Halloween Movie Recommendations: Part 1 (2018 Edition)

Here’s a quick overview of horror films we recommend for this Halloween (more films in upcoming parts).

Martyrs (2008)

7.5/10

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Gruesome and truly horrifying.

Martyrs is a French psychological horror film that tells the revenge story of Lucie and Anna, two victims of brutal child abuse. Fifteen years after Lucie escaped from an icy torture chamber, she and Anna track down their former captors to exact their revenge. Their search uncovers a secret organization but Lucie and Anna quickly realise that they’re yet to experience the true face of evil.

This is the most brutal horror film I’ve seen and that’s also the main aspect that makes it so engrossing. It’s meant to be dark, bleak and horrifying, and that’s why I love it. For fans looking to expand their horror film library and for those seeking out sheer dread and scare, then this is the film for you.

Audition (1999)

8/10

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A slow burn horror with one of the best payoffs.

Audition is a disturbing Japanese thriller that follows Aoyama, a recent widower who decides to pickup dating again. With the help of his film producer, Aoyama holds auditions for a fake dating production that secretly introduces him to attractive and single women. From these mock castings Aoyama meets the gorgeous but reserved Asami and their relationship begins to develop. However, Asami isn’t what she appears to be, and Aoyama eventually finds himself faced with a horror that he’s never known before.

While Audition is a film that gradually increases the tension ever so slowly, ultimately it leads to a harrowing climax that makes the whole wait worth it. This is a film that purposefully takes it’s time because it knows how great the payoff at the end will be. If you’re after something with more pace than Audition won’t be the film for you. But if you’re looking for a masterpiece in horror suspense, you’ve come to the right place.

Pandorum (2009)

6.5/10

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Dead Space meets Resident Evil meets The Descent.

Pandorum is a sci-fi horror that plays out like a lucid dream reminiscent of films like Memento and The Matrix. Astronauts Payton and Bower awake from hypersleep with no memory of who they are or what their mission was. Payton stays behind to monitor the radio while Bower explores the seemingly abandoned spaceship. The astronauts quickly realise that they are not alone, and the fate of mankind will hinge on what they do next.

While it’s nowhere near being a horror classic, Pandorum is very much so underrated and often overlooked. The story is fast-paced with several action scenes that make it an exciting to watch. The film does borrow elements from other films, but I feel like it combines the best from those classics into something that still makes Pandorum feel original. If you loved any of those previously mentioned film influences and are into sci-fi gore horror, then give this one a watch.

The Predator Movie Review

A disjointed mess that might only please the most hardcore of fans.

The Predator falls upon its own sword with an unremarkable mix of story and characters that make it yet another forgettable film in a troublesome cash grabbing franchise. Though the film comes with a significant update in visual graphics and creature design, there’s not much else in terms of genuine action substance to take away. At best, The Predator is barely passable as a franchise sequel to one of the greatest action films ever made.

Surprisingly, both films from the 1987 classic Predator and this mildly interesting 2018 addition were written by the same person, Shane Black. Known for his witty crime comedies Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice GuysI was quite disappointed that the clever writing from those films was almost non-existent in The Predator.

One of the best aspects of Shane Black’s films is the dialogue, which often oozes comedic wit and punchy one-liners; aspects that elevated the original Predator as a sci-fi action masterpiece. Yet with the characters in The Predator, I’d be hard-pressed to remark anything that was either cleverly funny or remotely memorable that stuck with me like the quotes from the original. Instead, there’s a lot more unnecessary swearing, strange jokes that feel out of place and moments of little logic that made me question why they were talking like that.

Which is a feeling that echoed for me in terms of presentation, because The Predator nears the editing mess that was the horrendous Slender Man. While a story exists (and I’m tempted to add quotation marks to the word story), there are several examples that made the film feel like it was quickly rushed and put together without no thought to set up or punchline.

Certain characters aren’t given much time for introductions and fiery moments of action are edited with such a fast pace that it feels more blistering than a Jason Bourne movie. The latter also being heavily affected by the narrative choice to set most of the film at night, with darker environments that make quicker cuts of action harder to ascertain exactly what’s going on. Compare this to the original which was mostly set during the day, any quick cuts don’t affect understanding who or what is being attacked because well, you can actually see things easier to begin with. It’s something simple but to me, editing is the first sign of what makes a great action film better than a bad one.

Aspects like these irked me for the large portion of the film and it was quite tough to overlook them despite my feelings towards the few positives that I had. Some jokes and moments of action do hit their mark in terms of both entertainment and spectacle. As are certain plot points in the story that not only felt original and enjoyable to watch, also helped continue the mythology of the Predator franchise in an interesting way. These moments were far and few between, but when the film does get them right, it’s a pleasant joy of relief to watch amongst the disjointed mess around it.

Unfortunately, I can’t recommend paying top dollar to watch The Predator at the cinemas because the previously mentioned negatives really do drag this film down for me. My expectations were somewhat higher for a Hollywood action-film sequel given the news that Shane Black was not only writing but also directing and to my surprise, it still turned out to be disappointing.

Perhaps the film was riddled with studio interventions with re-shoots that apparently show different aspects for what the original plot could have been (see these on Google for yourself without spoiling anything). But at the end of the day, a film must be judged on what was released in the final version and until there comes a potential director’s cut, The Predator is a mess of a film that doesn’t live up to the classic by a long stretch.

Extinction Movie Review

extinction.pngSkip it. 3/10

From Perth director Ben Young, Extinction falls flat as a science fiction drama that takes too long to give anything remotely original or interesting. Focusing on a simple-minded civilian, Peter keeps having nightmares about an alien attack on Earth and his family threatened from the invasion. When these visions come true, Peter now has to use the knowledge from his nightmares to figure out how to save them all.

Starring Michael Peña as Peter and Lizzy Caplan as his wife Alice, the two give the roles their all. It’s interesting to see Michael Peña take on a leading role, as he’s normally cast as the bumbling sidekick or junior officer who smells that something is off, but no one will listen to him. Michael Peña handled the role well and put everything he had into it but the script was limiting and potentially held him back. Lizzy Caplan equally was her usual magnetic self and completely stole the show but equally felt limited by the script.

Extinction is an interesting choice for Ben Young following his breakout film the 2016 crime thriller Hounds of Love. You can see some of the elements he’s tried to introduce into the film, such as the close focus on Peter and trying to show his humanity throughout the whole ordeal. The twist in the film is actually incredible and brings so much to the film, making the entire concept unreal but ultimately the execution of the film lets it down.

Whether it is Ben Young lacking in the experience for this type of project, or whether it was rushed to get the project finished and distributed, Extinction has some huge flaws that prevent it from being the film it could’ve been. As already mentioned, the script needed some work, as the concept was great but the script took too long to get to where it began to be interesting. It relied on way too many narrative tropes which ultimately ended up becoming tiresome as the film progressed.

There was some interesting use of camera angles and techniques that unfortunately weren’t executed properly so fell a bit short, and the CGI graphics needed some serious work. A lot of the explosions were too bright and orange, almost reminiscent of the 80’s graphics that can be seen in classics like the original Star Wars.

It was a daring attempt from Ben Young to take on a film like Extinction and whilst it may not be his best delivery yet, I am looking forward to seeing more character-based dramas from him that return to his more comfortable territory like Hounds of Love. Unfortunately, in the case of Extinction, I am going to have to say Skip It.

Annihilation Movie Review

annihilation5/10

Natalie Portman. Scary Creatures. And a dome-like border that looks more like a rainbow sheet of film and stands between them. Welcome. To the world of Annihilation by Alex Garland.

As indicated by my indifferent introduction, this film is an unusually neutral experience. It’s one of those times a film is neither great or terrible and you’re just left feeling like “um…it was ok”. That isn’t to say it isn’t an enjoyable experience overall as Annihilation does things that are awesome and innovative. But there is a whole lot of bullshit that just brings it down to another sub-par science fiction flick.

Which is interesting because, for the most part, everyone has been raving about this film as one of those science fiction pieces that “completely challenges you” and is “really thoughtful and intellectual”. There may be some examples of smart writing scattered throughout, but nowhere near the level of the praise, it is currently getting. And I’ll leave specific examples to illustrate this point clearer in the spoiler section after the end of this review.

What I can say is that this trend of inconsistency is one that not only shadows over the plot but also from a visual standpoint. As if you do end up watching the film, you might notice that Annihilation can be such a fuck around at times. The world within the dome can go from a burst of beautifully decorated colors; to just a shitty blend of dull the next.

Whilst these are varied based on the setting, (which might be an intentional narrative decision), it nevertheless retracts from the entire experience. Couldn’t it have made just as much sense to keep this world as spectacularly designed throughout? Could the plot not have worked the same way instead of reminding us how disgusting and boring it can sometimes all be? It just felt like a missed opportunity for it to be a fantastic film on a visual-scale, that ultimately called for you to see it on that aspect alone.

The same path of thinking can be said for the performances of the actors. Annihilation employs the use of three great actors that I love with Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. But for the most part; there acting was often stale and completely reserved. For Oscar Isaac’s character, this made complete sense given the nature of the story. But for Jennifer Jason Leigh’s; I did not enjoy any of her delivered lines as they were often said in a very dull and neutral way. It didn’t even feel like she was there for most of the time and I found nothing she said as motivated or believable in any respect.

And I probably can’t even blame the actors, since I know they’ve done great in other films before. The fault would ultimately lie to its director: Alex Garland. Which again is a puzzling entity to decipher through some of his choices of dialogue. Garland has the ability to write some fantastic concepts and ideas one second; then completely through this away from the next with some horrendous forms of character speech. Which I’ll also illustrate my point further in the spoiler section.

So overall, whilst I would recommend seeing Annihilation (that’s only on Netflix and not the cinemas); it is a suggestion that comes with no real sense of urgency. This is a very miss-able film but if you do end up going to see it, there will still be some aspects to enjoy. I’ve left out discussing those aspects in this review, so you can specifically like the film a lot more (if you do decide to see it); as any spoiler discussion of those will ruin their desired positive effect. But don’t be surprised if you do come away from this experience and you constantly can’t stop responding to friends who asked you what you thought of it with “um….it was ok”.

SPOILER DISCUSSION

Specific issues with the plot and presentation of the film include the following aspects.

  1. The decision to go into the dome is hampered by the fact that there have been three years of failed expeditions previous to the new all-female team heading in. What I mean by this is that this new team do NOT decide to hug the edge of the border for the dome; as a tool for safety in case, something goes wrong. You know full well going into this mission, that no one in three years which might I add, was comprised of only trained military professionals, has ever returned back alive.                                                                                                                                                              But instead of that being a potential thought to keep you more precarious, and hover around the edge of certain safety, you dive deeper into a completely unknown territory. COULD YOU NOT, have reached the same goal of your destination in the lighthouse, but by staying as close as possible to the edge and walking the long way around. So, in case anything did come out to attack you, you can then quickly retreat back to the safe zone from before. Which could even hold military help on the other side if those creatures were able to continue following through and reach you. And as soon as you get near the lighthouse; then you can make the final decision to walk in closer and further inside the dome. But why risk all that during all the time before that?
  1. When the characters view the handheld footage of Oscar Isaac’s character cutting open the soldiers stomach: we are revealed to an alien-like movement of the intestines. It’s clear that something unnatural is going on. The whole audience feels it. Most of the characters watching it feel it. All except one of the new team, the paramedic, who believes this is simply a trick of the light.                                                                                                                                                                                                         A TRICK OF THE LIGHT?!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           TRICK OF THE FUCKING LIGHT?!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Fuck right off. Are you kidding me Alex Garland? This is the sort of writing that I  mentioned in my review before that is completely below you and is absolute horseshit. Secondly, this is also raises the point of why the fuck is there a paramedic in the first place? You have a team that comprises of a physicist, an anthropologist, a psychologist, a biologist and then: a fucking paramedic?! What the hell is going?! Just stop, please.
  1. Another cringe-worthy piece of dialogue comes after one character is killed and the others are reflecting on what happened. The physicist mentions how horrible it would have been to have your last piece of memory, trapped forever in a creature that uses your terrified screams for help, as a form of bait to lure others to kill She then adds the stupidly written “I wouldn’t want that for me” before fucking off to disappear and presumably become part of this new shimmer world.                                                                                                                                                    YOU WOULDN’T WANT THAT FOR YOU?!NO FUCKING SHIT!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Why Alex Garland? Why? This whole dialogue scene feels completely scripted and not at all realistic or natural.
  1. In one of the first encounters, the team comes across a gigantic crocodile that appears to have fused its genes with that of a shark so it now has its same structure of teeth. Firstly, the CGI on this thing looked horrendous compared to some of the other details on the creatures. Secondly, after they kill the thing, that came from the dark and mysterious looking swamp. They decide to CONTINUE with the original plan of using a boat to sail through it.

         WHAT THE FUCK?!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  What is to stop another one of those crocodiles, which is larger than the fucking boat,         to come up and eat you? Fuck off.

  1. This entire expedition originally started off with no plan for a biologist until Portman’s character came on. And she only did so by complete chance, given it was because of her affiliation with her husband who entered as military personnel and was the only one to ever come back. All of a sudden, having a biologist becomes the most incredibly useful person to have. Especially through Portman, we begin to understand the world around them as she analyzes the way it alters and refracts every living cell and gene that is contained in it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This seems too convenient of a plot detail and begs the question of why the fuck wasn’t a biologist on the team in the first place. Especially compared to the addition of a paramedic who did fuck all to help the team out with any of her “respected” field experience. But OK, whatever, she’s in the team now and that’s all that counts.
  1. After the first three days in the world, Garland introduces the great notion that none of them can remember what they’ve done until that point. This a pretty interesting idea and it leaves our characters with a new and difficult challenge to overcome. It’s very akin to the merging of Memento in a science-fiction context.                                                                                                                                                            BUT. For the rest of the film; this idea is never brought up again. They all begin to perfectly remember what happens each day, even when and how characters were killed. UM, OK? Why the fuck would you introduce this notion in the first place and then completely go against it for the rest of the story? Whatever Garland.
  2. Given that all previous expeditions have failed; would it not make basic sense to have some sort of system to physically keep track of the new team entering in. Even just some fucking rope (which is a staple of so many other films) that is kilometers long and is attached to them. So, in case they do get lost they could always come back to safety. Not to mention, you could always recover their bodies for analysis. But OK, whatever Garland.
  3. Could no form of vehicles or transportation be used? I see helicopters hovering around the dome border. Whilst there might be a chance that their systems could be potentially scrambled, doesn’t it warrant a first attempt at trying to use them? There is not a single mention of this throughout so we will have to assume that for three years, they’ve only been sending teams without transportation. Couldn’t there be some alternative type of technology that is run on analog systems, and would work regardless of the possibility of the electronic systems failing?                                                                                                                                                                            Basically: ANYTHING THAT DOESN’T INVOLVE JUST WALKING FUCKING THROUGH!

Life Movie Review

life5.5/10

You only need to catch the trailer for new sci-fi Life to see how much it borrows from classic space horrors like Alien and Doom. It begs the question as to why this film was ever even made, but thankfully it does pack a couple of surprises that make it somewhat refreshing.

In Life, a crew on board the International Space Station find evidence of extra-terrestrial life. A soil sample taken from a Mars space probe begins growing into a multi-celled organism and soon our A-list crew members – Ryan ReynoldsRebecca Ferguson and Jake Gyllenhaal– must work together to survive and protect humankind.

Where Life excels is in its first half. The dramatic opening scene connects you with the characters while perfectly setting up the introduction of the new alien species. From there the story keeps you invested as the scientific discoveries unfold and you learn about the organism along with the crew. You get the sense that this is exactly how this scenario would play out if it ever happened in real life.

But from there everything begins to fall apart. Life quickly becomes the film that’s been done many times before, with mindless action scene after action scene. It becomes painfully predictable and leaves you to question the logistics of its action sequences as well as the motivations of its characters.

Overall, the film is a decent enough entertainment piece. There are some genuine gross-out horror moments backed by fantastic sound design and the alien creatures are relatively unique. If you’re a die-hard sci-fi fan, then Life is definitely for you, but if you haven’t seen the classics, you’re better off staying at home and looking them up on Netflix instead.

Ghostbusters 3 Movie Review

ghostbusters 20164/10

It’s far from amazing and if you’re one of those skeptics who are convinced it won’t match the original (which I’m certain almost everyone is) you’re probably right. But who cares? There are enough aspects to like that holds Ghostbusters 3 as an enjoyable flick to see.

Set in a different timeline compared to the original films, we are introduced to two ghost experts in Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), whose past relationships have been rocky in their differences to prove their existence. Thankfully they don’t have to wait long for such a proof to be made as strange occurrences begin to gain momentum in Manhattan, forcing them to team up with a nuclear engineer (Kate McKinnon) and a subway worker (Leslie Jones), to save their city. Paul Feig (SpyBridesmaids) returns to collaborate with McCarthy and Wiig, in addition to their new cast mates from Saturday Night Live, and he thankfully does a better job than expected.

Going into this film, I was already pre-dispositioned from seeing the trailer and hearing everyone talk about how bad it’s going to be. Even I was under the impression that like other reboots/sequels, the main goal is simply to re-hash out a large cash cow that worked once and should be able to work again. Whilst I still feel like that was still the goal of this film, I was happily surprised that it was enjoyable to watch and more so great to look at. If there’s one thing that was done better than the originals, holy crap does it ever go to the special FX. It’s no wonder the budget was over 100 million (even though I’m sure each A-list celebrity got a large chunk of that as per usual) because every ghost that came on screen was beautifully made – in a weird scary way. Visual effects teams don’t get recognized enough so that’s my shout out towards their tireless efforts.

But what about the plot I hear you say, is it as funny as the originals? Yes and no. There are quite a few questionable choices with the jokes as I found they were often falling flat. For example, Chris Hemsworth’s character of the receptionist Kevin is entirely clueless about everything around him and his own stupidity was often relied on for humor. Despite his chiseled body and rugged handsomeness, he was more annoying than funny. I couldn’t stand how dumb they had to make him and I’m not sure if that was done in order to show how contradictory to most films, males can also be the dumb bimbo types. I kid you not, there was a scene in which he describes calling his dog “My Cat” which causes confusion when the team told him he wasn’t allowed to bring cats into the workplace. *groan*

Nevertheless, the rest of the story is thankfully funnier than those scenes, in particular with McKinnon and Jones, whose characters were hilarious to watch from their own quirkiness and demonstrates why they are on SNL. Dare I say they even outshone their larger A-list counterparts. But the best laugh I got was surprisingly from the antagonist and his own awkward blend of humor that he brings going into a metal concert (so look out for that). Ghostbusters knows the negative reaction expected from being a reboot of a popular franchise and even uses that within its central theme. Yes, it still suffers from a predictable plot and shows nothing we haven’t seen before but at least it encompasses enough new aspects and homages to make it a joy to watch. Check it out.