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“When You Dance The Dance Of Another, You Make Yourself In The Image Of Its Creator…”
Considered as one of the staple examples of horror cinema since its’ release in 1977, Dario Argento’s Suspiria continues to bewilder, bemuse and bewitch audiences both observing for the first time and avid returners still hooked in the enchanting spell cast by the Italian, with the iconic neon colour palette utilised for the film’s signature style and the extravagantly overblown score by Goblin the standout elements forty one years on. Whilst I can consider myself a stern admirer of the Argento classic, repeat viewings have failed to alter my opinion that even with all the outstanding elements within its’ genetic makeup, there also sits a few major ills, particularly in its’ longevity regarding certain special effects and awfully hammy acting, and whilst the thought of ever treading on such sacred ground for a remake, reboot or re-imagining seems fundamentally blasphemous, Suspiria circa 2018 is project which I have been gleefully looking forward to since the first whispers surfaced into the ears of cinema fans across the world. Directed by fellow Italian, Luca Guadagnino, (A Bigger Splash, Call Me By Your Name) who refers to his latest project as a homage to the Argento original rather than a fully blown remake, Suspiria sees Dakota Johnson (Bad Times as the El Royale) as Susie Bannion, a seemingly repressed yet mysterious American dancer who travels into the heart of a war torn West Berlin in order to be admitted into the world renowned Markos Dance Academy and fall under the wing of Tilda Swinton’s (Doctor Strange) lead choreographer, Madame Blanc.
Taking place in 1977, the release year and setting of the original, Guadagnino’s interpretation follows Argento’s original screenplay only to particular extents, using familiar characters and settings only in name as the Italian reunites with A Bigger Splash screenwriter, David Kajganich, for a script which is determined to offer something completely radical as it plunges headfirst into an array of themes and mythological exploration, setting the tone for a remake which doesn’t care how much you may love the original as it seeks to present a subversive, differing tale of events which sits at the opposite end of the cinematic spectrum in terms of its’ filmic genetic makeup. Of the more obvious changes, Guadagnino completely strips the neon embers of the Argento version for a more traditional, classic horror movie aesthetic, choosing to gloss the film in a grim, grainy colour palette and incorporating familiar B-movie genre tropes including quickfire camera zooms, schizophrenic editing and detailed facial shots similar to the likes of Don’t Look Now and more crucially, Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. Whilst the original thrived on the central twist regarding the secretive coven of witches embedded within the heart of the school’s grounds, Kajganich’s script openly embraces such a fact from the outset, presenting the presence of evil as somewhat natural as we see Johnson’s Bannion quickly become the centre of a scheming plot to sacrifice her bewildering power to the unseen force of the school’s titular matriarchal figure, Helena Markos, and whilst the openness of such evil forces seemed a strange narrative choice heading into the movie, the decision does ultimately make absolute sense, saving an even bigger reveal for its’ own terrifying final act and understanding that most audiences heading in are original Suspiria fans anyway and therefore already well versed with the film’s central horror.
Synchronising deliciously with the purposeful intention to oppose pretty much everything within the original, Thom Yorke’s score beautifully and hauntingly glides hand in hand with the story, utilising a primarily piano led catalogue of tracks which matches the best work produced by Yorke both in a solo capacity and with Radiohead, with lead track, “Suspirium”, particularly impressive, encompassing the radical difference to the rather barmy but highly memorable Goblin score utilised in Argento’s film. At two and a half hours, the run-time does seem rather off-putting for some audiences who will undoubtedly find the slow burn nature of the pacing tortuously boring and irksome, but in a similar vein to Blade Runner 2049, the slower pace never felt much of an issue, building up dramatically to flashes of brutal, stylistic violence and a final act which when arrives feels particularly well earned. Among the many standout set pieces, the central dance sequences are incredibly well choreographed, with Guadagnino’s version emphasising the art of movement much more then the original ever did, and with added thematic notions regarding motherhood, the effect of war and a rather contemporary commentary on the abuse of power, Suspiria circa 2018 almost falls into the category of epic cinema, even when particular narrative arcs seem slightly tacked on to the extent that they either could have been shortened or removed completely. With Johnson and Swinton both absolutely superb in the central roles as they willingly buy into the vision created by a director they have both worked with in the past, Suspiria is a bold, beautiful and at times, genuinely unnerving work of art-house cinema which took the genetic code of a horror genre classic and redefined it from top to bottom.
Overall Score: 9/10
“Do You Know Why I Admire You, Newt? You Do Not Seek Power. You Simply Ask, “Is A Thing… Right..?”
Not being the biggest fan of the first Fantastic Beasts film back in 2015, the three year wait for the second entry in the ever-expanding “Wizarding World” franchise to focus on Eddie Redmayne’s (The Theory of Everything) Newt Scamander was undoubtedly filled with notions on how exactly they could make a film with such talented performers become something I could actually enjoy. Directed by the steady hand of David Yates, a filmmaker who has helmed everything linked to the words of J. K. Rowling since Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Crimes of Grindelwald reunites Scamander with both friends and foes whilst introducing the likes of Jude Law (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) as a younger, trimmer Albus Dumbledore and Johnny Depp as the central and titular antagonist after Colin Farrell (Widows) was seen in the previous movie to simply be a jaw-dropping falsehood. Whilst swapping the likes of Farrell for Depp feels similar to trading your beautiful Aston Martin for a raggedy, temperamental French coupe with a penchant for stalling, such a trade feels only like a faint blip in the spectrum of issues prevalent in The Crimes of Grindelwald, a convoluted and needlessly tedious second wind which suffers from the simple fact of being a franchise entry which is all filler, no killer, and whilst there are particular elements which bring forth memories of what makes Rowling’s world so magical and delightful, Yates’ latest is unfortunately a wizarding tale of woe which fails to recreate the best the franchise has offered in the past.
Central to the film’s maddening issues is undoubtedly Rowling’s script, a convoluted, messy and particularly confusing work of madness which features zero threat, makes zero sense and is bogged down by a range of two dimensional, underdeveloped characters who come and go without clearly laying down their individual intentions or overall purpose to the story. With Depp ironically the best thing in the entire movie, his Billy Idol inspired look and Bono-esque sanctimonious villainous speeches failed to prevent me from cheering inside every time he came on screen, particularly when alternative company elsewhere became more and more boring with every passing minute, and even with the inclusion of the wonderful Zoë Kravitz as a conflicted, troublesome auror adding to list of powerful female actors carried over from the first film, her performance is let down by wonky character development and a overarching sense of her talent’s being well and truly wasted. With awful camera work which featured a mix between jaded, snapshot editing and invasive facial shots which looked like the work of a drunk and drugged up Sergio Leone, one of the more obvious issues is cinematographer Philippe Rousselot’s decision to mask the film in a bland, murky colour pallette, which although managed to echo the bland and lifeless feel of the film to a tee, also felt like a DC Universe interpretation of the Harry Potter franchise by failing to handle the darker aspects of the narrative and instead becoming a painful slog into unrepenting murkiness. Whilst the likes of Jude Law and even Eddie Redmayne, an actor who I still can’t fully get on board with, try their absolute best to bring some sense of dramatic pull to the action, an impressive musical score and wardrobe aside can’t paint over the fact that for a film which lasts nearly 140 minutes, nothing memorable actually seems to happen, and with gargantuan, bewildering plot twists crammed into a indecipherable final ten minutes, The Crimes of Grindelwald is somehow less fantastic than its’ mediocre predecessor.
Overall Score: 4/10
“This Is The Story Of How My Town, Salem, Lost It’s Mind. Let’s Start At The Beginning…”
Written and directed by Sam Levinson, son of Good Morning Vietnam and Rain Man director, Barry Levinson, Assassination Nation acts as the American’s third feature after trading in acting for directing but the first to venture onto the big screen with a significantly wider general release. Slapped with a beautifully rare 18 certificate and released within a period of the cinematic year in which Halloween, Overlord and Suspiria have all shown a resurgence in the BBFC classifying movies with the highest rating possible, Levinson’s latest is a particularly odd beast, a hybrid of varying subjects with an underlying topical social commentary which sees Odessa Young as the free spirited Lily Colson who along with her group of freely spoken youthful friends become embroiled in a town-wide internet hack which sees every single resident’s personal online history leak into the gaze of the public eye, resulting in extraordinarily extravagant and particularly violent consequences. Beginning with a familiar stylish and slightly bizarre aesthetic feel to Harmony Korine’s woefully unsatisfactory Spring Breakers in 2013, Levinson’s movie traverses through a minefield of themes and genres for two hours worth of storytelling which at times is undoubtedly problematic and troublesome, but crucially, never boring, resulting in audiences guaranteed to leave the auditorium thinking to themselves; “what on earth was that all about?”
With the film using the first half an hour to introduce the primary quartet of femme fatales at the heart of the action, each with their own distinguishable individuality and vices, the coming of age style narrative allows the evolving opening scandals to be seen from the point of view of the youth of the aptly named town of Salem as an unknown hacker forces out both the secrets of both a local politician and teacher. With Levinson’s screenplay clearly following on from the likes of Ingrid Goes West and Searching by conveying an on-the-nose comment on the nature and impact of social media, whatever point Levinson chooses to focus on becomes completely lost in an out of control second act in which the audience bears witness to a startling combination of Winding Refn and Dario Argento eye-gouging neon style with elements of The Purge, resulting in an abundance of violence and particularly tough scenes of torture, murder and near attempted rape which for some audiences may be too explicit to cope with. Personally however, the sense of silliness and emphatically ripe shock tactics which unveil themselves heading towards the film’s climax never became dull or uninteresting, due in part to some wonderful camera work and blissfully bright cinematography, and whilst there never was a single character in which I cared whether they lived or died due to pretty much every single one being fundamentally unlikeable, Assassination Nation moved along nicely as it offended audiences left, right and centre and concluded in a way which simply made me giggle. Bring on more gory grunge movies!
Overall Score: 6/10
“Today We Will Do Mean Things, And We Will Do Them In Style..!”
Acting as the third on-screen adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ 1957 children’s story, “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” after the 1966 television special and the Jim Carrey starring live-action version directed by Ron Howard at the start of the century, The Grinch, directed by the filmmaking double act of Scott Mosier (Clerks) and Yarrow Cheney, sees the latter reunite with Illumination Entertainment after being handed directorial duties for the forgettable, if slightly entertaining, The Secret Life of Pets back in 2016, for a contemporary adaptation of everyone’s favourite sarcastic green grump as he once again turns on the town of Whoville during the Christmas celebrations in order to spoil the holiday season in which he fundamentally despises. Voice by a Benedict Cumberbatch (Patrick Melrose) who mixes Smaug with a nasally American accent in order to perform with the iconic bah humbug voice, The Grinch is undoubtedly made with the joyfully crisp animation you would come to expect from a studio behind the likes of the Despicable Me franchise, but with a perfunctory, cliched and dare I say it, rather dull, screenplay, Illumination Studios’ latest venture may indeed work for younger audiences unaware of the dastardly works of its’ titular anti-hero but for those with even the slightest inkling of the well versed story at the heart of it, The Grinch is surprisingly quite bland.
Beginning with the positives, the visual aesthetic of the movie is rather quite beautiful, utilising sharp, detailed portrayals of both characters and settings in a manner which almost comes expected now in a world which constantly churns out impressive animation after animation, but with cute comedic asides coming from the likes of a screaming goat and Grinch’s loyal canine companion, Max, the design of the movie does allow for on and off moments of effective hilarious slapstick which usually results in particular characters being thrown, launched and smacked into oncoming trees. Whilst substance and depth isn’t exactly the first thing on the mind when approaching a film such as The Grinch, the real emotional punch of the film undeniably sits in the flashbacks where we see the experiences of a younger Grinch and the impact his own childhood has on his modern day hatred for all things Christmas, yet with most of the action taking place in the modern day, the simplistic screenplay unfortunately doesn’t match the freshness of the film’s aesthetic, treading ground covered in so many Christmas themed films from the past and ultimately becoming quite tiresome as it falls to a predictable end. Following on from the likes of Johnny English Strikes Again by being a movie which utilises comedic set pieces to flesh out its’ runtime, The Grinch never felt comfortable as a feature length re-telling of Dr. Seuss’ most infamous festive fiend, even when at retained at the heart of it is a central message which we all could take a slice of going forward towards “that time of year again”. Bah, humbug.
Overall Score: 5/10
“What I’ve Learnt From Men Like Your Late Husband And My Father Is That You Reap What You Sow…”
For a director who already holds widespread acclaim and critical pedigree with so few releases, even with only his fourth release, Oscar winning director, Steve McQueen, unfortunately already bears the pressure of making sure every release is made with the similar style and pedigree of the multi Academy award winning, 12 Years a Slave, back in 2013, following on from the equally impressive one-two of the Michael Fassbender led, Hunger and Shame. With Fassbender surprisingly not on the guest list for McQueen’s latest, the Brit teams up with the brilliant Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl and the recently adapted Sharp Objects, for a contemporary adaptation of Lynda La Plante’s Widows, a subverted crime thriller first brought to the small screen on ITV during the mid 1980’s and now transferred to modern day Chicago which sees Viola Davis (Fences) as the mournful Veronica Rawlins, who after the death of her husband and his thieving band of criminals, orchestrates a heist of her own alongside the widowing wives of her husband’s deceased gang in order to pay back the seething crime boss who her husband had previously ripped off. Boasting one of the most impressive ensemble casts of the year, McQueen’s latest is a expertly crafted, if slightly conventional, heist thriller, one which blends a top notch screenplay with top of their game performers and a movie proves that even when hitting particular genre conventions, some filmmakers just have the natural knack to create brilliant pieces of cinema.
As per pretty much all of McQueen’s previous work, the focus of Widows is undoubtedly on the individual players which carry Flynn’s words from paper to screen, and with a healthy abundance of depth and substance given to the film’s primarily female leading force, the storytelling begins at a perfect, precise pace, using the early dramatic set piece in which we see the criminal gang led by Liam Neeson’s (The Commuter) Harry Rawlins both enter and exit the story in dramatic fashion as a opening into the world of the wives left behind. Supported by the likes of the excellent double act of Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby) and Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and the Furious), the plot is primarily seen through the eyes of the simply magnanimous Viola Davis as the headstrong and independently ferocious widower who is caught in the crossfires of Brian Tyree Henry’s (Hotel Artemis) crime boss turned political aspirer and the ominous presence of Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) as the merciless gang enforcer. Whilst McQueen understands the nature of the genre in which Widows ultimately sits, the Heat-esque crime procedural feel of the film takes cues from the work of Michael Mann by portraying the landscape of a city with obvious purpose, summed up particularly in one superb one-take tracking shot in which we see Colin Farrell’s (The Beguiled) slippery politician be driven from an area riddled with poverty and famine to another plated in excess and wealth in the space of a few, short minutes, a take which reminds everyone of the one-shot conversation between Michael Fassbender and Liam Cunningham in McQueen’s first feature, Hunger. Whilst the concluding act does feature a rather anticlimactic central heist and an alarming sense of rushness as the credits begin to roll, Widows is stylish cinema made by people who understand how film’s should be made for audiences after something more than your average blockbuster, and when you have this much talent on just one film set, the outcome was always going to be something rather special.
Overall Score: 8/10
“This Is Our Greatest Achievement. With It, We Create Super-Nazis; A Thousand Year Army And It’s Thousand Year Soldiers…”
Mixing together a plethora of talented filmmakers, Overlord, the latest from Son of a Gun director, Julius Avery, sees the combined forces of producer J. J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and screenwriter, Billy Ray (Captain Phillips) for a live-action R-rated adaptation of an idea originally coined by both Abrams and Ray and then polished over by The Revenant screenwriter, Mark L. Smith. Whilst not strictly groundbreaking within a world fascinated with the notion of Nazi zombies as made famous by the hugely popular Call of Duty video game franchise as well as the 2009 Norwegian horror, Dead Snow, Ray’s script sees a band of American brothers on the eve of D-Day drop into the heart of German occupied France in order to destroy a radio tower situated within the confines of a remote village under siege by murderous Nazi soldiers who all fall under the wing of Pilou Asbæk’s (Game of Thrones) villainous and horrendously vile, Captain Wafner. Whilst it is easy to suggest Overlord is essentially Saving Private Ryan meets 28 Days Later, the genetic combination is surprisingly accurate, and with Avery attempting to prove that even the scariest of monsters fail to come close to the horrors of Nazi rule during the second world war, the Australian’s latest is a ripe, over the top and extravagantly violent B-movie which although slips occasionally in trying to balance horror with history, is still a thoroughly entertaining slice of monster mayhem.
With an opening act which attempts to embody the horrifying uncertainty of warfare, Overlord begins by dropping the audience head first into one of the loudest set pieces of the year, eerily evoking the sound of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk by bombarding the senses with gunshots, hysterical mayhem and the screams of young soldiers being senselessly massacred by the unseen threat of the Nazi war machine which hovers below them. As soon as the key characters become grounded however, the central heroic group led by Wyatt Russell’s (Everybody Wants Some!!) eerily cold and focused team leader, find themselves in dangerous territory, and whilst they swiftly become housed by Mathilde Ollivier’s feisty French prisoner in an effort to save them all from certain death, the first hour or so focuses much more on the war aspect of the tale then I would have expected, portraying a Nazi regime with no care for humanity whatsoever as our band of heroes slowly come across the secret experiments operating in the same church in which their mission target awaits. With the moral compass of the movie led by the good hearted and rookie presence of Jovan Adepo’s (Fences) Boyce, his performance is one of the few shining lights of optimism in a movie riddled with gruelling nihilism, whether it be a jump scare reminiscent of the infamous shock set piece from David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive or particular narrative decisions reminiscent of a similar mode of torture used in Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Overlord is a truly nasty movie, albeit in the good sense, and whilst come the concluding act the screenplay falls into horror genre conventions and becomes increasingly predictable, Avery’s latest is a mightily enjoyable monster mash with levels of gore rarely seen in movies which make it onto the big screen.
Overall Score: 7/10
“That Hole Is A Gateway. And It Leads, Straight Down, To Hell. Now, Who Wants To Buy Some Drugs..?”
Juggling the role of front-man for the psychedelic rock band, Kula Shaker, alongside recently venturing into the world of cinematic endeavours, the multi-talented Crispian Mills reunites with Simon Pegg (Mission: Impossible – Fallout) after the 2012 independent horror comedy, A Fantastic Fear of Everything, with Slaughterhouse Rulez, a similarly genre bending creature feature which combines The Inbetweeners style laddish humour with a St. Trinian’s inspired backdrop which sees Finn Cole’s (Peaky Blinders) northerly Don Wallace reluctantly attend the titular upper class school, the militaristic, private education palace full with inner social class turmoil and overseen by the rather exuberant Headmaster as played by Michael Sheen (Apostle). Whilst Pegg himself can relate to starring in arguably the greatest British horror comedy of all time in the form of Shaun of the Dead, Mills’ second feature unsurprisingly fails to come anywhere close to Edgar Wright’s masterpiece, instead offering a strange concoction of Doctor Who inspired science fiction, political commentary and B-movie splatter, resulting in a ninety minute headrush of a movie which in parts is thoroughly enjoyable and laugh-out loud funny, but at other times, completely loses its’ way and slowly wanders into territory bordering on irksome, but with some of Britain’s best acting chops on show, Slaughterhouse Rulez is still amusing enough to pass the time.
With the bulk of the narrative focusing on the wretched school life entwined within the confines of the titular cathedral of knowledge, Mill’s screenplay begins in interesting fashion, introducing both Cole’s streetwise and savvy newcomer and Asa Butterfield’s (Hugo) kooky, alcohol and cigarette dependant, Willoughby Blake, as the central duo of the piece who quickly fall upon the insidious doings of a renowned fracking company who have been tasked with digging out the corpulent supply of shell gas kept under the school’s ground. Cue the nod to the Doctor Who serial “Inferno” from 1970 in which a mining disaster breeds unknown evil hostiles from beneath the surface of the earth and that’s pretty much the entire second half of Mill’s movie, just without venturing into alternative universes and apocalyptic doom. Whilst I am all for witnessing the sight of a drug-laden, hippie Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz) and violent, flesh hungry cave dwellers ripping endless hordes of cannon fodder to shreds within reason, Mills fails on a fundamental level to hold the shakey lines of genre crossing at a steady beat, resulting in a movie which not only feels way too long come the hour mark as the screenplay begins to run out of ideas good enough to hold the attention of its’ audience, but one which is neither scary or threatening, resulting in Slaughterhouse Rulez essentially being a feature length back-end episode of Torchwood with occasional slices of comedy gold and a Michael Sheen in his most camp and scenery chewing film role thus far.
Overall Score: 5/10
“We Are Going To Do Great Things. It’s An Experience. Love, Tragedy, Joy. It’s Something That People Will Feel Belongs To Them…”
Stricken with a long history of production issues and endless failed attempts at bringing the story of rock music’s most flamboyant and talented rock vocalist to the big screen, Bohemian Rhapsody finally brings the life of the one and only Freddie Mercury to cinematic fruition, utilising the skills of Mr. Robot star, Rami Malek, in the lead role within a musical biopic which portrays the rising fame and fortune of Mercury’s involvement with Queen and the subsequent troubles and tribulations which occurred both in-house between the band members and the much publicised issues present within Mercury’s own personal life. Primarily directed by Bryan Singer, the mega-mind behind the best entries within the live action X-Men franchise, yet completed by Dexter Fletcher, director of the upcoming of Elton John biopic, due to Singer famously leaving the project after a wide range of reported unprofessional discrepancies, Bohemian Rhapsody is as overblown, cheesy and undeniably likable as the subject band themselves, a biopic which although sacrifices deep levels of substance for karaoke pleasures and cringe-inducing, fan pleasing nods and knowing gag, still remains entirely watchable, a movie which will undoubtedly serve long-standing fans of the band’s music more than those coming to the movie hoping for a scalpel-like incision of one of rock music’s most studied and iconic figures of the past fifty years.
Much in the way Straight Outta Compton was led entirely, particular in the narrative sense, by the remaining members of N.W.A in return for complete back catalogue access and musical rights, an executive decision resulting in particular audiences commenting on slight historical issues involving domestic and drug abuse being slightly paved over in favour of the glamour and fame of musical stardom, Bohemian Rhapsody strangely follows suit, utilising the combined forces of Brian Many and Roger Taylor in the producing roles to focus the story on a depiction of Queen arguing about record labels, song titles and how much of a wet flannel John Deacon seemed to be instead of completely focusing on the figure of Mercury as he rises from baggage collector to international star within only a couple of riotous musical years. With the majority of the paying audience who will rock up to see Bohemian Rhapsody already well aware of Mercury’s sexuality and subsequent life-ending illness, Singer’s movie does feel slightly underwhelming in attempting to delve deeper into Mercury’s personal life, particularly when considering the dedication put into the role by Malek, whose performance is worth the entry fee alone with him managing to pull off the physicality and likeness of Mercury with a sense of coolness and ease. With the musical soundtrack obviously whipping out corker after corker and the stunningly crafted conclusion leaving audiences begging for more, Bohemian Rhapsody is a solid enough musical biopic which although offers nothing new to die-hard Queen fans already well versed in the history of their fallen hero, will satisfy the mass majority of popcorn eaters simply because of the fact that everyone loves Queen. Get on your bikes and ride…
Overall Score: 6/10
“I Fear That The Only Way To Stop Those Possessed By The Spirits Of The Book Is Through The Act Of… Bodily Dismemberment…”
Whilst most people on Halloween will either take their children out trickle treating in the hope of gathering an excessive and overly unhealthy cauldron of sweets or skip to the nearest pub on the lookout for a pint of Hobgoblin or any other seasonally styled alcoholic beverage, thank Satan himself that neither of those two options are available when a film such as Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead comes back into cinemas, a familiar feeling following on from last year when audiences across the country were treated to Stanley Kubrick’s similarly masterful, The Shining, in what for many was probably the first time seeing such a film on the big screen. Released in 1981 on a shoestring budget and quickly being stamped as part of the collective list of “video nasty’s” due to its’ staggeringly over the top levels of violence, The Evil Dead remains to this day the go-to horror cult classic, a film which manages to blend the genres of horror and jet-black comedy with utmost ease and one which solidified a blossoming bromance between director and actor, Bruce Campbell, whose cameo appearances in the many Raimi-led features since comes down to the excellence of a film which even after repeat viewings is downright outrageous and shockingly entertaining.
Whilst the notion of the “cabin in the woods” horror narrative strand today seems overly tiresome and horrendously cliched, the influence of The Evil Dead on the likes of Drew Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods and even at a stretch, Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, simply reinforces the powerful and nightmarish vision which was encapsulated by Raimi and his cast of unknown, bit-part actors back at the beginning of the 1980’s, and whilst the likes of The Last House on the Left previously offered horror audiences arguably the starkest vision of the genre at the time, Raimi’s vision was built on a mix of laugh-out-loud gross humour and extremely surrealist imagery involving simple but effective special effects and a whole lot of ruby red fake blood. Whilst parts of the movie still remain controversial to this day, particularly the infamous woodland tree scene, which even in the realm of the twenty first century still feels slightly misjudged, the bizarre soundtrack and maniacal camera work still has the desired effect it first had when watching The Evil Dead in my youth, and with the brilliance of hindsight, without Raimi’s most iconic feature there would have been potentially no Spider-Man, the film which arguably brought the superhero cinematic universe into the crazed franchise it is today, so when you buy your ticket to watch one of the greatest horror movies of all time on the big screen once again, remember, Avengers: Infinity War exists because of it. Sort of.
Overall Score: 9/10
“Violence. Brutality. It’s The Same Story, Just A Different Name…”
Based upon American author Angie Thomas’ 2017 award-winning novel of the same name, Notorious and Barbershop director, George Tillman Jr., returns with The Hate U Give, an idealistic, young adult drama which focuses on contemporary notions of inherent racism from the point of view of Amandla Stenberg’s (Everything Everything) Starr, a bright and strong-willed resident of the fictional neighbourhood of Garden Heights, a struggling and poverty stricken community infested with drugs and control from the infamous criminal gangs led by Anthony Mackie’s (Avengers: Infinity War) local drug lord, King. Attempting to balance the parallel worlds of her life at home and life at her out-of-town school situated in a predominantly white and more affluent area, Starr’s understanding of the world is turned upside down after she witnesses the death of her childhood friend, Algee Smith’s (Detroit) Khalil, by the hands of a young, white Police Officer, resulting in her grasping the reality of injustice within a society which seems to set black people up to fail as preached by her ex-con father played by Russell Hornsby (Fences).
Boosted by a screenplay bursting with substance and depth and featuring a stand-out central performance from Stenberg, The Hate U Give is an engaging topical drama which attempts to balance a wide variety of ideas with a high degree of success, and even when at times the central message becomes slightly messy and overly preachy, a particular scare tactic which might alienate and lose particular audiences who may struggle to put themselves in the shoes of someone in such a dangerous and disturbing American landscape, the central story is undoubtedly well told and follows in the footsteps of Spike Lee’s brilliant BlackKklansman by harbouring a central message which comments on the contemporary societal divide in the a Trump-era United States. Whilst the use of voice-over within cinematic releases can sometimes work with a high degree of success, particularly the way in which Scorsese has utilised the method throughout his career, Tillman Jr.’s movie does fall into the trap early on of favouring rather corny and irksome levels of exposition over allowing the audience to simply discover particular plot developments for themselves, yet as soon as the movie focuses on the central heated debate over the power and positioning of black people even now in a contemporary society, the action swiftly becomes thoroughly engaging, primarily due to the performance of Stenberg who manages to pull of being both believable and empathetic in her discovery for justice. With brilliant supporting roles from the likes of Hornsby, Common (John Wick: Chapter Two) and Regina Hall (Girls Trip) as Starr’s worrying mother, The Hate U Give is the type of YA cinema with a purpose and one bound to provoke discussion regardless of the audience observing.