Friday, 20 January 2017

Review: The Bye Bye Man

 2017 Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, Cressida Bonas

January's horror offering The Bye Bye Man has been getting a lot of flak lately, but luckily i'm here to tell it's honestly not all that bad....sort of.

The film centres around 3 friends who rent an off campus house for their college year and accidentally discover a curse linked to the titular character.
After a violent and pretty jolting opening sequence I went into the film with expectations above average. The scene involved a suburban neighbourhood in the 80's under siege by a man with shotgun apparently trying to 'stop him'. This set the bar quite high and made me instantly curious too learn more about just what exactly was he trying to stop.

After being buried for decades the curse is let looses once again by the trio when one of them sees the name written on a piece of furniture. The seeing and thinking of this name is meant to make the curse grow stronger and bring The Bye Bye Man closer to you.
Now The Bye Bye Man never visits his victims alone, he has his faithful hell hound with him at all times. Unfortunately this creature is made up of some of the worst CGI iv seen in years, seriously 1980's Ghostbusters looks masterful compared to this!

Another problem was that there seemed to be no clear 'rules' as to when he might appear, curses always have rules! The sound of a coin dropping, scratching on walls and loss of time all fell into the same category and felt like they just happened for the sake of whatever scene they appeared in. If the director stuck to one sign and hammered it home, this would have been much more effective. These moments did supply some good creepy scenes though, a few red herrings thrown in here and there but nothing totally original. I think that was the main gripe with this film, there were good things on offer here but most had been done better by similar films or the scares were executed at the wrong times.

The best and most interesting thing about this film was the way in which it's characters were tied to the curse. The Bye Bye Man preyed on their weaknesses and insecurities. Watching the systematic breakdown of their confidence was as chilling as it was entertaining. Illusions would fool the characters, making the trio turn on each other, become jealous and sometimes even violent. This created a great sense of paranoia and a solid 'who done it' feel to things.

Unfortunately for all these twists, turns and second guessing The Bye Bye Man failed to deliver on the main point of a horror film, the scares. His character was more behind the scenes than trailers and marketing implied, this left the focus one the main cast. It was because of this that when he did appear I felt more intrigued as to what he would finally do having caught up to someone rather than feeling scared.

The Verdict

The Bye Bye man certainly wasn't the train wreck  most people said it was, treading familiar ground with some tweaks here and there it certainly wasn't original. Strong characters and a few memorable moments couldn't quite outweigh poor CGI and a sometimes overwritten villain.


Saturday, 7 January 2017

My 2017 film picks

With Christmas over and your New years diet already on the rocks, January can feel like a pretty depressing month. But never fear, 2017 is set to be a fantastic year for cinephiles all over! With some great comebacks as well as original ideas there is truly something for everyone to look forward to.

Here is my own list of all the most anticipated films etched on my calender, enjoy!

Underworld: Blood Wars
Werewolf slaying vampire huntress Seline (Kate Beckinsale) is back for the 5th instalment in the franchise and fans are hoping for a return to form. It appears characters throughout the franchise have been gathered together and will be battling it out in the usual flashy, neo-gothic style we have come to enjoy. I am prepared for what should be a bloody good time! Pun very much intended ;)

John Wick Chapter 2
I thought the original John Wick was one of the best straight up action films of the last decade. It was stylish, character driven and boasted many a memorable set piece. The sequel sees John thrust back into the world of hired assassins and this time he faces even greater threats. Keanu Reeves is one of those actors that you can rely on for a great performance and I cant wait to learn more about his character and see those lethal moves on the big screen once more.

Ghost In The Shell
Scarlet Johanson and arguably the world's most recognised anime collide for what could be a neon soaked sci-fi masterpiece. It is going to be fascinating to see how the director handles those classic moments from the anime as well as fusing some of his own ideas and styles. They are also releasing a book 'The Art of The Ghost in The Shell' which features the making of and also hundreds of concept sketches form illustrators and artists around the world.

Spiderman: Homecoming
It has been years since I have actually looked forward to, or even cared about a Marvel film but I hope this one will change all that. Wet blanket Andrew Garfield is out of the picture and up steps young Tom Holland. Even the short trailer got more laughs out of me than the last 5 marvel entries combined, he just fits the role of Peter Parker so well and I look forward to seeing where he will take the character and what surprises lay in store.

Alien: Covenant
Ridley Scott is back and doing what he does best. Covenant promises nail biting suspense, strong character development and those signature moments of dread. I am hoping this fills in some of the blanks from the flop that was Prometheus and serves as new life for the franchise. The trailer suggests it has the feel of the first 2 films but with the up to date visuals of modern cinema, bring it on!

Samara returns for the third instalment and her curse is stronger than ever, Julia worries for her boyfriend when he watches the cursed video tape and makes a horrifying discovery. There is a movie within a movie and it thrusts the couple into a race against time to save themselves before Samara comes for them in 7 days...

The Belko Experiment
Basically Battle Royale inside an office block and written by James Gunn. Sold.

Star Wars Episode VIII
After episode VII left us hanging its hard not to want answers. What is Rey's connection to Luke Skywalker, who is Snoke and can Kylo Ren be saved? While under the guide of a different director i still feel the franchise is in good hands, this could be the biggest film of 2017 without a doubt.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Best and Worst of 2016

We have come to that time of year again, so here is my end of year wrap up of all the films that blew me away and all the films that made me cover my face in despair! 2016 has been a strong year for cinema with lots of big titles released. I have really enjoyed predicting how these would turn out and talking among friends about their views on certain blockbusters. This year was also a fine year for hidden gems. So many films almost slipped under my radar and many of them were truly memorable.

I hope you all enjoy this post and as always feel free to list some of your own best and worst of 2016!

The Best


Disney upped themselves so many levels with this film! Zootopia was a an absolute joy from start to finish, a visual treat for the eyes and requires a second and maybe even a third watch just to take in all the subtle details that have been crammed in. Zootopia had the usual Disney charm but what stood out for me was just how grown up and relevant to today's society this film was in parts. Not only does it deliver an important message about breaking moulds and pushing for change in a difficult environment, but it also tackles subjects such as discrimination, prejudice and crime.

I laughed, I (almost) cried and a I laughed some more. Zootopia is a shining example of storytelling, heart and animation and sets the bar for Disney movies in the coming years.

The Conjuring 2

Now this is how you make a horror sequel! The Conjuring 2 builds on the first film in every way, The Warrens are fleshed out a lot more and the relationship they have is touching to watch. One of the best on screen couples all year. The sequel takes place in England and although I may be biased towards this, it helped ground the story in reality and made it eerily relateble.
The tension is built up beautifully and there are genuinely unsettling scares to be had here!


A black american comedy that is actually funny? Surely not you cry, well this one is and its a little gem!
Keanu is a film with a simple premise but one that is executed really well. 2 men pretend to be legendary gangster in order to infiltrate a gang and reclaim their stolen kitten. Key and Peele nailed their roles and deliver a laugh a minute in this action packed comedy. Although the film was featured a lot of cursing and action scenes what surprised me the most was just how much heart the film had. A great surprise in a often crowded genre.

The Witch

The Witch is an expertly crafted, slow burn New England folk tale. Taking inspiration from real life documents found from that era it tells a tale of family, superstition and the fear of god. This a film that doesn't spoon feed you key plot points, it relies on your own interpretation and viewers are challenged to solve the plot's mysteries as they develop. A haunting soundtrack, stunning cinematography and just the impending sense of dread make this a memorable watch indeed.

Don't Breathe

Easily one of the best horror films of the year, Don't Breathe centres around 3 thieves who break into a blind war veterans house and soon discover is isn't as defenceless as he seems. Jane Levy delivers another fantastic performance which further proves she is fast becoming a horror icon. This film is nail bitingly tense, carefully paced and delivers one of the best horror twists in years!


Filmed in one unbroken continuous shot, Victoria is a tale of a young Spanish girl who meets 3 Berliners on a night out and gets caught up in a heist. This film was beautiful from start to finish. The characters were very human and all completely relatable, the camera work was like nothing I had every experiencing in any other film. The sheer planning and work that must have gone in to create this spectacle is mind boggling, yet the film has a very personal and even claustrophobic feel at times. Victoria was a film that made me fall in love with cinema all over again and I regard it not only at the film of the year, but maybe even the last 5. A flawless masterpiece that deserves to be viewed by all.

Honourable Mentions

The Boy
The Jungle Book
Lights Out

The Worst

Batman VS Superman: Dawn of Bullshit

Zack Snyder directs yet another pathetic attempt at a superhero film with all the grace and poise of a child smashing 2 action figures together.
I genuinely hated BVS, I hated it. The plot is ridiculous and the the running time is overly long but the main problems lie in the characters, or what is left of them.

Our first look at Batman is a scene of him firing a minigun, Batman fires a minigun. At people. Superman is given about 14 lines in the entire 2 hr 30mins and is portrayed as a wimpy teary eyed pansy. Wonder Woman is played by some scrawny hack and has 'feminist agenda' written all over her! This is meant to be your role model girls, so take notes! There are a bunch of other characters from both universes but aren't worth mentioning because they are all as a shallow as a puddle.

Ultimately the reason this film failed is because it betrays decades of comic lore for the sake of looking edgy. This film is not made out of love for the craft of film making, this film feels like it was made to a check list. It is a film the director thinks we want not the film he wanted to make. Avoid this disgusting garbage like the plague.

The Forest

How can you go wrong with Natalie Dormer and Japanese ghosts? As it turns out, extremely easily.
The director had a great opportunity to deliver a solid film here but it was squandered at every turn. Riddled with cliques from creepy school girls, right the way through to a 'saw it coming  a mile off' twist. The Forest featured zero scares, little to no character development and a cop out ending. Oh what could have been...

The Good Dinosaur

I always feel bad for slating animated features and especially ones that aren't my age demographic, but this deserves it!
The plot revolves around a dinosaur called Alro (Alro, really?) who is pretty much useless at everything, his farther tragically dies and so he must find a way to help his family's struggling farm.
He then continues to be useless at everything and basically cons, lies and sympathy begs lots of other more capable prehistoric creatures to do things for him then gets all the credit at the end.
another pet hate of mine was the fact that any time a creature was supposedly portrayed as cute the designers made them act like a puppy. Even a human infant sits on it's bum with its tongue hanging out, that is just infantile and lazy film production! Could this be the start of Pixar's fall from grace?

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Review: Train To Busan

2016 Yoo Gong, Dong-seok Ma, Woo-sik Choi

A conflicted businessman and his young daughter board the train to Busan in the midst of a viral out break and must fight for survival.
Director Sang-ho Yeon's Train to Busan is one of those films that just ticks all the boxes. Now most mainstream 'zombie horrors' stick to a very familiar formula and are for the most part light hearted in tone and don't require much concentration. There have been a some real stand out over the last decade however with the likes of 28 Days Later and World War Z achieving massive success.

Train to Busan works so brilliantly because it cherry picks all the best aspects from all the best zombie flicks, then puts it's own flare on them for good measure.
The story begins following the farther and his daughter boarding the train, but as the mayhem unfold other passengers are thrust into the fray. These certain groups then become our main characters. The young childbearing couple, a Junior baseball team and a pair of shifty looking railway network employees.

Zombies films have always prided themselves on their creatures, but sometimes the human aspect is also a main focus and this is certainly to the case with this film too. We have a range of ages, genders and personality types to observe and it was interesting to see how each demographic coped with the apocalyptic situation. I found myself rooting for certain characters and carefully watching and reaming suspicious of others. I was constantly willing them to succeed rather than succumb to horrible fates and that was a first I think!

The zombies/infected are a good blend of popular tropes too. The film opted for the faster running variety like we got in 28 Days Later and they also shared the same swarm like mentality as the previously mentioned zombie in World War Z. The swarms however we in tight knit spaces which made for some truly terrifying scenes when hundred surges forward often scrambling over anything and even each other in order to reach their prey. Train To Busan throws a great curve ball into the mix by making the infected almost blind in the darkness. This original design lead to to absolutely nerve shredding scenes of the survivors creeping through the hordes are the train screamed through railway tunnels. The tension of one of these particular scenes is one of my fondest horror memories of the last few years and will stay with me for a long time.

The Verdict

Train To Busan is a perfect blend of all the best zombie flicks with it's own flare and tale to tell. The film has a lot of heart, emotion and more than enough action to to keep even jaded horror fans glued to the screen. Fantastically written characters, surprises and thrill galore make this one of the best horror films released this year. The subtitles may not be to everyone's liking but its a minor niggle to overcome for a rewarding and gripping watch.


Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Review: 31

2016 Richard Brake, Sheri Moon Zombie, Roscoe Pepper

Heavy rocker turned film director Rob Zombie has made his fair share of films over the last decade or so, his latest instalment 31, pits 5 carnival workers against a gang of twisted clowns as they try and survive for 12 hours.

If you are familiar with Zombie's previous works you will know roughly what to expect, black humour, torture, rape and gallons of blood. All these trademarks are present in this film but I cant help thinking he has streamlined his style, simple and honest are the name of the game here. While House of 1000 Corpses was a psychedelic blood bath and The Devils Rejects was a ultra realistic manson-esque thrill ride, 31 veers down the Running Man meets Hostel route.

The film open with a delightfully twisted introduction by Richard Brake as the menacing Doomhead. We soon learn he is talking to his latest victim a bloodied and bound priest, who after a few words of wisdom he proceeds to dispatch with a rather blunt axe. So perfectly shot and gripping was this scene that I went in immediately with expectations through the roof, unfortunately I would soon come back down to earth with a bump.

After we are introduced to our main characters and they are promptly kidnapped and placed into the game, we are then introduced to their first opponent. Itching for more Doomhead action I waited with baited breath, however what I got instead was a Spanish dwarf dressed as Adolf Hitler..... no really.

Sadly this was a recurring theme with the film, every time something really brutal or gripping happened, in the next breath something completely ridiculous or obscene would happen. This constant back and forth of styles was often frustrating and I could never really find my groove. It was like there was a divide between good acting and the downright bad. There is flashy and tense fight scene between our heroes and 2 chainsaw wielding clowns. The scene is well choreographed and features a bloody finale. This scene would have been perfect if the 2 clowns in question would stop making rape jokes and going all out to offend everybody in the room.

Now I am far from a prude and i go into a Rob Zombie film expecting to be shocked and appalled (that's part of his charm) but there were moments that tried way too hard. This is a real shame because there were a few memorable moments here.

Sheri Moon Zombie has definitely got better the more films she appears in, here she took on the role of the reluctant hero, becoming an expert clown killer by the end of the film! In fact most of the band of 5 heroes were all very convincing even if they weren't necessarily the type of people you would root for. Rob Zombie loves to play with characters that the audience hates at first but gradually warms to as time goes on, these people are all horrible and probably deserve it yet I wanted them to succeed. nobody writes these role as good as him.

Another big strength of the film is it's soundtrack, being set in the 1970's down in the deep south we get some cracking tunes to accompany the bloodshed. Aerosmith, Kitty Wells and Lynyrd Skynryd among the pile.

The Verdict

For fans of his previous films there is a lot to like here, but Rob Zombie has also tried to streamline his style it seems and made a fairly solid feature. Inconsistencies in tone and acting quality let in down in a number of places but it isn't enough to completely turn you off. Come for the gore, stay for Richard Brake and Aerosmith.


Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Review: Lights Out

2016 Teresa Palmer, Maria Bello, Alexander DiPersia

After having a supernatural experience, a young boy reaches out to his older sister Rebecca. It is son discovers that whatever is haunting them has a strange link to their mother and Rebecca's own troubled past.

Lights Out was close to the top of my most anticipated film list this year, with horror veteran James Wan on hand to steer this latest title down dark paths I couldn't wait to see what lay in store.

The entity was easily the star of the show. The sense of mystery was kept almost all the way till the credits rolled. The ghostly figure would be lurking and twitching in the shadows and even when it was not visible, the paranoid sense that it was never too far away was gripping. It was always uncertain just what the creatures limits were, could it fit inside the smallest of shadows, just how much light was needed to vanquish it, could it ever be stopped? Frail and gangly in appearance with only the white's of it's eyes glowing made it a memorable and fearsome creature, possibly even a contender to be a new horror icon.

Acting was fairly thin unfortunately, Maria Bello doing a good job of playing a conflicted but caring mother role. The problems mainly lay with main heroine Rebecca. She may of had her younger brother's safety in mind but came across as lazy and selfish, displaying almost no emotion during some scenes then suddenly bursting into tears or having moments of immense bravery. This felt a little disjointed and didn't make her a hero to root for.

With the entity only able to move and attack it's prey in pitch darkness it forced the heroes to think strategically. This gave way to some really clever scenes in which the entity would cleverly adapt to the defences put in place and hide in the smallest pockets of darkness. There was a real sense of paranoia with this film, just how dark to a spot have to be to house the creature, could the characters live the rest of their lives with the lights on!? A particularly clever scene involved an unsuspecting police offer shooting at the entity only for it to close in on him with each subsequent shot. A lot of attention to detail and thought had been put into the scares and it showed. Each encounter was like a puzzle that heroes had to solve. You barely had chance to catch your breathe between these paranormal assaults.

The Verdict

Lights Out is a well made and clever horror film. The acting may be somewhat below average but the terrifying entity and frequent scares more than make up for it. Keep your lights on for this one!


Sunday, 4 September 2016

Review: Hardcore Henry

2016, Tim Roth, Sharlto Copley, Haley Bennett

A man called Henry awakes with no memory only to find he is half machine, his girlfriend/scientist is kidnapped and he use his special set of abilities to track down those responsible. While that may seen like a fairly tried and tested plot, the less is more approach isn't always the best.

Hardcore Henry is a simple film and it openly revels in this fact. The entire thing is filmed in a first person perspective as if we are looking through Henry's eyes. This makes way for plenty of up close and personal shootings, stabbings, beatings and any other for of violence you can inflict on another human being. This may sound like a an action lover's dream but the frequently in which these occur make each kill feel meaningless. The character of Henry is so well matched against hordes and hordes of useless opponents you can never really feel he is ever in any danger. Did a tank full of bad guys just appear out of nowhere? (this actually happens in the film) no problem, I'm sure he'll escape somehow. *yawns*

There is a small cast of characters, we spend most of the time in henry's shoes and his unlikely side kick Jimmy. Without hinting at spoilers Jimmy appears throughout the film in many different 'forms. One scene he is a lunatic punk rock, next minute he is a rough riding motorcyclist but his shining moment comes in the end sequence of the film where he takes on a Dad's Army officer type of role. Sharlto Copley is the star of the show and absolutely nails every one of these little performances. The Villain of the story Akan, leaves little to be desired. He is about as one dimensional as villains get, he has telekinetic powers (with no explanation as to why at all) and has a plot to build a robot army. I Felt this character was totally out of place and would have better suited an early 90's episode of Power Rangers.

Soundtrack is one area where everything comes together, a nice mix of electro with some rock and roll classics thrown in for good measure accompany nearly all the violence. I may have been desensitised to the killing and even a little bored by the first 30 minutes, but watching Henry dispatch goons whilst high on adrenaline to the sound of Queens's Don't Stop Me Now, is enough to put a smile on any sicko's face.

The Verdict

Hardcore Henry is an ambitious film and leaves you little time to get your breathe. It is accompanied by a good soundtrack and a hilarious sidekick. It's relentless pace and ridiculous body count will please action fans at first, but ultimately feels tired and stale by the time the credits roll.