Category Archives: Horror Film Reviews

The Girl With All The Gifts Review

The Girl With All The Gifts Review

The Girl With All The Gifts Review – photo property of Poison Chef, BFI Film Fund, Altitude Film Entertainment

With a hypnotic, pulsing soundtrack, The Girl With All The Gifts begins with gritty intrigue. Set in an army base prison, a bunch of kids are being held in cells and can only be let out if they’re strapped into wheel chairs – Hannibal Lecter-style. They attend class and seem like regular kids – but don’t get too close – or these kids will gnaw your face off. Apparently there is a fungus infection that is being transferred through bodily fluids, once infected you’ll turn into one of the “hungries”, scathing, rampant zombies.

The fun kicks in soon enough as an infection breaks out on the army base. Our small group of survivors is led by Dr. Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close), two military guys (Paddy Considine, Fisayo Akinade), Helen (Gemma Arterton), a teacher at the base and newcomer Sennia Nanua as Melanie, the Girl With All The Gifts. Melanie is special because she is highly intelligent and self aware, allowing her to be semi-in control of her hunger. Once they abandon the base, they set forth on a journey to London but will need to wad through lots of hungries along the way.

With so many zombie movies being made, the challenge is how to keep them interesting. These “hungries” are a bit different as they aren’t always in full hunger mode. They fall into a deep zombie sleep once no longer stimulated and are triggered by motion and scent. This behavior has been used in previous zombie flicks, but in this film the creepy motionless un-dead are used to their full potential, and makes for some really tense scenes.

The overall maternal theme that runs throughout the film is an interesting one. Helen is a caring, and compassionate teacher who becomes very protective over Melanie, despite the danger she represents. She believes that the human side will win if Melanie is nurtured properly. Dr. Caldwell, played by a steely Glenn Close is the no-nonsense biologist, who will do anything in the name of science and is hell-bent on finding a cure. She only cares for Melanie because she needs her brain to make a vaccine and thus treats her like a lab rat.

It’s a purposeful gender switch from the stereotypical male mad scientist. When Glenn Close comes in contact with a zombie baby, her reaction is not one of maternal love (as seen in the remake of Dawn of the Dead) but one of horror. It’s shocking to see a woman behave like this, as society constantly pushes the warm and maternal stereotype onto women. As horror theory proves, what we repress comes back as the monster, and the film makes us question who the real monster is in this story.

Adapted from a novel by Mike Carey, this is a decent zombie movie with a bit of twist on the genre. The story starts off strong but loses its bite by the half way mark. The film meanders, never fully developing some characters or the underlying theme, resulting in an ending that feels abrupt and disjointed. The battle in The Girl With All The Gifts is not man vs. zombie but man vs. nature, or rather, woman vs. nature.   Who wins in the end feels ultimately unsatisfying, possibly because the character with the most emotional depth in this film is the Girl with all Gifts herself: a zombie. Yet, despite this, she is devoid of conflict and as a result, we are left feeling like the hollow hungries: unfulfilled and wanting more.

Directed by: Colm McCarthy
Cast: Glenn Close, Gemma Arterton, Sennia Nanua, Paddy Considine, Fisayo Akinade
Released: 2016

What is your favourite zombie movie?  What did you think about my The Girl With All The Gifts review?  I would love to know what you think about the ending!

Get Out Review

Get Out Review - photo property of Blumhouse Productions & QC Entertainment

Get Out Review – photo property of Blumhouse Productions & QC Entertainment

At one point in Get Out, the directorial debut of Jordan Peele, one half of the sketch comedy duo Key and Peele, the main character proclaims, “it’s not what they said, it’s how they say it”. In a world where racism has been pushed to the surface and groups like Black Lives Matter are making headlines, it’s one of the film’s strongest statements. This is my review of Get Out, one of the best films of 2017, and one of the most socially relevant horror films to be released in a long time.

Daniel Kaluuya (Sicario) plays Chris, an African American photographer who is heading out of the city for a weekend with his white girlfriend, Rose played by Girls Allison Williams. Chris is meeting Rose’s parents for the first time “Do they know I’m black?” he asks her. “Should they?” she responds, and then laughs it off, reassuring him that they are definitely, not racists. On the surface, Get Out is a well constructed horror film. Below the surface, it’s delving into the underlying race issues that we as a society believe to have overcome.

The film starts off on an uneasy note when Chris and Rose hit a deer and the police officer called to the scene asks Chris for his ID, even though Alison was driving. The typical way a scene like this would play out in a horror film would be a small town cop arriving on scene and acting creepy, a premonition of things to come. In Get Out Rose smoothly handles the situation, coming to an unspoken understanding with the cop implying that he is only asking for Chris’ ID because he is black. The couple continues on and we shrug off the cop incident as well, but this is an example of why Get Out is genius. By Ruth, the white person neutralizing the situation, it no longer feels like a threat, even though it is just as big a warning sign as the creepy red neck cop trope. By normalizing this situation, we’re ignoring the problem, and as a result Rose and Chris, and our society at large, will suffer the consequences.

Rose’s parents welcome Chris with open arms but something feels off, and the film does a good job of slowing building this sense of unease with the audience.   There is the awkward family dinner with Rose’s brother when he tries to play fight with Chris. The fact that the housekeeper and groundskeeper are black, yet treat Chris with a strange air of coldness. But the tensions really increase when Rose’s parents throw a big garden party. Chris can’t quite pinpoint his unease, and at first he is a good sport meeting all of the parent’s older white friends. He smiles politely through their well intentioned but inappropriate attempts at conversation. We get the impression that he’s used to this, and has been in this situation many times before. We sympathize with Chris and get a taste of what it feels like to be navigating through a dominant white society through the eyes of a black man.

By the time he figures out the truth, it’s too late. One could say that it’s a bit of an analogy for the last US Election. We kept patting ourselves on the back thinking that we had progressed as a society. When Donald Trump won we were shocked, and all the hate lying dormant for years was allowed back into the light. It’s the main theory behind horror films– whatever we repress as a society, comes back as the monster. The truth behind what’s really going on in Roses’ family is truly monstrous and horrific. When Chris’ friend Rod played by Lil Rel Howery, who steals every scene, goes to the police station with a theory about his missing friend, the group of ethnic cops laugh in his face. It’s a funny scene and one of the reasons why this film works so well – Peele makes us think even when we’re laughing. I’m sure we would have laughed too if someone had told us a few years ago who would be running the White House.

Get Out Review

Get Out Review

There are many layers to Get Out, and I look forward to watching it again. This film struck the perfect balance of pleasure and horror, executing its themes with a smart script, great pacing and just the right amount of gore and wit. All the performances were spot on, and I really enjoyed watching Catherine Keener in a role so unlike any other we’ve seen her play. Daniel Kaluuya is excellent as well, struggling to keep his cool as a good boyfriend even though he knows something is amiss, all the while working through his own inner demons. It’s also refreshing to see a male as the main victim of a horror film instead of your typical Final Girl. There’s something to be said when the outcast, virgin Final Girl is replaced with an African American man.

A suburban horror film mixed with mad scientist influences Get Out is like Stepford Wives crossed with Invasion of the Body Snatchers with some Re-Animator thrown in. The film forces us to examine the real monsters in our modern society, and the dangers of normalizing or ignoring unresolved racial tensions.

Written and directed by: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams and Catherine Keener
Released: 2017

What did you think of Get Out?  Let me know your thoughts on my review!

Split (2016) Movie Review

Split (2016) Movie Review

Split (2016) Movie Review. Photo courtesy of Blinding Edge Pictures, Blumhouse Productions

Mr. Shyamalan, I beg you, please stop writing your own movies.

I lost faith with M. Night Shyamalan films after the incredibly disappointing “twist” at the end of The Village.   I loved The Sixth Sense and Signs and appreciated Unbreakable but after The Village we had to take a break. It was a shame to end our blossoming filmmaker/film fan relationship because I do think he is a good director. His films are visually interesting with immersive, moody atmospheres. His stories are the seeds of great ideas that could be better developed in the hands of a real screenwriter.

But Split looked interesting, and I love James McAvoy. However I was nervous going into an M. Night Shyamalan movie.   Was he going to take me along for a ride and then leave me hanging once again?

I got into the movie for the most part, despite cringing at some lame dialogue in the beginning. James McAvoy plays Kevin, a man who suffers from dissociative-identity disorder and kidnaps three teenage girls in a parking lot. Each of his 23 personalities teases to a more sinister motive that the final 24th personality has planned for the three victims. As the girls meet various James McAvoys, we explore the hierarchy of the personalities in his therapy sessions, conducted by a compassionate therapist played by Betty Buckley (Pretty Little Liars).

McAvoy plays each of his characters with ease (thankfully we don’t see all 23), admirably withstanding the pressure of holding up the whole movie. At times the film borders on too much character over content and risks being a one-man James McAvoy-show. The distinctive personalities are humorous at times, breaking the tension and leaving the audience feeling a bit awkward, unsure of the intention. The tone of this thriller continues to be uneven throughout as we cut back and forth between the imprisoned girls and Kevin’s therapy sessions. The film would have been more terrifying if we were imprisoned with the girls and his personalities the whole time, instead of letting the audience breathe. The purpose that the sessions serve is so minute and ultimately pointless that we’re left feeling cheated for the time we’ve invested in the character.

Unlike the strong female lead in 10 Cloverfield Lane, that had a similar survivalist premise, these three female victims fall flat in comparison. Instead of developing the relationship between the characters organically, he cuts back and forth to a distracting backstory behind the outsider girl, Casey who is played with a bit of depth by Anya Taylor-Joy (who was also excellent in last year’s The Witch). Her exposition feels so contrived to support the big “twist” at the end that it takes away from any growth her character has shown. The other two girls are forgettable and one feels frustrated wondering why three girls couldn’t take down one man. Shyamalan tries to cover his bases here by having one girl exclaim how they “need to stop acting like victims!” But one line does not make a character and soon enough the character development takes a backseat as the personalities roll in. It’s a shame how Shyamalan has lost faith in his audience and seems convinced that explaining every detail makes for an interesting story.

By the time the end reared its sweaty, vein-pulsing head, I was holding my own head in my hands. That old Shyamalan-feeling was washing over me A word of warning: leave immediately when the film ends.   Escape the ridiculous Marvel-like teaser – a painfully forced scene with a character from one of his older films. A throw back to one of your better films, does not improve the current movie. Stop trying to twist M., just stop!

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardsono, Jessica Sula
Released: 2017

Are you a M. Night Shyamalan fan?  What did you think of my Split movie review?