Film Reviews by NP

Welcome to NP's film reviews page. NP has written 874 reviews and rated 973 films.

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Darkness Wakes

Stick with it!

(Edit) 16/09/2021

The cons: the ‘odd’ couple, especially Richard Kilgour as Mr. Farrow, make what might kindly be described as bizarre acting choices, and they are amongst the very first characters we meet. Later on, in context, their OTT melodrama has more meaning, but to open a film with these two proves a major stumbling block.

The pros: everything that follows is hugely effective and on occasion, genuinely frightening. Jump scares, so often and repetitively featured in such films, actually do their job here. The main antagonist is extremely creepy, made all the more so because the camera only allows us fleeting glimpses of him.

The cast provide competent performances throughout, but Aisling Knight carries the whole thing beautifully as Charlotte. Her journey is made compelling due to the performance, even when the characters choices are – typical of horror films – not always wise.

Director and writer Simon Richardson has put together a terrific story here. There are enough revelations and intrigue to keep things compelling, but the whole thing is also directed very well, making the most of the darkness and the stunning locations.

Some online reviews have been unnecessarily harsh on this film, I think. Perhaps the theatricalities of some early scenes put people off. My advice – stick with it. ‘Darkness Wakes’ gets better and better as it rolls along. I had a great time watching it. My score is 9 out of 10.

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A Ghost Story: The Small Hand

Tepid ghost story.

(Edit) 16/09/2021

This is a surprisingly flat adaption of the Susan Hill story, in which the sweeping locations come first, most of the acting comes a distant second and sadly, the plot doesn’t really get past the starting block.

It’s very difficult to engage with the characters. There’s not much to them, and the playing is often stilted. The scares are occasionally effective, but when the manifest ‘ghost’ is a very physical being – and an irritating bully rather than a demonic spirit to boot - there’s nothing to elicit the mildest chill.

What a shame this is, when the mood sets us up for grand things – slow, lingering camera work, a minimalist, darkly ambient score and a stunning location. Effective dressing, but barely anything to hang them on. Only Neve McIntosh puts in a committed performance. My score is 4 out of 10.

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The Heretics

Grim and sweaty!

(Edit) 16/09/2021

This Canadian film takes a while to get going, but it is worth sticking around. The initial sight of pretty people basking in their love threatens to topple into soap opera petting, but things are soon turned on their head – as the opening ritual indicates they might.

Everything works well here, and there are some very satisfying twists in the story that certainly fooled me. These twists don’t stop until the very end and it is up to the individual to decide whether they’re all as successful as they might be: I thoroughly enjoyed being led by Director Chad Archibald through the maze of his and Jamie Laforest’s story.

The acting is good throughout, but mention should be made of Nina Kiri as the unfortunate Gloria, Ry Barrett as the equally wretched Thomas and Jorja Cardence the feisty Joan.

Grim and sweaty, this is an atmospheric and satisfying horror. My score is 8 out of 10.

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Bigfoot

Wears its inspirations on its sleeve.

(Edit) 16/09/2021

Beware, this opens with a truly appalling bunch of manicured, horny catwalk ‘campers’ acting like dicks - but mercifully, events leave them behind very quickly and become a lot more interesting.

The director’s homage to the horror genre loses points for wearing its inspirations on its sleeve and ultimately resulting in a rudderless film. What appears to be one thing, becomes another, which in turn becomes another, which certainly keeps the audience on its toes.

It’s an enjoyable ride, and you can’t really ask for much more than that, cheeky even in its myriad ‘homages’ – but the final revelation will divide some. My score is 6 out of 10.

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Jack the Ripper

Lavish, well told, sags a little in the middle.

(Edit) 16/09/2021

This German recounting of the exploits of the Whitechapel Murderer is a well told, lavish looking adaption of the story that sags just a little in the middle.

Anna Kosminski (Sonja Gerhardt) travels to London to discover that her brother Jakob is in an asylum and has been wrongly accused of carving up locals – or so she believes. Swimming against the stream, she sets out to find the truth behind the accusations and exposing one of history’s most notorious killers. Whether she succeeds or not is for the viewer to find out – but I would recommend the journey.

The recreation of London in 1888 is painstakingly achieved and the acting, taking into consideration the English dub, is uniformly excellent. The plot twists and turns and offers up a few genuine surprises, although don’t expect a particularly accurate representation of the facts (after all, this doesn’t pretend to be a documentary). My score is 7 out of 10.

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Inmate Zero

Enjoyable zombie breakout.

(Edit) 16/09/2021

I wasn’t overly enthused about watching this having read some reviews – which serves me right for reading them before watching! I honestly don’t know what some people want from a film. That’s to say, I enjoyed this.

It took me a while to appreciate the lead actress. Unlike other cast members, Jess Chanliau initially mumbles her lines and is incomprehensible some of the time. A shame, because Stone is very interesting and not a run-of-the-mill heroine, and when circumstances become more intense, her performance is excellent. The standard of acting elsewhere is often very good, with only a few performances not quite convincing.

The story involves a zombie breakout on an island prison. The location is beautifully filmed and we get a real sense of isolation. Also, as Warden Crowe insists, extreme measures must be taken not to allow the infection to spread onto the mainland.

The story moves at an energetic pace, features lots of well defined characters and at just over 90 minutes, gives us time to get to know them. There are some impressive moments of gore, and the infected are very convincing – descendants of films like ’28 Days Later’ rather than the shufflers from Romero’s vision.

I had a great time with this. My score is 8 out of 10.

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Cry of the Banshee

A rather unappreciated horror.

(Edit) 16/09/2021

This is a good, raucous film in which one scene full of cruelty is followed by another. There is a modicum of nudity but it is light on gore. The success of ‘The Witchfinder General’ informs the mood here (featuring fine performances from Vincent Price and Hilary Dwyer from that production.

It is interesting that all the misdoings aren’t entirely due to corrupt law enforcers, although the true nature of the threat isn’t revealed until later on, almost giving the impression of it being an afterthought.

No banshee, people say? Perhaps not, but their cry is referenced and alluded to, so the title isn’t a misnomer.

A solid, good looking, feisty, well directed horror; my score is 7 out of 10.

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The Lodge

Bleak and unsettling.

(Edit) 16/09/2021

This is an extraordinary horror film from the modern Hammer stable. Despite the company having made a name for itself as a UK company, ‘The Lodge’ didn’t even get an official release in the UK, which is ridiculous.

‘The Lodge’ takes its time building up the central character of Grace (Riley Keough), and we really don’t know what kind of person she will turn out to be. Alicia Silverstone plays Laura, and her character’s fate will, I think, surprise you.

Just about everything about this film is wonderful. The characters are sympathetic – even the troubled children, which is a very difficult thing to get right (often a juvenile’s problems are displayed by petulance, which is absolutely not the case here). The location is wonderfully isolated, and the tale is expertly told, teasing the audience with a number of possibilities – none of them pleasant.

The main twist is very effective, more so because it is revealed in very unspectacular fashion, and the overall story is as bleak as anything you might have expected. My score is 9 out of 10.

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The Owners

Enjoyably moody horror with a great cast.

(Edit) 16/09/2021

… in which Maisie Williams and a group of inept louts try to rob the impressive home of Sylvester McCoy and Rita Tushingham (Richard and Ellen respectively), an aged, fragile couple. The characters are well defined and well played. So interesting are they that when some of them meet their fate fairly early on, you genuinely miss them.

It’s good to see cuddly McCoy and Tushingham playing against type, and they turn in good, dangerous performances, although at times, their age and fragility make it hard to believe the younger characters can’t get the better of them, at least physically.

An effective home invasion story turned on its head, this gets a 7 out of 10 from me.

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Ghosts of War

Haunted horror story with a brave twist.

(Edit) 16/09/2021

Beautifully shot and directed low-budget tale of a squadron of soldiers spending time in a haunted house. It’s a slow burner, which won’t please some, but oozes atmosphere. The characters are well played and provide a good mix of personalities. The plot meanders and it isn’t clear where events are headed – or if they are even headed anywhere at all.

The twist will divide people, as twists always do. I didn’t care for it, although it gave a certain degree of sense to the increasingly confusing narrative. That said, I applaud the braveness of the revelation, which changes dramatically the feel of the film. My score is 6 out of 10.

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I Am Wolf

Enjoyable lycanthropic tale.

(Edit) 16/09/2021

I enjoyed this tale about lycanthropic activity in a small town run by corrupt law enforcers. The horror element is played down throughout most, and some may not enjoy the more character-based scenes, but I have no problem with slow burner films and it is good that the audience is given time to get to know the characters.

The story is somewhat over-the-top in some areas, namely the actions of the local police. Their corruption threatens to become ridiculous after a while, but it fuels the drama and makes the ending effective.

An obviously low-budget venture, the actual wolf of the title is featured only briefly in all its glory. My score is 6 out of 10.

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A Haunting in Michigan

Starts well, runs out of steam.

(Edit) 16/09/2021

This begins in very interesting fashion. An unusual premise, you really don’t know how the story is going to pan out. Sadly, it doesn’t really go anywhere as interesting as it promises, and when any developments do occur, they are very few and far between.

Some nice performances don’t disguise the fact that most characters are severely under-developed, and the horror elements never really gain momentum. Things really don’t go anywhere.

Despite being well directed and played, the main thing I took from ‘A Haunting in Cawdor’ was that it was being made up as it went along. My score is 4 out of 10.

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Relic

Slow, moody and open to interpretation.

(Edit) 16/09/2021

‘The Relic’ is a mostly excellent horror film that unravels slightly toward the end. Telling the story of Edna (Robyn Nevin), who appears to be succumbing to dementia, and her family’s struggle to help her, this could be a parable for widespread age and decay, and what ultimately becomes of us. It’s quite humbling.

It is slow, moody, beautifully acted and written, troubling and melancholic: it reminds us we are all finite. Decay becomes the shadow cast before the characters and they are simply succumbing to it. Although, it the best traditions of horror, this is open to interpretation.

The allegory becomes a little too much toward the story’s close however, and the imagery swaps subtlety for something less sophisticated. This doesn’t exactly break the spell, and the evolution into full horror is effective, but it threatens to drift into fantasy. My score is 7 out of 10.

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Stage Fright

Unusual and effective.

(Edit) 16/09/2021

Unlike a lot of people, I’m not a fan of 1980’s horror. For me, it was the decade when such films became a franchise, when fairly average characters like Jason, Freddie Michael Myers were stretched far beyond their levels of interest by the ever more blatant need to make money. Any interest or genuine nastiness (Freddie was a child killer to begin with, for example) was replaced by cartoon gimmickry.

‘Stage Fright’ is a film where the production values scream 80’s out loud, so I was wary of it at first – but it proves its worth within moments. A slasher/giallo hybrid, the man in the mask is far from conventional, and the potential victims – who lock themselves in *with* the killer believing him to be locked *out* – are eccentric and interesting too.

Peter the director is a waspish lead, and his troupe of actors are a mixed bunch – eager for star billing and trampling over others to achieve it. The kills are carried out in a variety of imaginative ways, some set pieces are genuinely unsettling and the chunky synth soundtrack exemplifies the atmosphere.

I really enjoyed this unusual, horror film. My score is 8 out of 10.

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The Sanctuary

Terrific German found footage film.

(Edit) 16/09/2021

Events at the beginning of this film happen at such a fast pace that, coupled with the exuberant characters, things seem as if they might become exhausting. Thankfully, this calms down a little as ‘The Sanctuary’ progresses.

I enjoyed this German found footage film a great deal. The fact that the plot revolves around a group of notorious You Tubers gives the usual trappings – given away by the film’s alternative ‘Haunted Hospital’ title - individuality, as well as a good reason for them to continue filming no matter what.

The twist at the end is a big one, and asks a lot of the viewer – some will like it, some will hate it. I thought it made a lot of sense, and was genuinely unexpected. My score is 8 out of 10.

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