The Lair: Like Something Paul W.S Anderson Would Have Made Years Ago, But Worse.

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

After being shot down a pilot, played by Charlotte Kirk, must contend with an army of alien human hybrids.

In many senses this film feels like a videogame movie, that is not a knock on videogame movies as I actually like more of them than most, however, it also highlights the obvious short comings of this film but unlike videogame films it doesn’t have the premade excuses those films have or the charm of their associated IP.

We have all seen films like this before wherein a group of soldiers have to hold off wave after wave of monsters as they are picked off one by one. In this sense this film isn’t anything particularly interesting, but is watchable.

Charlotte Kirk is not a good lead here at all, she is much better in Marshall’s other recent work The Reckoning, she barely emotes at all and her dialogue is paper thin at best. What’s worse is that a lot of her action scenes don’t come across as either believable or well-choreographed and can even be described at times as laughably bad.

Overall, whilst this is watchable it is nothing new and the acting, dialogue and action are all lacking.

2.5/5

Pros.

It is watchable

It is unintentionally hilarious

It is well paced

Cons.

The dialogue is awful

Kirk gives a terrible performance

It feels like a bad videogame film

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Slash/Back: Aliens Are Always Popping Up Where You Least Expect Them

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of Inuit teens do battle with aliens.

I thought this was a really quite fresh feeling horror film, both for exploring the mythology of a group of people that most of the world isn’t familiar with, and also for depicting aliens in a way that differs quite strongly from the little green men or humanoid figures we are so used to.

I really appreciated and liked the low-fi appeal of the monsters, I thought when the clearly dead animals were possessed and moving it was quite unsettling because in a sense you hadn’t, or certainly I hadn’t, seen something move like that before. I thought the skin suits later employed by the aliens were equally quite unnerving.

My one complaint of the film would be that it has a slow start, it feels like it is quite a while before we actually get into the alien business, and yes the film is setting up its world and characters in this time but it drags on.

Overall, a fun film that tries and mostly succeeds in doing something new.

4/5

Pros.

The look of the aliens both in animal and human form

The scares

Exploring Inuit mythology

The central teen cast are all likeable and do a good job for child actors

Cons.

A slow first act

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The Last Of Us: When You’re Lost In The Darkness

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Yet another post apocalypse narrative but this time based on a popular, if deeply overrated video game.

The Last Of Us was never my favourite game, hell it wasn’t even my favourite Naughty Dog game, it was very okay and in many senses that is how I felt about this first episode. It was alright, but no different than any other piece of post apocalypse fiction that you have ever seen before.

If you have played the first game, this episode is a pretty faithful recreation of the opening sections of it. I wouldn’t say it is shot for shot the same in terms of adaption as say something like The Sandman was, but it comes pretty close.

I think Pedro Pascal is a very good Joel, truth be told he was the only reason I tuned into this at all.  I think Pascal’s skill as an actor is really highlighted in the scene wherein he loses his daughter, that is a haunting scene in both the game and this first episode. Pascal really nails the emotion here and delivers in the way you would want him to.

My issue with this episode is Ellie, played by Bella Ramsey. Frankly put I think she has been miscast, and was only cast based on the popularity of her character in GOT, she doesn’t feel or remotely look anything like Ellie from the games and it takes you out of it. In the scenes wherein she is chained up in the Firefly safe house and is interacting with her jailors it comes through incredibly clearly that she is acting it feels in no way natural and this when compared to Pascal’s performance really highlights a juxtaposition in acting quality.

Overall, the first episode was on the better side of fine, Pascal brings a lot to the show and it was impressive how close they were to matching the games, but Ramsey is miscast.

3.5/5

Pros.

Giving us Joel and Tess as a couple

It is quite close to game accurate

Pascal is terrific

The emotions really hit

Cons.

Ramsey is miscast and unconvincing

The episode is bloated

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A Field In England: Taking Drugs In A Field

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

An alchemist’s assistant, played by Reece Shearsmith , and a group of deserters try and navigate the battlefields of the English Civil War.

I like the films of Ben Wheatley for the most part even though sometimes they miss the mark. However, this film I think may be his worst and misses the mark by a large degree boiling down into pretentious nonsense that feels like the sort of thing a first year film student might make if they couldn’t decide on a narrative direction for their film and instead decided to throw everything at the wall.

This is clearly    most experimental work but that isn’t a good thing as it makes the film feel far too art house for its own good, coming across as an effort in pretention. Additionally, this decision to be experimental means there are big sections of the narrative that make little to no sense and don’t really fit with the tone of the rest of the film, this doesn’t come across as some brave stylistic decision but rather a lack of ability to write narrative and an attempt to disguise lazy writing by being pretentious.

The only thing that really gripped me about this film is the occult focus which I enjoyed and which did deliver some good scares, we could have done with more of this and less silly art house nonsense.

Overall, Wheatley pushes the boundary into how art house he can be and still maintain audience interest and arguably goes too far.

2/5

Pros.

A few good scares

The occult stuff later into the film

Cons.

It is pretentious

Some sections of the film don’t fit

It has awful pacing

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M3GAN: Chucky’s Competition?

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A new evil doll is born, Chucky has competition.

I went into this film with high expectations, after hearing all the praise for the film and seeing al of the decorated reviews I was expecting this film to be good and honestly, it was just okay.

I think the strengths of the film are M3GAN herself, she is both sassy and scary in equal measure, and the fact that the film doesn’t take itself too seriously and that there is a good amount of tongue in cheek humour throughout the film that will likely make you laugh.

However, my issue with the film is that the tone never really feels quite right, it wants to be scary, but also wants to keep the jokes in, but then also doesn’t want to fully abandon the scares and go full comedy either. In my mind if the film had committed more to being silly and had gone even more over the top then it would have been better, we have enough spooky doll films something more in line with Bride Of, Seed Of Chucky would have played better in my mind.

Another thing that bothered me was that it all felt very played out, and by that I mean that this film did not surprise me in anyway everything that I thought was going to happen did and it happened when I thought it would. Maybe this stems from the fact that I watch a lot of horror films and for someone who watches less they might not find it so familiar, but for me it was an issue.

Overall, certainly watchable and with potential if they ramp up the satire and silliness for the next film then I could easily see a new horror franchise be born, but as it stands it feels too derivative.

3/5

Pros.

M3GAN herself is quite funny

I enjoyed the comedy for the most part

It was very watchable

Cons.

The humour doesn’t go far enough and there are tonal issues

It felt very familiar

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Velma: First Two Episode Overview

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Mindy Kaling turns herself into Velma from Scooby Doo and creates one of the most grotesque vanity projects I have ever seen in my life.

Who is this for? It certainly isn’t for Scooby Doo fans, as the talking dog himself is not even in this, is it for new fans as it feels like a new show? Well maybe, but if that is the case then have the balls to call it something different and not attach it to the Scooby Doo IP. In my mind this is for fans of Harley Quin as this is basically just the same show, but set in a different fictional universe.

Where to begin with why this show doesn’t work. Frankly Scooby Doo as a franchise was never calling out for an adult take, we never needed to hear the gang talk about sex and drugs and for the most part here it just feels like the show is trying to be edgy. However, the issue is that in its attempts to be edgy it just feels desperate instead, and the comedy, if you can call it that, feels at least a few years out of date.

However, I think worst of all is Velma herself. Kaling takes the very worst aspects of her characters from her other shows and forces them all up to the max to create a truly irritating character that only gets worse. In the two episodes that I watched, and believe me I won’t be watching anymore, Velma went from stupid, to irritating to hateable really quick.

Overall, for once Zaslav should have used his axe for good and should have prevented us from ever having to be subject to this, it makes you truly thankful for and remember fondly the James Gunn films and that is saying something indeed. Truly a trash show destined to not find an audience and fail.

0.5/5

Pros.

It gave me a renewed appreciation for the James Gunn Scooby Doo films

Cons.

It is a vanity project and is in no way Scooby Doo

It is unfunny and the adult humour feels try hard at best

Velma is deeply irritating and unlikeable

There is no Scooby Doo

It feels like Harley Quinn but with different characters

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The Craft: Hormones And Magic

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of teenage witches go to war after a new girl, played by Robin Tunney, enters their number and begins to clash with the power structure.

I think this film is in many senses a classic, and an underrated one at that. The tone is just right as it feels frightening at times and there definitely are proper horror moments here but there is also the teen aspect of it all and the coming of age stuff, which do blend well. The worry would be that the film would lean far too heavily into teen issues and be like a supernatural mean girls and lose its horror credentials, but in actuality the film manages to do both.

I think the performances are strong across the board, though I would say if I was forced to pick that Fairuza Balk probably gives the best performance as she plays Nancy with such maliciousness, but at the same times keeps her as a somewhat pitiable figure, at the end of the film we are both relieved that she is locked away, but also saddened by it. That speaks to the power of the performance that she is able to illicit two completely separate feelings from the audience.

I think the main issue with the film is how dated it feels and in the same breath how bad the CGI is, both do hold the film back to a degree and could have been done better, but hey it is still a hell of a lot better than the terrible sequel that we got in recent years.

Overall, a strong teen horror film.

4/5

Pros.

The horror

The teen issues angle

The performances

Balk specifically

Cons.

It feels incredibly dated and the CGI isn’t good

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The Jonestown Haunting: The Title Speaks For Itself

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Jonestown, a terrible real world tragedy is exploited for a lazy supernatural horror film.

I have watched quite a few of Andrew Jones low budget horror efforts and I question who is funding him to carry on making these films, whoever it is is wasting their money.

Honestly for me I found it very hard to get past the premise, its feels incredibly exploitative and in bad taste. I know there are films made about the Nazi’s that again trivialise the evil they committed by adding in ghosts and ghouls but that feels further back in the past and more remote, moreover in many of those films it is not as blatantly tasteless and badly handled as it is here.

Worse yet the horror is a mixture of deeply obvious jump scares and scenes that are just dark enough that one of the production team moving can be mistaken for a ghost, that is the level of budget clearly given to this project.

Overall, this film disgraces low budget horror by not doing something new or inventive, but rather exploiting a real world tragedy in the most tasteless way possible.

0.5/5

Pros.

It is mercifully short.

Cons.

It feels exploitative

The scares are awful

The acting is dire

It is so unoriginal

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The Devil’s Hour Season Overview: Life Repeated

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A kidnapping takes a turn for the strange when false memories and alternative timelines begin to intersect.

This show was the first in a long time that I binged all in one go, that speaks for itself in many ways. I thought this show was both clever and intriguing from the off, clearly there is more than meets the eye within the goings on but very much like the first season of Westworld this show gives more questions than answers, which is how you would want it to be especially considering it has been renewed for two more seasons.

I enjoyed the direction the show went in, despite it ending up in being more of a science fiction show than a horror show, which giving the title I was expecting. There are some good scares and supernatural moments, but the show later explains this all away in the final episode wherein the science fiction elements are firmly placed front and centre.

Overall, a terrific first season filled with promise.

Pros.

The acting

The original plot

It takes a lot of turns and you never quite know where it is heading

A number of good scares too

What it sets up for the second season

Cons.

It does lose more of its horror elements as the show progresses

4.5/5

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American Horror Story NYC: Requiem 1981- 1987 Part 1 and 2

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The AIDs epidemic finally begins as the season comes to an end.

I have bundled the last two episodes of this season together into one review as really they are one long continuous episode that is designed to be watched back to back.

In many regards I am deeply mixed on this episode. Certainly I admire it for tackling the AIDs epidemic in a serious grounded way, which is not something done very often by large mainstream shows, whilst also showing its effect on the LGBTQ+ community of people who were both losing friends and in some cases dying themselves. I think it is important for TV shows to show and highlight these somewhat forgotten about periods in history, not forgotten about by those effected or who lost people to it, but to the wider world who didn’t lose friends and to whom were only confronted by this in the form of nightly news reports.

However, my question is, is American Horror Story really the place for this conversation? As though this series was horrifying, it didn’t feel like American Horror Story which usually deals with the supernatural, when you think about it like that this could have easily been a different show as very little supernatural goings on were happening here. I didn’t find a lot of this season scary I found it to be depressing, and that really isn’t what you want from your horror shows.

Overall, whilst I appreciate the show trying to deal more in gritty reality this season I would say that it is the worse for it, as the campy dark charm of the show is lost in the pursuit and what we get is fairly unrecognisable to AHS.

3/5

Pros.

Tackling issues that aren’t often covered

The way the show highlights the effects of AIDs on the LGBTQ+ community

It is very watchable

Cons,

It doesn’t feel like AHS

It is depressing

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