Cannibals and Keanu Reeves 

The Bad Batch (2016)

Dir: Ana Lily Amirpour
Let’s start with the positives. I’m feeling lots of love and harmony lately, and I’ve decided that I’m gonna try REALLY REALLY hard to see the good in things. Ironically I had this epiphany just before i watched this film so……sucks for me.

So pros….

This film has Jason Momoa in it, who as you all may know, is fucking delicious.

It also has a good soundtrack- albeit bizarre, but good. In a Spotify playlist on major shuffle kinda way.

KEANU REEVES PLAYS A DYSTOPIAN PIMP 

Jim Carey is in it, and he’s brilliant 

Suki Waterhouse has a hilarious accent. Seriously you guys, it’s so hilarious, you literally have to keep rewinding because you will not believe she’s not joking.

It’s filmed nicely.  It’s nice to look at.

There’s not much convo if thats your thing. Sometimes dialogue is overrated. Too many films contain dialogue nowadays, this film just skips that shit altogether. A movie is all about images am I right?

It’s made by VICE. It’s a VICE film.

Just so we’re clear. It’s a VICE film. 

I also mentioned Jason Momoa?

Interestingly there’s more cons, which is unfortunate because I’m trying to be nice. What are those cons you may ask? What could possibly be better than a film devoid of dialogue about cannibalism with Jason Momoa?

A lot of things it turns out, are better. 

I pride myself in my ability to sit through slow films that don’t really go anywhere. I wrote many a uni paper about Jim Jarmusch and Jean Luc Goddard, so when it comes to slow pace I’ve pretty much reached advanced level monk-like patience. This however, took it too far.

What starts off promisingly, with Suki Waterhouse being dumped in the desert kidnapped by cannibals and then consequently having her limbs severed off, turns into a trippy mess that really should have ended an hour before it did. 
Everything happens in the first half hour; then it’s all random people in the desert drumming on bins and Keanu Reeves giving people acid. I totally get it, it’s art. The director is cool and edgy and wanted to make something odd and political, but unlike A girl walks home alone at night (an Iranian vampire western, just so we’re clear), this ends up feeling a bit like a really long Bjork video from the 90s. 

My brother would have HATED this film so bad. When I think about who would hate it the most out of everyone I know, I’m confident in saying that I’m gonna go with my brother.

I myself quite like the juxtapositions between good and evil, which later transfer on themselves. I dig that, it’s art.  But there are elements that borderline on the ludicrous, and you’re like….nah, too far. 

*Warning major spoilers*

If I for example, killed your wife, stole your kid, and basically made you hunt me down as a consequence, I wouldn’t exactly be next in line as potential girlfriend. Well not according to this movie! Waterhouse and Momoa are basically full on about to hook up even though she took his child and literally just murdered his wife. Cool

Then there’s the prosthetic leg. Dude if you got thrown in the middle of the wilderness because you were excommunicated from life you wouldn’t expect them to have prosthetic limbs kicking around. I know it’s a film and the likelihood of this actually happening is extremely slim. I enjoy realistic details in unrealistic films. The realistic detail is that there are probably zero prosthetic limbs avaliable in the desert in high abundance. Probably. 

What’s with taking the kid away from a perfectly safe place to return him to his cannibal dad? Like why would you have such a change of heart? You JUST MURDERED HIS MUM And the DRAMA she caused in the process. It then got way too unnecessary; holding a pregnant woman hostage just to get back the kid? She literally could’ve just asked Keanu Reeves. The conversation would’ve been super straightforward and that would’ve been that. 

I really wanted to like this film. I wanted to because I like the director and I like the cast and I like the concept. On paper I like this film.

The reality is that it’s soul destroyingly long with no purpose. Zero. It was basically a shit “horror” version of Spring Breakers– very visual but lacked substance and context and therefore did a lot of overcompensating because it wanted to be cool.

It wasn’t cool.

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CAMPING; part two

The Ritual 2017

Dir: David Bruckner 

Perhaps i’m a little biased, but Brits are definitely making the best horror movies at the minute.

Maybe not the best ever, (after extensive scientific research I’ve concluded that Koreans make the best ever), but we are getting considerably better. More importantly directors have stopped using stupid british stereotypes and taking the genre for one big fucking joke (and I promise this isnt a snide jab at Shaun of the Dead, even though i fucking hated it). 

Whilst Hollywood seems to keep churning out one jump scare/found footage/thoughtless remake disaster after another, Brit horror has started to finesse the underrated art of the slow burner.

Make no mistakes about this; if a film starts off slow you’re guaranteed an absolute treat. Blair Witch, for example, is an archetypal slow burner; horrifically dull to begin with, lures you into a false sense of total security, two hours later you’ve left the cinema hollow, afraid and bewildered. Other examples include The ExcoristRing, Eden Lake, The Loved Ones, even The Texas Chainsaw Massacre-all horror CLASSICS, and yet nothing actually happens for a while in pretty much all of them. 

As a self proclaimed horror connoisseur, I believe the best scares happen when you’re not sure when to expect them. The only issue with this logic is that we live in the instant gratification era of social media where the average attention span is 00.003 seconds. Getting people in 2017 to even SIT through a film like the 1999 Blair Witch is hard enough, so directors have had to resort to cliched watered down scripts and pantomime tactics to keep viewers engaged.
Every few years on this side of the pond, an absolutely underrated banger of a movie will be released which shows just how refined we are becoming at creating genuine fear. Whilst we may be crap at a lot of things (like voting for leaders, making eye contact or being direct) our levels of horrifying just keep getting better and better.

Based on a lads holiday gone exceptionally wrong, the story is totally doomed from the very start. 

*Spoilers ahead*

A lead character from the “group” is murdered during a robbery within minutes of the films opening. His unexpected murder leads to an undercurrent of resentment, blame and guilt, which remains ever present throughout. In many ways he becomes the film’s protagonist as his absence from the group is continually highlighted creating an uncomfortable dynamic between the other characters, who each seem to have their opinions about the circumstances surrounding his death. 

A largely unwanted hiking trip later ensues to honour his memory; this hike follows a long trail from Norway to Sweden, which they ultimately hope will result in getting very drunk at a lodge on the other side.

Obviously someone gets injured and they have to take the “shortcut”.

Luckily the director isn’t a douche, and doesn’t mock your intelligence, we all know what happens when you take a shortcut through the woods, including the characters themselves, who’s banter and laddish jokes indicate that they do too. 

Making remarks about how they’re going to end up dead, is definitely not far from the truth. The group finds themselves being hunted in a bizarre ritualistic fashion, which initially seems like witchcraft, but emerges as something much more terrifying.

Combining elements from classic horror, there is an level of predictability which David Bruckner playfully draws on to create said false sense of security with the viewer. Everything you think may happen you have to later rethink; the twist in plot is very smart and very original.

Definitely up there with The Descent and Creep; also further fuels my desire to stay in hotels whilst in rural regions. 

Camping 

The idea of a sequel pains me. 

With the exception of The Godfather and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, I really don’t have an overwhelming desire to watch a sequel. Ever.

Look at what happened to Paranormal Activities. What started as an incredible film (a film, 1 film, singular), turned into a barrage of annoying follow ups including a baffling offshoot called  The Marked Ones (#neverforget), which was literally the worst movie ever madeSo obviously when I saw this, THE Blair witch, being advertised it was a major eye roll moment. 

I’m a big fan of the original, and naturally I didn’t care much for the HORRENDOUS follow up. Luckily it turns out that this version has nothing to do with the sequel; in fact director Adam Wingard goes above and beyond to bypass Blair Witch 2 and any reference to it altogether. Just like Catwoman with Halle Berry, we’ll all pretend it didn’t happen. 

I like Adam Wingard, I trust him. He’s made some solid, terrifying and well written films in the last few years which he should be applauded for. The horror genre isn’t easy you guys, it’s really challenging to make a. something original and b. something scary, because we’ve all become so accustomed to the formulas. We KNOW when to expect shit, which is why horror directors now have to do the absolute most to keep us engaged without being predictable or resort to lots of unnecessary and gratuitous torture porn tactics.

I digress, what I’m essentially trying to say is that having Adam Wingard as the director of this remake, and in essence the captain steering the entire reboot of the franchise, means he was bound to inject some quality into it. He was responsible for Youre Next and V/H/S so I was rooting for him in a big way. 

Netflix it turns out, was not. In fact Netflix stopped working a grand total of TWENTY FIVE TIMES whilst we were trying to watch this film. What ended up happening were 3 days (yep) of “screenings” all in 20 minute segments because basically Netflix hates me and doesn’t want me to enjoy a well rounded cinematic experience. 

As you can probably imagine, a horror movie, drawn out over 3 days is going to somewhat dilute the whole “horror” aspect. Luckily I was engaged, and wanted to know how these poor bastards would end up dying, so I watched with the same enthusiasm and vigour on the third day as I did on the first; trying to catch a glimpse of the witch and taking mental notes of things I wouldn’t do whilst camping. 

Basically I would never go camping.

Here’s a thought. Why not just drive? I personally don’t fully understand the logistics of a wood because I live in London, but SURELY you can just drive, park up on a main road and basically avoid dying? 

Anyway 

The whole premise of the film is a that very uncharismatic guy called James wants to go into the woods to find his sister Heather (remember Heather, the girl from 1999 with the snot and the camera and the fear?) A new video emerges on YouTube which indicates that Heather may still be alive, and basically provides new evidence to lure people back out in the woods. James takes the bait and heads into the woods with 3 of his friends, plus the couple who originally found the tape and put it on YouTube. They thankfully go armed with literally every camera, gadget, GPS device, drone, smart phone, walkie talkie, hovercraft etc that they can get their hands on. 

This element actually makes this a much more “up to date” found footage movie, as it is sadly filmed in that style. Often directors can just forget that their movie is meant to be “found footage” and halfway through a mysterious “other” camera appears which kind of defeats the purpose and breaks any form of continuity (hence why I hate found footage movies). Luckily Adam Wingard et al get around this aspect with all the additional “stuff” that the group have brought with them, meaning you get loads of angles and perspectives which don’t seem far fetched. 

So let’s get to the nitty gritty. Was this film shit? No. It surprisingly really wasn’t.

The beginning was a solid suspenseful lead up seasoned with lots of subtle indications, references to the witch, and general vibes predicting the fuckeries about to be bestowed upon them. Then they get lost…..(drums), and an infection gets worse (more drums), and Peter goes missing (several drums)…and it descents into absolute hell.

The end could have been shorter. There’s a long winded final scene at the witches house which is just stressful and confusing and goes on for way too long. Like, really really long.

Aside from this. It’s a good horror movie and not a total embarrassment to the Blair Witch legacy. IN FACT I would go as far to say that if the 1999 classic were made for the first time in 2017, this would be the result.

The darkest shade of neon 

The Neon Demon (2016)

Dir: Nicholas Refn 

If you were to see this on Netflix, without knowing anything about it, and toyed with the idea of watching it because the visual was cool, and the bloke who did Drive directed it,  then don’t watch it. 

Really, don’t.

I’m not even really sure if Netflix is the right platform for Nicholas Refn. Without sounding like a prentious douchewipe, I see this as more a “Amazon Prime” scenario; the type of film a Kimmy Schmidt viewer may not immediately go to as their first port of call, (unless said Kimmy Schmidt viewer likes cannibalism and necrophila). It doesn’t feel particularly organic, what section would you even put The Neon Demon in? Certainly not “party on!” (Ironically currently featuring Bojack Horseman). 

I digress…don’t get me wrong guys, Nat (my flatmate and very close friend) watched it with me, having no prior context whatsoever, and Nat enjoyed it. I was, however, kind enough to point out that there would be lesbian morgue sex about halfway through, and also that pace was not exactly high on Refn’s priority list. Clearly we needed to stablish some fundamentals prior to our sunday night junk food and horror sesh.

In fact we, and possibly a few other humans sporadically dotted around the globe, enjoyed this movie. The dude from the guardian film section seemed to like it (dude from Rolling Stone magazine….didn’t like it so much). Proof, at the risk of stating the mind-blowingly obvious, that not everything is for everyone.

End of review

Just kidding.

Let me start by explaining that this movie isn’t Drive. A lot of people were passionately pissed off that he didnt make another ‘masterpiece’ like Drive (Drive 2?) and wrote a lot of unsavoury shit about Refn. He famously got booed at Cannes, (often a great PR move), with some even walking out in outrage and shock (think Lars Von Trier circa six years ago). Folks were not happy; apparently appalled and shocked, calling this movie depraved and sickening. So many people got really touchy about the some of the themes, (a far cry from cars, masculinity or crime), that it’s really become a “thing” in relation to the film. So let’s just clarify once and for all that a.Nicholas Refn is allowed to make other types of films that don’t include or involve Ryan Gosling and b. Can we all just get the fuck over Drive. Yes it was incredible, but he’s exploring something else, it’s cool if you don’t like it, let’s move on.

This particular film explores dark topics, in a less than subtle fashion. Excess and materialism marry together beautifully mmm against the isolation backdrop of a dark LA. Everything is visually beautiful, but also feels incredibly detached and in some cases clinical. This notion is further enhanced by the flat conversations between the characters, (its not bad acting, despite Keanu Reeves), the lack of any real emotion in any of the other characters (aside from anger, which is what shapes the end), and the very obvious disposable nature of those within this “world”. If the conversations seem like non starters, its kind of the aim; everyone’s dead on the inside and hates each other.  

The premise is a beautiful child (that’s what I’m calling her, because she’s 16), enters the world of modelling and discovers pretty quickly that you can’t trust anyone. Problem is, this young beautiful ethereal girl (played by the very cute Elle Fanning), becomes increasingly more narcissistic and selfish the more she is sucked into “the neon demon” (a metaphor for the bright shiny lights of the hollywood machine). Her mannerisms subtly change, she grows increasingly more self aware…and kind of turns into a dick. Another casualty of LA.
On the sidelines are groups of grown ups out to get her in various ways. Each with their own set of vile intentions; be it lust, jealousy or power, that culminate in an actual blood bath…

Literally.

So i’m sure you’ree all dying to know about the necrophilia scene (no pun intended)…well, i never thought i would say this, but there is actually a worse scene in this film. That scene ladies and gents, involves Keanu Reeves in a shellsuit forcing a knife down Jessie’s throat. This alone was so stomache churning and dark that it made me question whether i wanted to see what was on its way, which I’m sure was the whole point. This scene also marks a change of pace, because up until this point it’s all been pretty visuals and awkward conversations.

I won’t pretend that this film isn’t self aware, or a little slow. It’s both. If you want to watch a “horror” movie with haunted houses and chainsaws, this might not be your bag. Yes he does borrow a lot; everything from Italian horror, to Kubrick to Lynch. Yes it’s very stylised and very visual. Is it shit? No. It isn’t.

Midnight Massacre

The Invitation

2016 

Dir: Karyn Kusama
*SPOILERS AHEAD*

We’ve all been there. That awkward scenario when an ex invites you to a dinner party; you don’t wanna go because that’s the house you used to live in, also because you think your former spouse is now in a cult, and you have a sneeking suspicion that this might be an initiation ceremony. 

But you go anyway.

And typically everyone gets drunk and shit goes down, and then there’s a massacre, plus a bit of bad mouthing and bringing up the past. Your friends just can’t handle their drinks anymore.

What Will should’ve done when his ex wife called him up and invited him round after a two year disappearence in Mexico, is cancel. Only Will (played by the very handsome Logan Marshal Green) let his curiousity get the better of him. So off he went dragging his jesus beard and his poor girlfriend Kira with him.

Everyone knows an Eden; usually wealthy, usually unfulfilled, usually in Planet Organic buying organic buckwheat and preparing to spend ten grand to visit a witchdoctor from the Tibeten footfills. Typically its those with more stuff, bigger houses, expensive built in kitchens, that seem to crave this need for something deeper and more authentic. “There is no darkness” states one the cult leaders who discreetly came to dinner to show everyone a recruitment video. 

To some degree, certainly in the developed world, which can often feel very soulless, there is a growing desire to feel “special”. I guess there’s an element of new age spirituality (sometimes unknowingly) in many of us; whether you’re actively attempting to reach higher conciousness, doing Kondalini or just drinking wheatgrass shots, this has trickled down in a variety of guises.

Whilst a lot of it can be constructive and turn rich douchebags into bohemian douchebags, there is a history of California dreamin that takes an ugly turn.

Watching the murders unfold in Eden’s home on the hollywood hills is an eery reference to the Manson murders which marked an abrupt and nasty end to the age of free love. There’s something about those hills, the land of dreams, that has a very dark undercurrent, which is made constantly present in the film.

Will knows from the second he arrives that hes not feeling the vibe. “Theres something not right here” he retorts, even before the screening of the video (which shows a woman dying btw-heavens gate anyone?), or the mention of that weird place in Mexico where Eden and David went (Spahn Ranch anyone?) So his spidey senses were very much in tune that night.

Of course the others had their suspicions, but everyone was being super apt at ignoring the elephant in the room. Will just winds up looking like the neurotic crazy guy with trust issues. There are points where you question why he doesn’t just take his girlfriend and leave, but then i guess that would make a shit ending, because if people did sensible shit, horror movies wouldnt exist. 

The pace is slow, so if you have issues with dialogue or sitting still, or metaphors, this might not be the film for you. There’s an underlying theme of loss which is very touching and sensitively executed, despite the massacre at the end, which was impressive. 

I like this movie

I like Logan

I like Edens dress

A timeline of fear

Hush (2016)
Dir: Mike Flanagan

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“I don’t feel comfortable….”

Four words that very rarely escape from my lips, which i found myself repeating over and over again in the first twenty minutes.

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I knew absolutely nothing about Hush other than the fact that I could A) Watch it on Netflix and b) it comes  up constantly as a recommendation. Then one magical Saturday three separate friends all mentioned it at various times during the day, each insisting it was my kinda movie. I had no choice really, the universe had spoken.

Twenty minutes in and I’m seriously not feeling comfortable or safe in my own home. My flatmate accidently slammed the bathroom door shut and I almost leapt out of my skin. I then had to pause this delight of a movie to do a casual “spot check” of the premise… you know, just a run of the mill surveillance of the property. I go and investigate the back door, kitchen, the downstairs bathroom, shed. Anywhere involving walls.

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And although I’m paranoid as fuck about wandering up and down the house alone, I’m equally trying really hard to avoid going back into the living room to unpause the movie. “Some stones are better left unturned, am I right?” I say out loud to myself. Then I realise I actually write horror reviews and proceed to sit the fuck back down.

Unpause

30 mins in…..WOW. WHAT THE FUCK YO?! Maybe I’m just really not about this life. Maybe I should start watching Rom Coms and writing about them instead. Maybe a movie starring Jlo and some handsome Caucasian dude is less likely to fuck up my sleeping patterns. I just wanna leave the room at this stage, fuck it, judge me. I wanna leave the room and go somewhere loud, with alcohol and unicorns.

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I frantically start texting my flatmate literally begging her to come downstairs and sit through the next 70 mins with me “i have icecream *smiley emoji*”. I don’t even recognise who I am anymore. I don’t eat dairy or use emojis. I’m a mess and I need to get a fucking grip.

1 hour in. THIS GUY IS SUCH A PIECE OF SHIT…..WTF. WTF. WTF. Why is he doing this?  Does he know her? is he some disgruntled ex?No he can’t be because Craig is the ex, and Craig tried to facetime her and she rejected his call, and I’m pretty sure Craig was black and this guy looks borderline ginger. It’s not Craig. Craig is nice and doesn’t kill people’s neighbours OVER AND OVER AGAIN WHILST STARING IN THROUGH THE GLASS.

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1.15mins. I’m done. I’m so done. You know what I’m literally never gonna do? Live in the countryside on my own. Also, I don’t think I’ll facetime for a while.
Ive heard of a home invasion movie, but this is invasive on all counts. There was absolutely no need for this level of nerve wreck.

I need to avoid all doors and windows for the rest of the evening. Or maybe for life.

Vice Docs gone wrong

The Sacrament  (2013)
Dir: Ti West

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Three flannel wearing, New York hipsters who work for Vice (stay with me), go to the middle of nowhere to find some dude’s sister (“Patrick” being dude in question). In short she joined a cult dressed up as a rehab center, found God, and sent her brother a letter about it, which raised some alarm bells.

Patrick, Vice’s very nonchalant fashion photographer, hasn’t seen said sister (Caroline) in years. Contrary to what the film intends to convey, he actually seems highly inconvienanced by the idea of making such an elaborate journey to check on her safety, because it involves going all the way to Africa, and not hanging out with models in LA as he is used to. Great guy

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In the letter he’s given a non specific place in Africa to fly to, (maybe because TI West didn’t feel a geographical context was necessary), to then get picked up by a random guy in a helicopter and head to a secret location which he and his friends may or may not die in.

Cue another found footage movie.

At this stage you’ve gotta question how forced this initial interaction is. Now before anyone slams me with the “true story/Jonestown speech” I am perfectly aware that it’s based on the Jonestown Incident THANKS (click Jonestown Massacre if  you are unaware of the incident and for whatever reason and want to depress yourself and ruin your day with some nasty historical trivia). For the sake of simple narrative its just their basis for the journey and sudden concern over Caroline’s safety which remains a total mystery to me.
If I had a sister who turned into a junkie and went to rehab in Mississipi I may call in every now and again to check in on her progress, because it’s a bit extreme to move from NY to Mississipi in the first place. Then it might occur to me to possibly visit if I haven’t spoken to her in a while, like on a flexible quarterly basis (like a gas bill). What I wouldn’t do is just WAIT until I randomly  got a letter one day inviting me to an undisclosed location on the opposite side of the world before I thought “oh yea….my sister.”
If it’s gone THAT far without a visit, an email is sufficient…maybe Skype on a special occasion.

On their way to the location,  which we later find out is called “Eden Parish” we get the feeling that they’re really not fully comprehending  this whole “danger” thing. The people responsible for picking them up and dropping them off begin the pleasant exchange by pulling out a gun and threatening to shoot them if they carry on filming. Luckily super chirpy Caroline pops up to let everyone know it’s just a precaution because of where they are, and it’s all peace and love and they’re in Paradise now.

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Caroline then takes them on a very anti climatic guided tour of the “grounds”, which looks more like a handful of scattered shacks then paradise, and explains that Eden Parish is lead by “Father”. Father is a man who “saved” her, and seemingly did the same for dozens of other people living there. She tells them in a highly exaggerated charles manson-esque monologue that everything was built from scratch and they are the happiest people on earth.. BUT it wouldn’t have been possible without some level of secrecy.

And this is when the questions start….

I don’t really need to bore you with a spoiler alert, because you know what happens in Jonestown and that’s literally what happens here (sorry kids). Theres no axe welding killer in the commute,  no satanic worship, no supernatural forces, just some old creep who’s sadly managed to rob and manipulate a bunch of people and successfully detach them from all contact with the outside world.

There are times where his rhetoric and vision actually seems quite socialist and profound. Like a slightly nutty more religious left wing leader, but then you remember he’s literally just an opportunistic mentalist who’s using people for money, sex and to stroke his ego. Like a political leader, but with cyanide.

There are points where it’s slow, and a bit “where the fuck is this going” (basically like a Vice documentary), but then it gets really good when they have a one-on-one with father, and he manages to shit all over Sam’s questions. I don’t know why I found that so satisfying, guess I obviously like rooting for the bad guy.

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I will admit when I initially heard “Hi I’m Sam Turner….Vice….Williamsburg…Brooklyn…beard….fashion photographer….ginger beard…” I was like ok I hope you die soon.

Sadly you’ll have to watch the film to find out

Official Trailer