Tag Archives: Mystery

Review of Cube (1997)

1 Apr

cube

Cube (1997) is a Canadian sci-fi/horror/mystery film.

Directed by Vincenzo Natali (Cypher (2002), Getting Gilliam (2005)).

Written by Vincenzo Natali (Nothing (2003), Splice (2009)), Andre Bijelic and Graeme Manson (Lucky Girl (2001), Orphan Black (2013 TV)).

Starring: Maurice Dean Wint, David Hewlett, Nicole de Boer, Nicky Guadagni, Andrew Miller, Julian Richings, Wayne Robson.

We open to a guy going through the cube rooms like he owns the place, until he’s suddenly slashed into pieces by a trap.

Then we switch to a whole group of people, who seem to have been there for a short while, but they already know that they’re in deep shit. They’re stuck in this structure, consisting of a lot of large cubes. Some of these cubes contain traps, so they have to figure out how to get out, without getting killed.

"Looks like my friday night. Only it would be my basement floor. And those would be dead prostitutes."

“Looks like my friday night. Only it would be my basement floor. And those would be dead prostitutes.”

At the start of the movie you know nothing about these cubes, so you learn with the characters, who are also clueless about what is happening. The cinematography also adds to this feeling. At first there’s a lot of handheld, kinetic shots, that make you feel just as disoriented as the characters, but later on the shots become more steady.

The special effects are pretty good for a low-budget movie, sliced up guy, face melted by acid, that type of stuff. But the most impressive special effect is selling the structure they’re in. It is almost mind-boggling that they only had one actual fully constructed cube. But with minimalistic, but smart adjustments it achieves the needed effect with flying colors. However, there is some bad 90’s CGI, but it is used sparsely enough to be forgiven.

The mystery begins as slightly confusing or frustrating, but very soon settles as very intriguing. And the movie doesn’t ruin it, by providing answers that were not needed.

The dialogue at times is pretty bad, there’s no denying that. It’s horribly overwritten and since it’s low-budget, the inexperienced actors just can’t handle such wordy lines. But at least the characters themselves are multi-dimensional enough as they’re written, relieving the actors from struggling to add what isn’t there.

Definitely, one of the best sci-fi films of the 90’s, proving Vincenzo Natali as one of the most adept genre directors out there. Splice, his latest, slightly inferior sci-fi horror movie being a proof of that.

Overall, it seems like a long Twilight Zone episode, which is a compliment, verging from light horror to mystery to high concept sci-fi. Recommended.

"The movie is about as close of an adaptation of this as Battleship was of the game."

“The movie is about as close of an adaptation of this as Battleship was of the game.”

Review of Rear Window (1954)

10 Feb

Rear Window 1954 posterRear Window (1954) is a thriller/mystery film, based on a short story “It Had to Be Murder” by Cornell Woolrich.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock (The 39 Steps (1935), Torn Curtain (1966)).

Written by John Michael Hayes (The Trouble with Harry (1955), Iron Will (1994))

Starring: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr, Frank Cady, Ross Bagdasarian and others.

We follow a middle-aged photographer played by Jimmy Stewart. His whole leg is in a cast, so he’s reduced to sitting in a wheelchair inside his apartment, looking out his apartment window the whole day. It’s the 50’s, they didn’t have cable yet. He overlooks an inside yard and the building across it.

There’s only a small alley that leads to a street so there’s barely any feeling of the world outside this apartment block. This adds to the claustrophobic and intimate mood of the film. If that’s all you see all day, than you might start feeling like there’s nothing outside your field of vision. The obvious sound stage look in that way helps the film. But soon you forget its fakeness and start seeing it as this weird surreal contained snow globe of a world.

To be fair, the building across have a lot of stuff going on, there’s not one single apartment where something peculiar isn’t happening and people rarely close the curtains. And one day the photographer becomes pretty sure that what he is witnessing is a murder. As the movie progresses, he tries to figure out what is happening and how to convince others, that he is not going nuts, cooped up in his apartment.

"I'll just hang this huge fucking telephoto lens out my window. Nobody's going to notice."

“I’ll just hang this huge fucking telephoto lens out my window. Nobody’s going to notice.”

The photographer has a girlfriend played by Grace Kelly. She wants to marry him, but he is apprehensive, because she comes from a different social background and they have colliding lifestyles. He rejects her and at first you’re glad that he does, because they really don’t have any chemistry and just feel like a forced couple. But later on, the girl gets interested in his little investigation and they sort of open up to each other. Which is kind of messed up if you think about it.

Jeff, the photographer isn’t that nice of guy either. After all, he snoops, he assumes, he is a dick to basically everyone he comes in contact with. Even his girlfriend he starts treating better only after she becomes involved in his unhealthy obsession with his neighbour. Jimmy Stewart is very well cast, he’s good at combining being essentially a nice guy with a selfish fast-talking dick. He was in the 40’s and 50’s what Jeff Goldblum was in the 80’s and 90’s.

Another exploration of their relationship is just the vast array of people in the apartments across, they symbolically represent the ways his life might turn out, depending on how he chooses to proceed with their relationship.

From a filmmaking standpoint this is a great set-up, because it allows the movie to be entirely subjective, being from the point of view of a single person and the building across is like a movie screen, where something horrible is happening, you wish to intervene but you can’t. Since Hitchcock was a master at manipulating with the viewer, this is a perfect canvas for him to work on. Another great aspect is how the movie conjures a fear of the possibility, that someone might look straight into the camera and see Jimmy Stewart looking at them and in a way see you, the viewer. You beg for the fourth wall to stand.

Overall, a great murder mystery with multiple layers, showcasing Hitchcock’s brilliance. Probably, one of his best movies. It’s just excellent filmmaking, hard not to enjoy. Definitely recommended.

"What? Rear Window? Never heard of it."

“What? Rear Window? Never heard of it.”

Review of Dreams in the Witch-House (2005)

23 Sep

Masters of Horror – Dreams in the Witch-House is a horror/thriller/fantasy episode of a TV horror anthology series, each one-hour episode done by a different director.

Directed by Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator (1985), Stuck (2007)).

Written by Dennis Paoli (From Beyond (1986), Dagon (2001)) and Stuart Gordon (Body Snatchers (1993), The Dentist (1996)), based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft.

Starring: Ezra Godden, Campbell Lane, Jay Brazeau, Chelah Horsdal, Yevgen Voronin, Susanna Uchatius and others.

I want to note, that this series of horror stories is pretty cool and unless it’s something really interesting, one hour is actually a decent length for an average horror movie, because usually when it’s more, you can see that the concept hasn’t been broad enough for it to sustain 90 minutes and they throw in pointless padding.

A physics student starts renting a shoddy room in some apartment building and as he works on his project, he gets to know his neighbours: the building’s asshole manager, a young woman with a baby and a creepy old guy. You know, your typical set of oddball sitcom neighbours.

Soon the guy starts having various weird dreams. In one of them the single mother is doing full-on nudity and turning into an old, ugly woman, who is equally naked. Then he keeps seing a rat with a man’s face, which looks really silly. Then he’s in a library and Necronomicon appears briefly. All this is due to some witch, which the title hints at.

Beside the close-ups of a talking rat, the movie has some decent suspense building, some over-the-top gore and almost depressing last 10 minutes.

Overall, it’s ok, nothing really special though, it’s an odd mix of brutality and a stupid rat. Not bad if you decide to watch it, but nothing really worth looking up. Not recommended.

Pictured: If you try really hard you can make the rat-human in your movie look less scary than anything from The Witches (1990).

Review of Assault on Precinct (1976)

21 Sep

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) is an action/thriller/neo-western film about a group of people defending a police station from a gang attack.

Directed by John Carpenter (Dark Star (1974), The Ward (2010)).

Written by John Carpenter (Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), Ghosts of Mars (2001)).

Starring: Austin Stoker, Darwin Joston, Nancy Loomis, Tony Burton, Henry Brandon, Kim Richards and others.

The first thing that pulls you into the movie is the cool theme music, which is not unusual for a John Carpenter movie. I love his synth-heavy film scores, in some ways more than the classical orchestral arrangements.

It starts by introducing various groups of people and all the introductions start with a time stamp, by the time I saw any of the time stamps, I had forgotten the previous one, so it didn’t help to lock the scenes in some time slot, but it helped to create the feeling, that it was all building-up to something. Having seen more than a few movies, it becomes immediately clear, that eventually all the groups will collide. The way they are brought together is actually really cool and natural.

Unusual for the time, the protagonist is a black cop. Here the resemblances to Night of the Living Dead start, which obviously has inspired the movie, besides the fact that it’s in a way a remake of Rio Bravo. The black cop goes to a police station that is closing – precinct 9. That’s right, 9, I guess 13 just sound so much better than 9 to marketing people.

The movie is really ruthless, the bad guys are set up by having one of them do a shockingly unexpected killing. This makes you think he’s going to be the villain, but he is more a symbol of the whole group. To further the comparison to Night of the Living Dead, the gang members that attack the police  station are a lot like zombies. They don’t have dialogue, they don’t hesitate to attack and kill and they just keep on coming, seemingly with no source.

At times it is kind of funny, because in a way it’s a parody of western archetypical heroes and anti-heroes and villains, having them deliver these absurd lines, that don’t make sense in the 70’s, yet at the same time it is a solid action film and not that cheesy. Also I cannot believe you can make a movie like this for just 100 000 dollars, I understand it’s 1976 dollars, but still, that’s a pretty low-budget for an action movie.

I guess, Carpenter could be called a successor of Hitchcock, not in acclaim, but in being another master of suspense, because,  Carpenter manages in his second movie to have the tension from the first minutes and last pretty much throughout the whole movie.

Overall, it’s a simple, cool and suspenseful low-budget action-thriller and I only say that because most of its shortcomings can be excused by the low production costs, which isn’t actually that noticeable. Recommended.

Gangs – bringing Che Guevara, Billy Dee Williams, a white guy and the Wolfman together since 1976.

Review of Shutter Island (2010)

15 Sep

Shutter Island (2010) is a thriller/mystery/horror movie, based on a the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane.

Directed by Martin Scorcese (Hugo (2011), I Call First (1967)).

Written by Laeta Kalogridis (Pathfinder (2007), Alexander (2004)).

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Jackie Earle Haley, Michelle Williams, Elias Koteas, Patricia Clarkson and others.

We start with Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio on a ship. They are obviously in front of a green screen, an effect used more than once in the movie. But it actually works, because it invokes the feeling of rear projection, which looks both fake and charming.

Another aspect that plays into the 40’s thriller mood is the awesome score, compiled from various modern classical musical pieces, that are really kind of over-the-top and used in a very tongue-in-cheek way. These are all basically gimmicks, but I don’t mind it, because they’re not spoofing Golden Age Hollywood, they’re creating the atmosphere those movies bring.

I don’t really remember when was the last time I saw cinematography this amazing and beautiful in a horror/thriller picture, The Shining comes to mind, that was a long time ago. To be fair, both The Shining and this are quite the high-budget productions. Shutter Island is essentialy a B-movie on an A-budget. But the money put aside, this is obviously the work of a master filmmaker, who knows how to make a movie just „flow”.

The acting is also great, Ruffalo in the few last years has done some really solid work and this is one of those times, DiCaprio is as always solid, Ben Kingsley, who has a habit of appearing in not-so-great movies as a generic villain, actually is great here, maybe the best performance in the movie.

So Ruffalo and Di Caprio are detectives sent to an asylum to investigate a disappearance of a patient and as the investigation goes on, less and less becomes clear. DiCaprio’s state of mind also becomes less certain. He has creepy dreams, which have some cool and weird imagery.

The movie has its problems, though.  Around the middle, the movie starts becoming a bit too chaotic and muddled. The biggest problem might be that the movie is quite predictable, we’ve seen this story done before, but this is the best version of it. It’s done so masterfully, that you’re more interested in the execution of the story, the way the build-up is constructed, than its rather obvious conclusion. So if you watched the trailer and thought „I know exactly what’s going to happen,” give it a try anyway, the ride is more enjoyable than just waiting for the destination.

Since it feels so much like a late 40’s film noir, I almost wish that it was shot in soft black & white, but on the other hand, the cinematography is so colorful and beautiful, you don’t want to take that away from this movie. I have to mention that among other great shots, there’s an amazing tracking shot, I won’t reveal what exactly that is, because it would be a spoiler, but the great thing about it is, that it’s not just a technical showcase, it actually works to the movie’s dramatic benefit.

Overall, a great thriller, might be more eye-candy and less an interesting and intricate plot, but for me it didn’t matter. Recommended .

“Shhh, don’t talk so loud, anything more than a loud whisper might make my body to crumble to pieces… Also, have you met my son? His name is Gollum.”

Review of Wake Wood (2011)

9 Jul

Wake Wood (2011) is an Irish horror/thriller/drama film, about a couple who recently have lost their daughter and move to a remote town.

Directed by David Keating (The Last of the High Kings (1996), KM64: Birth of a Skatepark (2007)).

Written by Brendan McCarthy (The Metal Man (1989 Short)) and David Keating (Into the West (1992)).

Starring: Aidan Gillen, Eva Birthistle, Timothy Spall, Brian Gleeson, Ella Connolly, Ruth McCabe and others.

There’s this little girl who is going to school and decides to visit a dog and give him a snack, only she turns out to be the snack herself. In reality you often hear about children getting injured or killed by animals. Yes, it’s pretty horrible when a dog kills a child and it’s a hard thing to get over, because putting down an animal isn’t very awarding and you never get any closure about why did the dog do it, it just did.

The father is a veterinarian and they move to a small town, where he gets a job. We get to see him perform a cowbirth by a cesarean section and I’m pretty sure it was real. Either that or those were some bad-ass special effects.

The movie has a really cool, dreary mood, it doesn’t feel like the modern Hammer films exactly, since it’s only distributed by it, however the subject matter itself is disturbing enough.

It’s not too much to say that the townsfolk turn out to be a paganistic group, which can resurrect people, what a coincidence, our heroes have someone to resurrect. There’s a scene, where the village leader explains all the rules of resurrecting someone, that is so serious and believable, yet also totally absurd and in a way pretty funny. And the movie sort of plays on this, it is creepy how nonchalantly the townsfolk and the parents proceed with this whole thing. There’s never an explanation about how all this resurrection business started and that’s a good choice.

I think it intentionally makes this opposition of us, the viewers, who see all this skeptically and then explores how much a person could suspend their disbelief and how far would they go, just to see their loved one again. One could criticise the parents’ unquestioning acceptance of all the absurdly specific rules they are meant to obey, but they’re desperate parents after all and when they finally feel a bit more at ease, with the resurrection already done, they start disregarding the rules as silly and nonsensical. However, they are not.

There’s an ending, which I would have never predicted and it’s a very interesting idea and I have no clue how that would play out. It’s sort of a cliffhanger, but it’s one so good, that I wouldn’t even want to see a sequel resolving it.

Overall, a really good little horror flick, some might write down the dark silliness of it as tonal inconsistency, but I’d say it only adds to the film. Recommended.

“You see, had you read the fine print, you’d know that the payment for our resurrectional services is a human testicle per person.”
“The joke’s on you, I don’t have any!”
“…No… No, I think the joke’s still on you.”

Review of Hellraiser: Revelations (2011)

6 Jul

Hellraiser: Revelations (2011) is a horror/mystery/thriller film and the ninth film in the Hellraiser film franchise.

Directed by Victor Garcia (Return to House on Haunted Hill (2007), Mirrors 2 (2010)).

Written by Gary J. Tunnicliffe (Megalodon (2002), Hansel & Gretel (2002)).

Starring: Tracey Fairaway, Jay Gillespie, Sebastien Roberts, Sanny Van Heteren, Steven Brand, Nick Eversman, Stephan Smith Collins and others.

This movie has received roaringly negative reviews, mostly due to Clive Barker bashing the movie on Twitter (for a good reason, but not having seen it), Doug Bradley not returning as Pinhead and the low production values. But beyond this, I personally didn’t find it that bad.

It opens with two guys filming themselves driving in a car. And I instantly thought “Oh, god, this is going to be a found footage movie”, but it isn’t. It shows that their car is stolen (which has no real effect on the plot) and then we see them opening the box and Pinhead appears. Then it turns out the mother of one of the guys is watching this on a video camera.

The parents of the other guy come over and it turns out they like to hang out together after their sons have been missing for a year and have a casual dinner. There’s also this chick that is the sister of one and girlfriend of the other guy and she goes to her brother’s room and watches some stuff on the camera. We then get to suffer through a jagged and pointless narrative when we constantly change back from standard to the handheld camera footage.

The boyfriend guy bangs another chick and then somehow kills her, while the other passes out. It’s very confusing, since we get a reaction shot from the sister after the killing part, which wasn’t filmed. Thank god, that’s the end of the videotaped shit, at least we don’t have to see it. The sister finds the puzzle box and starts playing around with it as her brother suddenly appears and everyone is mildly surprised by this. This is a running gag, as a character gets shotgunned in the stomach, but stays alive throughout the rest of the film, looking only mildly displeased with the turn of events.

We also get random flashes of Pinhead doing various hell-like things, like posing by some chains. He also is making another pinhead cenobite and stuff like that. The new Pinhead is kind of silly. I thought that after the first two movies, they were starting to light Pinhead too brightly and he lost his menace. Well this time we’re back with a Pinhead, who not only lacks the gravitas of Doug Bradley, but also looks sort of chubby for some reason. Is it really so hard to make a guy with pins in his head look scary?

The most pleasant surprise for me was the return of skinless make-up, it doesn’t look as good as in Hellraiser II, but still, it’s pretty bad-ass. And this actually signifies the return to the roots of Hellraiser, it has lack of skin, it has these darkly perverted hidden desire elements, it has some incestuous tones, all the good stuff. It feels a lot more like a Hellraiser film, than the previous, at least, four, probably mostly due to an original Hellraiser script and not a rewritten unrelated one.

So considering the film being rushed by the studio, because of copyright issues and having a very low-budget, I didn’t find it disappointing. The bad response to this film surprises me, since I would imagine fans recognizing it being closer to the original Hellraiser ideas, than those Rick Bota directed ones, which if they were children, wouldn’t be accepted in the orphanage for quadruple amputees.

Overall, a bad movie, but not one of the worst of the series. For a 300,000$ budget and three-week production, it has relatively impressive special effects and a decent twist. Not recommended, unless you’re a Hellraiser fan, who hated the previous three installments.

“Yeah, my parents don’t approve of my lifestyle. I guess they’re right. I won’t be a politician. I can take the pierceings out, but I will not drop the S&M!”

Review of Paranormal Entity (2009)

3 Jul

Paranormal Entity (2009) is a straight-to-video horror/mystery/thriller film from The Asylum, a film studio focusing on making “mockbusters”, lower budget versions of mainstream movies.

Directed by Shane Van Dyke (6 Guns (2010), Titanic II (2010)).

Written by Shane Van Dyke (Street Racer (2008), The Day the Earth Stopped (2008)).

Starring: Shane Van Dyke, Erin Marie Hogan, Fia Perera and Norman Saleet.

Although I can’t imagine in this situation, I can see someone looking at a bunch of DVDs at a supermarket and being like “Hey, I want to see some horror, I heard about that ghost movie… um, Paranormal something. Activity? What’s this? Paranormal Entity? That’s it!”, honestly, I think these people deserve their fate.

However, this is one case, where even after watching it, a lot of people might not realize it wasn’t the real thing. Although, Paranormal Activity is a far superior film, the budget of Entity might have been about the same.

Outright the movie starts by saying what happens to the characters in the end. Not a great idea, unless the way we get there is more important and interesting. But they could’ve just added another sentence saying what happens before that. Or they could have condensed it to a single sentence “A family lives in a haunted house until some of them die and shit.” That could even be the tagline.

So we have a mother who doesn’t like what is going on, a son who films the stuff that is going on and a daughter, that has a big rack, which is probably why she was cast in the Katie Fetherstone part. At least the son isn’t a douchebag like Mica.

The acting is ok, not Oscar stuff, but not Troll 2 either. And for some reason there’s a lot of emotional stuff and not enough cheap thrills. I think the movie at times forges it’s an Asylum production. That is not to say there’s not some cool moments, there’s a decent scene involving footprints, this ghost is like Paranormal Activity 3 ghost, not very subtle. At one point the guy goes looking for his sister in the night, after some crazy shit has happened, he sees the ladder to the attic is down and is like “Hey, sister, you there? Oh, you’re not answering? That’s fine I’ll come up anyway, it’s not like the ghost could be fucking with me in the middle of the night.” But his sister is up there. In her underwear. Then in another scene something happens to her in the shower and they rush in, the brother has the camera and all. And just for the sake of it, he lingers a bit on her naked breasts. Way to make me feel weird about looking at boobs.

Then there’s a doctor they’re waiting for and I wonder how is a doctor going to help them. There’s something written by the ghost on their coffee table. Dr. Lauren finally arrives and he turns out to be an exorcist or something. I don’t question he’s a PhD though, because when he sees the word “maron” on the table, he instantly knows it’s meaning and that it is a germanic word.

After the doctor’s arrival it all goes to hell and we see some more nakedness from the sister and all, and it is pretty cool, the ending I mean, not the nakedness. Well, that’s cool too, but… I’ll stop now.

Overall, it’s a decent watch, it’s not great, it’s not awful, it just is. I really hoped for a shitload of jumpscares or something, but was disappointed. It was just mediocre. I don’t know what to do with this. Not recommended, because it lacks what The Asylum’s movies are worth watching for and it lacks the real suspense and scares Paranormal Activityoffers.

Forget about the ghost, creepy exorcist in a turtleneck is more of a problem now.

Review of Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)

30 Jun

Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005) is a straight-to-video horror/mystery/thriller film and the eighth film in the Hellraiser film franchise.

Directed by Rick Bota (Raising the Bar (2008 TV), The Vampire Diaries (2009 TV)), who also directed the previous three Hellraiser movies.

Written by Carl V. Dupre (Bone Chillers (1996 TV), Inkubus (2011)), based on the short story “Dark Can’t Breathe” by Joel Soisson.

Starring: Lance Henriksen, Doug Bradley, Henry Cavill, Katheryn Winnick, Khary Payton, Cristopher Jacot, Anna Tolputt and others.

Since this is another one from Rick Bota I didn’t have great expectations, the series was not in great shape before that, but he completely destroyed all the dignity it had left. Also you know he prefers quality over quantity, when he releases two movies of the same series in one year, both based on rewritten unrelated scripts.

We open with a funeral of some guy and we are introduced to his friends, who didn’t bother to dress up for a funeral. One of them is our future Superman – Henry Cavill. If Immortals made me enthusiastic about him being Superman, this kind of took the enthusiasm back a notch, although, you can’t blame him for anything in this movie.

It turns out all the friends and the dead guy play some shitty online computer game called “Hellworld”, which is based on the Hellraiser mythos. I don’t exactly understand, how this works, do all the previous movies exist in this universe? It is never made clear. So they play this incredibly shitty game and they all get invites to a Hellworld party in a mansion. Sounds like a great party.

They go to the mansion and this party is filled with hot goth people, all dancing and doing all the other stuff, the outgoing community of obscure online game players do. Also it’s hosted by Lance Henriksen. You can guess three times if he’s going to be the villain. For some reason he gives the five college kids a tour of the house. So what, is he showing it to all the guests? There’s like two hundred people there. He must have been doing this all day. The mansion is kind of cool, filled with babies in jars and other shit, everyone loves.

During the late 90’s, early 2000’s there were a lot of potentially dangerous video game related generic horror flicks and this is one of them in addition to being a total slasher movie, even having a group of one-note characters – “virginal girl, jock douchebag, black guy, slutty chick and sensitive guy”. They get separated and killed off one by one as well. It is irritatingly generic, just as most post-Scream slasher flicks.

Doug Bradley’s last movie as Pinhead, he appears from time to time and does things that he wouldn’t do, until it is later revealed it wasn’t actually him. Or was it? I don’t know, by the end they throw a couple of desperate twists at you, that make the movie make even less sense than it did before.

Overall, a pretty painful experience, since after the exposition they turn the blandness up to eleven and you kind of sit there, just watching the characters being confused about things. It’s a worthless piece of shit, not recommended.

Pictured: A single man, who longs to have some pickle-babies of his own.

Review of Orphan (2009)

28 Jun

Orphan (2009) is a thriller/mystery/horror film about a couple adopting a child who turns out to be not what they expected.

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown (2011), House of Wax (2005)).

Written by David Johnson (Red Riding Hood (2011), Wrath of the Titans (2012)) and Alex Mace.

Starring: Peter Sarsgaard, Vera Farmiga, Isabelle Fuhrman, CCH Pounder, Aryana Engineer, Margo Martindale and others.

I put off watching this for a long time, because I’ve already heard the twist and felt no interest in seeing another generic evil children movie.

But from the first moments I was pleasantly surprised by some interesting shots and a clear tone. The movie looks great, it has this modern horror movie color corrected desaturized look, while not looking washed out and bland.

So there’s this couple, they’re all like “Boo-hoo, our baby died, let’s get a new one from the baby-pound… uh, I mean, orphanage.” and the orphanage-lady is like “Here’s our selection, take your pick. But choose wisely, you can take only one.” Yes, she is Prof. Oak from the Pokemon games. The husband decides to wander around the orphanage, because… who wouldn’t? He stumbles upon a girl all by herself painting in one classroom. She is good at it and speaks eloquently for her age. So they decide to take her home. It’s as easy as that.

I’d take that girl as well. Wait, that didn’t sound right. I mean, how often do you have the chance of getting a guaranteed intelligent child? Judging by the other kids these parents have, their genes produce a lot less brain than being annoying and deafness. Esther, the orphan girl, is pretty likable, so she’s an interesting villain. I would be ecstatic to have her as a child, sure, she’s a bit weird and acts like an asshole to most people, but she’s a fucking prodigy.

Soon it turns out, they’ve gotten a bad girl at the orphanage. Isabelle Fuhrman is brilliant in the role, I’d say she’s one of the most promising child actresses I’ve ever seen. She and Chloe Grace Moretz are currently my two favourites, they both have in common a screen presence way beyond their years. Also the little deaf girl does a good job. Jimmy Bennett is awful, I hated him.

Vera Farmiga is definitely very good here, she sells the most important part, Esther’s impact on the family, by portraying this complete psychological breakdown. Peter Sarsgaard kind of does ok in the role, it’s believable, but at the same time he doesn’t do very much. There is one scene where he is drugged and he looks kind of sleepy, but it seems like he’s been that way the whole movie.

The movie is like a mix of Good Son (which I liked, unlike most critics) and The Omen or Child’s Play. It’s a pretty sick and twisted movie if you think about a lot of the implications, I wish, I didn’t know the plot twist before seeing it, but I still enjoyed it. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, so it’s a fun watch. I could illustrate by saying that the best quote of the movie is “I’m not your fucking mommy!”

Overall, it’s very entertaining, I enjoyed it a lot and if you don’t stupidly take it as some commentary on adoptions, you’re going to have fun. Recommended.

“Daddy, I can’t sleep, I have daddy issues!”
“That’s alright, Princess, I’ll just get undressed and I’ll come sleep next to you.”
“Yay, I’ll need therapy!”