In The Blink of An Eye (2019)

Being an Anthology of the Further Legends of Ellicott City’s Blink Man

Edited by K. Patrick Glover

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In January 2019, I watched and reviewed Erik Kristopher Meyers’ Butterfly Kisses (2018) – https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2019/01/30/butterfly-kisses-2018-documentary-horror/. Myers’ documentary/horror became a fresh approach to the kind of horror that has faced a lot of ups and downs over the decades. His fresh approach proved that the genre is not dead yet and that, in the right hands, it has still a lot of scares to offer.

The mystery of Peeping Tom/Blink Man and the Ilchester Tunnel has become an urban legend. From Hagerstown to Ellicott City, his story has ‘travelled’ through hearsay, horrifically realistic imagination and utterly nonsensical descriptions. Regardless, when K. Patrick Glover met one day Myers, the two of them gathered some incredibly descriptive authors and put these stories together. Will you manage to tell which story is based on (un)substantial evidence and which one isn’t? No. Will you recognise the truth when you read it? No, you will not. The real question is, does it matter? No, it does not. Because you will allow yourself to live the suffering, the horror, and the agony that these (non)fictional people endured. ‘In the Blink of an Eye’ is the blurry line between two worlds. One of them is real, and one isn’t. Turn off the lights while reading, and your inevitable human curiosity in finding out which one’s which will inadvertently become a descent to folkloric paranoia.

Highly recommended for the horror fans and not only as it generates a lot more questions than it aims to answer. ‘Blink Man’, the legend under the microscope, turns the tables and the observer becomes the observee. Humans turn into a case study themselves as he brings out the murky and obscure ways the human mind creates realities. Man’s unprecedented archetypal fears take over reason and interpret what we sense – or we truly believe we sense – through an unbeknownst to us chaotic, ghastly prism.

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The Wave (2019): Sci-Fi / Thriller

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A young lawyer goes out to celebrate his promotion with his co-worker and friend, ending up in a wild party and getting dosed with a hallucinogen like anything anyone has ever experienced before.

Now, that’s some next-level trippin’! If you know nothing about it, read nothing about it. Justin Long is still the actor he was when he first became famous in Jeepers Creepers (2001) and he still proves to be making solid choices regarding which films he’s going to be in. If you liked him in Comet (2014) – which if you haven’t watched, you need to – you will definitely love him on this one. Donald Faison, Tommy Flanagan, Katia Winter, and Sheila Vand are brilliantly getting into their roles and everyone adds to the film’s hilarity. Feature debut for director Gille Klabin who I hope he gets the recognition he deserves after this one.

Even though IMDb doesn’t include ‘Comedy’ in the genres next to the film’s title, rest assured that it is. So, do not try to rationalise it or find plotholes. For an hour and a half, just get along and enjoy the realistic performances against a surrealistic (or unrealistic) scenario that is way too much fun to be put into context.

Rambo: Last Blood (2019): Action / Adventure / Thriller

 

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When the girl who raised as his own daughter gets kidnapped by Mexican human traffickers, Rambo goes on a rampage to get her back.

Let me tell you a story about John Rambo… Behind the American propaganda, and behind the real-life wars that affected real-life people in the real-life world, Rambo, as a fictional character, is a man not so different from you and me. With desires, wants, needs, feelings, and emotions. That said, he’s a natural-born killer. In Rambo: First Blood (1982), we get to see that he’s a misled soldier who has realised he is carrying this ‘curse’ and upon running out of missions to complete, all he needs is to be left alone as the world makes no sense to him. It never did and probably never will.

Cutting to Last Blood, the ‘curse’ has not been lifted but now he has found a (mission) purpose; the daughter he never got to have. The story is solid, don’t get me wrong. The idea behind Last Blood makes it a Rambo film through and through. Its development becomes the problem though. Director Adrian Grunberg, actor/writer/producer Sylvester Stallone, and the studios should have revised and tightened the script up, deciding on its tone, rhythm, pace, and continuity. Gabrielle’s father switches, in a blink of an eye, in a way I am still scratching my beard. Human trafficker Hugo Martinez knows military combat communication (somehow) but no tactics at all, and the story itself holds back on dramatic intensity, especially surrounding deaths, and goes full throttle on brutal violence like anything you’ve seen in the previous installments. Last but not least, it feels as if the writers for a few minutes forgot who Rambo is and sent him straight to an ambush that a 5 y/o would have seen blindfolded – still scratching the beard. By the way, I totally didn’t see one event coming though (no spoilers). You can read here about the funny or comic versions of other scripts that were handed in at the time before the studios chose this one to be the one: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1206885/trivia?item=tr4768586

These are the inconsistencies I am talking about. Make sure you watch the extended R-rated version which is a lot more… juicy! Be it as it may, the action is indeed brutal and if you want to blow some steam off just put it on and hit ‘Play’. Do not try to find plot holes, it’s not productive. After all, it’s not every year the year that two major franchises that my generation grew up with come to an end – https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/01/16/terminator-dark-fate-2019-action-adventure-sci-fi/.

Luce (2019): Drama

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Luce, a black kid adopted from war-torn Eritrea by a white couple, becomes an excellent school student and a political statement but a series of obscure and ostensibly unrelated events gradually reveal everyone’s true colours.

I think that IMDb got it wrong here. They put ‘Drama’ under the title when they should have described it as ‘Thriller/Drama’. Let me explain… What’s at stake in Luce is the portrayal of the American educational system as a business. The selective promotion of an ethnic minority’s minority to the outside world, solely benefiting the system, labeling this person or group as a brand, and making them the poster child of what the system allegedly represents. That hypocritic notion is Luce‘s dramatic aspect. But this notion is wrapped by its thrilling development – by J.C. Lee – into a script. Character-wise, everyone – but one – is guilty. Everyone throughout the film either reveals or gets obvious that has lied at least once or has been withholding crucial to the story information. Something that Julius Onah’s directing and Madeleine Gavin’s editing unfold very meticulously. The music carefully dictates the film’s tone, adding the eerie atmosphere of an A-class thriller. DOP Larkin Seiple with surgical precision frames everything, including only what you need to see – and not what you would like to. Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Octavia Spencer, and Kelvin Harrison Jr. shine in front of the lens, creating amazing chemistry, and make you love them and then loathe them, even love them and loathe them at the same time. But… the (not guilty) one holding no punches whatsoever and steals the spotlight is none other than Marsha Stephanie Blake. Hair-raising performance!

For better or for worse my role is to do film analysis and not politics even though most of the times I can’t help myself. Watch it and jump to your own conclusions regarding what is wrong with the US educational system, one of America’s most sore points. Interesting is also the subplot; the fear of expression due to the pushed and rushed political correction imposed nowadays and the questionable movements all around the world that aim to skin you alive if you dare to offend anyone – even unintentionally.

Don’t miss this one out. Don’t let it go under the radar.

You can find it here:

US: https://amzn.to/2FzFMsd / https://amzn.to/36I1feA

Event Horizon (1997): Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

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Having gone missing for seven years, spaceship ‘Event Horizon’ reappears having come back from a darkness beyond human understanding.

One of the best psychological, sci-fi horrors you have ever watched: Alien (1979) meets Hellraiser (1987)! The ‘tragedy’ with Event Horizon is, as usual, the studio. When uncreative people in high places interfere with art, art always suffers the consequences. Paul W.S. Anderson’s 130′ original, ‘graphically violent’ cut forced Paramount to cut 30′ and water it down. Both the studio and Anderson regretted doing it! Twenty years later (2017), Anderson stated that the year after the film’s release he and a producer started looking for footage that due to bad archiving had gone missing. Most of it was destroyed, some of it was of poor quality and some of it was found as far as a Transylvanian salt mine!

From cruciform shapes to spinning tunnels and rotating interlocking circles, Event Horizon marries the antithesis between religion and science, showcasing the man-playing-God hubris, and offering us the results in an entertainingly, bloody way. The film has become a cult for both sci-fi and horror fans alike. The Making of ‘Event Horizon’ (2006) is a documentary that whoever liked the film MUST watch. The production details give away the great lengths Anderson went to, to bring this film to life.  Philip Eisner’s script is solid,  Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill are brilliant, and the Production Design is Oskar-worthy. Unfortunately, the studio forced the editing to damage the film’s unimaginable potential. It is wishful thinking that the series in development will live up to the film’s expectations and include the ‘Old Testament Speech’ and the ‘Dimension of Pure Chaos’ analysis.

The detailed, infamous captain’s log ‘orgy of death’, the ship’s return, and the extended black hole’s Bosh-influenced ‘visions from hell’ have made all our imagination run wild over the years, hoping that, one day, the film’s re-release will re-surface missing footage, and will re-appear to us to reveal what it has seen…

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2SucdQu

 

Angel Has Fallen (2019): Action / Thriller

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Having been framed for the attempted assassination of the President, Mike Banning is on the run trying to uncover the conspiracy behind the attack.

I’ll start with the good news, they are less. Endless shooting accompanied by foul language, and big-time clobbering is the recipe to forget all of your problems for two hours; Angel is entertaining. What’s more, there are plenty of explosions with propelled, dead bodies flying all over.

Now for the bad news… The writing and directing of Angel are unoriginal. There are no twists. At all! There is no suspense, there is no character development but fear not there is cliche aplenty. Have you ever heard before “He knows all of our moves”? Yet, it made decent money globally. The whole “Has Fallen” trilogy is that side of Hollywood that sacrifices quality without blinking. It is the side of Hollywood that doesn’t appreciate the cinema experience, bins the narrative, mocks logic, defies continuity montage, disregards human intelligence, and solely focuses on M.O.N.E.Y. I could write a thesis on what the film has failed at but as my film reviews are meant to be short, I’ll stop here. Plus, I would get depressed halfway.

The one and only Morgan Freeman is there for the money, Gerald Butler is always the right man for the job, and so is the amazing Piper Perabo. If you want to see Gerald and Piper at their absolute best though, RocknRolla (2008) and Coyote Ugly (2000) are what you need to watch.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2ZtQSIr

Anna (2019): Action / Thriller

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Having hit rock bottom, Anna gets a visit from KGB who offers a way out by training her to become an assassin.

“Luc Besson: Making Assassins Since 1990”. And after Anna, I think the business comes to an end. Let me step back a bit though… Anna has nothing to offer to the genre. It has nothing to add to the numerous films on assassins out there neither from a narrative point of view nor from a filmmaking point of view. Actually, from any point of view. The story remains exactly as it was 30 years ago, and so does the character, but the film doesn’t. The film deteriorates. It becomes repetitive with less and less to offer while other films such as John Wick (2014) and Atomic Blonde (2017) dominate the critics’ reviews and box office alike.

But this is not why the business is going down. After the Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) fiasco, EuropaCorp took a major blow. Anna was meant to make the company recover but Besson’s unsubstantial personal shenanigans came out, studios backed down, distribution got axed, and Anna rubbed salt to the already existing, massive wound.

EuropaCorp may not recover from this hit. I just hope Sasha Luss finds the life jacket in that sinking ship as she has been, unfortunately, in both films. She’s a successful international model and her acting skills have proved to be solid. I wish her all the best as I wish to Besson. I grew up with his films and I still believe he has a lot more to offer to the industry.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/39ponAj

Avengement (2019): Action / Crime / Thriller

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After years of imprisonment, a man manages to escape and heads straight for the people responsible that made his life inside a living hell.

Fifth collaboration between Jesse V. Johnson and Scott Adkins with this one and Savage Dog (2017) being my favourite ones. Originally from Sutton Coldfield, only a few miles away from where I live, Adkins is the man for the job. He trains hard and, once in front of the camera, he pours his soul out for us to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. I have a recommendation though and I address it to Johnson: With the protracted tracking shots being used more and more all over the world, I would really love to see Adkins in longer, uncut shots doing what he does best. Films like Ong-bak (2003) and Yip Man (2008) have raised the bar sky-high and I have the ultimate confidence that the Brits can do it as well. I really want to see it happening; longer shots = less editing = more continuous action. Avengement has these gritty fights that Johnson’s previous films lacked and Adkins, regardless, always delivers. Craig Fairbrass, Thomas Turgoose, Nick Moran, Kierston Wareing, and Leo Gregory are, as always, brilliant.

I hope The Debt Collector 2 (2020) adds something even more to the equation and that their successful collaboration keeps improving. Adkins needs more spotlight as he has the talent that makes martial artists half his age weep.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2Q2MEo2

 

The Gallows (2015): Horror / Mystery / Thriller

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Years after a kid’s accidental death, four kids get trapped in a school and tortured by a sinister supernatural force.

I would like to be clear once more and I will be every time I am forced to make a review such as this. I never judge a film itself. I judge the intentions behind it. As with The Nun (2018), the ghost in The Gallows is nothing but a clichéd plot device that does whatever is convenient and wannabe impressive to just… I don’t know… take them out? Story and dialogues are horribly written and the camera work is plainly bad! The acting is mediocre (with Cassidy Gifford being the exception) and the VFX… plainly bad again.

I try to be lenient and I’m definitely holding my punches here but it is really difficult as there is nothing positive I can say about the film other than the semi-decent opening scene followed by a freefall to the rock bottom. The scariest thing is that Jason Blum jumped on board. What is even scarier is that there is a sequel out there and Blum is behind that too – The Gallows Act II (2019).

I’m an avid supporter of indie, low budget films and praise them every time they achieve what Hollywood blockbusters can’t. It’s admirable that two directors did everything they could to make this film but please, do not undermine your audience’s intelligence. And this is why the intentions behind The Gallows are not noble. And this is why my review is bitter.

P.S. The poster’s tagline: “Every school has its spirit”. No comment…

If you still fancy watching it, you can find it here: https://amzn.to/2tceEwg

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019): Horror / Mystery / Thriller

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On Halloween, three friends and a mysterious drifter end up in a haunted house, discovering a dead girl’s notebook that contains deadly stories that come true.

Are you a Halloween fan? Are you a ‘scary stories’ fan? Then look no further! Based on the ’80s homonymous book series written by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen, Gammell Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a nostalgic, coming of age horror which builds on the historic events of Nixon’s elections and the effects of the Vietnam War through the eyes of teenagers living in a small town. Is it too scary? No. Is it flawless? Definitely not. But don’t rationalise it and don’t be too harsh on it. Like any scary campfire story, the couple of plot holes do not matter a bit as the film, in its own right, is thoroughly enjoyable and a perfect fit should you decide to stay in and turn the lights off.

Great storytelling to keep you entertained, and how could it not be? With André Øvredal [Troll Hunter (2010), the Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)] behind the camera and Guillermo del Toro behind the script and the production, it could be nothing but a perfect mix of reality and fantasy. Also, first-class acting by all kids, and very well edited. Look forward to watching more Halloween films like this one which creates the right atmosphere to ward off the ghosts and, whatever issues loop in your mind, take the back seat until the end credits start scrolling down. Highly recommended!

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2tRBARR