Review – Jigsaw

I think I have real issues with loving myself sometimes. That’s the only explanation I could come up with for why I voluntarily decided to watch Jigsaw the other day.

After working my way through the entire Saw franchise a couple of years ago, I kind of figured one more film wouldn’t do any harm. It certainly couldn’t be any worse than the collection’s sixth instalment, which it wasn’t. But this is a Saw sequel, so whilst I was hopeful that Jigsaw would be watchable, I was never going to allow my expectations to get too high.

This film takes place about 10 years after the serial killer known as Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) died. With no sign of any of the apprentices he nurtured within the first seven films, everyone must ask themselves who could possibly be behind the mutilated bodies that have started turning up on the streets again. With this in mind, it is dead safe to say that the writers behind Jigsaw stuck to what they knew. The entire film can be summed up as follows:

1. A human body wildly appears, absolutely battered.

2. Comparisons are made between this body and those thrown up by the Jigsaw murders.

3. BUT JIGSAW’S DEAD? (This or words to that effect are uttered by someone).

4. It’s clearly Person X – they’ve always had an unhealthy interest in the case.

5. Person Y, who was never suspected, “Surprise, bitches! It was me all along.” (Cue backstory that’s not nearly as clever as it thinks it is).

I’ve to be honest, the above was a formula that was wearing thin long before this instalment. With this film though, it was starting to feel almost like a spoof of all the films that came before it. However, that may be why Jigsaw was at least a serviceable watch.

Everything about it kind of paid homage to (or poked fun at, depends what side of the fence you’re on) all the films that came before it. We had the same set of characters as we had time and time again throughout the first seven films – intelligent ones, stupid ones, selfish ones, good cops, bad cops, and that one character who is way too obsessed with the murders. The fact that we got a new set of faces fulfilling these roles once again emphasised this idea that no one seems overly keen to stray too far from the beaten path with this franchise, even if this tried and heavily tested method could do with a refresh. There’s also the backstory of how one person got recruited by Jigsaw, presumably only included so that there was an excuse to get Tobin Bell back with the ol’ moneymaker time and time again.

Jigsaw is a lot more self-aware than any of it’s predecessors however. It’s not scared to have little digs at the tropes that have made the franchise feel so tiresome in all the years it’s been running. This is something that makes it slightly less painful to watch whilst sober at least. If only the creative team had exercised this quality with the same gay abandon they seemed to wield when coming up with the traps, which were as ridiculous as we’re used to.

By now, I’m sure you’ll understand that this is far from a perfect film (gasp!). Of course, that’s not to say that the team behind it weren’t hopeful that the franchise may continue further following this film. What I’m raging about here though is the way that it looks like they – whoever THEY are – are going to do this. You’ll remember me saying Jigsaw seemed slightly self-aware. This was something that only lasted up to a point. At the end of the film, they of course pulled some twisty shit and pretty much used it as the facilitator for the cheapest, laziest reboot of a franchise that I’ve ever known. Saw died a death long ago. NOBODY needs a Marvel-style phase two to start now. And even if they do… even if someone, somewhere is desperate for more Saw in their life, it could’ve been set up so much better than this.

Anyway…

That’s my take on Jigsaw. It’s fair to say that I’m not quite fully acquainted with all of the feelings I had about it just yet. There’s definitely a sprinkling of hopelessness and a dash of anger there. Perhaps even some disappointment in myself for not knowing better. Whilst not the worst in the franchise, it is unnecessary and without a single hint of a doubt a sluggish cash grab that we will all continue to fall for on more occasions than we have already. The only saving grace here is the fact that it does seem to muster some self-deprecating humour, although not nearly enough to make up for the multitude of other sins it commits. And to think that another film has just been given the green light at the time I write this review. Will it ever end?

Review – The Crazies (2010)

Slowly but surely, I’m finding myself becoming more pleasantly acquainted with horror.

I stuck The Crazies on the other night when I thought I was too tired to finish a whole film, and figuring I probably wouldn’t like it, it wouldn’t matter if I fell asleep at various points throughout.

HOWEVER –

I can report that I was surprised by how much I thoroughly enjoyed the 2010 remake of George Romero’s 1972 horror. The tale of a small town afflicted by a man-made virus after it leaks into the water supply was actually very thrilling, and I ended up having no problem staying awake for the duration.

Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell head up the cast here as a husband and wife at the heart of the community the film focuses on. I quite liked their characters and the performances they gave us as they played them, although if I’m honest there was nothing overly spectacular about either of them. Olyphant is your typical small town sheriff as David Dutton. There was a real air of bravery around him and you got a very real sense that he would sacrifice himself for the good of the town if needs be. Mitchell as his wife Judy was pretty decent too. It was a bit annoying that she did a fair bit of screaming throughout the film, but as far as many of the women I’ve seen in horror go she wasn’t all that bad. At least she had sense enough to arm herself before hiding and so forth.

This is actually where many of the strengths of this film lay for me. The characters were not morons. Neither were the supporting characters, I might add. Characters with a few brain cells to rub together is probably the main thing that the horror films that I’ve enjoyed of late have in common. I was able to care about these people without feeling like it was being hopelessly squandered. To be able to have faith in something is a wonderful thing, but to be able to have faith in horror protagonists is even better.

Something else that lifted The Crazies for me was the lengthy and highly intense scenes that occurred on a few occasions throughout the film. The first one that comes memory involves a bone saw. The way it was filmed had me feeling personally attacked. The majority of it was shot from David’s point of view, which meant you got to experience it all first hand. I was squirming around in my seat, trying to dodge blows that were clearly never going to hit me. I liked that the film managed to achieve this, as so often I don’t feel horror films are invasive enough. The fact that it also managed to do it consistently too is also a plus point, and was absolutely one of the things that kept me watching.

So there you have it – yet another horror film that I’ve taken a liking to of late. At this rate, I’ll have done a complete U-turn on the genre by the end of the month and will be praying that Halloween becomes a year-long event. This one just floated my boat. Was it fairly simplistic? Yes, but it did everything it needed to in order for me to really get into the spirit of things. I completely thrived off the very real threat that existed at various points throughout the film, and I always find it a major turn-on when the main characters aren’t brain dead too. The Crazies is by no means a perfect film – quite a few aspects are pretty average at best, but it gets away with it because it’s strengths are able to pull the rest of it up. If you find yourself at a loose end one night, give it a spin – you could certainly do worse!

Review – A Quiet Place

It’s very easy to underestimate the power of sound.

In a lot of good films where it is used well, noises and music can become almost like an extra character. The people behind A Quiet Place knew this, and decided to go one step further by making sound the focus of the entire film.

Let me tell you, it worked. I mean, it really worked, very well indeed.

The film takes place in, presumably, the not-too-distant future, and depicts a world that we quickly find out has been overrun by monsters that hunt their prey via sound (and which we get to see plenty of throughout the film which made a massive change for once). In order to stay alive, all living things have to make as little noise as possible, as once these creatures find you, they generally don’t leave until they’ve killed you.

A Quiet Place sets the scene in a way similar to 28 Days Later. You’re introduced to a world that has been almost entirely abandoned by everyone. Straightaway you know that something major has happened, but exactly what that is only begins to be revealed a few moments later. In one fast, and very early, change of pace, the film shows that it isn’t messing about. I was surprised because I didn’t think it would deliver on what it was dangling in front of me. I was wrong. It was a horrifically intense start to a film, and I loved it.

In terms of intensity, the film starts just as it intends to go on. I don’t think it’s entirely inaccurate to say that I lost the ability to breathe properly for the duration of the film. I’ve seen many a film and TV show that has mastered building tension in numerous scenes, but I honestly cannot say that I have been as on edge for a whole 90 minutes as I was watching this. And this is all because of sound. If we tallied it up, I reckon there was only about five minutes worth of dialogue in the whole film. The rest of it was noise and music, both of which were ALWAYS put to their best use to achieve the effects intended by director John Krasinski, who also starred in the film.

The main performances in the film allow you to really jump onboard with the high stakes that even the moments of less tension point towards. A massive battle for survival is endured by everyone, and after you see the extremes that this family has gone to in order to survive, you are completely behind them in everything they do. Emily Blunt is a talent no matter where you put her, and obviously things are no different here. Her character Evelyn has a few different layers that are added to as the film progresses, and she does a fantastic job of showing a woman who is trying her best to survive, but also a mother who would do whatever it takes in order to protect her children. Krasinski provides us with a performance that portrays similar objectives, but of course we see a more paternal approach from him in terms of this. We know that both these actors are good at what they do as we’ve had the chance to see their work on multiple occasions, however the two younger stars of this film, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe, are simply wonderful, and I think both have their moments where they do, in fact, outshine their on-screen parents. There’s an overwhelming sense of maturity displayed in both of their performances, and this whole idea that the circumstances under which they are living has robbed them of their childhood is another reason why you want them to beat the odds. Both are smart and know what they need to do so that they don’t get killed – there’s no whining despite the constant fear that they both inevitably have. They just get on with it, which is more than can be said for a lot of the characters that have appeared in every other horror/thriller type film that I’ve seen.

I think another key thing to point out in relation to the performances is the use of sign language within them. It just brings another dimension to the film where you have to give people credit for what they’ve done. As well as this, it massively boosts the accessibility of the film too. Recently there’s been a lot of talk deafness and cinema following the success of short film, The Silent Child, and this film shows that sign language can be a massive part of film and be successful, and that a film doesn’t necessarily have to be about deafness in order to contain sign language. As film, this has a lot to shout about, but in terms of creating cinematic experiences for all, it has broken down barriers and shown that it is possible to create great films that everybody can watch.

It’s important to point out the all-consuming nature of A Quiet Place. I’ve never known a film like it if I’m completely honest (granted, I’m not that old, so it’s not the most impressive statement, but just go with it for a second). I saw this film with decent sized audience, and because I booked quite late, I had been forced to take a seat in the centre of the auditorium. Now, if I had have had my usual seat (back and centre, widely regarded to be one of the best seats in the house), I wouldn’t have been as aware of the people around me, which would’ve meant that I wouldn’t have experienced the atmosphere that that auditorium held for more or less the entirety of the film. It was almost as if we were all in sync. We’d all jump together. We’d all hold our breath together. Most notably, however, everybody was as silent as they could be for the whole time. The film had us all in such a vice-like grip that none of us felt able to make a sound either, much like the characters in the film. The writing and the ways and means by which it translated onto the screen have produced something that is a phenomenal example of how a film can move mass groups of people, and restores my faith in the fact that people will go out of their way to watch good films that don’t necessarily fit into the mainstream.

A Quiet Place is a fantastic film, and I really do think it’s going to be one of the most talked about this year. It confirms how important sound is in film, and also offers a masterclass in building suspense, keeping you on edge throughout. The characters are the kinds of people that you can actually vouch for, and as a result you are even more invested in a film that has already refused to loosen it’s grip on you. I love the fact that we get to see plenty of the monsters that are the cause of everything (unlike a recent monster movie sequel we’ve had unleashed upon us), but the fact that sign language plays such a key part in the film too is something that I think will create something of a legacy as I can’t think of another film that has featured signing so heavily that hasn’t been Oscar-bait nor has featured deafness as main part of the story.

Review – mother!


A couple’s blissful existence is disrupted when two strangers come to stay at their home.
I think that’s as far as I’m going to go with my synopsis of mother!. I feel as though if I go on to describe what happened in any more depth than that I may spoil it for people, and that is the last thing want to do, believe me. It’s a funny old film this – I left the cinema not having much idea of what I had just been subjected to for the past two hours, but after thinking long and hard about the film for the rest of the afternoon, I think I finally got it.

Neither of the two main performances here were what I’d expected. I watched the film because Javier Bardem was in it, and I’m a huge fan of his work. For some reason, I had thought he was going to be bit of a villain, but he wasn’t. Saying that, however, I wouldn’t have said he was exactly a good guy either. When you begin to understand the symbolism in the film, I think that this kind of portrayal of Bardem’s character was the best way to play it, because we do question whether or not the figure who he is possibly playing in the film is actually good. I’ve now just realised that a lot of what I say in this review is probably not actually going to make sense (if anything I say in any of my reviews ever does). Jennifer Lawrence also played a character that we generally wouldn’t have her down for. Lawrence has become known for playing strong female leads. In this, she was very meek for the most part, but gradually she got back to her usual self until in the end, she decided she’d had enough and destroyed everything. Both were good performances, but I’m not convinced they were my favourites from either actor.

On the surface, this entire film looks like a complete mess, I’m not going to deny that. As I said, I didn’t know what to think for a good while after the film. However, once you accept that everything in the film is symbolic (I think, anyway), you can hopefully start to make sense of it. I’m not going to go into every little detail, but if I say that Bardem’s character is supposed to be a metaphor for God you’ll hopefully begin to see what the whole thing is getting at, or at least what I thought it was getting at. The film is swimming in religious connotations, and maybe because of this it comes across as pretentious. But when you think about it, religion itself also tends to be that way inclined, so I think it is one of those rare occasions where a film’s own pretentiousness has worked for it.

In all fairness, I think mother! was sold short by the trailers – it’s not the film trailers make it out to be. It also was not as horrific as I had expected, although, granted, something does get eaten in the film that will mean you’ll never view baby back ribs in the same way again. There were definitely horror elements, but I think to pin this one down solely as a horror film doesn’t work.

Overall, mother! is a very strange film that will most likely mean nothing to anyone who takes what they watch at face value. As a result, this probably isn’t one for everybody, especially casual cinema goers. However, if you have patience and are willing to think about what everything actually means and represents after watching the film, you might find that you like it quite a lot. I for one was certainly not sure how to feel about spending £11 on seeing this film for the first couple or three hours after seeing it, but after a while, things clicked into place and I’ve now come to the conclusion that it was actually very impressive. Of course, that’s not to say that if you do get it, you’ll love it, but it definitely helped me to appreciate it on a whole other level.
If you’ve seen mother!, let me know what you thought – I think it’s a film that’s going to start some interesting conversations, and I really would love to hear what your impression was.

Review – It (2017)


A group of bullied school kids spend their summer investigating the disappearances of a series of local children.In October 1988, Ben’s (Jaeden Lieberher) littler brother went missing, and was never found. The following summer, a number of other kids start to go missing, and Ben is not able to ignore It (Bill Skarsgård) . He and his friends (all played by some cracking performers) join together to see what’s been going on, only It has his eyes on them first.

What. A. Film. I am a very happy person right now. It was brilliant! I’m finally able to say that I like horror films when they’re done right, and this thing didn’t put a foot wrong. I would honestly have not problem paying to see the film again this week.

The kids in this film were all brilliant. I loved all the characters, and the way each actor captured their own was really great to see. There was none of that cheesy, over-egged acting that can sometimes happen with younger performers, and that had been one of my main concerns after deciding to see the film. They each really understood the eccentricities and oddities of their roles, for example, Jaeden Lieberher nailed Ben’s stutter, and Finn Wolfhard got Richie’s ballsiness down to a T. I was also a huge fan of Sophia Lillis as Beverly. She fitted right in with the lads and wasn’t afraid to be different, and I really liked that. There was, of course, Bill Skarsgård’s performance as Pennywise too. He was excellent, getting the two elements of his character just right – the childlike side of him was hugely contrasted by the less friendlier moments, and both complimented each other really, really well. 

As I said at the start, this is a film that I’d happily pay to see again at the cinema. I think the atmosphere helped me to get into the film, but the other thing that worked well was the fact that I thought that It was actually scary. There’s a lot of shockers that happen – I’ve not read the book and I avoided trailers like the plague so had no idea what to expect. People who’ve been reading my stuff for a while will know I’m a jumper, and this film well and truly got me… many times. As always, it was a mix of the moments Stevie Wonder could see coming and those that were not as expected that had me on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It was very effective at building tension, but also at counteracting it with some massive anticlimaxes that persuaded you to let your guard down for a second. 

Alongside the horror though, there was plenty of humour, but not in the way that turned it into a comedy horror (I’d have felt quite let down had that have been the case). It was a style of humour that I can’t put a word to to describe, but I can say that it properly fitted the coming-of-age nature of the story and cast. Again, it helped to break the tension at points so you got a nice change in pace and it kept the film feeling fresh.

On the whole, I can’t recommend It enough. This is a film that has given be greater confidence in horrors, and has me very excited for a sequel that we better get sooner rather than later. I loved the characters, and thought the overall style of the film was spot on. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say this could be the best film I’ve seen so far this year, which is saying something.

Review – You’re Next


A family reunion is violently disrupted when a group of masked hooligans gate crash anniversary celebrations.
When the Davison family got together for their parents’ 35th wedding anniversary, they knew some sort of drama would be on the cards. After all, what family reunions aren’t without a little… excitement? However, during dinner, a group of masked killers descend upon the house, and one by one they set about picking off each and every member of the Davison clan. Well, almost all of them.

You’re Next is one of those films that hadn’t really appealed to me until recently. By now, you guys will know that I’m not exactly a horror fanatic, and because this is billed by a lot of people to be a bit like that, I hadn’t been in a hurry to watch it after being majorly let down by roughly 90% of the horror films I’ve seen. However, in the last few months or so I’ve heard a few people really rave about this film, and seeing as it was on Netflix at the minute, I decided to watch it. I am very pleased I’ve seen it now, because it was really good. Packed full of action and a wonderful heroine, plus something that actually resembled a plot, it was a very pleasant surprise!

Sharni Vinson played the hero of this story. Erin was everything I want all horror characters to be from now on. She was intelligent; she stayed calm when everyone around her was losing their heads, and she could put up a bloody good fight. Words can’t describe how happy I was to find that I was finally watching a film such as this where the lead had a brain.

Inevitably, there were more idiotic characters to be found here, but they helped to highlight how this film got things right. It took the characters who had straw where their brains should have been and killed them off first. This was a film with horror elements that got the idea of natural selection spot on. Charles Darwin would honestly be so proud of the film makers here, as am I!

There was so much creativity used in this film too. I’ve discovered so many different ways in which I can now arm myself in the event of a home invasion in my own house, and some of them were hugely ingenious. I mean, I’d never seen someone get their head blended before seeing this, but now I have, and I must say my eyes have been opened. The various different ways people got killed or injured in the film meant the action could be stretched out across more or less the whole film, and this made for a packed 90 minutes. It was absolutely brilliant!

However, I wouldn’t say that this has ignited a love for horror films with me. I personally wouldn’t class this as a horror film. There were elements, I am not disputing that, but this was definitely more of a thriller than anything else. The only reason I would say this got handed some horror status was because of the amount of blood that was spilled in it, which is fine, but for me I need to more than that before I can start throwing the H word around. Still, that shouldn’t take away from how good this film was. I was probably just being nit-picky.

I would definitely recommend You’re Next if you hadn’t already gathered that much. This is basically what The Purge tried to be but ended up failing miserably as. There are so many plus points for this film, and I could go on for hours more about the finer details. The bottom line it this was a fun, action-packed violent thriller with a brilliant lead character who shames so many others who came before her. I absolutely loved it!

Review – Charismata


The film is about a female detective following a Satanic cult murder case. As she begins to uncover more bodies and more details, she starts to become obsessed with the darkness of the case and the possibility that the potential suspect is trying to victimise her. As she, and those around her, begin to question her sanity, it’s clear there is more to lose than just her life.So, Charismata. This is a film that I think shows there is a lot of potential for the people involved to go onto bigger things, especially writers and directors Andy Collier and Tor Mian. However, I do think there are little tweaks that need to be made, as there were a few things that I struggled with whilst I was watching the film.

One of the biggest problems I had was with the characters. I simply didn’t like them. There were no obvious redeeming characteristics for me to cling onto with them, and personally this is something I need to really be able to get behind the story and the film. For example, the character of Rebecca Farraway had such a huge chip on her shoulder. She was too stubborn for her own good. I like strong female characters and am all for more of them being written, but she didn’t know when to ask for help and this led to a lot of unnecessary hardship coming her way. The same thing kind of goes for the Eli Smith character, as well as many of the other men. There was a lot of male bravado floating around, and it was hard to get past this. I think had the more negative qualities possessed by these characters been toned down a bit and accompanied by a bit more humility, it may have been a different story.

That being said, I quite liked much of the rest of the film. The storyline had Se7en vibes, but didn’t feel like a rip-off of the film. It took the idea and put it’s own twist on it, and I liked that because with a film as great as Se7en, the temptation would be to copy it, but here it seemed to inspire something different altogether. Of course, the filmmakers themselves may not have been influenced by it at all. Either way, the story was a winner for me. It needs polishing a bit just to take it to the next level, but what the writers did with it was not a bad idea. I also liked the psychological element of the film, and liked how big a part it had. What I thought worked so well here was that it felt fairly realistic that Rebecca was having all the hallucinations that she was because of the line of work she was in. It was believable and this made it easy to watch and go along with.

Overall, Charismata was a decent psychological horror film. It needs a bit of work doing to it, mainly where the characters are concerned so that you can find yourself being a bit more supportive of them, but generally it is not a bad effort at all. The storyline worked very well in it’s favour, and it’s psychological themes were also effective. I don’t know if I’d watch the film again, but I certainly don’t regret seeing it.