Beast: Man Vs Nature


Written by Luke Barnes


Idris Elba fights a lion.

So the survival thriller subgenre or more aptly for this the man vs beast category of the survival thriller subgenre is like I often say overstuffed. I feel like somewhere with the annuls of the films featuring in this area there must have been a man vs lion film before, however, if there was I can’t remember it or haven’t seen it as such this was a fairly new gimmick to me.

The plot is rather uninspired and very predictable, the lion terrorises the family and kills a dear family friend, played by the ever excellent Sharlto Copley, and then finally the father kills it in a hectic showdown. So much so cliched. However, despite all of this the film still feels compelling there is still enough about it to get you to care for the characters and want to see them make it out the otherside.   

I thought both Idris Elba and Sharlto Copley brought a lot to the film, and both of their characters were both complex and surprisingly nuanced, whereas the kids were both incredibly whiny and irritating. I won’t spend much time ragging on child actors as they are low hanging fruit, but suffice it to say that the two we meet here are not very talented.

Overall, despite being quite generic there is more than enough to keep you entertained here.


It is compelling

It felt fresh to me, but if you have seen other man vs lion films then it might be less so to you




The child actors are really bad and quite distracting

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Fall: Life Lessons For Trying Times


Written by Luke Barnes


Two young free climbers, played by Grace Caroline Curry and Virginia Gardner, decide to get back into it after suffering a  loss that has effected them both. During this attempt the two young women find themselves trapped at the top of an abandoned tower in the middle of nowhere with no way down.

I have seen and reviewed a lot of these sort of films, the survival thriller genre seems to have a new film out every week and for the most part they are all bad. However, this one really struck a chord with me and impressed me, whether it was the fact I have a fear of heights so I felt the threat a lot more or whether it was something I hadn’t seen readily before this film certainly kept me engaged.

The performances are a mixed bag, Curry is a fairly weak lead outperformed by both Gardner and also Jeffery Dean Morgan who plays her dad and has a collective 5 minutes of screentime in the whole picture. I think the film would have been better if Gardner had the top billing and Curry was the co-star.

My two main small issues with this film were the frankly shockingly bad CGI during the first tragic climb and also the twist towards the end of the film that one of the girls had actually been dead for some time as I thought it felt lazy and done for shock value. However, in my mind both of these things are fairly minor and don’t really stop you enjoying the film.

Overall, an interesting and genuinely distressing survival film.


The threat

The tension

The cinematography

Gardner and Morgan


The CGI is a little patchy in places

The twist didn’t work for me

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Maneater: Making Sharknado Look Like An Oscar Worthy Affair


Written by Luke Barnes


A shark movie featuring the worst shark effects you will ever see in your life, even the clearly fake looking shark in Jaws from the 70s is better than this.

I will open this review by saying that I am a big Shane West fan, I grew up watching Nikita and later Salem and as such I will always turn up for something starring, or in this case co-starring West. However, though he may be the reason this film gets a 1 and not less, he certainly isn’t enough to make this film even barely watchable.

The shark attack/survival subgenre of horror is already incredibly overpopulated as such it is very hard for a shark film to be good or to standout, for positive reasons, from the rest. This film did stand out but for all the wrong reasons. Obviously as I have previously mentioned the incredibly poor effects on the shark that are almost laughably bad is the main reason, however also bad is the fact that this film looks like a made for TV Sharknado esque affair, but it doesn’t bring the tongue in cheek tone or charm of that film and instead decides to play it straight for the most part- to no one’s benefit.

I also really don’t care for the narrative structure of this film and how it decides to split focus between the main group of partiers under attack by the shark and then a grieving father, played by Trace Adkins, as he decides to hunt down the shark. I suppose the two threads to coreless in the end, but until this point it is a jarring back and forth between them.  

Our lead of Jessie, played by Nicky Whelan, is aggressively average. She brings very little to the table beyond being a damsel in distress that doesn’t even really get any good licks in on the shark, instead needing to wait for the uber macho Harlan, Adkins, to come and save her. Something I will give this film credit for is the fact that it uses a cast of older actors rather than have it just be the genre’s standard collection of teens.

Overall, how not to do a Shark movie.


Casting older actors

Shane West is trying his best


The shark frequently looks terrible

It is boring and cliched

It is on for far too long

The lead performance is fairly reductive

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Against The Ice: The Bleak White North Of Greenland


Written by Luke Barnes


An expedition to Greenland soon turns into a life or death struggle for two men, played by Nikolaj Coster- Waldau and Joe Cole. Based on the 1909 true story.

I think this film is a remarkable tome to the human condition, both Coster-Waldau and Cole are  giving it their all and you can really feel it in their performances, from the beginning both sink into their characters so completely that you forget that you are watching a film.

Moreover, the film maintained a strong sense of tension throughout, there were multiple moments where, pardon the trite overused phrase, I was on the edge of my seat. I thought the film for the most part was deeply enthralling and kept you engaged throughout, this was helped along by you caring about the fate of the explorers.

My main issue with the film was that though for the most part it did a good job of keeping you interested there was significant pacing issues resulting in slow moments that hurt the film broadly and that tested your interest in it, regarding this there are also a number of sub-plots that could have been cut down to save time as they really don’t add much of anything.

Overall, an interesting film that is dragged down by some aggressive pacing issues.



The tension

You care about the characters


The pacing

It overstays its welcome

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Castaway: The Love Between A Man And His Ball


Written by Luke Barnes

I had never seen this film before, this was my first time watching it. I knew that it was a big deal and seen as one of Tom Hanks’ best films, but I couldn’t comment on it myself until now. After watching it I found this film to be fascinating, it ran the gambit of emotions, it moved me, it annoyed me, it made me cheer.

At times I found the character’s decisions to be woefully stupid, and that annoyed me, however reflecting on it now I am left asking maybe that was deliberate and done to show that the character wasn’t a natural born survivor and so of course he would make mistakes maybe even laughably dumb ones.

I found the performance from Hank’s to be the one of his best. I quickly warmed to his character and felt invested in his journey as he tried to get off the island. I found the actual process of him getting off the island to be incredibly tense, seeing him almost get washed away with the waves multiple times. However, I found the double tragedy of Wilson’s death and his wife moving on to be the most effecting part of the film- truly heart-breaking.

Another thing I noticed was a similarity in the music here with Hanks’s other late nineties project Saving Private Ryan. At first I found the similarity in music choice to be jarring and even a little insulting to what it was used to symbolise in the other film, but as the film went on I found it to be fitting and even well picked.

Overall, a very entertaining film that moved me multiple times.



The music choice

The fight for survival

The comedic moments/ Wilson


Pacing issues, it is on for slightly too long

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The Grey: A Wild And Savage Soul

The Grey


Written by Luke Barnes

 This film separates itself from the wider bulk of Liam Neeson’s work, by having a more soulful, philosophical edge- contemplating the human condition, and the reasons why we carry on. Yes, there is brutal action as well, as you would expect from a Neeson flick, but here it is done more thoughtfully. I think for the most part, the emotional themes and the action blend together well, however it does lead to a few pacing issues.

The pacing issues really come into effect in the film’s second act which starts to drag. This section really needed more action than it has and is the only real time where the weighty themes start to get in the way of the actual fight for survival.

I think as a character piece this works well, the struggle of Neeson’s lead is not only familiar but also deeply personal, many who have gone through a similar situation can understand and connect. Moreover, the final scene where Neeson’s character embraces his death and stands proud ready to fight the wolf pack that has been pursuing the band over the course of the film feels right, as well as earnt. The desperate futility of the situation is beautifully macabre

Overall, a surprisingly deep Neeson flick.



The character work

The ending


The pacing

A slight clash between themes and what’s on screen

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Jungle: Lost In The Wilderness

Jungle is a biopic survival film directed by Greg McLean. The plot follows young Israeli explorer Yossi Ghinsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), who gets stranded alone in the amazon for three week, the film details his fight to stay alive.

This is a harrowing film especially towards the end when you can see the physical and mental tole the whole ordeal has had on Yossi; it makes you question just how much the human spirit can endure. Adding to that when it is revealed that Karl (Thomas Kretschmann), was not who he said he was and that he had taken other people out to the jungle before, with said people never coming back, it adds a whole chilling other tone to the film.

I think for his part Radcliffe is trying his best, he gives a strong performance especially with the physicality of it but is limited by a weak script. That would be my fundamental problem with this film, the way it is structed and set out from a writing sense. The bit up until Yossi is left behind feels like it goes on for ten years, it is painfully dull and takes up far too much of the film. Likewise the actual survival parts of the film, the interesting bits, feels far too short almost rushed.

Overall, I can only recommend the last half an hour of this film, as that is the only bit that is compelling and interesting. The rest feels torturously slow and drawn out being crippled by poor writing.



The very real feel of the survival parts of the film/ the physical transformation


It is incredibly slow

The writing is bad

There is only half an hour of the film that is interesting


Reviewed by Luke    

Sanctum: The Surface World Doesn’t Want You

Sanctum is a true story thriller film directed by Alistair Grierson. The plot is at least partly inspired by the real-life expedition undertaken by the film’s writer Andrew Wrights and the films executive producer James Cameron. The plot sees a group of people trying to explore a series of underground caves before bad weather floods the cave.

So, I went into this film fairly blind, I was not aware of what it was about and only learned after the fact.  I thought this was a made for TV thriller/ science fiction film.

The reason for that assumption is right from the off you have some of the worst CGI I have ever seen from a film. Cameron is known for having some of the best film tech in the game, but clearly he didn’t let the people making this film use it. The helicopter flight in at the beginning as well as when rappel down the cave wall is embarrassingly bad.

The characters are deeply, and I do mean deeply unlikeable, for the most part they have no personality at all simply existing as hollow shells that recite dialogue, but when they do show any signs of personality you wish they hadn’t. I don’t know if this was reflective of the actual people and they were “just trying to be factual”, or if the writing was simply terrible.

Overall, I bet this is one film that James Cameron wants nothing to do with, an embarrassing mess of unlikeable characters and god-awful CGI, don’t watch it!


I’m struggling to find any


It is dull

The CGI is awful

The bad effects take you out of the film

The characters are awful

The writing is bafflingly bad


Reviewed by Luke

Mayhem: Corporate Is A Killer

Mayhem is horror comedy film directed by Joe Lynch. The plot sees hard working office worker Derek (Steven Yuen), trying to reclaim his job amidst a pandemic outbreak. This pathogen breaks down people’s inhibitions and makes them give into their baser impulses including lust and murder. In a very Raid esque way, Derek and pissed off client Melanie (Samara Weaving), have to beat/kill each one of the important office figures to get their key cards allowing them to get to the top of the building and plead their respective cases.

This film is excellent, it manages to tap into to that inner anger that anyone who has ever worked a job they hate has within them, pure rage. This becomes a nice undertone to the film that when coupled with the copious amounts of gore throughout the film feels almost primal.

The gore is top notch, it feels like punctuation to a bloody point, never does it feel needless or gratuitous it feels just right. My favourite kill in the whole film is when they disembowel ‘The Reaper’ when a handsaw, it is so unexpected and well done it made me laugh with gory glee.

Both Yuen and Weaving are on top form here, Yuen is believable as a man pushed to the edge. He manages to be easy to root for despite all the bad things he does throughout the film, more over Derek’s voice over also leads to many hilarious moments that are genuinely funny and sharp.

Weaving once again proves that not only is she a great upcoming talent, but also a budding action heroine. She has great on-screen chemistry with Yuen and the two make for a great pair, I would love to see them in more together. Weaving plays the role of Melanie with the same metal charm as she has shown in her other big screen performances thus far and every second of her performance here is magnificent.

Overall, this film has a really frustrated feel to it, it feels angry at the world and it is a hell of a watch. We go on a journey with these characters and the ending feels very satisfying definitely worth the watch.


Yuen and Weaving are both fantastic.

It has a great angry energy to it.

The gore is spectacular.

The ending feels satisfying.


It does get a little repetitive towards the end.


Reviewed by Luke

The Hills Have Eye: Keep On Driving

The Hills Have Eyes is a horror film directed by Wes Craven. The plot sees a family traveling through the desert on their way to California, when they stop midway through their trip they come under attack from a group of cannibalistic murders a battle for survival quickly ensues.

This was my first time watching this film and I am pleased to say it holds up well, it was frightening and menacing throughout and best of all it had a constant sense of dread that would not let up.  Right from the first scene of the film you realise that something is wrong, then it builds and builds throughout. The moment when Beauty, the dog is killed, made me sit up and take notice

This film makes you wonder just who is out there, could there really be cannibals in the hills? All of the savage cannibals are terrifying, but Jupiter (James Witworth), was perhaps the most unsettling. The moment when Jupiter nails Big Bob Carter (Russ Grieve), the father of the family, to a makeshift cross it truly shows you just how evil these people are and perfectly illustrates what is to come. I liked the fact that they took the time to explain Jupiter’s backstory I thought it made him more rounded as a character.

I thought the choice to have most of the heroes be horribly inept, expect for when they manage to kill Jupiter in the end and instead have Beast, the other dog, be the one that picks off most of the baddies, is almost wonderfully comical. I would guess that it is not supposed to be humorous, but seeing this dog destroying this some what organised/experienced killer family one by one could be a film in and of itself.

The thing I like the most about this film is the fact that it feels stand alone, the ending neatly wraps everything up without too many lose threads. Of course there was a sequel, but it feels like this film closes the arc, which is how films should be, you shouldn’t have to watch another film to know how the last film ended.

Overall there is a reason that this is a horror masterpiece, a must watch for sure, Craven is a master of the genre.


Beast the dog.

The explanation and backstory.

It has great atmosphere.

Everyone is giving great performances.


Some of it almost feels comical and that is not great for a horror film.