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NB. If your IMDB ratings distribution spikes at the bottom and top ends, rather than somewhere around the middle, you're probably full of s**t.
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There are some that are worth watching. Here's a selection of them.
The Wretched (2019)
Polished but muddled
The Wretched is a lovely looking movie. Nicely acted and shot, with decent, practical special effects. I struggled with the story, which was ultimately a bit un-interesting.
Ben visits his father at a lakeside town. Some kind of demon-thing lives under a tree and has the power to cast a spell on people such that they 'forget' about the existence of loved ones around them. Paranoia sets in for Ben when neighbours are acting strangely ...
It's a well-edited mainstream pleaser but hanging off a story which doesn't add up very well. Some elements are great but it feels like another short that has prematurely evolved into a lacking feature, devoid of tension and scares.
It was well-received at FrightFest; I felt I was in the minority who didn't quite get it. If you're a fan of spooky, ghost/wraith type horror, it's entirely possible you might enjoy The Wretched. I didn't dislike it but nor did I take much away from it.
10 to Midnight (1983)
Memorable Sleazy 80's Cop Thriller
J Lee Thompson has made some pretty big movies - this not being one of them - but it's actually a pretty decent film despite the large involvement of those involved with the Golan/Globus Death Wish movies.
A highly cunning but overly egotistical serial killer is out to get the girls. Can no-nonsense cop Kessler (Bronson) put a stop to his twisted agenda ... ?
What begins as a fairly standard sleaze-thriller, evolves at a nice pace into a fairly unique but also nasty serial killer caper. Kessler's daughter (Lisa Eilbacher) is very strong in her role, around whom most of the drama takes place. Bronson is, as usual, a brutish grim reaper who (thankfully) does not occupy the centre stage for too much of this movie. Andrew Stevens is excellent as the rookie partner and Gene Davis, whilst not the greatest of actors, does bring the right "creep" ingredients to his role as the killer.
Some crazy dialogue here and there lightens the mood in what could have been a very dark film, but just about steers clear of ridiculous. My main gripe is that it could have been more graphic and bloody because the killer doesn't quite manage to feel as sinister as he should.
One of the better Bronson cop movies and more memorable than most of that era.
A brave attempt but falls short of a good remake
Remaking a movie by a guy who was talented enough to create one of the great all-time remakes is ballsy and almost bound to fail. Rabid is close to being a good remake but has too many issues for my liking.
The story: a beautiful fashion designer has a life-changing accident and is doomed to a future of ugliness, unless she undergoes an experimental operation which has unforseen side-effects for her and the city around her ...
It's a cool premise, as was with the original but the pacing is way off. It takes too long to get off the ground and then when it does, lacks focus and seems to be telling two distinct stories rather than one, whereas Cronenberg's movie has a much sharper narrative.
There are a few grisly scenes but not immensly eye-opening for something that really should have people squirming.
The lead actress is good and, on the whole, the acting is solid but let down in a few places by some support roles. The editing could be a lot slicker; some scenes just felt dragged out and irrelevant.
I think it's worth checking out if you like the original but I'd be surprised if many people hail this as a big success.
The Drone (2019)
Popcorn fun for a Friday night
It's a similar concept to that of Child's Play, except for some reason it feels completely absurd to suggest a drone could be possessed by an evil spirit and not a doll, which is arguably the wrong way round.
So, it's the old tale of bad guy gets killed and his spirit enters a drone. The drone is then found by an unsupecting couple and becomes part of their family and proceeds to mess up their lives bit by bit.
It's packed with cheesy lines and unbelievably silly moments but is in fact quite fun and also funny. It's probably more of a straight comedy than a horror or thriller so don't expect a dark movie with black humour - it's very light entertainment, with a few bloody moments but nothing too surprising.
Utterly ridiculous but at least self-aware.
Witches in the Woods (2019)
Atmospheric and traditional horror
Witches feels a whole lot like Blair WItch Project, without the 'found footage' aspect and could be seen as the semi-decent follow up that Blair Witch never truly got.
A bunch of college kids head into the mountains, to party in a cosy cabin but their journey encounters problems when they head off-road whilst taking an ill-advised short cut into some (as legend goes) haunted woods. The situation gradually turns from bad to worse and it slowly dawns on them that there is something threatening their survival more than the cold wilderness.
It's very nicely shot in the snowy mountains, which adds realism to the plight of the stranded kids, whose performances are all solid. A few scenes at its world premiere were enough to make the FrightFest audience gasp, so there's some good horror moments in it but nothing that a mainstream crowd will find too startling.
The film builds tension nicely, if a bit too slowly and I did find myself repeatedly questioning the plot turns but on the whole it held itself togther and stuck to its guns without the need for cheap CG effects and random boring jump scares - although I did jump out of my seat at one point.
Not a ground-breaker like Blair Witch but if you're a fan of that classic, as I am, there's enough genuine intention in this movie to keep it interesting.
A bold and bloody release from Blumhouse
Bloodline contains some scenes which, even as a hardened horror fan, are somewhat shocking. If you've seen Maniac (2012), then be prepared for another mainstream actor to surprise you with his dark choice of movie.
Seann William "Stiffmeister" Scott plays a cold and brooding father whose recently new born baby, and the reptitive sleepless nights, awakens his need to kill. But how long can his nocturnal activities go un-noticed by his family ... ?
The movie has strong performances throughout and a twist or two to spice up a simple plot. An exceedingly dry undercurrent of dark humour complements the violent kill sequences, not entirely unlike TV's Dexter, but never interferes with the edgy mood in this slick, dark gem.
I saw the NC-17 version at FrightFest and have heard that this version is not the one going to be screened in US theatres.
Once Upon a Time in London (2019)
Not very interesting
It took me quite a while to gather for which characters the story was meant to be concerned with. Thirty minutes in and it seemed to be coming together but never really became gripping at any point.
The acting is decent enough and is nicely filmed with authentic sets and costumes but it's just a pretty dull story about two gangsters in the London Underworld, competing for power.
Didn't feel up to the usual Simon Rumley quality. It almost feels like it might have started as a project meant for TV but was not heading in the right direction, so they cut it together as a movie. The titles certainly felt like a TV intro, rather than a movie.
Incoherent, naive, gruesome classic
City Of The Living Dead didn't impress me on my first viewing, except for the gore, which is some of the best I've ever seen on film. With subsequent viewings I've gradually warmed to this movie and will even recommend it to others.
It's basically the old tale of a priest who hangs himself and opens the gates to hell in the process which gives rise to fecal-faced zombies with the power to teleport, who just appear and squeeze your brains out or make you spew your guts up, then they vanish again. Is it too late for mankind ... ?
Not much of this movie makes a great deal of sense and there are some laugh out loud moments which dull the horrific nature of the nasty gore set pieces. The lip-sync is, as expected, all over the place and the acting pretty wooden but it has great cinematography, a memorable music score and very decent practical effects - when it actually tries to.
Personally this is my favourite of the early 80s Fulci movies. The Beyond is a better film but I enjoy this one the most.
The Dirt (2019)
Dirty, amusing decadence
The Dirt is very entertaining.
It's pretty wild, as it should be, with an undercurrent of Wayne's World in the first half and, as per the story of the band, gets gradually darker as the movie progresses and also a bit less interesting.
There's an air of Spinal Tap about it, which is unavoidable, since the story of the Crue is not exactly real life - as most of us know it. It would be ironic to suggest the characters are not believable.
Overall, I think the movie makes the band quite cool and likeable; they never took themselves too seriously, so neither should the movie.
The finesse of Bohemian Rhapsody and Straight Outa Compton is missing from The Dirt but it's enjoyable nonetheless.
Straight Outta Compton (2015)
Gritty, inspiring and impressive
This is one of the best movies I've seen in recent years. I missed it at the cinema, as I was doubtful it would be any good but having now seen it three times, I thought I'd add this review.
I had bought the album of the same name some years ago but never knew the background story, which turns out to be very inspiring and thoroughly engaging.
Rap legends Dr Dre, Ice Cube and Easy E formed NWA in the late 80s. This biopic tells the riveting story of the band and their stereotypically manipulative manager Jerry Heller and we see some appearances from other characters along the way, like Snoop Dog, Suge Knight and Jimmy Iovine. It focusses on the formation of the band, their music and the events which drove their creativity. Fans of the original album, like myself, will probably get bonus enjoyment from seeing some tracks performed during the movie.
The gangster myth surrounding the band is put in the spotlight here. These kids were no saints but they weren't hardened gang members and had the sense and drive to take their lives in the right direction. There's little difference, aside from the music, between the likes of NWA and other controversial bands like Motley Crue, yet the establishment's prejudice saw them as thugs and criminals.
It's nothing entirely new - other band stories follow a similar theme of inception, climb to fame, controversy and turmoil, band splits, etc. but Straight Outa Compton has fantastic performances from all the cast - especially Jason Mitchell and Paul Giamatti - and is gripping on three levels.
The first is witnessing the birth of the joint genius of Dr Dre, Cube and Easy E and where it takes them as the story unfolds. The second is the rise of the band and the usual issues that arise from fame and money in the music industry. The third and most powerful is the band's battle against the authorities and, in particular, the FBI. There are no dull moments in this movie and, at nearly 150 minutes, is a solid achievement for the writers and director F Gary Gray.
Don't expect the uplifting vibes of Bohemian Rhapsody. It's aptly gritty in places and the movie's tone is in keeping with the hard edge of the band's music.
For me, it does justice to their story and is an impressive film.
I Am Wrath (2016)
A bit of a blow out
John Travolta does his turn in the avenging husband role, as we've seen many times before in movies like Death Sentence, Death Wish and (my personal favourite) Law Abiding Citizen.
It has a pretty decent start but as soon as the revenge parts kick off, it loses all credibility, when a friend (Dennis) decides to be his backup/wing man. It's like, "Hey! You're having a revenge party! Can I join in?!"
The bad guys are very clichéd; the writing in general is pretty lazy. The whole plot and all of the 'twists' therein roll out in conveyor belt predictability. I did nearly switch off half way through but, for some reason thought it might improve at some point, which it didn't.
The acting throughout is reasonable, the action sequences are half decent but the whole thing has a pretty large meh factor because it's been done awfully similar to this before - with the exception of the dumb inclusion of the side-kick. I could be wrong, that might be (to some) the best part of the film but it felt too much like Starsky and Hutch on a joint Death Wish.
If they claimed it was made as a retro-homage to TV movies of the 90s, that would actually make some sense. Otherwise, a tad silly and somewhat uninteresting.
Rats - Notte di terrore (1984)
A vintage Italian cheese
I first saw this, roughly when it was released, as a 12 year old. I remember it being somewhat scary, with a creepy ending and having a very naughty rat in a sleeping bag.
Thanks to 88 Films, I have finally re-discovered this Italian masterpiece.
OK, that's a slight exaggaeration but this one's not a complete stinker.
In a post-apocalyptic world, a bunch of fashion school rejects are looking for a place to stay for the night, in the ruins of an old town. The seemingly ordinary presence of a few rats turns out to be something more sinister ...
In a nutshell, it's a pretty standard but below average, low-budget Italian horror. a bit sparse on gore and FX, so don't expect Argento or Fulci, and a one dimensional plot, with a reasonable twist at the end.
Worth watching? If you're a fan of the Italian stuff or a horror junkie, then yes - I've seen much worse. Otherwise, best be prepared for a rat salad with a side of cliché and not enough sauce to spice it up.
The fun parts: a lead who is painfully like MacReady from The Thing, with flame thrower and beard to boot. But with an Italian, men's neck-scarf. Another character is even called 'Duke' so there's plenty of John Carpenter influence.
There are one or two memorable moments, which lingered in my memory since I was a kid and - amazingly - looked exactly as I had remembered from back in 84. The music score is quite good and, overall, it's not a bad looking film, thanks to the 88 makeover.
The bad: well, it's pretty daft throughout. They could get away with this kind of nonsense in the 80s (ants, bees, spiders etc ...) but it doesn't cut it anymore. Having said that, it feels quite fun a result because it does take itself very seriously and the unintentional cheesy flavour is, in fairness, the only thing that makes it worth sticking with it to the end.
An OK movie to enjoy after the pub, or with some horror buddies.
The Jackal (1997)
Lacks the compelling simplicity of the original
I like this movie but it's not in the same league as the original.
Declan is an unnecessary addition. He feels like Sean Connery's role in The Rock, but with a big question mark hanging over him. Have the FBI not heard of identikits? His existence in the movie just makes the FBI's involvement a joke.
Secondly, the love story between Declan and the Basque lady is the movie's low point. In an attempt to set the remake aside from the original, this horribly contrived relationship exists to tie the plot together in all the wrong ways; very lame.
Bruce Willis is, for my money, not terribly convincing as the Jackal. The cold, calculating Jackal from the original now feels a bit more 'tough guy' and 'loose cannon' rather than clinical ice-man. He's not awful but feel a better choice could have been made in casting.
On a general level, the pacing is not all that bad and there are a few decent set pieces (including one particularly good visceral moment which wakes you up) and Sidney Poitier plays well as his stereotypical by-the-book agent.
But as for the finale, the original can boast one of the greatest climaxes in movie history. No spoilers, but don't expect Jackal 1997 to be anywhere close to as thrilling.
Captain Marvel (2019)
Captain Marvel is just about on the right side of entertaining. It's way above the turkey threshold but falls short of the accolade of good.
It's the standard Marvel template: our heroine is presented as someone trying to find their place in the universe, they go on an unexpected journey - battling some bad guys - and eventually discover their true power.
The effects are dated. Cartoonish and unremarkable. Thor (2011) had better FX. The narrative is something of a mess: flashbacks to future events and substandard plot twists make for an uneccessarily confusing watch. More effort should have been made to flesh out the new characters and keep the story simple. There a few people who we can identify with - including Carol Danvers - because introductions to new characters and world's are all too brief.
These are the main flaws and the Marvel releases of late have tended to be of a similar standard, so Captain Marvel doesn't fall way short. It's just that the benchmark is quite low.
On a positive note, Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel is a likeable and interesting character, if a bit ambiguous. Brie Larson does the job well and fits in nicely with the longstanding universe characters, ie. SHIELD. Some nice comic touches are woven into the script as usual, without being too out-of-place.
Overall, the film held my interest, despite the muddled start and standard lull that all super hero movies seem compelled to have in the middle (a tradtion upheld since Superman 2, 1980).
Devoid of emotion and tension; bland
US paratroopers land in France on D-Day and discover something terrifying in a French village.
There's not much else to this movie. It's very thin and has absolutely no character development. One or two decent monster moments but otherwise it's very similar to the recent Marvel universe movies, only with more gore and violence.
A pretty standard, insipid Abrams production. Not awful but disappointing.
Kamera o tomeru na! (2017)
Fresh and clever Japanese zombie comedy
This Japanese zom-com is one of the freshest and cleverest movies, in the saturated zombie sub-genre, in recent years - but it might not entertain as expected.
I enjoyed it despite the fairly sluggish build up but did not find it to be exceptionally funny.
I'm not entirely sure what didn't work too well but I didn't find myself laughing as much as the others in the audience. That being said, there was plenty of laughter so I might have been in the minority.
The humour resembles the slapstick elements one might see in Rat Race or Johnny English, just with a bit more blood and splatter, albeit fairly reserved.
If the majority of people don't enjoy this film, I'd be fairly surprised but you probably need to go into it with as little knowledge and expectation as possible.
Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
More horror than comedy
I tried hard to enjoy this film but alas, it's pretty abysmal. Its biggest flaw is that it isn't funny.
Tim Allen's character is a man who has some sense in the middle of a street of bible-belt brainwashed suburbanites. One year he decides he's not going to spend/waste an obscene amount of money at Christmas and instead do something for himself and his wife (a holiday), whilst his daughter is travelling in Peru. Unfortunately, the Stepford neighbours have other ideas and are out to drag he and his wife back into robotic conformity. Sounds more like a horror movie really.
It's in the Christmas sub-genre that contains Christmas Vacation and Deck The Halls but lacks the charm, wit and comic delivery of the others. The comedy is clichéd and infantile, yet deals with subjects that only adults could relate to; it just doesn't work.
After this, I need to re-watch Secret Santa (2018), which is intentionally tasteless but loads of fun. Kranks is just tasteless - but it didn't mean to be.
Something of a black box for non Potter enthusiasts
I have seen the Potter movies but not read the books. They, too, were a bit confusing at times but entertaining enough. Crimes of Grindelwald's biggest flaw is its inability to include the casual viewer in the story telling but this can be forgiven to a degree given the way this universe tends to be a bit convoluted.
Visually, it is pretty sound and the performances are good but the plot does feel a bit thin as far as I could tell.
My Son is a big Potter fan and has read the books several times. For him, this movie was good but less so than the first.
Somewhat hard to critique but I didn't hate it.
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
I'm not a huge Queen fan, I like their music but wouldn't invest in any album - save for the Flash Gordon soundtrack.
But this movie was amazing. Couldn't care less if it's not accurate. As a film, it has a great feel good factor and is very enjoyable.
It could possibly have involved the other members of the band a bit more but I can't say that would have improved the film tremendously.
All play and no work makes three girls a bit loopy
I nearly gave this a 4 because I really didn't enjoy it but opted on 5 in the end as that doesn't reflect it is at least a solid piece of film making.
In brief: three girls in a house, two of which are there to get paid, for playing along with the hostesses odd fetishes and fantasies. Not all is as it seems ... but for whom?
It takes quite a while to get to the point and is hoping to wow the audience with some innovative plot turns late in the day, which might work for you but I didn't really get much out of it.
However, if you're happy with its style and enjoy the off-beat characters, you might find this film a pretty satisfying watch. Unfortunately, that was not the case for me and its lack of an evolving plot left it feeling like a stuck-record.
A bit too generic; lacks originality
It's a well made movie but feels like it yields to too many of the current clichés in this sub genre of film.
In terms of impact, it's a long way off classics like The Conjuring, The Ring and it's closest sibling, Insidious but feels like if it had perhaps been made 10 years ago, might have at least felt fresher.
Decent performances and a so-so plot but ultimately the scares in the movie didn't work for me. It did for others, so take away what you will but there's nothing original in this picture and no guarantee of a real hide-behind-hands viewing.
Un gatto nel cervello (1990)
This is not a movie in its own right. This is some kind of a bizarre portmanteau compilation of his later and poorer works, with Fulci himself joining the dots.
It's very poor and borders on annoying. It's not often I'd say just avoid, in favour of give it a try for yourself but here I really don't think there's anything worth spending the time over.
If you do feel compelled to give it a try, check out Touch of Death first and if you think that's awesome then you might find this one reasonable.
Jaws 2 (1978)
Sets the template for the sub-par blockbuster sequel
Jaws 2 is a good movie but as a sequel it's very formulaic.
Jeannot Szwarc has made a competent film though I suspect the reason for it being above average is down to the producers Zanuck/Brown and to the incredible score from John Williams. The water ski theatrical poster is actually worth a mention here too as it's a real work of art.
The likeable Chief Brody is played well, once again, by Roy Scheider but there's a big gap without Hooper and Quint. The rest of the cast (Ellen, Deputy Hendricks, Mayor Vaughn) don't quite fill the space and we're left with everything of interest hanging on Brody. This is one major negative for the film and the other is the pacing. Scenes in the movie don't build towards the climax as they did in the original. This film is very much of two halves and the first half is really just a time-filler before the finale gets underway.
As for positives, this movie has a look and feel very similar to the exceptional first - probably due the producers but who knows. There are quite a few scary moments and one in particular which always sends a shiver down my spine. In my opinion, the first movie is a much more tense and scary watch but the second has many frightening images which stick in the mind - and as a person who doesn't like deep water, it's more the scenes from this movie which I think about just before swimming in the sea.
I mentioned it before but it is worth mentioning twice - Williams' score. It really is sublime. The movie's memorable main theme in the intro is played with atmospheric harps, which add to the underwater atmosphere and leads into a blasting fanfare against the "Jaws 2" title shot. If you're a Williams fan then honestly you'll want to watch this movie just for the score.
No one will ever rate this movie close to, or above the first but as sequels go it's definitely one to check out.
Baby Driver (2017)
Reasonably Neat Neat Neat
Baby Driver is a fun film with nothing too offensive, or unfortunately thrilling, to make any real waves. It has a few too many clichés in it to be taken seriously but they don't detract hugely from the viewing experience.
Jamie Foxx is about the best thing, acting and character-wise but that's not saying a whole lot. However, nothing in the cast is so appauling that it spoils the film. Kevin Spacey's character comes close though, as the somewhat nerdy looking but oh so terribly tough gangster that seems to come for free with most movies of this kind nowadays.
It's a good fun popcorn movie without being just a load of typical studio CGI garbage but don't expect a serious thriller. Think Pulp Fiction without the wit or originality.
My review might sound a bit scathing but I did find it to be a good watch, if at times I had to grit my teeth silently.
A decent next attempt at IT
This 2017 production of Stephen King's book is a well-crafted, decently acted imagining of the story. I really enjoyed it but did speak to some people who were disappointed that it had diverged from the book too much.
In brief, the children of Derry are going missing at an alarming rate. Something evil lurks in the town and it's up to the Loser's Club to overcome their fear and unite to confront IT ...
I found the old TV movie somewhat dull in the second half. The first half, which this movie is concerned with, was always the stronger half and I think this version is probably just as good, if not better than the original TV movie. It's certainly more gruesome and scary.
I'm not sure Tim Curry's Pennywise has been upstaged though. Bill Skarsgard has done a good job but I think Curry's is hard to beat.
IT 2017 is refreshingly old-school, in that it focuses on character and story, unlike too many recent "horror" movies. It is beautifully shot and superbly acted but perhaps could move at a slightly better pace.
IT will divide opinions due to story vs screenplay issues but it's definitely not a bad remake.