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No One Lives (2012)

October 25, 2017 — Leave a comment

Produced by WWE Studios, No One Lives is a grubby and violent movie with the sense of the theatrics you would expect from the home of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Hulk Hogan.

Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura (Midnight Meat Train), Luke Evans (Fast and Furious 6) plays one half of a seemingly affluent vacationing couple who are kidnapped by a pack of rowdy, vicious rednecks lead by Lee Tergesen’s Hoag. However, not everything is as it seems. Throwing a missing heiress (Adelaide Clemens) into the mix, what starts off as a hostage drama, quickly escalates into a blood soaked home invasion flick.

An early twist in the proceedings, which is royally ruined by the trailers, will quickly negotiate whether you’re going to see this one through to the end. And yet, whilst it’s a thoroughly ludicrous premise, there’s something about the film’s twisted grin throughout which prevents it from not being engaging.

As subtle as a sledgehammer to the little toe, No One Lives is an extremely visceral film that flounders when it tries to be anything but the dark oily slab of horror it should be taken as.

This review originally appeared in FilmInk.

Rogert Ebert referred to 2010’s I Spit on your Grave as ‘a despicable remake of a despicable 1978 film.’ So, you have to wonder what he’d make of this; a sequel to the remake which also feels like another remake of the original. Jemma Dellender plays Katie, a wide-eyed innocent trying to make her mark in the catty world of modelling. Unable to afford a decent portfolio, Katie accepts an offer from three Bulgarian brothers to do photos on the cheap. Instead of glossy 8 by 4s, Katie is kidnapped by the brothers, smuggled to Europe and subjected to horrendous acts upon her person.

Unsurprisingly to many, Katie escapes and begins a campaign of violent revenge across Bulgaria, which takes up less time in the movie than the abuse our heroine is subjected to. The makers of I Spit on your Grave 2 seemingly believe that the ends justify the means: as long as we show X we can get way with Y. Instead, what transgresses over 90 minutes is vicious, nasty, soul crushing story telling that suggests the tide of torture porn, started by the likes of Hostel, has yet to ebb away.

This review appeared previously in FilmInk.

June (2015)

October 23, 2017 — Leave a comment

Children aren’t born inherently evil except for in the movies. Take for example Mervyn LeRoy’s The Bad Seed or Stephen King’s Children of the Corn, where parents and other adults rue the day at the hands of fledgling ne’er do wells. In June, the latest film from L. Gustavo Cooper (The Devil Incarnate), the titular child is adopted by a loving couple and unwittingly sets about terrorising them. Unwittingly because unbeknown to June, as a baby, she was part of a sacrifice gone wrong, and now a demon sits inside her waiting to unleash the apocalypse.

It’s hard not to feel sorry for Starship Trooper’s Casper Van Dien, as the adoptive daddy whose wife (Victoria Pratt) appears to be deliberately ignoring June’s graphic crayon drawings and the homicidal supernatural events happening around them. But then mummy has her own secrets and as a shady adoption agency move in around the family, June appears to be struggling with her powers.

Cherry picking form the likes of Poltergeist, Carrie and The Last Exorcism, June won’t feel particularly fresh to harden horror fiends, but it’ll entertain, in some small measure, those who like their scares to be nowhere near 11. As genre film-making goes, it’s as safe as Fort Knox.

Where praise should be directed to is young Kennedy Brice as June. Being the lynch pin of events, and appearing in nearly every scene is tough going for anyone and Brice is reminiscent of a certain Linda Blair as she flips from cute as a button to hellspawn in the flick of a switch. Going by the rushed and open ending, there’s potential here for another chapter in June’s life, but it’s going to have to iron out its kinks if it’s to become anything more than an afternoon’s distraction.

This review originally appeared in FilmInk.

The Cobbler (2014)

October 23, 2017 — Leave a comment

The adage of truly understanding someone by walking a mile in their shoes becomes the literal backbone of this comedy drama from Thomas McCarthy, and starring Adam Sandler. Sandler has never really made good on the promise he showed in Punch Drunk Love, seemingly content with his lot in life. McCarthy on the other hand has credits that include The Station Agent, The Visitor and Up. With him taking Sandler under his wing, and Dustin Hoffman co-starring, there’s the expectation of something magical. Sadly, that’s not to be the case.

Sandler plays Max, a grumpy, lonely cobbler whose only friends in life appear to be his sickly mother and his barber neighbour, Jimmy (Steve Buscemi). Max wishes away his days, looking forward to the moment when the promise of urban renewal will buy him out of his humdrum existence. When he comes across his long absent father’s stitching machine, Max uncovers a magic ability to take on the form of anybody whilst wearing their shoes.

Once this discovery has been made, The Cobbler doesn’t really know what to do with Max’s new found powers. The problem lies with the tone of the film that battles itself to be either a knock about comedy or a social drama laced with magic realism. Max is either scoping out babes in the shower or protecting old people from being evicted. Due to this constant shifting, the narrative drags out until Max’s reason for being is revealed in a twist ending that promises sequels.

Even if the casual racism and sexism of the film is dismissed, The Cobbler struggles with a hero that’s hard to feel compassion for when his journey’s end appears to happen off screen. As such, there will be those who find The Cobbler, considering the pedigree of the director, surprisingly unsatisfactory.

Closer to God (2014)

October 22, 2017 — Leave a comment

The idea of man toying with the laws of nature and playing God can be traced all the way back to Mary Shelley’s seminal Frankenstein to more recent affairs such as Vincenzo Natali’s Splice. Closer to God, from writer/director Billy Senese, sits comfortably amongst its peers with its tale of a geneticist, Dr Victor, announcing to the world that he has successfully cloned the first human being. Unfortunately for Victor, the product of this experiment, baby Elizabeth, is not hailed as the next step in human advancement, but as a blasphemy and an affront to all that’s decent.

With his family in tow, the good doctor hides himself away, shaking his fist at a world that doesn’t understand. Meanwhile, his housekeeper’s take care of Victor’s first real achievement.

Senese’s film should be acknowledged for at least being restrained in the way it tells its tale. Victor, played by Jeremy Childs, could have easily been another Herbert West type, fiddling with test tubes and using the building blocks of life to create monstrosities. Instead he is a methodical man who is aware of his supposed crimes against humanity, but is at a loss as to way they are such a big deal. Although he sits up in his modern retreat, Senese paints each scene as if James Whale had taken the helm.

Which is all find and dandy. However, the film is so serious and portentous that it almost feels languid; as if not really concerned about reaching its end. That is, right up until all hell breaks loose in the final third and it becomes a creature feature with the modern equivalent of pitchforks at the gate being played out. In front of the baying mob, Victor cries ‘Is this what you were afraid of?’ The answer is, if we knew what we were looking at then maybe.

This review was originally published at filmink.com.au.