The Predator review

The newest incarnation in the Predator series of films, which was first introduced to us in 1987, comes back to the big screen with bad language, bloody violence and a new set of characters that aren’t only forgettable because they don’t all have names (really), but because of choppy editing and one very hazy narrative.

In The Predator a team of rogue soldiers must band together to protect civilisation from a new kind of threat; an evolved Predator that travels to earth to reclaim a ship and wipe out the human race.

The Predator is Shane Black’s attempt at rebooting the franchise, but Nimrod Antal’s 2010 film starring Adrien Brody achieves much more: it’s well-acted, the effects are spectacular and the story isn’t convoluted. Black’s film has undoubtedly been messed with at editing stage and there’s no question that the director’s vision for the horror is not what we are seeing in the cinema.

The film’s big budget isn’t reflected on screen and a lot of the effects are questionable.  To the movie’s detriment CGI is favoured over practical effects and instead of epic moments of action (which is what we’ve all turned up for) a lot of these scenes pass by in a confusing flash. The moments of violence are bloody and 80’s inspired, but there are also one or two deliveries of poorly-timed humour attached to killing that just don’t fly.

No one turns up to the cinema to watch The Predator expecting sensational filmmaking, but a couple of hours of mindless fun is enough. And the film certainly is funny in moments, particularly early on when Boyd Holbrook meets his ragtag team of  reluctant heroes. The easy humour is lost as the film progresses and with a run time of 107 minutes it’s slightly too long.

It’s almost unbelievable to think Shane Black – the writer-director of The Nice Guys – could have had final say with this film, and, saying that, I don’t think he did. The Predator isn’t the all-out action we wanted, and it certainly isn’t a reboot to remember, but it serves a cinematic purpose with its attempt at old-fashioned fun that, when it works, is worthwhile.

 

Hereditary review

Hereditary, Director Ari Aster’s bold directorial debut, has achieved global word of mouth. Following its midnight screening at Sundance word quickly spread about the scale of real horror on offer here; a genre triumph that echoed The Exorcist. Buzz about a film doesn’t always serve it well though, particularly when it sets expectations sky high. So while Hereditary doesn’t quite serve up a complete slice of sinister cinematic horror, it does triumph as an indie film that has garnered the uninterrupted attention of mainstream audiences.

The narrative is open to interpretation but its central themes are that of grief, family torment and an underlying unease that centres around distrust. The real horror moments come in seeing Collette’s Annie break down following a tragic accident, her son’s fear of being guilty and unloved, and of not having control of that which is determined to unfold.

Director Aster takes a slow-burn approach, allowing events to unfold at a frustratingly slow pace. Had the flick been sold as a tense thriller rather than a psychological horror, the jump scares, clever camera tricks and  haunting set pieces would deliver a fuller effect. But these moments are fleeting, and they don’t achieve the impact they would were they unexpected, and you’re ultimately left wanting events to shuffle on faster.

Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne support newcomers Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro, but Byrne isn’t given nearly enough screen time. Collette is, as always, a gem. Channeling raw emotion as a grieving mother, her role as Annie is demanding – and perhaps the most terrifying element of the whole feature – but she never falters.

The final twenty minutes delivers a series of eye-covering moments which ultimately descends into a strange and slightly disappointing finale. Genre cliches continually threaten to creep in, but they never overwhelm the power of the bleak aesthetic or the goosebump-inducing score – this isn’t any old horror fare, Aster leans more towards art house tropes and directs with confidence.

A lot of comparisons have been drawn with The Babadook, another horror centred around grief but one that masters the slow-building dread effect with more force. Despite the perceived flaws there’s no denying that Aster has achieved a lot with this daring debut; if only in drawing mass audiences to an indie film, thus supporting the industry. The writing is pretty spectacular too, human emotion is captured quite perfectly, and Collette leads the film into outstanding territory performance-wise.

It won’t scare you like you might want it too, but it’s certainly an impressive debut from a director who is no doubt now in high demand.

It Follows, review

It Follows is an indie dream. Atmospheric, low-key and teeming with nostalgia (if you’re an old-school horror fan), David Robert Mitchell delivers a movie that is startlingly inventive first time-around but no doubt serves as repeat watching due to its nature of serving up something new each time. It Follows is far from the formulaic teen-slasher or paranormal sub-genre that has dominated cinema screens in recent years and it’s kinda’ hard to put it in any barrier. Mitchell is genre-busting here, for one minute you’re watching an adolescent romance play out, the next a nightmarish horror – this is very clever film making.

In It Follows we meet Jay (Maika Monroe), a young woman who – after going on a date and sleeping with the guy – is left with strange repercussions to deal with. The aftermath is a follower, one who changes in appearance every time she sees it and one which has malevolent intentions. Long story short, the follower is kind of like an STI, but much, much worse than herpes. So, anyway, Jay (with the help of her kooky pals) sets out to beat this thing in whichever way she can. But, how to do such a thing when you don’t really know what it is? That, pretty simply, is the premise to It Follows.

maika monroe as jay in it follows

maika monroe as jay in it follows

Maika Monroe is an absolute dream in her role as Jay. She’s likable, you want her to succeed, and shes totally relatable if you’re anywhere between 16-25. Monroe is on her way to super-stardom (or at least should be) and among several impressive performances – she is possibly the only good thing about the disappointing The Guest It Follows is one to get a hold of. She is supported by Keir Gilchrist as Paul, Olivia Luccardi as Yara and Lili Sepe as Kelly – all of whom share a great chemistry as they support Jay on her journey against the entity she is haunted by. Mitchell brings out the best from his cast with an original script which is quietly thoughtful and a direction that is reminiscent of horror films of the past. At 100 minutes its a relatively slow-build but this lends to a relationship between Jay, Yara, Paul, Kelly and their audience. The entire feature is atmospheric and where a thunderstorm might seem cliched in any other ‘teen’ horror in It Follows it only pushes the greatness of the piece forward. The soundtrack is an electronic treat with melodies that pop up frequently meaning you’re totally unaware of when you should be concerned that something terrible might just happen.

It Follows is great in the way that it doesn’t show you a whole lot; there is no stream of barbaric violence or continuous scares but there are several carefully timed moments that do keep you on your toes. The antagonist of the film, the entity, is frightening in the way that you can see him or her but you don’t know where it’s from or what it wants, and there’s a lot of well-crafted enigma which propels the film into fantastic territory.

Unique and tense with a whiff of the 1980’s, It Follows is a gem to the horror genre.

 

The Purge: Anarchy, review

It should be said straight off the cusp that neither The Purge nor The Purge: Anarchy are great films. The first foray into the world of America’s new Founding Fathers was floored from start to finish with forgettable characters and an indoor locale that didn’t spark the imagination. Anarchy succeeds in ways its predecessor doesn’t yet still fails to stand out as a horror film that’s of much cinematic worth, this is down to the basis of the narrative being completely floored. There are innumerable plot holes in the whole idea of the ‘Annual Purge’ in which the premise for the film leads on and that’s where the  fundamentals for nit picking begins with both features.

Anarchy sees the sixth yearly killing spree take place in a United States that is now under the control of sadistic Founding Fathers. What viewers discover in this installment – that wasn’t explored in film one – is the Purge as the governments way of wiping out the countries lower class citizens. Political commentary really is never far away in the feature, from gun culture in America to capitalist powers, there’s a mild serious exploration there that director James DeMonaco is intent on pursuing in order to make this more than just your average horror. Does he succeed? At times yes, but neither films true potential is ever fully realised.

masked antagonists in the purge: anarchy

masked antagonists in the purge: anarchy

The biggest change between the sister films comes with the changeable locations in the follow-up. Spectators watch as a group of five strangers move together to survive the night and it’s this that propels that narrative into better territory than the original. There are three sets of characters, too. The audience only fully get to grips with one (and barely) but they all share scenes throughout the film that do, at times, lend to a genuine intensity that’s so clearly missing from film one. Having said that, only two of the five main actors have a true on-screen presence and there are so many points in which forced dialogue becomes the overwhelming focus of the run time; this is down to both the delivery (Zach Gilford’s performance is truly wooden) and the poor writing (courtesy of DeMonaco).

Gilford will be known by many for his impressive performance in cult sport drama Friday Night Lights, a series that the actor can be remembered for positively. Can the same be said about his role as Shane in Anarchy? Definitely not.The only impressive names in the entire ensemble are Zoe Soul as Cali and Frank Grillo as Leo who share a father/daughter chemistry that is the only character development that makes its mark on the audience. Michael K. Williams pops up at various points in the narrative as the leader of a resistance group, his presence is welcomed. Williams has an undeniable fierceness that is fully realised in his role here. Director DeMonaco relies on visual scares but there’s only so many times the doll masks cause a reaction (and that’s lost somewhere in the earlier half of the film). Throw in a government official known as Big Daddy who drives around in a monster truck, killing innocents, and a finale in which the wealthy partake in a barbaric Hunger Games style evening, and you’ve got yourself a super violent picture of contemporary America, right?

The Purge: Anarchy made a whopping $119 million – which, considering its $9 million budget, is one hell of a profit – it was also met with a better response than the first by critics. It falls short by some miles of being a well-crafted, sensibly paced and intelligent feature, but it will please spectacle-loving horror fans.