Annabelle: Creation



I was really looking forward to this movie; enough so that I sprung for a gold class ticket with the reclining chairs and food service etc.

I’d read good reviews and heard good things, there were strong assurances that it was not as bad as the first film; though lets be honest no studio horror SHOULD be as bad as the disneyfied crapfest that was the first Annabelle.

Toy maker Samuel (Anthony LaPaglia – serviceable) and his wife Esther (Miranda Otto – not given much to work with) lose their daughter Bee in a tragic accident and bring her soul back to inhabit his freshly made Annabelle doll. Of course the spirit turns out to be malevolent and so they seal the doll away in a locked room where it is later discovered by a wandering troupe of orphans and their governess nun who had just relocated to the toymakers soon-to-be-overcome-with-evil house. The main two orphans, Janice played by (Talitha Bateman) and Linda (Lulu Wilson) are most likable kids and you can’t help but be invested in their welfare once creepy things start happening around the home.

The lack of coherency and plot is already making this review difficult to write. You see they set up the rules and then they proceeded to break them, not to serve the plot but to serve their ideas of what they wanted it to be so that they could shoehorn in some sort of half-baked connection to the rest of ‘The Conjuring’ universe and in particular the upcoming ‘The Nun’.

These characters are merely pawns that they can push around the story and manipulate to make the film go in the direction they wish it to.

Don’t like that Annabelle can only exist in one entity at a time? Just ignore that and change your mind midway through the movie so that suddenly she can be in three places at once even though it no longer follows the rules that were set up earlier; who cares right?

Its an obvious ploy to drum up interest in their next big ‘horror’ franchise, I may even suggest that’s its not that big a stretch to assume this film exists perhaps merely to serve that purpose.

This films insistence on not following its own rules at every turn is a bitter pill of apathy that this reviewer found tough to swallow.

AC was directed by David F. Sandberg, whose last film was ‘Lights Out’ (Lights Out review), another problematic horror that I found emblematic of the issues horror has today. Here he has made yet another cynical cash grab of the worse kind; and it is impossible, for me at least, to enjoy and be creeped out by a film that makes literally no sense. Of course it was produced by James Wan – the mans name is basically synonymous with mediocrity.

The disdain that they express for the audience in the lack of coherence is palpable, the fact that they don’t care at all about whether or not you can follow the plot or that it even makes sense just so long as the money keeps rolling in is disgraceful, and the fact that a lot of audiences lapped this up says a lot about the lack of good horror available on the big screen today (with of course the very notable exceptions of ‘It’ and ‘Get Out’ and, to a lesser degree ‘Happy Death Day’). 

Plot holes abound, and make the thin threads of plot held together solely by holes that was the screenplay for ‘Don’t Breathe’, seem almost forgivable in comparison to how badly AC cheats its audience. My disappointment has led me to anger, and though my loathing of this film is likely an overblown reaction I cant help but feel angry at it.

It did the things that I find most unforgivable in a film – assume the audience will just accept and not question such a contradictory plot which is either arrogance or a lack of care for the audience, and to make money off a genre that I have enjoyed all my life without any desire to advance or contribute to it.

The two young orphans (Wilson and Bateman) are remarkably good actors; they deserved much better than this.




Annabelle: Creation trailer


Best Films of 2017

  1. It


Happily succeeds in every genre – horror, drama, comedy, coming of age; this adaption of the Stephen King masterpiece about the power of friendship overcoming great ancient evil is quite an achievement. It broke box office records around the globe and was a juggernaut upon its release, which was richly deserved. Jam packed with nods to the book, contextualised characters, heartfelt moments, 80s nostalgia, a true sense of actual danger and enough horror to keep horror fans happy; Bill Skarsgards Pennywise is a deliciously wicked creation. Beautiful music, amazing performances (all of those kids are just wow!) and a truly Spielbergian sense of wonder in the script and direction – perfection for me.

IT trailer


  1. War on everyone


Really not for everyone and probably downright offensive to some, this was balls to the wall action and a slow burn character piece with a very black sense of humour. Gutsy stuff. I also love Michael Pena – hilarious! And Alexander Skarsgard – sexy and talented!

War on Everyone trailer



  1. Logan


The comic hero story given a burnt out and brutal Western edge, this is the film that had to end Logans run – and what a unique and honest farewell they give him.


Logan Trailer


  1. Wind River


Downbeat and as cold as the landscapes its set in, this story of the insidious erasing of (female) Native Americans in the US is as heartbreaking as the central murder mystery they explore. Jeremy Renner and Ashley Olsen give great performances here too.

Wind River trailer


5.     Brigsby Bear


Sweet but not saccharine, cute but still real, with enough edge to make it ok to love this movie about a grown man who still worships the bear tv show he grew up watching whilst shut in the house his kidnapper parents kept him in. My kind of ‘feel good’ movie.

brigsby bear trailer



6. Patticake$


I loved the music and the brave work by lead actress Danielle McDonald (Australian) in this story about a New Jersey girl with big rap dreams. Way more real and heartfelt than 8 Mile.


Patticake$ trailer



7. Get Out


I love my horror movies with a side of social conscience and this ‘re-packaging white privilege as a horror’ is funny, clever and cool. I wasn’t as keen on the ending as I wanted to be but this was one memorable movie.

  1. Get Out trailer  



  1. 8. Manchester by the Sea

If you’ve seen it you know the scene that left everyone just broken. A story of regret and the aftermath of a devastating mistake.


Manchester by the sea trailer


  1. Jungle


Daniel Radcliffe acts his ass off in this true story about survival while lost in the Amazon. Visceral and edge of the seat moments await..

Jungle trailer


  1. A Monster Calls


Debatably a kids movie, I found parts of this frustrating until I go to the end when it all came together beautifully and I was left crying my eyes out and wanting to watch Liam Neeson as that giant helpful tree all over again.

a monster calls trailer


11. Wonder Woman


Not perfect but I gotta give props to a film that allows a woman to be front and centre in her own action superhero movie. She is allowed to be vulnerable, brave, challenged, despairing and kick some butt too.

Wonder Woman trailer


12. The Blackcoats Daughter

FEBRUARYA creepy as hell horror movie about possession with two discordant storylines seemingly happening in unison until you realise the truth of the timeline at the denouement, which is chilling and unforgettable. On the surface a very scary movie but the real story of loneliness and the lengths people will go to in an effort to not feel it is what makes this a stand out. Sad, bleak and very frightening.

The Blackcoats Daughter Trailer


13. Personal Shopper

personal-shopper-kristen-stewart-2Sometimes confusing and sometimes contemplative, I nevertheless enjoyed watching Kristen Stewart wander about Paris buying things and coming to terms with the loss of her brother. Quietly creepy on occasion too.

personal shopper trailer


14. The Beguiled


Darkly feminist, daring in its choice to not paint the female stars as heroes but as flawed humans making difficult choices. Kidman, Dunst and Farrel are all standouts in this tale of a civil war deserter seeking refuge at an all-female southern boarding school. The sexual tension is palpable.

the beguiled trailer


15. A Ghost Story


Yes it features Rooney Mara eating a pie for an unbearable 8 minutes but it also shows grief from a perspective I’ve never seen before – the pain of a ghost watching the world move on without him. The last hour is almost too sad.

a ghost story trailer


16. The Lost City of Z


The true story of those brave explorers who just went off into the world to map it for future generations. Charlie Hunnam is totally committed and it shows in every expression – how much this passion and drive costs him is fascinating. And Robert Pattinson is his usual brilliant self.



the lost city of Z trailer


17. Alien Covenant


A much better and tighter movie than Prometheus, this one was closer in feel to the first Alien – real horror and a strong female lead. I enjoyed the heck out of it.


alien covenant trailer

18. American Made


Tom Cruise leaves behind his occasionally smarmy persona and just uses his natural cockiness to best effect in this true story of greed and ambition in the American 80s. Totally had me hook, line and sinker; and biting my nails!

American Made trailer


19. A Cure For Wellness


Looking like an art-house film, telling a strange little story of the search for youth and health, I enjoyed the unpredictability of the script and the ambiguousness of the characters; not to mention that breathtaking cinematography.

a cure for wellness trailer


20. Before I fall


A pleasant surprise in a film that initially seemed to be about shallow party girls reliving the same night over and over again but proved to be much more. I found this one actually touching and effective.

before I fall trailer


21. Thor: Ragnarok


The perfect antidote to all these comic book films that take themselves far too seriously- Thor cuts his hair and discovers his hotness, the jokes are knee slappngly good and Cate Blanchet is powerful and cool – loved it.

Thor: Ragnarok trailer


22. The Mountain Between Us


A tonal surprise for me, did not go the way I thought it would and did not shy away from the real life dangers of being stuck in the middle of a snowy wilderness after your plane crashes. In the end it seemed to be about something else entirely.

the mountain between us trailer


23. mother!


Initially I gave this a 6 and said I never wanted to see it again, but having read several articles I now understand what the director (Aronofsky) was trying to say and the message is actually a vital one. Be warned – this is harrowing, stressful stuff and I suggest you read a review or two first – with spoilers, or it may prove to be too hard to watch. This film upset me so much and I never want to watch it again, it was also brilliant.

mother! trailer


Biggest Disappointments –


The Mummy

Baby Driver

BladeRunner 2049

American Assassin

Justice League

Annabelle: Creations




The terror began with a boat made from a sheet of paper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.

This is the tale of It, the first big screen adaption of the Stephen King bestseller of the same name; and that opening sequence is so iconic now that it has been swallowed into our collective subconscious like an urban legend.

This film has had a hard 7-year road to get to our cinemas, and that road has been littered with replaced directors, and actors tasked with playing the title character. It arrives on our screens with the weight of expectation and trepidation on the part of its many many loyal readers who have been waiting with eager baited breath to finally see what they have anticipated ever since first discovering the sublime book, and pinning their hopes on a faithful adaption.

So was the wait worth it?

First a quick summary of the films plot – For centuries the town of Derry has been home to Pennywise, a monstrous creature who can become your greatest fear to ‘season the meat’ as it were, and Its favourite prey is children, with their furtive imaginations and powerfully felt emotions. After the opening scene’s death of young Georgie, his brother Bill grows obsessed with the idea of ending IT’s reign of terror and, together with his band of ‘loser’ friends, sets about killing IT.

Also in this mix is The Bowers Gang, led by unhinged snivelling bully Henry Bowers; and the losers have parent troubles particularly Beverly and her entitled and abusive father, and Eddie with his Munchausen’s by Proxy mother. The town itself has a rich history of savagery and sacrifice, which is touched on also.

There is a love triangle that is achingly realised, and a deeper story about the fear of growing up and confronting your own monsters, whatever they may be.


The novel has a more fluid timeline darting between childhood and adulthood as they battle this eternal beast, but the movie has separated the child storyline from the adult one and so it is ‘chapter one’ we are discussing here.

This sounds like a straightforward monster movie but it is so much more than that, as the mythology itself stretches out far beyond the confines of this film. Having said that,  the scares are effective and memorable, and that opening sequence in the rain is brutal and breath-taking, an amazing start to proceedings.

Directed with a deft touch by Andy Muschietti (Mama) It is equal parts coming of age nostalgia and creeping evil horror. He knows how to tug at your heartstrings, make you smile but then look around the frame for the next delicious morsel of horror coming your way.

The musical score is sometimes expansive and epic, sometimes creeping and haunting – impeccable.

The cast is nothing short of astounding, everyone brings their A game and its truly wonderful to see each beloved character cast so perfectly; I’d love to pick a stand out but each one imbues their character with just the right look or nuance. Jaeden Lieberher as Bill is vulnerable and strong and sweet and determined all at once, his love for and loss of Georgie keenly felt and portrayed. Sophia Lillis as Beverley is knowing and generous and guarded, as she is in the book. Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie is commanding on screen and utterly believable in a part that could have gone awry, he is an explosive new talent and has a big career ahead of him. Finn Wolfhard as Richie has flawless comic timing and brightens every scene he is in whilst still allowing the character to be real – efortlessly perfect.

And Pennywise? Bill Skarsgard is a revelation, by turns menacing and petulant and childlike and evil; I wish there had been more of him but I understand that an over saturation of such a character would have unbalanced the movie and so best to be left wanting more.


It is not slavishly faithful to the novel, and weirdly, I’m ok with this. I view it more as an appetizer, a companion piece to the novel. Many things are touched on in the film that would then be expanded upon by reading the source material. The majority of changes made did not hurt the things that are most important in this story because ultimately its not about the details or even IT itself.

This is a movie about that fraught time between childhood and adulthood when you feel your old self slip away and become someone else entirely, its about the power of imagination and how friendship can be your greatest strength against the things that scare you, its about love and life and growing up.

This movie may only scratch the surface of the books depths, but it has the novels heart and spirit, and is everything I could have hoped for.

That, for me, is enough.



IT Trailer


Get Out



Get Out has been a world wide phenomenon, raking in 174 million on a budget of 5, scoring 99% on Rotten Tomatoes and beloved by critics, this is an achievement in itself considering it is cast with non-headliners, made by a lesser known writer/director and is low budget, but when you add into the mix that its of the horror genre it is even more impressive.


Get out tells the story of Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) a successful young African American New York photographer preparing to meet the upstate parents of his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams of Girls Fame). Its established from the beginning that he’s nervous about this, both because it is of course always nerve-wracking to meet the family of your significant other for the first time but also because its clear Rose has not yet informed her parents that he is black.

The discomfort continues when en route they hit a deer that bounds our in front of their car, Chris is clearly troubled and you later learn it’s a reminder for him of his mothers hit and run death when he was a child, an experience that has unreasonably burdened with him with terrible guilt.

Upon arriving at Rose’s parents homestead it becomes clear that they are the kind of over-compensating liberals who brag about their support of Obama but it sits uneasily with the oddly subdued African American help that hover on the periphery of their lives whom they insist are just ‘part of the family’.


That night they are joined by Rose’s even stranger brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones, who, after last years ‘war on everyone’ seems to be making a career of oddballs who make your skin crawl). Said brother challenges Chris to a wrestle, arguing that his ‘make up’ would make it an invigorating match. There is aggression here, but its muzzled and wrapped in a cloying acceptance that makes it hard to grasp. Tension builds up for Chris until during the night on a nicotine mission he encounters Rose’s therapist mother (the seductively creepy Catherine Keener) who promptly hypnotizes him and before he knows it that little cigarette craving is gone.. but is that all she did?

Things get even weirder the next day when at a party of neighbors Chris is paraded about and fawned over like a prize bull.


From this point on the action moves into the next gear, the mystery deepens and the clues as to what’s really going on in that house get creepier.

The finale is a violent revelation that for me was unfortunately a small let down as I guess I was hoping for a more grounded denouement and the lack of credibility in its solution was a slight stumble for me. Nevertheless the final scene was telling in how it played out and our reactions to who was in that car. No spoilers here but if you’ve seen it you’ll know what I mean.

There is comedy peppered throughout mostly supplied by Chris’s friend Rod (LilRel Howery who is a most welcome ingredient and in fact elevates every scene he’s in, he’s just so damn likable.

In his debut Jordan Peele directs with eloquence and a clear vision, he focuses on Chris’ face and eyes, he wants us to be as close to him as we can be, feeling as he does, seeing things through his eyes. It’s a claustrophobic and effective viewpoint, one that works perfectly with this paranoid twilight zone-type of horror.

Acting across the board is exceptional with Daniel Kaluuya in particular giving a committed and enveloping performance.

I love socially conscious horror movies. The ones that have a little more on their agenda then just to scare you.

I’ll take my horror with a side of cultural relevance thank you!

Usually a high critic satisfaction score for a horror gives me pause – horrors are not meant to be polite cuddly things that appeal to a wider audience, they are by their very design supposed to challenge, horrify and perhaps even repel you. They are not supposed to be liked by everyone and when they are I question their integrity – did they dull their edges? Did they dumb-down their bite? Luckily those fears do not apply here as the film-makers went into this wanting to sting you and they don’t let up with confronting images, storylines and characters. Indeed, some of the actions Chris takes verge into the questionable violence category, not for this type of film, but certainly for this type of character. By allowing him to do things that are maybe a step to far they have created a character that is totally human, frightening unpredictably, savagely human.


With The Stepford Wives an obvious influence, this is still an original and uneasy film to watch. These people aren’t traditional men in white hoods racists, the police aren’t here to save you but may be just another road block to you getting out alive. It’s the quintessential fish out of water, and unlike other horrors where its traditionally been someone from a ‘nice neighborhood’ trapped in an urban nightmare, or a woman stuck in a testosterone filled hell, this time it’s the ‘nice neighborhood’ folk that are the villains, the fact that it sits so well on them tells us something about how our views on the world have changed over the years.

The best horror has always held a mirror up to society and challenged us to see the things we are really afraid of. This movie happily continues that tradition, whilst also managing to be a unique and much needed voice in the genre.

Kudos Mr Peele, kudos!


Get Out Trailer

Blair Witch




Its no secret I’ve been disappointed with horror lately. All the polite and pedestrian machinations of The Conjuring 2, Lights Out, Don’t Breathe etc. have been taking a serious toll on my love of horrors – the modern ones at least.. there’s only so much disillusionment a girl can take!


So when I heard that The Blair Witch Project (90’s game changer and seriously scary) had a sequel in the works that filmmakers Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett (of You’re Next and The Guest) had been quietly beavering away at for five years, I was skeptical. Sequels don’t have the best track record and it’s been a long time between drinks; still, at least it wasn’t a remake.


Picking up 20 years after the events of the precious installment, this iteration sees Heather’s younger brother James (James Allan McCune) on a quest to find out what happened to his sister and her crew in the Black Hills of Burkittsvile, Maryland. Putting together a crew of friends (Peter – Brandon Scott, Lisa – Callie Hernandez, and Ashley – Corbin Reid) they start by tracking down the folks who put up an intriguing YouTube video of found footage that has convinced James that his sister is still alive. The finders of that footage (Lane – Wes Roberston – who has some mysteries of his own, and Talia – Valorie Curry) insist on tagging along on their ‘camping trip’ and before you know it, they’ve parked at the edge of the forest, hauled on their backpacks and set off into the woods with cameras. Terror ensues.


Easily solving the ‘why are they still carrying cameras when running for their lives’ issue of previous films by giving their protagonists ear-cams and drone-cam, this sequel seems to have thought of everything. By updating this not dissimilar storyline from the mid-nineties to now, they encounter and tackle any questions that arise, with our modern technology quickly becoming useless in the almost Bermuda-triangle-like quality of these witchy woods and our filmmakers refusing to ignore the necessity of confronting these questions, the audience is rest assured the film is in good hands.


The characters are the weak point here – less time and effort has been placed into developing them into real people so connecting with them even on a basic level is more difficult for the audience. A few seem to do very silly things, particularly at the end, but this doesn’t have the negative impact on the film it could have. I can believe that when panicking we are not always our most rational selves!

A few other minor quibbles: Lane needed much more storyline as he was given interest that was not developed and we needed more – a wasted opportunity; I also missed the discussions about the documentary they were making itself – this seemed to have been forgotten about once they got to the woods, and I wanted more about Lisa’s foot injury, this was again, a wasted opportunity – everyone loves body horror.


The woods themselves are almost an additional character and the cinematography does justice to them more so than the previous film. It is also clear that Wingard and Barrett learnt from the success of the original that sound is almost the most important quality in this atmospheric tale and have played close attention to it, though they have gone more for the ‘loud discordant sounds’ school of horror rather than the more ‘barely heard woods cracking in the distance’ stuff that was so effective in the first film.


There are more jump scares and most don’t work but it didn’t bother me as they were not the main of the story but merely appetizers. Once the horror starts (and it’s a long build up of course) it is absolutely solid scares. The ending is much more fleshed out than the original but just as grueling if not more, and the tension is so palpable you feel like you’re there.

I liked the way the film played with time, something not in the first film; and the trees themselves had a much bigger role to play here which made it feel as if the whole woods were against our intrepid crew.

Luckily this film took the less is more approach with the more supernatural elements and while there were barely glimpsed creatures, this was all you needed of them to create that ‘hair standing on your neck’ feel.


The first Blair Witch Project was a classic, and changed the face of horror from the point it was released.

Will this film change anything?


Is it a film that will stay with me?


Could it have featured quieter, more subtle and more effective horror moments?


Is it a tense, well-made and actually creepy horror film?

Hell yes!







Don’t Breathe




I was excited. I’ll admit it. The trailer was on my most played list, my friends were tagging me in on its social media promotions, and I had its release date on my calendar. My YouTube show had recorded a trailer reaction with Matt and I clearly enthusiastic about the coming of this film (


It seemed to me to have all the potential to be THE horror film I had been waiting for – a sparse and sharp story, a hardline director (Fede Alvarez of Evil Dead remake fame) and the promise of some vicious violence.


So what went wrong?

Well first lets talk about what went right – this film had a killer premise: Three down on their luck burglars decide to invade the home of a blind veteran only to have the tables turned on them. The acting by all concerned was faultless, with Stephan Lang as the blind home-owner giving a truly committed performance, major props to him. Nice lighting, set design with attention to details pertinent to a blind person, tight direction that makes good use of the essentially limited set.


The problems are many – jump scares that fall flat, no capacity for creeping dread so well put to use in other similar films such as Panic Room and Hush (to paraphrase Alfred Hitchcock – if you show the audience the bomb before it goes off they get ten minutes of dread and build up as opposed to just setting it off and giving the audience a ten second jump), leads that all fail to connect with the audience, characters doing very, VERY foolish things that cause their own downfall and take me out of the film immediately, the tedium of ‘inside the house/briefly out of the house/back in the house’ antics, absolutely no thrills and a ridiculous plot twist that happens three quarters into the film that totally jumps the shark and is quite simply almost laughably awful.


However, the biggest mistake? This film existed almost entirely of plot holes. I literally had an hour long conversation afterwards with my friend Miss C that was mostly us exclaiming “And what about when this happened!?” that’s how much of this film was nonsensical. Some of my favorites? The blind guy stumbling around in a panic while his own alarm goes off even though HE KNOWS THE CODE, him smelling shoes 20 feet away but he cant smell a sweaty dirty burglar standing next to him, don’t breathe because he might hear you but he doesn’t hear a window breaking in his house, his ability to get out of handcuffs and his ability to ‘defeat’ an inhalant sleeping agent, finding a car a mile away from his house with nothing to go on, and so many more.


Not to mention the ending – how absolutely ridiculous! Honestly its beyond belief what film-makers expect us to just accept without question these days.


oh and another note to you Mr Alvarez, when you have characters pause to adjust a backpack or breathe a ‘phew’ sigh of relief when they’re still in harms way it just makes them look stupid. I did appreciate the nod to Cujo though..


So much more could’ve been made of the house, the plot, the characters, this just had potential to be so much more – harder, tauter and cooler.


Immediately after I saw this film I though it was ok, nothing special and a little disappointing but ok. The more I think about its inconsistencies and lazy writing the angrier I get.

All I want is a good scary horror, why does that seem to be too much to ask?




In The Deep (47 Metres Down)


In my recent review of The Shallows I expressed my surprised joy at the film world finally making a decent shark movie;  because since Jaws there has been a dearth of well made movies featuring that great white fear we all share, and that was the 70’s for chrissakes!

Well guess what shark-o-philes – there’s not one decent shark movie this year, there’s two!

In the Deep is everything The Shallows wasn’t – dark and murky instead of broad daylight, gruesome graphic effects instead of Shallows’ more discreet thrills, big schlocky fun instead of introspection, and a hell of a lot more sharks.

Telling the story of sisters in their twenties on holiday in Mexico – one mousy and demure, with life embracing lessons to learn (Lisa – Mandy Moore), one more free-willed (Kate – Clare Holt) who decide (at the urging of their brand new Mexican paramours) to do a shark dive out in the deepest Mexican waters. Overcoming trepidation they take the plunge, only to find themselves in a world of trouble when through a series of technical mishaps they find themselves in the fallen observation cage at the bottom of the ocean, away from communication with the circling boat above and only those hungry cruising sharks to keep them company… and their oxygen is running out.

Performances are believable, the bond between the sisters well realised and tangible. The effects are great, the scares work, the music by Tomandandy wonderful as always and adds a dreamy feel to some parts of this high anxiety tale.

Trust me, if you were nervous about sharks, the ocean or scuba diving before, this film ain’t gunna help!

As written and directed by Johannes Roberts and featuring an integral turn by Matthew Modine as the captain (so so good to see him back on our screens!) this is taut stuff, a ‘what would I do?’ exploration of survival under the toughest of odds, involving and fearless.

This is an exercise in tension – indeed some parts I couldn’t watch, others I was yelling at the screen. This film sucks you in from the get go and then just tightens those screws.

Better, this story has a sharp little twist in the tail, a WTF ending I did not see coming that made it all the more chilling and memorable.

I was impressed by this one; its an adrenaline rush but has more to it than expected. A notable and nail-biting addition to the horror movie world.

See it.

But make sure you’re not planning on swimming any time soon.



Lights Out



When did we start to confuse jump scares, the equivalent of someone pouncing at you and yelling boo, with real horror? When did we segue from true bone chilling, ‘stuff that haunts you for years’ horror to these bland homogenised horror-by-numbers productions? When did horror stop being the boundary crossing, censor-baiting, unexpected risk-taking genre it’s always been, and become this? 

Horror at its best, takes you places you aren’t sure you even wanna go, shows you things you know will stay with you and gives you the FULL gamut of emotions not just a temporary clang of discordant music accompanying a sudden appearance on the screen. Think of Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw, Last House on the Left, The Mist, Carrie – horror that subversively tells you a deeper, more crushing and important story beneath the horror layer on top. And the horror itself is vicious or angry or filled with dread, the kind of stuff taken from our collective subconscious, the things we are REALLY afraid of. Nightmares.

Movies like those are now like hens teeth, things of the almost-past; and the insipid and impotent ‘horrors’ that have replaced them just make me sad.

‘Lights out’ is the latest horror to hit the big screen. It stars Theresa Palmer and Maria Bello and thus continues the new tradition of populating this generations horror movies with name actors.

It is also the feature film directorial debut of David F Sandburg, but is produced by James Wan, a name that is now (along with Blumhouse productions) starting to give me a lot of pre-movie trepidation – they seem to enjoy wallowing in the mediocre, just the bare minimum required to fit into the genre. They are not interested in expanding or even celebrating the horror genre, just making money from it.


It is the story of Sophie (Bello) whose mental illness has allowed a ghost from her past to infiltrate the present. This ghost (called Diana) can only exist in the dark, and is now intent on pursuing all those whom Sophie loves in order to have her to itself. On the chopping block are Sophie’s daughter Rebecca (Palmer) and son Martin (a mostly believable Gabriel Bateman). Along for the ride is commitment-hungry boyfriend of Rebecca’s, Brett (played by Alexander DiPersia)

This is based on the excellent and chilling short film of the same name (same director – check it out on YouTube). Is there enough there for a feature film? No there isn’t, and so we will expand it with exposition and over-egg the pudding.


First, the positives – the acting is uniformly good with Palmer giving an actually exceptional performance here, you buy her every emotion.

Some sequences were more effective than others and if you’ve seen the trailer you’ve already seen them but basically the tattoo sign red light scene and the opening mannequins/lights failing scene.

Diana crouched in the dark has a nice ominous feeling to it that was effective.

The ending was actually quite brave and I’m glad they went there though the abrupt sudden credits just after that scene and its wrap-up were a little jarring.

There were an unfortunate number of negatives that must be mentioned however. The backstory was muddy and frankly unbelievable; the convenient ‘evidence’ Rebecca finds so easily, including the tape recording set at just the right point and the drawing dangling tantalizingly from a bottom drawer couldn’t have been more clunky if they’d tried; the fact that they chose to give Diana’s child voice on the recording a demonic guttural sound was a serious miss-step, I mean c’mon! The jump scares were telegraphed from a mile away and the melodrama of who’s going to be looking after Martin was pretty day-time soapy. The dinner table scene where they discuss how to deal with the ghost (Brett just accepting all this like he’s being spoonfed baby food even though he hasn’t even seen anything at this point) is beyond absurd with the mother declaring “you don’t turn your back on a friend”, meanwhile Diana is trying to kill her kids – just stupid. Having said that, there are not nearly enough deaths here, the body count kept very very low which detracts from any feeling of danger the director is trying to generate.

I’m also not entirely sure I embrace what it says about mental health. Lights Out basically demonises people with mental health problems with even Sophie’s own children referring to her as ‘crazy’ on numerous occasions which is offensive and wrong. This film does weigh in on mental health and that is not a responsibility that the film-makers have taken very seriously here.

And don’t even get me started on that holier-than-thou boyfriend who’s just there to love and support and be general dogsbody for his girlfriend while looking gorgeous with his tousled hair and leather jacket but just the right amount of nerd in his rainbow striped socks – it’s ridiculous – men like him do not exist, period. I believe in a demon luring in the dark more than I believe in that particular figment of the film-makers imagination.

But the biggest problem once again is that old familiar one of horrors these days – ITS NOT SCARY!

Its easy to make people jump, its easy to play on familiar tropes and churn it out for the PG crowd to go along to and get cheap thrills from the jolts and say they’ve seen a horror but they are playing you people!

Things need to change for horror and quick because it seems the more accepted by mainstream it becomes, the less like horror it is; and we are losing what makes it so good.


Such a shame..




The Shallows




Lets face it, there’s really only one shark movie, and we all know it. All the ‘Deep Blue Sea’s in the world will never erase our knowledge of the fact that Jaws remains undefeated in its title of THE shark movie – and I cant imagine any film ever toppling that masterpiece from its place at the top of that ladder. It’s just too perfect.

God forbid they ever attempt a remake – I’ll be the first one at the protest march I can tell you that.

But when I heard they’d released a shark movie that was good and held its own in the comparison stakes (mostly due to its almost diametrically opposing storyline) I was intrigued. Intrigued enough to shrug off my inbuilt cynicism and plan a viewing.

And so it was, one balmy Los Angeles evening, accompanied by my ex-‘not sure what we were’, the most brilliant Mr. Chavez and his equally marvelous wife Connie, I rocked up prepared to watch with an open mind what had already garnered sufficiently good word of mouth to warrant at least a small amount of hope for a scare-filled evening.

Having purchased my large popcorn and drink (I swear that large in America is at least 50% larger than large in Australia) and gotten a free refill of both (tip my hat to you Mr. C!), we settled in for the ride.

Essentially a one-hander, this movie concerns the recently bereaved Nancy, coping with the death of her mother by visiting a place that was once dear to her; the ‘secret beach’ a secluded oasis just perfect for a horror survival movie.

After surfing with two likable locals she decides to “just catch one more wave before going in” and thus seals her fate as all good horror heroes do, by managing to isolate herself in a harsh place that will, of course, test her smarts and tenacity.

The shark that had been cruising those waters manages to trap her on a small reef with only an injured seagull for company. How and if she survives from there is the bulk of the movie.

I like survival stories, its fun and interesting to imagine what you would do in those circumstances, so the film had me onside from the beginning though I must confess that I am not the biggest fan of Blake Lively and have always found her pretty bland. While she manages to hold her own here, and is sympathetic and believable, I have to admit that I still didn’t warm to her.

Steven the Seagull on the other hand had bags of screen presence and was easily the heart of this film; his propinquity was surprisingly effective in providing someone for Nancy to talk to and thus allowing the audience to get to know her, and his apparent fragility lent an extra element of danger to her precarious situation that only amped up the tension.

The film itself was a nice mix of jump scares (excusable in ‘monster’ movies), anxiety and “behind you!” yelling at the screen.

The danger was palpable, there were some deaths that did not happen in the expected way and the cinematography was stunning, particularly the underwater work. Nancy’s character was well drawn and though she was in a bikini for a lot of the film it never felt exploitive.

The shark was occasionally treated as a monster rather than an animal and for me that always lets these films down, but it did not happen nearly as much as previous attempts at shark movies and was forgivable

I did like this film; it didn’t overstay its welcome, told its story succinctly and chose not to tie up every loose end in a bow which I appreciated.

Was it as good as Jaws? I think we all know the answer to that.

But was it good? The answer is a resounding yes.





The Conjuring 2



I guess it’s some sort of skill to consistently produce/write/direct ‘horror’ films that actually aren’t scary. This is the dubious title I am unceremoniously awarding James Wan, who once again presents us with a film featuring an impeccable cast, impressive visuals and is of sumptuous high quality, but that is completely devoid of scares.


Set in 1977, The Conjuring 2 is the continuing story of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who this time travel to London, England, where single mother Peggy Hodgson believes that something evil is in her home. When Peggy’s youngest daughter starts showing signs of demonic possession, Ed and Lorraine attempt to help the beleaguered girl, only to find themselves targeted by the malicious spirit.

This is loosely based on the Warrens’ investigation of the “Enfield poltergeist”, and so can claim to be ‘based on a true story’.


Following in the tradition of his previous films, most notably Saw, Insidious, Annabelle and of course, The Conjuring, this ‘horror’ showcases the talents of his always talented cast; in this case we see the return of the brilliant Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as real life ghost hunters The Warrens, joined here by a mostly unknown group of stellar actors. The stand-outs being Frances O’Connor as mother to the poor possessed girl and Bob Adrian as the old man in the house.


There is a tangent featuring some badly misjudged cgi that draws the film to an instant standstill but they manage to bring the story back to more solid ground until its final denouement. Its just not scary.

This is the same issue I had with the first Conjuring and I was somewhat kinder on that grading based on the fact that it did so well at the box office (always good for horrors to sell tickets – more get made that way!) and because it was a quality film, albeit not much of a horror.

I will be somewhat harsher here.


As a film about a supernatural occurrence based in fact, it manages to make something that could have been quite silly, utterly believable, it creates 1970’s Britain faultlessly, is acted superbly (as expected) and maintains your interest throughout – I’d rate it highly as a thriller, perhaps even an 8/10.


But as a horror it does fail miserably; not a single chill or tingle, it also frequently went for cheap jump scares which are pretty much unforgivable for any real horror fan, and it only managed to create a almost imperceptible sense of dread, with no real fear.

No matter how well made it is, it really has one job – to scare us; and I’m afraid as a horror, it didn’t cut it.