Welcome to the shaky-cam, off-screen gore fest. Leatherface – movie review

A movie so successful and ground-breaking like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) is destined to spread loads of sequels, prequels, remakes and reboots.

The latest of these is Leatherface, the origin story of the titular character, considered one of the most iconic horror villains of all time.

Leatherface 3Before proceeding with my review, I want to raise a question: is it always necessary to give great, mysterious characters an origin story? My answer is that such a thing is not only unnecessary, but could also be dangerous, taking away the aura of mystery and uneasiness linked to a beloved character.

Nevertheless, I’m always open (and hopeful) to be surprised and prone to change my mind.

Unfortunately, Leatherface only reinforced my convictions, being one of the worst and most disappointing movies of 2017.

I went into it saving an ounce of hope, since the duo of directors were French die-hard fans of Tobe Hooper’s most influential film. France is one of the few countries in which the TCSM formula has been tried with outstanding results – check out Frontiers (2007) and Calvaire (2004) for reference (I know Calvaire is a Belgian film, but they speak French in it, so I allowed myself to cheat a bit).

Furthermore, the two directors (Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, who previously came out with the fun, gory Inside, 2007) embraced the project with enthusiasm: “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is the real game-changer… it changed the face of cinema… it’s a masterpiece” (Maury). They were also supervised by Tobe Hooper himself as the executive producer who, sadly, died before the film was released.

Leatherface 1.1Back to the movie: the story is about the dysfunctional Sawyer family that, after murdering the daughter of a local sheriff, sees their youngest son been taken into a mental institution. 10 years after his reclusion, the young Jed (Leatherface in the making) escapes with the help of three deranged patients and nurse, held hostage by the gang. The plotline follows their attempt to reach the Sawyer family, whilst being persecuted by the vindictive sheriff.

Now, this movie is full of flaws, but the biggest one revolves around tone and vibe: other than the first 3 minutes and the last 10, this flick doesn’t look anything like a TCSM film. In terms of locations, none of those utilised in the film remind the viewer of the Texan farms and fields – which makes sense, since it was shot over the course of 27 days (!) in Bulgaria!

Yet, the direction completely forgets about what made the original TCSM a ground-breaking piece of cinema: the gritty realism of the 1974 movie is replaced by over-the-top gore and driven by unlikable, idiotic characters.

Leatherface 1Also, in regards to the violence, Leatherface unwisely chooses to keep the most gruesome scenes off-camera, preferring to show two deranged criminals having sex on a corpse and showing signs of necrophilia. Scenes like these are just disgusting and off-putting, which has nothing to do with real horror or uneasiness. Yet, when the violence is actually on camera, who made the film decided to utilise the cheapest shaky-cam effects and shittiest colour scheme to prevent the viewers from enjoying the scenes.

Again, when it comes to the acting, Leatherface delivers us the most one-dimensional characters I have seen in a while, portrayed awfully by the actors – with the exception of Lili Taylor (Jed’s mom) and the titular protagonist (played fairly well by Sam Strike).

Leatherface 2Luckily enough, the portrayal of Jed/Leatherface is quite respectful of the character: he’s not downright evil, more so a victim of his background and the events that influenced his life. However, for some incomprehensible reason, the directors or writers of the script decide to focus more on other, useless characters, such as the nurse and a fat, mentally unstable goof who have no part in the TCSM universe.

Towards the end, we come back to the Sawyer family house, in which location and cinematography pay homage to the original 1974 film, which was kind of cool to see. Other than that, though, even the grand finale is downright ridiculous and disappointing.

Before I get to my conclusions, let me just add a complaint about an aspect of the movie that bugged me throughout. The editing is awfully jumpy during the entire runtime (only 84 minutes, luckily) and gives the impression of a product that has been released before being polished and refined. Since Leatherface has been shot over 27 days, which is insane, the only thing I could think of is that they just wanted to get it over with and come out with whatever shipwreck that could achieve in such a limited time. And this is what really pisses me off about a movie, because it shows little interest for audience and even less passion for your profession.

In conclusion, I strongly suggest not to watch Leatherface: if you’re a huge fan of the TCSM universe, this flick would likely let you down. If you’re just looking for some gory, mindless entertainment, instead, just check out something else which may allow you to see what’s going on. Cheers!

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The Dark Avengers recruit another member. Annabelle: Creation – movie review

After watching Annabelle (2014) I had little anticipation for this prequel that fits in The Conjuring universe and revolves around a possessed doll.

However, the direction by David F. Sandberg (Lights Out, 2016) and, mostly, an astounding 69% on RottenTomatoes, got me curious and slightly less negative about Annabelle: Creation.

What’s my opinion on it, then?

First, the plot: a group of orphan girls move to the house of Samuel Mullins and his wife, Esther, who, 12 years prior, have lost their beloved daughter Annabelle – killed in a hit and run accident.

Annabelle Creation 2When one of the girls, Janice, a young orphan who suffers from polio, sneaks into a locked room, she finds a creepy doll, unwittingly releasing the demon who begins to terrorise the girls, with a special interest in Janice.

The film is set in the 50s, in an isolated house a few miles away from a small Americana town. Compared to the first Annabelle film, Creation smartly chooses a location and an environment highly suitable for a haunted story.

Furthermore, Sandberg had the clever idea to untie its movie from the awful Annabelle, going for a prequel that guaranteed him more freedom rather than continuing with the ridiculous storyline of the 2014 flick.

Annabelle Creation 1Although driven by young actors, the performances in Creation are compelling overall: Talitha Bateman (Janice) and her best friend Linda (well portrayed by Lulu Wilson) are amazing in their roles. Yet, Sandberg decides to switch the lead between the two girls, making for a fresh storytelling in an otherwise formulaic horror flick.

Don’t worry, though, if you’re looking for the same, comforting bad acting that characterises the majority of horror flicks: Anthony LaPaglia (Samuel Mullins) drags himself around with the same facial expression he had while he was looking for missing people in 160 episodes of Without a Trace.

Besides some excellent performance, nice locations and good camera-work, Annabelle: Creation is as dull as Anthony LaPaglia in his role.

Without spoiling anything, this film doesn’t even have a plot twist: it’s predictable, the jump-scares are obvious (only one, in a staircase scene, got me) and the characters do what you expect them to.

Annabelle Creation 3Yet, Creation tries too hard to fit within The Conjuring universe and, simultaneously, to recreate Insidious (2010). The demon’s victims are all female (alike in The Conjuring), the jump-scares come from loud noises and hideous faces (Insidious), the prevalent colours are different shades of grey (The Conjuring) and the demon is the spit image of Lipstick-Face from Insidious.

The doll is just thrown in the mix, because, let’s be frank, the production company wants to fill up The Conjuring universe with spin-offs about the evil spirits that featured in the two Conjuring movie.

There is even a hint to the Nun in a scene of Creation. I expect Warner Brothers to come up with a Dark Avengers movie in a few years, featuring Annabelle, The Nun and The Crooked Man!

In conclusion, Annabelle: Creation is a massive improvement upon Annabelle. Although even a feature-length film about a dog pooping in the streets would be a better movie than Annabelle.

At the same time, though, Creation falls into all the stereotypical horror clichés we’ve seen tons of times before. It’s an enjoyable film based on a silly premise and unimaginative storytelling that, at the end, leaves you with nothing more than one hour and fifty minutes of mindless entertainment. Cheers!

Annabelle (2014) – movie review

Whit Annabelle coming out soon (the release date in the UK is the 11th of August), I decided to make a step back to the first spinoff of this horror franchise linked to The Conjuring universe.

If you previously read some of my older posts, you might have noticed that Annabelle is mentioned quite a few times in them.

Mostly, I used it as a titular example of soulless flick made on a small budget with the only purpose of milking money out of moviegoers’ pockets – which I talked about in-depth in regards to The Conjuring cinematic universe.

Therefore, I hope you’ll sympathise with me for having made the excruciating effort of sitting through this atrocity against humanity… for the second time.

Annabelle tells the absolutely unneeded and uninteresting story of a possessed doll that, after being cursed by a cultist, haunts the house and lives of John and Mia Form, a newly married couple living in California in the 60s/70s (presumably…).

Annabelle 1Mia is pregnant and, due to her insane passion for creepy-ass dolls, fills the room of her upcoming daughter with these hideous puppets. John, despite being short in money, decides to buy her Annabelle which costs him two months’ worth of rent, ignoring its horrendous appearance and the fact that it would scare every kid in the world to death.

When two cultists (a man and his daughter) break into their house to kill the lovely couple for some unexplained reason, they curse the doll which seems to embody either a demon or the vindictive spirit of the woman. Or both. Who cares?

After witnessing weird paranormal phenomena that jeopardise Mia and her new-born daughter (Leah), the wife decides to throw the doll in the bin and move away, which her husband reluctantly agrees on – despite being stereotypically sceptical and for no reasons unaware of what’s happening.

Anyway, they move to a humongous flat, although not having enough money to pay both bills and buy a hideous doll. However, Annabelle comes back due to her superdoll powers and keeps haunting them until a pointless sacrifice saves the family in one of the most disappointing ending I have ever seen.

Directed by John R. Leonetti, who previously made Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and The Butterfly Effect 2 (two of the worst movies ever made), Annabelle is deemed to be awful.

The concept it’s based on is laughable to begin with: another killer-doll movie is as about necessary as one revolving around a board game (knock Ouija door for confirmation).  

Annabelle 2Nevertheless, the execution is even worse: this film feels like an endless stream of exposition scenes, filled with boring dialogue between characters as compelling as a potato.

From time to time, jump-scares are thrown in the mix and they look cheap, unfrightening and, overall, silly. Other than a fairly good one, which makes for 10 seconds of watchable stuff out of 96 minutes.

The rest is just generic: the soundtrack, the cinematography, the editing… all of that is made up in the attempt to create some scary moments that will never come.

Sub-plots are thrown in a sequence and never explored again; characters make a statement and retract it in the very next scene; the husband always has to go to (or stay at) work because the director doesn’t know what to do with him.

Furthermore, in this flick universe, there is no space for other human beings than the characters directly involved in the story: streets are empty in broad daylight, buildings look always uninhabited, shops are deserted.

This is Annabelle guys, a shameless attempt to rip off better films and a soulless money-grabbing train wreck that is about as scary as a Smurfs episode. Don’t watch it, ever!

To conclude, I just want to clarify that I decided to review this movie because, despite all the premises, I’m really curious to see Annabelle: Creation for two main reasons.

Firstly, the director openly despised the first Annabelle as a terrible film. Secondly, he proved himself capable of decent filmmaking with Lights Out (2016) and, mostly, a few seriously creepy short movies. Let’s hope Creation will make us forget about its predecessor. Cheers!

Seriously, Ridley Scott? Alien: Covenant – movie review

Alien: Covenant is Ridley Scott’s attempt to reinvigorate the Alien franchise after the somewhat cold reactions received by Prometheus (2012) and some stinkers from the past (Alien: Resurrection, AVP), unworthily labelled as Alien movies.

Alien CovenantIn the film, we follow the crew of the Covenant – a spaceship on the way to Origae-6, a remote planet, to colonise it with some two-thousand colonists and a thousand embryos on-board. After something goes terribly wrong, the ship catches a human message from another unknown planet and, therefore, the crew decides to land there and see what’s going on.

Needless to say, the crew happens to be the target of creatures interested in nothing but ripping them apart in all manner of devastatingly inventive new ways.

After hanging over five years for answers that Prometheus set for us, Alien: Covenant only provides the viewers with some of the posers.

Instead, the result of the latest Scott’s movie appears an amalgamation between Alien and Prometheus, a mixed-bag that doesn’t satisfy neither the fans of the first nor the supporters of the latter.

Ali CovenantHaving high expectations for this film, I was very let down by it. In all honesty, Covenant is a convoluted, bloated mess that attempts to recreate the most successful chunks of both the first two Alien movies and Prometheus, failing, though, almost on every single level.

In all fairness, though, visuals and acting are the saving grace of the movie.

The cinematography is gorgeous and, once again, Ridley Scott proves to be a master-class Sci-fi director in terms of visual effects. Some of the shots are breath-taking and eye-grabbing, that’s undeniable.

Plus, the acting is very good on everyone’s part. Although Katherine Waterston as Daniels is decent, Danny McBride in an unprecedented role for him and Michael Fassbender – who carries the plot along throughout the entire two hours or so of runtime – stand out and are worth praising over the other performances.

However, these two elements only can’t save the movie from being a big let-down.

My main disappointment with Alien: Covenant revolves around the tone. The Prometheus-like vibe never matches with the Alien-like tone, providing a very contrasting feeling throughout the whole film.

Yet, the camera-work is sometimes frustrating: certain shots seem directly extracted from a videogame and there are scenes where it’s impossible to understand what’s going on because of the use of the infamous shaky-cam. Which I was really surprised Scott got away with, since it’s a technique such a good director should shy away from.

aliencovenantIn terms of camera-work, I was also disappointed by the fact that some gruesome and bloody sequences were made hard to look at, whereas would have been great to appreciate their effectiveness in this type of film.

Again, the CGI doesn’t blend with the practical effects and shots on location. It looks already fake and dated even in comparison with the astounding special effects of the first Alien (1979)! Ridley Scott, where did you go?

All in all, I would have preferred to see a straight-up sequel to Prometheus – which, although not perfect by any means, is an entertaining, challenging piece of cinema – rather than a bloated flick where direction and production company aimed to please the mass audience’s requests for more xenomorphs and brutal killings.

In conclusion, give Covenant a chance if you have to, but I personally wouldn’t recommend to watch this film, especially to those who love the first two movies and hope to see their beloved franchise to be reinvigorated. Cheers!