Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (Film) Review

jessicatitle

Not much preamble this time around – just a whole lot of paranoia in a super-seventies setting. Hurrah!

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971)

IMDB Synopsis

A recently institutionalized woman has bizarre experiences after moving into a supposedly haunted country farmhouse and fears she may be losing her sanity once again.

My Review

Jess (Zohra Lampert) is elated to be out of the institute she’s been residing in. If she’s haunted by her time there, it doesn’t show, at least not initially. She seems very optimistic, even child-like in her excitement to be ‘free’.

She’s on the road with her husband Duncan (Barton Heyman) and his hippy friend Woody who’s along for the ride for some inexplicable reason. The couple (and their third wheel) are driving in a hearse toward their new life in remote Connecticut.

Which, horror fans, could never go wrong. FYI Jess is still seeing things, in the form of a young blonde woman trying to get her attention but to save face, she’s keeping that to herself for now.

When they arrive in their new town, they’re bemused to find a not-very warm welcome awaiting them. The pretty much all male community are openly hostile, guess they just don’t like out-of-towners. Our rag tag trio laugh it off, even when the ferryman to their tiny island mumbles something ominous under his breath. (Seriously, have these people not heard of red flags?).

Things get freakier when they arrive at the house and Jessica sees a strange woman on the porch. She thinks she’s losing her shit again but it soon transpires that the others can see her too and when they chase her down, she reveals herself to be Emily (Mariclare Costello), a drifter who’s been squatting in the house while it’s been empty. Liberties.

Lets-Scare-Jessica-To-Death-1971-00-02-14
Riding in hearses with boys

Jess sees something of a kindred spirit in Emily and invites her to stay the night. DON’T DOOOOOO ITTTT! Sensing that Woody is into her, Jess then persuades Duncan to let her stay indefinitely. HONESTLY, DON’T! I would say for a woman who has previously been treated for her fear and paranoia of literally everything, Jess is very trusting and non-suspicious. I think this makes me love her but also want to stab anyone who wrongs her – and strange girls in remote locations seldom turn out to be baggage free, not in the movies, just saying.

Anywhoo, the gang become quite tight and all is well and good for a while, until Jess is grabbed from below the water by what looks like a dead lady during a swim. She understandably freaks de fuq out but nobody believes her and this irritates me. I mean, I get it but at least try and be kind guys, could you?

Duncan and Jess decide to sell some of the antiques in the house to a local dealer. The dealer is a little friendlier than the others and tells the couple a horrifying story about a girl who drowned in the lake behind their house just before her wedding day in the 1800s. Rumour has it the body was never found and that she roams the island as a vampire (sure). Duncan gets shirty about this, fearing it will freak out his wife but she tells him his constant worrying is the thing making her ill. You go, Jessie.

Meanwhile, Jess can sense the sexy tension between her husband and Emily – and she does not like it one bit. It comes to a head when she goes grave rubbing (exactly what it says on the tin), sees the blonde girl again and is lead by her to a rather macabre scene. Her so-called friends do not believe her about the body she’s just uncovered (yeah, the macabre scene is the body of the antiques dealer) but they do see the girl. So at least there’s that. The girl runs off when she sees Emily… hmm.

MV5BYzhhN2I4ODYtNzYyNS00YzQ0LThkODAtOTVmZmQ1ZWQ2ODYyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzU4ODM5Nw@@._V1_
Jess was not a Free Hugs kind of gal

Later Duncan suggests that Jess goes back to the city (AKA hospital) and she makes him sleep on the couch. GOOD. While here Duncan does something he will live to regret and I don’t care anymore. If you’ve seen one douchey husband in film, you’ve pretty much seen them all.

Anyway, lots of awful things happen from hereon-in. Jess is made to feel like she’s a liability and she finally puts two and two together about her new frenemy, Emily (even though we’ve arrived here ourselves already) – and it all goes to Hell, quite literally. The fact Jess is a supposed nut-job goes against her so hard at the end.

As usual though this is a lesson in stranger danger. The mental health element could be worse but is still clunky and annoying. I find Duncan quite quick to disbelieve his wife who is a joyous person. In my version of this film Jess would get sick of the bland men and start a new life with super-vixen Emily while the townsmen do their evil bidding instead. Now that would be a GREAT film.

MV5BNzliYzMwMGEtMDdlNi00ZTk1LWE5ZmItOWNmMTE4ZDU0MjEwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzU4ODM5Nw@@._V1_
Who run this island?

My Thoughts

I won’t pretend that this is the scariest movie of all time, or even the most dynamic. However, it is atmospheric and builds up the feeling of paranoia well. Most of the characters are the worst (not you, Jess) so I don’t really care about their outcome. It bothers me that a mouse gets elaborately murdered halfway through the film (I had to cover my gerbils’ eyes). Otherwise, there’s a nice 70’s sheen to this movie.

Fin.

My Rating

3/5. Eery.

What did my love think of this one? Would she bite in the neck and turn it into something inhuman or take it for a ride in her hearse? Find out here.

A Dark Song (Film) Review

maxresdefault

Halloween Month continues with a film that was recommended to me by a Facebook buddy mere hours before Jill suggested it. I love getting recommendations and this one, well – did it live up to the glowing review it received?

Read on, my friends and I’ll let you know.

*Beware Spoilers*

A Dark Song (2016)

IMDB Synopsis

A determined young woman and a damaged occultist risk their lives and souls to perform a dangerous ritual that will grant them what they want.

A_DARK_SONG_QUAD_V0a-2

My Review

Sophia (Catherine Walker) is looking for the perfect house. For what we’re not sure yet, to live in harmoniously with her family one would assume. And yet, she’s viewing a remote house in rural Wales alone. Hmm.

When she hands the estate agent a massive wad of cash to rent it for several months, you know there’s more to the story than meets the eye – and we should hope so too, this is what we came for.

With the ideal location scouted, Sophia heads to a motorway service station to meet someone. That someone is Joseph Soloman (Steve Oram) a charmless man with what turns out to be a very particular set of skills. Skills Sophia is willing to pay handsomely for.

Joseph is an occultist you see, and even though he definitely wasn’t Sophia’s first choice, he seems to be about the only one willing to help. Sort of. The ritual Sophia wants to partake in is a Kabbalistic grimoire which lasts months and if done right, will result in the appearance of her guardian angel. Who will grant her her heart’s desire.

Joseph is a blunt man and when Sophia tells him she’s doing this all for love, he bolts. Her explanation is that she loves someone and they don’t love her anymore. Just as he’s about to leave forever and blow the whole deal, Sophia tells him the truth: that her son died and she wants to speak to him one last time.

He agrees to come back to the house if she continues to tell the truth and she agrees. She also offers to pay him £80k for his troubles. On their first night at the house, the two of them chat but it’s not a fluffy, getting to know you kind of affair – Joseph is going to be a hardarse if they’re to get true results. We also learnt that Mr Soloman has a drink and drug dependency and he has to go through a brief DT before they begin.

The rules here are: Sophia has to do everything Joseph says, cook and clean – and have ritual sex with him when required. Again, Sophia agrees to all but she’s an argumentative soul and on the first day, after the house is sealed in its circle of salt, she questions his methods and he gets shirty.

a-dark-song-movie1
Sophia’s IKEA candle obsession was out of control

She relents and they begin, with Joseph explaining each step as they go. Some of these rituals look agonising: for instance there’s a lot of fasting and sitting crossed legged on the floor of rooms for days on end without water, loo breaks or Twitter.

But Sophia keeps on carrying on, even when she has to drink blood. She is also required to speak in French and German and learn to hand write some of the sacred symbols – though the one thing she refuses to bend on is the forgiveness part. When Joseph asks her to find forgiveness in her heart, she is cagey and refuses, asking him to work around it.

We soon encounter some frustration from both camps; Sophia because she’s not seeing enough results and Joseph because he doesn’t fully believe her motivation. During an argument Sophia lets the truth out: she’s after revenge after her son was murdered by teenage Satanists who were never caught by the law. This doesn’t put Joseph off but it does piss him off, all he wants is the truth and for this to work – the deal is, when Sophia gets her one wish, he will too.

5507a9df8706cb05d51cc02b517b68a7880dcad4
Wax on, wax off

There’s a really icky scene in which Joseph cashes in his sex chip with Sophia, though they don’t fully get it on. He tricks her for his own end and we can only assume it’s because he’s a bit of a dick and wants revenge.

Just as Sophia is beginning to give up hope and is thinking of breaking the circle (something Joseph warns her never to do or they’ll be stuck there forever), small things start to happen. Sophia gets to talk to her son, though now we know this is not her final wish. But Sophia is wiser than she seems and refuses to open the door to the voice, which turns out to be something altogether different to her lovely dead son.

Something terrible happens in the house soon after and the bond between occultist and assistant (?) actually strengthens, though their lives are soon to be changed forever. Will Sophia summon her angel or be dragged down to Hell by something far darker? Will she get her wish – and for that matter, will Joseph?

I’m afraid it’s up to you to find the answers for yourself.

My Thoughts

Wow. This movie is stunning looking from the off. The setting is gorgeous as is the house itself – and all that landscape, you can’t deny that Wales is a beautiful country. But we’re not here for the greenery, are we?

I loved this film. Even though both characters at times aren’t all that pleasant, there is something pleasing about their dynamic. Joseph is hard but he has his reasons, while Sophia seems reluctant to give in fully to her own base urges. I’m sad for them both.

It’s also deeply satisfying to not have a romantic sub-plot to worry about. The ‘sex-scene’ is horribly uncomfortable but not gratuitous (or it is but not when you consider the motivations of Joseph’s character) and at least he has the decency to seem utterly ashamed of himself. (Not saying it’s cool).

Both central performances are great and when things get a little more supernatural, I’m still with them. There’s a surreality to what happens, obviously, and it could jar against the crumbling beauty of the rest of the film but I think it works okay.

This is one of the best horror/thrillers I’ve seen this season anyway and I recommend it to anyone who loves the genre. Makes you think too.

a-dark-song
Glitter got EVERYWHERE after festival season

My Rating

5/5. Eery and sad. 

What did Wifey think? Would she summon it from the afterlife or leave it on its own in the middle of nowhere? Find out here.

Ps. Thanks for the tip-off April!

Cult of Chucky (Film) Review

cult_of_chucky_4

I feel like this week’s choice is definitely an authentic nod to the sort of crappy films we enjoy, and one of the reasons Jill and I started the collab in the first place. Sure, quality has undulated over the years but there have been times we’ve cursed ourselves by not going harder on films you can tear apart.

This is definitely one of them – and yet, I love them with all my heart. Ever since Bride of Chucky introduced Jennifer Tilly as Chucky’s love interest, Tiffany I’ve been in. This comedy/horror sequel seemed to take itself even less seriously that the first handful of Child’s Play films and got all the better for it (imho).

Bride had the terrible twosome channel Sid & Nancy and although Chucky didn’t always appreciate his lady, we bloody did. Seed of Chucky followed and a sympathetic yet creepy child was born of their love and the quality of the films shifted again (down, down, down). Curse I can’t really remember honestly, other than it was clunkily meta.

Cult of Chucky (Child’s Play 7) strips it back a little (but not much) and places Nica of Curse in a medium security institution, where she is still trying to live with the guilt of killing literally everyone she came in contact with in the last instalment.

Except, did she? She’s been lead to believe a certain killer ginger is all in her head and a manifestation of a severe mental disorder but we all know different, right?

*Spoilers*

Cult of Chucky (2017)

IMDB Synopsis

Chucky returns to terrorize his human victim, Nica. Meanwhile, the killer doll has some scores to settle with his old enemies, with the help of his former wife.

Thrilled to be back

My Review

First off, how fun is this? Chucky films forever! Whether or not it is any good really will come down to your opinion on these films and your threshold for the ridiculous. If you love gore, terrible one liners and a loose narrative then, baby, this is the one for you.

Nica (Fiona Dourif) has just been released from maximum security to a lower level institute under the watchful eye of Doctor Foley (Michael Therriault). She is being rewarded with a little more freedom now she’s playing along and admitting that Chucky is all in her head.

On her first day, she makes a strong impression on fellow resident Malcolm (Adam Hurtig), who has multiple personalities (and is about as cliched as you can imagine). She isn’t welcomed quite so warmly by the others, as her notoriety has followed her to her new home.

Meanwhile, Andy (Alex Vincent), the terrorised kid turned man of the original CP films, has worked out a unique and satisfying way to ensure Chucky/the serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) can’t hurt anyone anymore. What could go wrong? (Spoiler alert: literally everything). 

Soooo, Nica is undergoing more therapy and playing the long game when Dr. Foley brings a vintage Good Guy doll to a group session (wise idea). ‘Good’ Chucky is immediately adopted by a patient who has lost her child which is spooky enough on its own merit. It all gets even more confusing when Tiffany Valentine crops up in human form with her own Good Guy doll and suddenly there are two GGDs in the hospital.

large-screenshot2
“Stop copying my hair style, Chucky, you loser.”

Tiff, FYI is at the facility to announce that Nica’s niece Alice has passed away (Ms. Valentine had guardianship of Alice and for the life of me I can’t remember how this came to pass or why). This news leaves Nica devastated, as she’s already living with the guilt of ‘killing’ Alice’s mother, her sister and now she has nobody left. The doll by the way has been left to Nica by Alice. Uh oh. 

Anyway, two GGDs = two Chuckies (Chucki?) because, believe it or not, somewhere along the line it has become possible for more than one Chucky to be possessed at any one time with the soul of everybody’s favourite serial killer.

Andy might have the original Chucky’s head stored in a secret safe but it doesn’t even matter anymore – because the Cult is growing, there are Chuckies all over the shop and we’re all doomed. DOOMED I TELL YOU!

Things soon start to go to pot and this convinces Nica that she isn’t crazy and that  Chucky might be real after all. And nobody fucking believes her.

Anyone who does start to buy into the Chucky theory is mysteriously slaughtered so they can’t back Nica up. Plus they’re all nuts, right?

Doctor Foley is acting like a complete douchebag too which is literally the last thing a girl needs while she’s running for her life from a killer doll but there it is. Men and their sense of entitlement is always priority. One of the Chuckies actually comes through as Nica’s saviour a couple of times but then only so he can enlist her into his cult herself.

Eventually she succumbs to Chucky’s goading and fucks up Foley forever when she realises he’s been sexually abusing her during their hypnosis sessions. He’s a fucking rapist and way worse than Chucky could ever be if you ask me – so good riddance to scum. I celebrated the intensity of his death scene and I hope you will too.

At this point if it were me, I’d be sorely tempted to just team up with Chucky and Tiffany, no questions asked. Living the good and holy life hasn’t exactly been paying off for our heroine.

Look, this is a messy one and since we end up with three Chuckies it gets a little bit confused at times. The gist is that the original Chucky found a voodoo spell on the internet (obvs) that allows him to be inside all the dolls at once, and why stop at doll’s eh? Chucky’s always looking for a human vehicle – wonder where this is heading?

2sHD7FUlgyy1TBAxPtzLF4yDb2D
“Wanna play?”

Let’s just say that the climax might be unsurprising but it’s utterly bonkers and satisfying – and left wide open for another thrilling instalment.

Fucking hell yes.

My Thoughts

There’s not really any way to review a film like this, is there? It is exactly what you’d expect and it’s great.

I get the impression that the team must have so much fun making these films and that Brad Dourif just loves voicing Chucky.

Jennifer Tilly is also an absolute dream and my only criticism of her is that she’s not in this nearly enough. Plus, I was hoping for more than a glimpse of Tiffany the doll, who’s the coolest.

This film is not going to change your life or even remain with you for particularly long but it will hopefully keep you sniggering for a little while, and god knows we all need a sigh these days.

My Rating

3.5/5. All in good fun, if not good taste.

What did Jill think of Chucky’s return? Would she commit this one or join him in his shenanigans? Find out here.

Under the Shadow (Film) Review

Under-the-Shadow-2016-4

Welcome again to the best month of the year, in life but also for the Blog Collab. You got it, spooky horror movies all month and nobody can tell us off or question us. Brilliant!

We kick off Halloween Month with this sinister tale about Djinn, a shape-shifting demon (or demons) from Arabian/Muslin mythology. Hold on to your britches.

*Spoilers*

Under the Shadow (2016)

IMDB Synopsis

As a mother and daughter struggle to cope with the terrors of the post-revolution, war-torn Tehran of the 1980s, a mysterious evil begins to haunt their home.

It’s all about faaaaaaaaaamily

My Review

Former medical student Shideh (Narges Rashidi) is devastated when she’s denied the chance to resume her studies. Her involvement with a leftist group has cost her her place at university. In no uncertain terms she is told by the dean that she will never study at the school again and should therefore find another dream to pursue. We’re in 1980’s post-revolutionary Tehran and shit is most definitely going down.

Most of the neighbourhood are fleeing the city for their own protection and the families that have stayed are constantly having to retreat to their basements to elude actual falling bombs. Shideh, despite her husband’s advice, has not yet joined the mass exodus. Iraj (Bobby Naderi) accuses her of being stubborn and putting their child’s life at risk which she takes to mean he thinks she’s a shit mum. To say you can sense a tension between them would be an understatement.

When she relays her day at the university and the subsequent bad news about her education to him, he’s less than sympathetic, telling her that maybe it’s for the best.

There’s also an unspoken frisson between her and her daughter, Dorsa (the brilliant Avin Manshadi) and Iraj, before he is drafted by the military and is stationed much further away, accuses her of resenting her. Shideh is not in the best place given her mother has only just passed away and she’s feeling the pressure of pleasing her memory too – so it’s understandable, I guess that’s she’s not bringing her A game.

“I wanted a fucking Gameboy…”

Mother and daughter have plenty of time to hang out together once Iraj is gone but they both begin to feel the strain of cabin fever. Dorsa comes down with a literal fever and starts talking about the Djinn, which frankly is the most freaky sounding of all the supernatural bad guys.

Dorsa swears she’s been told about its legend by a little boy on the block and one evening while they’re hiding in the basement again, he hands her a charm that will protect her. When Shideh broaches this with the boys’ new guardian, her neighbour, she is told that this is impossible, and that the boy has been mute since the death of both his parents in an explosion.

Both Dorsa and Shideh start to suffer from horrible nightmares and its a mystery why they don’t just get the fuck out of Dodge. Things go from bad to worse when a missile lands on their building. In the drama, Shideh is called upon to act as doctor but she is unable to save the poor man sitting in his front room when his unexpected guest smashes through the ceiling. He dies of a heart attack but later his daughter confides in Shideh that when she found him he looked as though he’d seen a ghost…

maxresdefault
Same

One by one the rest of the neighbours flee and Shideh confides in another one of her neighbours, lovely Mrs. Ebrahimi just before she fucks off too. Sadly, she doesn’t brush off talk of the Djinn as lightly as Shideh does, instead warning that Djinn’s like to possess people and steal their shit. Guess what starts happening next? You gots it.

Dorsa’s beloved doll Kimia goes missing and she refuses to leave until they find her. Shideh has FINALLY decided they should blow this popsicle stand but agrees to find the damned doll. Meanwhile, she gets a phone call from Iraj who berates her for being a useless mother. SAY WHAT. It seems this isn’t the real Iraj. More likely the naughty Djinn.

Eventually, Kimia turns up in Shideh’s secret junk drawer, looking like she’s been deliberately hidden from Dorsa (spoiler: the Djinn did it). She’s also been torn apart but Shideh promises to fix her. The mother/daughter combo begin their escape from the building but the Djinn is pissed and won’t let them go without some drama.

Will they get out or what? You know what to do.

My Thoughts

Shiiiit. I like this film a lot. Its focus is purely on the two female leads and I love it for that – especially given the nature of the relationship. Shideh and Dorsa obviously love each other but there’s a tension between them that feels relateable, especially when you factor in the isolation they both must feel.

I read that this had been unfavorably compared to The Babadook (2014) and for a minute there I didn’t really get that. But on thinking about it a bit deeper, I guess that makes sense. Both central characters have recently lost someone close to them and are trying to carry on as normal while their children are also struggling.

It offers a less fluffy glimpse at parenthood which I always appreciate because that shit looks hard on the best of days, let alone when you’re warring with a shape shifter. While The Babadook to me is one of the most beautiful films of recent times, I think UTS can confidently hold its head up high next to it.

There are a couple of incredibly creepy moments and the climax is really stressful. Ultimately, there’s a test for Shideh and her daughter – will they rise to the challenge?

under-the-shadow-1
FFS not again

My Rating

4/5. EEK. Creepy with a very human feelio, yo.

What did Jill think of this contemporary take on an old folk tale? Would she swath in in bed sheets or leave it to be bombed? Find out here.

Girl Asleep (Film) Review

Something a little lighter this week, or so you’d think of this seemingly innocuous coming-of-age tale. Whether or not it delivers what we were looking for is to be outlined below but one thing is certain right now: thank God I’m not 15 anymore.

*Spoilers*

Girl Asleep (2015)

IMDB Synopsis

The world is closing in on Greta Driscoll. On the cusp of turning fifteen she can’t bear to leave her childhood, it contains all the things that give her comfort in this incomprehensible new world.

Girl-asleep-2
I think he’s sending you an obscene message here, Greta

My Review

Greta Driscoll (Bethany Whitmore) in new in school. Aged 14 and about to turn the big 1-5, she’s just about the most awkward kid in town, except not really because isn’t almost every kid this age a hot mess? God knows I was.

Anyway, she soon makes a new friend in Elliott (Harrison Feldman) but it doesn’t get off to the best start when she quickly bumps him for the popular girls. These Mean Girls aren’t nice but they decide they like Greta so she shares some agonising break times in their company.

Greta soon wises up though and commits herself to her new friendship with Elliott instead. Her mother Janet (Amber McMahon) is beside herself with delight when she brings him home for dinner. While at Greta’s house, she shares a secret with Elliott about a music box her mother gave her when she was a kid. She tells him the tale of The Huldra (Tilda Cobham-Hervey), a wild warrior woman who lives in the woods.

Living at home with Greta and her mother, are father Conrad (Matthew Whittet) – who has a pretty mean line in Dad-jokes – and sister Genevieve (Imogen Archer), who dates slick local boy Adam (Eamon Farren).

Girl-Asleep
It’s my party and I’ll have a face like a slapped arse if I want to

The story comes to a head when, against the explicit wishes of Greta, Janet invites all the kids from school to Greta’s fifteenth birthday party. G loses her shit until she realises it’s causing her folks to argue. When she reluctantly agrees, Janet promises her this is a right of passage she won’t regret.

On the night of the party, Greta has a run in with the Mean Girls, who feel rejected by her preference for Elliott. Jade and her twin hench-women, Amber and Sapphire out her publicly for having small boobs and humiliated, Greta falls out with Elliott too. Right after he’s admitted his feelings might be more than just friendly. Oops.

During the drama, Greta faints (I think) while a mystical creature steals her beloved music box. This leads her into the woods round the back of her home where she runs into the legendary Huldra who saves her from a tricky situation. During her adventures in the woods, in this creepy paralell world, she also meets The Abject Man (Old Gregg, anyone?), The Frozen Woman – and lots of wild and exciting creatures and characters, including French crooner, Beniot Tremet. Who tries to bone her in an extremely icky scene that shouldn’t exist, just saying.

The-Huldra
Living in the woods never looked so chic

Will Greta get back to her party and real life in one piece, I wonder? Will she make peace with her fifteen year old self – and more importantly, win back her one true friend, Elliott?

Well. I guess I don’t have to tell you there’s one really good way to find out.

While this film is harmless enough and kind of sweet, it also didn’t really do much for me. I went in with a notion that it would concentrate on the human element (in a The Diary of a Teenage Girl way) but instead I got budget Wes Anderson/The Mighty Boosh. Which might be unfair but I don’t care. I found it too try hard and now I read it was based on a play and I think that explains it all. Welcome to amateur hour.

I liked Greta and enjoyed her strength of character but I would have liked more focus on her friendship with Elliott and the conflict with her frenemies. Call me old-school.

My Rating

2/5. SHRUG.

What did my good lady wife Jillian think? Would she protect this one from creepy men in the forest or write an insulting song about it instead? Find out here, obvi. You know the rules by now.

Girl-Asleep-Film

 

 

Buster’s Mal Heart (Film) Review

busters_mal_heart_2016-wide

We’re Dying Hard & Blogging Free this month which sometimes allows us to pick the weird and wonderful films we’re had just kicking about on the outskirts of our consciousness. This one kept popping up on various lists and on Netflix, and looked interesting which is what brings us to the here and now.

I think maybe if I’d known more going in I would have either chosen it for Anxiety August or avoided it altogether, which isn’t to say it’s bad, just darker than expected.

*Spoilers*

Buster’s Mal Heart (2016)

IMDB Synopsis

A family man’s chance encounter with a conspiracy-obsessed drifter leaves him on the run from the police and an impending event known as The Inversion.

My Review

Buster (Rami Malek) is an elusive mountain man, on the run from the authorities for breaking into vacant holiday homes and rinsing them of food and amenities while their owners are away. He’s considered armed and dangerous despite the fact he leaves the homes as he’s found them and doesn’t really cause too much shit, though he does have a penchant for calling the local radio station and ranting about the Y2K.

Our film opens with a shoot out between Buster and the aforementioned authorities, which very much suggests that they were right about his danger rating but how did he get here? Luckily, via the medium of flashback we’re about to find out exactly how and why. Buckle up, bitches and enjoy the ride.

Men are the worst, Marty

In another lifetime it seems, Buster used to be Jonah, hardworking and loving husband to Marty (Kate Lyn Sheil) and father of a little girl (who’s name I couldn’t be bothered to recall). He works nights at a hotel that at best could be described as past its prime and the shifts are taking their toll on his mental health and causing friction with his family.

Marty and Jonah live with Marty’s parents and Marty’s mum Pauline (Lin Shaye) in particular disapproves of this arrangement, the couples’ parenting skills and Jonah in general. (These scenes are hard to watch as you can feel the passive aggression dripping from the screen). Things aren’t good and get pricklier still when Marty lets slip she’s been looking for apartments for the young family, which isn’t part of the plan Jonah has for them.

Things change when Jonah meets The Last Free Man (DJ Qualls), a mysterious drifter who comes to the hotel one night. TLFM doesn’t use a traditional name, carries no ID and manages to wangle a room out of Jonah against hotel policy. He is also a conspiracy theory obsessive with a bee in his bonnet about the turn of the century and how much the Millennium Bug is going to fuck shit up.

As the men get closer, they concoct a plan to subtly rob the hotel guests and things are going great until they almost get caught. Jonah freaks out and the friends are forced to part company. Meanwhile, Jonah is turned down for a transfer to day shifts. His boss tries to make amends by letting his family enjoy a stay-cation at the hotel one weekend, but Jonah is expected to carry out his normal tasks at the same time.

Personal Jesus

Jonah’s story is inter-spliced with visions of him stranded alone at sea and we flit between past and present in a bid to unravel the truth about how he got to be living off the grid and off the land. Unfortunately, it soon transpires that something terrible has happened to his family that may or may not be connected to his friendship with The Last Free Man.

I won’t go any deeper into how it all turns out because I knew nothing going in and was therefore surprised by some of the events which I think is a good thing with a film like this. In places it’s a slow burner but hopefully you’ll be intrigued enough to want to find out where it’s going.

At times it’s a little heavy handed on the metaphors but for me it was an interesting rumination on mental health and a fractured psyche. Oh, and the cinematography is absolutely stunning.

My Rating

4/5. For the fact it surprised me. 

Everyone’s a critic

What does Jill think of this week’s choice? Would she squat in it illegally over the Winter months or tie it up in the boiler room? Find out here.

Shimmer Lake (Film) Review

There’s no cute theme this month, I’m afraid. Anxiety August pretty much took it all out of us. Of course, I can’t speak for the wife (though we’re usually simpatico on most things) but I can’t take anymore emotion for a bit. Plus, I’ve been in Twin Peaks Land for the past fortnight desperately trying to catch up and I’m very fragile.

So let’s just Die Hard & Blog Free instead, shall we?

Shimmer Lake (2017)

IMDB Synopsis

An inventive crime thriller told backwards — reversing day by day through a week — following a local sheriff’s quest to unlock the mystery of three small town criminals and a bank heist gone wrong.

My Review

I was half way through this movie before I realised it was playing backwards and I’m pretty sure that says more about me than the way this has been intricately (not really) crafted. Maybe. We start with Rainn Wilson‘s Andy hiding out in his own basement, seemingly from his family and brother, who happens to be the town sheriff.

Upstairs, Sheriff Zeke (Benjamin Walker) is tolerating a lack luster breakfast laid on by Andy’s worried wife Martha. It seems Andy has been missing for a while and may or may not be entangled in a bungled robbery though, of course, Martha doesn’t believe her husband capable of such a terrible thing. Zeke is recovering from a gunshot wound inflicted by one of Andy’s alleged co-conspirators, Ed Burton (Wyatt Russell).

Ed, for the record has also disappeared and everyone thinks he’s betrayed his crew, including hapless Chris (Mark Rendall) and skipped town with the proceeds from the aforementioned robbery. The feds are closely watching Ed’s wife, Steph (Stephanie Sigman) while searching for our rag tag bunch.

Possibly the dullest party in history

My review for the record is probably going to contain holes because I have a bad memory at the best of times. Needless to say the film plays backwards and at its climax we find out just what the frig kicked this all off and why.

The heist seems to somehow involve Brad Dawkins (John Michael Higgins), a closeted local businessman (Update: nope, he’s a judge) who has been enjoying a liaison with Meth Billy (Matt Landry) while also being crooked. In fact, he’s happily holed up with his part-time lover when Andy comes a calling looking for the cash he’s convinced Brad is holding on to and things don’t end well for one of those men. Spoiler: It’s not Rainn Wilson.

hero_Shimmer-Lake-2017

At some point Chris ends up dead in a motel room and it seems only a matter of time before someone gets to Andy, though not if Zeke can get there first. Meanwhile, the feds are happily taking more of a backseat role in the case and letting the Sheriff and his partner, Reed (Adam Pally) lead the way.

Steph, while this all plays out, appears to have something to hide herself which becomes apparent when she fabricates a domestic dispute with the erstwhile Ed. Mrs Burton FYI is grieving for the son she lost in a tragic meth lab explosion mere months earlier.

So what’s the actual deal? Where the eff is Ed? What’s Steph’s involvement, if anything? Who killed Chris – and will Andy ever find his way back to his family, and his wife’s terrible cooking? Well, it’s all there in the ending, dears, and you could probably do worse if you like a crime caper.

There’s a sort of Fargo-esque vibe to this (though nowhere near as good, what is?). I suppose the playing backwards gimmick makes it a little more edgy but I don’t think it was strictly necessary. Sure, it’s intriguing to find out there’s a twist of sorts but the performances and the light humour speak for themselves. I had a nice time but I probably won’t remember it much in a few weeks.

Forgive this rather snappy review but there’s not an awful lot more to say. It’s a small-time heist movie with some fun characters.

My Rating

3.5/5. You can do worse. You can do better.

What did the good lady wife make of this one? Is she ready to bury it at Shimmer Lake or plan a heist with it? Find out here, obviously.

 

A Date for Mad Mary (Film) Review

Anxiety August nearly ended me last week with Poppy Shakespeare‘s all too real depiction of Mental Health and the ‘system’ that more often than not lets down the people who needs it most.

This week’s pick is a completely different kettle of fish and it also had me on the floor, so I’m just going to go with being a highly emotional individual because why change it now, eh?

*Spoilers* 

A Date for Mad Mary (2016)

IMDB Synopsis

A woman newly released from prison seeks a date to bring to her best friend’s wedding.

 

MV5BNmY1ZDMxZTEtMmU5Ni00N2FlLTkwYTQtYjEyMGJiYmY1MTY5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjQ3NzUxOTM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1338,1000_AL_

My Review

Mary (the amazing Seána Kerslake) has just been released from prison for a crime we don’t know anything about yet. Straight off the bat we glimpse an angry side to her when she’s pissed at her mum for picking her up late (fair enough I guess).

As soon as she’s home Mary picks up the phone to call her BFF Charlene (Charleigh Bailey) who doesn’t answer but that’s understandable given she’s in the throes of planning her wedding, right?

Next morning there’s a (dreaded) group text instead asking the girls to be on time to a wedding dress fitting. This doesn’t go quite as well as planned as Mary has beef with the other bridesmaid Leona (Shobhan Shanahan) and then Charlene hands Mary an elocution CD for her Maid of Honour speech. Mary rightly points out that she speaks in exactly the same way as Charlene does.

Another bone of contention raises its head when Leona lets slip that Mary’s plus one has been given to a relative as they don’t think she’ll be able to get a date for the wedding in time. This spurs Mary on to secure one for this very event and in a panic, she makes up a new boyfriend called John Carter.

maxresdefault (2)
“See, Mary? Until you can get your hair up as high as I can, you’re not going to be the Maid of Honour I need…”

Reeling in the right candidate for this job proves more difficult than expected, however. Our Mary goes on a series of dates that lead nowhere, though things start to look up when she meets someone who seems keen to help her in her quest, if she’ll return the favour for his brother’s wedding.

Even Charlene’s into him when she bumps into the new ‘couple’ and promotes Mary’s date to usher because he’s so good looking and will make the wedding pictures look better. Unfortunately, Mary has a tendency to put her foot in her mouth and this pairing does not last beyond this meeting, despite how ideal it could be.

So Mary is left back at square one and things are not going well for her and Charlene, who seem to be drifting further apart with every passing day. She does have a new friend in Jess (Tara Lee) though, the lovely wedding videographer with a kind heart. After one particularly wild night, Mary is injured in a bar scuffle and Jess takes her to A&E to be patched up.

As Mary appears to be losing the increasingly self-centred Charlene (or normal, I’ll go with normal) this new and exciting friendship goes from strength to strength. Even more so when Jess decides to help Mary snare a date. The two women spend a weekend away on one of Jess’ wedding assignments and Mary decides to reveal her past to her new friend. Rather than run for the hills this seems to bring them closer.

maxresdefault (1)
Getting to know you, getting to know all about yoooooooo

But Mary is so good at messing things up and being a hot angry mess, will she bring the same old drama to Jess’ door?

Will she pull it together long enough for Charlene to get hitched without a hitch? Or will she return to her old ways, the one that saw her jailed for a nasty assault in a bar?

Only one way to find out, yo.

A_Date_for_Mad_Mary_004
A Mama Mia costume party. Ugh, no thanks.

My Thoughts

Well first of all I was DELIGHTED by the surprise romantic element, though maybe I should of seen it coming. What a great pairing! I was fully rooting for Jess and Mary as soon as it clicked into place and I thought it played out as a natural evolution of the characters, rather than played for novelty.

Mary is messed up and she’s damaged but she’s also hugely likable and there was no point in this film that I wasn’t on her side. She’s played perfectly by Kerslake who gives the part a magical element.

I watched this film with a huge knot in my stomach. People grow apart all the time and it’s heartbreaking but sometimes they’re forced to do it for their own preservation and I understand it all too well. It doesn’t hurt both parties any less however and one of the final scenes in which Charlene and Mary dance together at Charlene’s wedding is so beautiful I just cried and cried. Sometimes you don’t even need words.

maxresdefault
There’s something about Mary

My Rating

4.5/5. Damn near perfect. And massive props for this being all about the female relationships, with the male characters very much secondary and resigned to the background.

What did my Wife think? Would she smash it in the face in a bar or turn over a new leaf for it? Find out here obviously.

Poppy Shakespeare (Film) Review

A made-for-TV movie about mental health and the UK health services this week and – ho boy – it’s a bleak ride. I’m going to swerve the preamble and head straight into the review because honestly, there’s not much more I can say by way of introduction.

*Spoilers*

Poppy Shakespeare (2008)

IMDB Synopsis

N has been a day patient at north London’s Dorothy Fish day hospital for 13 years – her ambition is never to leave. Then she meets glamourous new patient Poppy Shakespeare, an ad agency receptionist convinced she’s not mad.

Poppy 077

My Review

N (Anna Maxwell Martin) has been a long term patient on the Dorothy Fish mental health ward for most of her life. While she lives alone in her own flat, she visits the ward daily and spends the majority of her time with a familiar group of fellow patients.

Her only ambition in life (at least when we meet her) is to be a patient there forever.

All this changes when she is entrusted to act as guide for a new patient, the gorgeous Poppy Shakespeare (Naomie Harris). Poppy is unlike anyone N has met before, rocking up reluctantly, screaming that she’s in the wrong place and that she isn’t fucking mad.

Poppy maintains that she doesn’t have mental health issues like the rest of them and as a single parent, needs to get the fuck out of Dorothy Fish. The only trouble is, having just lost her job, there’s no money – and to get money to pay for a lawyer to prove she isn’t mentally ill, she has to convince the government she is mad. You can see the conundrum.

Anyway, the unlikely N and Poppy begin to grow closer, despite their seeming differences and things start to change at DF as, due to government budget cuts, the powers that be keep discharging patients who feel they aren’t ready for the outside world yet, sometimes with tragic results.

N fears this will happen to her but is assured they’re still eager to keep an eye on her at the centre. Uh-huh.

31650.large
“What do you mean you can tell I’m crazy because of all the leopard print?!”

Despite N’s best efforts, Poppy slowly begins to lose her grasp and things get worse still when she’s told she has to remain a out-patient for six months.

Then N’s worst nightmare is realised when she’s released from the only world she’s ever really known, just as Poppy makes a drastic decision about her own life.

What next for our new friends?

Will they make it over these unimaginable hurdles? And will Poppy ever get her life, and her daughter, back?

My Thoughts

This is not a cheerful film and although there are moments of hope and happiness, particularly as the central friendship blossoms, don’t go expecting a neat and pretty ending.

I find it as terrifying as any horror movie, and the fact that Poppy seemingly has no control over her own life once the wheels are set in motion is frightening af. Mental health is a topic close to my own heart and this is a very real and desperately sad look at a group of characters who aren’t being looked after particularly well. They all deserve so much better.

The two central performances are stunning and I love the two women together, particularly the scene in which they mirror each other’s body language in a group exercise. But the ending is just too sad for me, it’s too real.

That said, more films like this should be made and as far as I understand it, it paints a realistic portrait of a mental health patient dealing with a deep familial history of depression and self-harm.

My Rating

2.5/5. Turns out I’m not a fan of anything too real. What’s my problem, eh?

What does Wifey think? Does she believe this one should be committed? Find out here.

The Neon Demon (Film) Review

I’ve been very distracted of late and not paying my best attention to anything beyond my own misery. Anxiety August, in other words, is going great. I am working my way slowly out of it though and will be back to normal soon, I have no doubt.

Until then there is this film which is definitely on the more unusual end of the spectrum. I’d seen it and discussed it before for the podcast and don’t remember liking it all that much. But for some reason when searching for a film for this week’s post I had a hankering to revisit.

*Spoilers ahoy!*

The Neon Demon (2016)

IMDB Synopsis

When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.

Mmmmm, sticky

My Review

Beauty is a curse, innit? Well, apparently. Most of us mere mortals will never know the feeling of being so universally desired that people from all walks of life want a piece of you – and not always in the healthiest way.

Jesse (Elle Fanning) knows though, lord does she know. She pretends otherwise because that’s good grace and becoming of a small-town girl just rocked up in the City of Angels. But she knows her power and her power is great.

Alone and family-less, Jesse soon meets make-up artist Ruby (Jena Malone) on a shoot and the older girl takes our ingenue under her wing. This basically involves taking her to a fun party and introducing her to two fellow models, Gigi (Bella Heathcote) and Sarah (Abbey Lee) who are immediately threatened by Jesse’s youth and good looks. In an agonising bathroom scene, the women ponder who Jesse is fucking and which parts of her body are ‘real’.

Mean Girls 3’s setting was decidedly less glamorous than the original’s

This gives us an insight into the bitching and backstabbing of the beauty world and frankly, who would want it? These girls do though and their womanly relationships do not thrive in direct competition with one another. When Jesse attends a catwalk casting, despite having no walking experience, she nails her audition smuggly in front of Sarah, who is visibly devastated.

Later, there is an altercation between the two which takes a dark tone and Jesse is injured. She’s fine but it’s dramatic because that’s this film, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, Jesse is also having to deal with dating an older man, the creepiness of her motel landlord and the increasingly intense affections of Ruby. Her career is going from strength to strength though, so what does she care?

Well, things turn darker still when her rivals decide they’ve had enough of this comely little newcomer and Ruby, feeling rejected, instigates something terrible.

In at the deep end

TND is rife with symbolism, with comments on society’s obsession with youth and beauty – and an awful lot of it is pretentious af. Plus, I doubt I understood it all and I sort of like the film for that.

Fanning’s performance doesn’t require an awful lot of skill. She merely pouts and looks doe-eyed 99% of the time and it works for her. Jena Malone’s somewhat sneaky Ruby is probably my highlight, though some of her motivations in the name of desire aren’t to be sniffed at.

As with other Refn movies, this is a highly stylised world view and could be held up as a perfect example of style over substance.

Every frame is perfectly structured and the lighting particularly is sublime but you expect that. But is it any good beneath the neon facade? I think it’s weirdness makes it above average, if not the best film ever made.

When James and I discussed this for the podcast, I remember us drawing parallels with some fairytale elements and I still feel that here. Jesse’s the innocent left out alone in the world, coming up against all manner of threats, including The Big Bad Wolf (Keane Reeves) and the Three Witches.

And Jesse, she’s not so innocent after all. Every sweet smile, every slanted look is perfectly contrived. She’s her own cautionary tale.

My Rating

4/5. Better the second time round. Still pretentious though.

What did Wifey think? Did she gobble it up or would she send it for extensive plastic surgery? Find out here.

Oh hey…