Terminator: Dark Fate

2019

Terminator: Dark Fate

Dir. Tim Miller

Starring: Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Arnold Schwarzenegger

It’s funny, writing this blog used to be my escape. I worked in retail, and days off and evenings were spent going to the cinema, and mornings were for writing reviews in bed. It all paid off though, I got myself a new job, partly based on this very blog, and that job involves writing, and centres around movies. It’s the dream. Except, when you’ve spent all day writing it’s hard to build the motivation to come home and write. Even if I’m still going to the cinema. So this blog has sat stagnant for awhile. Quietly waiting for me to return to it, as I knew I inevitably would do. Just like futuristic killing machines I kept telling myself one thing “I’ll be back!” It may have taken longer than I had anticipated, but I’m jumping back on the saddle, with metaphorical pen in hand. Like an old western star, quick on the draw and ready to offer my thoughts and opinions on the latest the multiplex has to offer.

It’s fitting that my return to this blog should be for a franchise that has constantly been resurrected for the big screen over recent years. I love the terminator franchise. I saw the first two out of order. T2 was my introduction at a far too young age, but even then I knew there was something special about it. I’ve sat through The Sarah Connor Chronicles, witnessed the missed opportunity that was Salvation, and the less said about Rise of The Machines and Genisys the better, and thankfully Dark Fate goes the extra step of erasing all of these sequels from the timeline. For the first time it feels like we’re getting a worthy sequel. By going back to basics Tim Miller has remembered the one thing that those other sequels had forgotten. He’s remembered exactly what a Terminator movie is.

The film revolves around Dani Ramos, played with gusto by Natalia Reyes. A young girl in Mexico who suddenly finds her life threatened when a Terminator, sent back in time to kill her, shows up at her work. Lucky for her Mackenzie Davis’ Grace, has also been sent back in time. A human who has been augmented to be able to fight the terminators, Grace only has one mission, save Dani. They are soon joined by original Terminator target Sarah Connor, which sees Linda Hamilton return to her iconic role, as they go on the run front this cyborg killing machine.

I had a blast with this film. It’s honestly so much fun from start to finish. It shares the same DNA as James Cameron’s Terminator films, and whilst it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, the new additions to the lore are all well thought through and satisfying. The inherent problem with a sequel to T2 is that it makes that films themes redundant. T2 is all about free will vs fate, can you change your future or is it set in stone. Any sequel to this will inevitably answer that question because it will have Terminators in it, which means that Sarah Connor didn’t change the future, or she did but she only delayed it. So the big question for any Terminator sequel is how does it exist without ruining the ending to one of the best movies ever made?

Tim Miller and his team of writers, which includes a credit for James Cameron for story, manage to answer this question in a logical, but mostly satisfactory way. It’s not a perfect answer, but it’s the best answer we’ve had from the sequels. Miller also remembers that whilst the mythology of Terminator is vast, with future wars, nuclear catastrophes and future resistance leaders, at its core a terminator movie is simply a chase movie. By going back to this simple structure Miller is able to make a terminator movie that actually feels like a terminator movie. Some will complain that it’s just a retread of the first two movies, but this is what the franchise needed to save it after so many false starts.

The other vital ingredient for a good terminator movie, which has been missing since T2 is Linda Hamilton playing Sarah Connor, and boy, was it worth the wait. If Arnie is the heart of the terminator franchise, than Linda Hamilton is the soul, and her presence has been sorely missed. She enters this movie almost as if she’s never been away, and completely embodies her character. She’s the reason it’s so easy to forget the disappointment of the previous three films.

It’s hard not to compare this film to another recent reboot/sequel, and that’s the recent Halloween movie, where Jamie Lee Curtis returned to one of her iconic characters. That film almost acts as a blueprint for what Miller is doing here. The heroine of the first film coming back to a familiar story, but this time protecting and ushering in a new heroine for the franchise. Yes, the beats are familiar, but it’s how these veterans react to the newcomers which makes the film click, and in Dark Fate, the newcomers are at the top of their game.

James Cameron causes a bit of controversy the other year when he commented on Wonder Woman’s success, and claimed he had given cinema a truly strong female character in Sarah Connor. In Dark Fate however, we get three for the price of one. Natalia Reyes is note perfect as Dani Ramos, and fully sells her journey from family life to survivor. She’s likeable, strong willed, smart, and compassionate. Equally great is Mackenzie Davis as Grace. The augmented human sent back in time to save Dani. Davis does a fantastic job here, her physical presence matching Hamilton’s. Together these are three damaged but strong female characters who carry the film soundly between them. When Arnie finally shows up, it’s clear that he is here as a supporting actor, and he seems to relish the chance, having a great deal of fun whilst doing it.

The action in this movies is also excellent. We move from set piece to set piece at breakneck speed, but each one is memorable. If the film falls down in any aspect it’s that it’s slightly ugly to look at. I felt that Tim Miller has this problem with Deadpool too, he stretches budgets to get the maximum out of them, but that can come at the detriment to visual appeal. There is also a supposed twist in this movie, and I say “supposed” because it’s so obvious it doesn’t really register as a twist.

When we finally come to the conclusion of the film, there is no real setback up for another one. A smart move by Miller, who has seen other touted trilogies fail to get past the first movie, he has just focussed on making one good movie. It’s paid off, and I for one would like to see him back.

Catch Up Reviews

2018, Uncategorized

I’ve missed a couple of months recently, and the truth is I’ve found it hard to find time to sit down and write reviews. There are a couple of reasons behind this. One of them is moving house. Apparently that’s quite stressful. The other one is my new job. The great thing is my new job allows me to do tons of writing, all film related, which is fantastic, and has for awhile obviously taken prominence. Not that I’ve stopped going to the cinema though, oh no. Now that I’m getting more of a balance back in my life I’m able to get  back to reviewing films. Yay! 

As I mentioned, I haven’t stopped going to the cinema. It felt like it would be a shame if my opinions on those films got lost to time, like tears in the rain. Yes, I do value my opinion that much. So I thought it would be a good idea to do a couple of mini reviews on the films I should have reviewed. Enjoy…

Ant-Man and The Wasp

Another enjoyable entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The problem was it couldn’t help but feel a bit light weight after Infinity War. Meant as a palette cleanse, it all felt a little too disposable. I loved Evangeline Lily as The Wasp, but felt here arc was a little wasted, so much more could have been done. Funny in places, the jokes did start to feel repetitive, and there were lapses within the inner logic of the movie. 

6/10

The Predator 

Shane Black didn’t reinvent the wheel with this one. What he did do though was deliver everything you would want from a movie about an alien game hunter. It’s not a great movie, it’s not that well made. The editing is all of the place, and it doesn’t make a huge heap of sense. It is incredibly fun though. There are some great characters, stellar jokes, and gratuitous violence. All in all, a good time at the movies. 

7/10

First Man

This is not a film about the achievements of man. It does not bask in the glory of space travel. It’s much more personal than that. It’s a story about a man who had to travel to the moon so that he could come back home. It’s a study on grief, and the different ways humans deal with it. What surprised me was just how moving this film was. It owes a huge amount of debt to The Right Stuff, an influence on Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, of which First Man shares a lot of DNA with. They would make a hell of a double bill together. 

8/10

Halloween 

Michael Myers is back. Again. Jamie Lee Curtis is back. Again. She’s dealing with PTSD after the events of the original movie, and he’s back trying to kill her. Again.  Yes, we’ve seen this before, but Halloween acts as a course correction for the series. Pretending that nothing past the first movie happened, this takes Halloween back to its roots. It’s brutal, scary, and fun. It’s not a perfect movie, but will reward fans of the series whilst serving as a great entry point for those new to the series. 

7/10

A Star Is Born

Filled with fantastic performances from Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, this remake of a remake is better than it had any right to be. It’s Coopers first film behind the camera, and he does a great job. The performance scenes are incredibly realistic, with the use of real venues and audiences paying off. The songs are great too, with Lady Gaga’s fantastic voice really selling the believability of the story. It’s poorly paced though, and could do with losing a good 30 minutes. I found it strange how little I was moved by the end of the film, which is a sure sign that something wasn’t quite working. 

6/10

Crazy Rich Asians 

I’m not a fan of romantic comedies. Generic. Boring. Fluff. I loved Crazy Rich Asians. It’s an incredibly well made comedy, with a likeable cast, and characters you can’t help but root for. This is all played against a spectacular backdrop, with an insight into a world and culture that was completely new to me. It’s charming, funny, and moving. I can’t recommend it highly enough. 

8/10

The Nun

I really like The Conjuring  movies. The movies focusing on The Warrens. The spin-offs so far have been a little underwhelming. The Nun is just the wrong side of boring.  It has one good jump scare which has been completely spoiled by the trailer. The lead actors a likeable enough, but there is such a whiff of unoriginality here. It’s all a bit The Exorcist, but without anything that makes that movie work. These films just end up so superficial, that they really aren’t about anything at all. I mean, you have a priest and a Nun in training and not once does anything here make them question their faith. It’s just characters going through the motion of the plot so they can get to the end of the film. 

4/10

The Meg

I wanted this to be so crazy bad I’m a way that makes the whole film ridiculous and fun. The film ends up being both bad and ridiculous,  but as if no one told the film makers that was the film they were making. Instead they try to make a serious movie which is part Jurassic Park, part Jaws. That’s not what people want from this movie. They want to see a giant fucking shark being punched in the face by Jason Statham. There was a point in the movie, probably the most serious, emotional conversation in the whole thing, and it was all I could do to not burst out laughing. It’s just awful. I was promised a movie where Jason Statham chases a giant shark across the high seas. It took an hour to set that up. It should have been a fun dumb movie. It ended up being dumb, boring, and bad. 

3/10

Venom

If Venom had come out in 2005 it would have been seen as the natural continuation of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man series. Lucky for us, we’ve had a decade of fantastic super-hero movies which have  really pushed the genre forward. It just seems like no one making Venom has seen any of those films. Tom Hardy is great, and the moments where Eddie Brock are bickering are great. The film excels when it unleashes it’s dark sense of humour. The action sequences are pretty well done too. It’s just a shame the film takes so long to get anywhere, and wastes its time with unnecessary sub plots which aren’t paid off. It’s by no means a bad film, and I left the cinema thinking I’d quite happily go and see a sequel, but there is plenty of work to be done. 

6/10

BlacKkKlansman

I loved this movie. It’s funny, suspenseful, emotional, and scary. Spike Lee sets his stall out early with Alec Baldwin playing a racist Doctor, creating a video about white supremacy. It’s clear the parallels Lee is trying to draw. The cast are all fantastic, in particular John David Washington in the lead role of Ron Stallworth. The film is both shocking and provocative, but also incredibly entertaining, but it does its job. When a racist cop is caught being misogynistic and racist on a wire tape, he is immediately fired, with someone declaring that the good old wire trick, it always works. You can’t help but think how the last guy got caught on tape didn’t get fired, he got elected president. 

9/10

Christopher Robin

A gentle, but affecting film. It starts off incredibly strong, and ends well, but the middle does drag an awful lot. I enjoyed the way the characters of Winnie The Pooh has been reimagined, and Ewan McGregor does a great job. It’s a film with its heart in the right place, it just has some serious pacing issues. It at times feels more like a nostalgia trip for grown ups rather than a children’s film, but it does include some quite childish moments, you can’t help but wonder who this film is actually meant for. There are moments in which the film clearly hints towards mental health, but then there are also sequences of Ewan McGregor playing with leaves in the woods. It’s all a bit disjointed. 

6/10

A Simple Favour

Pitched as Gone Girl with more laughs. This was supposed to be a more serious outing from comedy director Paul Feig. Sadly, this is very much a case of style over substance. It’s nowhere near intricately plotted enough. It’s reveals come across as damp squibs, and Anna Kendrick does her best to make the jokes land, but this film just isn’t clever enough. If it wasn’t for the starry cast, this would have been a TV movie, or a soap plot in the 90’s. As a mystery movie, it’s not interesting. As a thriller, it’s boring. It’s not funny enough to be called a comedy. It’s just all a bit bland. It needed to go deeper, to go darker to truly resonate. 

3/10

Well that’s it. I’m all up to date now, and hopefully should be back with more regular reviews. Please check out my latest review on The Nutcracker and The Four Realms

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Christopher McQuarrie

Starring: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Vanessa Kirby, Angela Bassett, Alec Baldwin, and Sean Harris.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it is to try and watch Mission: Impossible – Fallout without your draw hitting the floor. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Mission films, I loved the first one when I was young, and even though it’s not as good, M:I 2 was one of he first films I owned on VHS. That film almost sank the franchise, until JJ Abrams reimagined it, and since then the franchise has gone from strength to strength, even if the press around Tom Cruise’s stunt work sometimes overshadows the actual movies. In a series first, Christopher McQuarrie returns to direct Fallout after adding his own flavour of old school espionage to Rouge Nation.

Fallout follows Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and his rag tag team of IMF agents. After, sacrificing 3 balls of plutonium in order to save the lives of his team, Cruise is forced by CIA head Angela Bassett to team up with CIA thug Henry Cavill to go and retrieve it. Cavil is there to babysit Cruise, and to make sure the mission goes off without a hitch. This proves to be difficult as differing motivations come into play, and the ghosts of Ethan Hunt’s past come back to haunt him.

Sometimes a band will release a couple of albums that are good, but don’t quite work. Each album exploring different musical styles and approaches. Then they will create an album where all of these experimentations coalesce in a way that makes complete sense of what came before. Fallout is that album. It plays like a greatest hits of all that came before, whilst tying everything together in an engaging story. It’s the best Mission Impossible film to date. McQuarrie blends the tension of the first film, the emotional characterisation of the third, and the outrageous stunts of the fourth and fifth film together to create a more than satisfying whole. It’s an adrenaline rush that I haven’t experienced since Mad Max: Fury Road.

Usually with Mission Impossible films you have to talk about the showstopper. The stunt which is getting all the press. In Fallout there are at least four showstoppers. Action set pieces so well put together, you can’t believe what you’re seeing, and made all the more unbelievable by the fact that most of them are done in camera, not against a green screen. Each showstopper offers something different as well, they aren’t just variations on the same stunt. We get skydiving, bike chases, helicopter chases, and the usual M:I special effect of Tom Cruise running. They are all mind blowing. Tom Cruise’s commitment to getting the shot is outstanding, and you’d have to argue that he is now the greatest ever action star to have graced our screens. McQuarrie stages his set pieces against back drops of Paris, London, and mountain ranges to glorious effect. The film looks amazing, and is a complete joy to behold.

McQuarrie had talked about approaching this film in a different way to how he approached Rouge Nation, aware of the fact that each film before had a different director, and a different flavour, he wanted to continue that trend even though he was returning to direct. He succeeds here by blending the jaw-dropping action with the most character driven story to date. Fallout delves into the heart of who Ethan Hunt is, and by pairing him with Henry Cavill, described as the CIA’s hammer compared to Hunt as the scalpel, we see what makes Hunt tick, and that is his desire to save the world with as little civilian casualties as possible. Cruise and McQuarrie play with the idea that Hunt is haunted by every life he thinks he could have saved, and is prepared to sacrifice his own happiness and own life to save just one more person. It’s a great personal battle that plays out on an epic scope; it’s not coincidence that Hunt receives his mission this time in a copy of Homer’s Odyssey.

The best Mission: Impossible film so far, in a series which keeps going from strength to strength. The combination of Cruise and McQuarrie continues to be a potent one, and with great supporting turns from Henry Cavill and Rebecca Ferguson, this may just turn out to be the blockbuster of the summer. The action is spectacular and the story more than keeps up with it. For me this cements Cruises place as the greatest action star ever.

10/10

Hotel Artemis

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Drew Pearce

Starring: Jodie Foster, Dave Bautista, Sterling K. Brown, Charlie Day, Zachary Quinto, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Tyree Henry, Jenny Slate, and Kenneth Choi

The elephant in the room with Hotel Artemis, is that you spend the movie waiting for it to tie into the John Wick universe. It doesn’t happen. It’s an original story, but,it’s setting is awfully familiar to those Keanu films, which can rob the film of some thrills. Director/writer Drew Pearce had this idea in mind before John Wick came out, but timing is everything. Drew Pearce is a writer best known for his work on Iron Man 3 and Mission: Impossible – Rouge Nation, and is stepping behind the camera here to direct his first feature. He’s assembled a fantastic cast, and directs from a script he has written himself.

Hotel Artemis is hotel for criminals. In a future L.A. Two brothers, Sterling K. Brown and Brian Tyree Henry, retreat to the hotel after a robbery gone wrong during a riot. They are both injured, and the hotel acts as a hospital for criminals. Somewhere where they can get patched up without worrying about cops, or other criminals due to the Hotel’s strict rules. On duty are the unlikely pairing of Jodie Foster’s Nurse, and Dave Bautista’s Orderly. Their job is to patch people up and make sure no one breaks the rules, but with the discovery of an injured cop, and the imminent arrival of the hotels owner, they may have to break some of the rules themselves.

Criminal underworld with its own mythology, a hotel filled with assassins who have to obey rules not to kill anyone, and some fantastic hand to hand combat fight scenes. It’s easy to see where those John Wick comparisons lie. There are plenty of interesting and fun ideas to explore here, but they’ve all been bought up in the John Wick films. It’s a shame, because otherwise we would be talking about an incredibly original new film. That aside though, this film is a real blast from start to finish, and that’s mainly down to a fantastic script from Drew Pearce. It’s fast paced, and funny. Subverting the genre in interesting ways, whilst leaning on tropes in others. It’s by far the coolest movie of the year; the film looks fantastic, a decaying hotel filled with well dressed cons, the dialogue is sharp, and the soundtrack is fantastic.

The cast are uniformly great, and it’s awesome to see Jodie a Foster take on this role, something we’re not used to seeing her do. Dave Bautista is amazing fun, proving again that there’s a lot more to him than Drax from Guardians Of The Galaxy, and Sterling K. Brown fills the leading man role nicely. It’s also nice to see Sofia Boutella bouncing back after the disaster that was The Mummy. Pearce fits a lot of story into a relatively short run time, and makes efficient use of his one location. If the dialogue is the centrepiece for most of the movie, the bulk of the action is saved for the climax, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Pearce has crafted a uniquely cool picture, it’s just a shame that the most fascinating aspect of his script has already been done in other movies. It’s still a really fun film, but you can’t help but wonder if you’d have enjoyed it more if it was the first time you’d been introduced to the main concept.

7/10

Sicario 2: Soldado

2018, Uncategorized

Dir: Stefano Sollima

Starring: Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Catherine Keener, Matthew Modine, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Elijah Rodriguez

Sicario came out of nowhere and announced two blistering new talents. Denis Villeneuve, the director who went on to make Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, and Taylor Sheridan, the actor turned screen writer who has since penned Hell or High Water, and Wind River. Villeneuve doesn’t return for this sequel, too busy with a new version of Dune, but Sheridan is once again behind the script. Also returning are stars Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro. Sicario wasn’t a film that I thought required a sequel, but nonetheless I was excited to see where Sheridan would take us next, and to spend some more time with these morally complex characters.

Sicario 2: Soldado starts with a terrorist attack. Perpetrated on US soil by 4 extremists. When it turns out that the first attacker to be identified had made his way to the US via the Mexico border, smuggled in by the drug cartel, the US government classifies the cartels as a terrorist organisation, changing the rules of engagement. The US bring in Josh Brolin, a black ops operative. His job is to start a war between the cartels, getting them to destroy each other, using the same techniques he used in Iraq. To do this he will need his Mexican Sicario, or hitman, played by Benicio Del Toro.

The film sets out its stall early on. Opening with a shot of helicopters patrolling the border in complete darkness, with only flashes of light revealing what’s happening on the ground. It works as a metaphor for how the film uses truth, and for our characters souls, operating in morally bankrupt spaces, only now and again finding the way to do what is right. Sicario 2 was always going to have to justify itself as a sequel, if it isn’t as good as the first one than what is the point of it? Yet here we are. It’s not as good as the first film, but it does expand upon it, and still feels like a worthy sequel. Smartly, Sheridan has shifted his tough world view away from the war on drugs, and onto the war on terrror. Using a new theme to again cynically explore the relationship between the US and Mexico.

If Emily Blunt’s character in Sicario represented the loss of innocence, here it’s about finding a slice of redemption. Brolin and Del Toro do terrific work as characters who have committed despicable acts, who are faced with decisions between morals and survival. Brolin may be the man of the moment right now, but Del Toro is the real heartbeat of this movie. His darkly, tragic hit-man is given just the right amount of soul by Sheridan. The film might not live up to Villeneuve’s direction, but Sheridan marks himself out here as the natural successor to Cormac McCarthy. The film may not hit quite as hard as the original, but it is still an emotionally charged, tense piece of cinema.

That’s not to say that Stefan Sollima, the incoming director, does poorly. He mounts set pieces incredibly well, whilst I enjoyed the way the action moved from a detached view during the opening terrorist attack to a more immediate feel during the climax. The villain of the piece is handled well too. In another story the Cartel leader would be a moustache twirling villain, here he isn’t even shown. In fact, nothing he does effects the plot of the film at all, what we are left with is characters in a tragic situation, where they start to become the villains. There is no good and bad here, just people stuck in a continuous cycle to survive.

It may lack some of the verve and bite of the original Sicario, but make no mistake, this is a worthy sequel. Brolin and Del Toro both do fantastic work, but the real star here is Sheridan, who continues his fantastic writing streak, in a film which marks him out as the next Cormac McCarthy.

7/10

Hereditary

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Ari Aster

Starring: Toni Collette, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, and Ann Dowd.

It’s a hard badge to wear, being touted as the scariest horror movie in years. It builds up a certain expectation in the audience. The problem is each audience member will have a different expectation. They’ll each have a different definition of scary and what they expect from a horror movie. Some horror movies grab you by the throat and don’t let go, some take you on a ghost train of a ride, others take their time, seeping into your sub-conscious, unsettling you for days. Some scare you with jump scares, others scare you with ideas. Hereditary is the latter. Ari Aster’s debut feature is a deeply disturbing slow burn of a movie.

The film opens with the Graham family attending the funeral for the family matriarch. Annie, played here by Toni Collette, had a strained relationship with her mother, and is struggling to realise how she feels about her passing. She’s plagued with guilt and grief which seeps into the rest of the family. When another tragedy strikes, things really start to unravel.

To give anything more away would be to spoil the joy of the film. It’s not that there are so many twists and turns, in fact if you’re keyed into the narrative you could easily guess where this story is going, but it is a film that you experience. The less you know about it going in, the more the film can work it’s magic, and there is plenty of magic here. It’s a dysfunctional family drama, that is shot like a horror film. The scares for the most part are all character driven. It cleaves so close to real, everyday emotions, that it manages to unsettle you by allowing you to stare into the characters eyes, trying to figure out what’s going on with them. The film works on a very literal level, but also works as an exploration of grief and guilt, and as a metaphor for mental illness.

The reason this film works as well as it does is down to two factors: pace and acting. The cinematography and editing of this film is sublime. As I said earlier it’s a slow burn, but it works so effectively. The camera lingers on actors faces just long enough for it to feel uncomfortable. It creates images which over the course of the film become more significant, and more terrifying with that significance. It may be slow, but it never feels too long. The acting from all involved is superb, but Toni Collete and Alex Wolff are the standouts as mother and son. Watching both their characters unwind is heartbreaking and disturbing, often at the same time.

Their performances are masterfully directed by Aster, who makes us question them as reliable narrators enough to wrong foot the audience. You don’t know whether what your seeing is a dream, actually happening, or the manifestation of a mental illness. It makes their scenes all the more terrifying. One scene in particular where Alex Wolff is lying in bed, only to have his head grabbed by hands coming from underneath it showcases this. Is it scarier that it was a spirit from the other side grabbing him, or that it was his Mum who now has no recollection of it. It’s these questions, and then not knowing that stays with you past the initial jump scare. This is all bolstered by a fantastic score, a throbbing beat that underlines the whole film, bringing with it a sense of urgency and dread.

If you enjoy the movie for the first hour and a half, then it’s the last half an hour which might lose you. I really enjoyed it, but it’s at this point where the film cuts loose and allows itself to unravel. You’re either going to go with it or hate it. For me, it made sense both in the films internal logic and narratively. It’s an ending which didn’t squash or justify any of my theories I had about what was really going on, but one that worked for all my theories. It has a definite answer, but allows itself to still be open to analysis, due to the unreliableness of the characters we see the events through.

This is not a jump a minute white knuckle thrill ride, but a slow burn, emotionally engaging horror movie. It will stay with you long after the credits role, and you will come away with your own opinion on what you actually just saw. I can’t wait to see it again, just to spot some more puzzle pieces. It’s well directed, well acted, well shot, and well edited. It may not be the scariest horror film ever made, but it’s one of the years best films.

9/10

The Strangers: Prey At Night

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Johannes Roberts

Starring: Christina Hendricks, Bailee Madison, Martin Henderson, and Lewis Pullman.

Whilst the beginning of the film professes that the following movie is based on a true story, if you do a bit of digging the true story bit relates to someone knocking on a door to see if anyone’s home in order to burgle empty houses. The Strangers: Prey At Night is a sequel to The Strangers, although the connective tissue is that the same killers are used, there’s no real story through line, and you could watch this without ever having heard of the original. Original director Bryan Bertino is gone, and incoming director Johannes Roberts directs from a script based on Bertino’s original screenplay. Roberts is best known for low budget flick 47 Metres Down which became a break out hit.

The Strangers: Prey At Night follows a family of four, as they make a journey across America to drop their young, troubled daughter, Bailee Madison, off at boarding school. They have arranged to stay at Christina Hendricks’ Uncles holiday trailer park along the way. They arrive at night to find the park deserted, but with keys left on the office desk. As family tensions build, they are soon interrupted by a team of three masked killers, who without motivation want to toy with and then kill the family. What transpires is a fight to survive the night.

I have to admit, I had one of the most unsettling cinema experiences whilst watching this film. I went to an early morning screening, and sat dead centre, four rows from the front. I was the only person in the screening. About half way I through I found myself looking behind my shoulder, checking there was no one behind me. I guess this shows that if nothing else the film was working, it was unnerving me. If the first film was a tense home invasion thriller, than Prey At Night is a homage to the slasher films of the 80’s. Think Friday 13th mixed with The Purge and you’ll have some idea of the tone of this film.

There is nothing new here. It’s a deeply unoriginal film, but it also manages to be quite fun. The use of 80’s pop ballads is as toe-tapping as it is chilling. The cast all do really well with the material they are given. Especially the youngsters Bailee Madison and Lewis Pullman. They give you just enough to root for them, even if their characters are thinly drawn. Madison, in particular, does well. Her characters back story is hinted at, but it’s never really explained. There’s an inciting incident that sent the family on the trip, that we are told she’s responsible for, but we are never told what it was.

At 86 minutes, this is a fast thrill of a movie, and the short length is a real benefit. Parts of the film reminded me of director Adam Wingard, and his writing partner Simon Barrett. There films You’re Next, and The Guest, are similar as they both take a lot of inspiration from John Carpenter and Wes Craven, but they also smartly subvert some of the tropes, and it would have been nice to have seen that level of intelligence on display here.

What we get is an effective homage to 80’s slashers, that adds nothing new to the genre. It’s well enough put together, and there is fun to be had, but it’s unoriginality leaves it lacking.

5/10