Village Of The Damned: Beware The Stare

4/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

After a mysterious incident all the women of a small town fall pregnant, a while later their offspring develop otherworldly abilities.

I want to preface this review by saying that I have never read The Midwich Cuckoos before, as such I was unfamiliar with the story. Had I seen one of the other numerous adaptions beforehand or shared some familiarity with the story I may not have enjoyed it as much.

I thought this film was really well done, it did a lot of work with atmosphere and had a show but don’t tell sort of approach to the film’s monsters. I have always found there to be something slightly disconcerting about little children especially when they gather together as such this film was bound to trigger fears in me. I thought the ‘evil’ kids here had a well-acted alien quality to them and I don’t know if they were inspired by the classic idea of the black eyed children within folklore, but if so they added a whole new dimension to it.

I also thought the pacing was really well done, far too many modern horror films try and cram in as much artsy imagery and subtext as they can bloating the film into a multi-hour behemoths which then lose sight of their scares, whereas this film does it right. I thought the runtime was tight and left just the right amount of plot to the imagination.

Overall, a very effective creepy kids movie.

Pros.

The scares

The atmosphere

The pacing

The performances

Cons.

It is a little antiquated  

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The Horror Of Dracula: From Transylvania To Klausenberg

3/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A retelling of the classic Dracula tale.

I have long heard that this is one of the definitive takes on the classic novel, however, now after seeing I think that it lacks a certain something. Obviously, I am approaching this old film with modern sensibilities so some things will be lost in translation, but I think that it really suffers from clearly being very low budget. Now I know Hammer Horror was low budget and campy and that was all part of the charm, but I think here due to limitations Dracula, played by Christopher Lee, was able to be set up as a truly terrifying threat.

Moreover, I also think that this film makes a number of odd changes to the book that seem to serve no purpose other than to be confusing, as for the most part it is just swapping around character names and backstories somewhat. I don’t really understand why the film did this as it certainly didn’t add anything.

However, the incredibly strong positive this film has going for it is the legendary Christopher Lee, who easily blends into the role of Dracula and I thought was able to make the role his own and put his personal spin on it. Lee saves this film from mediocrity.

Overall, a very average film pushed up by Christopher Lee.

Pros.

Lee

It is very watchable

The final battle

Cons.

It makes strange changes to the source material for no real reason

It’s low budget hurts it in places

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Caught In The Act: Paint Drying Is More Interesting

1/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Three city dwelling women head to the countryside to housesit for a friend, whilst there they all decide to take part in a variety show.

This feels like, in every respect, a relic. From the outset I struggled to believe that this film came out in the nineties, it feels older than that. I don’t inherently mean that as a mark against the film, instead I mean that to a modern audience with a modern sensibility this film will seem deeply strange. Perhaps I am showing my age.

Moreover, the banal nature of the story almost purposefully goes out of its way to be uninteresting, as it meanders at such a slow pace that you lose all sense of time and space whilst watching it and slip into a dark abyss.

The performances are fine, nothing really to write home about. The issue on this side of things is that all of the characters struggle to be likeable and as such you can’t really care about their experiences during the film or to latch onto them, as such the boredom is amplified.

Overall, boring in the extreme.

Pros.

It makes watching paint dry seem interesting

Cons.

It is incredibly boring

It feels like an antique, not in a good way

The characters aren’t particularly likeable    

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The Railway Children Return: Replacing A British Identity With An American One

3/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The Railway Children return and it has never felt more American.

Straight off the bat I don’t mind the fact that this film decided to tackle the racism amongst American troops station in Yorkshire during WWII, however, I will say the way the film choose to use this plot feels incredibly forced in, because there will just be a section about something else and then bang they will bring it back out of nowhere.

This idea of racial identity is just one of the ways in which this film feels more American than quintessentially British like first film. Honestly, this film could be set anywhere, it could be set in rural America if you were willing to give up the backdrop such is its weak identity.

Further in that regard, the only real thing that links this film to the first film is the return of Jenny Agutter, if it was not for her this film could have been any number of other generic WWII movies. I think the older cast certainly did a lot of the heavy lifting here and for the most part they help to keep the film on track.  To me John Bradley was the standout of the adult performers giving quite a sweet and well natured performance that makes you warm quickly to his character.

Overall, it is still watchable and above average, however, it is seemingly having an identity crisis.

Pros.

Agutter

Bradly

It is very watchable

Cons.

The racism plotline feels awkwardly forced in

It feels far too American  

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The Railway Children: Back When Trains Weren’t Awful

4.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

After their dad, played by Ian Cuthbertson, lands in prison a wealthy family must move up to a small Yorkshire town to start over.

I think this film is a British classic, there is just something so wholesome and sweet to the picture that it is hard not to like. It also feels fundamentally British in a way that is hard to describe, any British readers of this review who have seen this film will know what I mean.

A further thing I enjoyed about this film is how it has quite a gothic and unsettling undercurrent to it, so much so that it feels like at any minute the music could change and the film could become a ghost story. Perhaps this was unique to my viewing and other people will not read the film the same way, but I thought there was very much an off-kilter dream like quality to the film and I quite liked that about it.

I thought the performances across the board were terrific, and due to this you started to see the characters as real people rather than actors playing characters and became lost in that world.

My only complaint about the film would be that the beginning was  a little slow and that it took some time to get into its groove, however, once it hit that groove it was a delight.

Overall,  a British classic.

Pros.

It is very wholesome

It feels deeply British

The characters are all very easy to warm to

The underlying sinisterness

It’s a lot of fun

Cons.

A slow first act

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Brian And Charles: Build Your Friends

3/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A lonely but gifted man, played by David Earl, builds a robot, voiced by Chris Hayward, and a friendship between the two blossoms.

I think this film really strikes a chord with those of us out there who have known loneliness, isolation or torment by our peers, in many ways it is a beautiful tale about friendship and standing up for yourself. It truly is hard to not feel something whilst watching this film.

However, therein lies the problem with it for me. Perhaps somewhat paradoxically this film made me care about Brian and Charles so much that during the third act where it looked like Charles was going to be burnt alive I could barely get through it. The film bonds you to these characters in such a way that when they face harm it almost feels traumatic.

I wouldn’t view this film as a comedy, so in that respect I would say temper your expectations, but it does have feel good elements and an ending that makes you want to cheer. Ultimately this film takes you on an emotional rollercoaster, but laughter isn’t on the track.

Overall, a touching film that at times succeeds a little bit too much.

Pros.

You really care about the characters

It has a great ending

The performances are all top notch

Cons.

Seeing bad things befall Charles almost feels a little traumatic and that can be hard to watch

It has pacing issues

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28 Days Later: The Walking Dead Before The Walking Dead

4/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

One of the most definitive zombie films of all time. Also the film that really gave us the running zombie.

I really do think this film holds up. I would even be so bold as to say that it is up there with Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead in terms of importance within wider zombie cannon. I think so many shots from this film have become synonymous with the image of the zombie film and in that you can see the films titan like status.  

I think the film does a really good job of keeping up the threat throughout the film, and no point in the films runtime do you feel perfectly comfortable as you never know when things are going to turn bad. I would classify this film more as a thriller film than as a horror as I feel it is more tense than scary, but that is just my personal taste.

The performances across the board are really strong, from a young Cillian Murphy to a deranged Christopher Eccleston and back to born survivor Naomie Harris. You will be hard pressed to find a bad performance here as even the child actor of the cast manages to be somewhat decent and not let the side down. Boyle really does a good job of picking a talented symbiotic cast that all play off each other really well.

My only issue with the film would be that after a point the zombies somewhat fade into the background and the remaining soldiers become the real villains of the piece. I think that the zombies should always be front and centre in these sort of films and that the soldiers should have a smaller presence in the film.

Overall, for the most part a classic that still holds up.

Pros.

The tension

The cast

The ending

The gore

Cons.

The soldiers get far too much focus   

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Mothering Sunday: Prepare To Be Depressed

1/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Set in a post WWI Britain this film tells the tale of Jane, played by Odessa Young, a maid who falls in love with a wealthy man, played by Josh O’ Connor.

This film was fairly bleak across the board. With the amount of death and heartbreak in it one questions whether this is even a romance film, or whether it is simply a drama about the impacts of post war trauma and gilded cages. I was so depressed by the end of this film that I had to watch something happy and upbeat almost straight away, be warned.

Moreover, the film has a needless amount of nudity throughout. This goes in both directions and feels as though it has just been stuffed in to give a shock to the older market that would usually come out for this sort of fare. Rather than feeling daring, or perhaps subversive, this instead feels incredibly try hardy.

For positives I would say that this film is certainly watchable, Colin Firth and Olivia Colman both give strong performances even if they are only featured infrequently. However, The leads seem far too detached for most of the film, which makes it hard to care about either of them, or even the film itself at times.

Overall, I am curious who this was made for?

Pros.

It is watchable and Firth and Colman give good performances

Cons.

The excessive amount of nudity

It is depressing

It is hard to care about any of the characters

It is terribly paced

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Good Luck To You, Leo Grande: A Sexual Prime Is Never Over

4.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

After the death of her husband a woman, played by Emma Thompson, grapples with rediscovering her sexuality.

I think this film is a marvel. Not least for what it does in terms of pushing age boundaries in Hollywood and reconstructing the idea of a nude scene, but also because it is so earnest and tender.

For the most part the film is a series of conversations in a room between Thompson and a male prostitute, played by Daryl McCormack, who she hires. This could easily have become very boring and drawn out however, the film does a great job of exploring these characters and allowing us to see further and further past their carefully crafted masks as the film progress.

Furthermore, I thought the conversations between the two often became very heartfelt and insightful, not only reflecting the struggles of life but also the very notion of British repression. I thought the two actors had great chemistry together and the screen really came alive when they were interacting.

Overall, I thought it was a wonderfully thoughtful film.

Pros.

Thompson

McCormack

The writing and the insight

The feel good nature of the film

It made me smile frequently

Cons.

It certainly won’t be for everyone  

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It’s A Wonderful Afterlife: Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past Got Real

3/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A mother, played by Shabana Azmi, becomes so obsessed with who her daughter, played by Goldy Notay, is going to marry that she starts killing people who she views as getting in the way or to have slighted her daughter. Sadly for her these people later come back as ghosts that haunt her every waking moment.

I thought this film had a lot of charm, is it the best film ever? No. However, there is more than enough to enjoy here. I liked the spin this film put on the idea of the traditional mother worried about daughter being single storyline and thought the added horror comedy elements really helped to bring it all together in a strong way.

I thought a lot of the jokes landed and I found myself laughing a fair bit throughout, I thought Sally Hawkins’ best friend character had all the best lines, though maybe some would say these days there was an element of cultural appropriation within her character.

My main issue with this film is as it so often is the pace of the film. I thought the film was overly long and had too many needless asides and sub-plots, it could have been a lot better if it had been half an hour shorter is what I would say.

Overall, above average though not quite up to the level of Gurinder Chadha’s later work Blinded By The Light though few films are.

Pros.

It is a lot of fun

The performances are good

Sally Hawkins

Cons.

It is too long

A few of the jokes don’t age well

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