Pet Sematary (1989) – movie review

I owe this one to Candace Krissie (hope I spelled your name right, my friend), who solved a puzzle in one of my previous posts and got herself a review as a reward!

Her pick was Pet Sematary, another Stephen King’s adaptation, this time around adapted by the author himself to a movie. This is one of the few cases in which King worked on a movie first hand, besides the infamous Maximum Overdrive (1986).

Luckily, though, Pet Sematary is ten times better than the first King’s attempt behind the camera. Actually, I forgot how great this movie was until I picked up and watched it again.

Pet Sematary 1The story is rather simple: a super happy and cute family, with two kids and a gorgeous cat, move to a house between a motorway where huge, fat trucks pass and a pet cemetery (misspelled by some kid in sematary). Obviously, many pets have been killed and buried in that ground, which is what happens to Winston Churchill (that’s the name of the cat… nice!).

Consequently, a sweet, old neighbour tells the dad that he should take the cat corpse to a burial ground behind the titular ‘pet sematary’ is located, because, over there, weird stuff happens: among which, of course, dead beings coming back to life. The dad decides to give it a try and, eventually, Church resuscitates… he’s just mean as hell, now!

What if, say, one of the kids dies? That would put daddy in a sticky situation. And I don’t want to spoil an almost 30-year-old film, but something must happen, right?

Pet Sematary 2.jpgI love this movie! Firstly, the whole look and feel, with the evident late 80s-early 90s vibe, is just amazing: it drags you into the movie immediately. Secondly, Pet Sematary makes great use of set-design and location, which make you feel captivated by the environment and the old legend and myths.

Yet, the characters and their performances are great, probably my favourite part of the movie. The kids, especially the young boy, are incredibly adorable and the parents so loving and caring. Even the neighbour looks and sounds like a lovely grandpa. All this character introduction and development is fundamental and I think Pet Sematary does a great job at making you feel for them and, possibly, be deeply sad when something dramatic affects this family.

Pet Sematary 3Despite the established atmosphere, the movie gets very dark and graphic towards the end. It’s not A Serbian Film type-of-deal, obviously, but it makes for an effective contrast with the happy family build-up. Also, said grand finale that I won’t give away, is very intense and well executed.

Even though I’m a sucker for this King’s adaptation, I can’t deny the presence of a few flaws. To begin with, at points the film looks a bit campy and the quite mediocre special effects don’t help. Furthermore, there is some clear exposition thrown in the mix that seems unnecessary.

If you can overlook these minute issues, though, you have to check Pet Sematary if you haven’t yet. Finally, I admire the whole symbolic discussion on ‘how to deal with the consequences of death’, which is something not to be overlooked. Strongly recommend it!

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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!

The moral is: never trust your colleagues. The Belko Experiment – movie review

When your script revolves around 80 employees locked up into their office building waiting to kill or be killed, the final product could either be extremely satisfying or go terribly wrong.

The Belko Experiment is the exception to the rule.

Directed by Greg McLean – who made a name for himself with the excellent Wolf Creek (2005) but also made some stinkers in the recent past – and written by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 2), this film tells a quite straightforward story.

Belko experiment 2In an office building nearby Bogota (Colombia), 80 employees – from the maintenance to the bosses – are the target of a sadistic game where, in order to survive, they must kill each other, instructed by a mysterious voice which gives them orders and rules to follow.

By far, the best aspect of The Belko Experiment revolves around the employees’ reactions. Each and every one of them gives a different response to the panic, ranging from disbelief to pure shock, to madness, to abandoning every decent human behaviour.

Also, despite the short runtime of only 88 minutes, the film takes its time to introduce the main characters, which are well-rounded within a few sequences: Mike Milch (John Gallagher Jr.), Barry (Tony Goldwyn) and Wendell (John Christopher McGinley) are particularly striking in their respective roles.

belko-experiment.w710.h473.jpgNevertheless, in the cast choices there is also a lot of wasted potential. Michael Rooker, for example, seems to be in the movie purely to make a favour to Gunn – the duo worked together in both the Guardian of the Galaxy films.

Yet, with such a simplistic plot, the show stealer should have been the killings. Rated R and marked as very violent, The Belko Experiment holds back on every scene that might have been too brutal, instead.

On the contrary, when on camera, the practical effects are well-done and effective, although never original or unseen in other flicks before.

belko-experiment-image-john-c-mcginleyHowever, the most disappointing part of the movie is the grand finale. Nonsense, dumb and lazy. I wouldn’t know how to describe it otherwise. The main reason being that who made the movie wanted to set up a sequel, regardless how stupid the ending of the film was.

Overall, though, you can give it a watch, switch your brain off and enjoy a very quick film that has nothing to offer apart from decent entertainment. It could have been way worse, but even far better than it actually is. Instead, The Belko Experiment is a forgettable horror flick that, for sure, doesn’t deserve a sequel. Let’s hope they don’t make one. 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!

Back to Shyamalan’s universe – Split reviewed

Split (2017) is the latest M. Night Shyamalan’s film, starring James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy.

Being on my ‘most anticipated movieslist, I was really pumped up to watch Split but at the same time I lowered my expectations not to be disappointed as I was with The Visit (2015), the most recent Shyamalan’s movie. So, what are my thoughts on Split?

First, the plot. A man with 23 different personalities – Kevin, played by James McAvoy – kidnaps three girls – Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and outsider Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy from The Witch). While they are trying to escape from Kevin, they start to learn more about his split personalities, which are also under investigation on behalf of Kevin’s psychiatrist, Dr. Karen Fletcher – the ‘old crazy lady’ from The Happening, portrayed by Betty Buckley.

split-1Kevin, but mostly Dennis and Patricia – aka his most disturbed and twisted identities – have in mind to keep the ‘impure’ girls locked up until ‘The Beast’, the 24th personality, will be unleashed and will be able to devour them. Is ‘The Beast’ a real deal or it lives only in Kevin’s mind?

Where do I start? Well, to begin with, the plot, while being highly unrealistic, is executed in such a mature way that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats throughout the entire runtime. The locations are well-crafted and purposely claustrophobic, the soundtrack is always spot on and the camera work is really astonishing.

newg_6Furthermore, all of this cinematic structure is supported by compelling performances from the actors – James McAvoy is simply jaws-dropping, he gave an Oscar-worthy performance being able to deliver each personality in such a unique and terrifying way. Anya Taylor-Joy is, once again, eyes-grabbing in this movie. Her character’s arc is explored and developed so well throughout the film that, to me, Casey is one of the most compelling horror protagonists of the last years. You, as a viewer, really buy into her character and feel for her.

Yet, the dreadful atmosphere built masterfully since the very first moment, the abduction scene, is climatic and brings to a crescendo which makes the viewer more and more terrified. Split is a great horror movie, because it’s capable of combing scary moments with a general unsettling tone.

Nevertheless, the film has a couple of weaknesses, namely the long and unnecessary exposition scene, where Dr. Fletcher tells to a broad audience via Skype what the Kevin’s case consists of and what are the possible implications. Again, the characters of Claire and Marcia are not the greatest: played in a very derivative way, they get annoying after a while and the viewers cannot really feel for them.

I’m sorry, but a good review of Split cannot refuse to talk about the ending and the final twist. So, if you have not seen the movie, go watch it (and I mean, now) and come back here.

*Spoiler alert*

 caution_spoilers

This movie is a unique product and its ending could be either very disappointing or highly fulfilling.

Basically, ‘The Beast is real’ – as Dennis claims – and he appears as an under-steroids version of McAvoy. Toller, stronger, covered by pumping veins and immune to whatever physical attack.

Is it silly? I guess if you haven’t seen Unbreakable (Shyamalan’s movie starring Bruce Willis as an ‘ordinary superhero’) it is a bit dumb indeed.

However, if you have seen that movie, the ending puts Split in the same universe of Unbreakable, turning it into the building of a super-villain. The final Bruce Willis’ cameo/close-up proves it beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Either ways, Split doesn’t fall short at all. Inserted in the Unbreakable universe, with the doors open to a sequel, this movie is indubitably a first-class product. Otherwise, it’s an excellent motion picture filled with fantastic characters and a very tense, thrilling and dramatic story. Must see. Cheers!