horror

REVIEW: Tau (2018)

When Julia (Maika Monroe) wakes up in a house controlled by an Artificial Intelligence system called Tau (Gary Oldman), she must figure out what its creator (Ed Skrein) wants with her and find a way to escape.

Having 99% of the film set in one location, scientist Alex’s home, gives it a claustrophobic feel as Julia begins to converse with Tau and the two of them form an unlikely connection as they learn from one another. The lighting has an influence on each scene as when Alex is home, everything is in shades of blue but when he leaves, and Julia and Tau are alone, the lighting is in shades of red. It contrasts the differences between Alex and Julia, Alex is logical and strives for control, while Julia is quick-thinking and strives for freedom.

Both Monroe and Skrein are great in their roles and when the two of them are caught in almost a battle of wits, the tension is at its peak. Julia is a memorable “final girl” who combines grim determination with hopefulness and a caring side.

Tau is a creepy horror-sci-fi hybrid that offers another take on the man verses AI dilemma we’ve seen in countless films over the years. However, Tau doesn’t really offer anything new in terms of commentary on AI’s and how as they become smarter, people may abuse them. There’s parallels made between the trauma Julia faced at the hands of her parents and the restrictions Alex puts on Tau, but it lacks any real depth. Still, with its 90-minute runtime, Tau is an engaging small-scale sci-fi flick. 3/5.

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REVIEW: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

When a volcano on Isla Nublar becomes active, it threatens the lives of the only dinosaurs on Earth. Former park manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and raptor behaviourist Owen (Chris Pratt) mount a campaign to rescue the dinosaurs but those funding the expedition have other plans for the creatures.

Fallen Kingdom is a film of two parts. The first is a disaster film and a race against time. The second part is a horror film. The switch between these two elements isn’t exactly smooth and the middle section does drag a bit but when these two elements take their turn being at the forefront, Fallen Kingdom is a tense and exciting film.

The sequence on the island shows off all the dinosaurs in all their glory. The special effects are overall stunning. In some of the wider shots with multiple creatures the effects aren’t quite as great but on the close ups on individual dinosaurs the level of detail is incredible.

When the story moves to the Lockwood Estate, where businessman Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) awaits the dinosaurs, the tension amps up with the introduction of a new creation from scientist Dr Henry Wu (BD Wong). This is when the film turns into a story about a creepy mansion filled with monsters.

The main problem with Fallen Kingdom is the humans. It’s hard to care about them and while I didn’t want any of the “heroes” to get eaten, it was more from the typical desire for the protagonists to succeed rather than any fond feeling I had for them as characters. Claire is a character who’s changed a lot since we saw her in Jurassic World (2015) but Owen is just the same brash guy. There’s new characters like computer tech Franklin (Justice Smith) and veterinarian Zia (Daniella Pineda) who while are pretty two-dimensional offer a new perspective of the dinosaurs. Unfortunately they both are absent for the majority of the third act leaving it to Claire and Owen to save the day again.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has some spectacular set pieces and some generally scary moments. However, the human characters and their often-stupid decisions, let the film down. 3/5.

REVIEW: A Quiet Place (2018)

A family must live in silence to avoid detection from deadly creatures who hunt by sound.

A Quiet Place is incredible. It’s a film that draws you in and your eyes are glued to the screen throughout. It’s tense, scary and thrilling. This family can never let their guard down and as the film progresses, neither can you.

The way sound is used in A Quiet Place is inventive and effective. The daughter (Millicent Simmonds) is deaf and when the camera pans between her and her brother (Noah Jupe) you can hear the difference between the silence she hears, and the ambient noise he can hear. It makes it clear that there’s a difference between silence and quiet and no matter what these people do, if they’re moving around or even breathing heavily, they will be making some noise. And thus, the tension is always there.

The cast is superb – Emily Blunt has a few standout scenes – and it’s noticeable how great they all are because as humans our main form of communication is speech and in this post-apocalyptic world it cannot happen, or these people will die. This cast must show emotion and thought through body language and you can tell exactly how they are all feeling. The family’s main form of communication is sign language, so they do talk to each other, but not in the way the vast majority of us are used to.

That’s the thing about A Quiet Place. It’s a stressful watch but it’s also surprisingly moving. This film is about a family, about parents who will do anything to keep their children safe and the love they have for one another.

A Quiet Place is a fantastic film. It’s terrifying yet emotional and you’ll be on the edge of your seat throughout, but it’s well worth all that. 5/5.

REVIEW: Pandorum (2009)

When Bower (Ben Foster) and Payton (Dennis Quaid), two crewmembers onboard a vast spaceship, wake up with limited memories of their mission and their own identities, they must try to piece together what happened to the rest of the crew and fix their ship that’s slowly dying.

Pandorum is a horror movie in space while having a mystery to it as well as you come to realise that much like the characters on this ship, you as the viewer can’t necessarily trust what people are saying.

Bower definitely gets the short end of the stick as he’s the one, exploring the ship, facing unexpected dangers while Payton is safe in the control centre, guiding him through the enormous ship. Also, it’s slightly unbelievable how Bower survives considering the amount of times he falls from great heights and gets thrown into walls.

The spaceship is like its own character, it’s dark and dank and with the flickering lights and ominous sounds it is not a place you’d want to be exploring on your own. Bower soon discovers he’s not alone as there’s creatures aboard the ship, creatures who are super-fast and eat people. The fact that these creatures look to be made from practical effects elevates the creepy factor.

Pandorum is a bit too long and some of the exposition is a bit clunky, but it’s still a tense and thrilling film. The horror and sci-fi elements are blended together near-perfectly and Ben Foster’s Bower is an underdog you root for. 4/5.

REVIEW: The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

When five friends go to a remote cabin for a weekend break, they soon discover they have got more than they bargained for and they are all in danger.

The Cabin in the Woods is a good horror film because it knows what it is, has the usual tropes but turns them on their head. The five friends all fit the standard clichés; there’s Curt (Chris Hemsworth) the jock, Jules (Anna Hutchison) the sexy, popular one, Holden (Jesse Williams) the quiet one, Marty (Fran Kranz) the stoner, and Dana (Kristen Connolly) the good girl.

The film embraces the horror stereotypes and the fact that so many people watching it will know all the genre clichés and it does it’s best to subvert expectations. It feels both self-referential and new and intriguing. It’s equal parts weird, scary, gruesome and funny – and sometimes all those things happen at once. The script is witty and clever, with some of the best lines coming from stoner Marty, his attitude to the weird goings-on is the best.

Honestly, The Cabin in the Woods is the sort of film to watch, knowing as little as possible. It starts out as the typical five-friends-go-to-a-remote-cabin-in-the-woods horror cliché but it becomes so much more than that. It’s bonkers and fun and creepy and is well-worth a watch. 4/5.

BOOK BLOGGER HOP: What is your favourite scary movie?

Book Blogger Hop: Halloween Edition!

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly feature hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, to find bookish blogs and to learn more about the bloggers themselves. You can find more info on the feature here.

This week’s question is off the topic of books and is instead: What is your favourite scary movie?

I am not a scary movie fan. I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat and generally do not watch horror films. I think it’s mostly because I don’t like blood and gore (I’m actually OK with blood in real life but I really do not like any sort of body horror in media) and I don’t enjoy being scared.

BUT! My favourite scary film, out of the few I’ve seen, has to be The Descent (2005). It’s about a group of women who go on a caving expedition, but they soon discover they are trapped in the caves with something deadly. I watched it in college as a part of my AS Film Studies class and it was the one and only time I’ve watched it but it has stuck with me for almost eight years! I remember watching it in the class and when it finished and we all went to break, it was bright sunshine outside but my heart couldn’t stop pounding.

The Descent is an incredibly tense, scary and at times gory film. I do think it’s a great film and something I recommend to just about anyone but I definitely don’t need to watch it more than once.

READ THE WORLD – Scotland: The Open Door, and the Portrait by Margaret Oliphant

The Open Door, and the Portrait: Stories of the Seen and the Unseen are two short spooky stories.

The Open Door is from the perspective of Mortimer a father who’s brought his family to live in an old Scottish manor but when his son is taken ill, having apparently heard a lost spirit, Mortimer promises to solve the mystery and help the lost soul. The Portrait is about Philip, a man who returns home to his elderly father and becomes enchanted by the portrait of his dead mother who he never knew.

Both stories are eerie and are set in old, manor houses that hide their secrets and have male leads that like to believe they are sound of mind but maybe that’s not the case.

Out of the two stories I preferred The Open Door. It was a creepy ghost story that made full use of its setting in the wilds of Scotland, owls hooting, characters not wanting to believe the stories and a child that has seen things that can’t be explained. I also liked that when Mortimer was investigating his sons claims and talked to people who worked for the house, the way it was written you could clearly see the thick Scottish accent. It was another thing that helped pull me into the story.

The Portrait was more of a mystery than a horror story. There were hints at supernatural goings on but it was Phillip and his relationship with his father that was the main focus of the story. Also, while obviously a lot happens in a short space of time in a short story, I found the ending of The Portrait felt quite rushed and not that satisfying.

Still, I did enjoy reading The Open Door, and the Portrait: Stories of the Seen and the Unseen. I haven’t read any Victorian fiction out of choice before (definitely read some during my school life) and these short stories were a nice way to dip my toes in as it were.

I want to say thank you to Bex over at NinjaBookBox as it was this post that made me aware of Margaret Oliphant. I will be checking out the other books and authors mentioned in the post.