Twin Peaks: The Return

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Director: David Lynch

Stars: Kyle Maclachlan, Sheryl Lee, Catherine Coulson

Episodes 1 & 2

Before I start delving into the two-part premiere of Twin Peaks: The Return, I’d like to give you some context to my Lynch obsession. To me David Lynch is the greatest filmmaker that has ever lived and I mean no hyperbole by that statement. His films aren’t for everyone but there’s no denying that there’s nothing like them around, he’s simply incomparable to his peers. Watching his films is like viewing a painting or listening to a piece of music, there’s something inside of you which either likes it and accepts it or doesn’t, and it’s fine if you don’t like it. It’s a perfectly normal reaction to watch a woman in a radiator singing at you with massive hamster cheeks and think ‘what the heck is this load of rubbish!?’ and turn it off. However, to me it’s an indescribably haunting and hypnotic experience which makes my heart race.

I am definitely more of a David Lynch fan than a Twin Peaks fan. For me, the episodes directed by the man himself are by far the strongest and most ground-breaking, particularly the final cliff-hanger episode which stands as one of the most fantastically immersive things Lynch has ever done. I also much prefer the dark, horrifying vision of Fire Walk With Me which departed from the jovial tone of the TV series, signified by the opening shot of a television being destroyed. However, there are still hardcore Twin Peaks fans who consider the film an abomination due to how drastically different the story and tone is. These same people are going to be incredibly frustrated by the opening of season 3.

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David Lynch seemingly (and tragically) disappeared from the edge of the Earth after the release of his impenetrable feature film, INLAND EMPIRE in 2006. So you can imagine my excitement when it was announced that Twin Peaks was going to come back with 18 episodes, all directed by David Lynch. That’s almost 18 hours of pure magic after over ten years of nothing Lynchian on our screens. The announcement was made back in 2014 so we’ve been patiently waiting for what feels like an age for Twin Peaks to come back on our screens and the other night it finally appeared!

No one knew what to expect when the two-hour premiere was about to start. The production has been kept absolutely top-secret and the teasers released by Showtime barely show more than three seconds of new footage at a time. However, I can guarantee that no one in the world would predict how the opener turned out as it did. In typical Lynch fashion our expectations were completely and utterly subverted within the first ten minutes. Those expecting a cosy rehash of the original series must be incredibly disappointed because this is not the old Twin Peaks we know and love, however it is unapologetically the David Lynch we know and love.

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I was immediately reminded of Eraserhead in the opening five minutes which sees the kindly giant chatting with Dale Cooper in stark monochrome adjacent to a puffing gramophone. They’re in the iconic red room which they’ve been sitting in for twenty five long years. Everything about the scene has the director’s fingerprints all over it and it’s beautiful to see. The giant spouts total nonsense to an aged Cooper to which he responds, “I understand” a hysterical in-joke for Lynch fans. Things don’t become much clearer in the next 100 minutes.

Shockingly, the premiere spends barely any time in Twin Peaks and is more interested in startling events surrounding New York, South Dakota and Las Vegas. Old characters are met fleetingly and with more weirdness than usual. The structure and atmosphere of the show resembles Mulholland Drive more than the original Twin Peaks as there are so many strange strands and subplots which all somehow relate to each other in intriguing and inexplicable ways. It’s interesting to think that most of the feature film, Mulholland Drive is actually a pilot episode; so this new season may give us a glimpse of what the shelved Mulholland Drive TV series could have looked like.

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Like most David Lynch films, the best way to experience it is to just go with the flow and ask questions later because nothing makes sense. It feels like we’re watching an explosion of Lynch’s unconscious mind on film, only I do believe that there is a solvable plot in there unlike the anarchic madness of INLAND EMPIRE. There are some extraordinary scenes of pure cinema which cannot be explained with words. The New York segment, for example, is utterly hypnotic and finishes with one of the scariest moments I have ever seen on screen thanks to nightmarish imagery and a terrifying sound design. I literally flew out of my seat, something I haven’t done since the tramp sequence in Mulholland Drive. There are also moments of surreal terror in the red room which go beyond anything we’ve ever seen in the world of Twin Peaks.

It’s the most astonishing two hours of telly I’ve ever experienced. It’s a true work of art and the directing is unparalleled. No other director can conjure up such an immersive dreamlike atmosphere quite like this. Detractors will moan about how they don’t understand it but it isn’t supposed to be totally understood. It isn’t a Christopher Nolan sci-fi flick, it’s a surrealistic painting designed to terrify and thrill. After watching The Return and being thrown back into normal life I stuck on an episode of Game Of Thrones (which I’ve just started watching) and was struck by just how ordinary it was.

The original Twin Peaks was ground-breaking stuff and The Return looks as if it’s going to be no different. This is unlike anything that has ever been on TV before and is already way ahead of its time. Thank the heavens that Showtime have given David Lynch free reign to truly create what is bound to be a masterpiece. David is back with a vengeance and reminding us what we’ve been missing whilst he’s been on hiatus for years. It’s incredibly exciting to think that a whopping 16 more instalments are left. Who knows where they’re going to take us, but it’s going to be one hell of an unforgettable ride.

INLAND EMPIRE (2006)

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Director: David Lynch

Stars: Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Jeremy Irons

Admittance to Lynch fans only

I remember when I watched Inland Empire for the first time. You could say that I was something of a David Lynch virgin as I had only seen The Elephant Man, Wild At Heart and Mulholland Drive. I have since devoured everything and anything he’s put his hands on from his earliest short film, Six Men Getting Sick to his bizarre animated series, Dumbland. Inland Empire is definitely jumping into the deep end though if you’ve only seen a handful of Lynch’s stuff, so I was either going to sink or swim. Luckily for me I sat there completely spellbound throughout the hefty 180 minute acid trip and was left completely shaken by what I had just seen. It was the film which turned me from a fan and into a super-fan.

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This isn’t the normal reaction to Inland Empire though. Even the most die-hard Lynch fans find massive fault with it and I can completely understand this viewpoint. This is a film which defies description. Some people liken it to David Lynch shooting random crap on a cheap digital camcorder, but I think it’s important to approach the film as you would with a piece of art or music. It’s a feeling and you either get it or you don’t. I could write an essay about how Cher’s ‘Believe’ is the best song of all time but if you hear it and don’t like it then nothing’s going to change your mind. Inland Empire is not something you can casually stick on and watch whilst playing on your phone, it’s a film which requires your absolute fullest attention. Your eyes can’t afford to leave the screen otherwise the magic will be ruined. Forget everything you know about coherent plots and movies, this is something which you have to truly immerse yourself and get lost in.

It has that lucid dream-like quality to it just like Mulholland Dr, but this time even more so. If Mulholland Drive was a dream captured on camera, then Inland Empire is a full-blown nightmare. It made me feel as if I was turning insane (in a good way). If David Lynch aimed to get his audience in the same twisted mind-set as his protagonist then he certainly succeeded. The film was a total mind funk from start to finish. I have never taken drugs before, but this is what I would imagine a ‘bad trip’ feels like. It’s exactly like experiencing a dream because dreams feel like they’re going on forever when you’re in them, yet when you wake up you can only remember bits and pieces. Inland Empire is three hours long and yet I find it difficult to recall most scenes. It feels like it’s going on forever when you’re watching it and not long at all, all at the same time. It’s the closest you will ever come to experiencing a dream whilst awake.

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You could argue that Inland Empire does lack a strong plot. Whilst Mulholland Drive by no means has a coherent and linear narrative, there is still a strong sense of a plot and a lot of it is open to deep analysis and interpretation. However, Inland Empire will have you utterly bemused right from the black and white opening which sees a blurred-faced Polish girl interacting in a hotel room. That’s not to say that there is no plot though, I just wouldn’t worry about it too much on the first viewing, just go with the flow and let the madness wash over you. It somehow manages to be grossly unwatchable, yet utterly hypnotic. I remember first watching the film and thinking that this is either the worst film of all time, or the greatest.

Most people don’t class Inland Empire as a horror film, however it’s one of the very scariest films I have ever seen and I don’t scare easily! The look of the film is very early Lars Von Trier, as it was shot on a digital camera, which adds a very raw and real edge to the film. It feels like you’re experiencing a nightmare first-hand. There are some very claustrophobic moments where the camera is right up to the actor’s face and some moments which will chill you to the core. If you jumped at the Winkie’s Diner scene in Mulholland Drive then wait until you see Laura Dern’s face in this (no offence to Laura, you’ll see what I mean).

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Talking of Laura Dern, what a performance she gives in this! If the film was more accessible then people would be calling this a performance for the ages and she would’ve rightly won the Academy Award. It’s also important to note that Dern wasn’t even given a complete script so she was as in the dark as us in regards to what the heck is going on. David would write the film as the shoot was going on and give Laura a freshly written page of script each day. I’d also like to mention the extraordinary music used in the film which adds the unsettling atmosphere. Composed by Marek Zebrowski and Lynch himself, some of it is reminiscent of The Shining and a piece of music from The Shining is even used at one point which is delightful.

If you’re going to watch Inland Empire then it’s important to do it right. Set aside three hours at night time and make sure there are zero distractions. Put your kids and partner to bed, make sure you’re comfortable and switch your phone off. Make sure you have a sizable TV with good sound, pop in the disc, press play and do not take your eyes off the screen. If you follow these tips then you should find yourself feeling lost in a nightmarish labyrinth that will seemingly never end. It’s not always a pleasant experience, but it’s certainly like nothing you’ll ever see again. In some ways, Inland Empire is the epitome of David Lynch’s gorgeous filmography.

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10 Best Horror Movies Of 2016

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2016 has been a stellar year for horror films. Every year people declare our beloved genre dead due to the tired tropes and cliches, but this year has proven that horror is very much alive and thriving. Below you’ll find my top 10 horror movies of 2016. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to catch Under the Shadow and The Handmaiden, so those titles have been regrettably omitted.

10. ‘Green Room’

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I wasn’t as impressed with Green Room as a lot of people were. The acting was a little strange, the lighting was a dark and there were quite a few slow patches. I did love the dark, grungy atmosphere though and there were some fantastic moments of shocking violence and intensity. It follows a group of young punk rockers who get trapped in a venue run by neo-Nazi skinheads. It’s a fun premise and it does boast some memorable scenes, but it doesn’t deserve the rave reviews it received, which is why I’ve placed it at the lower end of the list.

9. ‘Lights Out’

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Thanks to an effective short film, David F. Sandberg got the chance to debut a fun, feature-length chiller with an original premise. The premise features a family haunted by a crooked spirit called Diane who only appears when the lights go out. It boasts good performances and likable characters, which are all too rare in horror films of today. The scares aren’t entirely effective, but there are moments of genuine suspense, particularly in the thrilling third act, which adds an innovative #supernatural spin on the home invasion sub genre. Despite suffering from some clichés and a sudden ending, #LightsOut stands out as one of the most memorable horror films of the year.

8. ‘Ouija: Origin Of Evil’

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This could possibly be the most surprising film of the year. A prequel to one of 2013’s worst horror films, #Ouija2 was surely guaranteed to be a disastrous abomination. However, talented writer-director Mike Flanagan (#Oculus, #Hush) raised everyone’s expectations and crafted a supernatural horror film that is better than it has any right to be. Yes, it has the usual jump-scares, possessed little girls and #Insidious-inspired demons. It also disappoints in its last act with odd pacing and an all too familiar finale, but Ouija also does so many things right. It focuses on a family that you genuinely end up caring about and has a fantastic eye for detail in its period setting. It also cleverly deconstructs the genre and plays with our extensive horror knowledge while also delivering some scenes of surrealism, which makes for unsettling viewing. Most of all though, it’s just a fun time from start to finish and you can really see that it’s been crafted by an intelligent team who have genuine affection for horror films.

7. ’10 Cloverfield Lane’

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Dan Trachenberg’s film had a strange release. No one had heard about the film until a trailer surfaced just months before the film was set to hit the big screens. People were also confused as to whether the film was a sequel to 2008’s #Cloverfield, even though the trailer looked as though it had nothing at all in common with Matt Reeves’ found footage monster movie. Lots of people (including me) are still confused by the mysterious title, but nevertheless, #10CloverfieldLane is an impressive exercise in suspense and mystery. It features a menacing performance from John Goodman as the enigmatic conspiracist, locking up two innocents with him in his bomb shelter. It’s a film that always manages to engage thanks to the constant, intense atmosphere and intrigue. It also doesn’t opt for a predictable finale, rather, going for something delightfully crazy and different altogether. It never takes itself too seriously and I look forward to seeing where exactly the Cloverfield universe is heading

6. ‘The Conjuring 2’

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Here’s another sequel that managed to surpass expectations. #JamesWan managed to outdo himself with this beautifully crafted supernatural horror film. It follows the (supposedly) true story of a family in England experiencing some spooky activity of the paranormal kind. #Conjuring2 places most of its focus on the family instead of scares, so that we’re totally invested in their story. That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have scares though. James Wan’s directing is as effective as ever at building up an atmosphere of almost unbearable suspense. He has also created one of the most iconic horror villains in recent memory with Valek, the terrifying demon nun. It’s a masterful film that manages to unsettle, entertain and emotionally involve its audience in equal measure.

5. ‘The Neon Demon’

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Nicolas Winding Refn’s polarizing look into the fashion industry feels like a natural progression from the criminally underrated Only God Forgives. He’s swapped stunt driving and gun-slinging for gals and make-up. The story itself isn’t anything original — it’s the tale of a wide-eyed girl with big dreams who ends up getting consumed by them; however, the way it’s told is nothing short of masterful. Every shot in #NeonDemon is a work of art that oozes absolute style and beauty, which is exactly what the film is about. It’s full of hypnotic, Lynchian imagery, which makes you feel as if you’re watching a dream unfold. There are several stunning moments of pure visual cinema which is something of a rarity nowadays. The film also ends on a memorably whacky and disturbing note which will have you pondering over for weeks. It’s not a film which everyone will appreciate, but those who are attracted to strange and immersive films will find a lot to love.

4. ‘Don’t Breathe’

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It hasn’t been a good year for the homes of the disabled. We already had a deaf woman getting her home invaded this year in Mike Flanagan’s #Hush, and now Fede Alvarez’s #DontBreathe shows us a blind man getting his house burgled by a gang of youths. Surely the most intense movie of the year, Alvarez makes every shot and sound count in his home invasion horror. Don’t Breathe is masterfully directed and dripping with suspense. It delivers non-stop thrills at every corner as well as featuring a memorable villain in Stephen Lang’s deadly Rambo-esque veteran and a badass heroine in Jane Levy’s Rocky. It’s a terrific experience on the big screen and is pretty much guaranteed to have you holding your breath on several occasions.

3. ‘Train To Busan’

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This Korean undead tale is arguably more of an action thriller than a straight-up #horror movie, but it does have #zombies in it. It’s also great and easily the best zombie flick since Shaun of the Dead. It follows a neglectful father taking his young daughter on a train to a nearby city to see her mother. Unfortunately for them, hordes of the living dead begin to overtake most of Korea just as the train is about to depart, leaving the passengers in a desperate fight for survival. #TraintoBusan is pretty much a non-stop, two-hour thrill ride — no easy task considering that it’s almost entirely set in the confines of a train. It hurtles from set-piece to set-piece in waves of brilliant intensity that leave you gasping for air. The film also packs a surprising emotional wallop thanks to its terrifically drawn-out characters who you end up genuinely caring about. I found myself holding back the tears on more than one occasion.

2. ‘The Wailing’

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The Koreans have been ruling horror this year with Train to Busan, The Handmaiden and now this, #TheWailing. It’s an enigmatic mix of crime, thriller, supernatural horror and dark comedy. It could’ve easily turned into a mess, but thanks to Na Hong-jin directing an unpredictable screenplay we’re left with an unforgettable near-masterpiece. It follows a bumbling yet lovable policeman as he investigates a series of mystifying murders plaguing his tiny village. Does it have something to do with the strange Japanese man who recently moved to the nearby forest? The Wailing keeps you guessing to the very end and always enthralls with its surprising twists and often hilarious comedy. Some may find the film silly, but it has such ambition and engaging characters you can’t help but appreciate what it’s trying to succeed. It’s a fantastic horror film that plays on your mind long after the credits roll.

1. ‘The Witch’

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I can hear the cries of abuse now. For some reason, The Witch didn’t sit well with a lot of audiences after generating a lot of early critical acclaim. There’s no denying though that #TheWitch is the best horror film of the year so far and is destined to become a classic. Someone described it as “a Brothers Grimm fairytale directed by Stanley Kubrick” and that is the most accurate description I could think of. Robert Eggers’s debut film is a phenomenal piece of filmmaking and one if the scariest horror films to hit our screens in quite some time. Everything about The Witch is masterful, from the intense foreboding atmosphere to the bold unsettling score.

The film is set in 1630 and follows a God-obsessed family who suffer a series of tragic events after being banished to an isolated house next to a terrifying forest that is possibly home to a witch. It’s a film laced with horrifying imagery and suspense that explodes into an entirely satisfying finale that left my mouth agape. The Witch isn’t just the best horror movie of 2016 so far, but the best film period. Oh, and let’s not forget that it contains the best performance of the year in the shape of Black Phillip the goat.

So there we have it. Told you it’s been a knockout year for horror! What films have you enjoyed the most?

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.

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Train to Busan (2016)

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Director: Sang-ho Yeon

Stars: Yoo Gong, Soo-an Kim, Yu-mi Jeong

Zombies on a train

Zombie films have been hitting our screens since the dawn of time. Well, it certainly feels like they have anyway. Popularised by George A Romero’s terrific Dead trilogy, zombie films have since been rearing their heads like hordes of the undead themselves. Whilst they can be a lot of fun, more often than not, they can also be cliché ridden and trashy. We have had some quite enjoyable zombie films recently such as, Cockneys Vs Zombies and The Horde but we haven’t really had a properly great zombie movie since 2004’s Shaun of the Dead. Train to Busan changes that.

I saw Train to Busan on a whim. I’m travelling in Singapore and had a few free days so I thought that I’d check what’s on the cinemas here. Train to Busan caught my eye but I had never heard of it, however I saw that it was Korean and that it had zombies in it, so I was sold! To my surprise, I came out of the cinema having just viewed easily the best zombie film in a decade. Korean films have hardly ever let me down and Busan is no exception.

As there’s very little coverage of this film on the Internet, I’d better give a rough plot outline. It basically follows a selfish father who is cold and neglectful towards his cute young daughter. For her birthday, she wants to travel to Busan to see her mother so he reluctantly takes her on the train to Busan (creative title) however, a rather inconvenient zombie outbreak occurs as they board the train. The rest of the film is a claustrophobic and thrilling fight for survival as the survivors desperately try everything in their measure to get to Busan on a undead-infested train.

What makes this film so great is the characters. Most horror films (particularly ones with zombies in) sprinkle a load of disposable characters in who all die in a predictable order. We don’t often particularly care when they die, in fact we’re more likely to relish the gory death shown in all its bloody gory. In contrast, Train to Busan focuses in on a line of memorable characters who we actually care about and want to see survive. They’re developed in such a way that when someone cruelly perishes, we feel a great sense of loss and emotion. This is where the film’s strength lies. What’s also interesting is that they’re not all stereotypes either. The protagonist isn’t your typical hero, he’s a character who is grossly selfish and unlikable at the start, but he subtlety develops into someone you begin to care about and admire.


The film starts off as a good little zombie thriller. There’s a sense of realism to the whole situation as we’re made to watch the panic unfold on the train in an effective way. There’s also a nice comic touch to the whole thing with some witty dialogue so it never takes itself too seriously. It also somehow never gets boring even though the film is essentially two hours set on a train, which is no easy task. There’s always tension and a sense of peril. You get the feeling that anything could happen to these characters at any given moment. Once the film reaches the mid-way point though it stops being good and starts becoming great.

Things get going fairly quickly so the characters develop through the action, making the film all the more gripping as it goes on. It’s an unpredictable ride with lots of thrilling set-pieces to keep you on edge. The final half hour is essentially non-stop action and it becomes exhausting to watch without ever feeling too ridiculous. What really impressed me though was the emotional charge in the second half. There are a few scenes which had me welling up with tears, which I wasn’t expecting. I just got so absorbed in the characters and their intense situation. The use of music and editing is also hugely effective in pulling at your heartstrings.


There’s really very little which Train to Busan does wrong. If I were to nitpick, I’d say that I would’ve liked more gore. Zombie films always give a good excuse to give us an array of fun, gory effects but this film is surprisingly restrained. There’s a lot of hand-to-hand combat and nothing else creative. However, this does sort of add to the realism of the situation as you’re not going to find many axes or chainsaws on a train. It’s still not as bloodless as World War Z.

I can’t urge you enough to watch Train to Busan, especially if you’re a fan of Korean cinema. It doesn’t just offer plenty of nail-biting thrills and impressive special effects, It offers emotion and splendid characters whom you can properly invest in. It’s a powerful film which wears its heart on its sleeve and contains more character development in two hours than The Walking Dead has in six seasons. Once the film was over I became overcome with emotion. I felt like I could just break down and cry at what I had just watched. This is so much more than a zombie flick, at its heart it’s a devastating drama about family and the importance of human kindness. I loved it.

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Blair Witch (2016)

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Director: Adam Wingard

Stars: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid

Same old tricks

I’m not against found footage films like a lot of people are. Fair enough if you suffer from motion sickness, but selfishly, I don’t. They’re a great way of creating a sense of scary realism and intensity on a low budget. Cannibal Holocaust may have been innovative enough to begin the concept but there’s no doubt that 1999’s The Blair Witch Project started the trend. Love it or hate it, it’s an essential piece of filmmaking and a masterpiece of movie marketing. Personally, I’m not a fan of Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez’s original film. Despite a creepy final ten seconds and an intriguing set-up of the Blair witch legend, the film is basically 80 minutes of people arguing in the woods over a lost map. There’s no big payoff, nothing is ever shown and mostly I just find very boring and tedious.

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So when Blair Witch was revealed, I wasn’t exactly excited like a lot of people were. I love the Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett duo. The Guest was good and You’re Next was great so I was looking forward to their next project, The Woods which turned out to be a secret pseudonym for a sequel to The Blair Witch Project. Early Reviews came out and I suddenly became very excited. People were calling it a game changer for horror films and one even went so far as to say that the film will wreck you, so of course I was sold. I avoided all trailers and decided to pop over and see it on opening day, hoping to watch a genuinely scary found footage horror film. Unfortunately I came out extremely disappointed.

Blair Witch isn’t a bad film, but it’s certainly no game-changer. In fact, it’s nothing much to write home about at all. It is simply an average horror film and in my opinion the worst offering from the directing/writing duo so far. One of the main problems is that it plays out almost exactly like the original Blair Witch Project, albeit a bit more souped up. Instead of having a group of characters going into the woods to investigate about the legend, we have a group of characters going into the woods to find Heather, the main character from the original, who happens to be our protagonist’s sister. If there was no mention of Heather then Blair Witch would definitely be classed as a remake, rather than a sequel. Even fans of this film admit that it follows almost every beat of the original: there’s the getting lost, finding twig men hanging outside the tent, running away in the dark from something that can’t be seen and even the iconic old house finale.

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Blair Witch offers no new surprises and the first half of the film is almost as tedious as the original. We’re not really made to care for any of the characters and none are properly developed. They’re just your average group of young adults being lined up for the slaughterhouse, with the technicians from The Cabin in the Woods at the control panel watching it all play out. When a character dies, we don’t really care which is sort of a problem when we’re made to stay with them for 90 minutes. There are some nice moments of good humour, but for the most part not a great deal happens in the first half. It’s just like watching some friends go on a camping trip. It would’ve been an ideal opportunity for some character development, but instead we just get the usual arguing and friendly banal banter.

Once we hit around the midway point, spooky stuff starts happening but it’s all stuff we’ve seen before. There are some tense moments when characters go off on their own and hear strange noises deep in the woods, but there’s never any payoff. A good scare is like a good joke. There has to be an extended moment of suspense and then an explosive punchline, but Blair Witch seems to always miss the punchline. I was always on edge and waiting for something scary to happen in the woods, but nothing really ever does. I did like the strong feeling of isolation though. There’s a real sense of panic and stress as we realise that these characters are going to end up lost in these woods for what could be an eternity. But whilst the atmosphere is good, the scares are too uninspired to be effective.

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Things do start to pick up in the last twenty minutes though. After what feels like endless screaming and running in the woods, we come across the dreaded old house from the first film. This is when things start to become intense and genuinely horrifying at times. There’s a huge sense of dread and unpredictability which had me on the edge of my seat. I thought, “finally! Maybe this is the part that’s going to wreck me” but it wasn’t. Despite a couple of effective jump scares and moments of intensity, the finale fails to live up to the expectations which it promised. It did a good job of building up tension, but just like the scenes in the woods, it failed to conjure up a truly scary punchline. In fact, the film ends with a very disappointing whimper which left me wanting a lot more.

I don’t mind slow-burners but there has to be a payoff worth waiting for. The original Wicker Man and Kill List are good examples of this, but Blair Witch fails in delivering. In the end, it’s a perfectly serviceable horror film. It uses the found footage aspect well and makes good use of utilising new filming technologies. It’s also better and far more entertaining that the original, but that’s not really high praise coming from a detractor of it. I suppose that I just fell for the hype and I don’t want you to do the same. It has moments which are scarier than most mainstream horror films, but there’s nothing that will shake you to your core here. Hardened horror nuts are not going to be impressed. It may be worth a quick look when it gets released on DVD but it’s not worth seeing on the big screen. If you want a truly scary found footage film then stick to [REC] of Noroi: The Curse. In a year full of great horror films, Blair Witch disappointingly seems to be the first hiccup.

sixoutoften

Where the Dead Go to Die (2012)

2

Director: Jimmy ScreamerClauz

Stars: Ruby Larocca, Brandon Slagle, Joey Smack

This ain’t Pixar folks

This review is going to be subjective because I’m not like most people who get scared by horror films like The Exorcist or The Shining. I get scared by strange things. Things that bury themselves into your psyche and fester for a long time. That’s why I’m such a fan of David Lynch’s surreal films and why (what most people would describe as) an unwatchable mess like Inland Empire is a frightening masterpiece to me. Similarly, some people find videos of glitches from The Sims hilarious, whereas I find them chilling with those strange and nightmarish impossible contortions. Where the Dead Go to Die is like one big Sims glitch.


Many will see it as an atrociously animated and badly voice acted mess, and they wouldn’t be wrong. This has to be the worst animation ever committed to film. In fact, it looks as though it was made on The Sims with a few disturbing expansion packs which allow your sims to woohoo with animals and travel to a kaleidoscopic hell. This will make the film borderline unwatchable for some people, but for me it made it all the more horrifying. Likewise, a little boy being voiced by a man mimicking a screechy child’s voice is much more frightening to me than being voiced by an actual child. It’s extremely uncomfortable as it feels like we’re watching something Satanic that shouldn’t be watched.

Where the Dead Go to Die has to be one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen and I don’t get too disturbed easily either. This film is up there with Salo, Martyrs and all he rest. If it was a live action production then I’m pretty sure that the anonymous director, who goes by Jimmy ScreamerClauz, would be arrested. Whilst the animation is beyond poor, the ideas are still there and these ideas are seriously messed up. I don’t want to spoil it for people who want to experience this mind fudge, but there are some depraved ideas involving children which are explored explicitly in this film. They may only look like blobs, but that didn’t make it any less upsetting to watch, for me at least. Especially combined with the horrifying musical score in the background.


I feel like I should delve into the story a little bit. Where the Dead Go to Die is an anthology film which follows three characters living in the same neighbourhood (I think) who all come in contact with a demonic dog. The first segment tells the story of a boy who is convinced by the dog to kill his mother’s unborn child as it’s the antichrist. This story certainly gives you a taste of things to come. It’s just utter madness with some terribly disturbing ideas and images thrown in. The second story kind of lost me a bit, but it concerns a man who steals people’s memories after killing them. It’s the weakest story and is mainly an excuse to go overboard on the hellish, surreal imagery. The last story is the strongest and most disturbing. It concerns a neglected boy with his dead Siamese twin’s head stuck to the side of his face, who falls in love with a little girl. Needless to say, she harbours some very dark secrets at home.

You can try and think about the absolute sickest thing in the world and this film will show you worse. I can’t decide whether I liked it or not. You could argue that it’s a film designed to shock you for the sake of it, but there is actually a story here (several actually) and I’d argue that this Jimmy ScreamerClauz bloke actually manages to respectively weave the story with the moments of depravity. This isn’t like August Underground where it’s just one sick pointless scene trying to outdo the other. The disturbing themes do actually have something to do with the surreal story, particularly in the last segment. There’s a moment where I was almost moved to tears, just due to the intensity of the concept presented on screen. The relentless bleakness also started to get to me after a while.


Where the Dead Go to Die is not a good film on a technical level, but it’s unlike anything I have ever seen. There’s no denying that it’s innovative, whether that’s in a good way or not. It does get bogged down in its moments of relentless surreal glitchy imagery, but when it focuses, I found myself strangely captivated. On one hand I find the film trashy and stupid but on the other I find it startling and original. It’s an endlessly dark, depraved and upsetting film. It disturbed me, horrified me and affected me both emotionally and physically. It’s a film which I won’t ever forget, and that has to be worth something doesn’t it?

four-out-of-ten