The Curse of La Llorona (2019): Horror / Mystery / Thriller

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A mother and her two kids are haunted by a malevolent, supernatural presence that turns their lives into a fight for survival.

So… here is my review on The Nun (2018) https://kgpfilm.reviews/2018/11/27/the-nun-2018-horror-mystery-thriller/. La Llorona is not as bad. The great photography provides the viewer with an eerie atmosphere and the acting is convincing. The same major problem exists though. The messy, inundated with gimmicks and cliches story. I cannot stress enough that the script’s problems cannot be covered by visual or sound effects. In this day and age, jump scares alone don’t make a horror scarier. Only more marketable.

On one hand, I’m glad the film did well as Linda Cardellini needs and deserves that spotlight. She’s a really good actress and we need to see her in major roles more often. It was good to see Raymond Cruz in a film as well. It’s been too long. On the other hand, as long as films like that do well, the producers will keep producing them and the rest of us will run out of horrors to watch (that is, other than real-life horrors).

The Conjuring universe has turned into a bloody “borefest” that one just can’t stop snoozing. I haven’t watched Annabelle Comes Home (2019) yet so, I’ll let you know when I do.

Damn, I hope it’s better…

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Sucker Punch (2011): Action / Adventure / Fantasy

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After losing her mother and accidentally killing her sister, a young girl gets institutionalised, mentally withdrawing to an alternate reality, to produce an escape plan.

There is no real need for yet another review on Sucker Punch but, stumbling upon a horrible critique the other day, I felt like watching it again and writing about it. Directing, acting, cinematography, visual & sound effects, editing, music, casting, costume design, makeup, art direction, stunt coordination, choreography… get 10/10.  The opening sequence alone could be a landmark for montage in the 21st century’s Hollywood.

As for the script, this is an excruciatingly dramatic story written and uniquely developed by Zack Snyder. A more symbolic logline could be: A fragile, young girl descends into madness after reality hits her harder than she could ever imagine, not even giving her the time or arsenal to defend herself. Possibly the most artistic way of examining the mind’s coping mechanisms in multiple layers. Read between the lines; there is a huge amount of information waiting to be discovered. For more spoilers, have a look at this one. Very interesting: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0978764/trivia?item=tr1610675

It’s always easy to cast stones and judge from the comfort of our couch. To go out there and actually do though is what takes real “cojones”. You don’t have to like it. Whoever thinks s/he can do a better job, by all means, give it a shot – and write about your experience. The number of hours and amount of effort put to bring such a film to life is beyond understanding. If you are passionate about German expressionism, Italian neorealism, experimental/avant-garde, or even art-house cinema and you still decide to watch it and don’t like it… at least don’t attack it.

They say words are mightier than the sword. Unfortunately, in this case, it proved to be true.

 

Chernobyl (2019): Drama / History

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In April 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, causing the most calamitous nuclear disaster in history.

How outstanding this five and a half hour TV film/mini-series is, is outrageously beyond comprehension. Directing, acting, editing, writing, direction of photography, visual effects, music, art direction, stunt coordination, sound design, costume design, makeup department, and every other department get a lengthy standing ovation… HBO once more proves that the sky is anything but the limit. Released halfway through the last season of Game of Thrones (2011) – HBO again, Chernobyl, at first, went under the radar and once the former came to an end, it shone like no other mini-series shone ever before.

Chernobyl will grip you as much as it will terrify you. You won’t even care why the actors speak in their native accent. You won’t even notice. It’s a hauntingly, flawless HBO production which perfectly blends history, politics, science, and drama! Behold the atrocious side of human nature unfolding side by side with its oxymoronic, boundless grace.

If you don’t know the facts, it will lay them out for you. If you no longer remember what happened, it will all come back. If you were in any shape or form affected by the horror, now you will live it once again.

I Am Mother (2019): Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi

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Years after the extinction of mankind, a girl, born in an underground facility and raised by an android she calls “Mother”, discovers one day that the outside world is not what she was taught it was.

Very interesting feature directorial debut from Grant Sputore. I Am Mother is a small budget, one-location sci-fi that definitely worths your time. Many questions are raised with some of them answered and, purposefully, some of them not. Read between the lines. Information is carefully revealed and spread throughout the three acts, and that is what paces the story brilliantly.

Excellent performances by Clara Rugaard and Hilary Swank. A huge congratulations to Rose Byrne for providing her voice for Mother but also Weta Workshop for creating her. Last but not least, kudos to all producers and Netflix who spent every penny wisely, proving (once more) that low budget films have as much or more to offer than Hollywood mega-budget blockbusters.

Hint: Who is the woman that inexplicably shows up knocking…

The Prodigy (2019): Horror / Thriller

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A kid’s disturbing behaviour gradually starts signaling that a sinister force might be guiding his actions.

The “possessed child” theme has been beaten to death. And The Prodigy doesn’t have an original angle. Acting, directing, cinematography, all work well together. Even the idea is – somewhat – solid. Its development to a story and then to a script though isn’t. It heavily relies on the sound design for good, old fashioned jump scares. Now, the editing could have saved a big part of it but it didn’t. It revealed almost everything in the first act, leaving nothing to the imagination, subtracting the speculation, and consequently, sucking out the mystery. It is not the editing’s fault though.

Producers and directors should have realised that the “horror” audience has seen all that already and brainstorm for new ideas that keep the genre fresh. And in this instance, scary.

Cold Pursuit (2019): Action / Crime / Drama

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After his son gets murdered, a snowplow driver tracks down and goes after everyone responsible for his death.

Hans Petter Moland, writer/director of films with a unique character such as Aberdeen (2000) and his latest Out Stealing Horses (2019), impresses this time by remaking his own film In Order of Disappearance (2014) – all three led by Stellan Skarsgård. The film was shot in early 2017 but was released only recently. I guess it would have done better had it been released before a controversial interview Liam Neeson gave earlier this year.

Politics aside, Cold Pursuit is enjoyable adding some dark comedy to the aforementioned genres, resembling Fargo (1996) and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999). Julia Jones, Emmy Rossum, and Tom Bateman stand out. A lot of similarities can be found with the original film, especially in tone and rhythm, and both of them make one wonder who was Nels Coxman before…

Captive State (2019): Sci-Fi / Thriller

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Nine years after alien forces invaded and colonised Earth, an underground movement, stealthily, plans an attack to fight back.

This is not “cinema of attractions”. No “Independence Day” (1996) effects with marching songs while shouting “we will fight” narrative. “Captive State” focuses on the world’s political and socio-economic state after the extra-terrestrials’ colonisation, leaving out the early terraforming practices. As stated next to the title, it is a sci-fi/thriller and not an action film. Political-espionage case scenarios resembling Europe just before WWII cannot be avoided.

The acting is solid and so is the photography and directing. If you asked me what I think it lacks the most I would say emotional investment. I felt hard to engage as the main characters are underdeveloped. Also, the masterplan gets too complicated on occasion even though it offers the desired twist. I guess the script could have gone through maybe a couple of more rewrites.

A perfect example of a groundbreaking sci-fi/thriller came only ten years before “Captive State” and it is none other than “District 9” (2009) – Neill Blomkamp’s finest film to date.

The Perfection (2018): Drama / Horror / Thriller

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Leaving one of the best music academies as a kid, Charlotte, with a twisted plan in mind, seeks now her old mentor and the younger girl who replaced her.

Daring, perverted, gruesome, and brilliant at parts, The Perfection utilises De Palma’s split diopter shots, Hitchcock’s shower scene ‘staccato’ editing, and Aja’s unsettling way to convey paranoia. Netflix’s new horror avoids cliches, scares, amuses, entertains, and gives you a good run for your money. Allison Williams and Logan Browning, accompanied by operatic music, hold no punches, seduce one another, but also ourselves, and steal the show. Excellent directing by Richard Shepard who masterfully orchestrates everyone and everything. Two things though:

Interesting but quite ironic for Miramax to choose such a theme to produce. Also, I wish it didn’t get that explanatory. It doesn’t leave much to think about once the end credits start rolling. Editing should have left certain information out or carefully reveal some of it at the end of the third act.

Regardless, a definite must-see for the Horror fans.

Destroyer (2018): Action / Crime / Drama

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A broken LAPD detective follows a lead on an old case that got her to the decadent state she currently is.

Brilliant concept and even more brilliant execution! Karyn Kusama and Nicole Kidman shine behind and in front of the camera respectively. Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany, Sebastian Stan, and Scoot McNairy provide amazing support, completing a film – a masterpiece I’ll dare to say – that will keep making you question what you know and what you think you know. NOT a Hollywood recipe, and NOT for an impatient audience. An existential, slow-burn, dark, indie cop-drama set in two timelines, holding no punches.

A definite must-watch! You can like it or dislike it afterwards.