The Black Phone: Ethan Hawke Takes Off His Belt

4/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

After being abducted a young boy, played by Mason Thames, must fight to escape armed only with the past experiences of his abductor’s other dead victims.

What is it with Scott Derrickson and dead kids? Whether its Sinister, Deliver Us From Evil or this, the director seems to use dead children as his main horror gimmick, however, I am not complaining they work incredibly well in a creepy sense. I would say the horror here is a mixture of supernatural elements along with the obvious fear surrounding a man abducting and killing kids and for the most part it works well and is incredibly effective. Moreover, for once I didn’t see the jump scares coming and the few that this film does employ made me jump each time.

I think the performance from Ethan Hawke is terrific, despite only being in the film for a short amount of time his character’s impact is felt in all areas and Hawke really does a good job of bringing The Grabber to life and rounding him out as a character. I also think Thames does a good job as the lead, which is saying something as usually child actors give distractingly bad performances, however, that was not the case here.

My only complaint would be that the sub-plot surrounding the Sister, played by Madeline McGraw, and her prophetic dreams feels a bit too filler like for my tastes. I suppose it does bare fruit in the end as it results in the police finding the boy, however, all the scenes of her on her knees calling out to Jesus feel almost a little silly.

Overall, a very enjoyable horror film boosted to no end by Hawke.

Pros.

Hawke

Thames

The scares

The ending

Cons.

The sub-plot with the sister feels like filler

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Abandoned: Straight Up Slop, Hard And Lacking Nourishment

1/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Yet another horror thriller film about post-partum depression.

How many times are we going to be served the same slop? Is there supernatural goings on or does the lead character have post-partum depression, and or is the baby possessed or does the lead have post-partum. We have seen it so many times before and frankly I am becoming agitated with the generic storylines that keep making it into horror cinema, the Babadook did the idea well and all the films that have come after it have been bargain basement knockoffs at best.

What’s more I am beginning to question whether Emma Roberts can act or whether she simply gets roles because of who her aunt is. We have all seen and enjoyed Wild Child, Adult World and American Horror Story but outside of those productions Roberts seems to be phoning it in, unable to communicate any kind of emotion at all in any of her performances.

The mystery here isn’t a mystery if you have ever watched a horror film or a thriller before, it is just mind-numbingly obvious.

Overall, Roberts is slumming it for an easy pay check.

Pros.

It is watchable, it is not offensively bad.

Cons.

Roberts is awful

The mystery is entirely predictable

You have seen this film before

It is not scary or thrilling

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Doctor Strange Into The Multiverse Of Madness: You Better Have Watched All The Disney + Shows

4.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Following on from the events of Wandavision Wanda, played by Elizabeth Olsen, goes on a multiverse wide rampage to try and get her kids back, forcing Doctor Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, and other mystical characters to try and stop her.

I think this may be my favourite Marvel film to date, or certainly up there in the top 3, I really enjoyed the Raimi elements to this film and I thought the horror sequences were terrific. I liked that this film felt a little darker and more supernatural than the rest of the MCU it gives me hope for characters like Blade and Ghost Rider. I thought the Raimi esque shot choices and transitions were just superb, it really gave this film a sense of identity all its own.

Moreover, despite some of the more unrefined criticism of this film saying how they turned Wanda into a bad guy, I thought this film did great things for her character and felt like a natural carry over from where the end of Wandavision left her. In the comics the character is deeply mentally unstable and crazy powerful this felt a true reflection of that, this idea that Wanda is a superhero and that she is a force for good only, is both not true and also just a creation of the MCU- one they now seem to be breaking.

I thought the new character of America Chavez, played by Xochitl Gomez was great she easily held her own both with Strange and Cumberbatch and I eagerly await to see what else they do with her character, most likely a Young Avengers show or film. In that same vein, I thought this film added a lot to most of the characters from the previous Doctor Strange film that helped to make them feel more rounded. I liked Strange and Wong’s, played by Benedict Wong, relationship and how Strange eventually comes to respect Wong as the new Sorcerer Supreme and also thought the film did justice to Rachel McAdams’ Christine from the first film, tying that up nicely.     

The things I didn’t like about this film were all quite minor, firstly I didn’t like the Illuminati I thought it felt far too much like blatant fan service and thought there was no point to them existing other than to give Wanda people to tear apart. I did like the Black Bolt, played by Anson Mount, death however, I thought that was gutsy and some nice unexpected gore. Secondly, I have issues with the post credits scenes, with the first I think it is too unclear what is going on, moreover unless you are an avid comics reader you will not know who Clea, played by Charlize Theron, is and will be left baffled. The second post credits scene is just annoying and makes you feel like you have wasted your time. Thirdly, I didn’t like Strange’s relationship with Baron Mordo, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, it felt very much like some scenes were missing there as there relationship made no sense being where it was based off the ending of the previous film.

Overall, I think this film is brave, brutal and great for the MCU. I hope very much they can talk Raimi into coming back to do more movies.

Pros.

The horror elements and the Raimi feel of the film

Wanda’s progression

Strange and Christine and Strange and Wong

America Chavez

The ending

Cons.

Too many cameos

Uneven storytelling with Mordo  

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Warhunt: Beware Strange Women In The Woods

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of American soldiers are sent deep into the Black Forest during WWII in order to receive a mysterious package, after they arrive they start to realise that there is something supernatural a foot,

This was dumb schlocky fun in the vein of Wolf Soldiers. For the most part the film is benefited by not taking itself too seriously, however when it does shoot for tension or even scares these also land with surprising effectiveness.

I thought the evil witches were interesting villains, the monster design was good and gave them a distinctive other worldly feeling. Moreover, I bought them as a credible threat to these experienced soldiers, which was nice as it turned the tables on standard tropes.

Furthermore, I thought the film addressed the relationship between men and women, in this case witches, during war time well. In many films we see soldiers taking advantage of women in war zones and often the women are powerless against them, here however that is flipped the witches go on the offensive and flip the paradigm as it is now the males soldiers powerless to really stop them. Maybe I red into it too much.

Overall, a fun horror war movie that fans of the genre will enjoy.

Pros.

It is fun

It nails the scares

The witches are threatening and well designed

The ending

Cons.

Pacing issues

Mickey Rourke doesn’t get much screen time  

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Hotel Transylvania Transformania: This Film Needed Adam Sandler

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The monsters are back at it again, only now they have been turned human.

I thought this film was in danger when Adam Sandler and director Genndy Tartakovsky walked away. I know many like to malign Sandler, myself included, but he brought a lot of heart to the role of Dracula and though Brian Hull sounds like the character he can’t bring it to life in the way Sandler did. Yes, I am starting this review by saying the film is worse off for not featuring Sandler, what is the world coming to.

For those with small kids this film is just more of the same. In that you can know what to expect, if your kids liked the other three films it is likely they will like this one as well. However, if you or your kids are more discerning then this is easily the worst in the franchise. The jokes come off as far more bland and tame then they do in the other films, with not a one making me laugh. Adding to that the plot feels like a rehash of the Dracula/ Johnny, voiced by Andy Samberg, plot from the first film and sees the two at odds with one another only for them to come to like and understand each other by the end of the film. We’ve already been there and done that.

The actual transformation gimmick here is nothing impressive either it is mainly just used as set up for bad jokes and to make Dracula less capable and so able to see Johnny from a new light. It is a fairly lazy body swap approach.

Overall, a clear decline in the franchise, hopefully this will be the last one.

Pros.

Selina Gomez has far more time to shine here as Mavis

It is watchable

Cons.

It is lame

It is unfunny

The film needed Sandler and Tartakovsky

The dance number  

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Paranormal Activity Next Of Kin: Break On Through To The Otherside

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A young woman, played by Emily Bader, tries to find out more about her biological mother as such she travels to the Amish community she grew up in, bringing a film crew along for the ride because why not? However, once there things start to turn sinister.

Okay so this film won’t win any prizes for originality, but that is not to say that this film is bad quite the contrary.  I will admit I soured on the Paranormal Activity franchise after the ending of Ghost Dimension all that build up and for what? Then the initial trailers for this didn’t look great, and I was worried that this film was going to taint the series reputation even further, but if anything it resurrects it.

This film isn’t quite sure whether it wants to be a sequel to the other films or a straight up reboot of the series, as such it goes in both directions there is no direct reference to the previous films either in terms of events or characters, however there is enough free space narratively that they could connect it up if they wanted to.

What I think is the best thing about this film is that it does the opposite of Ghost Dimension and actually delivers on the pay off of the film. The film ends with, spoilers here, a demon coming up to earth to begin a reign of terror, with seemingly no one able to stop it as it can jump from body to body. Not only did I think this was a terrific ending in terms of everything the film had been building to, but I also thought this was magnificent in what it sets up for the series, what’s next? The possibilities seem endless and that has me excited.

Overall, I would say this film is easily up there as one of the best of the franchise and you should check it out if you like all things spooky.

Pros.

The pay off

The set up for the future

A few good scares

Not being too lore heavy
Cons.

The characters are all fairly meh

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Jeepers Creepers: If You See A Body Being Thrown Down A Pipe Don’t Investigate It

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A brother, played by Justin Long, and sister, played by Gina Phillips, are terrorised by an otherworldly entity as they are driving home from university.

Before I get into this film I just want to address the director. Yes, I know that the director of this film is highly problematic for a number of reasons, if you don’t know them look them up, but I tried to push that out of my mind whilst watching this film and just enjoy it for what it was.

This film and its sequel have always had a special place in my heart, as I grew up watching them. Whether it was as a child or now these films have always managed to creep me out, there is just something about them. From the unnerving car chase to the misadventure down the drainage pipe and everything that comes after this film does a really good job in building tension and creating a terrifying atmosphere. It is nice to see a horror film that isn’t solely reliant on jump scares.

Moreover, as I have previously said in other posts the creature effects on the antagonist are incredibly good. The monster looks both demonic and alien as well as simply nightmare fuel. I also appreciated how this film never really went out of its way to explain the creature or what it is doing adding to the mystery and the tension.

My main gripe with the film really comes in the form of the dumb decisions the characters make. Yes, like in many other horror films the sibling duo here make all kinds of stupid mistakes over the course of the film, worse still the film even draws attention to them and makes fun of them for doing them saying things like how it would be a terrible decision if they were in a horror film. As I have said before calling out bad writing that is reliant on cliches doesn’t suddenly make it good, it just makes it fee lazy as you are admitting that you couldn’t be bothered to fix it.

Overall, this is an underrated horror gem.

Pros.

The creature

The tension

The atmosphere

The ending

Cons.

Dumb decision making   

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The Uninvited: Stop Hating The Perceived Homewrecker, She’s Not Done Anything

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The film follows a young woman, played by Emily Browning, who has recently come out of a mental institution returning home again. However, after she arrives she becomes more and more concerned about her father’s new girlfriend, played by Elizabeth Banks, who she begins to believe is plotting against her.

I will admit the twist with this one got me; I was not expecting it. I enjoyed that the film took the cliched trope of the evil home invader and flipped it on its head. Furthermore, I thought that Banks, rather than Browning was in fact the star of the show, as she gave off a real sense of menace and stole every scene she was in.

I thought Browning was okay, but her performance did nothing to elevate the character or the role, and she just became a very generic protagonist.

Something that I thought was odd about the film was the way in which the supernatural elements early on clashed with the thriller aspects of the rest of the film. It seemed this film could not decide what it wanted to be so tried to go for both, which hurt it as the initial supernatural stuff jars against what comes later, though I suppose could actually be read as an early clue.

Overall, an interesting thriller film with a solid twist that is let down by its choice of leading lady.

Pros.

Banks

The twist

Good tension

Cons.

Browning

The supernatural elements

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Oculus: Smashing Mirrors With The Power Of Boredom

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A pair of siblings, played by Karen Gillian and Brenton Thwaites, reunite after years apart to finally kill the evil mirror that destroyed their family when they were children.

I thoroughly enjoyed Hill House however, everything else that Mike Flanagan has failed to impress me. He has consistent pacing issues across his works that make them hard to watch, if I was asked to describe this film in a word it would be slow. There are so many needless flashbacks and asides throughout the film that it becomes distracting and more so irritating.

The horror here is okay there are one or two good scares but there is also an over reliance on jump scares that takes away from the film as a whole. Likewise, the mirror itself is left fairly open ended, it might not even be evil and it might just be the children’s way of coping with their dad killing their mum, this isn’t in and of itself a bad thing. However, it becomes a bad thing when the supposed power range of this mirror becomes all over the place, at one point in the film it can only slightly interfere with electrics and other it can fully manifest itself and attack those around it.  

I thought the sole positive about this film was Karen Gillian, Gillian is clearly trying hard to make this work and whilst she does leave an impact it is not enough to save the film.

Overall, a slow and often boring horror that makes you want to switch off.

Pros.

Karen Gillian

One or two good scares

Cons.

It is slow

There are far too many flashbacks and asides

Crippling pacing issues

Not specifying how powerful the mirror is.

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Insidious 3: The Least Scary Villain In A Horror Film Ever

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

After the death of her mother Quinn, played by Stefanie Scott, reaches out to the spirit world to try and contact her, and obviously because this is a horror movie, something other than her mum reaches back.

In my mind this is the worst of the Insidious films. This is mainly due to the demon antagonist of this one. Whoever designed it should be let go as there is nothing creepy about an old man with an oxygen tank, nor should there be. Furthermore, in terms of how easy it is to defeat this villain, simply by removing his oxygen mask, there is no threat at all there. In the first film The Man With Fire On His Face would be a lot worse of a villain if you could just turn off his music and that’s it he’s done.

The film tries to do something with ideas around mobility, Quinn is confined to a wheelchair for most of the film and so centres a lot of its scares around that. This isn’t a total failure as it does lead to a few good scares however, more needed to be done with it for it to be explored in any satisfactory way.

Another failure of the film comes with its characters who are instantly forgettable. We get the usual stock characters of the misunderstood teen, the boy she has a crush on, her parent, and then of course the paranormal investigators. None of the characters in this film are served by it, even veteran of the genre Lyn Shaye can’t save it, and they give her a much bigger role so she gets the chance to try.

Overall, a sad state of affairs but one that provides us with the crucial lesson of not all horror films need to be franchises.

Pros.

A few good scares

Cons.

The characters are awful

The villain is weak

They don’t develop their ideas enough

They waste the talent of Lyn Shaye  

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