Day 160 – The Mummy – 2017

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Disney has the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Warner Brothers have the DC Cinematic Universe. Univeral decided to make the Dark Universe with their back catalogue of Monsters. The problem is that they have had some fantastic films over the years, but decided to reboot once again a classic. The Mummy is a complete retelling of the origins story brought to the 21st century and was directed by the writer of the Transformers films: Alex Kurtzman. Starring Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis and Sofia Boutella as the title character.

Honestly, this film was destined to fail. Remember when you first saw Iron Man. It was a film that had its own story and was self-contained. At the end, after the credits, it introduced another character to essentially create a shared universe. Same with The Incredible Hulk another self-contained story where at the end they introduce something to join a shared universe. The problem with The Mummy is that it shoves the characters and exposition of the “Dark Universe” down your throat as soon as the film starts. I miss the days when Brendan Fraiser took on the titular villain with the classic motifs and action of past. Shame.

Dr Jekyll (Russell Crowe), of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, has an organisation called Prodigium (terrible name) that contains and studies supernatural threats. His team locate a tomb in the underbelly of 21st century London and finds a knight who is holding a red jewel. Apparently, in Ancient Egypt, there was a princess who turned evil and conjured the dark side of the Egyptian god – Set. He gave her supernatural powers to take down her enemies and bring himself to life with the red jewel and a dagger. Luckily she was captured and sent to a tomb encrusted in mercury (apparently it stops evil from spreading). Millions of years later Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and his sidekick Chris Vail (Jake Johnston) find the tomb, awaken the princess and all hell breaks lose.

The film had the unique opportunity to make the Mummy a genuine threat for the onscreen heroes including Nick Morton and his love interest Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis). The problem is that the script was written for the characters to rush into the threat, and then meet the team tasked to take it down with no explanation of how and why they are helping them. World building is a concrete way of making a franchise, but flashing it front and centre is just desperate. Its embarrassing to see Universal throw money at the screen by casting Tom Cruise to take on their new take of the Mummy.

The plot was rushed, no clear character development. No physical love interest for the hero, and personally no threat for him to take on. Sofia Boutella was superb as the feminine version of the classic Mummy, but her time on screen was wasted thanks to an arbitrary look on how to take on the world. The only interesting thing about her Mummy is the eyes. They split, and that’s pretty cool. Also, the makers tried to over sexualize her, and that’s not good at all. The action in the film is tasteful, to say the least, with the sequence taking place in the cemetery clearly taking on the vibe of the horror pictures of past in Universal’s monster catalogue. The film also has various humourous parts, which completely take you out of the scary moment the director has tried to create. The tone is lost, and so is your attention.

Overall a completely wasted approach to The Mummy, rather than tell a self-contained story Univeral try the hard sell with their new Dark Universe and waste the talents of Tom Cruise from hero to a selfish art thief who looks out for himself. The only good thing to come from this film is the artistry of Sofia Boutella who’s career will flourish further thanks to her portrayal of The Mummy. This film is a disgrace, and more importantly, we need Brendan Fraiser back.

Should you watch it: NO

Day 159 – The Belko Experiment – 2016

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What happens when you have 90 people trapped in a building, and they have to kill each other to survive. Chaos. This film brings us the chaotic look of how to survive against all the odds. Starring no one important minus John C McGinley who played Dr Cox on Scrubs, it was written by the legend himself – James “Guardian of the Galaxy” Gunn, and with no imagination directed by Greg McLean and released in 2016.

The premise of This film sounded quite interesting, unfortunately, the direction of the plot and play loses its flair literally 10 minutes into it. There is no backstory of why the building is on lockdown, and why the employees of The Belko Company are killing each other except for a tannoy telling them they have to. Ohh and also they have an explosive in the back of their heads in case they don’t comply. The film was poorly paced, and the acting sub-par. It was destined to be in the bargain bin at the supermarket and on the lists of “great horror” films on Netflix.

I respect James Gunn for all his work on Slither, Guardians of the Galaxy and Dawn of the Dead. They all have interesting genres, with Dawn of the Dead being likened to this film. The horror aspect is lost once the employees start killing each other for survival, and the film moves rapidly from horror to straight-up gore. It is not even good gore, just splashes of red on the walls and the camera moving off the action the moment the hit occurs.

The main character Mike Milch (played by an uncharismatic John Gallagher Jr) is the office everyman. He has the girl, and the respect of all the office, unfortunately, its not enough to stop the mayhem. He just is a boring protagonist for the audience as he has nothing to save (minus his girlfriend). There is also the James Gunn special, his brother Sean Gunn and Michael Rooker who star in most of Gunns motion pictures. The film is just straight up boring.

Overall a weak film from the mind of James Gunn (he’s lucky he didn’t direct it). An office of people get trapped inside a building and have to kill each other to be the victor and survive. Plagued with terrible performances and a weak plot the film was destined to fail.

Should you watch it: NO

Day 151 – Life – 2017

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Now, this film came out of nowhere. 6 astronauts are onboard the International Space Station in the near future and are awaiting a pod which contains contents from the surface of Mars. It’s actually pretty good considering the trailer made it look like a remake of the original Alien. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds in 2017, it came out to good reviews all around.

As I said before this film came out of nowhere, and to be honest I really enjoyed it. It was a masterclass of horror would be like onboard a station that instant escape is impossible. 6 Astronauts are aboard the International Space Station, Dr David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) the ISS’s senior medical officer, Dr Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), the quarantine officer, Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds) the systems engineer, Sho Murakami (Hiroyuki Sanada) the Pilot of the ISS, Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) the onboard biologist and finally Katerina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya) the commander of ISS. They are on a 9 month mission to extract the probe from the surface of Mars that has captured contents for scientific research. On the mission they successfully catch the probe thanks to Rory’s skilful execution and realise they have a first dormant proof of life from Mars. They bring it to life, only to realise its sentient and attacks the ship and crew looking to infect all around it.

This film was a masterful execution of how a biological alien threat can threaten the existence of the crew and what lengths they would go to stopping it from reaching Earth and infecting the human race. It’s a scary thought brought to realisation from David Espinosa who also directed Safe House starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds. Trapped in Space are the feeling that he wants you to feel, the claustrophobia of being along and the threat of something trying to hunt and kill you without the use of unreal science fiction. An ingenious way of creating a threat that logically could happen to out astronauts in space at anytime.

The fear factor is something that hasn’t really been done well in recent times with weak horror films such as Paranormal Activity, The Conjuring and Insidious have counted on the jump scares which work well in theatres gaining nonentity for it. In Life we have the build up scare, you know it’s coming and Daniel Espinosa has drafted a fantastic script into this build up of suspence not knowing when the scare is going to occur. Mix this up with the likes of Gyllenhaal and Ferguson and you have yourself a fantastic movie of astronauts stuck in space thanks to a feral alien.

Science can’t always help you, and for the astronauts, they find out first hand. It is a masterful execution on how to generate fear and build up without the jump scares with some fantastic acting in zero G thanks to Gyllenhaal, Ferguson, Reynolds.

Overall a film that will be overlooked in the years to come, but a welcome addition to the space horrors. Alien eat your eat out.

Should you watch it: YES

Day 138 – Fright Night – 1985

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Fright Night is a horror/comedy classic from the mid-80’s. Starring Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale and Roddy McDowall, it tells the tale of Charley Brewster and his new next door neighbour Jerry Dandridge, who he thinks is a vampire.

Fright Night came from the mind of Tom Holland, who wrote and directed the picture. He tells the story of Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) who lives with his single mum in their house. He and his friend Evil Ed like to watch Peter Vincent the vampire hunter on local cable television at night to amuse themselves. Charley’s girlfriend Amy comes over one night to make love, but Charley sees something in his window and sees someone new moving in next door in the middle of the night. He slowly watches them every night to notice that the owner only appears at night, and has a lot of female companions visit but never leave. At the dismay of Amy, he decides to investigate his neighbour who’s name is Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon. He watches him through a window biting a girl in the neck, confirming his suspicion. Charley has to find a way to tell the authorities, his mum and more importantly his friends of Jerry Dandridge before he turns the entire town into vampires – with the help of Peter Vincent.

Mixing comedy with horror, Tom Holland started the genre of comedy/horrors with examples such as the Lost Boys, Evil Dead 2 and Little Shop of Horrors. It seemed to connect to the younger audience that the films were bringing into theatres and it also helped young actors such as Kiefer Sutherland to spread across the world.

Fright Night brings the beauty of the teenage dream and then flips it upside down with a supernatural threat that cannot be understood by conventional means. Tom Holland has merged the teenage lifestyle with a way to stop them from reaching that goal, in Charley’s case the ability to consummate with Amy. Add to the mix the supernatural talent, and now we have a fun adventure for our characters. It is a fun thrill ride, especially by today’s standards because it showcases the 80’s lifestyle. It also showcases the talent such as Roddy McDowall who previously played Cornelius the Ape in the Planet of the Apes films in the 60’s/70’s. Utilising a typecast actor and then changing him up to be more dramatic is great. Tom Holland use of comedy horror is so much fun, it is great that the style continued into the last 80s and even the 90s.

Overall a fun, rollicking and frightening journey for our protagonist Charley Brewster and Peter Vincent, fighting vampire Jerry Dandridge. It is a great film, with a little nudity which was normal for the 80s.

Should you watch it: YES

Day 134 – Alien: Covenant – 2017

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Alien: Covenant is the sequel to the 2012 film Prometheus that chronicled the crew of the ship that finds a planet with a dark past. This time around its set 10 years after the events of the last film and finds the colonisation ship Covenant crossing the galaxy to find a new settlement for humanity. Directed by Ridley Scott and starring Katherine Waterstone, Billy Crudup and Michael Fassbender as Walter and David the androids.

The ship Covenant is crossing the galaxy to reach new settlement Origae-6. Along the way the ship is breached by a neutrino shockwave (space anomaly) and wakes up the skeleton crew. During the wake-up process, Captain Jacob Branson (James Franco in a blink and you will miss it cameo) is killed, and so Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup) assumes command. The ship locates a closer settlement for the crew and the 2000 colonists onboard to live on. The entire crew agrees to visit the planet in hope to create a human base away from Earth, except for Daniels (Katherine Waterstone) who is sceptical. They land on the planet and locate the ship that Elizabeth Shaw and David left the planet in Prometheus. Two of the crew becoming infected by an airborne pathogen and rapidly incubate a new type of Alien. They burst out of the crew members and start to kill the rest of the crew until a masked figure comes to save them. This is where things take a turn for the worst for the crew, and specifically Daniels.

Prometheus was sold to the audience as the birth of the Xenomorph, and unfortunately, it was sold short to the audience as it actually didn’t contain any physical Aliens that we are used to. Luckily this time around Ridley Scott listened and brought back the big, bad and ugly Xenomorphs we are used to. They are physically strong and move incredibly quickly. It’s scary like the original film Alien and it is sequel Aliens which up to the ante to 11 thanks to its introduction of the Colonial Marines. The close quarter’s combat of the Xenomorphs also introduces more fear inducing terror into the slightly watered down world that Prometheus introduced us.

Personally, the best parts of Alien: Covenant is where Ridley Scott shows us the crew interacting with each other on a personal level. Adding a sense of emotion to the characters we become slightly attached to them, then as the film moves along they are taken away in gross and gruesome scenes that showcase the violence of both the airborne pathogen and the Alien.

The best thing about Alien: Covenant is the Android David and his successor Walter. Fassbender plays each one with different personalities. Davis the original Android and can bypass certain restrictions that Walter possesses such as killing someone that poses a danger to the mission whereas Walter would help everyone survive even sacrificing himself.

Overall it’s great to see Ridley Scott going back to his roots with Alien: Covenant. A return for the creatures we haven’t officially seen on the screen since 2007. A truly terrifying film that will make you really think at the end where they will continue the Alien journey and how it connects to the original.

Should you watch it: YES

Day 133 – The Descent – 2005

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The Descent is a British horror film directed by Neil Marshall and was released in theatres in 2005 to critical acclaim. It was named as the horror film of 2005 thanks to Marshall’s claustrophobic story, and its use of relative unknowns in the starring role. It tells the tale of 6 women on a cave expedition when they take the wrong turn and things take a turn for the worst.

In England Sarah (Shauna MacDonald), Juno (Natalie Mendoza) and Beth (Alex Reid) are whitewater rafting in England. They meet Sarah husband and Daughter once finished, and Sarah leaves early while the other 2 follow behind. On the way, her husband is distracted and ploughs the car into another oncoming car killing himself and their daughter. Sarah is the only survivor. One year later Juno asks Sarah and Beth to come to North America to cave dive. They meet Rebbeca (Saskia Mulder), Sam (MyAnna Buring) and Holly (Nora-Jane Noone). They all go to the cave, with Juno leaving the discovery map in the car. While down there they get lost and dive deeper into the cave with it becoming more and more claustrophobic. They find they are not alone, and that’s where things get worse for the woman.

Director Neil Marshall has written a fantastic script which completely manages to keep you on the edge of your seat thanks to the claustrophobic setting he has set the film in. It’s effective thanks to the location, and the dark setting. The intensity of 6 individual women and the acute tension they are exposed to creates a fantastic horror film never explored on the silver screen.

The unexplained cave dwellers are the scariest thing you will see on screen thanks to them being gory, dirty and no holds bar when it comes to finding their food. The use of dark is incredibly effective in the subterranean caves of North America, thanks to the conditioning we have had since the early days of horror. The tension between the woman at the beginning is useful for Marshall, as he uses it as a bubble up between the group halfway through the film where they lose their cool. The subplot between Sarah finding a bearly breathing Beth and then finding out Juno did it is incredible. Sarah is at a huge lost in the beginning of the film and is the most venerable. Near the end, she is a vixen, who essential is not afraid of anyone – including the cave dwellers. The juxtaposition is a great use in the film and is used sparingly to give the most impact.

The film doesn’t use a score in a normal sense, rather than using ambient sounds to simulate to the audience that we are down in the cave with the women. All we hear is the insanity noise of the woman clamouring throughout the cave and their fear is what fuels the tolerance of the audience to what’s in the dark.

Overall an effective horror film which flips the location to the deep underground where essentially no one can hear you scream. A riveting second feature for writer/director Neil Marshall, with some genuine scares for everyone to relate to.

Should you watch it: YES

Day 130 – Exorcist: The Beginning – 2004

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Exorcist: The Beginning was released in cinemas in 2004 to bad reviews. It was how Father Lankester Merrin found his faith in God again and how to fought the demon Pazazu for the first time in Africa. It’s an insight on how Father Merrin finds his faith once again after WWII thanks, some of his patrons being killed by Nazi’s. Directed by Renny Harlin, this was technically a second revision of the film because the original film (re-released as Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist) was planned by the producers. Paul Schrader the original Director of the film was praised thanks to the bad performance of this film.

Father Merrin is asked by the Vatican and the British Army to visit African to locate a newly discovered Church which predates any church the Vatican has known of. Father Merrin meets Father Francis (James D’Arcy) – an American priest who has also been sent there to find historical evidence. Also is Sarah (Izabella Scorupco) a Doctor aiding in the dig. Having members of the local tribe help, they find the further they dig, the worse the camp gets thanks to infection disease and even possession. Father Merrin then find the church, with all the crosses facing downwards. He finds the Pazazu and has to put it back into the tomb before he escapes the Church.

The main problem with Exorcist: The Beginning is that it completely forgets it is an Exorcist film. The original had the essence of the demon which crept up on Reagan and boom. She was possessed by the evil, showcasing the demonic abilities as the spiderwalk, twisting the neck and the tone she took was was evil. However, in this film, Renny Harlin decided to put more jump scares, a love interest and remove everything that made the original unique: the horror and turn it into a boring mishmash of generic horror that doesn’t serve justice to the original. A completely wasted pitch of which could have been amazing if left in the correct hands. Even Paul Schrader’s version was thrown under the bus for being dramatic and showcasing the internal struggle of Father Merrin rather than show the demon and its power.

This film showcased too little too late, and it paid with the box office returns making only $41 million from the $85 million budget which was a shame when you think about all the time and effort Schrader put into the project. He even asked William Peter Blatty: the original author of The Exorcist to help with his project.

Overall the film was wasted potential thanks to bad script writing, and a bad reveal near the end. Both this and Paul Schrader’s version are bad, but this took the worst hit thanks to the bad reviews.

Should you watch it: NO