social group versus apart and left in isolation, waiting for the devil in the woods.

In the 17th century, being cast out meant the threat of starvation, lack of others outside the family for partners and left at the mercy of the elements.  A time for belief in God.  But not in the winter time.  The creaking of the pine trees speak of winter.  The witches are the only ones who can survive in the forest.

The Witch is an authentic film pulling the audience back to times where evil is present because life is just as cruel.

I can understand the worship of nature where the power is unknown.  God is the only amulet against the power of the forest.  But when God was most exalted and prayed upon, He was most absent.

To control the nature of man equals control of the elements.  It’s a cruel concept.  And depicted so well in this film.

A failed crop would equate the man failing to provide through lack of work or lack of faith.  The enslavement of women to the care of children, to clean and cook.  If the woman rebelled it was because she was faithless.  And you can imagine the temptation to run off naked into the forest to become a witch.  But this film depicted the true horror of witchcraft.  The taking and killing of babies to make lotions, to make them young; to be able to fly.

It was subtle, how Director and Writer Robert Eggers showed the disintegration of this family.  The Sanpaku eyes, where the white part of the eye is visible under the iris representing approaching danger; the attraction of accidents and violence – The ignorance of the skill of dogs sensing danger.  And the soundtrack was used well to keep the film moving forward.

However, I admit, I was bored at times.

I can understand why Robert Eggers won the Sundance directing award for this movie.  And I want to give full credit, but I can’t because it was just such a dry film.  Deep but dry.

Worth a watch with the concept handled well until the frightening conclusion.

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

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Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesScreenplay and Directed by: Burr Steers

Based on: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by, Jane Austin and Seth Grahame- Smith

Starring: Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Bella Heathcote Douglas Booth, Matt Smith, Charles Dance; Lena Headey.

Not just another Zombie movie.

With lacy knickers and knives sheathed in garters, I really thought I was in for some trash with this one. But I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

Without being overdone, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is funny for the right reasons: a playful parody that manages to portray a successful story-line about the undead (AKA zombies) running rampart in 19th century England.

Based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), the undead have infected the population and the ladies have been taught martial arts and weaponry in order to save themselves from joining their ranks. This is where period costuming meets martial arts.

With the focus on the Bennets’ daughters, the mother (Sandy Phillips) is determined to marry her daughters off to the richest men available.

There’s dancing at balls and wine being drunk; eye patches (for function not fashion), and all the skullduggery of finding love. But the story went further than the visual sensors and added a few more layers to the characters, and more meat (ha, ha) to the story. This was more about the Jane Austin 19th century sensibilities than the gore of yet another mindless Zombie movie. And this made for a better story-line.

There is much wit and humour sprinkled with occasional change in camera view: a hand reaching for a strangle hold or the rotting flesh of a zombie’s face.

The acting and dialogue was yes, once again, surprisingly good. The budding romance between Mr Darcy (Sam Riley) and Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) was believable and rather sweet.

What I liked most about the film was the humour from Mr Collins (Matt Smith), making the most of the parody of English dignified politeness amongst the chaos of the walking dead, liable to walk in any moment, ‘But pass the scones’, in the mean-time, ‘With a nice cup of tea’.

Being such a silly convention, I don’t think anyone is expecting a life-altering experience here, but there’s some quality work and thought put into the story and the telling of the story: the soundtrack (Fernando Valázquez) adding to the cheek; the camera work (Remi Adefarasin) adding a new perspective.  And I was happy to be in the audience to enjoy the success.