THE RITUAL REVIEW

If only they could have summoned up a quicker pace . . .

A group of college friends reunite for a trip to the forest, but encounter a menacing presence in the woods that’s stalking them.

The opening act set the tone as the lads (comprising of a talented and underrated British cast) debated about their next excursion. Lulling us into a false sense of security as they bantered and bickered over locations.

I’ve had the same discussion with my friends many a time about our European outings.

However, a simple beer run soon turned everything on its head as a cowardly Luke (Rafe Spall – Hot Fuzz) hid during a botched supermarket robbery leaving his best friend to face a gruesome end.

Forward six months to a now embittered Luke begrudgingly hiking in Northern Sweden. A man still tortured by his dreams. Living that same night over and over.

The slow burning tempo complimented the piece (To start with . . . ). The air of unease, the eerily tranquil forest setting, Ben Lovett’s incredible and unsettling score.

Andrew Shulkind’s cinematography was brilliant. He managed to make a somewhat grainy outlook picturesque.

The cast delivered. A must when the premise relied heavily on four characters. Robert James-Collier (Ol’ Thomas from Downton Abbey) almost stole the show from Spall.

“Well, this is the house we get murdered in”.

The dynamic worked well and the exchanges were entertaining enough as the film teased us with creepy little tidbits; butchered animals hanging in the trees, strange Blair Witch Project like markings.

It wasn’t long before a blistering storm and an untimely injury for a party member forced the gang to seek shelter in an abandoned cabin. I loved the Evil Dead vibe. The eerie noises. And that demented Wicker Man looking effigy?!

Seriously, I would have endured the storm than stay in that cabin. Sheesh.

By the half hour marker, I could feel my interest wading BUT things took a stranger turn as the gang experienced trippy and demented Hangover style blackouts. Losing all sense of time/space/whereabouts. Straying further from their path home.

I kept wondering why we only saw Luke’s (repetitive and incredibly irritating) nightmares and none of the others? All we had was pure hearsay. Without unleashing any spoilers, I really hoped that the film was going to stray down The Thing territory BUT alas it was not to be . . .

I still loved the fact that you didn’t know what direction this film was going to take right up to the closing minutes as the gang tried to escape their impending doom.

There were a few jumpy bits with some fine moments of perfectly executed suspense and tension. Even when the inevitable bickering and rising body count began.

I also loved how we didn’t know what was attacking them right up until its big reveal in the gripping finale.

The only problem I had with The Ritual was that I thought there might have been a little more to it. After the big unveiling of the “creature”, it rushed to a frantic (albeit nail biting) climax. It just felt a little abrupt after all that build up.

BUT I was pleasantly surprised. A weird, creepy little horror worthy of your time.

3/5 (Just)

*NEW* GHOST STORIES REVIEW *NEW*

Spookay. Horrific BUT for the right reasons?

Skeptic Professor Phillip Goodman (Andy Nyman) embarks upon a terror-filled quest when he stumbles across a long-lost file containing details of three cases of inexplicable ‘hauntings’.

As soon as the heavy breathing hit those speakers over the opening title sequence, I knew what I was in for. The movie title jumping out of the screen confirmed my fears that this will not be comfortable viewing.

Something I expect from a horror.

Nyman was a solid lead. The first act ticked over as the Ricky Gervais doppelganger exposed Martin from Benidorm (Nicholas Burns) as a fake. Joking aside, it was good watching Green expose Burn’s Derek Acorah impersonator. Complete with fake tan.

A man fixated on debunking the supernatural. That was until a mysterious cassette (Do they still make those?) is posted though Green’s door. His curiousity peaked. An invitation from his childhood icon, the renowned paranormal investigator Charles Cameron, who had (until this moment) been missing for years.

I loved how the film kept you on edge from the get go. You never really knew where it was going as Green accepted Cameron’s “challenge” to explain three “unsolvable” cases.

I have to commend the cast. I couldn’t fault them. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to take them seriously as the majority of them had featured in the comedy circuit.

Each performance suited the story. Paul Whitehouse was entertaining. Using humour to hide the pain of that dreaded night. A man plagued by something more than his own demons.

I found the interviewing process a little tedious in places as Green feigned small talk to get to the good stuff BUT as soon as Whitehouse recalled the first ghost story of this saga, I was on tenterhooks.

That feeling of unease as things went bump in the night and shadows serenaded across the fading lights. The suspense and tension perfectly executed, teasing the inevitable encounter from our spooky friends.

One thing I will never be is a night watchman. I would have bolted when the power went out. Let alone, strange noises and ghastly shapes running around the premises. Fook that!

Not that I need a cheap scare to get my kicks BUT I lost count of how many times I jolted in my seat.

Alex Lawther (The End of the F***king World) was brilliant as the erratic Simon. I just wish his ghost story wasn’t so stupid despite the fitting Evil Dead nods. It wouldn’t have worked at all if wasn’t for Lawther.

I was happy to stick with Green interviewing him. Simon’s creepy household unsettled me more than the actual “ghost story”. Especially when Green tried to introduce himself to the parents *shudders*.

It was great to see Martin Freeman in this. He played it well. Not too big for the low budget Brit flicks. The poltergeist story was a mixed bag BUT it took an unexpected turn that left me in awe.

“The brain let’s you see what you want to see”.

A proper old school horror. Tense, nail biting and freaky to boot.

However, my main issue was the pacing and the actual “unravelling” of the cases. The finale will definitely split people. I was left wanting and a little disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, it took a completely different direction BUT there were quite a few obvious clues along the way and alarm bells were ringing pretty early on when Charles Cameron was introduced into the mix.

I hoped it would focus more on Green’s crusade as he questioned beliefs and challenged the idea of the “other world”. An interesting debate with a priest had potential BUT it seemed once the ghost stories came into play, even the protagonist became an unwitting spectator as the film drew to its messy conclusion.

Right up to that point, I was wincing, dreading what lie in store for each character (Forgetting that they were the narrators of their own stories!). Completely transfixed and happy to see a low budget horror flick at my local picture house.

I can’t believe I’m saying this BUT I just wish a little more time was spent on the story then the actual scares. It was too convoluted for its own good.

If you’re in the mood for a well acted low budget jump-fest, then GS is for you. Anything else, run away!

2.5/5

*NEW* DON’T BREATHE REVIEW *NEW*

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Don’t bother . . .

Messing with Stephen Lang. That dude is a machine.

Hoping to walk away with a massive fortune, a trio of thieves break into the house of a blind man who isn’t as helpless as he seems.

From the creators of the Evil Dead remake. My heart sank. A shambolic monstrosity that should never have happened. Thankfully, I didn’t share the same sentiment with this taut thriller.

The establishing shot hooked me in from the get go. Tension set. However, I did have a little grumble as the story flashed back BUT thankfully writer/director Fede Alvarez didn’t mess about. The film set up the characters and the premise pretty sharpish.

It takes a lot for a premise like this to work when you only have three characters BUT thankfully the cast were perfectly chosen.

We join our trio in the middle of a burglary. I felt my loyalties were tested very early on. Their unlikeable and amateurish antics had me silently rooting for the appropriated titled Blind Man as they robbed and destroyed people’s homes.

As much as you could feel for Rocky’s background (Jane Levy – Evil Dead/Suburgatory) and need to break from the desolate Detroit backdrop; you despised the way she strung along her best friend Alex (Dylan Minette – Goosebumps) and manipulated him to do her bidding.

It made a change to see Minette break away from family movies. He played the conflicted (and tragically “friend-zoned”) Alex well. Torn between pleasing the woman he loves and giving his father a prison sentence after stealing all his client’s files to help in their burglaries.

For a good 20 minutes, it was a slow burning crime thriller. That was until they received the tip of a lifetime (or so they thought). A blind war veteran sitting on a fortune. Daniel Zovatto was highly annoying as Money. The corn rolled douche. I’m sure that was the point BUT I was actually hoping the big man would wake up as they broke into his home.

The stake out and dull cliched rationalizing did have me fidgeting a little bit. BUT that all changed when Lang (Avatar) was introduced. He was superb. His physical presence, along with those unsettling scarred eyes, freaked me out. From the moment he stumbled onto the scene, I was hooked.

For a brief moment, I felt more empathy towards the baffled vet. The silence created a perfect atmosphere as the thieves crept around the house avoiding his clutches. I couldn’t help BUT think of that infamous Simpsons episode with Bart and the blind man. Especially when one of them was hiding in the closet.

I tried not to pick at the amateurish mistakes that the gang made. Walking past the only door with a padlock on it and wondering where the fortune was? Hmmm . . .

BUT it did unfold into one of the deadliest games of hide and seek. You could cut the suspense with a knife. The night vision sequence was brilliant as the Blind Man cuts the power to his advantage. Waiting in the darkness for the slightest sound or movement. You could hear a pin drop.

From how the film was advertised, I expected a horror for some reason. And if you were too, I warn you. It isn’t. If anything, I’m glad that it wasn’t. A proper little thriller. Just when I was getting bored of the endless hiding and breath holding, the closing act took an even darker turn and I was transfixed right up until the tense finale.

A great cast, a creepy premise and some perfectly executed suspense ridden sequences makes this one to watch.

3/5

POLTERGEIST REVIEW

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Pol-turd-geist!

Consider my faith in horror movies extinguished.

Another horrific remake stains the silver screen and makes one unhappy and frustrated film goer throw in the towel.

A family whose suburban home is haunted by evil forces must come together to rescue their youngest daughter after the apparitions take her captive.

As soon as I heard that this cursed horror classic was being remade, I screamed “Why?” Why waste money and time on remaking films that didn’t need to be touched?

The trailers may have done their job of piquing my interest but they could have at least made an effort with the story, the characters, the scares and the actual film.

Hollywood must be scraping the bottom of the barrel. I just discovered that there is a Point Break remake due for release? Has the world gone mad? Can they not think of anything original or even remake a bad movie? I can think of hundreds. Apparently the studio heads can’t. Hell, they could remake the the majority of the horror films that were released this last year alone!

The original was a classic. Flawed but weird and, most importantly, creepy. This turgid affair was laughable. Seriously the audience were in tears. Not of fear but actual laughter.

The 3D gimmick was the only reason I gave this any points. It was still lazy and desperate but it worked. But compared to the bland acting and clichéd dialogue, of course it would.

Sam Rockwell “Rockwelled” the place up. He was probably the only saving grace. Shame he was barely in it. Kennedi Clements was also excellent as the adorable little Madison. Giving Heather O’Rourke a run for her money. Hell, she acted better than the rest of the cast.

Jared Harris’ performance was terrible. A prolific actor reduced to a parodic (Well, I should say moronic) role. The character Carrigan Burke was a joke. The silly videos promoting his highly televised paranormal TV show got a cheeky laugh. Poking fun at the Derek Acorahs of the world.

The only problem was that he completely killed any tension or suspense that the film desperately needed. He also seemed to forget that he was supposed to be Irish and then halfway through the film, he really thickened his accent up. It was comical for all the wrong reasons.

Plus he didn’t contribute anything to fighting the poltergeist. He just bellowed, “Leave this family!” and got sucked up in the wormhole when there was no need.

You know the film is failing when the best moment is a 3D demon squirrel flying at you out of the screen. You read that right. A 3D demon squirrel.

The clowns were creepy. BUT they were rushed into the mix far too quickly. Desperate for a quick fright. Sacrificing suspense for a naff scare. It had enough to scar anyone who may have a slight phobia of clowns but it was done so badly that I thought I was watching Scary Movie 2.

Also, why the clowns? What was the relevance? Nothing to do with poltergeists, cursed burial grounds, nothing. “Sometimes, son. People collect weird stuff”. Really? That’s it.

It didn’t help that the moment was ruined by young Griffin being dragged out of his room by a tree? Seriously. This all happened. A lazy Evil Dead gag that failed on all fronts. That aerial shot when the parents pull up on the drive to see him dangling from said tree was hilarious!

The house wasn’t even built on an Indian burial ground. Some passing reference poking fun at the original’s ridiculous premise may have been noted. But what the writers offered up in this monstrosity managed to make that a masterpiece. No curse or creepy backstory. Just some old cemetery that was dug up and moved away. Riiggghhhttt.

The bits that would have made you jump were flogged heavily in the trailers. If you were lucky not to see them, then you might have a jump or two. The endless screaming and corny exchanges were not even funny. Look. If you have a muddy corpse crawling out of the ground, you don’t stand there and scream at it! You bloody run!

Or even worse. Every time the family would survive an encounter or little fright, they would hug each other and say how sorry they are for being a useless father, daughter, son. Get out of the house!

What annoyed me was that there was a slow opening build up that had potential. The characters were actually given a little depth. Griffin battling his ongoing anxieties. Rockwell’s father struggling with money problems. But it went nowhere and didn’t matter by the end. A waste of time. Which summarizes my experience of this film.

The only scare people will get is the ticket price.

The horror, the horror!

1/5