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Because there's just no easier way to do it, I shall be reviewing V/H/S/2 in a very similar way to the first film, beginning with my overall thoughts then delving into each short. Overall the film is a massive improvement over the already decent first film. Sure, it's just as messy, but if you know that going in then it doesn't even come across as a flaw. If I were to describe this film in one word it would be NUTS! This film is just that. At times, and I will discuss one in particular later on, the shorts in this film just go full-out bonkers. It's got one less short than its predecessor, but it out does that in every other way.
To begin with I shall discuss the main storyline, which I didn't feel was worth talking about with the first film. V/H/S/2 has a much better main storyline than the first film does, which was a convoluted and nauseating experience of nothingness. The storyline here is much more fleshed out and detailed. There's actual characters here, there's an actual plot and there's an actual conclusion. Although overly weird at times, it manages to sustain an interesting enough plot to keep me entertained and willing to watch on, even if there's literally no reasons for these characters to keep filming, but I've learnt to adapt to that when it comes to found footage.
The first short film, Phase I Clinical Trials, is pretty solid. Not only is it incredibly smart, but it's also incredibly original. The idea of an eye-cam is possibly the best idea out of both the films in this franchise, but who knows what'll happen in V/H/S: Viral when it's released in Australia this December. The rest of the film is conventional, but like Adam Wingard's other film, You're Next, he uses these conventions really well and makes an original film out of an unoriginal premise.
The second short film, A Ride in the Park, still manages to be good, all while being the worst short film V/H/S/2 has to offer. Unlike the first film, there isn't a short film that doesn't work. They're all good, perhaps because it's gone down from five to four. This short is, yet again, a by the numbers short film, but showing it from the perspective of the zombie is just absolutely stunning to watch. We see his transformation from life to death to life again and it's riveting stuff.
The third short film, Safe Haven, is the best film of the lot, which should be expected from Gareth Evans, one of the short's co-directors. It starts out slow, setting up character and building the location, then it goes out with a rather large, violent and bloody bang. It's disturbing, shocking and full of WTF moments, particularly a certain scene that happens near the end of the film that easily slots in as the most unexpected moment in this entire anthology.
The fourth and final short film, Slumber Party Alien Abduction, only seems underwhelming in comparison to Safe Haven. Safe Haven set the bar so high that anything showed afterwards just wouldn't seem so good. I guess that means this short is amazing, seeings as how I still thought it was decent. It doesn't get very scary until the end, but it's probably because I was still thinking about Safe Haven. I loved Safe Haven, and not the Nicholas Sparks one. Oh, the Slumber Party Alien Abduction one was fine too.
To sum up, V/H/S/2 ups the first film in every way, except for the amount of short films presented. The film can just get full-on bonkers at times, full of the unexpected, the disturbing and plenty of WTF moments. If you liked the first you're going to like this. If you didn't like the first, well, you best be giving this one a go anyway.
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V/H/S is the latest, well at the time at least, found footage horror anthology. Being an anthology film, it's quite difficult to summarise the plot down into a single paragraph. Instead, I shall begin by going through the film as a whole and then give a short review of each individual short film. So, as a whole this film is scattered, but that's the penalty of making an anthology film. Sometimes you just gotta suck that up and play along because there's no escaping it. This film does just that. It's all over the place, using different styles of filmmaking, varying special effects quality and a plot about a bunch of guys watching a VHS tape that is rushed, confusing and nauseating to watch. Thankfully, V/H/S never feels its runtime. It doesn't feel like a feature film, which can be both a good and bad thing. It feels like a short film festival, which I've attended quite a few of and so I'm used to what they're like. Too bad not all the shorts live up to the standards of the previous one, but at least that gives me something to talk about.
The first short film, Amateur Night, is a strong start to the overall anthology. In fact, it ended up being my second favourite short, although there was unfortunately only three shots that I really enjoyed. It's able to maintain tension for its entire visit, opening incredibly sexy and then quickly escalating to a disturbing, violent and creepy level, especially thanks to a rather traumatising performance from Hannah Fierman. It's a short that's difficult not to be intrigued by.
The second short film, Second Honeymoon, is not so amazing. It's a couple out on holiday recording what is essentially a video diary, resulting in nothing scary being filmed. The filmmaker does try to make it creepy, which I can at least give them credit for. For some unexplained reason the "tormentor" likes the record his visitations on their camera, allowing the audience to see it too. This causes for a good moment of suspense, but nothing else after that.
The third short film, Tuesday the 17th, has a lot more going for it than some of the other films. While I didn't exactly enjoy it, per say, I did like what they were trying to do. Technologically speaking, this film should be crowned the winner. Its effects, editing and camera work are probably the best out of all five shorts. They just can't sustain any tension or scares and the dialogue gets to a point where it's laughable. What a title though.
The fourth short film, The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger, is when the film starts to pick up a little bit. We've had close to an hour of mediocreness, but this is redeemed with a short that can be incredibly scary, highly inventive and always interesting. If only the ending was as good as the set up. And once again, what a title this short film's got.
The fifth and final short film, 10/31/98, is easily the best short film of the lot. It starts out with a few unoriginal scares and a by the numbers plot line, but once things get going they really get going. It's creative, creepy and unpredictable, fully utilising the haunted house/demon summoning storyline and featuring an ending that's quite a way to go out.
To sum up, V/H/S is a very scattershot horror film, but this is expected with anthology films. Three of the shorts are fun, scary, creative and investing, whereas the other two shorts are dull, slow and, well, not scary.
Aside from Annabelle and Dracula Untold, I haven't actually seen a film in cinemas this month that I did not enjoy, and that's rare. Although I did skip Tammy. This is Where I Leave You follows the story of Judd Altman (Jason Bateman), a happy man living a happy life with his wife. That is until he gets home from work early one afternoon to find his wife, Quinn (Abigail Spencer), sleeping with his boss, Wade (Dax Shepard). On top of that, Judd is also notified by his sister, Wendy (Tina Fey) that their father has died. Now Judd must travel back to his home town to hang out with his estranged family and mourn their loss.
This Is Where I Leave You is Shawn Levy's best film to date. Shawn Levy, the film's director, has two films being released this year. This, of course, and Night At The Museum 3: Secret of the Tomb in December, which I'll be watching just because of Robin Williams. It won't surprise me if I enjoy this one more, especially since the other one is what it is. Anyway, other than these two films, Levy's filmography is fairly mixed. He's got films such as The Internship, which admittedly I enjoy, The Pink Panther and Real Steel, which I also like. So when I say that this is his best film, and certainly his best directing effort, that's not saying too much.
The film doesn't add anything new to the table, but it's still the type of movie that really appeals to me. I honestly don't know what it is about these movies, but I enjoy most of them. They're all fairly similar: dialogue that's deliberately wise, families bonding, romance predictably ensuring, but I keep watching them and I keep enjoying them, This Is Where I Leave You most definitely included.
It's just a very funny movie! That's the only way to put it. It's full of charm, heart and humour, all done in an excellent and enjoyable way. These characters are like magnets, they're made from the same thing, but they just repel off of one another. You know the outcome, but the journey there is what we're here to see and said journey is damn fun. The dialogue is so full of banter, reminiscing and love that you'll leave the theatre feeling as if you're a part of their family, which I suppose is the highest praise I can give this movie.
The performances are all good, with the exception of Kathryn Hahn. I said it in my review of Bad Words too, but I just can't really stand Kathryn Hahn in anything. Her performances are always over the top and unfunny. I didn't actually know she was going to be in this movie and when I saw her on screen I was utterly bamboozled. Her character is the same character as in every other movie of hers, and it's a character that I just don't want to see anymore. Aside from her, the rest of the cast do a great job, especially Jason Bateman who I, unlike Kathryn Hahn, enjoy in most of his movies.
To sum up, This Is Where I Leave You is a fairly conventional and predictable movie with yet another annoying performance from Kathryn Hahn, but if you look past that then the film is just very funny, enjoyable, well acted and directed.
3 1/2 Stars
Fury is set in World War II and follows the story of Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), a young writer who's forced into joining a squad of soldiers preparing to venture out into the heart of Germany. This squad is led by Don 'Wardaddy' Collier (Brad Pitt), a relentless nazi hater who understands what it takes to win a war. When out in the battlefield, the crew of Fury, the tank they ride in and consider home, they're faced against soldier after soldier, each situation containing unlikely odds of survival.
Fury is a brutal, grim and violent tale of war, and one that's painfully honest too. I love a good war film, I will watch any one, although I would literally watch any movie you request me to watch. My second favourite movie of all time is currently Saving Private Ryan, which I watched when I was way too young and I turned it off after the opening battle sequence, but I'm getting away from the point. Fury is the second war movie we've got this year, or at least the second one I have recollection of. Fury and Lone Survivor are completely different films, despite both being about tragic war stories. Lone Survivor is a true story and so the impact is on a much more emotional level, whereas Fury is fictitious, but more entertaining. Fury isn't quite as sweat inducing as Lone Survivor, but it's undeniably a better made movie. It gives us a realistic look a war, showing us the good, the bad and the uneventful, but never coming across as uninteresting. Unappealing? Sure, but always interesting.
Fury is led by a group of excellent performances. Brad Pitt is, well, Brad Pitt. Who doesn't love Brad Pitt? He's good in essentially every movie he's in, even if the film's fairly bland. Shia LaBeouf, putting aside his real life personality issues, has had a good year of films this year, starring in this and both volumes of Nymphomaniac. I've never really been the biggest LaBeouf supporter, but it's hard to deny his quality of performances in the past 10 months. Logan Lerman, who's our lead, gives one of his best performances yet. I don't think it's up there with the quality of his performance in Perks of Being a Wallflower, but it sure does get close. Again, no complains with him. I don't actually have any complains about the performances in this movie.
Jon Bernthal's character in this film is incredibly unlikable, but this wouldn't be the case if it weren't for his superficially brilliant performance. His character is just a complete asshole, rarely ever showing signs of likability. If he were miscast and played by a different actor then the character would still come across as a prune, but it just wouldn't be quite as believable. His dickyness is somewhat enjoyable at times too, pushing the characters beyond their thresholds and into madness.
It's really quite shocking to see the transformations that Logan Lerman's character goes through during this movie. In fact, it isn't just Logan Lerman's character that undergoes change, they all do. Fury is genius when it comes to exploiting the pointlessness of war and the consequences that come with it. It's enough to change people for the rest of their lives. There's a scene towards the start of the movie where Brad Pitt's character forces Logan Lerman's character to kill an enemy soldier, which is something that is against his conscience. This scene is startling to watch, showing just what these soldiers need to do to survive.
When reading/watching the several reviews that I did for this film, the most common complaint was that the film takes an abrupt halt in the middle. While it does take a halt for quite some time, I don't see it as a slow or unnecessary aspect of the overall story. Sure, it takes up a reasonable portion of the film, but it doesn't feel long. It feels like it belongs there and it has a good reason to. It's a moment of character building, as well as a moment where we're allowed to take a breather before we're thrown back into scenes of limb exploding battles.
If this is David Ayer's apology for making the monstrosity that was Sabotage, well, then it's an apology that I'm more than willing to accept. David Ayer not only directed one of the worst films of 2014, but he directed one of the worst films of all time. They're the same film by the way. Fury is a far better film than Sabotage. It does everything better. It's got better performances, a coherent script, good direction, meaningful violence and a lot more. It's got me, like many other superhero fans, more excited for the Suicide Squad movie knowing that it's in good hands. Let's hope it's more of a Fury than it is a Sabotage.
To sum up, Fury may not have the emotional impact of this year's Lone Survivor, but it's certainly a better made movie. The performances are all excellent, creating characters that are believable, and the scenarios these characters get themselves into feel intense, brutal and honest. Fury is just an all round enjoyable flick.
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And so the found footage sub-genre continues. Grave Encounters is "made up of" unused footage from a cancelled ghost-hunters television show titled Grave Encounters, obviously. The team intend on locking themselves into an old, abandoned mental institution where unexplained phenomena has been reported several times over the years. When the doors are locked and the lights turned off, the place begins to appear somewhat different to how they remember it, and most certainly scarier, particularly when the hospital's inhabitants come out to play.
Every so often I come across a film that I go into with incredibly low expectations, but come out of pleasantly surprised. Grave Encounters is one of these films. The film itself isn't the most well made movie out there, but compared to all of the other found footage garbage that we're used to, it's a decent flick. My least favourite film so far in 2014 is found footage, for goodness sake. It shouldn't come as a shock to anyone when I say that I think the found footage craze should stop, but there's only so many times I can say that before my rants come out just as frequent as the film's release dates. Grave Encounters does what it wants to do very well, and for that reason alone, I deem this film worthy of a watch, particularly if you're a fan of the horror genre, although why wouldn't you be? We love to be scared!
The film begins as a sort of parody of the whole found footage genre. It's opening scene points out how, from the point of view of our time, this film can seem really dated and unoriginal, but they sneak there way around this by saying how it was original for its time, and since the footage was made a while ago it now looks dated. It's laughable, but they make it believable. It's one of the few found footage films that actually has a reason for these characters to continue filming, despite the craziness occurring around them. For that, I give them credit.
As an actual documentary, however, it's rubbish. This sounds like an odd critique to make, and it is, but this film takes a really unrealistic approach to documentary filmmaking. I'm not sure what sort of ratings they would've received if their show aired on TV, but I can almost guarantee they wouldn't be good. These characters clearly don't know how to film a documentary, zooming in during interviews and shaking the camera all around, the interviewees never quite seen as clearly as they should be. It was a very distracting aspect of the movie.
Despite a douchey main character, generic dialogue and some over-acting, Grave Encounters is fun. All it's trying to be is frightening, and while that's not the best word to describe this film, it's close enough. This film pulls out enough tricks and surprises, as well as a few decent and unexpected scares that it can make up for its many flaws. This isn't a masterclass horror film, but given what we're given, it's fine.
The plot of this film had me captivated. I would watch anything about paranormal investigators and so I was obviously willing to watch this, despite my already-mentioned low expectations. It's a job that I don't ever want to have, but watching the cases unfold makes for high quality entertainment. This isn't high quality entertainment though, unlike last year's The Conjuring, which also follows the story of paranormal investigators, but whatever really.
The only moments where the found footage feels really unnecessary is the ending. When I make this point, it's in the relevance of this film already found footage. Like I said, they always give the characters a reason to keep filming, but once we get to the film's ending this stops being relevant. It works up until a point, but it's then just happening to show the audience what's happening to our 'beloved' characters. The film also has a few cheap cop outs where someone will drop the camera, but it will slide into just the right position so that we can still see what's happening. Oh found footage, piss off please.
To sum up, Grave Encounters isn't a masterclass horror film, but for what it is it's decent. The characters are given a reason to keep filming, the film has a few surprises up its sleeve and it can also be fairly scary at times. What else do you really want from a movie like this one?
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Please please please ignore all the harsh reactions that this film brought with it. Please. It's a modern horror film you really should see. The Innkeepers follows the story of Claire (Sara Paxton), a young woman working at the reception of a small, practically vacant hotel with her co-worker, Luke (Pat Healy). With the hotel closing down in two days time, the two decide that it's a perfect opportunity to investigate the hotel for a rumoured spirit that's been living there since her death many years ago, unable to leave.
The Innkeepers just may be one of the best recent horror movies that nobody has seen, although I still haven't seen The House of the Devil so I may be wrong. I hadn't heard of this movie until recently, and as it turns out most people haven't even heard of Ti West either, so I'm not alone. Well, I'd heard of Ti West, but you know what I mean. I hope. This film is great, and Ti West has proved himself to be a director worth watching. It's honestly saddening when I come across hidden gems like this one as it's a film that's gone really far under the radar, yet rubbish like Annabelle and Devil's Due receive wide releases. I shouldn't get surprised as I'm pretty much used to it now, but it still tears me apart a little and that's why I need you to watch this film, there'll be nothing left of me if you don't.
The Innkeepers features the scariest on-screen hotel since The Shining. In a lot of ways, this film reminisces The Shining, but at the same time it's the complete opposite. The Innkeepers has its fair share of familiar story tropes, but that doesn't stop it from being very effective, in particular because of its set pieces. This film takes place in an old, condensed and dying hotel, whereas the Overlook Hotel from The Shining is a broad, modern and rather popular piece of architecture. They're both incredibly scary, but for completely different reasons. This hotel feels claustrophobic, rarely showing us scenes set outside, and when they do it's for a very short period of time.
And because I feel like I need to reference yet another famous horror movie, this film takes a Jaws like approach to its scares. They don't appear frequently, but they become more and more common as the film goes on, with the ending giving us everything. It can get incredibly creepy, and Ti West manages to sustain plenty of tension along the way. The first truly scary moment we get is built entirely on suspense and tension, and while there's a few jump scares here and there, these jump scares wouldn't have been nearly as effective if it weren't for the high levels of tension present in the moments beforehand.
Pat Healy is an actor who I've really come around on in recent months. I've never really disliked him, but I just haven't really noticed him in too many films. Lately, however, this has changed. He's popped up in several films and I've enjoyed his presence in all of them. The Innkeepers is no exception. He gives yet another excellent performance in this film, although it's not quite up there against his sensational performance in this year's Cheap Thrills, which is another under the radar film you should seriously check out.
As well as Pat Healy giving a good performance, who only plays a supporting character, Sara Paxton does just as good a job. It took me a while to realise it, but she's also Healy's co-star in Cheap Thrills, although unlike Healy, she gives a much better performance in this. Her performance is spot-on, giving her character the occasional child-like characteristics, but also the much needed maturity. Her character is incredibly eager, and her performance is too.
After gaining an interest in this film, I discovered so many people to describe it as Ti West's slowest film, which is saying something. So I went into this expecting an incredibly slow-burning horror film, but this isn't necessarily the case. It's slow, there's no doubt about that, but the film is always moving forward. It's always finding some way to set something up or to introduce a certain character or piece of information. It sets up these characters and then the haunting begins. Given the plot, this film needed to be slow. it's trying to be realistic and things like this don't just jump out at you right away, they take their time, leading to a conclusion where everything is set free.
To sum up, The Innkeepers is a highly under the radar horror film with excellent performances from both of the two leads, a slow, but necessary pace and some incredibly suspenseful scares. Ti West is a director us horror fans should look out for.
3 1/2 Stars
Now that I've scrubbed off the stench that came with watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, let's review Whiplash! The film follows the story of Andrew (Miles Teller), a nineteen year old drummer with hopes to become one of the greats. After beginning to attend the finest music school in New York, Andrew gets chosen to move up into a higher class. This class is led by Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), a music teacher who gets the best out of people through physical and mental abuse. Andrew puts himself through all the abuse in order to achieve the highest results, but how far is too far?
I have already seen over one hundred 2014 releases, most of which I have reviews up for and a few of which will be coming once #ScaryMovieMonthAtDCM finishes, and so I've obviously seen plenty of great films that were released this year. When I first saw The Rover at Sydney Film Festival I knew that I had just witnessed something great. As it turns out, I was one of the few people to five star the film. At the time it was my favourite film of the year. Almost two months ago I saw Boyhood. It killed me to say it, but I enjoyed it a heck of a lot more than I did The Rover. I really wanted The Rover to be the best film of the year, but when put next to Richard Linklater's twelve year in the making masterpiece it doesn't stand a chance. I've now seen Whiplash, and it's caused The Rover to once again move down a spot on my favourite films of the year list. Sorry.
Whiplash is astonishingly intense. In fact, this film just may be the most intense movie of the year. J.K. Simmons gives what I believe to be the best performance in his entire career. His character is mental, hurtling chairs towards his students so that they're encouraged to perform better, but he's never shown as an entirely evil person. The film takes a moment to stop and show his character as something more than a violent maniac who's hellbent on causing pain in people's lives. It turns out that he does actually have a heart, and this could not have been portrayed quite as well without the help of Simmons' extravagant performance.
Miles Teller never falls behind, giving what is also his greatest performance to date. For the few people who managed to go out and do themselves a favour by watching The Spectacular Now last year, I'm sure you'll be surprised to hear that that's now Miles Teller's second best performance yet. In Whiplash he gives it his all. It's a very demanding role. We watch him turn from a kind spirited young adult, going to the movies with his father and innocently asking one of the employees, Nicole (Melissa Benoist), out on a date, to an insulting and broken person who wants nothing else in life than to be a famous drummer. We're forced to watch as his character plays the drums unlike anyone I've ever seen, playing so hard that his blood gets spilt all over the drum kit. It's a challenging watch, but it's worth it by the time the film comes to a close.
First time director Damien Chazelle has given us just a taste of his talent. This may be Chazelle's first time in the director's chair, but it's not his first forte into screenwriting. He was the talent behind this year's Grand Piano as well as last year's The Last Exorcism Part II, which most would rather forget. I enjoyed Grand Piano a lot. It was very tense and exciting, but I won't discuss that just yet. I'll save it for my review next month. Little did I realise that Chazelle's next film, this, would be even more tense and exciting. This film is off the rails brilliant. It's a film that sticks with you after it's done. As I was sitting in my car on my way home, my heart was still racing and my palms still sweaty.
After a slow, but steady ten minutes, the film comes and sucker punches us with a satisfying, shocking and confronting ending. The film doesn't necessarily die down, but it certainly slows a bit towards the end, which was actually much needed. The film goes from constant excitement and shocks to an easy-going series of scenes, only to start the insanity right back up again with an ending that's filmed incredibly well and will leave you speechless.
To sum up, Whiplash is an astonishingly intense movie led by career best performances from both Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. The film is fast, exciting, shocking and directed immensely well. Plus it manages to slow down for just the right amount of time before picking back up again for an ending that'll leave you speechless.
Honestly, I would watch anything starring Liam Neeson. Even you, Taken 3. A Walk Among The Tombstones follows the story of Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson), an ex-cop who retired after accidentally killing an innocent bystander during a violent shoot out. Now he works as an unlicensed private investigator, doing favours for people who are willing to give something back to him, which is usually just cash. Matt is approached by a man named Kenny (Dan Stevens), who offers him twenty thousand dollars to find the two men who killed his wife and chopped her up into pieces. Matt, reluctant at first, takes up the job, only to discover that this attack isn't over yet.
A Walk Among The Tombstones is a fairly straight forward thriller with very little to offer and very little thrills. Perhaps it's because it's an adaptation of a book that came out over two decades ago, but this film doesn't add anything new to the crime mystery genre. It follows a predictable storyline with a predictable outcome. Although the writing can be decent, the film just isn't anything special. It does have one saving grace though, and that's Liam Neeson. He's really the only thing that makes this film watchable. I've always enjoyed Liam Neeson in films, no matter how idiotic some of his films can get. His performance as Matt Scudder is great, capturing the character's toughness and weaknesses. I'm unfamiliar with the source material, but based off the film he seems like the perfect casting.
The second act drags, but is made up for by the riveting third. After an engaging and occasionally challenging to watch first act, the film takes a halt. It slows down immensely and becomes very convoluted. There's a lot of stuff happening, but nothing that's really noteworthy, nor relevant. It's incredibly boring to watch. Thankfully a certain event happens and the film picks back up again. The film's final half an hour is brutal, intense and gripping to watch, if not completely illogical and over the top. The film never manages to be great, but it somehow frequently manages to be good. Or at least good enough to sit through without wanting to jump off a building, like one character does just as the film begins to get boring. Don't worry, that's not too big a spoiler. The character does little to help elevate the story and you won't guess who it is once they appear on screen.
The film is very dark and gritty, and it's occasionally captured incredibly well. The cinematography in this film can work really well, helping to create the eerie atmosphere of this city. Right from the opening credits I had a suspicion that the cinematography was going to be great, and it definitely is. There's rarely any shaky cam, or at least nothing that's noticeably bad. There's plenty of long, still takes also, making this film appear as if it's actually trying to be an above average crime mystery, despite this not really working out due to its conventional plot.
To sum up, A Walk Among The Tombstones is a fairly straight forward and conventional crime thriller with very little thrills and an incredibly dull second act, but it's dark, gritty, well acted, has a riveting third act and some decent cinematography.
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"Oh my god, this film is on vudu. THIS FILM IS ON VUDU!" These were my first words after discovering that this film was available on vudu, an online movie rental service. Little did I realise that the minute I purchased the film, my wi-fi would begin to slow and slow, occasionally stopping every now and again. Because of this slight technological hiccup, it took me more than three hours to watch this movie. That's the length of Schindler's List! Anyway, The Town That Dreaded Sundown follows the story of Jami (Addison Timlin), a young woman living in Texarkana with her grandmother (Veronica Cartwright). When hanging out with her boyfriend, Corey (Spencer Treat Clark), the two are attacked by a masked man known as The Phantom, a serial killer who hasn't been seen for 65 years. This causes the town to begin to worry about the 65 year old unsolved case, and whether or not the killer is still at large.
Despite taking over three hours to get through, I actually really enjoyed this movie. The first film, which I reviewed earlier this month, was forgotten soon after its release, although this movie points out that in Texarkana this isn't actually the case as they apparently have a screening of it every halloween. Is it true? Who knows, but I don't really know a single person who'd heard of the original film before the trailer for this one was released, myself included. It went under the radar, which really shouldn't have happened. If Friday the 13th got ten or so sequels then it's about time that The Town That Dreaded Sundown got one. And yes, this film is a sequel. Don't listen to anyone who calls this film a reboot or a remake, or something along those lines. It's a sequel. It's like the 22 Jump Street of horror sequels. It acknowledges the existence of the original, more so than 22 Jump Street did, and it uses this to its advantage. The characters in this movie know the film exists and they use it to study the moves of the killer, which is actually quite an intelligent move on the writer's behalf.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a shockingly and surprisingly violent movie with plenty of suspense to go with it. The film can actually get quite violent, most of this violence being completely unexpected and detailed with gore. A scene where The Phantom terrorises a young woman in a hotel room escalates very quickly, going so far as to show a close up of her broken leg after she jumps from a window. The Phantom brings with him a much darker tone this time around, exceeding the levels of gore, sex and maturity of the original. The humour is gone, thankfully, and the scares are brought in. He appears at the most unexpected of times and doesn't leave until we've practically hit the edge of our seats. This film still won't bring The Phantom all the recognition that he deserves, but it's certainly a start.
The ending is rather complex to discuss spoiler-free, but I'm going to anyway. The film ends on a very suspenseful and threatening note. It's both predictable and unpredictable, but I can't really elaborate on that too much without delving into spoilers. Hey, at least this film had an ending, unlike the original. In fact, this film actually had a specific narrative it was following. And it had continuity. And it had a protagonist. And it had realistic scenarios. This film's second act drags on occasion, but that's it. Wow, it's not until you get a better version of something that you realise how mediocre the last one was. Wait, that's not right, is it?
To sum up, The Town That Dreaded Sundown may have taken me over three hours to get through, but it's a suspenseful, shockingly violent, 22 Jump Street-like sequel to a horror film that didn't quite get the recognition that it deserves.
3 1/2 Stars
Thank you Australia, thank you. Son of a Gun follows the story of JR (Brenton Thwaites), a young Australian man locked up in prison for a small crime. When attempting to save his cell mate from being raped, JR meets Brendan (Ewan McGregor), a bank robber who offers him a chance to make a living once he's released from prison. We then cut six months ahead to JR's release, and so their plan begins, beginning with the jail break. A violent jail break at that. However, this is just the gateway into JR's life of crime as they, along with a crew of fellow criminals, attempt to rob six bars of gold.
Son of a Gun is a brutal and effective directorial debut from Julius Avery. Incase I haven't said it enough times, I love Australian films. I will give any Aussie film a go, no matter how terrible or derivative it looks. Son of a Gun is brilliant, thankfully. I have no idea how it's going to sit with audiences once it gets a wider release (if ever), as I presumed everybody would be all over The Rover (my second favourite film so far this year) and I was way off with that guess. Son of a Gun is dark, violent and full of humour. The amount of humour is really this film's most surprising aspect. The film can be darkly comedic, featuring not only a few moments that had me laughing out loud, despite their dark nature, but also some of the dialogue and banter between the characters. There's a scene towards the end that starts out serious, but thanks to the editing and the screenplay it somehow turns into a highly comedic scene.
While the film would still be entertaining without him, Ewan McGregor holds this film together. He is the core of this film, allowing it to flow fluently and full of pace. He's this film's strongest suit. His character is violent and unpredictable, but all while maintaining a sort of trusting appeal. Without him this film wouldn't have held together quite as well. It wouldn't have been a disaster, but I doubt I'd enjoy it as much without him. Brenton Thwaites, the main actor, hasn't had the greatest run this year, although I still haven't got around to seeing Oculus. His performance in this film is fine. It's not perfect, but it's good enough to create thrills, suspense and some serious action.
Now that I've mentioned the action, these scenes can be a lot of fun. The actual robbery itself is full of energy and adrenaline, feating in an action sequence that's one of the film's highlights. Again, this sequence also manages to incorporate a bit of humour here and there, particularly with the monkey mask. The action is never forced, prolonged or unnecessary, it's also there for as long as it needs to. The film isn't an action film, in case I was giving that impression. There are actually only a few moments of actual action in the entire film, but when they happen the payoff is incredible.
Son of a Gun doesn't get any credibility for originality. The plot is fairly conventional and by the numbers, and any real shocks don't come as that big a shock. For example, think up your favourite prison movie. Now, think up your favourite crime thriller (not in a Goodfellas sort of way, though. If that makes sense?). Son of a Gun is a morph of these two films. The opening prison sequences are brutal and full of atmosphere. They're humourless, but they're intense. The film then changes tones a little bit, making it seem like a completely different film. Overall it's still good. It's unoriginal, but it's handled well.
To sum up, Son of a Gun won't get any credibility for being original, but it's still a brilliant, brutal, intense, violent, entertaining, well acted (especially by Ewan McGregor), and effective directorial debut from Julius Avery.