The Gallows Act II: The Franchise Slips the Noose.

The Gallows Act II is a Blumhouse Horror film and a sequel to the 2015 film The Gallows. The plot follows Charlie the hangman as he goes after new targets, who have been silly enough to read from his cursed screenplay. The story of this series is that of a teenager called Charlie, who died during a production of The Gallows many years ago, and now has come back as an angry spirit, corrupting people who read the stage play that killed him and demanding a willing sacrifice.

Like many¬† Blumhouse films’ this follows the usual formula, a group of generic and self-absorbed teens, are hunted down one by one and killed by an angry spirit or, demon. Though Act II follows this formula in some respects, it also manages to better it in many others.

To get one thing very clear before we begin the review in earnest, The 2015 Gallows film is utterly terrible; it is probably one of the worst Blumhouse horror films, so Act II didn’t have a high bar to reach to be better than it’s predecessor, but it is.

Where the first film had characters that were generic and deeply, deeply unlikable, characters that you wanted Charlie to catch. Act II has an incredibly likeable protagonist and, she is the best thing about the film. Ema Horvath’s Ana Rue is extremely likable; being almost impossible not to root for. There is something about Horvath’s performance which is just so positive and wholesome it makes it stand out. The fact that her character is a vlogger is central to the narrative, and though it could have been handled terribly, it is actually done well; even adding to the scares in some scenes. Yes the rest of the characters are as generic and one-note as you would expect, but the lead is definitely a step up from the first film

Whatsmore, Act II also benefits from exploring the mythology and the play itself deeper. It sets out the rules about what Charlie can and can’t do, which greatly improves the film; adding far more consistency. In terms of the scares, Act II takes more than a little inspiration from Sinister, which is a great film to take cues from, one, not two obviously. Meaning that this film does, unlike the first film actually, have some great moments and a superb sense of tension.

Act II surprised me, I was expecting trash and, instead got this interesting fresh take on the series, very much like with the Ouija franchise. This is a nice little morsel of horror goodness to tide you over until more meatier releases are upon us. The Gallows Act II is a colossal improvement over the first boasting a compelling and likeable lead and a great fleshed out mythology that makes you want to know more. Plus the end reveal nicely carries over elements from the first film in a very interesting and satisfying way.

Far, Far better than I was expecting it to be, is it a must-watch? No. But horror fans will find something to love about this surprising sequel.

3.5/5
Reviewed by Luke

In the Tall Grass: Getting Lost in the Weeds

In the Tall Grass is a supernatural horror film based on the work of Stephen King and his son Joe Hill. The plot follows a brother and sister who get lost in a field of tall grass and go missing. Then the boyfriend of the sister shows up to try and find out what is going on.

If the plot sounds uninspired, that’s because it is, it takes elements from a lot of other science fiction and, horror films and blends them into something that didn’t need to be made. King’s work is currently in demand, with all of his novels and novellas getting the big-screen treatment. However, as the saying goes, “they were too busy thinking about it they could they never thought about if they should”. This film proves that and then some.

In the Tall Grass seems like something that could work well as a 20-minute short film, but there isn’t enough material to stretch it to feature-length. As such we get long drawn out sequences of the characters in the tall grass just roaming around, not doing much of anything, these are supposed to be tense, but they feel like padding.

When watching the film, you can’t help but compare it to other films that have similar concepts, but that have used them in much better ways. An example of this is the idea of time loops, which is a third act twist. In the Tall Grass uses this Science Fiction staple in the laziest possible way, with everything from Groundhog Day to Happy Death Day using it better.

Most tragically of all is while watching this film I kept being reminded of King’s infinitely better film The Children of the Corn; which I would say plays heavy influence here. The issue with this is you can’t help but, think how much better that film is than this; it is not a favourable comparison.

What’s more, the acting is abysmal being so bad that I can’t remember a single character name or, motivation. They’re incredibly one-note and generic being little more than dull, fleshy characters who run around aimlessly and scream at things to remind us they’re scary. How this film managed to sign Patrick Wilson, of The Conjuring fame, onboard is anyone’s guess; this film is a blemish on his otherwise pretty stellar filmography.

Finally and perhaps worst of all, the film isn’t scary. When you watch a Stephen King film, you expect a certain standard of creepiness and scares; King has written some of the most chilling novels of the 20th and 21st century, but that doesn’t show here. The real terror of In the Tall Grass is just how boring, dull and repetitive it is; that is enough to keep anyone up for weeks.

Further proving the low standards Netflix has when it comes to green-lighting projects, In the Tall Grass is a bargain bin horror/ thriller, along the same lines as Sharknado or, other trash; though In the Tall Grass is somehow worse than these films. Another Netflix film to avoid.

1/5
Reviewed by Luke

Ford Vs. Ferrari: Crossing the Finish-line in 1st

Le Mans ’66, or Ford Vs Ferrari in the USA, is a biographical sports drama, about the rivalry between the Ford Motor Company and Ferrari, which came to a head over the Le Mans 24 hour race in 1966.

The plot follows the team that Ford puts together to build a car that can win Le Mans and dethrone Ferrari. Ford’s team is lead by the automotive legend Carroll Shelby, (Matt Damon), and his war hero driver Ken Miles,( Christian Bale).

I know very little about Racing, so if you are looking for a review of the film, where the realism and how close it was to the real events are mentioned; you might want to look elsewhere.

James Mangold directs this film, Mangold is one of the best directors working today see Logan or, Walk The Line for proof, and Le Mans 66, (that is what I’m going to call it), is another testament to his ability to direct masterfully. The film itself is very long, about 152 minutes to be exact, but it doesn’t feel like a slog. The plot mostly moves at a good pace, never getting bogged down for too long on any one thing. The only time this is untrue is in the final 10 minutes, which feel incredibly drawn out and do make you start to lose interest.

Le Mans 66 is interesting, even if like me you know very little about the sport itself, this is because there is a constant tension throughout that keeps getting turned up. The corporate politics of the Ford Motor Company result in moments where you think they’re going to shut the project down, these sequences are nail-biting, as you have come to root for the characters and want to see them succeed.

To develop on the idea of characters, Damon’s Shelby is believable and consistent throughout, we can see he is a veteran of the industry, who wants one last shot at glory. Also, his performance in the final moments of the film really helps to draw the emotion out of it and make it impactful.

However, his performance is completely upstaged, somewhat predictably by Bale’s Miles. Bale proves once again that he is one of the actors of the generation fully losing himself in the role. He is convincing as a man who has dedicated his life to cars and the art of racing. Furthermore, when they do the standard biopic thing of showing you the real people at the end, Bale looks eerily similar to the real person.

The film’s villain Leo Beebe, (Josh Lucas), is the one thing I can criticise about the film as he never feels like a believable threat instead feeling like at most a pain; which can be easily overcome.

Le Mans 66 is a fantastic Sports Biopic, whether you like racing or, not, the performances are equally excellent Bale especially. However, a weak villain and a slow final few minutes stop Le Mans 66 from crossing the finish line in 1st place.

4/5
Reviewed by Luke

The King: All Hail Robert Pattinson

The King is a historical drama based on William Shakespeare’s ‘Henriad’ saga. The plot follows Hal, (Timothee Chalamet), the overlooked son of King Henry IV of England, who ascends the throne. Once there he faces the intrigue of the court as well as a looming war with France.

The King is one of my favourite Netflix originals, mainly because it focuses on a time in British History that isn’t much covered in glossy Hollywood epics. The period itself is fascinating.

The film is long and drawn out, which some people might find boring, but I thought the pacing was used thoughtfully and the plot moved along at a nice pace, focusing on a wide variety of different things. However, the final climactic battle, the Battle of Agincourt, is most likely my favourite sequence of the whole film; being superbly executed and choreographed.

The performances are all fantastic, lead performance excluded, Joel Edgerton makes the most of his short amount of screen time. His Falstaff takes a mentorship role to the young King and, it is incredibly endearing to see their friendship develop.

Likewise, Robert Pattinson’s performance of the villainous The Dauphin is fantastic, he steals the scene every time he is on screen and, my one request of the film would be to see more scenes of him. Pattinson’s accent has generated a lot of discussion surrounding the film, but I for one like it.

What’s more the ending of the film, in which it seems as though the Young King has been manipulated by forces at court, into going to war in France puts the whole film in a brand new context which makes it more enjoyable.

My one issue with the film is that I think Chalamet is miscast, he is one of the weaker members of the cast and, that is clear from the beginning. Moreover, he is also the least memorable part of the film, which is an extreme negative when the film is all about him, overall I think another actor should have been cast.

To conclude The King is a fascinating tale of war and duty set in one of the least covered periods in British History, with some incredibly memorable scenes, such as the balls scene with Robert Pattinson; you will know which I mean. However, a weak performance from the lead actor lessens what this film could have been. That said this is still one of the strongest Netflix originals.

4/5

Reviewed by Luke

Doctor Sleep: The Sequel King and Kubrick Wanted!

Doctor Sleep is a supernatural horror film, based on the Stephen King book of the same name. Doctor Sleep follows on from the events of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film the Shining and follows an adult Danny Torrence, (Ewan McGregor), who has been scared and broken after the events at the Overlook Hotel; the ghosts still haunt Danny, both literally and figuratively, and he has all but, stopped using his ‘Shine’.

The Plot follows Danny as he tries to come to terms with what happened to him and move past it, it does to a degree until follower Shiner Abra Stone, (Kyleigh Curran), bursts into his life. Abra is the target of a group of beings who feed off the souls of shiners, with her powers drawing them ever closer.

First thing first I loved his film, and I will get to that, but I want to talk about the one negative that bothered me about the film. Said negative is the de-aged characters, through the film, there are several flashbacks to the events of The Shining, but the original cast don’t reprise their roles. This change in actors did distract me and take me out of those scenes; with them being more than a bit jarring.

That said everything else about the film is a triumph, Doctor Sleep manages to be a sequel not only to the Stanley Kubrick film but also to Stephen King’s The Shining. Both of these version of the story are very different, with some people liking one more than the other. However, Doctor Sleep manages to do both versions justice and be a worthy follow up.

Furthermore, it’s nice to see how the events of The Shining affected Danny, and see how he has lived with his abilities since then. McGregor does a great job showing us this, as we can see just how damaged he is, but he is still sympathetic and believable as the hero. It’s nice to see him take on a mentorship role to Abra, just like Dick Holloran to him.

Carrying on from that one of the best things that Doctor Sleep does is build the world of The Shining, it highlights what the shine is and what it can do, and how different people have a variety of shine based abilities and use them for varying odds and ends. Danny’s shine was always the most interesting part of the original narrative and, I’m glad to see it explored in more detail here.

Finally, the best part of the film is Rebecca Ferguson’s villain, Rose. Rose is the leader of True Knot, the evil group hunting down Abra. Ferguson plays this evil manic pixie girl to perfection, easily being one of the best and most memorable antagonists of 2019. She is a scene stealer.

Overall, Doctor Sleep is a worthy follow up to one of the all-time horror greats, which is no mean feat. The narrative fits perfectly into the ending of The Shining and makes it feel like required viewing, which if you like horror films, Ewan McGregor, or Rebecca Ferguson it is.

4.5/5
Reviewed by Luke

Countdown: Counting Down the Minutes Till I Die

Countdown is a film about an app that predicts when you’re going to die; it knows this because when the countdown reaches zero, an unseen force kills you. Does that sound lazy to you? Does it sound like the writers were just sat around a table trying to come up with an idea for a jump scare film that hasn’t been done a hundred times before, and one turns to the other and goes, “what about a demon app”? Because most likely, that is what it was like.

I am going to say right from the off that I didn’t like this film, it was lazy and dull and just felt like a cheap, rushed production so that they could get it out in time for Halloween. The idea is inherently dumb; the more you sit and think about it, the more you realise that the unfathomable amount of plot holes are actually hurting you.

The characters are, if you can even call them that, your generic group of teens, all the stereotypes are present here, they don’t even bother to develop them or, give them personality because that would be too much effort. The same can be said of the Countdown Demon, who is not special or, unique in any way it is just bland.

I thought that Truth or, Dare was the worst horror film I had ever seen, and I’ve seen some stinkers, but now this is the new number one. The thing I actively hate the most about this film is just how aggressively average it is, and how it seems to be proud of that fact.

I have been souring on jump scares for a while now, they’re often overused and, have become ineffective in most cases, because they’re so obvious. Countdown shows this perfectly; there is nothing scary about this film; it doesn’t have an atmosphere; it doesn’t have psychological horror; it just has tired played out jump scares.

We as a horror community deserve better than this, and this is the lowest common denominator trash, no time, effort or, energy was put into making this, all it does right is make other lousy horror films look good. I really do believe this film was just excreted out to take advantage of the Halloween window. This film makes me lose faith in horror, and where it’s going, it really does.

Please don’t see this film. It doesn’t deserve to make money. Studios should know that crap like this isn’t going to be successful, they should understand that if they want their horror films to make money, they have to try. This is a spit in the face of all good horror movies. While watching this film, I was counting down the minutes until the end.

0/5
Reviewed By Luke

Terminator Dark Fate: A Dark Day Indeed

*Spoilers

Terminator Dark Fate is the latest film in the Terminator series. Taking place in a world where Sky-Net was defeated, but the future threat still lingers in the form of Legion, the new evil machines.

To get the thing I hated the most about this film off my chest first, before I get into the review, the first ten minutes of this film kills off John Conner. Conner has been a staple of the franchise since Terminator 2 and is a favourite fan character. The death is such a massive slap in the face, as it makes all the previous film redundant and removes a beloved character simply to drive the plot forward; if they were going to handle it like this, they might as well have killed him off-screen.

We get a new hero in the form of Dani Ramos, (Natalia Reyes), who is everything John Conner was, which makes the need to kill him off seem even more needless. Dani, for the most part, is bland and inoffensive, she doesn’t induce any form of reaction good or, bad she’s just there. She is out shadowed by nearly every other member of the cast. Furthermore, and this isn’t a problem unique to this film, it baffles me to see these characters beat up villains twice their size and weight; it is as though no thought has been put into it at all.

The returning cast of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton, as the T-800 and Sarah Conner respectively, are the best part of the film; despite only being brought back to encourage fan nostalgia. It is nice to see where Sarah Conner is mentally in a world after Judgement day. With Schwarzenegger being the life and soul of the film, much like he was in Genesis; proving that ultimately these are his films. The ending tries to send his character off on a high note but, ends up feeling more than a little inspired by the end of T2

The new protector Grace, (Mackenzie Davis), is also great. Her backstory is well done, and she provides an insight into what life in this post-apocalyptical world is like. Her character greatly upstages Ramos, which is a shame as they’re so tied together. I genuinely believe Grace would have been a better protagonist.

Overall this film has its moments, but nothing can make up for the decision to kill John Conner. Dark Fate is a nice if unnecessary epilogue to the series, it should not start a new trilogy if anything it should end it. It’s not the worst film in the series, but also far far away from the high point. Depending on his involvement in this, Dark Fate makes me actively worried about James Cameron’s Avatar sequels; if this is the sort of film, he releases these days.

Not worth watching at the cinema unless you’re a huge Terminator fan, wait for it to come out on streaming if you must see it. It is a dark day in the series, but not the darkest possible Fate for it.

2/5

Reviewed by Luke

The Day Shall Come: Behold Your Messiah Is Here

The Day Shall Come is a dark comedy thriller, written and directed by Chris Morris, of Four Lions fame. The plot follows Moses Al Shabaz, (Marchant Davis), as a preacher who hates the way society does things and voices idea of rising against the Government. Throughout the film, we are shown that Moses thinks he is on a divine mission and believes that God is on his side; though everyone else thinks he’s delusional. The events of the film begin when Moses community centre is closed, and his landlord asks for radioactive materials to keep it open. Meanwhile, the FBI is looking for new targets, people they can lock up for terror charges, and they set their sights on Moses thinking him unstable.

The beauty of a Chris Morris script is that even though Moses and his crew do things that would make anyone else the villain in the narrative, like buying guns off Isis, here we see it twisted. Moses and his friends think they’re getting one over on both sides and it’s all one big trick. Because of this, we still root for Moses throughout, because, in his own manic way, he is incredibly likeable.

On the flip side of this Morris criticises the processes of the FBI showing how they would go to any length to arrest someone for terrorism so that they can get a promotion; even literally giving them a nuke. The FBI character we follow is Kendra Glack, (Anna Kendrick), who unlike her superiors starts to see throughout the film just how ridiculous the whole process is.

If you have seen Four Lions or, any of Chris Morris’ other work you know that he likes to cover important real-world topics and draw out the absurdity in them. Taking narratives that would otherwise be very dark and heavy and making surreal comedy gold.

Davis does a fantastic job making Moses likeable and sympathetic despite being a terrible person; we can see his good intentions. He is equally as terrific delivering serious dialogue as he is having a conversation with his horse; that he thinks can talk.

Kendrick, on the other hand, plays the same character she always does, you can picture in your head what I mean, but she is still likeable all the same; if a little bland. A lot of her FBI colleagues outshines her, particularly her boss Andy Mudd, (Denis O’ Hare), who gets all the best lines and steal the last third of the film.

Overall this isn’t a film for everyone. Some may not like its subject matter. Some might not like its breed of comedy. However, if this film appeals to you, then it is a blast of surreal comedy at its finest and the stuff of indie filmmaking legend. You won’t see anything else like this I can guarantee you that.

4/5

Reviewed by Luke