Saturday, 27 February 2016

FFF REVIEW: HEAT WAVE (COUP DE CHAUD)


 
4/5

On a rainy night a young man is running through the streets of a small town. He is seriously wounded and loosing a lot of blood. As he collapses on the ground, a few meters away from home we rewind back to see what had happened and why. Who is to blame? A man? Or a heat wave, that threw everyone in this small provincial own to the edge of their sanity?

HEAT WAVE is a story of a small town, what makes it tick, and what can destroy it. We are introduced to a handful of characters, simple country folk, each and one of them a hostage of their town, their land, and each other. At the center of the story is a young man Josheph Bousou, whose inadequate behavior slowly but steadily turns everyone against him and it is only a matter of time when one of the villagers will strike to eliminate the problem.

HEAT WAVE is a drama and a mystery. Although the investigation part takes only one fourth of the film, we do wonder about the characters long before the eponymous crime is committed. The “whodunit” part is not the main focus of the story, however. It’s the politics of the town, the “have and have-nots”, the power play and the scape goats – all like a political model of a country on a minor scale.

The performances are all top notch, but the focus is always on Karim Leklou as mentally handicapped Joseph. His portrayal of this town’s black sheep is a reflection of naivety, but the sort of naivety that cannot tell the right from wrong. He is one scary individual, while also pretty harmless, we can easily identify with the rest of the town and see why they want to get rid of him.

HEAT WAVE is not evenly paced, but always fascinating and has an interesting story to tell. Placing one’s sins on the shoulders of others is a common topic for director Raphael Jacoulot, whose previous film THE NIGHT CLERC also featured a young man with social problems and a murder investigation, but was placed into a an opposite environment from HEAT WAVE – the middle of the snowy alps.

Also not a perfect film, HEAT WAVE is an interesting  examination of a small town life. The whole experience breaths with authenticity, but is rather heavy, just like the midsummer afternoon in province.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

HORROR MOVIE REVIEW: INTRUDERS (SHUT IN)


4/5

INTRUDERS is a home invasion movie with a twist. Anna, a fragile young heroine, has a phobia of open spaces and cannot leave the house. So she is robbed of any chance to escape when the intruders break in, trying to steal her family fortune. But there's something else wrong with Anna, apart from her agoraphobia. She does not simply fight back. She begins a slaughter...

INTRUDERS has nailed the main ingredient of horror - it is the atmosphere. There's also a fabulous sense of mystery, surrounding Anna's past and the answer to the question why she had turned out this way is  not one dimensional.

Beth Riesgraf as Anna takes an interesting approach to her role. She remains the same vulnerable young woman and consistent in this image through the whole movie. When her dark side shows up, she does not transform into a demon, but sort of adapt it to her dorky personality, remaining that same girl we saw in the opening scenes. The end result is sort of... Terrifying. And very believable.

INTRUDERS is a small film with a small budget and it shows in every frame, however the script is focused and effective. During the movie's short run time you will not be distracted. There is a lot to wish for - more action, more scares and even more blood, but with a good story blooming at its heart, THE INTRUDERS is an hour and a half well spent, whether you are horror fan or not. The ending is a curious exploration of the nature of evil and has a surprising shocking value of realisation that you are rooting for a monster.

To sum it up, INTRUDERS does not break any new grounds, however it's very insane but charismatic heroine and the performance of Beth Riesgraf is impressive and lifts this independent horror above average.

Friday, 19 February 2016

KOREAN MOVIE REVIEW: THE FIVE


4/5

Eun-Ah is a crippled woman who lives her life consumed by revenge. Two years ago her husband and daughter were taken from her by a vicious killer. Realising that she could not execute her revenge alone she promises to donate her organs to four desperate  strangers. With the help of this team of the most unlikely associates,  she masterminds a plan to catch the killer, but who is hunting who in this chilling cat and mouse game?

THE FIVE takes its time to unravel, and not afraid to be slow. The tension kicks in pretty soon however, giving us badly damaged heroine ready to do anything to achieve her goal. It is typical for Korean cinema to present a well balanced mix of horrifying  and sentimental, so you will be both moved and scared. 

The script gives us a very unlikable mix of people, petty and disloyal, but as the movie progresses we see them change for the better. Their faults make them more real, but their transformation towards the end of the film is next to miraculous and hard to swallow. 

The relentless serial killer, portrayed by the young star On Joo-Wan, is more annoying than terrifying,  but by the time of the bloody finale we will learn to hate him with all our hearts. 

THE FIVE misses a few opportunities for interesting set pieces (the main character's obsession with domino effect is introduced a few times during the film, but hardly used in action) and some of the four associates barely do anything, they basically lack their own story arcs. 

All in all, THE FIVE is not without fault, but it is very complete and satisfying movie experience. Successfully combining melodrama and horror, it is an addictive viewing that has as much power to scare you as to make you shed a tear.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

HORROR MOVIE REVIEW: REGRESSION


31/2/5

The year is 1980. Sixteen year old Angela (Emma Watson) claims that her father had sexually assaulted her. Detective investigator Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke), uses a type of hypnosis called regression to bring back the disturbing memories. Thus uncovered a terrible truth: there is a satanic cult thriving on the back step of their sleep away town. Dwelling deeper into the macabre and with the town (and America itself) drowning in hysteria, will Bruce be able to protect the teenage victim from whatever terror is hunting her?

Alejandro Amenabare is a master of psychological horror, but in REGRESSION he puts too much emphasis on political underlay. There are genuinely scary scenes in the film, but they hardly relate to what might be at stake and the final twist, unfortunately, is too easy to guess.

The films takes long to get going, but once it establishes the intrigue it is rather enjoyable for a half an hour or so, before spiralling down to its twisted but all to obvious ending.

REGRESSION asks curious questions, and it is interesting to compare the power of the media the way it used to be and what it is now. The villains had changed, but aren’t we the victims of the same paranoia created by the newsmakers?

REGRESSION has a good cast, but while Ethan Hawke is stuck with an absolutely cardboard cop character, I can see why Emma Watson decided to take on her role. Without giving too much away, she proves she can create an enigmatic  character with charisma and fragility, but remain believable when the most outrageous twist is thrown at her.


REGRESSION is a wellmade film. It has a great atmosphere, some good acting, and even raises some intriguing questions, but the lengthy running time of nearly two hours inevitably brings it down. With the final twist delivered awkwardly, it is an anticlimax and a false move for such a masterful director as Amenable.


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

HORROR MOVIE REVIEWS: FINAL GIRLS




31/2/5

It's been three years since Max had lost her mother in a car crash. To celebrate her mother's life, Max and a few friends go to see a slasher movie where Max's mom starred as a teenage victim. When the fire brakes out in the theatre our friends escape through the tear in the screen and find themselves trapped inside a horror movie. Will Max be able to rekindle her relationship with a cinematic version of her mom while the killer is on the loose and dead are bodies piling up around them? As friends take a stand against the maniac, they understand that in the slasher movies of the 80's there can be only one final girl.

FINAL GIRLS is not really a horror movie, but is made for horror fans. Focusing on the relationship between the girl and the imprint of her lost mother the film gives us a surprisingly genuine drama. It is also a proof that Taissa Famiga as Max and Malin Akerman as her mother are fine actors. Their scenes together are believable and heartwarming.

The premise of 80's slasher is nicely staged with over the top colour palette and idealic summer camp setting. The murders are brutal but swift, with as little on screen gore as possible. The  grand finale confrontation between the killer and the final girl is a delight. In whole, the movie leaves a warm impression, the way "feel good" dramas do.

A genre blander, FINAL GIRLS successfully combine parody, comedy, thriller and sentimental. Avoiding false notes, it is not a gore feast, but a plunge into nostalgia, final result being a solid and focused film.

Monday, 8 February 2016

MOVIE REVIEW: HATEFUL 8


5/5

A cart pulled by six horses is driving thought the snow ridden frontier lands escaping the storm. It's John Ruth, aka The Hangman bringing the criminal Daisy Domergue to Red Rock town for the final justice. Thus begins the movie, that one may call a cinematic event of the year. It is long, brutal and unapologetic. It is a parody of a western and a love letter to it. It is a gore fest as well as an emotional roller coaster. And it's a "who done it " mystery Tarantino way. To sum it up - expect the unexpected.

I was honoured (and it's a correct word for it) to attend a 70mm presentation at Astor theatre in Melbourne Australia, with an Overture, Interval and a souvenir program. This is a movie experience as special as a theatre event. And come to think of it, Tarantino's films have an impact as personal as a theatre performance.

If you are not Tarantino's fan you will have to prepare yourself for a long ride. The film unravels slowly as a few strangers get together on the road. Let yourself get lost in their chatter, it is easy to do, and then, little by little, you will start a decent into macabre.

As he does in many of his films, Tarantino ignores the time frames Hollywood sets on blockbusters, focusing on mis en scene and performances. Making us familiar with the characters for the most of the first two hours, he then pushes "all goes to hell" button and you will be sitting in awe, with your jaw dropped, thinking "if I only knew".

HATEFUL 8 can be summed up with one word - fun. It could be almost a "feel good movie" if it had not shed so much blood in the process. You can write a separate article on Ennio Morricone Soundtrack, which may not be a great stand alone listening, but a perfect match for this bastard child of a western.

Performances are all top notch. Tarantino made a conscious decision to choose a very "even" cast, where no star is brighter or more important than the other. However  Jennifer Jason Lee upstages them all. Her very dark but somehow very easy to relate to Daisy is the real show stealer. She is a monster one cannot sympathise with, but you do wish her to be spared.

The violence comes sudden and swift, and has "what's just happen?" effect on the audience who gasped and cheered each time the blood was shed. Full of surprises and bearing Tarantino's signature mark of irony and ability to turn true what's beyond belief, HATEFUL 8 is a unique movie experience that only gets better with multiple viewing and will entertain for years to come.