*NEW* ALIEN: COVENANT REVIEW *NEW*

Even in space, no one should see this dreadful Alien prequel.

The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.

Sound familiar? It should.

For the love of God, Ridley Scott. Just stop.

I can respect the man and the writers for trying to expand the Alien universe and explore the mythology behind the xenomorphs but if this is the answer, then I think some mysteries were better left unsolved.

They should have learned from Prometheus. But for all its imperfections, I preferred that to this meandering mess.

For all its beauty, brooding score and captivating cinematography; beneath the surface there was little to be desired.

Scott still can’t get over Cameron perfecting a classic. Alien set the bar high. No one knew how iconic that film would become. Without that slow burning sci-if thriller, there wouldn’t be the monster franchise that followed.

Aliens (for me) took things up a notch and actually delivered some character development and progression for the iconic sci-fi heroine Ellen Ripley.

I had to try and remember what happened in Prometheus (Watch out, spoilers): wasn’t David just a head? What happened to the girl with the dragon tattoo?

I was baffled when Fassbender returned as another android called Walter.

Thankfully, it wasn’t too important (Plus we got a quick recap). BUT it kept me watching as I tried to make head or tail of this “new” story line.

The fiery opener certainly piqued my interest with an incredibly unexpected gratuitous cameo. No kidding.

BUT after 30 minutes of Scott panning from one lavish set design to another. Picturesque frame by picturesque frame. I thought to myself: “When is this going to pick up?!”

Scott and co tried to make amends for Prometheus by creating more mystery and questions BUT it just didn’t work.

What’s the title of the film? What is it about? Where are the frickin’ aliens?!

Patience. The slow burning tension and existential debates boring me into a mini-coma.

We had Prometheus for all that. Give us something different. If anything, the questions Covenant tried to answer only made bigger plot holes that undermined the whole thing.

Especially on the origin of the aliens altogether. BUT by the end, I didn’t care.

The special effects on the aliens were excellent and creepy as hell.

That was until they attacked. The stop motion movements and overindulging CGI was disorienting to look at. The scuttling and wrestling looked so fake. Like something out of a dated Harryhausen flick. Sheesh.

The talented supporting cast were highly unmemorable cannon fodder.

Katherine Waterston (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) spent so much of the film moping and brooding.

By the time, she finally woke up; her character was nothing more than Ripley 2.0 (Yes, I know this is a prequel so she would actually be Ripley 1.0 BUT I digress).

She didn’t deliver a bad turn BUT the film was always going against her.

Danny “Kenny ducking Powers” McBride should have nailed the space trucker role BUT was heavily underused. Billy Crudup’s protagonist was so weak that I was screaming for a face hugger to dispose of him. Waste of an actor.

Speaking of wasted actors, Guy Pearce had the easiest job going. A completely needless role. Woeful.

I think there was only one reason why Prometheus got a follow up. And that was down to one man’s performance.

Michael Fassbender stole the show yet again. BUT despite a stellar turn, I found his efforts failing to reprieve this mind-numbing disaster.

It wasn’t all bad. It was watchable. Just very disappointing.

When Scott delivered the tension, I could feel myself wincing in dreaded anticipation. He delivered a demented introduction from the aliens with a gory entrance I didn’t see coming. Yikes.

I still flinched and cringed (as did the audience) as we all knew where it was going when one crew member stumbled across a dormant egg.

The different alien hybrids were a nice touch and looked brilliant. BUT they didn’t go anywhere. A quick gory death to make up for mindless chat and “Do androids dream of electric sheep? mumbo jumbo from Fassbender wasn’t enough.

It went through the motions, relying on old formulas and retreading old ground that had been done before and much better. By Scott (ironically).

The actual alien screen time probably tallied up to 15/20 minutes. Out of a 2 hour movie? Come on!

The finale was dull, uninspired and a retread of Aliens with a much weaker and predictable twist. It built things up. Only to let me down.

I really hope there won’t be another. To think this prequel trilogy stemmed from a few Alien fans asking about the giant space jockey found on the Derelict (Yeah, I’m a fan. Could you tell?). I wish they hadn’t.

A movie of mere moments. Some finger biting tension here. One jumpy bit there. Some gory and inventive deaths does not a good movie make.

Would I rush to watch it again? (Maybe reassess and see if I missed anything the first time round?) In a nutshell, NO.

Give me Alien, Aliens and hell even Alien 3 any day. But this?

Let this stop.

It needs to end.

2.5/5

*NEW* LIFE REVIEW *NEW*

Despite the shoddy pace and wafer thin characters, there was still life in this tense little sci-fi horror.

A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form, that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

I didn’t expect much from this. The trailers bored me and the extended looks did nothing to win me over. BUT I was a fan of the line up. So was it shame on me?

Jon Ekstrand’s ominous score certainly grabbed my attention. The brooding atmosphere, the simmering tension, the nothingness of space. Seamus McGarvey’s glossy cinematography. Perfect.

It was just a shame that momentum couldn’t stick. The slow burning opening act soon put me into a mini-coma.

The disorienting claustrophobic camera work may have simulated the feeling of floating around in a space station BUT it irritated me. The POV angle of Ryan Reynolds’ Rory intercepting the damaged satellite was a nice touch.

BUT it didn’t help that the characters weren’t that interesting.

Rebecca Ferguson’s (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) uptight doc and Jake Gyllenhaal’s (Nocturnal Animals) depressed David were dreadfully dull.

I always felt Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai) was an underrated supporting actor BUT his character was dire. A perfect opportunity to shine squandered.

And Ryan Reynolds just played the same old spiel again. Adapting the role of the cocky fast talking joker. Boring.

There wasn’t any depth and the bland exchanges between the crew just killed the tension. Especially as they left messages for their loved ones and gave cringe inducing virtual tours of the ship to the “world”. Yuck.

Thankfully by the 25-30 min marker, the film finally hit its stride as the crew discovered life and the answers to the universe in the form of a squid-like jellyfish named “Calvin”.

Ariyon Bakare (Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell) made a memorable impression as Hugh. The delighted doc whose fascination with Earth’s new mascot bordered on obsession.

BUT I could still feel myself getting impatient as the crew carried out tests. However, one botched lab experiment later . . .

All that curiousity and wonder swiftly turned into sheer fear and panic as the crew’s new play thing decides to make a break for it. A bloody trail left in his wake.

The middle act delivered with an unnerving and nail biting thriller as Calvin continued to grow in size and intelligence. A game of cat and mouse set in motion.

“Calvin doesn’t hate us. He has to kill us in order to survive”.

The Alien meets Gravity vibe worked as the killer creature craftily picked the crew off one by one.

The special effects were brilliant. Calvin’s transformation creeped the hell out of me. His squid-like tentacles scuttling around the labyrinthine hallways. A spider toying with his prey. Shudder.

I was worried that the wafer thin character development would make me less interested in the crew’s survival BUT Gyllenhaal and Ferguson’s characters were thankfully fleshed out a little better as the danger ensued (Hell, I even warmed up to Reynolds).

There were genuine moments of suspense and I couldn’t see how it was going to end which made for a tense and thrilling finale.

And by the closing credits, I left the cinema pleasantly surprised.

Just persevere with the pace and you have a solid effort that does just enough to hold its own.

3/5 (Just)

*NEW* THE CONJURING 2 REVIEW *NEW*

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Is this the best that James Wan could conjure up?

Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) travel to north London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by a malicious spirit.

I enjoyed the Conjuring. It may have been a little over-hyped BUT it was certainly one of the best horror films I’ve seen in the last decade. I wasn’t surprised to hear that a sequel was in the pipeline BUT after the abysmal Annabelle spin-off, I was anxious to say the least.

The first hour was brilliant. It took the same winning formula from the original and perfected it. The tense opening act got the ball rolling as our infamous paranormal investigators took on the Amityville Horror case. Thankfully Wan didn’t focus on that too much BUT it was a nice touch tying it in with the Enfield Haunting.

BUT despite the bubbling suspense, I was still a little disappointed that Wan took on Enfield in the first place. Especially when the critically acclaimed TV drama (A must watch) came out earlier this year. It was tough for me NOT to draw comparisons. We all know of the Enfield Haunting to some extent. If you were lucky enough NOT to, then this will freak you out a whole lot more.

Luckily Wan provided a creepy new addition for his roster of demented demons. I won’t be looking at nuns in the same way. That’s for sure.

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Shudder.

Every time she appeared in Farmiga’s dreams, I fidgeting uncomfortably. Nails bitten off.

Vera Farmiga was fantastic and carried the film when the pace dragged. The same cannot be said for Patrick Wilson. He was laughable and quite weak this time around. I guess it didn’t help matters that the story revolved primarily around Lorraine and her inner turmoil. Her dealings with the afterlife taking its toll.

Madison Wolfe was excellent as Janet Hodgson. Thank God the main child actor delivered because the others certainly didn’t. It was terrible having to listen to a good portion of the supporting cast screeching in horribly mangled “Cockney” accents.

Janet’s possession sequences were frightening. That was until the demented host spoke. The ghoul of Bill Wilkins (Bob Adrian) was creepy BUT once he started bellowing like Argus Filch from Harry Potter, it killed all the tension for me.

Wan loves to draw out a scene. Playing with the audience. Teasing the tension (aided by Joseph Bishara’s creepy score). The elongated hallway shots. The angles. The suspense as you knew something was going to happen or pop out.

For 60 minutes, I was fidgeting uneasily and caught up in it. Something I haven’t been able to do with a horror film in quite some time. BUT something somehow went wrong during the second half of the film. There was a moment where the film changed and lost all the fun for me. Spiralling downhill rapidly.

As soon as a neighbour’s Rottweiler morphed into something that looked like Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas, my fears subsided as did my patience.

The pace dragged putting me into a mini-coma (The 132 minute length really did take the biscuit). BUT the longer it went on, the funnier it got. I would have said that this could have been ripe for a parody BUT by the end, it didn’t need one. It didn’t help having weak characters BUT the performances, my God!

Franka Potente (Creep) was completely unnecessary as another paranormal investigator. Talk about too many cooks spoiling the broth. Maria Doyle Kennedy (Orphan Black) was heavily underused in a ridiculous supporting role as a neighbour. Anyone could have played her.

Simon McBurney (Rev) was hilarious as paranormal investigator Maurice Grosse for all the wrong reasons. His conversation with a possessed Janet had me in stitches; “No, no, this isn’t your house!” Frances O’Connor (Artificial Intelligence) got on my wick as troubled mother Peggy. There was one scene in particular where she notices a demented corpse creeping towards Ed (Wilson) and what does our bewildered heroine do? Point a flashlight at the thing and say, “”Ere, whose that?”. Bearing in mind, we’ve had 80 minutes of messed up mayhem at this point. Come on!

Even the Nun (Bonnie Aarons) got on my nerves by the end. She kept popping up screaming and shrieking every five minutes. I desperately wanted her to go.

If Wan could have spend more time on pace, story and character instead of creating creepy new characters with needless spin offs then this would have been worth the hype! BUT the frantic finale dragged its heels and didn’t pay off.

Horror films just haven’t been the same in a very long time. Relying on hype and cheap scares. Scariest film of the year? Hell to the no. BUT it’s still the best of the rest. And that’s the biggest scare of all.

2.5/5

*NEW* LIGHTS OUT REVIEW *NEW*

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It didn’t have me screaming for the lights on.

When her little brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman – Annabelle) experiences the same events that once tested her sanity, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer – Warm Bodies) works to unlock the truth behind the terror, which brings her face to face with an entity that has an attachment to their mother, Sophie (Maria Bello – A History of Violence).

When I first heard that James Wan (The Conjuring/Saw) had green lit the spine tingling short Lights Out, I was annoyed. Especially when I saw the trailers circulated around the Internet. A loosely stringed story stretched out into 90 minutes with a few screams along the way. Well, that’s what I thought I was going to say.

In all fairness, it was actually quite good. A creepy opening in a big dark warehouse with motion sensors certainly got things going. With every flash of the light, the dark demon grew closer to its unsuspecting prey. It was a nice touch getting the original scare victim from the short in a cameo (Lotta Losten).

Director David F. Sandberg orchestrated some genuinely creepy moments and tense sequences and certainly played on an old fear. A ghoul that attacks from the smallest patch of darkness. Spookkaaayy.

The premise wasn’t bad. Hardly original BUT it did the job. A crazed mental patient with demonic abilities latching onto a family. Why? How? Well, if I told you that, there’d be no point in watching it.

I did sigh at Palmer’s introduction as her character drudged through some cheesy guff about personal space and not trusting anyone after her mum. The corny exchanges with her silly boyfriend did put me into a mini-coma. Thankfully once little brother Martin and her drug-induced head case of a mother were brought into the mix, my interest was peaked.

Palmer was a likeable lead and Bateman was very good. As I’ve said in previous reviews, it’s tough for child actors to get that balance right. He really carried the film when some of his older counterparts might have been phoning in their lines. I was actually rooting for the little guy to survive.

Maria Bello played the mother well. Her introduction was freaky as a tired Martin walks in on her having a conversation with the demented demon in the closet. Hell to the no! The only problem was despite one other creepy scene, she was largely absent. Shame. There may have been a fair amount of cliched dialogue BUT I still liked the family dynamic and wanted more of that.

The flashbacks and endless repetition about the origins of the demon Diana and her mystery illness to light got a little annoying and killed a lot of the buzz. Despite the film only being 81 minutes, it did have the tendency to drag in parts.

BUT one thing I will commend was seeing these characters actually not make the same old horror movie mistakes. Hang on, this b*tch doesn’t like lights. I’ll surround the place with candles, UV lights, torches and put them in every nook and cranny.

The scares weren’t bad. Every time the lights went out, a feeling of unease would take over and I could feel my eyes looking at the corners of the screen. It did get me a couple of times. BUT there were moments where it relied heavily on loud noises and horrendous screams (And that was just from the hypersensitive audience! I kid you not. There was a lad hyperventilating into his hoodie. Behave!).

It was hardly ground breaking or original BUT enjoyable enough. In fact I enjoyed this more than the over-hyped misfire that was the Conjuring 2 (There, I said it!)

3/5

*NEW* THE SHALLOWS REVIEW *NEW*

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Blake Lively in a bikini and a ridiculous CGI’d shark – what’s not to like?

A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy (Blake Lively – Gossip Girl) is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills.

Jaws, this ain’t BUT once you cut through all the cheese, there lies a tense nail biting thriller that delivered everything I expected from the abomination that was Open Water.

An ominous opening involving a mangled helmet and some Go Pro footage certainly got the ball rolling. BUT that was soon hampered by Lively’s introduction. She did her best with the character and thankfully there wasn’t too much of her nauseating “I’m an American traveller in Mexico” spiel. Some guff about her visiting the same beach where her mother found out she was pregnant. Corny, I know.

It was easygoing enough as Lively’s Nancy set up on the shore and the location . . . My Goodness. Flavio Martinez Labiano’s beautiful cinematography really captured the beauty of Australia. *Cough* Sorry, “Mexico”. The clear blue oceans depressed me. The sun, the sea, the beach. I need a holiday. So inviting BUT of course, Nancy won’t be surfing alone.

The surfing scenes were actually quite good. I can never get enough Lively in slow motion (What?). BUT it was a little naff watching a stunt woman rip the tides with Lively’s badly CGI’d face. Yikes. I could feel my patience wading. 20 minutes in and no sign of our fishy friend?

Instead, we had Nancy challenged by two other surfers (I forgot their names. Let’s call them Shark Bait #1 and Shark Bait #2) and an argument over Face Time with some poorly placed multi-screens. It did give a much needed depth to her wafer thin surfer girl and there was a little more empathy behind the real reason for her cheesy quest.

Director Jaume Collet-Sera continued to tease the main star’s arrival. A darker score by Marco Beltrami, a few disorienting camera angles and the majestic waves soon became monstrous. Nancy’s board floating. The sun piercing. Every wave pressing. “One last wave . . . ” Oh that silly mistake. A dark shape flashes past.

And for the next 60 minutes, I was hooked. A game of wits against one of nature’s oldest and deadliest predators. Lively held her own and carried the film when the pace dropped. A little disappointing considering the film was only 86 minutes. BUT it got me jumping out of my seat, fidgeting uncomfortably and biting my nails off.

A nightmare situation if ever there was one. Stumbling into the feeding ground of a giant Great White Shark. Hell to the no.

Injured, afraid and left on a pile of rocks with only a few hours until low tide. The make up effects were pretty good as Nancy used her earrings to suture a gaping leg wound. Her medical student/patient mono-logging may have been a coping mechanism BUT it got on my nerves.

Thankfully she had a companion in a CGI’d seagull. Steven Seagull. No, seriously. That’s the bird’s name.

With no help coming (or being teared to pieces), Nancy takes desperate measures. Timing the the cycle that our foe takes. 32 seconds to swim from one rock to a rotting whale carcass.

I have to say that the CGI’d creature was a little hit and miss for me. It didn’t really spoil the experience or suspense BUT there were moments where I would have preferred the old mechanical monstrosity that drew Spielberg to scream profanities in Jaws.

BUT every time a fin rose to the surface, I was wincing. The seconds on our heroine’s timer running out. The closing act was frantic and nerve wracking. A final showdown on a bobbling bouy delivered a fitting homage to the ultimate shark movie. NO! NOT Sharknado.

The Shallows carried that fun B-movie feel BUT didn’t push things too far. Even if sirens went off when a flare somehow set a good portion of the ocean surface on fire.

I didn’t expect to get caught up in it as much as I did and even if the CGI left little to be desired, it was a still highly watchable and tense little thriller that is a must for the underwater horror junkies.

3/5

*NEW* THE FOREST REVIEW *NEW*

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Run to the hills . . . Avoid this movie!

A woman (Natalie Dormer) goes into Japan’s Suicide Forest to find her twin sister (Also Natalie Dormer) and confronts supernatural terror.

Dull, boring and laughable. I think Miss Dormer better stick with Game of Thrones. Another intriguing premise thrown down the gutter.

Credit where it is due. Dormer delivered the best performance that she could with the weak characters and cliched dialogue.

I really wanted the film to explore the mystery behind the Aokigahara Forest. Deemed the Suicide Forest. A forest so dense that it shuts out all natural sound. Making it a good site for suicide as no one can hear the acts take place. Believe me, I was freaked out by that paragraph alone on Wikipedia than I was with this movie.

The potential for a dark and psychological thriller squandered and replaced with a generic fright fest with little tension, predictable jumps and a twist you could see coming a mile off. 93 minutes? It felt a whole lot longer than that.

Despite Mattias Troelstrup’s beautifully shot cinematography and the creepy backdrop, The Forest was a coma-inducing bomb. The film flicked back and forth as Dormer’s Sara seeks Dorma’s Jess. The cliched flashbacks with her doppelganger twin were nauseating. Corny and unnecessary. Adding nothing to the mix.

When we weren’t exposed to these flashbacks, we had slow meandering shots of the woods with creepy trinkets popping up combined with lifeless dialogue between one dimensional characters that you couldn’t give two monkeys about.

Yukiyoshi Ozawa did his best to create a little suspense as the forest guide with his chilling ghost stories. Things finally picked up when Jess strayed from the path. A path that Ozawa repeatedly insisted she stayed on. BUT of course, what does she do?

The eeriness surrounding the Forest and the loss of time was a nice gimmick. BUT it never really got going. I could feel my eyes drooping. Reprieved by a few jumpy bits to keep me on my toes. A chance meeting involving a dark hallway in a remote hostel soon woke me out of my slumber. For a brief moment.

Taylor Kinney (Zero Dark Thirty) wasn’t strong enough or creepy enough to create any real threat or interest as the mysterious journalist that Jess meets along the way. The paranoia finally settling in thick and fast. BUT by the end I really didn’t care.

It took too long to get going. And when it did, you really wished you hadn’t bothered. Considering it had a $10 million budget, the effects were dreadful. Random extras popping up with manky fancy dress masks howling stupid noises really didn’t help matters.

And the finale offered a little of what I had expected. BUT it was rushed and far too frenetic. You also realised that the plot didn’t make any sense and the incredibly OTT score by Bear McCreary made it even more comical than it should have been.

A real mess. I’d wait for this to haunt the Horror Channel.

2/5

*NEW* CRIMSON PEAK REVIEW *NEW*

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A return to form (of sorts) from the master of horror.

In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author (Mia Wasikowska) is torn between love for her childhood friend (Charlie Hunnam) and the temptation of a mysterious outsider (Tom Hiddleston). Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds and remembers.

As soon as the blood soaked Universal logo flooded the screen, escorted with the creepy children’s choir singing, I was transfixed. A wonderfully Gothic opening ticked all the boxes for me. Suspenseful, menacing and eerily beautiful as a young Edith (Wasikowska – Stoker) receives a spooky warning from her dead mother. The effects were fantastic.

The first act was slow burning BUT watchable as we flash forward to a now twenty something Edith striving to make a career as a writer. Dan Laustsen’s cinematography was stunning to look at. It really captured the epic and lavish set designs. The Pride and Prejudice melodrama with Edith trying to avoid marriage was a little cliched and slackened the pace BUT it was entertaining enough.

Charlie Hunnam’s Dr McMichael (Sons of Anarchy) was weak. I’m sure his bashful crime enthusiast was supposed to make the charismatic Sharpe look more appealing. BUT his character didn’t have to be such a drip. His Sherlock inspired ramblings didn’t get things going either.

As soon as the illustrious Thomas Sharpe made his introduction, my interest was properly Peak-ed. Tom Hiddleston (Only Lovers Left Alive) played the mysterious count with aplomb. Charming his way straight into Edith’s heart. The whirlwind romance and shotgun wedding was a little rushed. BUT luckily there was always a bigger plan afoot.

And once Sharpe’s strange sister (played by the ever talented Jessica Chastain – Mama) was brought into the mix, I was in for a suspenseful middle act. The whispering, the glances, Chastain’s cold demeanour. Once her muddled English accent was tuned, she was brilliant. She worked well with Hiddleston and the pair made a notorious duo.

It was everything I expected from the moment Edith stepped foot in Alderdale Hall. A wonderfully Gothic setting. A dilapidated manor with a haunting presence complete with rotten mould, decay and dead bugs. It wasn’t long (Thankfully) before things went bump in the night. It was hypnotic viewing. The mystery behind the Sharpes and the house kept me intrigued. The long Shining-esque hallways, the cold dark passages, the scuttling crimson soaked skeletons. Creepy. Brilliant.

BUT for all the mystery and suspense, I was left wanting. After all that build up and Del Toro toying with us, the big reveal was a little disappointing and predictable. Tragically, the final minutes were also a little laughable with Edith squealing and flailing around the ‘Crimson Peak’ estate. A shame considering the picturesque winter setting. The snow bludgeoned with crimson clay. Or was it?

The supernatural element was the redeeming feature as the ghosts desperately try to relay messages to Edith. The unearthing of the puzzle was fun enough as we tried to suss out Sharpe’s intentions. A little twist about the Sharpes was certainly different BUT it only created more holes in the already wafer thin plot. It was never really explained properly. A shame after all that promise.

This is a vast improvement from Del Toro and a return to form (of sorts) after the monstrosity that was Pacific Rim and the Fringe inspired vampire TV series The Strain. Crimson Peak was a wonderfully shot old fashioned Victorian horror story. The leading cast were superb, the cinematography was to die for.

BUT the pace meandered along and the end result just didn’t quite deliver a satisfying enough climax after all that promise. Watchable though.

3/5