All posts by bobajim

Death Spa 1989

I understand that there is a never ending desire for a good idea in Hollywood. And that that good idea will hopefully sell tickets by the bucketful. This is why an article in the New Yorker can become a A-List feature or a dance trend can become the next Step Up or Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Even a silly face on a phone text can be turned into The Emoji Movie. This must have been going through some deranged producer’s mind when they figured that the keep-fit trend of the early eighties needed some kind of filmic representation. They came up with Perfect. It was not perfect. John Travolta starred as a Rolling Stone journalist investigating Jamie Lee Curtis’ perfect gym addicted body. The film producers whispered in their stars’ ears the word ¨Oscar¨ but the only awards they went on to get that year were a bunch of Raspberries. Travolta didn’t act for another four years.

So after that folly it really is flummoxing as to why, oh indeed why, someone thought that what people really wanted to see,  after not giving a monkey’s about a big budget health freak studio movie, was a horror movie set in a gym where the building itself was the killer. This wasn´t even still at a time when keep-fit was particularly popular. Even 1985‘s Perfect was considered jumping on a bandwagon that had long since left (Jane Fonda’s incredibly successful workout tapes came out in 1981).

I don’t know why this is even bothering me. The film is called Death Spa. It is already doomed to an eternity of ridiculousness.

The film (for it is indeed a film, with a beginning, middle and end) begins with a crane shot of the gym in question. As the camera tilts down on the gaudy neon sign that reads Perfect Body Health Spa a number of the letters explode making it now read “d    eath Spa”. Amazing. A couple of things immediately spring to mind. Firstly, if we’re talking exploding neon signs and cameras on cranes then the film obviously had more money to spend than it undoubtedly deserved. And secondly, this gag is as clever as the film is ever going to get.

In fact Death Spa is quite well shot. Okay that´s not true. It’s been photographed with some thought. Unfortunately all those thoughts are terrible ones. The eighties did like its bright and garish colours and this movie embraces the yellows, pinks and royal blues with aplomb, especially with the excessive use of colour gels to light every scene in the most eye-gouging way possible. When computer rooms aren´t being lit like Margaret Thatcher’s knickers we are subjected to extensive dance scenes. Men in leg warmers and tiny tight shorts prance and leap about like they are auditioning for The Kids of Fame. Everyone gurns at the camera as if they are in a pop promo for Duran Duran rather than a horror movie. The opening, er, I’m going to call it a set piece but that´s being generous,  has the bouffant haired Laura dancing around the gym. She kicks and spins seemingly for the camera crew (she’s looking directly at the camera throughout) although she’s meant to be alone there. Once this musical number reaches its climax Laura jumps into the steam room, which is an odd thing to do after a sweaty work out,  and is promptly burnt to near death by chlorine sprayed out of the ceiling.

You better get used to this because their is a lot of death by spray in Death Spa. Whether its the sauna, showers or just a rouge hot water pipe people will die horribly and repetitively from this deadly health club. Mostly women, usually naked.

After Laura’s near fatal assault, two cops show up to investigate what the hell is going on. A woman was nearly killed from the burns she received and the best these police can come up with is this:

Sargent Stone: Does this suggest anything to you, Lieutenant?
Lieutenant Fletcher: Yes. I’ll have to ask my wife to start smoking in bed.

Tumble-weeds from hell can’t even be bothered to blow past.

These police are particularly incompetent. When they first arrive the manager, understandably suspicious as neither of them dress like cops, asks to see their badges. The male cop tries to pull out hisbadge but it gets caught in his long detective style rain coat, that’s fine says the manager without it even seeing it, the other cop doesn’t even try to show hers.

Anyway the main problem is that these sleuths are the moat tragically inept police LA can offer. The case is thus: the health spa is fully automated and run by one of those fancy lights and bleeping computers that only existed in movies back in the eighties.  But then various staff and members are being mutilated and murdered by faults in the machine. But no, says David, the architect and wizz behind this mechanised body trainer, there is no way in hell the machine could ever make a mistake. It would have to be reprogrammed to do that and the only person who has the access and knowledge to do such a thing is David himself.  Ergo it must be David who is doing it. He’s basically admitted it in his opening scene. However the cops don’t buy it. He’s suspicious yes, and he is the brother of Michael the manager’s dead wife and blames him for her death and wants him to fail because of it. So he’s got motivation. Still not enough for the force, its too obvious.

But it IS him! He barely even tries to hide it. He even pops round to see the now blind Laura to torment her whilst Michael is out. Okay yes, he is possessed by his dead sister Catherine (who is also his twin, natch*) who is probably more into the killing than he is, but there’s no red herring here. David is the murderer.

Talking of blind Laura there is an amazing sex scene involving her and Michael. And when I say amazing I mean awful. Michael has just brought her back to his gaff after the hospital and her eyes are bandaged with the hugest pads you can imagine and she is clearly in some pain. So to cheer her up Michael decides to cook her some asparagus and slowly dangle it into her mouth in the same way Mickey Rourke got Kim Basinger all hot and bothered with those jalapeños and honey in 9 1/2 Weeks. Its even lit all sexy like. But LAURA IS BLIND. She’s almost certainly suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and even if she isn’t,  she has dirty great big bandages covering her eyes. No Asparagus,  no matter how well cooked it is,  can be a turn on when youve just been blinded with chlorine by an insane killer steam room.

Add to that as she can’t see her other senses have probably been heightened so her urine is going to smell even more disgusting than normal after eating asparagus. Also Michael makes multiple comments about how good she looks and nice it is to see her. Rub it in that she´s blind why don´t you,  you mullet-headed monster.

Anyway, more gym related death ensues. One woman who walks around the place in her bra and knickers (I belong to the Easy Gym on Oxford Street and it may be called easy but I have never seen a woman walking around in her underwear there) finds her self in a dark corner of the spa and is garrotted by a pipe of some nature. A chap is split in two by a computerised chest expander and I´m not even sure what you need the computer for in that scenario. Then a member looks in a mirror and the mirror cracks then explodes blowing her up in the process. None of these deaths makes any sense but its all topped by what happens to Lieutenant Fletcher with the police badge problem.

Towards the end of the film the weird shit really hits the fan. After multiple deaths, instead of closing the gym down to find out what is going on or just close it down for good for health and safety reasons, Michael decides instead to hold a great big party. Obviously the doors lock themselves Carrie-style and the whole place goes up in flames taking as many people as it can with it. Meanwhile David and/or Catherine is wandering around like a ghost or a Psycho wannabe (its never made clear which) dealing out dumb death left, right and centre. Poor old Fletcher gets it the worse. The walk in freezer behind the bar bursts open and icy air sucks the unsuspecting copper in. You´d think this would be a good thing as everyone else is burning to death in the inferno outside. However no. Fletcher is attacked by frozen kippers which leap at him and tear his throat out.

I know the old saying goes that no one sets out to make a bad movie but really? At what point do you not realise that killing one of your main characters with a frozen fish is a terrible idea?

Fortunately, the cast are well up to this nonsense. The actor playing Michael it seems was cast because he used to actually BE a manager of a health spa, rather than, say, an actor. There´s a dreadful English man who brings shame to our entire nation with his performance, and evil Catherine was so bad that they had to redub her with someone else´s voice. Obviously the dubbing is shockingly out of sync.

The most famous cast member at the time was Merritt Butrick who played Captain Kirk´s son in Star Trek´s 2 and 3. When that´s the biggest star you can muster you can tell that you´re script sucks even without having to read the title. Even Butrick is pretty lousy in it but then he was close to death when the film was being made (the poor guy died of AIDS in March of 1989) so maybe he had his mind on things other than whether he was possessed by his evil dead twin sister or not.

The script doesn´t help anyone at all with some risible dialogue like:

¨I´ve known some real pricks but you´re the king. Take it as a compliment.¨ I´m not sure Daniel Day-Lewis could make that line work.

Or when Catherine floats into the computer room the staff member guarding it is turned on when she takes off her dressing gown to reveal a very unrevealing nightie. ¨Mmm…¨ he says. ¨Nice arms¨.

Catherine is not impressed by this compliment and sucks his face off.

Don´t be fooled into thinking this is some wild gorefest though, a lot of the killings are difficult to see and poorly executed anyway, often hidden by bad wigs. The final shot is of a bloody and mangled dime-store wigged Catherine lying on the floor of the gym swearing revenge before her one remaining eyeball,  that is clearly a ping pong ball, explodes all over the lino.

Look, to be honest apart from all the endlessly stupid deaths, fire and David/Catherine´s nice arms this actually looked like it was quite a good party. There was an endless supply of booze, lots of people, all in leotards and if you liked terrible bass-slapping eighties music then you were laughing. More importantly Dawn of the Dead´s Ken Foree was there and I bet he could tell a story or two.

That party looked ace. And I bet it was more fun to film than it was to watch Death Spa. Despite what fun it sounds like above, it took me five goes to get through it all. I suffered through Death Spa so you don’t have to. And I don’t feel any healthier for it.

*I’m always seeing this “natch” word and had no idea what it meant. I looked it up, natch is short for naturally. I will never use it again.

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Orphan 2009

Somehow I had managed to not only miss Orphan upon its release (and the years since)  but also know nothing about it other than the twist at the end that some bastard told me at the time. For some reason killer children movies never get me banging at the door of the local multiplex on opening night. The idea just doesn´t excite me. But I really should change my prejudice against them because from The Exorcist to The Omen to Children of the Corn to Who Would Kill A Child? they are almost always a laugh-riot in a malicious and wicked kind of way. Orphan is no exception.

The main thing I failed to realise about this film is that it has one hell of a quality cast. The adopting father and mother are played by Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga both of whom are top quality thespians. Farmiga especially is an acting tour-de-force who probably gives awards worthy performances whilst she’s brushing her teeth in the morning. In 2009 when Orphan came out Farmiga was Oscar nominated for her stand out role in Up In The Air and rightly so. This does beg the question though: what the hell is she doing in this trash?

And trash Orphan is. But don’t let that put you off because its entertaining from start to finish trash. Well maybe not the start. Its a little slow to begin with and its like the film makers knew it. It is almost twenty minutes in before Farmiga and Sarsgaard reach the orphanage. Before that there is a lot of back story which, whilst helpful for developing the characters and exposing their weaknesses to be exploited later on, rob the story of its energy. As if to compensate for this there are  jump scares which don’t fit in at all with the narrative: for example Farmiga is looking in the mirror and then Sarsgaard appears behind her, there is a loud orchestral burst of shock music… Why? No one is being stalked, haunted or threatened yet?

Not to worry, the moment Isabelle Fuhrman appears as creepy old-fashioned (literally, she wears fashion from the 19th century) child Esther the story picks up and gets on with itself. Esther may charm her dumb adoptive parents initially but she doesn’t waste much time before breaking a potential bully´s leg, beating someone to death with the sharp end of a hammer and threatening to cut her new brother´s bollocks off. In fact Farmiga and Sarsgaard’s natural children take about five minutes to work out that something is awry with Evil Esther. Farmiga gets suspicious not long after later but poor old sap Sarsgaard never works it out until about a second before it´s too late.

Peter Sarsgaard’s character is surely one of the stupidest in cinematic history. For the first hour his entire character is thus: I’m super, super horny, why don’t we have sex? There is nothing else to him at all. Farmiga is upset about a nightmare she had about her still born child. Her husband’s answer? Why don’t we hump? He’s talking to one of the local soccer mums who needs “a hand with a heavy chair” – sexy times! Farmiga thinks that Esther might be disturbed – let’s have sex in the kitchen where our new adopted child, who is fucked up anyway, can walk in on us doing it doggy style against the centre island. “Come on Vera, it will be exciting. For fuck´s sake Peter, stop thinking with your pecker. After all this it’s a blessed relief when he rejects Esther’s incredibly uncomfortable moves on him.

(in the above picture Vera Farmiga is clearly upset whilst Peter Sarsgaard is using her vulnerability to try to take her roughly from behind. You will be pleased to hear he fails)

When Sarsgaard does finally do something other than try to get laid it’s all the wrong thing. Farmiga starts expressing first some doubts and then outright hatred of Esther, so her husband, without question, takes the weird kid he’s known for three weeks side EVERY SINGLE TIME. Never mind the fact that a nun from the orphanage is murdered at the end of their road, thirty seconds after expressing grave concerns about Esther’s history and sanity. And never mind that his children are clearly in abject fear of their new sister. Dad’s on Team Esther all the way. Obviously Esther is manipulating him, but even then you think he would at least try to entertain the notion that his wife might be correct. Instead he makes Farmiga see to her shrink, threatens to leave her and take the kids, and finally gets her sedated and locked up in a hospital.

Everything Sarsgaard’s character does is wrong and foolish, and only makes matters ten times worse for himself and his family. If there is a moral to this story (other than don’t adopt weird kids from Russia who dress like a Victorian´s nightmare) then it is thus: husbands, listen to your wives, they are always right.

Isabelle Fuhrman as Esther defies her young age by clearly having a whale of a time being revolting, and maybe that is they key as to why all of the cast signed up to this barmy film in the first place. There is never any doubt, for the audience at least, that Esther is a bad, bad kid and director Jaume Collet-Serra gets huge mileage out of her villainy. Of course a small, murderous child is, in theory, no real threat to a grown adult. But the dedication of Farmiga, Sarsgaard, the marvellous C.C.H. Pounder (as the nun) and the child actors that makes Orphan a lot more entertaining than it really ought to be. Maybe that´s why Farmiga and Sarsgaard worked on this after all, the fun factor was just too hard to resist.

You´ll have fun watching it too. Just don´t let anyone tell you the end. Bastard…

How did the Upcoming Horror of 2017 turn out?

As I´ve already pointed out horror went down a storm in 2017 but back in January I wrote a preview of some of those films and more. So how did they turn out? Were our hopes and dreams realised, or just dashed across the tarmac with lower intestines dripping down the storm drain?

The Autopsy of Jane Doe – Soon!

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I SAID: As has been the case for the last few years one of the first films out of the block is one that has been getting a lot of buzz from the festival circuits. Following The Witch, It Follows and The Babadook before them, can The Autopsy of Jane Doe survive the over-hype to be a genuine horror classic? Certainly it has a good pedigree with Andre Ovredal of Trollhunter fame, and stars Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox bringing some class to the tale of a strangely perfect female corpse being brought into the father-and-son morticians, with one night to discover who she is and how she died. I can tell you now (as I’ve already seen it) it lives up to the hype… which might be me over-hyping it again, so now you will think its over rated… damn it!

AND? Yes it was truly great. What happened to it though is another matter. It never got much of a release and here in the UK finally ended up on Netflix where, hopefully, at least a lot of people can now watch it. Just do it late at night with the lights off okay?

Split – 20th January

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I SAID: M. Night Shyamalan has realised that instead of messing around with different genres he should just stick to what he is amazing at. So we get, hot on the heels of The Visit, another potential classic, this time involving split personalities, kidnapping and James McAvoy acting his socks off as 24 characters (in the same body obviously).

AND? It another winner, great for Shyamalan, Blum House Productions and us at large. Also if you liked Unbreakable then this will please you hugely too. When a film is mostly set in one small cellar and can still be epic in scope and scale then clearly the director knows what he is doing. Welcome back M. Night.

 

Don’t Knock Twice – 3rd February

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I SAID: There’s not lot of British horror this year (hello Hammer? Where are you when we need you?) but Don’t Knock Twice has some very strong imagery in the trailer and witches are all the rage at the moment, so let’s hope it can hold our flag up proudly this year and be less of an embarrassment than the people who voted for Brexit.

AND? Well its a solid, well made and fairly spooky little tale that deserves to be seen.. shame no one did. I know that unless you´re coming from Blum House you won´t get much of a release these days but surely there must be a way to let people know a decent scare-fest is coming out. This just limped onto Amazon for rental with little to no flurry at all which is a real pity. There´s not even Fangoria Magazine around any more to draw in the hardcore fans. Sad, as the horror in the Whitehouse would say.

A Cure For Wellness – 24th February

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I SAID: Director Gore Verbinski may have tested his audience’s patience to the limit with the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels and the bizarrely dull The Lone Ranger, but whatever you think of him you have to agree that he is a visual master of mainstream cinema. The trailers for A Cure for Wellness certainly backs this up and with Jason Isaacs and Dane DeHaan in the cast what could possibly go wrong? Okay IMDB says the running time is 146 minutes which seems to suggest Verbinski is still making over long, flabby stories and I’m not sure the tale of a mysterious spa can sustain such length. But hey! What do I know, this is just a preview list, let’s judge it when it comes out yeah?

AND? Well I have yet to see it, mostly because of that running time but word has it that its just what I feared: looks great, is too long and doesn´t have enough story to sustain that run time. Maybe I will try to watch it in three chunks and pretend its a mini series.

Kong: Skull Island – 10th March

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I SAID: King Kong is back and is ALWAYS welcome in my books even if he is clearly played by a man in a monkey suit. Sadly, those days have long since gone but this new version is setting up not only a new franchise but also will serve as a prequel to a grudge match between our giant furry friend and Godzilla. When did the studio system embrace B-movie silliness so fully? Next they’ll be making a big budget remake of… actually you know what? I was trying to think of a ludicrous cheap movie for a studio to remake but I think they’ve done them all now. Hey, I ain’t complaining!

AND? It delivers all the wild monster action you could be hope for. Samuel L. Jackson makes for a great villain and its nice to see Kong be a bit less soppy this time round and more into just beating eighteen types of shit out of various types of weird creatures. The film is maybe a bit too frantic in its pacing and is a bit more preoccupied with big action and big visual effects than anything else but then this is King Kong we´re talking about here. If we got to know all about the different characters before the mighty monkey pulled all their limbs off we´d end up with the snorefest that was Peter Jackson´s effort.

Get Out – 17th March

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I SAID: Directorial debut from comedian Jordan Peele, Get Out stars the very likeable Daniel Kaluuya travelling to his white girlfriend’s parent’s house only to discover some nasty goings on. At a time when race relations are at a very low point in America, this horror version of Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? couldn’t come at a better time.

AND? Well it wasn´t quite what anyone expected at all (unless you´ve seen The Skeleton Key) and was all the better for it. One of the most tense, funny and thought provoking films this year, the world is now Jordan Peele´s oyster. What will he give us next?

The Belko Experiment – 17th March

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I SAID: The poster says this is a cross between The Office and Battle Royale so that is the plot basically. I can’t say I’m that excited about such a premise but then it is written by James Gunn and is getting lots of whispers of greatness so we’ll find out soon enough whether its worth getting all worked up about or not.

AND? It was EXACLTY a cross between The Office and Battle Royale and whilst it was well made and relativity entertaining too watch it was maybe a bit too grim and downbeat for most people to embrace. Clearly that reflected in the box office takings as it was a rare financial misstep for the seemingly unstoppable Blumhouse. It had some great character actors being really horrible in it though, if that´s your kind of thing.

Raw – March

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I SAID: This French horror movie has a young vegetarian forced to eat meet during a hazing ritual, after which her taste for flesh gets somewhat out of control. Every few years a horror movie comes out which claims that people passed out during a screening or had to be carried out on a stretcher or even died. Raw is the latest in this fine tradition so I’m hoping to see it at an OAP or mother-and-baby screening to see what happens.

AND? Well I missed THAT screening so had to watch it by myself at home (well, with my dog sitting next to me, worryingly licking his lips). I guess its pretty grim here and there. I suppose for a non horror audience it must be pretty shocking but for us hardened gorehounds it barely touched the sides. Outside of the gore it is an EXCEPTIONALLY well made movie with the images of freshers being splattered with blood and paint bringing  these university days vividly to life. It is hard to fathom that director Julia Ducournau has never made a film before, so assured is she with scenes involving nightmares under the sheets and dark, chaotic parties in the faculty basement. The acting is also uniformly great and interesting especially Garance Marillier as the lead. However I found all of the characters completely obnoxious and repellent (and not just when they were eating each other) so whilst I appreciated how well Raw was made, I can´t say that I liked it in any way. Still, I´m in the minority here.

Alien: Covenant – 19th May

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I SAID: Being one of maybe two people who had no problem with Prometheus I can’t wait for Alien: Covenant. Obviously 20th Century Fox and Ridley Scott are making sure people know this is an Alien prequel rather than a Prometheus sequel and if they haven’t had a panic-stricken rewrite of the script a month before shooting then this shouldn’t have the problems that had so many folks up in arms last time round. Really people: characters doing stupid things in terrible situations is the bread-and-butter of horror movies, get over it. Also, judging by the poster and trailer this Alien movie is really getting back to it’s horror roots. I LOVE the Alien franchise when its at its best, let’s hope Scott, in his twilight years, can pull another classic out of the bag.

AND? Talking of being in the minority… I loved the new film, but it is certainly not the full-on Alien film people were hoping for. It is by all accounts Prometheus 2 right down to the continuing decent into monomaniacal madness of android David and the humans being incredibly stupid. But, despite moments of extreme stupidity, it is a film of great ambitions. Ridley Scott, hopefully nowhere near the end of his life despite being 80, is clearly contemplating the big questions of what is life and what is our role in the universe. The answer to that one, so far, seems to be to be fodder for greater intelligences to experiment on, so Scott is clearly off his rocker – in the best way imaginable.

The Mummy – 9th June

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I SAID: Although yet another big budget Mummy movie in theory isn’t that exciting, especially after the Brendan Fraser/sand particle years, Universal is trying to kick start a movie monsters shared universe franchise with this new version. What self respecting horror fan isn’t interested in that? Plus Tom Cruise rarely does bad films so there’s real hope here. There still seemed to be a lot of sand particles in the trailer though so I’m not getting my hopes up too much.

AND? Sadly this was a big budget disaster. It killed the monster universe stone cold dead so we will now (probably) never see Bill Condon´s labour of love version of The Bride of Frankenstein with Angelina Jolie as the Bride. It may be easy to say this now with the benefit of hindsight but clearly Universal misread what people wanted from a monster movie by a country mile. We basically got a darker, modern version of those Brendan Fraser movies but with Tom Cruise instead – all action set pieces, big visual effects and big stars when what people actually would prefer would be, well, you know, a monster movie.

The Dark Tower – 28th July

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I SAID: The King revival starts here… this time with a massive budget, a franchise stretching over cinema and television, and some of the best Hollywood stars acting today. I’ve not read any of the horror fantasy western epics this is based on but I have only ever heard amazing things about them. Lots of fingers crossed here.

AND? Another total catastrophe from a studio spending a lot of money. Clearly things were awry when up until two months before the film came out there was STILL no trailer. When the trailer finally did arrive it was blah at best. Then news came that the film was only an hour and a half. Usually I´m all for less bloat but considering the size of the source material this was obviously a case of a lack of confidence and the studio hacking it to death trying to get it to work. The film itself shows this with too many flashbacks and exposition but in fact the bare bones of something half decent is there. Having never read any of the books I wasn´t invested in the fanboy anger and its not actually that bad considering. It does just about make sense, its just that it is a very slight horror western adventure.

 

Annabelle 2 – 11th August

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I SAID: Another sequel to a film no one but me liked but you know… suck it. This time the director is David F. Sandberg who did a very solid job with Lights Out so things are looking up. Plus the setting is an orphanage and orphanages are ALWAYS creepy places. At least it isn’t a family being harassed by a demon which I have had enough of, and if it has one scene that is half as good as the basement sequence from the first movie then I’ll be happy.

AND? It had loads of scenes that were almost as good as the basement scene in the first movie. In fact this was a much better film than Annabelle 1 all round. The two main orphan sisters are terrific in it and indeed the orphanage setting is a total freak out. Plus for those that didn´t like the first film this one actually make that one much better by the end in a oddly clever way. Plus now the Conjuring universe is in full swing with The Nun (who cameos here) coming out next summer. We´re in horror heaven folks.

It – 8th September

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I SAID: The novel It is probably Stephen King’s best work and turning it into a film has been a long and painful process. Folks have fond memories of the TV miniseries from 1990 but really, apart from an amazing turn from Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown, it has not aged well. Things were looking very much up when True Detective‘s Cary Joji Fukunaga was attached to direct but a lot of hopes were dashed when he was replaced with Mama‘s Andres Muschetti. This seems a little unfair as Mama was very good entry in the haunted kid sub genre, and as long as the studio hasn’t interfered too much, this It could still turn out rather good. The story, characters and the town of Derry are so strong and well defined in King’s novel that it would take a real load of numpties to bugger this one up. Please let this be good.

AND? It wasn´t just good, it was great! It will probably go down in the annuls of cinema as a horror classic. Plus it made bundles of cash for the studio which is great for Warner Brothers and great news for horror in general as all the other studios will jump on the band wagon and try and make their own spooky successes.  Bill Skarsgard, whilst not wiping the memory of Tim Curry (nor should he), gives great Pennywise and the child cast is simply amazing. It makes my heart swell when I think how well Muschetti has done bringing the Loser Club to life. Roll on Part 2.

Friday The 13th – 13th October

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I SAID: After a weird and unnecessary EIGHT year wait we are finally getting a new outing for Jason Voorhees. Little is known about the plot but hopefully they haven’t spent all this time over-thinking things: just give us Jason, some hot teenagers, some outrageous kills and a bit of a twist and we’ll be quite happy. If it turns out to be an origin story then that WILL be depressing (it didn’t work for Michael Myers, Hannibal Lecter or Darth Vader so why would it work for Jason?) On the positive side it is directed by Breck Eisner who has done solid work in the past so lets see how this latest entry turns out. I mean there have been so many of these films now, and so many terrible ones, that it can’t really be that bad, can it?

AND? In fact it was nothing at all… after the Rings reboot and some others flopped horribly at the box office, it was decided that horror revivals were clearly not wanted at the moment so it was cancelled, or delayed or who knows what. Come on guys, you can make these films for next to nothing. Even the name alone should at least be enough to break even. Sort your shit out. I guess when the Halloween sequel is a hit this October it will be green lit again. And the cycle will continue…

Before I Wake – One Day!

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I SAID: Mike Flanagan’s career is going great and it has been since Oculus hit the screens. Immediately after that modest hit he set to work on the follow up, shooting Before I Wake at the end of 2013… and here it is four years later after various production and distribution companies have gone bust whilst handling it. Will the story of a boy who’s dreams and nightmares manifest themselves in real life be worth the wait? Well it has Kate Bosworth in it so… um… let’s see huh?

AND? Actually Kate Bosworth is great in this, as is everyone else. The film, finally arriving onto Netflix, is a solid little chiller. No great shakes in Flanagan´s library but a worthwhile watch all the same.

Gerald’s Game – When Netflix feel like it

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I SAID: Mike Flanagan is back, again, working with Netflix to make one of Stephen King’s least filmable novels. The plot centres on a woman tied to a bed after her husband drops dead in the middle of some rumpy pumpy. You couldn’t get much less cinematic than that. But then last year’s Hush was clearly a dry run for Flanagan’s attempt at horror experimentation. Plus with Netflix willing to take a few risks let’s hope this turns out to be the next Misery, rather than, say, the next Dreamcatcher.

AND? Who´d of thought it, you wait for ages for a decent Stephen King adaptation and then two come along at once. Along with It this is an out and out classic.

Sadako Vs Kayako (AKA Ring Vs Grudge) – Soon!

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I SAID: Okay, there is an American sequel to the remakes coming out at some point this year but who cares about that when you have a verses movie! Here you have the black haired ghost of the Ring movies having a fight with the black haired ghost of the Grudge movies. This is what trashy horror flicks are all about, and this as silly as you can get… in a good way.

AND? Its surprising how many of the films on this list actually delivered on their promise. And here is yet another one. Yes it is silly but its also a great bit of fun just like I hoped. Hurrah!

Suspiria – This Year

suspiria-poster

I SAID: Last year the remake no one wanted was Martyrs, and so it proved. Not only did no one watch it but no one even notice it quietly slop onto VOD like a dying fish. This year we have Suspiria. The original is one of Dario Argento’s finest and remaking it seems quite, quite pointless: the plot barely made a scrap of sense and the film’s main selling point was Argento’s magical set pieces and visuals. No one wants a new version of the story of a girl sent to a ballet school which turns out to be run by a coven of witches. Sure witches are in, and sure ballet was in the other year when Black Swan came out but… really? Okay so its got a good director in Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love) and a solid cast… and lets face it we were all wrong about the Evil Dead remake so I’ll still probably see it, and maybe, with a bit of luck, even love it.

AND? Well still no sign but you know what? Fuck it. I´m super excited about this remake now. Guadagnino is super hot right now; his last two films have been terrific. So when it eventually does come out I will be first in line on opening day. Possibly wearing a tutu.

Happy Death Day 2017

The eighties brought about the high concept movie with such nonsense as Schwarzenegger and Delete Vito as Twins or Eddie Murphy saving the world and The Golden Child or Tom Cruise making a Cocktail* ( obviously the stakes varied wildly from concept to concept). A lot of these films don’t stand up to much critical evaluation nowadays because as the idea was so strong, the film makers didn’t feel that you needed a proper script to back up their amazing selling point. The best example of this is probably Look Who’s Talking. It’s high concept was a baby can talk and sounds like an old man, well, Bruce Willis which is the same thing. Oh, how we laughed when washed up has-been John Travolta (but soon to return to mega stardom before becoming a washed up old has-been again) shared a joke about a woman’s breasts with said baby – “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” “Mmm…” replied Baby Willis, “lunch”. This was before we realised that this was the only joke in the entire movie.

The ultimate high concept movie surely had to be Groundhog Day: Bill Murray is destined to repeat the same day over and over again until he learns some life lessons. The difference between this high concept movie and the rest of them was that the script bothered to not only fully exploit it’s terrific idea to the full, but also add enough heart and soul to the proceedings that it became an instant classic. It’s no wonder it never got ripped off or repeated much. It was so perfect the first time round there was no point in trying to better it.

Jump forward twenty odd years later where nothing is sacred any more and there have now been three additional versions of Groundhog Day: a sci-fi blockbuster (Edge of Tomorrow) a Netflix comedy with a man always waking up naked (Naked, shite) and a slasher movie from Blumhouse… which is surprisingly not shite. In fact its really rather good…

Things, seemingly, do not start well. You know one of the classic tropes of the slasher is the cheerleader archetypal bitch character whom all the girls hate and all the guys want to hate but also fancy? Yeah well she is the lead character, bizarrely names Tree and played with gumption by Jessica Rothe. No one wants to watch a movie where that kind of character is the one you’re meant to support. Tree, waking up in bed with a hangover and a sweet lad called Carter that she treats like a piece of dirt on someone else’s shoe, is not some one you will like.

Fortunately, just like all of these mean girls in horror movies it isn’t long before she is dispatched by a masked killer. Phew. But then she wakes up again with the hangover and and again with sweet Carter. The day plays out much the same and,  whilst avoiding the previous grisly fate, it ain´t long before she buys the big one again. Hey, we’ve all seen Groundhog Day, you know the drill.

What makes Happy Death Day work so well is threefold – well apart from being excellently shot, directed and edited, which almost goes without saying with a Blumhouse production – they really know how to stretch a meagre budget. Anyway…

1) The who done it? mystery is surprisingly compelling. So even if you were to think that there were one too many “days” (and you’d be mad to as each death is often a surprise and certainly a joy… if you can call death joyful) then the question as to who the hell is murdering Tree over and over is a good one. Unusually I managed to guess who it was and I’m usually as thick as a pig about such things. May (who is far smarter than me) on the other hand didn’t see it coming at all so I was just lucky I guess.

2) It’s a funny, and fun film. Let’s face it, the idea of waking up on the same day again and again is prime comedy material and Happy Death Day knows this (unlike Naked sadly). So there are a lot of moments for Tree can exploit her knowledge for comedy effect. Also Tree may be a nasty piece of work but by heck she’s a funny nasty piece of work.

3) The characters, whilst often being clichés (the sweet dude, the gay jock and of course our bitchy heroine) are really well defined and performed.  Carter, played by Israel Boussard, really is a sweet, charming guy who Tree is lucky to have met. And Tree herself is just the best. Sure we hate her nasty persona in a Barbie body at the beginning of the film, but she grows as a human being as her repeated days progress, to the point where by the end she’s become the final girl you want to win, to beat the baby-masked psycho.

I think it was director George Roy Hill (who made Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid amongst others) who said that ¨if you have a good script and a good cast then the film virtually makes itself.¨** Now that is in no way to diminish director Christopher Landon or any of the rest of the crew but the three points above do fall directly under Hill’s quote. Sure Happy Death Day has taken the Groundhog Day template, but it has run with it using slasher tropes to create a fun and thrilling  horror screenplay with a cast and characters you can support and get behind, even if you do find yourself rooting for someone called Tree…

* Cocktail was, weirdly, was one of my later mother’s two favourite films. The other was Pretty In Pink because she had a rather big crush on Andrew McCarthy. I never found out if she also fancied Tom Cruise. Or maybe I did and blocked it out.

** I can´t find that quote anywhere so I might have made it up.

Upcoming Horror in 2018

Here we are at the start of the year and there’s plenty to look forward to. Some will be bollocks and some will probably not come out at all, but if its half as good as last year then we are in for some right tasty treats…

(I´ve put UK dates where I can, otherwise its the American release dates, which nowadays are often the same, yay)

Insidious 4: The Hidden Key – 12th January

I really love the first Insidious but feel the sequels have never recaptured that magic, getting less and less scary and more reliant on cheap jump scares. Still it is fantastic to have the wonderful Lin Shaye in the lead with her goofy side kicks. The trailer for the new film seems to be veering away from the same old story into a different territory which is good news, and director Adam Robitel did a great job on found footage alzheimer’s/possession flick The Taking of Deborah Logan. So there is hope that there is life in the franchise yet.

Winchester – 2nd February

Helen Mirren in a horror movie. Enough said. Okay… I’ll say some more. Mirren plays the heiress to a firearms company who believes she’s being haunted by the spirits of the victims of the weapons she’s sold. The setting of the bizarrely constructed house looks fascinating and its directed by the Spierig Brothers who usually do more fantastical, but pretty good, horror with Daybreakers and Undead. More importantly it stars Helen Mirren in a horror movie…

God Particle – 9th February (delayed?)

This is not only going to be delayed until April but will also have a name change. This is most likely because it is the third in the Cloverfield movies and they are all about mystery and what the hell is that dirty great big monster walking over my head?!?!!? Being set aboard a space station with astronauts mucking about with particles and science goddamit! it sounds like Life from last year. Let’s hope the monster doesn’t tun out to be a giant mass of seaman like that one did.

Mum and Dad – 19th February

Parents across America go insane and kill their kids. Nicolas Cage is in over the top mode. Its directed by one of the makers of the Crank movies. How can this not be good?

Annihilation – 23rd February

Alex Garland made a near perfect directorial debut with Ex Machina. Can he make it two for two with Annihilation? The trailer looks lush and mysterious, those who have worked on it say in hushed tones about the brilliance of the effects (which, to be fair, they did, so they’re really just blowing their own trumpets but we”ll let them have it) and its got a killer cast with Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Tessa Thompson and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

The Meg – 2nd March

So I guess sooner or later someone had to put Jason Statham in a big budget movie. If you are going to do that then you need a worthwhile advesary – a giant prehistoric shark will do. This could be either rubbish or amazing, I’m going to go with amazingly rubbish – hopefully in a good way.

Strangers 2: Prey at Night – 9th March

Usually when a sequel comes out ten years after the original its a bad sign all round. I can’t say I feel super confident about this one. It has got Christina Hendricks who always gives it her all but I’m still slapping my head about directors Johannes Roberts ‘ last film 47 Meters Down‘s ending which was the dumbest thing ever. The first Strangers film was anything but dumb, so let’s keep an open mind eh?

A Quiet Place – 6th April

The trailer for this looks genuinely creepy – a family live silently in an overgrown house, if they make a noise then something terrible will come to kill them. This film all depends on how well the initial idea is exploited and what the mysterious thing turns out to be. John Krasinski directs himself and his wife Emily Blunt in what could turn out to be a surprisingly good post apocalyptic nightmare. Let’s hope he can stick to the title and keep the film near silent for a terrific atmosphere, at least until the action kicks in that is.

The New Mutants – 11th April

Fox, realising that they can never compete with Marvel on its terms with its X-Men movies, have been doing more interesting stuff for a while. Deadpool was rude comedy, Logan a western and now we have The New Mutants where superheroes meet fear in an mental asylum. Horror superstar Anya Taylor-Joy stars.

 

Truth or Dare – 3rd May

This is one of the few “a bunch of average teenagers find themselves in danger…” movies on this list which is actually really refreshing. So… a bunch of average teenagers find themselves in danger when they play a game of truth or dare where they die horribly if they don’t play the game properly. The trailer lifts the “passing it on” idea wholesale from It Follows. I always say if you’re going to nick an idea you might as well nick it from the best. Jeff Wadlow hasn’t made a horror movie since Cry Wolf but Blum House is producing this so despite the derivativeness it could still be entertaining.

Slender Man – 18th May

May and I watched the trailer for this and as she pointed out it looks like the trailer for a film that doesn’t exist. Lots of pretty images but it all adds up to nought as we have no idea what the story is. Maybe Sony have just made this to jump on the creepy pasta bandwagon. Prove me wrong Sony!

The Nun – 13th July

Annabelle 2 Creation was the announcement that The Conjuring is a shared universe of ghosts. The Nun is the first film to fully embrace this. Well sorta. It set during the Second World War, way before the events of the Warrens, Annabelle et al. and has scary killer ghosy nuns. I mean, nuns are scary enough as it is. Do they have to kill and be ghosts too? Is this series going to end up with all the different ghosts teaming up to kill the pope or something? Certainly having Lorraine Warren herself, Vera Farmiga’s sister Taissa in the lead can’t be a coincidence.

The Predator – 3rd August

Since the original Predator in 1987 the big guy has been in a sequel, two spin offs and a reboot. All have them have been terrible (okay Predator 2 has its moments) but considering this one is being directed by Shane Black and written by himself and Monster Squad legend Fred Dekker I am sure we will finally see the follow up all string-vested-alien-bounty-hunter lovers deserve. Sadly Arnie won’t be returning as cigar chomping, nuclear bomb dodging Dutch but them’s the breaks.

Something in the Dark – 15th October

After she is given weird revolutionary eyewear a blind woman has her sight restored but also, annoyingly, can see ghosts. Is that a bad thing? Well if they start hanging out in the loo when you’re trying to drop the kids off at the pool then I guess so. This could be something special from a smaller film in amongst all these bigger names. Bits are crossed.

Halloween – 19th October

All the old horror franchaises should really have been laid to rest a long time ago, but every few years a new one rears its lovely, rotten head. In theory this new Halloween is a terrible idea (much like all of the sequels) but this has Jamie Leigh Curtis back in her breakout role as Laurie Strode, even if she did already die several films ago. Actually she didn’t! The new film ignores all of the sequels and is in fact a direct sequel to the first film. Now we’ve heard all this before (remember Texas Chainsaw 3D?). David Gordon Green is an interesting director working with regular star and collaborator Danny MCBride on the script. The fact that they are both best known for stoner comedies (although he also directed the wonderful George Washington) would be worrying but then this is a Blum House production. The last time they worked with a known comedian the result was Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Also, more important than anything,  John Carpenter is scoring this.

The House With a Clock In Its Walls – 19th October

Weirdly coming out the same day as Halloween, so doomed to be lost in the hullaballoo, Eli Roth’s latest movie promises to be a more low key affair than his usual efforts. It might also be more of a children’s horror fantasy than a bloodbath. Whether its any good or not remains to be seen but a fine cast including Cate Blanchett and Kyle MacLaughlin gives me hope. It also has Jack Black.

Overlord – 26th October

Little is known about this world war two set horror involving two US soldiers behind enemy lines but… we’re not going to know until probably the last minute because, just like at the beginning of the year, it is another Cloverfield sequel! Or is it? the mystery never ends!

Suspiria – TBC

I spend a long, long time stomping about in fury about anyone even attempting to remake Dario Argento’s classic. But if you think about it, the 1977 film is all style and little substance (I choked typing that) and the basic story, of a ballet dancer uncovering a coven of witches at a dance school, is ripe for plundering. Add into that director Luca Guadagnino has done some amazing work with A Bigger Splash and the much loved Call Me By Your Name, and a great cast that includes Tilda Swinton, Chloe Grace Mortez and Dakota Johnson and my fury has all but disappeared. Besides you know what? I’ve made peace with most remakes, we’ll always have the originals.

Nosferatu – TBC

Robert Eggers’s The Witch was a brilliant, brilliant film. We may have had two perfect version of Nosferatu before but that doesn’t mean I wont see a new one by Eggers. Plus Anya Taylor-Joy returns to work with him, presumably in the Lucy role. Who will play Count Orlack himself? Well we have to wait and see.

Patient Zero – NEVER

This is the third time this Matt Smith/Natalie Dormer zombie movie has been on the list for upcoming films. I don’t believe it will ever come out. I think I worked on it a long time ago with the hope that it would be something interesting. Its all lost into distribution hell now. People work hard on films, good or bad, they deserve to be seen! Ah well…

 

I’ll update this list this time next year (unless we’re in the middle of our own apocalypse by then) so we can see how they all turned out. Until then good luck.

 

 

Top Ten Horror Movies of 2017

2017 was a terrible year in many ways, but not in horror. There are a couple in this list which are out and out classics and there many other fine features worth a look. Beyond this lot and a few others I clearly missed (The Ritual maybe?) I´m not sure that this year has quite the depth and breadth of some previous years but its still obvious that audiences are as hungry for horror as they ever have been.

Stephen King´s It made over half a billion dollars which is incredible for a relatively low budget film about a killer clown. Get Out made half that but that is even more impressive, coming from neither a major studio nor a known director and with almost no budget at all. People complain about stuff like Rotten Tomatoes ruining various films box office chances but it is also helping audiences hone in on quality films that deserve to be seen. Get Out should hopefully even pick up a few Oscar nominations.

Its not just about box office take though. New forms of distribution mean people can see great films they just never would otherwise. Gerald´s Game is as good a Stephen King adaptation as ever there was, but if Netflix hadn´t stumped up a wad of cash to make a two hour film about a woman tied to a bed it would never have been seen by more than a few King nerds, let alone adored by so many of us.

On top that there is still plenty of great and weird independent movies being made, with new, interesting voices appearing like Alice Lowe and Julia Ducournau. The only real failures this year have been big budget studio horror which have been too desperate to try and start franchises and compete with Marvel to realise what they should be doing is making one good horror story, well told.

So talking of good horror stories, here is my top ten for the year. Please feel free to disagree, especially with number seven…

10. Happy Death Day

PG13 horror gets a lot of stick from hardcore horror fans and often rightly so but Happy Death Day proves that you can make a slasher for the masses if you a) rip off Groundhog Day with humour and style and b) you have characters you can root for. Jessica Rothe may start off as the classic college bitch who deserves to die (over and over again) but by the end she´s the final girl who you want to live. It may not be any great shakes, its light and frothy but Happy Death Day is the most fun and funniest horror you´ll see this year… well, bar maybe one.

9. Split

M. Night Shyamalan continues his return to form after The Visit with multiple personality kidnap thriller Split. Another great example of keeping a horror story down to one location with the minimum of characters, Anya Taylor-Joy continues to prove she is one of the best actresses around and James McAvoy is simply amazing in his role, sorry, all of his roles. Most women I know think he´s the bees knees and indeed he may well be but he sure isn´t sexy in a dress.

8. Prevenge

Alice Lowe´s small, crazy film about a woman loosing her mind through grief and the strain of being alone and pregnant is both tragic and strangely hilarious. And the fact that she wrote, directed and stared in it whilst eight months pregnant is almost certainly a first and definitely a marvel.

https://myownpersonalhellblog.wordpress.com/2017/11/29/prevenge-2016/

7. Alien: Covenant

Yeah suck it. This is a great sequel to Prometheus so if you hated that one then you´ll hate this one too! Personally I love them both. Okay yeah people still do stupid things and there is a sex/shower/death scene straight out of a B-movie but then that´s what this is. Ridley Scott may talk up how this is about artificial intelligence, God and the origins of life (and there are some beautiful moments dealing with this) but it also has people fighting aliens whilst hanging off space ships and crazy android David wiping out an entire planet of spacemen like he´s flushing the toilet. And the stupid people doing stupid things? Its a staple of the genre. You might think this is not a good movie but you are all wrong and will one day worship Alien: Covenant the same way I do.

https://myownpersonalhellblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/14/alien-covenant-2017/

6. Sadako Vs Kayako

The Ring Vs the Grudge movie was the battle royale we didn´t know we wanted and my goodness does it take a long time for the two of these Japanese horror icons to finally clash. But the slow build is totally worth it and there are many fun characters and ridiculous moments along the way. Highlights include a bullied boy having a grudge revenge only to also be murdered himself (child death yay?) and a bizarre blind kid with magic powers who has clearly stumbled straight out of a manga comic. The phantoms themselves are the best they´ve been in years, unlike the risible Rings that came out about the same time. Loved this big dumb movie.

https://myownpersonalhellblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/21/sadako-vs-kayako-aka-the-ring-vs-the-grudge-2016/

5. The Autopsy of Jane Doe

Another single location movie with small, creepy ambitions that pay off in style. Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch give it their all in what at times feels like a EC comics tale come to life. The set up is brilliant, and the odd little payoffs like the bells attached to the cadaver´s feet are beautifully chilling. Its a film to be watched late at night with the lights off, giving good old fashioned frights, the only one on this list that that  manages that this year.

4. Gerald´s Game

If 2017 was meant to be the year of Stephen King adaptations then it was also the year of single location horror. This was the best of them. Mike Flanagan directs the bejesus out of a supposedly unfilmable King novel and Carla Gugino finally gets a role she can really shine in. There are two mind bogglingly horrific scenes (for very different reasons) and the fact that this came straight to Netflix means that it was like an extra present for subscribers that makes the fee worth every penny (I do not work for Netflix but come on, they´ve done some fantastic content this year.1922, another king adaptation is also meant to be great).

https://myownpersonalhellblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/24/geralds-game-2017/

3. It

Considering the original director was fired and everyone assumed that the Mama chap couldn´t possible fill the True Detective director´s shoes, Andy Muscietti really showed everyone how wrong they were. Maybe a lot of the actual scare scenes are a bit too loud and in your face to really frighten you, but by god the character work, acting, mood and feel of the book are brought perfectly to life.

https://myownpersonalhellblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/it-2017/

2. Get Out

Blum House continue to be the best and most prolific makers of successful horror and Get Out is the pinnacle of their work so far. Jordan Peele writes and directs one of the most tense and at the same time hilarious movies in years. I´m sure for him it has been a long time coming but the subject matter feels so right now for America that it only makes it even better. Also, we in the UK have been wowed by Daniel Kaluuya for a long time (well I have anyway), so I´m glad the rest of the world is finally catching up to his talent.

1. The Devils Candy

BABYLON

Not since I was a kid with my dad´s old Betamax have I watched a film and then as soon as it´s finished start it all over again. The Devil´s Candy is such a perfect little movie that I had no choice but to do so. I knew the moment I saw it I wouldn´t see anything else that I loved as much as this. We´ve all seen a family move into a creepy house before but never has that family had such a great and believable father/child dynamic or has there been such a great use of a bright red arrow-shaped electric guitar. Also heavy metal is usually the Devil´s music, this time its his foil. Ethan Embry is both unrecognisable and the most awesome father ever and director Sean Byrne directs to perfection here. The only sad thing is that he takes so long between each movie, but then if its this good the wait is worth it.

https://myownpersonalhellblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/the-devils-candy-2015/

  

Honourable Mentions

There were a bunch of taboo busting international films which just missed out. Raw is a beautiful and tasty treat, We Are The Flesh is weirdly hilarious post apocalyptic sex fest and if you only see one alien tentacle sex movie this year make it The Untamed.

I´m still not sure if I love The Void yet (the blu ray has just arrived so am gonna watch it again) but as a homage to eighties gory and gloopy horror its a marvel. Another look back to the past Super Dark Days is also a terrific but sad character piece you should watch.

For the ultimate in retro movie making check out the terrific The Love Witch which just fell out of my ten but is one of the most unique films you´ll see this or any other year outside of the sixties.

Annabelle 2: Creation was another fine addition to what is now The Conjuring shared universe.

Talking of shared universes The Mummy didn´t make this list, obviously…

 

 

47 Meters Down 2017

I´d better admit right from the get go that for about eleven years I had a recurring dream where I was being eaten alive by a shark. Sometimes this varied to an alligator but the upshot is that I get very worked up about big water-based monsters trying to eat people. I recently came back from my honeymoon in New Orleans with the even more fabulous than ever May and whilst I was out there, for a brief moment, I thought not only were my dreams coming true (ie marrying May) but that my nightmares were to. You see we went on a boat trip down the bayou and I was, for one brief moment, convinced I was going to be eaten by a local ´gator. As it turned out it was too late in the year for most Alligator´s who had given up and gone into hibernation. The only ones we saw would have barely made a couple of handbags let alone be large enough to fit a grown man like myself inside their bellies.

Anyway, what I am saying is that I am the perfect audience for shark/alligator/piranha* movies so I was well up for a bit of underwater monster munching. Unfortunately 47 Meters Down is not well up for delivering the thrills I was looking for. For a while it looked like it could but then someone clearly decided that things were going too well so thought ¨fuck it, lets just ruin this shark flick!¨ and lobbed a head-slappingly awful ending onto it.

Okay let´s mix up our large animals and get the elephant in the room out of the way. I admire anyone who wants to make a stab at a decent shark movie because Jaws is a thing that happened. That movie, apart from creating the modern blockbuster, apart from being an incredible bit of entertainment and apart from being a showcase to three of the greatest male performances inside a small boat, is also the be all and all in shark movies. I know there was a glut of rip-offs following its success (with everything from killer whales to octopuses to barracudas for all that is holy) but really why did they bother? (okay for the money). Jaws was perfect as it was, everything else was always going to be inferior.

Even forty odd years later Jaws is still the number one big water monster movie, so if you want to do another one you better do something different.

So that is exactly what writer/director Johannes Roberts has done. We follow two sisters (Mandy Moore and Claire Holt) on their trip down Mexico way where they end up in a shark cage to get a few thrills from seeing our razor toothed friends close up. Things go horribly wrong when the cable holding their cage snaps and they plummet a title-making 47 Meters Down to the bottom of the ocean. Here they are running out of air and surrounded by sharks. Its a great premise if handled well. And handled well it is. Roberts wisely keeps the action firmly with the two girls, any attempt by the boating crew to rescue them is kept agonisingly vague and distant. The upshot of this is that despite the vastness of the sea we as an audience feel incredibly claustrophobic – the action is kept close up and is clearly shot under water adding to the authenticity. Although the proceeding events are small – trying to contact the surface, getting fresh air – we are in such a macrocosm of two people trying to survive that every action is incredibly intense.

It helps that the two girls are very likeable. Moore in particular excels at coming across as very, very frightened of the situation she is in (and that´s before she even puts her wet suit on) and as she gets more and more fearful so do we. It also helps that they are suited up with very large face masks so we can see their faces properly. If they had been wearing the classic goggles and mouth piece  most divers wear we wouldn´t have been able to see the fear in their eyes, let alone be able to say anything.

47 Meters Down, up to a point, is very tightly made. The sharks are kept to a minimum although their presence is always  felt out in the darkness. When they do show up they look great and more realistic than say last years The Shallows, certainly more realistic than Bruce from Jaws, but I guess that´s a given. Keeping the action deep under water and close to the actors adds to the danger and threat and kept me on the edge of my seat. In fact I was just thinking that this might be a great shark movie when it all went horribly, horribly wrong…

Look, I´m not the film maker here. I didn´t write the story or get out to Mexico (or a swimming pool or whatever) to shoot the damn thing. But surely, SURELY, someone must have looked at the ending and gone – guys what are you doing??!!?

Film making is a funny old game. I was working on a feature myself a few years ago and the script (by someone else) was by and large a pretty fine piece of work. However the ending was dreadful to the point of being almost none existent. Try as I might I could not get anyone to see this. They were all so caught up in how to make the film that they didn´t stop to think about whether what they were making was any good.

Is this what happened here? I don´t know**, but I went from ¨Yes!!¨ to literally chucking one of my new Christmas slippers at the screen. Skip the next paragraph if you don´t want to know what happens because I am gonna rant and rave like a loon and spoilers be damned.

So (last SPOLIER chance)… Mandy Moore manages to rescue her sister from the clutches of doom and swim the pair of them up to the surface. It is a nail-biting moment as they surface and are tantalisingly close to the boat when more sharks attack. Fortunately by this point Moore is in big sister protection mode and gouges the main shark´s eyeball out. Its a great, but small, victory. Back on the boat everything seems just fine, I mean there´s a lot of blood but it looks like our girls will survive… but then Moore starts tripping out and we realise she hasn´t done anything for the last half hour but is in fact still at the bottom of the ocean. She´s been hallucinating the whole rescue. Essentially it was all a dream. Its the hokiest load of old shit there is in the story telling cliché bible.  So this means what? The last half hour was a dream so it was basically a waste of time? A waste of time for the audience certainly. Sure, some might say that its not just an only-a-dream  moment it was a rug pull for the viewer, so it was good after all. Okay, maybe but this has already been done exactly the same in the far superior The Descent and that was pretty annoying too. Why Roberts? Why did you do this? Oh well…

Anyway, there you go. I guess you could stop the film at about 85 minutes in and it would be perfectly fine, good even. Or you could just not bother 47 Meters Down at all and just watch Jaws again. Good idea I reckon.

*I´ve never actually had a piranha based nightmare but I didn´t want to leave the poor little fellas out. They have a hard enough time as it is, what with all those poor teeth and dreadful dental insurance.

** I´ve just read an interview with the director. Apparently he had to fight for that ending. So there were people saying ¨hey Roberts, maybe we could do something a bit better¨ and he must have been ¨no! I have a vision. I have put my heart and soul into this and now I must burn it to the ground!¨