Truth Or Dare

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MTruth Or Dare

Directed by: Jeff Wadlow

Screenplay by: Michael Reisz and Jillian Jacobs & Chris Roach & Jeff Wadlow

Story by: Michael Reisz

Produced by: Jason Blum

Starring: Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Sam Lerner, Hayden Szeto, Landon Liboiron, Sophia Taylor Ali, Nolan Gerard.

Like the college students who thought it was a good idea to go to Mexico, party-on and pick up a stranger (Carter (Landon Liboiron)), to follow said stranger out to the middle of nowhere to an abandoned convent to play, Truth or Dare – I’m sure the premise of making a movie based on a deadly version of Truth or Dare seemed like a good idea.

But the story just did not hold up.

There was some shocking horror in the film – as one-by-one the group of friends who seemed like they’d be friends-for-eva were forced to play the game, or die: coupled-up Penelope (Sophia Taylor Ali) and Funk (Nolan Gerard) the beauty and the doctor (AKA the alcoholic and the drug dealer), Ronnie (Sam Lerner) the duffus who was the only genuinely funny one out of the them all; super cute lover-boy, Lucas (Tyler Posey) and girlfriend Markie (Violett Beane) forming a love triangle with best buddy and main character, Olivia (Lucy Hale), destined to be the beard of gay buddy Brad (Hayden Szeto): it’s a classic teen formula of kids on vacation that goes horrifically wrong; I hate to say it, reminding me of the Final Destination franchise.  The bad late ones.

The idea of a trickster demon, Callux, possessing the players making them play either Truth or Dare and digging under the belly to secrets and hidden humiliations of the kids should have been interesting, but I lost interest because the characters seemed soft: the lead-up to each character forced to take their turn weak because the dialogue didn’t stand up so the actions weren’t believable.

With new horror films pushing the boundaries of the genre, Truth Or Dare felt like a repeat of what’s been done before, even a backward step because previous releases like Scream or Final Destination felt fresh.

Sure, the idea of Truth or Dare was new, but there was too much going on to make the most of the idea – and the many complications of the many relationships felt superficial ‘til in the end, it was hard to believe any of it:

‘You’re such an idiot.’

‘What can I say, you do that to me.’

It was a push to get to the end.  And watching, you could feel the drifting.

Cut the whole story in half, spending more time on half the characters would have made a better film as there was good material and good ideas but truthfully, in the end, you couldn’t dare me to believe – wow, see how bad?!

I would have thought killing off annoying college students would have been more fun – it wasn’t.

Insidious: The Last Key

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MInsidious: The Final Key

Directed by: Adam Robitel

Based on Characters Created by: Leigh Whannell

Written by: Leigh Whannell

Produced by: Jason Blum, Oren Peli, James Wan

Starring: Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Kirk Acevedo, Caitlin Gerard, Spencer Locke, Josh Stewart, Tessa Ferrer, Aleque Reid, Ava Kolker, Pierce Pope, Bruce Davison, Javier Botet.

Set as a prequel to the original, Insidious: The Last Key begins with parapsychologist, Dr. Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) growing up in 1954, living in an abusive home: 413 Apple Tree Lane in Five Keys.

Elise has the gift, she was born with the gift.  And her father hates her for it.

She lives with her brother, Christian (Pierce Pope) who’s understandably afraid of the dark, and is given a silver whistle to call his mother if he ever feels scared.

But when their mother dies, Elise finally leaves home at 16, leaving her little brother and the terrors of her childhood behind, including Key Face (Javier Botet), a demon who convinced her that setting it free would bring her more light.  Key Face wants Elise to set them all free from The Further, because she’s the only one who can.

A phone call from Ted Garza (Kirk Acevedo), the current inhabitant of her childhood house, brings her back to all those bad memories.  Haunted, Ted asks for help.  And reluctantly, Elise returns with her new family, Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson): The Spectral Sightings crew.

There’s a different feel to this fourth instalment, with new director, Adam Robitel bringing a more human drama to this otherwise suspenseful, supernatural franchise.

There’s less reliance on the soundtrack, the suspense built on silence broken by footsteps on floorboards and the squeaking turn and fixing of a light bulb.  It’s a slow burn that builds into a surprisingly sinister tale.

But I had trouble with holes in the script – OK, maybe not holes.  Everything was there, but there wasn’t enough weight given to the why and backstory of Key Face.  I don’t want to give too much away, but the death of Elise’s mother felt superficial to me, not supernatural.

And her death is an important part of the film as the story relies on this essential part of the fable and the power of Key Face.

The object of the whistle gives the supernatural a touch-stone of reality.  And restraint makes the ghosts from The Further all the more believable.

So, there’s thought about the detail here which makes the glossing over the essential annoying.

Lin Shaye as Dr. Elise Rainier continues to bring authenticity to the difficult role of a parapsychologist who can commune and see ghosts.  And the humour of Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson as Specs and Tucker works in this instalment; the humour given more time to work unlike the over-editing in Chapter 3 (where Leigh Whannell was also the writer), which rendered the jokes mis-timed and inconsequential.

As producer Blum says of writer Leigh Whannell: “There is a real relationship that has evolved between the audience and the characters in the movie.  Leigh understands that what makes a good scary movie is not the scares, but what comes in between them.”

And seeing Spectural Sightings together in their van, AKA, The Winnebaghost, with Tucker sporting an impressive mullet, was a definite highlight.

Insidious: The Last Key manages to create a unique tone and story to the previous instalments.  A more adult and suspenseful drama with some good humour to break the tension with a few scares that could have been so much stronger with better understanding of the Key Man and his power.

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.

SPLIT

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MSPLIT

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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