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.

Lobster Claw

The Lobster (2015)
Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos

I’ve been banging on about this film for weeks because it’s very rare I get REALLY excited about something, and basically force everyone around me to watch it like a woman possessed.

“Have you seen it yet?” I hissed at my colleagues this morning. I could actually SEE their thought process as they politely tried to tell me to fuck off. NO WE HAVEN’T SEEN THAT WEIRD FILM ABOUT SINGLE PEOPLE BEING TURNED INTO ANIMALS BECAUSE WE’RE NOT ALL PSYCHOPATHS LIKE YOU.

Next it will be be that Josef Fritzel film (which no doubt I’ll probably really enjoy), but luckily I haven’t gotten round to that yet so you’ll just have to hear about how groundbreaking i thought this was instead.

image

The premise, of what is essentially a very simple film, is life in a horrifying modern dystopia, which enforces  traditional values down all their citizens throat in the most bizarre fashion.

Citizens of “The City” are punished by law for failing to be part of a couple. There is a time limit on how long you’re “allowed” to be single, and once you have failed to find a partner on your own, you are then forced to check into a hotel where you have forty five days to find someone. Think very extreme version of “take me out” meets Wuthering Heights. Thats the vibe.

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The hotel itself is similar to a care home or even a school, in its regimented, clinical and militant approach to matching up its guests. The process is very mathematical, practical and unbelievably depressing. Should you, the single man or woman, fail to find someone within the forty five day time frame you are turned into an animal of your choice (yes, animal), and sent into the woods to live the rest of your life as the waste of air that society now deems you. No pressure.

The powers that be (in this weird modern world) essentially require you to fulfil your basic human duty to find companionship and live as part of a couple. If you don’t, you basically die being left to fend for yourself.

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Now, I really enjoyed this, even though hands down… bleak as fuck. Bleak, as i often try and explain, is actually good sometimes; it’s often required to balance out all Netflix originals, Taylor Swift songs and American Idol auditions constantly rammed down our throats. It’s like a much needed reflection of the shit world we live in, that we should never really forget.

Selling it?

ok, so you have to remember that this is a surrealist film… ACTUALLY a surrealist film, not just like a bit of an odd movie. For starters Colin Farel isn’t his usually sexy self; he’s weedy, asexual and a bit pathetic. He sports a creepy paedo tash and awkwardly fumbles everywhere, making him kind of unbearable to watch. The dialogue and interactions between the characters is eerily calm, unnatural and bizarre, and the resounding oddness of the whole situation is given to the viewer in a very “matter of fact” way which makes it all the more bizarre. If this film were an elephant in a room it would be a florescent elephant in a basement flat at 2am.

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The setting is familiar, there’s nothing Sci fi or other worldly about the aesthetic whatsoever. In fact the aesthetic is actually very dreary and grey. Nothing futuristic, no flo mo technology, no flying, no hovercrafts.

I won’t ruin it by telling you anything else apart from the fact that it’s probably one of the most chilling films I’ve seen in recent years. There are scenes which made me actually wince, and considering I wrote my uni thesis on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it’s pretty hard to make me wince.

Highly recommend

Sara

You will catch Chlamydia and you will die….

dir: David Robert Mitchell (2015)

*MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD*

I wanna start by stating that this is a proper film, and I mean a PROPER film. It’s an art house, wide angles, beautiful cinematography, amazing acting, ‘nod to David Cronenberg’ kinda film.

Def not one for the Netflix and chill.

Had to get that out of the way so you can understand the nature of what we’re dealing with because I, the viewer, wasn’t quite sure of what to expect so i feel its my duty to clarify a few things before you casually stick this one on waiting for your Dominoes.

For starters it’s an indie-flick, so the translation of that means its slow. If you have the attention span of a goldfish (c’est moi), you may find it a struggle to get into this. Now this isn’t necessarily a reflection of the film; its more a reflection of you and the vacuous brain you now have that is saturated with snapchat and candy crush and physically can’t focus on anything for more that five mins without expecting a chainsaw and multiple deaths.

follows.0

So yes. I did struggle towards the start.

It was time to put my phone under my pillow and really focus, on this cinematic horror masterpiece, which so many reviewers have jizzed their pants about.

I’ll begin by outright saying that it is visually incredible. hands down; the film is gorgeous.

An ambiance is created from the get go which I really noticed, and you will to. Everything is rich, and symmetrical and details are emphasized, and it’s really really beautiful.

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Also you don’t really get a clear idea of what era its meant to be set in, which confuses you a bit but kinda gives it that timeless, retro feel. This situation could literally happen to any teenager at any time in history, so even if you add or strip away all of today’s technology (which Mitchell smartly did…with the exception of a random clam shaped kindle), the outcome will remain the same. In various interviews Mitchell mentions an homage to the 80’s classics, so having the time-frame purposely ambiguous does that very smartly without making it feel forced or dated.

Ok so the movie is basically about an STI that kills you.

That’s it. That’s the plot.

It’s not necessarily a ‘cautionary tale’ (again, not one for the Netflix and chill), its more of a modern twist on the ‘curse you pass on’. The issue wasn’t so much unprotected sex, or sex with strangers, or any of those really obvious things they do in films to make you never want to have sex with another human ever again in your life (that would be the movie ‘Kids’ in case you are interested), it came across as more of a ‘pass it on’ curse. Sex was just the medium used of passing it on, as opposed to like a VHS tape or a letter, or any of the other things we’re more accustomed with.

Also, it does play on fears that teenagers have, so yes, sex was also a very appropriate medium for the curse. Its bad enough that you’re going through adolescent bullshit, then you meet someone you like, and you have sex with them, and next thing you know you wake up tied to a wheelchair being told you have a shape shifting STD that’s literally coming to kill you.

pretty heavy shit for a Friday night.

The premise is not new, the execution was, which makes this film very interesting to watch as a horror fan. It’s not as jumpy or gory, or decapitate-y as anything you may be used to, but its far from a comfortable watch and I am totally cool with that.

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My one main issue with it, which was also Quentin Tarantino’s issue with it (great minds), is that it doesn’t follow its own mythology. So ‘It’ is an entity that takes the physical appearance of a variety of things (man, woman, child, cat…whatever), and literally follows you (hence title) until it gets to you and kills you. Once you become accustomed to what ‘it’ is, as a carrier of this disease, you know very quickly when to exit a building, a house, leave a cinema or just jump in a car and drive.

HENCE WHY a few things didn’t add up; such as the woman in the cinema (which as a carrier, the dude would’ve know that she was not a casual woman in a floral dress), or the fact that shooting ‘It’ didn’t really work at the beach, but then it did at the pool. Also the fact that ‘It’ starts chucking stuff and hitting people? So does that mean it is able to affect people who don’t carry the disease or what? Like…a few inconsistencies with how ‘it’ functions.

And then the ending….

All in all a great film. If you’re not a horror fan, but you just want a really good film to stare at for 94 mins, this is also appropriate.

The Visit….sure

Every now and again comes a director so mind-blowingly overrated you almost feel compelled to hate them just to level out the playing field a bit. Even though not all of them are as evil and self obsessed as say, Christopher Nolan (just picking names out a hat here guys), you’ve decided by default that you WILL dislike their over hyped work, and nothing will change your mind. Which is why when this came out i felt a weird sense of curiosity and sympathy.

Bless M. Night Shymalan…hes had a bumpy ride….

Noone likes M Night Shymalan

Although I’ve never been his biggest fan, I do, to a degree, get what hes tried to do. And that’s not because I hate The Sixth Sense (i do hate The Sixth Sense), or because I think all his films are like…the same, or any of that. I just don’t find him particularly effective as a director within the horror genre…as it were.

And none of his films have actually ever scared me in the slightest.

And I don’t like that his name sounds like a three part drama.

And i fucking hated the village

So I reluctantly watched this, because i was told I WOULD enjoy it by trustworthy sources, and felt i should give him one last stab at winning me over. Go on then Shymalan…do your worst.

thevisit

Premise of the story is that two teenagers have never met their grandparents due to family estrangement. They go and visit them (I missed this bit completely by the way, because i was in a line buying m&ms), and then some really odd shit starts happening. Becca, the older of the siblings, puts this erratic behavior down to age (they’re old, and old people do odd stuff). The younger one however (Tyler), has his cray-dar firmly fixed since they arrived, and picks up on said red flags pretty quickly.

Now i happened to walk in halfway through a ‘hide and seek’ scene, and noticed that (spoiler alert), the film was being shot entirely from the perspective of Becca, thus making it…

found

fucking

footage.

Lets just clarify right now that there is nothing more infuriating then found footage. Literally. nothing.

How can you time your filming so accurately with all the horrific things going on around you? How? How did you even know? Are you that confident within yourself that you don’t mind looking through a lens and possibly getting possessed or killed at the same time? that eager to capture the moment…really? that eager?

‘fine, lets sit through an hour of this, hate it, and then write something really scathing about how he couldn’t get funded and had to pay for it all himself’, I thought.

Surprisingly though, I actually didn’t hate it.

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There were moments at the start where it really could’ve gone left with my patience. and i mean really left. Like the grandma’s crazy eyeballing of everything around her, pop pop and his shed full of shit, and that story about going to the costume party (??!). Crazy nan pops up again scratching the walls butt naked and then there’s another story about sundowning, or sungazing, or something…which i’m really glad the kids googled the next day, because i personally wasn’t buying a single word of that crap.

Once you get past the obvious predictability that comes as standard with a found footage film (eyeroll), the end result was really quite great.

It was sharp, it was funny. Tyler was played by an exceptionally talented actor who’s going to get really far in his career, and the ending was phenomenal. Very fun to watch. very sinister (shock horror) and amazingly ticked all the boxes.

Well done Shymalan. you stopped listening to the voices.