Film Reviews by NP

Welcome to NP's film reviews page. NP has written 811 reviews and rated 910 films.

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The Void

Lovecraftian!

(Edit) 05/03/2021

This homage to HP Lovecraft begins promisingly. Sharply edited images of figures, glimpses of things, and an injured young man taken to an under-staffed hospital. Before long, staff and inmates seem to be transforming into extraordinary creatures.

A distinct lack of CGI lends the many grotesque effects on display here a similarity to films like ‘The Thing (1982)’ and others from that era. They work very well for the most part.

The story is at once fascinating and involving, but it’s possible it exhausts itself before the film is over – as time rolls on, things remain just as frantic, but become confusing and overtly, well, ‘cosmic’. This is fitting in a Lovecraftian kind of way, of course, but in a bid to top the wonderfully revolting creatures and situations we witness along the way, it loses its way a bit toward the end. My score is 6 out of 10.

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Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings

Dismember this lot, will you? (Spoilers)

(Edit) 05/03/2021

A truly grisly selection of set-pieces opens up this film (the fate of visiting psychiatrist Dr. Ann McQuaid, played by Kristen Harris, is horrific) before we’re introduced, after the opening credits have rolled, to the inevitable teen heroes. Here, ‘Wrong Turn 4’ immediately plummets, from its promising opening, into awfulness. Only the original film in this series presented its non-cannibal characters as anything approaching ‘likeable’ – subsequently, any notion that the gang is meant to be anything other than ciphers is grossly misguided. Don’t worry about their blandness though: this blemish-free bunch is first shown having obligatory sex, which shows off their obligatory flesh. There’s some mild interracial lesbian titillation too. Who needs character? We have to wait until they’re making their way towards the West Virginian sanatorium in which much of the action takes place before the inevitable rock soundtrack always associated with such lukewarm characters kicks in but, when it arrives, it’s as instantly disposable as you would expect. And remember, kids, if anything mildly unpleasant occurs, the standard response is ‘eeww’, alright?

Do I sound unnecessarily grumpy? It is important that you be warned: these people are arrogant idiots, and you cannot wait for them to die in as graphic a way as possible.

We get a back-story for the cannibals in this one, which would be interesting, if it didn’t go some way to contradict what we already know about them. The woodland dwellers seem to have picked up their outdoor hunting skills in the sanatorium, which would be news to the inbreds in the original three films.

Alright, I’ll stop whinging. The location is evocative, and the snowy surroundings give off a further sense of the isolation for these unfortunate cretins, who are soon (a) stoned, (b) drunk and (c) horny. Well done! Ah, I promised to stop whinging didn’t I? Oops – one of them has just witnessed recordings of grotesque torture on a video playback. Another ‘eeww’, for the collection. Come on, Three Finger, Saw Tooth and One Eye – dismember this lot, will you? Don’t even build up to it – just do it.

Bloody and loud though the subsequent torture and death scenes are, they are never quite enough. You largely know what you’re going to get with this, and it delivers. One of my favourite bits is when four silly girls accidentally group-hack their friend to death. If you’re in the mood, it’ll entertain, but you might feel the need to fast-forward over the scenes before the cannibals turn up. My score is 6 out of 10.

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Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Great film, not mad about the ending.

(Edit) 05/03/2021

Dennis Quaid is excellent as worn-out, recently widowed detective Aidan Breslin. In fact, no-on in the cast puts in less than a terrific performance, especially Ziyi Zhang as Kristin and Breslin’s two overlooked children who occasionally threaten to derail the plot (or do they?).

This is a dark, emotionally raw horror chiller, beautifully directed by Jonas Åkerlund. It seems to be building to something apocalyptic, or at least, something more impressive than the overtly saccharine ending we get.

It’s a shame the story ends in so anti-climactic a fashion, the journey up to that point is an inventive and interesting one that inspires lots of suspicions about various characters and their motives. A lot of this comes to nothing. My score is 6 out of 10.

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West of Hell

Interesting, but runs out of steam ...

(Edit) 05/03/2021

This starts off well enough. There are some choppy edits, but the production, set predominantly on a train, looks good, with attention to period detail, and some fine performances.

Sadly despite all this, it soon becomes a confusing, rather dull mess. I’m sorry to say this, because there are some good moments, and things definitely liven up when Lance Henrikson arrives. The effects are decent, and it seems there is a message amidst everything that is going on, although I’m beggered if I know what it is. My score is 5 out of 10.

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The Housemaid

Recommended.

(Edit) 05/03/2021

This sprawling, beautifully photographed French/Vietnamese horror film threatens to get a bit messy once or twice. Many ideas seem to be thrown at it, and the viewer could get a little overwhelmed. However, as the story continues, the various segments of information we are given fall into place amid the revelations and twists.

Kate Nhung is extraordinarily good as orphaned Vietnamese housemaid Linh, drifting from shy, respectful compliance to growing confidence as events escalate. She is surrounded by great performances too.

Whilst the scares are fairly tepid, despite Jerome Leroy’s crashing score, Derek Nguyun’s direction is such that the over-riding atmosphere of dread hits the heights the jump-scares don’t quite reach.

I enjoyed this tale, which at times didn’t quite know what it wanted to be. By the end, though, everything comes together in a very powerful way. My score is 8 out of 10.

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Boar

Hogs and kisses.

(Edit) 05/03/2021

If a horror thriller can be described as a ‘hoot’, then this is surely it. Set in the Australian outback, we are introduced to a host of well drawn characters, all of whom have some genuinely hilarious dialogue. I won’t reproduce any of it here, as it does tend to be a little ‘earthy’, but it will have you laughing.

Not that this should be thought of as a comedy or in any way lightweight; you are, however, invited to have a good time with it thanks to the performances and script. The titular creature itself isn’t always as convincing as you desperately want it to be, but it never lets the rest of the film down – and on occasion, is a truly frightening presence.

Minimal CGI here, folks – and when it is used, it’s sparing enough to convince. Attention paid to the half-eaten corpses is commendable also. My score is 7 out of 10.

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Pagan Warrior

Vikings Vs Krampus

(Edit) 20/02/2021

Louisa Warren, who previously produced such horror fare as 2018’s ‘Curse of the Scarecrow’ and ‘Tooth Fairy’ the following year, releases her most accomplished film to date – and there’s no doubting the scale of its ambition. This is one of six films she directed in 2019 and quite easily my favourite of those I have seen.

It’s a mixed bag to be sure, with many of its problems occurring because of obvious low budget (mainly a small cast of actors trying to look like a horde), but some details are sloppy too. The date given for the setting is given as 812 and 1812 at the beginning, and in the end credits, the monster of the piece is billed both as ‘Krampas’ and ‘Krampus’.

That’s the negatives out of the way for the most part. The location is stunning, the storyline is nicely paced. The various deaths (some of which take ages) are fairly bloodless, relying on gooey sound effects to convey non-present gore (my guess is they didn’t want to stain the costumes with fake gore). There are some terrific overhead shots. But the main praise goes to the main man, Krampus: Darrell Griggs gives a terrific, towering performance sporting a supreme make-up job which even survives the scrutiny of harsh daylight filming (pity it didn’t stretch to his comparatively human-looking hands though).

Far from perfect, this is nevertheless a good solid production that deserves support. I just wish they’d stuck with the original title – ‘Vikings vs. Krampus’ is a cracker! My score is 7 out of 10.

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Hands of the Ripper

Stylish latter day Hammer Horror - spoilers follow

(Edit) 20/02/2021

Viewed fifty years after its production, there is no doubt that Doctor Pritchard’s (Eric Porter) interest in pretty young waif Anna (the much missed Angharad Rees) is decidedly creepy at times. Dressing her in his dead wife’s clothes, casually walking in while she’s bathing, moving her into his home etc. goes well beyond professional etiquette, but his behaviour never strays beyond the avuncular.

An interesting and classy-looking latter-day Hammer horror, ‘Hands of the Ripper’ nevertheless delivers at its core a slightly cumbersome trigger for Anna’s transformation from innocent into a killer. In a SPOILER, as a child, she witnessed the brutal murder of her mother by none other than Jack the Ripper in front of an open fire, which caused myriad sparkling reflections. Following this atrocity, Jack picks up the little girl, embraces and kisses her. Subsequently, to arouse the darker side of her split personality, the adult Anna has to be embraced and kissed in front of any reflective surface that sparkles.

It’s noticeable that apart from Pritchard, the strongest characters here are female – and that includes Dora Bryan as rolling-eyed clairvoyant Mrs Golding, and lovely Lynda Baron’s salty prostitute, the wonderfully named Long Liz. Whereas Jane Merrow’s blind Laura is too cheerful to be true, Rees is charming and captivating throughout, making Anna’s story heart-breaking. The ending, inevitably, is a real tragedy.

A stylish production, Peter Sasdy’s sweeping direction gives little indication that by this time, Hammer were struggling. With productions like this, that itself is a tragedy. My score is 7 out of 10.

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Jabberwocky

A cavalcade of the uncouth and grotesque

(Edit) 19/02/2021

I’m sorry to say I've always found Monty Python to be massively unfunny: lots of smug men putting on silly voices don’t really make me laugh. There are shades of that approach in ‘Jabberwocky’, and this has many connections with that team. It is, however, different enough for me to want to see it, and I'm glad I did – the world here has echoes of Mervyn Peake’s ‘Gormenghast’, and that lifts my appreciation greatly.

This is a cavalcade of the uncouth and grotesque, the unrespectable and debauched, with only Michael Palin's Dennis Cooper displaying much in the way of decency. Joining him in this relentless onslaught of the unpleasant and the unwashed is a terrific cast including Max Wall, John le Mesurier, Warren Mitchell, Bernard Bresslaw, Annette Badland and Graham Crowden. It's the bawdiest of romps, a bit full-on but lots of fun, but not something I imagine I'll be watching again for a while. My score is 6 out of 10.

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High Moon

Not quite a comedy, not quite a horror

(Edit) 19/02/2021

‘High Moon’, or ‘Howlers’ as it is sometimes known, is a horror/comedy involving a band of werewolves and a gunfighter from the Old West who has returned from the grave to hunt them. The result is slightly less interesting than this premise might have you believe. Whilst the idea of a biker gang of wolf men living on the outskirts of respectable civilisation is a good one, the low budget and some wooden performances don’t do it a lot of favours.

It’s not quite a comedy, not quite a horror but it would be wrong of me to suggest that it isn’t quite good fun in places and there are worse ways of spending 90 minutes of your time. My score is 5 out of 10.

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Temple

Occasionally effective horror

(Edit) 19/02/2021

Three ridiculously perfect looking young people visit the jungles of Japan to see the temple. The Japanese equivalent of Transylvanians warning Renfield off visiting Castle Dracula ensues, and the atmosphere plays on the fears of being far from home.

There is an interesting premise that the story is being told in flashback from the point of view of someone in a sealed wheelchair, who obviously has a tale to tell.

The moments of horror are occasionally effective, some of them cribbed from the many Japanese horror successes like ‘The Ring (1999)’ and ‘The Grudge (2003)’. As for our three heroes, they are rather difficult to like, especially the bland James (Brandon Tyler Sklena) and his partner Kate (Natalia Warner), who can’t seem to decide where her desires lie. Certainly in the case of Sklena, it is just possible he has been hired for his looks over his acting abilities. The locations are effective, though. My score is 5 out of 10.

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Reborn

Average horror lifted by the central performance

(Edit) 19/02/2021

Odd and mild Carrie/Frankenstein-lite story about a stillborn child brought back to life by an electrical storm, who then goes in search of her actress mother. Tess can control electricity and has the power to use it to kill people.

Prolific actress Barbara Crampton plays Lena, who had the baby (Tess) at 19, and Tess has come looking for her 16 years later. Crampton is a good actress, but even she can’t convince as a 35 year old. Equally, what has Tess been doing for the first 16 years of her life? It seems she has been living with the creepy morgue attendant who abducted her, but it is surprising her powers don’t seem to have made an impact during those formative years.

The film is lifted by Kayleigh Gilbert who is very good as Tess. Wide-eyed and slightly eccentric, Gilbert’s performance actually rises above the material. My score is 6 out of 10.

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A Room to Die For

A wonderfully and progressively twisted horror

(Edit) 19/02/2021

I thoroughly enjoyed this independently produced, progressively twisted film. Performances were strong throughout, my favourite being smarmy brother and sister Jason (Ben Ellis) and Jill (Loren Peta). Its weirdness is what made it frightening – you genuinely don’t know where the plot is heading,

Mark is an aspiring, and astonishingly bad, stand-up comedian (and a bit of a twit, if we’re being honest); Jill is his girlfriend who works in a call centre and supports them both. They rent a room in a house owned by Henry (Christopher Craig) and Josephine Baker (Antonia Davies), an old couple whose behaviour is immediately unnerving and gets steadily worse. Craig in particular makes the most of the old man’s grim perversions.

Events at the bloody climax are astonishingly nasty, and the very final scene makes you question whether the ending … really is the ending. Unusual, disturbing, horrifying and original; my score for ‘A Room to Die For’ is 8 out of 10.

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The Cabin Murders

One of North Bank Entertainment's best

(Edit) 06/02/2021

This is the most technically accomplished of Andrew Jones’ North Bank Entertainments’ productions, and the most enjoyable since, I think, 2018’s ‘Jurassic Predator’.

Talky to begin with, it features decent acting throughout with a fine performance from noisy gum-chewer lead clown Don Taylor (Lee McQueen), and while the leafy, misty landscapes are clearly not anywhere Utah, we do seem to get some cutaway shots of a snowy US state (the film is also titled ‘The Cabin Murders’) to lend some authenticity to the detail..

The interior location is the same as the one used for Jones’ 2017 ‘Cabin 28’, and this acts as a kind of sequel, with some characters returning from that film.

When the very likeable family are house-invaded, things take a decidedly nasty turn. There are moments of genuine shock - mainly fuelled by the fact that this was based on true events.

It’s good, nicely paced low-budget stuff and I had a great time with it. It’s restored my faith is North Bank Entertainment and hope this is the sign of similarly fine things to come. My score is 7 out of 10.

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The Dark

Not quite as interesting as it promises to be

(Edit) 06/02/2021

As a title, ‘The Dark’ is about as generic as you can get: it tells you nothing about this film, and so the hope is that you will go in blind as I did, with no preconceptions. The idea of a feral, scarred girl living in the isolated home in which she was abused is a promisingly disturbing one. Her friendship with young Alex (Toby Nichols), whose eyes have been burnt out and cannot see her disfigurement allows us to witness a potentially touching relationship.

My feelings are that having set up this interesting premise, writer/director seems to have trouble bringing the story forward. Once Mina (Nadia Alexander) first speaks, she ceases to become quite so animalistic. Lucid and intelligent as she and Alex both are, the wonder is why they both choose to live this ramshackle, cannibalistic lifestyle – although the end revelation may go somewhere to answering that.

Not quite as interesting as it initially promises to be, ‘The Dark’ is nevertheless a good attempt at something thought-provoking and interesting. My score is 6 out of 10.

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