THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR (2020)

The ‘Haunting of…’ series really has a lock on what a ghost story traditionally is — more a melancholic tone of trapped souls and tragedy than sudden loud noises and cheap jump scares.

This is the kind of horror that seeps into your dreams, but the more time spent in the manor the less frightening these ghosts are and the sadder the memories of their stories become.

The same tricks abound as the first season — figures lurking unnoticed in the background, a pervasive sense of dread, overlapping narratives. Production design is excellent, the cast is fantastic, the ghosts are unsettling and sad.

Not as scary as the first season, and much slower, but the anthology setup is definitely a winner. I’m always keen to see what Mike Flanagan comes up with next.

Enjoyed it, nice to have a little closure on the bad dreams too.

THE LAST OF US: Part II (2020)

What a ride. Brutal, bleak and uncompromising in its determination to make you feel every twist of the knife and to question your part in how far Eillie is willing to go for revenge.

It’s significantly longer than I was expecting, which at first I thought was a fault, but the back half actually contains and surpasses much of the emotion and spectacle of the first, and of the original game, and I found its bolder choices always backed up its thesis statement that violence begets violence.

This is an unpleasant lesson, of course, and Naughty Dog’s stubborn refusal to sway from making you truly feel that these are almost exclusively terrible people while investing significant time and effort into making you empathise with them is a large part of what will make this game stand out long after the naysayers have gotten over the fact that this is not a fanservice sequel but rather a direct continuation of the consequence of the choices that very flawed people made in the first game.

Yes, it is at times tropey. Yes, it is at time quite ham-fisted in what it is trying to convey. Yes, it seems like it could have ended cleanly in more than a few places. But ultimately it’s unafraid to shy from the sort of harshness that makes something like The Road both miserable and incredible at once, and that lingers long after the credits.

It is staggeringly well crafted, beautiful and horrifying to look at, emotionally draining and tense throughout.

Ignore the hate, make up your own damn mind. There’s an incredible, one-of-a-kind journey into darkness to be found here.

MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD.

Continue reading “THE LAST OF US: Part II (2020)”

REVIEW SPECTACULAR 7: Revenge of the Medium Movies

Every once in a while I remember a bunch of films that I’ve recently watched which didn’t leave enough of an impression to want to paint them, so I compile them into a single post. This is one of those posts:

GUNS AKIMBO
BLOODSHOT
JUMANJI 2
DOLITTLE
DOLEMITE IS MY NAME
FANTASTIC BEASTS
A WRINKLE IN TIME
WRECK IT RAPLH 2
RAMPAGE

Continue reading “REVIEW SPECTACULAR 7: Revenge of the Medium Movies”

LITTLE MONSTERS (2019)

An Australian horror comedy quite unlike anything else — you’d be forgiven in the first half hour for thinking you were in for a sort of quirky dramedy or even a romcom.

And then there are zombies. And suddenly this has become a seige movie with a bunch of five year olds trapped in the gift shop of a petting zoo slash minigolf attraction along with their teacher, a television personality and a failed musician.

Has a lot of heart, a surprising amount of gore, an against-type appearance from Josh Gad and an effortlessly charming Lupita Nyong’o.

Shame the Aussie industry is so underfunded and sidelined on the international stage, stuff like this deserves as much attention as any of the more mediocre comedies sneezing out of Hollywood a few times a year.

It’s on streaming services now, if you can find it I’d recommend giving it a go.

GRETEL & HANSEL (2020)

It’s actually good!

Like, to the point where it’s really a shame that this will fly under most peoples’ radars entirely — it’s much closer to something like THE VVITCH than to, say, SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN.

Cool visuals, interesting design choices, trippy cinematography and a much darker angle on the fairytale than expected, while at the same time sidestepping tired tropes and not overstaying its welcome at a brisk 87min.

Not perfect, but worth your time.

THE PLATFORM (2020)

CUBE, except vertical and the levels represent society. Low budget sci-fi horror with a decent hook and some visceral, nasty things to show you.

Fairly blunt in its sociopolitical metaphor, but it’s not really trying to be clever beyond making the broad strokes of commentary. It’s fairly plain what it’s getting at, but beyond face-value it doesn’t really say anything much deeper.

Stomach churning at turns, nihilistic at others, ultimately it’s an okay thought experiment that isn’t entirely sure what to do with its premise beyond the obvious.

Worth a watch, just not over dinner.

THE LODGE (2019)

Small scale isolationist horror with a great handling of atmosphere and enough tricks up its sleeve to make you think it’s any one of half a dozen different sorts of movie at any point in time.

Even a cursory summation of plot threatens to give away too much. A cabin. Some kids. Their step-mother, who is the sole survivor of a suicide cult. Some long creeping moments of dread and a few unnecessarily jarring and overly loud bursts that don’t really add much to the guessing game.

Overall: pretty tense, some good imagery and a climax you’ll either see coming a mile away or be completely blindsided by.

Good for a cold, rainy night.

VIVARIUM (2019)

An extended TWILIGHT ZONE episode in all the right ways. If that’s your jam then this is worth a look without reading anything further at risk of spoilers.

What of the plot can’t be extrapolated from the title and the first few minutes of the film are best left untold, since so much of the unfolding events work their magic through a well crafted dive into what the fuck is going on here??

It’s very slow and kinda bleak, building to a hallucinatory climax. Quite grounded despite an otherworldy sort of scifi pretense and solid, minimal production design.

Once its setup is established it spends its time playing out much as promised, bouyed up on great performances of unravelling sanity by Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg and a new contender for the most horrible uncanny child performance in a thriller/horror film. I hate him. Great job!

I avoided the trailer, but watching it afterwards I noted that it gives away a lot of the first half, so definitely skip it. Drags on a little in the middle but a bit of tedium is selling the experience of the characters.

Otherwise, this is worth a watch!

CASTLEVANIA s03

Still the best videogame adaptation of any sort, and this latest season sees gory, bloody action tempered by an expansion of the cast, new mysteries and a deeper exploration of personalities following the climax of season two.

Perhaps slower and more contemplative than the preceding seasons, there’s a lot of work being put into building out the world and the lore towards… well, it’s not entirely clear yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing where it’s going.

If you’ve been enjoying this so far you should find plenty to like here. It’s great. Absolutely not for kids.

Recommended.

THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020)

It’s great!

Paranoid, economical, and leaning on a stellar lead performance from Elisabeth Moss and some really creative camerawork to sell what is essentially an absence, but also a very distinct presence. The camera lingers and follows what isn’t there, behaving as though empty space is being filmed with someone inhabiting and moving through it.

Fantastically executed, if this is the direction they’re moving with the classic Universal monsters then I’m all for it.

Recommended, don’t watch the trailer first.