Film Reviews by NP

Welcome to NP's film reviews page. NP has written 660 reviews and rated 757 films.

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The Duke of Burgundy

Be nasty - spoilers follow ...

(Edit) 21/06/2019

I was initially drawn to this production due to the involvement of the mighty Monica Swinn, who had made many sexploitation and horror pictures throughout the 1970s and 1980s; this is her first main feature film since 'Les petites sauvages' (1982). That Swinn only features briefly and without dialogue is the only disappointment I have with 'The Duke of Burgundy'.

Named after the (Hamearis lucina) butterfly, this story features Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen), who lectures on lepidopterology, and Evelyn (Chiara D'Anna), who appears to be not only one of her students, but her maidservant as well. Cynthia's strictness with Evelyn's hygiene and accuracy initially appears cruel and bullying, but as the standards become more outlandish, it is clear there is something else going on here. They are lovers, whilst Cynthia appears to be the dominating personality, it slowly become apparent it is Evelyn who is making the demands, and they soon become unrelenting. Uninterestingly, I mistook Evelyn's safe word 'pinastri' for a plea to 'be nasty.' Well, you never know.

Whilst you could dismiss this as two eccentric ladies squabbling amid truly breath-taking surroundings, the 104 minute run-time is filled with more interest than that. Events are by turn funny, mesmerising and ultimately strangely saddening, as the need to keep up the charade, as well as the possibility of encroaching age, becomes wearing and upsetting.

A study of love, and what people will do to preserve it, played for the main part as a two-hander between these extraordinary actors, is never overtly erotic: there is no nudity, for example. And yet there is a 'romantic' level of perversion on display, a strained relationship based on perceptions and sexual needs; and through it all, grumpy Lorna (Monica Swinn) is outside sweeping away the leaves and bad memories. You get the feeling she's seen and heard it all before: perfect casting! A fascinating piece. My score is 8 out of 10.

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Devil Hunter

Stomach-eating, bug-eyed jungle killer steals the show!

(Edit) 30/05/2019

The first thing that strikes me about this tropical kidnapping romp is the dubbing, which is probably among the worst I have witnessed. Bored sounding actors drawling terrible, broken dialogue (Jack’s (Antonio Mayans) breakdown deserves a special mention here) amidst a myriad of half-hearted sound effects – the flowing of jungle rivers is represented by what sounds like someone agitating a glass of water.

None of this can be blamed on prolific Spanish Director Jess Franco (credited here as Clifford Brown). And yet this remains one of much-derided director’s most derided films. Much as I would like to disagree, it isn’t difficult to see why. The plot is stretched way beyond interest, and no-one involved seems particularly invested - apart, perhaps from starlet Ursula Buchfellner as Laura. Any of Buchfellner’s acting prowess is well and truly squashed by whoever is voicing her – that, and being given very little to do - but her enthusiasm keeps things afloat. Her natural glamour is a bonus too. Also of note, Muriel Montosse, billed here as Victoria Adams, who would make such an impression as the sexy main character in 1983’s ‘Cecilia’, features briefly as the ‘girl on yacht.’

By far the main point of interest here for me involves a kind of sub-plot involving a bug-eyed jungle murderer. I say ‘kind of’ sub-plot, because he doesn’t really have a story, he is just ‘there’ but his involvement grows as the 102 minutes roll along. Naked and with bloodied, raw, oversized eyes, he makes an impressionable figure, and Franco cannot help but feature him in close-up; this only goes to expose how crude the optical effects are, but it is still a powerful look. His appearance is slowly built up throughout, and accompanied by painful wheezing and groaning sounds. For me, this poor lad is the star of the show.

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The Night Child

Effective, but really a pale Exorcist imitation.

(Edit) 30/05/2019

One of the things I love about European horror and giallo films is the scenery. To tell the truth, it might well be my only chance to see such exotic foreign locations, especially as they appeared over forty years ago. And here, Director Massimo Dallamano makes sure we get the full benefit of exotic looking vistas in Spoleto, Villa Parisi, Palazzo Chigi and London. It looks stunning.

The cast is terrific also. Leading man Richard Johnson as Michael Williams is charming and reassuring, whilst never drifting into the foppish tendencies of many handsome male actors from this period. Prolific Nicoletta Elmi is Emily Williams; here, at just 11 years old, the talented youngster had already appeared in such films as ‘Who Saw Her Die’ alongside George Lazenby, Mario Bava’s ‘A Bay of Blood’ and ‘Baron Blood’, Dario Argenta’s ‘Deep Red’ and the notorious ‘Flesh for Frankenstein’ amongst many other projects. Her role here is big ask: as ‘the night child’ she has to carry large parts of this story, and without the aid of the make-up, special effects or prosthetics that ensured Linda Blair in ‘The Exorcist’ gave us all nightmares.

And this is very much an imitation of that ground-breaking demonic horror. Williams is a film-maker making a documentary about Satanic deaths, and as he is away working, Emily’s behaviour becomes alarmingly petulant: almost as if she is possessed. Thus, we get regular flashbacks and nightmare sequences. Whereas Regan in ‘The Exorcist’ injures herself with crucifixes, vomits green bile and utters foul profanities, Emily throws a few tantrums (and smokes a cigarette) that are energetically performed but hardly terrifying.

The truth is, this is a rather pale imitation of that earlier film and in any comparisons, comes a distant second, despite all the wonderful scenery and powerful performances. It’s true to say that Emily’s powers become more fearsome as time goes on, and the finale contains a good twist. The accompanying score, by Stelvio Cipriani is also completely bewitching, but unlikely to give anyone the jitters. My score for this is 7 out of 10.

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Alcatraz

Economically told character thriller.

(Edit) 30/05/2019

From the prolific stable of Andrew Jones and North Bank Entertainment comes this rare step away from the horror genre. ‘Alcatraz’ is a fairly large story told economically. Whilst occasionally flawed, it works rather well.

While we spend much time in the company of the escapees, we don’t really get to know them because they are pretty much one-note. Not a criticism, but Clarence, for example, is the decent stoical type and remains so, whilst Joe (Patrick O’Donnell) begins as the scowling ‘big man’ who scowls until the very end. So, while there’s no deep psychology going on here, the characters are interesting enough to carry the film.

Instead of dwelling on the physical demands and derring-do of an actual prison escape, Jones’ script deals instead with the relations between the characters (mainly male, with Jones regular Harriet Rees playing Alice, Clarence’s sister), mainly played by talented English actors sporting American accents. Alcatraz interiors were filmed in Brighton, Bristol and San Francisco, whilst there is lots of establishing location filming at the exteriors of Alcatraz prison. My score for this is 7 out of 10.

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Santa Sangre

A effective but acquired taste ...

(Edit) 30/05/2019

You may, like me, spend the first half an hour of this film, wondering what exactly you are watching. This bewitching, garishly coloured, strange, grotesque collection of moments and bizarre happenings are presented without build-up, and at first it is difficult to know if a story is being told or this is just one scene of carnival curiosity followed by another.

And yet director and co-writer Alejandro Jodorowsky weaves a spell-binding other-world that bares a passing resemblance to the freakish histrionics of Lon Chaney’s 1927 film ‘The Unknown,’ and even the body horror of ‘The Hands of Orlac (1924)’. The circus performers’ backstreets and carnal houses become curiously beautiful stages thanks to the unexpected use of colour and bombast. So much so that, with moments of genuine erotica mixed with gratuity and horror – although rarely explicit, merely extravagantly suggested – this convincing community becomes an all-encompassing theatre of the absurd.

At slightly over two hours long, ‘Santa Sangre’ is a long time for such ambience to sustain itself, and yet it does. It’s a persuasive grandstand on which to pin the central story, and yet with a myriad of powerful, idiosyncratic performances - including the extraordinary Thelma Tixou, and Adan Jodorowsky and Faviola Elenka Tapia, two spirituous child actors playing younger versions of two main characters – and always majestic directorial flourishes, there is no excuse for the attention to wander.

This won’t be to everyone’s tastes. I’m not even entirely sure it is to mine. It doesn’t become unusual, it is unusual from the outset and doesn’t let up the pace. But it’s difficult not to get swept up in it. Original and never lets up, my score for ‘Santa Sangre’ is 8 out of 10.

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Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Best non-Toho Godzilla film yet - spoilers.

(Edit) 05/06/2019

In 1998, America’s mighty film studios took on the Godzilla mantle from licensors Toho. The release was not the success it was hoped to be, and the critics, as they often do, gave it a hard time. In 2014, Legendry Entertainment made a far better-received version. In 2019 came the sequel, which proves the old adage ‘third time lucky’ to be quite true.

This is a true celebration of audience memories of Godzilla films, whichever ones they may be. Triumphant echoes to the past include purist-pleasing mentions of Godzilla ‘lore’ (if we are to call it that), none more so than vast slabs of music from the original films including, of course, Akira Ifukube’s monumental original theme. Bear McCreary ‘s music sometimes strays into unmemorable bombast, but also has moments of greatness, particularly Ghidorah’s sing-song call to his titanic minions.

I found the human characters – rarely anyone’s reason for seeing such a film – incredibly bland in 2014’s ‘Godzilla’: square-jawed vacuums racing around the carnage trying to save their insignificant family trophies from probable death c/o Big G and his city-snuffing ways. There is an element of that here, particularly towards the end, but the human characters are a lot more real, a lot better acted and therefore much easier to care about. Debonair Charles Dance lends his steely-eyed insidiousness to the much less virtuous Jonah Alan. (If, like me, you wondered what happened to him towards the end, stick around after the credits have rolled.) Sally Hawkins is also very good as the PJ Harvey-esque Dr, Vivienne Graham, and Millie Bobby Brown not only makes sure her character, young Madison, steers clear of the brattish tendencies that sometimes afflicts heroic film juveniles, but that she is also very real and appealing.

And yet the monsters are who we really come to see. And ‘King of the Monsters’ does not disappoint. We see plenty of them, and this time, the camera doesn’t cut away every time a fight breaks out. Ghidorah is one heck of a nasty piece of work, albeit with a nifty, icky way of regenerating on of his three heads if need be. Rodan is great fun, all beak and swooping wings. Mothra is genuinely beautiful, and possesses a sense of ethereality that earlier films often strove for, but didn’t always achieve (there’s even a brief mention of her guiding human twins, although mercifully we’re speared actually seeing them).

As for the main man, the big lad, the star performer, Godzilla – he’s been battered in fights before, but always come back fighting. Here, he requires a little help. Does this undermine him as The King? Not really. His regenerative powers are revealed, but if left to the natural cause of things, the world might have come to an end. So he is given a push (albeit one requiring a massive cost), no more than that. And there is something air-punchingly great about his returns from the brink. Such moments have been great in the past but here, with some extraordinary effects at play and with such a horrible and seemingly unstoppable opponent, it is difficult not to feel elated. Watching this on the big screen with a bunch of strangers, I felt like cheering. And when the sparingly used atomic breath makes an appearance, it’s impossible not to feel elated.

My score for this is 9 out of 10. ‘King of Monsters’ hardly puts a step wrong. We’re not waiting 45 minutes for the first bout of monster action, and after the fights are over, we don’t have tedious minutes of sickly human ‘bonding’ to sit through. Looking through the rolling ends credits, you can understand why it has taken five years to plan and make this meticulous masterpiece. You’d need an atomic heart not to enjoy it.

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Satan's Slave

Obscure cult gloriousness - minor silers follow.

(Edit) 19/04/2019

This is a terrific, wintery horror film not dissimilar to a Pete Walker production with, I suspect, slightly more available budget. That said, star Michael Gough agreed to take a pay reduction for his Cushing-like role as Alexander Yorke, Uncle to suddenly orphaned Catherine (Candace Glendenning). This haunted house mystery is steeped in what I really love about British films around this time – beautifully spoken RP, skeleton trees, rolling grounds surrounding a sprawling mansion miles away from anywhere, and some excellent performances from a mainly little-known cast; English countryside so icy you could almost bite it.

Catherine’s bereavement puts her entirely at the mercy of her Uncle, who is only too pleased to be of assistance. And yet such is Gough’s excellent performance that there is clearly much unsavoury depth to his character (if only he’d put this much effort into his role as Arthur Holmwood in Hammer’s 1958 ‘Dracula’; but I digress…). His kindness slowly becomes suffocating, and we are entirely on Catherine’s side.

Cult director Norman J. Warren pulls out all the stops to make this as spooky as possible. Seedy cousin Stephen (Martin Potter) and secretary Frances (Barbara Kellerman – dubbed by Stephanie Beacham) ensure their shadowy characters are as imposing as can be and, although the story is a slow burner, the atmosphere of foggy unease is wonderfully conveyed.

Unsurprisingly, the narrative is laced with sporadic scenes of Satanic cults, ensuring we are aware – as if we weren’t already – that evil forces are behind everything. There are harder and softer-core versions of this; I don’t know which version I saw – somewhere between the two, possibly - but there are a few gloriously bright moments of gore to punctuate the autumnal gloom. There is nudity too, and no dilution of some of the unsavoury relationships between certain characters. An obscure gem, my score is 8 out of 10.

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Prey

‘High in protein and easy prey.’ Minor spoilers.

(Edit) 19/04/2019

Directed by the mighty Norman J. Warren, this cut-price sci-fi horror piece involves two young women: softie Jessica (Glory Annen) and her sulky, male-hating lover Josephine (Sally Faulkner). In the midst of a row, they stumble across a man who calls himself Anderson (Barry Stokes). I’m hoping the awkward atmosphere is to blame for the fact that neither of the girls immediately notice that the man is clearly not normal – if I didn’t believe that, then they would appear very foolish, especially Jess, who makes polite conversation while Anders takes every opportunity to display his oddness. Perhaps Jo is blinkered by her own dark secrets …

The music is provided by Ivor Slaney, and has a definite BBC Radiophonic Workshop aura about it, bringing back warm memories of teatime children’s sci-fi series from many years ago. In fact, elements of this could almost be a movie-length edition of ‘The Tomorrow People’, ‘Sky’ or suchlike - apart from attention paid to the girls’ relationship and some of the more overt violence, or the bizarre ritual of dressing Anders up in drag, of course. Strangely, the sight of the bewildered gentleman in dress and make-up stimulates a strange fascination in Jo. It’s all a bit odd, but of course such is Mr J Warren’s effective way of ensuring audience attention doesn’t wander.

The film was shot in ten days, with the cast and crew living in the mansion used as the location. It looks similar to the house in the previous year’s ‘Satan’s Slave/Evil Heritage’, also directed by Warren. Much of the script was written during shooting. The resulting film, I found greatly enjoyable, with some terrifically enthusiastic performances and a wonderfully gory ending, where Anders’ true nature is revealed. My score is 7 out of 10.

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Baron Blood

Gaudy comic strip horror - minor spoilers follow.

(Edit) 19/04/2019

Mario Bava is undoubtedly a huge and influential name in cinema. He has directed some inspirational movies over the years and even now, almost forty years after his death, his legacy is held in high esteem. So I realise I’m walking on thin ice by admitting that, on the whole, the genius of his work completely passes me by. I haven’t seen all his films, but of those I have seen, only 1963’s ‘Black Sabbath’ has really bowled me over. Other projects, like this one I’m sorry to say, make little to no impression.

Known very much for the visual flair he injects into his low budget films, he ensures many scenes here are generously lit. That is to say, there is much beautiful imagery on account of the many colours that spring from various areas and shadows. Lit up like a Christmas tree, you might say. And that is one of the issues I have with his direction – gaudy and striking these scenes may be, but any sense of realism comes a very distant second. Characters are swathed in psychedelic mists, every contour on their faces illuminated like traffic lights. This approach reduces everything to a stage set, with no sense of atmosphere, even when filmed in a real location. A ‘heightened’ reality then, and something you cannot really believe in.

This approach stretches to the performances too. There’s a kind of subtle ‘knowing’ quality to the characters – again, like they aren’t quite real. They don’t react as a real person would react. And when the horror they are reacting *to* is also similarly stylised, I feel as if we are watching a fairy-tale, or a comic-strip. This approach works when a story I somewhat fantastical in and of itself (again, ‘Black Sabbath’ is a prime example), but it does not flatter what is intended to be a frightening, gothic thriller like this.

As a result, we get moments of jeopardy and gory scenes but no sense of tension or drama. Things happen in a colourful way, and then there is some talking before other events happen in a similarly cartoon-like manner.

I’m sounding less impressed with ‘Baron Blood’ (even the title sounds like a children’s story) than I actually am, but these are the issues I find not only with much of Bava’s work, but also some of those who have been influenced by him (Dario Argenta, Roger Corman and many of Tim Burton’s recent projects) and, while some scenes are genuinely breath-taking, they are never remotely real, and despite some flashy camera effects and a committed performance from star Elke Sommer (and terrifically spooky Gretchen played by prolific 8 year old Nicoletta Elmi), this film is doesn’t massively excite me. My score is 5 out of 10.

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The Woods

Don't drink the milk - minor spoilers follow.

(Edit) 19/04/2019

Director Lucky McKee has a pretty impressive filmography. He may not be the most prolific, but his projects are always extremely interesting. I first knew of him through 2002’s excellent ‘May’ starring the under-valued Angela Bettis as … well, that’s another story.

In ‘The Woods’ he wastes no time in smothering us all in a genuinely weird, slightly stylised atmosphere which ensures that, even when nothing much is happening, there is a pervading sense of unease. The girls’ boarding school into which our heroine Heather (Agnes Bruckner) is placed is a loosely choreographed web of spite and unnaturally baneful authority figures. So unfriendly is it, that bloody stories about the history of the surrounding woodland are simply an additional level of horror, rather than the sole focal point.

A bored-looking and sardonic, Heather would be difficult to sympathise with if her parents and fellow pupils were not so unrelentingly weird or loathsome, or both. Patricia Clarkson as head teacher Mrs Traverse is particularly good; unruffled and unflappable, commanding attention at all times. High class bully Samantha (Rachel Nichols) is, from the moment we first meet her, in urgent need of a very long detention.

Every character is steeped in a certain level of menace, often softly-spoken but sinister. Scenes fade away abruptly, but this never seems out of place – the eccentric but assured direction is almost a character in its own right. In comparison to this, the latter effects-lead scenes in which the true nature of the authority figures is revealed seems almost pedestrian. I say almost because, despite the CGI and more traditional jump-cut shots, it is still very much the idiosyncratic weirdness that endures. My score is 7 out of 10.

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Mark of the Devil

Disturbing viewing - spoilers follow.

(Edit) 13/04/2019

Reggie Nalder plays emaciated local witch-finder Albino, a scurrilous dog who hides behind his position to torture and kill women who spurn his advances. A young, bright eyed Udo Kier is Count Christian, and Olivera Katarina plays veracious Vanessa Benedikt, whose exuberance and sexuality means she is ideal for Albino’s perversions. And Herbert Lom, who is rarely less than majestic, plays Lord Cumberland, who has the weight of dispassionate authority to put into practice the atrocities afforded a man in his position.

Of course, this cruel and extravagantly mounted film unashamedly owes a huge amount to 1968’s ‘The Witchfinder General,’ in which Vincent Price excels in the nastiness of titular Matthew Hopkins (‘Mark of the Devil’ actually eclipsed ‘Witchfinder’ at the box office). ‘Devil’ steps up the graphic cruelty considerably, producing scenes that make you wince. (To quote from Wikipedia, this film was seized and confiscated in the UK under Section 3 of the Obscene Publications Act 1959 during the video nasty panic.) Also, torture and rape are treated so nonchalantly by the characters and directed so matter-of-factly by directors and writers Michael Armstrong and Adrian Hoven (whose intense dislike for each other caused problems wile filming), that when the medieval-style iron torture devices and rattling chains are wheeled out once more, there is a certain inevitability that you will be repulsed. Later, as the same empty-headed soldiers storm a children’s puppet show, you know you are in for some disturbing viewing.

When it begins to dawn on Christian that perhaps the law and the execution of it might just be a little corrupt, you can’t help but feel he has been a little naïve thus far. Watching people being unspeakably cruel to each other for 86 minutes is saved from becoming tedious by the gradual way the acts are stepped up over that time. No men of authority are immune from corruption, and this tale reminds us in its opening moments that any enactments of evil are as nothing compared to what actually happened. A word too for Michael Holm’s rousing and elegant music that is so powerful, it is almost a supporting character in its own right.

Relentless and powerfully unpleasant, this is brilliantly done, but I’m not sure I’ll be watching it twice. It’s reassuring to know that society has progressed beyond such hypocritical barbarism … isn’t it?

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The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion

Unspectacular but enjoyable - mild spoilers follow.

(Edit) 13/04/2019

Beautiful flame-haired Dagmar Lassander plays Minou, a loyal and trusting soul, who is married to less scrupulous Peter (Pier Paolo Capponi ), a man of indeterminate hairline, who from the offset is clearly a bad ‘un, it seems to me. Enter the mighty Nieves Navarro (billed as Susan Scott), playing flirtatious Dominique who flashes a smile full of teeth at every man who passes her by – but saves herself for duplicitous Peter. Then there is The Blackmailer (prolific giallo villain Simón Andreu), who attacks and blackmails poor Minou over her husband’s alleged villainy.

There’s not a huge amount of sex or gore in this, unlike many efforts in this genre, although Director Luciano Ercoli clearly loves the female form, and there’s a definite frisson in intimate scenes featuring Navarro (not to cloud his professionalism of course, but he was Navarro’s husband).

Lassander is very good in a role that could have been irritating if in the hands of a lesser actress. Like that other giallo queen Edwige Fenech, her sense of screen presence and appeal stop her character from becoming the needy scream-queen she could have been. The contrast between her softness and Dominique’s brashness is well conveyed.

The story, whilst not spectacular, has its moments and is definitely heightened by the characters. The finale is typical gialli – the exposed villain gloatingly tells the victim his entire plan before either (a) getting away with it, or (b) not getting away with it. Either way, it is an enjoyable dénouement, and is enjoyable, scenic entertainment overall.

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Crucible of the Vampire

Ambitious story-telling on a small budget.

(Edit) 13/04/2019

Director Iain Ross-McNamee makes very good use of what is clearly a small budget, for this UK horror story. Veteran actors Brian Croucher (Doctor Who, Blake’s 7 and EastEnders) and Neil Morrissey (Boon, Men Behaving Badly) feature alongside newer names to give a good variety of ages and acting.

Special effects are used with great restraint, and when they do occur, are pretty impressive. The locations, and the vampiric atmospherics they bring about due to fine cinematography, are more immersive than the story being told, however. Rather than a traditional ‘Wicker Man’-style tale of mysterious locals and cavorting sects, I think a weirder, more personal story would have benefitted from McNamee’s talents. There is a certain Jean Rollin-esque style to some of the latter scenes and the way they are composed. Rather than embracing a style of film that has been told more expensively elsewhere, a more dream-like narrative would have been more suitable. There are several nods in that direction, with a certain erotic charge involving the excellent Katie Goldfinch (as Isabelle) and Florence Cady (Scarlet) and some fine locations (beautifully lit) with a dark fairy-tale quality. A little more of this and this enjoyable 96 minutes might well have been even more absorbing.

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Lights Out

Superior jump scares - spoilers follow.

(Edit) 08/04/2019

This exceptional, unpretentious chiller wastes no time in putting the wind up the audience. Here are creatures that exist in shadow, but disappear in the light – a terrific concept for jump scares, and is an idea that has been used in various guises over the years (not least in the form of The Weeping Angels in Doctor Who). Wayward goth Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) is taking care of her little step brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) , whose father has been killed (in an effective opening scene); his mother Sophie (Maria Bello) has seemingly gone mad, talking to a shadowy entity called Diana. Between them, and boyfriend Bret (Alicia Vela-Bailey), they aim to get to the bottom of this shady business.

The use of jump-scares has reached epidemic proportions in horror films recently, coupled with a crescendo screeching of soundtrack violins, and is in danger of wringing itself dry through over-use. But here, the whole concept is a series of such scares – you know they’re coming but you don’t know when; and they are the fabric of the story. And they are very effective.

Director David F. Sandberg has based this on his own 2013 short of the same name. I have not seen this, but it has been critically acclaimed. This expanded version doesn’t feel padded in any way, the extra time possibly being given over to brief explanations of Diana’s original story, and fleshing out of the characters, all of which are extremely well played (and cast). Also, for a film which *might* uncharitably be dismissed as a succession of ‘boo!’ moments, the tension builds throughout with no real feeling of repetition. There is emotion here, too, without ever becoming syrupy. Deservedly, ‘Lights Out’ proved to be a commercial and critical success upon its release.

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Downhill

Unpredictable and bizarre horror - spoilers follow.

(Edit) 04/04/2019

I quite like people. They are prone to do silly things. Some of them wear tiny protective helmets, hop onto bicycles and drive really quickly over rough terrain – often, like the young people in this film, risking accidents that can cause huge discomfort, possibly death. It amuses me that people put themselves through this for the name of ‘sport’ or even ‘for a laugh’, but then I speak as someone with no athletic prowess whatsoever.

The production of a horror film with this premise promises something different at the very least, which is refreshing. Joe (Bryce Draper) and Stephanie (Natalie Burn) are fairly likeable leads (although the acting from some supporting cast members is questionable), and when they take part in a Chilean biking exhibition and discover a man dying of a strange virus, we know things aren’t going to be easy for them. And you wouldn’t expect their cell phones to work as they get further out into the wilderness, would you? However, that is about the only predictable development on offer here.

“Why do you have that thing on me? You’ve been shoving it in my face all day.” Stephanie points out early on. Luckily, she’s talking about Joe’s webcam, and so it seems that this will be, in part at least, ‘found footage’ in style. A well-used subgenre for sure, but one that is still effective if utilized well. Again, that is only a fraction of what ‘Downhill’ offers us.

Things become surprisingly nasty surprisingly quickly. They drift into Lovecraft territory a little too, which gives you some idea how darkly bizarre ‘Downhill’ is. I should stress that this project doesn’t ever try and rewrite the horror film (why should it?), rather it re-writes *itself* every so often. It is really a ‘hunted/slasher’ film in style for the most part. But within that category, it provides a deliberately jarring series of events that wrong-foots the viewer in such a way that it never slides into dullness. It is also worth saying that, during the last twenty minutes or so, things become utterly demented.

Director/co-writer Patricio Valladares and Luigi Seviroli, who provided the unnerving soundtrack, should be very proud of this gem.

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