The Wailing (2016)

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Director: Hong-Jin Na

Stars: Do Won Kwak, Jung-min Hwang, Hwan-hee Kim

A wailing delight

Anyone who follows South Korea’s horror film output will be unsurprised to hear that Hong-Jin Na’s (of The Chaser fame) latest film is yet another K-horror classic. If there’s one country you can count on for producing innovative, gripping and unpredictable horror films then it’s South Korea. We’ve had countless high quality horror from them including: Oldboy, I Saw the Devil, Bedevilled and even the recent Train to Busan. The Wailing can now be added to that lovely long list.

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It’s labelled as a ‘horror’ movie but really The Wailing is an exciting mix of comedy, thriller, mystery and supernatural horror. For the first time in quite some while, I had no idea where this 150 minute journey was going to take me. It begins as a Memories of Murder style crime drama. We’re introduced to our lovable bumbling hero, played by an enthralling Do-wan Kwak, who is a policeman investigating a string of strange incidents in his small town. Mass murder seems to being some local folk’s mind and they’re also turning into red-eyed, mindless zombies for no apparent reason. Does it have anything to do with a mysterious Japanese recluse who has recently resided in the nearby forest? Or perhaps the talk of ghosts and goat-eating loons play a part in this mystery?

From the get go, The Wailing effortlessly draws you into its enigmatic story. What surprised me was how funny the film was, particularly the first half. Honestly, The Wailing has to be one of the funniest films of 2016, I was howling with laughter every five minutes. It never takes itself too seriously and always finds the comic side to its bizarre situations so nothing ever seems overly silly. A lot of what makes the dry humour so effective is down to Do-wan Kwak’s comic timing. His performance is so endearing and he makes his character so likeable that you can’t help but get sucked into the story. The film also cleverly takes its time to explore his home life as well as work, so we’re fully involved in every aspect of our protagonist.

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Once the film hits around the halfway point though, it ceases all comedic aspects and segues into much darker territory. The change is seamless within the story though and only adds to the edge-of-your-seat unpredictability. It’s difficult to talk about the film without giving away any plot twists (of which there are many) and I don’t want to do that. Just be assured that you’ll be surprised and thoroughly absorbed by our main character’s journey. In the hands of a less skilful director and screenwriter then the twists would come across as implausibly silly and tonally distracting, but Hong-Jin Na makes every turn seem fresh and exciting.

The Wailing only gets more gripping as the film progresses. When the horror gets close to home, the film becomes a dizzying tale of a desperate father rather than a police drama. A big shout-out has to be said for Hwan-hee Kim who plays Kwak’s young daughter. Her performance is nothing short of mesmerising. A lot of the time I forgot that I was watching a film with actors and started to really believe about what was happening on screen, which is no easy task when you’re dealing with themes involving the supernatural. Perhaps the film is a little longer than it needed to be, but not once did I find myself feeling bored or uninvolved.

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The Wailing is a real showcase for Korean cinema. It has such an ambition and originality which is sadly lacking in most Hollywood productions. No doubt they’ll get their hands on remake rights, but it’ll never be as authentic as this one. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a film and had absolutely no idea how it was going to end. The Wailing builds itself up to such an unpredictable and intense finale that it’s bound to become a deserved cult classic. I also liked how the film is so ambiguous and unforgiving in its lack of exposition that you can’t help but think about it long after the credits have rolled. Don’t read any reviews, don’t watch the trailer, just watch it and then watch it again. The Wailing is a brilliant highlight in a year that has been full of them.

nine-out-of-ten

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

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Director: Mandie Fletcher

Stars: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Swahala

An honest review from a massive fan

You might not think it to look at me but Ab Fab is my life. I’ve been watching Absolutely Fabulous ever since I can remember. In fact I can remember quite vividly being five or six years old and completely howling at all the episodes my Mum used to watch, which is pretty bad parenting to be honest with all the drug taking and general naughtiness in every episode. However I’m so thankful that my mother let me watch it because I think it really shaped my life in terms of comedy. Me and my sister have to watch Absolutely Fabulous in order to get through life. I don’t think there’s any show on TV that feels fresher and more hilarious the more you watch it apart from Ab Fab.

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The film has to be my most anticipated film ever. Here are a few points just to give you an idea of how excited I was for Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie: I’m traveling Australia at the moment so I stayed up until 3am to watch the Leicester Square premiere on a live stream, I had at least four separate dreams about watching the film (one of them was a dream within a dream), I refreshed the Ab Fab Facebook and Twitter page obsessively every day to get every scrap of news, I watched every single interview with Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, I refused to watch the trailer in fear of it spoiling all the best bits and I entered every competition I could find to win tickets to the premiere in Sydney. I also won those tickets and spent about $600 to fly to Sydney in order to attend that premiere.

This is a show which I know every single word to and still laugh every time. This is far more than a show to me, it’s a religion, it’s a drug which I constantly crave. Attending that premiere was one of the greatest nights of my life. The whole experience was completely overwhelming. I’d just been within touching distance of two of my biggest idols in life (Jen and Jo if you hadn’t have guessed) and then the film played. It was all too much to take in. Of course it was a total blast but it went by in a flash! I genuinely thought that it was halfway through but then the credits rolled and I was dumbfounded. I saw the film again a couple of days later just so I could properly assess it.

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Obviously if you’ve read all of that jargon above then you’ll know that this review is going to be horrendously biased. I will say though that if you’ve never seen an episode of Absolutely Fabulous then don’t start with the film because it is made for the fans. Even if you’re a causal fan, the chances are that you won’t like the film. Jennifer definitely wrote this film for the hardcore fans and I take my hat off to her for that. I’m sure that the studio would’ve pressured her to try and make the film accessible for everyone, but she hasn’t done that. It’s a continuation of the series and it’s all the better for it. Ab Fab has always moved forward so why should it stop for newcomers now?

I watched the film in a theatre jam-packed with fans as big as me and there were massive laughs and cheers at almost every minute. I’ve got to be honest and say that I wasn’t entirely sure if it would work as a film. With all the celebrity cameos being announced it looked as though it could slide into the Mrs Brown’s Boys D’movie route. Also Jennifer has never written a film before and film screenplays are very different to the telly. However, I can safely say that Absolutely Fabulous does completely work on the big screen. The cameos aren’t as forced as I had feared, in fact many celebs end up playing actual roles instead of just themselves.

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The film opens in the only way it could with Patsy and Eddy rocking up to a fashion show, getting blathered and stumbling back the next morning to straight-laced Saffy in a state that would make Lindsay Lohan blush. It’s a stellar (or should I say Stella?) opening which basically sums up why we love Ab Fab in five minutes. From then on we’re straight into an onslaught of fan favourite characters including: Mother, Bo, Marshal, Claudia Bing and Lulu all wrapped up in a hysterical, albeit fairly loose, plot about Edina accidentally knocking Kate Moss into the Thames.

It has to be said that Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley are absolutely on fire in their roles as the fabulous friends. A lot of reviewers seem shocked that they’re still so good after 25 years but they’ve never really stopped playing these characters. People look at it as a show from the 90’s and whilst the last full series aired in 2003, there have been specials leading all the way up to 2012 so all of the cast involved remain as fresh as ever. Joanna Lumley in particular shines in this film though. She’s 70 years old and still has such impeccable comic timing and chews up every scene she’s in despite not eating since 1973.

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I was surprised at the amount of references and in-jokes included in the film for the fans but all of them were a delight. There are plenty of fresh jokes fired at you as well. The laughs come thick and fast, barely giving you time to breathe for 90 minutes! The film also moves at quite a nice pace in the first half, setting itself up for a proper comic caper but it never quite lives up to that promise. The film’s marketed as “Patsy and Eddy on the run!” But without spoiling anything, this doesn’t really happen. At first I was a little disappointed at the lack of momentum in the second half but on a second viewing I realised that a big chase movie really wouldn’t be in the spirit of Ab Fab. It’s always been more about sitting back with a bottle of bolly and this is what the film sticks to.

It might not be as strong as say, Alpha Papa, in terms of sitcom to movie adaptations but as a comedy it does the most important part perfectly, making us laugh. The effects might be a little shoddy and Mandie Fletcher’s directing cockeyed at times, but the film never fails to deliver laughs. It also doesn’t lose focus too much so there’s always the perfect balance between plot drive and comedy. How wonderful it is too to have a film made by and starring older women! Everyone knows that the film industry is an ageist and sexist one run predominantly by men, so it’s lovely to see a film dominated by talented females doing so well at the box office.

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Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie isn’t supposed to be taken seriously. It isn’t going to sweep the oscars and nor is it trying to. Jennifer Saunders has created a consistently hilarious romp for the fans which allows you to switch off and be happy. Most reviewers call the film over-stretched but if anything I found it a little rushed and under developed! There are plenty of plot points and new characters left unexplored to their full potential but hopefully all will be resolved in the inevitable sequel. It’s not the best film ever made but there are lines in this film which I’ll be using for the rest of my life. Just like the TV series, it’s endlessly re-watchable and, as Patsy so perfectly puts it when asked by Lola why she’s stuck around for so long, “It’s bloody good fun!” And isn’t that the reason why us fans have been sticking around for so long too? For hardcore fans of the show, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is a comedy classic.

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Boogie Nights (1997)

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Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Stars: Mark Whalberg, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, Heather Graham

PTA Does MDMA

Paul Thomas Anderson is renowned for making weighty films filled with masterful directing, writing and acting. There Will Be Blood (my first taste of PTA) almost immediately became one of my top five favourites, resembling one of Stanley Kubrick’s very best. I gave Magnolia a watch more recently and the whole thing astounded me with its emotional depth and richness. I’d been saving up Boogie Nights as many consider it Paul’s greatest film. At a mere 26 years old, he created a critically-acclaimed masterpiece that blew his debut (which is still a pretty good film) out of the water. I couldn’t wait to give Boogie Nights a watch and it didn’t disappoint.

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I know it’s not a popular opinion, but I still think There Will Be Blood and Magnolia are far better than Boogie Nights. However, that just shows how talented our Paul is as a filmmaker because Boogie Nights is a seriously terrific achievement right from the opening sombre music. We’re then hit immediately by a blasting 70’s pop track and a sweeping camera which takes us into the mind of Madonna when she was working on Confessions on a Dancefloor. A beautiful retro disco with all the main characters being introduced with perfect camera timing, I don’t know how Paul managed to do it but it’s a fantastic piece of camerawork and it almost feels as though he’s showing off a bit.

The film is a rags to riches tale, with more than a touch of irony to it, of a young and naïve dishwasher who’s whisked away by Burt Reynolds to become the biggest porn star there’s ever been! The first half is the more entertaining and funny half. It’s full of infectious energy and memorable characters who jump off the screen. For a film about the porn industry, there’s surprisingly little smut aside from an extended sequence where Mark Whalberg films his first sex scene with Julianne Moore. It’s extremely lively and full of fab scenes such as another impressive Steadicam move around a pool party and a fun montage showing Dirk Diggler’s rise to pornographic stardom.

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The darker, second half is the more interesting one for me. We’re suddenly plunged into the 80’s and watch as everyone’s lives go spiralling towards hell. The once friendly Dirk has turned into an egotistical cocaine-addict and Burt Reynolds has become a desperate director pimping his surrogate daughter out to strangers on the street. It’s a sad chapter which adds weight and morality to the tale. The film could’ve been a terrific comedy in the vein of the Wolf of Wall Street, but the second half offers a lovely bleak balance and shows us that pornography is not an industry to aspire to get into. The seemingly fulfilled characters become much deeper and more tragic figures.

There are some lovely scenes. One sequence which I really loved was a montage where all the characters are at their lowest. The music suited the scene so well and it felt very unsettling and intense. I also liked the moment where we’re given a glimpse into Julianne Moore’s life as she discusses getting custody of her child with her ex-husband. The film stops being fun and starts to become a much more serious beast set in a real world more closer to our own. Boogie Nights handles its many characters so expertly, kind of in the same way Magnolia did, although to a slightly lesser extent.

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Just when you think the film can’t throw up any more brilliance, the best scene pops up towards the end. It involves Dirk’s pathetic gang trying to orchestrate a drug deal at Alfred Molina’s house. Everything about this scene is pretty much perfect from the acting to the music to the tense, unpredictable atmosphere. Even the firecrackers are a masterstroke! It erupts into a Quentin Tarantino styled shootout and the unpredictability of it all makes for a thrilling watch. In fact, the entire film is filled with so many terrific scenes that it makes for a very high rewatchability factor.

My only complaint would be that, like Dirk’s manhood, it’s quite overlong. I think I would’ve preferred more of a focus on the 80’s segment rather than the 70’s. However, Boogie Nights is still a really great film. The thing that stands out the most is the masterful directing by the young Paul Thomas Anderson. Some argue that it’s a Martin Scorsese rip-off but I’d argue that his style is even better than Martin Scorsese. It’s a fantastic ride which leaves you with a lot to ponder about. So get your glad rags on and hit the dancefloor kids!

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Alleluia (2014)

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Director: Fabrice Du Welz

Stars: Lola Dueñas, Laurent Lucas, Héléna Noguerra

Praise the Lord! Another fabulous Fabrice film

Even though a little middle-aged Belgian man called Fabrice Du Welz has only made three feature films in his career, he still happens to be one of my favourite directors. My love affair started when I sat and watched a film called Calvaire which left me dumbstruck and disturbed. How it still hasn’t become an iconic horror classic is still beyond me. I love every single thing about it, even down to the little details like the name, Marc Stevens and his bulky Michelin Man red coat. It’s one of my favourite ever films. Then came an underrated little atmospheric English-language horror called, Vinyan. You can imagine my excitement when Fabrice announced a thematic sequel to Calvaire starring Laurent Lucas and featuring Fabrice’s favourite theme of ‘mad love’.

I was blown away by the intense trailer but unfortunately the film wasn’t getting much buzz. Even now, after it has been released for yonks, no one seems to be talking about it or seeing it. There’s barely five reviews on IMDb and the message board is dead in the water, but oh well it’s everyone else’s loss! Alleluia is an electrifying slice of raw and intense romantic horror. Well, I say romantic, it’s Fabrice’s idea of romantic which tends to involve obsessive psychopaths. His debut short film, A Wonderful Love featured a woman falling in love with the corpse of a stripper and Calvaire saw an inn keeper convincing himself that a male guest was his long-lost wife. Alleluia tells the tale of an insane woman becoming besotted with an insane man and going on a killing spree.

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It’s frightening to think that Alleluia is actually based on a real-life case in America where a couple ended up murdering 17 women in America during the 1940’s. Fabrice of course puts his unique spin on things. It opens with a disturbing shot of our hero, Gloria sponging the body of a corpse in the morgue she works at. She then stops and looks directly at us sitting in our little living room arm chairs with her wide eyes penetrating our souls until ‘Alleluia’ flashes up on the screen. Right away you know that you’re in for the Fabrice Du Welz experience.

Alleluia has that same grainy, dirty look as Fabrice’s other films. It feels incredibly raw and scarily real, almost like one of Lars Von Trier’s Dogme films. There’s also a strong claustrophobic atmosphere throughout thanks to the intrusive camerawork which is almost always in front of the actors’ faces or backs. In fact, it’s pretty jarring whenever we’re given a long-shot, it’s almost as though the film is allowing you to breathe. All of the lighting feels very natural too with dark scenes being almost completely black and grainy so that it’s impossible to tell what’s going on. All of this contributes to an overall atmospheric and intense experience throughout.

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What surprised me was the stupendous quality of acting from our main stars. Laurent Lucas is usually cast as the charming goody in the films he’s in but has lately been venturing into darker territory. Those who saw the recent French series, Witnesses where Laurent played an everyday family man who liked to put white make-up on his face and kill young women at night won’t be surprised to find out that he’s similarly chilling in the role of Michel. We first see him performing some sort of voodoo on a photo of Gloria before he meets her for the first time and he only gets creepier from there. Laurent puts on a strange raspy voice and plays the part of the serial seducer extremely convincingly and never without a psychotic glint in his eyes.

It’s Lola as Gloria who steals the show though. Lola too usually plays the part of the kindly woman, mostly in Pedro Almodovar’s terrific dramas. Here she’s in total psycho mode as the dangerously obsessed lover who will do absolutely anything and everything for Michel. In fact, Gloria makes Michel look positively normal in comparison and Lola acts the hell out of it without it ever feeling too over-the-top. In a fair world, the Academy would’ve recognised Alleluia and popped Lola up for an Oscar nom. I’m not even kidding, she really is that good!

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Alleluia is split into four acts, all named after the women Michel seduces. Their master plan is for Gloria to pose as Michel’s brother whilst Michel seduces the women and steals of their money. However, there’s that old green-eyed monster in the way called Jealousy. Gloria does not like seeing Michel being affectionate with the old women he’s marrying and so intense violence and chaos ensues for the majority of Alleluia’s tight 90 minute runtime. To say any more about the plot would be to spoil the fun of it all. I can tell you, though that there was not one moment where I was bored. Alleluia always kept me gripped by the throat and didn’t let go.

Whilst the film is less surreal than Fabrice’s previous efforts, it’s still absolutely insane and full of WTF moments. For me Calvaire feels like a string of iconic moments and Alleluia has a few of them too. My favourites include a bizarre Magnolia-styled musical interlude (with added corpses), a creepy Humphrey Bogart-infused trip to the cinema and a disorientating segment which sees the couple dancing around naked in flames with grinding electronic music. The film has more than its fair share of sensory overload and it all makes for an unpredictable and absorbing experience. It also has lots of brilliant uses of black humour. The best example probably comes from when Michel is trying to fleece a religious woman by telling her blatant lies whilst Gloria hysterically laughs, covering it up as hysterical cries.

The strongest segment is arguably the final act which results in a terrifyingly intense finale which leaves you begging for more. Alleluia really is a blistering thriller full of shocking violence, stupendous acting and intense directing. Chances are that you’ve never heard of it so it’s your duty to seek this out and give it the attention it deserves. I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed.

nine-out-of-ten

Escape From Tomorrow (2013)

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Director: Randy Moore

Stars: Roy Abramsohn, Elena Schuber, Katelynn Rodriguez

Disney on Prozac

Disney World really is one of the best places on the planet. I spent the happiest days of my life there as a kiddy, at the tender age of ten and I’m desperate to get back there. Randy Moore’s disturbing vision is unlikely to convince Disney World virgins to go though! In this film, Disney World is more reminiscent of Banksy’s Dismaland. Whenever you read a review of Escape From Tomorrow you always get an essay on how the film was made rather than the film itself. The extreme guerrilla tactics are important to the raw and intimate atmosphere of the film (and are extremely impressive) but there’s much more to Escape From Tomorrow than ‘that film that was shot illegally in Disneyland.’

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It’s the American Beauty-esque tale of a man going through a midlife crisis, except it also sparks a total mental breakdown and it happens in the middle of Disney World. It begins with a ride on the Rocky Mountain rollercoaster which is sledgehammer foreshadowing of the rollercoaster ride we’re about to go on in our hero’s haunted head. What struck me was how funny most of the film was. The trailer would lead you to believe that it’s a full-on Lynchian horror nightmare, but in truth the majority of it is pretty hilarious.

That isn’t to criticise it because the humour worked very well. Roy Abramsohn is so amusing as Jim, the typical twat Dad. His acting is a little questionable but it did add to the humour of the whole film. The first hour is basically like watching a family’s home video of a trip to Disney with splashes of sinister surrealism (get a load of that sibilance!) but I mean that in the best possible way. It isn’t boring because there’s a strong dark humour layered throughout. It also feels extremely intimate and involving with a strong focus on characters to keep you interested.

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The film hits its stride once the gang enter Epcot and Jim starts to drink lots and lots. This triggers his descent into complete surrealism and the film abandons linear narrative. It’s loud, chaotic and absorbing but I was hoping for a little more Inland Empire styled directing, but perhaps I was hoping for too much. It could’ve been more surreal and dreamlike, but it was still suitably disorientating and inventive. There’s also very intelligent themes and symbolism buried underneath if you’re willing to dig hard enough. I like how a lot of it is open to interpretation.

Escape From Tomorrow might look a bit shoddy with its rough camerawork and dodgy acting, but that’s also part of its charm. I did find the black and white photography quite stylish and the searing Disney golden-era score is pretty brilliant. The low rating on Netflix and IMDb might suggest that I’m in the minority when I say that I enjoyed it, but I am definitely biased when it comes to these weird kind of films. Normal cinemagoers will see it as a curiosity piece, but us weirdos will be dazzled by the surrealist imagery, comedy and overall strangeness. It’s not as good as it could’ve been, but I still found a lot to like.

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The Loved Ones (2009)

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Director: Sean Byrne

Stars: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, Victoria Thaine

And you thought your prom night was bad

Australia certainly seems a scary place. Wolf Creek and Snowtown show that it’s a place teeming with murderous male psychopaths and now The Loved Ones has reared its pretty little head, giving birth to the most terrifying Sheila ever put on film. Who on Earth would want to do a gap year over there? In all fairness though, the Aussie’s really do knock it out of the park when it comes to horror films and The Loved Ones is no exception. Think Carrie meets Misery with a bit of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre thrown in and you have The Loved Ones.

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It’s a beautifully made film with its loud, throbbing soundtrack and solid direction. It opens in a similar way to another superior Aussie horror, The Babadook with a horrific car crash resulting in the death of a father. The film takes a suitably melancholic mood with our hero Brent being understandably depressed by his father’s passing. In a fleeting moment he makes the worst decision of his life by politely declining mousy Lola’s offer of going to the prom with her. When I was at school, the prom was called an Immac because it was a silly Catholic school who liked to name everything after religious events. I’m sure there were some immaculate conceptions on those days though!

If you’re one of these types who get bored easily by long build-ups (think Wolf Creek) the you’ll love The Loved Ones. It runs at an economical 80 minutes and doesn’t waste much time delving into the action. Within 15 minutes, Brent is kidnapped and tied to a chair with an eerie disco ball floating above. This is when the horror really gets going.

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A lot of the film relies on the sensation performance by Robin McLeavy as Lola. The film is basically a one woman show and rests on her shoulders. Unfortunately for Twilight fans, Xavier isn’t given a lot to do apart from scream, but I can’t imagine Twilight fans liking this one very much. The only time you get to see Xavier with his boobs out is when Lola’s carving her initials into it with a knife. Sorry girls, but there really isn’t a lot to titillate you here, unless you’re into that sort of thing… In which case, get help.

The Loved Ones isn’t one of those pansy horror films which shy away from violence and taboos. In fact the film goes down some terribly dark avenues involving incest and cannibalism, but it’s not done in a cheap or exploitative way. All of the shocking stuff is done to help the story along or add character development rather than just turn the audience’s stomach. There’s a particularly nasty scene involving a drill which will stay with you!

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Alongside Brent’s torture we get the Misery-esque policeman on the hunt for the missing Brent and an odd subplot which involves Brent’s friend going to the dance with an awkward goth girl. Whilst it’s a humorous little side story, it does little to serve the main plot. Perhaps the filmmakers wanted to add a little light to the film, but the sublimely disturbed character of Lola is darkly comic enough to stop the film from getting too heavy.

Whilst it’s definitely a solid little horror film, I can’t help but feel like it doesn’t quite reach its full potential. I think the finale feels a little rushed and could’ve easily been extended to be more thrilling like something from Frontiers. It also didn’t feel tragic enough. I would’ve liked to have had a final punch to the gut, but instead it ends rather prematurely and a little too neatly for me. However, wishing a film was longer is never a bad thing. If you’re into your gory psycho horror with added female bite then you can’t go wrong with The Loved Ones. Just remember that if a loopy Aussie lass asks you to the prom, go with her. Not that I’d turn anyone with a pulse down.

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Inside Out (2015)

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Director: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen

Stars: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Kyle MacLachlan

Thoughtful animated classic

Pixar might’ve gone through a rare dip in quality when they went onto making stuff that was aimed specifically at children like Cars 2 and Brave. They started clawing their way back up to greatness when Monsters University launched last year, a film which I still think is somewhat underrated with its gorgeous creative visuals and fantastic characters. Inside Out sees Pixar pick up their crown again and reign supreme as the queen of animated films.

It’s an instant classic which ranks up the very best Pixar has to offer. I’d argue that it’s the best film they’ve done since Toy Story 3 and the best of the year so far, outdoing the likes of Mad Max 4 and Whiplash. But that’s no surprise considering that Pete Docter is behind the camera and paper again. It’s a complex and ingenious premise which personifies emotions we all carry in our heads. Each emotion in Riley’s head manages to be funny, likeable and relevant to the story. I particularly liked Sadness and Anger. I’m not quite sure what that says about me.

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It’s Joy at the controls though and she’s one of those annoyingly positive people who manages to see the good in absolutely everything. If someone shot her in the head, she’d probably congratulate them on the excellent pot-shot. Entertainingly for us though, she goes off on an extreme character-building lesson which sees her lost in the abyss of Riley’s long-term memory along with her least favourite emotion, Sadness. Sadness is an adorable blue blob who is clumsy and well-meaning but permanently depressed. Whilst Joy and Sadness are away, leaving Anger, Disgust and Fear at the controls, eleven year-old Riley goes through a massive breakdown.

The film does a fantastic job of setting up a potentially confusing premise in a fun and simplistic way. The first act is basically all exposition which sets everything up and suitably engages the audience. It reminded me of the scene in Inception where Leo explains the dream world concept to Ellen Page. I know exposition can irritate a lot of people, but in high concept films like this I think it’s pretty essential, otherwise we’d be sat their open-mouthed and dead behind the eyes like watching Upstream Colour.

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The editing is absolutely wonderful as it manages to balance three stories which are all connected to one another in a masterful way. The main story concerns Joy and Sadness on their exceptionally entertaining Finding Nemo-style adventures, the other two secondary stories (although still no less critical to the plot) involve the other emotions in the control tower and Riley suffering a mental breakdown out in the real world.

The entire film not only works as a fantastic story on its own, but also as an analogy for mental breakdowns in general. Now whenever I feel unhappy randomly I’ll know that it’s because Joy has left my control room, or that Sadness has accidently touched a memory. It’s also a brilliant way of letting kids know that it’s OK to be sad and it’s perfectly normal to feel angry. There are a whole load of deeper meanings and gags that are likely to go over the heads of children, but everyone else will be sure to appreciate them. Kids will definitely be able to appreciate the highly creative visuals and lovable characters.

All Pixar films are eye-popping, but Inside Out is particularly incredible. There’s no end of bright, creative and trippy visuals which very much reminded me of my favourite Pixar film, Up. It all has substance too though and is relevant to the plot. There’s a wonderful sequence where the characters enter Dream Productions and we see how our dreams are really made. Not only is it side-splittingly hilarious, it’s clever, high-concept and beautiful to look at.

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There are also quite a few genuinely emotional moments. I’m not one to get teary in films, but there’s one scene involving a gorgeous character called Bing Bong which really made me well up. It isn’t your average light and fluffy, happy-clappy kiddy film. It goes to deeper and darker places and pulls at your heart strings. Watching a little girl go through a spat of depression is not cheery viewing! There is of course an inevitable happy ending and it’s all the more heart-warming because of the darker scenes that preceded it.

In short, Inside Out is an animated masterpiece. I cannot for the life of me think of any faults, apart from that it went by far too quickly. It has everything you need in a film. It’s funny, emotional, creative, original, intelligent, deep and thoughtful. It’s full of memorable and likable characters whom you’ll go away remembering. It’s a film for any age so if you’re one of these “Ooh animation’s for kids innit” type people I’d urge you to drop any plans you have for the weekend and go and see this with all your adult/teenage friends.

Pixar is incredibly popular and so you’ll be bound to find people on the internet bashing it like they do Christopher Nolan films and anything else that is popular so don’t listen to them. It’s a towering achievement and a return to form. It’s their first original non-sequel since Brave in 2012 and it’s well worth the wait. They’ve expressed disinterest in a sequel to Inside Out, but I’d love to see all these fantastic characters return.

perfect-10