The Nun

The Nun is the latest film in the Conjuring Universe, fleshing out the character of Valak, the Nun, who first appeared in the Conjuring 2.
The plot of the film is a Valak origin story, set in a Romanian convent during the 1950’s. Following Sister Irene, (Taissa Farmiga), Father Burke, (Demian Bichir), and Frenchie, (Jonas Bloquet), as they investigate a suicide at the convent; which is much more than it appears.
The Nun is not a horror film at least I didn’t think it was, yes it does have jump scares, more on that later, but on the whole, it felt akin to a Gothic adventure film, not too far from the likes of Crimson Peak. The reason for this is the horror the film presents.
The jump scares, though well done, are predictable, so the film is left to rely on its atmosphere; which is not constantly menacing, like many other horror films are, instead it is gothic in it’s purest form. The non-horror nature of this film is a hard thing to describe; the closest parallel I can draw is to the Hugh Jackman staring Van Helsing film, yes there are horror elements, but it is an adventure film first and foremost.
Why the film chose to structure itself like this is anyone’s guess, but evidence for it comes from the protagonist’s quest to find the blood of Jesus, even some of the shots in the film are more in line with the Brother Grimm as opposed to something like Insidious.
That said, I liked the atmosphere and, the film itself.
The actors themselves do their best with the material they have, Farmiga, in particular, is very good. However, despite this, they are all underdeveloped, outside of the role they play in the narrative; which is a shame as they could have been so much more. Frenchie, in particular, proves my earlier point, he is the comedy relief of the film. Without him, the film would be a lot darker, a lot more like a traditional horror film, but his oneliners and, demon zombie killing shotgun prowess make the tone of the film similar to something like last year’s the Mummy, neither wholly action or horror.
To conclude if you like jump scares this film won’t let you down. However, if you like well-crafted horror films it will. With a tone similar to that of the Dark Universe this film is more gothic action adventure than horror. A strange film in many ways, but crucially not a bad one.
3/5
Reviewed by Luke.

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American Animals

American Animals follows a group of dissatisfied young men as they plan out and execute an art heist– inspired at least in part by actual events. Featuring Evan Peters, (Warren), Barry Keoghan, (Spencer), Blake Jenner, (Chas) and Jared Abrahamson, (Eric), respectively, however, Peters is the standout star.
Peters has already proven time and again that he is amongst the best young actors in Hollywood– this is a testament to that. Peters is incredibly believable as Warren, a young man who wants his life to be more than it is, a man who is willing to go to great lengths for adventure and excitement; no matter the cost. Though throughout the film we witness Warren and the other characters become villains to an extent, but you can’t help but root for them.
The writing for the film is phenomenal, with scenes that stress both the humour and the tension of the film; a lesser film wouldn’t have been able to balance these elements. The emotional stakes are very well implemented if a little overdone at times, with them showing you the emotional cost not only of the victims but the criminals themselves.
More to the film’s praise the stylised editing works to strong effect, being not too dissimilar to something you would expect to see in an Edgar Wright film. What’s more the editing as a tool to show the differences in perspective between the people recounting the story is very interesting.
To conclude, what sets American Animals apart from other crime, heist films is it’s attention to character relationships and focus on the emotional impact actions have on the characters. Knowing nods to other genre greats like Reservoir Dogs make this an incredibly enjoyable ride. The blend of tension and comedy featured, maybe the films strongest pro. Very worthy of your time.
4/5
Reviewed by Luke

Searching

Searching follows a father after the disappearance of his daughter; as he frantically realises, that he didn’t know his daughter very well at all. The film plays on the themes of family and, the effect grief can have on the parent-child relationship. It does this through the lens of modern technology, having a similar layout to Unfriended; with social media messaging and live chats being pivotal.

However, unlike Unfriended were this all-digital format added to the overall film, here the opposite is true. The need for everything to be on a phone screen or webcam is limiting, sometimes frustratingly so; with it even becoming a detriment at times.

The writing for the film is solid throughout with twists and turns that you won’t see coming, is it on the level of something like Gone Girl? Well no but few things can be, but a lot is done to make the mystery intriguing.

Main protagonist  David Kim, (John Cho), is believable but unlikeable, particularly in his early film relationship with Margot with it feeling awkward, but I suppose that is the point. He isn’t supposed to be likeable instead he is supposed to be the embodiment of the desperation, a man that has had his whole world taken from him and will do anything to get it back.

The character of Detective Vick, (Debra Messing), is superbly done, with her development meaningfully adding to the third act twist.

The film does suffer from pacing issue, many times I felt myself losing interest, these moments are few and far between, but are still present throughout.

Overall it is a solid thriller mystery, not one I would say rush out and see, however, the writing and, the strong performances stop it from being mediocre. Ultimately better than meh, but certainly not worthy of the Hitchcock comparisons.

3/5.

Reviewed by Luke.

Yardie

Yardie is a crime film focusing on Dennis “D” Campbell, (Aml Ameen), as he deals with his brother’s death and begins a quest to find those responsible; so far so generic.  I wish I could say it gets better from there– it doesn’t. Yardie marks the direction debut of Idris Elba; this prospect made the hopeful for the film.

However, though the film itself is well-directed everything else is just bland, making this film a huge disappointment. Narratively the film is contrived with there being a plethora of redundant character choices. Namely shown when D has to leave Jamaica because he is about to start a gang war, how, is never really explained. The same applies to other parts of the film, such as when one of the rival gangsters kidnaps D’s daughter, only to then give her back; maybe 10 minutes later. Ultimately the narrative leaves you going, “wait what”, a lot more than it should.

Furthermore, from the trailers of Yardie, I believed there was at least an element of character study to the film, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The characters are all incredibly underdeveloped, with there being nothing to set them apart from characters in any other crime film. Even the protagonist D is boring, easily replaceable and not so easily remembered.

The most egregious flaw of the film is that it has no edge, it plays it safe, perhaps too much, even being overly sentimental at times. I believe the film tries to use this sentimentality in place of actual emotional resonances which, if true, shows almost a misunderstanding of the genre.

Furthermore, the constant slip in accent that some of the characters have is laughable, but it is not meant to be.

To conclude, the problem with Yardie is just how boring and forgettable it is, though there are some small positives, Yardie is a film that you would turn off halfway through if you were watching it at home.

1/5

Reviewed by Luke

Upgrade

 Upgrade is an action horror film, produced by Blumhouse, of Insidious fame, being the companies first venture into the action genre. The plot follows Grey, (Logan Marshall-Green), as a man who loses his wife and his ability to move at the hands of a group of armed men. When all seems lost in steps, Eron Keen, (Harrison Gilbertson), with a device called Stem, that can give him both the ability to walk again and, the tools for getting revenge. What follows is a surprisingly deep dive into the symbiotic relationship between man and machine, revealing a collection of harrowing truths.

This film has some much to praise, such as merging the action, horror and dark comedy genre; to an outstanding effect. The film’s action feels very real and weighty, with there being some incredibly gory sequences; which are surprisingly effective from a narrative standpoint. The only issue is that there isn’t enough of it, after the very slow build at the beginning, the delivery is superb yet sparse. The action scenes are fantastic but, they are too few. The film’s horror is incredibly strong, perhaps the best element of the film. It all derives from a conversation about technology, can it be trusted and what has it done to earn our trust? The answers the film gives to these questions are both harrowing and fascinating. Said themes and ideas serve to show the complexity of the narrative; with a lot going on beneath the surface. The comedy of the film is pitch dark, and spot on near every time, never failing to make you shudder as much as you laugh.

The performances in the film are a mixed bag. Marshall-Green sells every scene he is in, conveying a wide array of emotions in a few facial expressions. His performance is much more layered then you would expect from an action film leading man. However, the supporting cast doesn’t get any near the same level, with Cortez, (Betty Gabriel), being a clear example. Cortez is a frustrating character, even sometimes annoying, but this is no fault of Gabriel as her lines are weak and uninspired. Cortez has no development, the scenes she is in you are left asking why she’s there. The main issue with her weak narrative is that it deflates the film’s emotional climax, cheapening it somewhat.

Overall this is a surprising success, very deserving of all the praise it is getting, yes it has some minor issue, but on the whole, it is superb. A must see for the message alone. Another hit for Blumhouse.

4/5

Reviewed by Luke   

The Happytime Murders

The Happytime Murders is a crime comedy film featuring puppets. That is all you need to know. The main plot focuses on former partners, Philips voiced by, (Bill Barretta) and Edwards, (Melissa McCarthy), who have to work together again to solve a series of murders. The film’s main aim seems to be to disprove the idea that puppets are synonyms with family-friendly fun, why it wants to do this is anyone’s guess. Does it work? Well, that I can answer for you, no it most certainly doesn’t.

Before I carry on, I want to say that I had low expectations for this film; in that regard, the film did manage to surpass my ideas about it, even making me laugh a few times. However, it is not a good film or one I would recommend, simply put, when compared to McCarthy’s other 2018 work, Life of the Party– it is merely a small step up.

First, this is a film no one asked for, throughout the film’s entire runtime it never gave any justification for its existence; beyond being solely for the money. Feeling needless in the worst way.

The plot and story feel like a rehashing of genre tropes, with nothing new added to them, lacking all the charm of other genre films such as the Nice Guys. The screenplay places an emotional significance on the fallout between Edwards and Phillips, even having flashbacks. These are to little effect as each emotional beat of the arc feels played out and predictable. This is not helped at all by the fact that Edwards and Phillips have no chemistry, none, watching their back and forths is often painful and unfunny.

Melissa McCarthy is forgettable and mildly annoying here, she brings very little to the role; with her jokes feeling straight to DVD quality. Conversely, Elizabeth Banks’ portrayal of Jenny, Phillips old flame, is one of the highlights of the film; though she is in my opinion sorely underused. To me, that is the criminal issue with this film, the good elements, such as Banks’ character and the world building, are ignored in favour of the formulaic, generic buddy cop cliches that have been done a million times before.

Finally, the humour of the film is needlessly profane, feeling done just for the sake of it rather than for the comedy. A lot of the jokes in the film will not make you laugh; with it being the serious moments that are often the funniest.

Overall this film fails as it tries overly to be edgy, being bland and boring in the process; nothing more than a collection of the Pulp Detective genre’s worst tropes. Not worth your time or money.

1/5

Reviewed by Luke         

Slender Man

Slender Man is a horror film based on the notorious, internet creepypasta. Slender Man for those of you who don’t know is a being who torments, targets and in some cases kills people, mainly children. The plot of the film focuses on a group of friends who summon Slender Man, swiftly things begin to go wrong. The screenplay suffers from incredibly poor writing, with baffling, nonsensical decision making; such as the reasoning behind why the girls summon Slender Man: being another group of people are doing it, so they think why not. That’s it.    

On a positive note, the film did make some welcome additions to the Slender Man lore; this is only thing the film gets right. However, even this is a double-edged sword as the mythology they set up also serves to demystify Slender Man to a dulling effect.

What’s more, the film fails to make Slender Man creepy, which is laughable as they had so much to work with, instead, he is forgettable; even when he is in his full form he doesn’t inspire thoughts of fear, rather disappointment.

The dialogue in the film is not even laughably bad, that would be too warm a term, it is a collection of the most out of touch, cringey, maddening lines you will ever hear– with the writer trying and failing to capture the essence of Teenage lingo. Said, Teenagers are so bland and forgettable it is hard, even during the film, to remember their names; let alone care about them.   

Overall this film reeks of meddling, with absent sequences and has character’s storylines going unresolved; despite a resolution being central to the narrative. To me, this a cynical attempt to cash in on a brand with very little thought given to anything else; Slender Man deserves better than this.

1.5/5

Reviewed by Luke