The Hater (2020): Drama / Thriller

An overambitious young man uses social media, but also friends and family to achieve his immoral goals.

Two qualities stand out straight away: Tomasz’s manipulation skills and Aleksandra Gowin’s non-linear editing skills. Both of them unfold brilliantly along with the narrative.

Writer Mateusz Pacewicz collaborates once more with director Jan Komasa after the amazing Corpus Christi (2019) – review to follow – and, once more, shock society to its core. There are plenty of scary scenarios and people here… Tomasz Giemza is a person who shouldn’t be walking on the streets. Why? Men like him bring out the worst in people, and remorselessly manipulate them, individually and collectively. In both cases, since all of us have weaknesses, no one can blame us for that. Who is to be blamed though is the people behind the social media who provide support to that manipulation and enhance it by reaching out to larger masses. The social media are merely tools, platforms of communication, but the way the “puppeteers” operate them can shape, control, manipulate, and even tear apart societies. Sacha Baron Cohen very eloquently described one of them as: “the greatest propaganda machine in historythat would even allow Hitler to run his propaganda.

Besides the social media though, I believe The Hater‘s best achievement is Tomasz’s character development. A psychopath with the phenomenal ability to learn from his mistakes and constantly up his game, ending up manipulating the manipulators. Absolutely amazing! You’ll catch yourself loving the way he does it while hating him at the same time.

Last but not least, Agata Kulesza always deserves a separate mention no matter what she’s in. She shines in Pawel Pawlikowsi’s films as much as she shines in this one. She is an Oscar-worthy actress and I hope she wins it one day. Whether she does or not, she’ll always be a first-class thespian.

Excellent example of modern European cinema with profound filmmaking techniques, intriguing performances, plenty of visuals and food for thought. Definitely, a must-watch!

Stay safe!

The Little Things (2021): Crime / Drama / Thriller

A series of murders get the attention of a County Deputy Sheriff, a man with a dark past in the police force, and in collaboration with a young detective, they will try to find whoever is behind these crimes.

It is shocking how people even thought about considering comparing it to Seven (1995). The film’s biggest issue is not the cliché opening sequence that makes zero sense. It is not that Denzel Washington and Rami Malek don’t believe in what they signed up for – even though Jared Leto somehow does. It is not even the fact that all three of them are Oscar winners in a film like this. The biggest issue with the film is that the producers put all the effort to get A-list actors but then they decided to green light a boring, formulaic, predictable, flawed Hollywood three-act structure with yawning character and story development that makes you say: “it’s OK for the quarantine”. A film that you stop thinking about the moment the end credits start scrolling down. And once you thought the script is the worst thing that happened to The Little Things, the editing makes it a mission to dumb it down even more by explaining everything to you like it’s the first time you are watching a thriller. What’s more, it fundamentally ruins the film’s pace and rhythm with its discontinuity errors.

I know I sound bitter, but that was not my intention before I started watching it. But focusing (always) on the film’s intentions, I don’t like it when the audience’s intelligence is undermined. Watching the final cut before exporting it, the filmmakers should have seen that, for an over two-hour film, everything is rushed, and said and done before in a better, and a much better way. It is saddening me that, John Lee Hancock, the man behind great films such as The Blind Side (2009) and Saving Mr. Banks (2013) was sitting on the director’s chair.

After pointing out the film’s biggest issue(s), it would be only fair to mention the biggest achievement: Jared Leto’s decent performance, even though ruined by bad directing and even worse editing, it managed to get a Golden Globe nomination and a nomination from the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The only two nominations the film got. How about that…

To cut the long story short, go ahead, watch it, it is a yet another night in with restrictions left, right, and centre. Just don’t have any expectations as you’ll be severely disappointed.

Stay safe!

P.S. I mean… the editing is bad!

Breeder (2020): Horror / Thriller

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A doctor that conducts illegal experiments on women in an underground lab, kidnaps her partner’s wife making her one of them.

Photography and editing are the first two things that stand out. Very well shot and paced and very scientifically provocative. And then the torture comes…

I starting researching and analysing torture after the one film that truly affected me like no other, Martyrs (2008): https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/11/24/martyrs-2008-horror/

Reason behind torture, or the lack thereof, offers a perspective on what you are watching. It provides explanation or gives none as to why people are suffering the way they do. In Martyrs, you only get to find out in the end and it’s just unthinkable. In Hellraiser (1987), Pinhead, and the rest of the crew, are sadistic, hellish creatures and live off the victims’ excruciating pain. In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Leatherface and his family are a bunch of psychopathic killers. The problem presented here is that two innovative yet despicable scientists are behind everything that’s happening, and a couple of mindless humanoids that the film has the audacity to call “animals” commit further atrocities.

Personally, the reason here leaves me indifferent. What made me feel uncomfortable was its statement, or the way I perceived it anyway: She was looking for pain and that’s what she got. Maybe, I got it wrong but, ultimately, the film’s message is utterly confusing. Women are oppressed mostly by men but some women too? Men are disgusting beings? Shit happens? Together we are stronger than ever against the system that wants us subdued? Women are stronger together against… who?

Anyway, maybe Breeder has no message to deliver and I just missed on the “entertainment”. Maybe, you get a different vibe.

Stay safe!

Prisons: Depravity and Decadence in Horror / Sci-fi… and in Real Life

Tonight, I’m interviewing Dr. Neni Panourgia. Dr. Panourgia is Affiliated Faculty at the Program in Hellenic Studies. She is an anthropologist, Associate Professor at the Prison Education Program, Psychology Department, and Academic Adviser at the Justice in Education Initiative at Columbia University. Tonight, she is talking about the prison system in the US and how that has affected their current but also futuristic cinematic depiction. Without further ado, here’s the interview.

Biography

https://hellenic.columbia.edu/people/profile/388

Books

Promising Young Woman (2020): Crime / Drama / Thriller

A young woman seeks out revenge against anyone who got involved in a tragic event that happened several years ago.

I’m in two minds here. I believe that’s because I was hyped up for weeks prior to watching it, even though I hadn’t even watched the trailer.

I’ll start with the good news: Carrey Mulligan is amazing, Bo Burnham is funny, and Clancy Brown is heartbreaking. And, for me, this is where the good news stops.

First and foremost, the film lacks structure. It’s pace and rhythm is all over the place. Secondly, it resembles a thriller with music video montages in between. Is that wrong? Not on its own. It becomes wrong, and, if not wrong, confusing for such a delicate issue that, ultimately, ends up taking the back seat. This wrongness/confusion causes indecisiveness and no film should be undecided about situations that have scarred women’s, but also families’ lives. Occasionally, it felt like a dark comedy accompanied by millennial, pop music that was not befitting so, I kept asking myself, how am I supposed to feel? And then, about who? About Nina or about Cassie? Does Cassie’s behaviour justify what happened to Nina? Was it that, that made her sociopath or did that event trigger it? How was she punishing the ones who were crossing her path? How was the level of punishment against the ones who were accessories to what happened to Nina decided? There are so many questions regarding the character’s arc and the hero’s journey, but I’ll raise one last one: How is one meant to feel about Cassie and her actions in the end?

The film is rated ‘suitable only for 15 years and older’, but I can’t shake off the feeling that is for 15 y/o ones alone. That excludes the two and a half minute shocking scene in the cabin (no spoilers). Writer / director Emerald Fennell, Carrey Mulligan, and Margot Robbie are wearing the producer’s hat as well and their effort is rewarded with 4 Golden Globes nominations, another 62 wins and 132 more nominations. I congratulate them and the rest of the cast and crew for their achievement even though it ended up not being my cup of tea.

Nothing that affects someone that much should be that stylised. Even though I found Revenge (2017) was quite ‘stylish’ until the inciting incident, in the second act, its brutality defined the film and established for the viewer that ‘shock’ was what it was aiming for. But cinema, like life itself, is not just black or white. There are numerous shades of grey and, one of my favourite genre mix, horror/comedy, falls under that category. Keeping that in mind, I’m constantly asking myself this: How much comedy does one mix with horror? Or, is it the other way around?

Stay safe!

P.S. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020): https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2021/03/06/never-rarely-sometimes-always-2020-drama/ is a counterexample of a (somewhat) relevant film that does not try to please everyone, has an established tone, and impeccably distinguishes the plot from the subplot. I can’t praise it enough.

Wrong Turn (2021): Horror / Thriller

A group of friends gets lost in the Appalachian mountains, but gets found by an off-grid community that hunts them down.

Ahhhh… The clash between the world we are very slowly leaving behind and the brave new one we are entering in warp speed. Bridging those two worlds will be one of the most difficult tasks societies globally will have to deal with. Anyway…

Wrong Turn‘s producers decided, in a six-member “gang”, to represent as many minorities as possible. And as much as I endorse diversity and inclusion, when it’s for ticket sales or any other form of profit, I don’t. It’s called exploitation. Moving on from the casting choices concerns… one realises, right off the bat, when the alleged action and thrill kicks in, that the educated youth comes up with the dumbest questions, ideas, and ideologies ever existed while people of unknown origin and skills are after them in the middle of the unknown… nowhere. Ultimately, what most of them say and do is nothing but contradictory, something that renders them undecided in life or hypocrites at best.

And if you are somewhat confused with the messages about the old and the new world and their people… boy… wait until the film’s revelation! I’m not going to spoil it for you. See for yourselves the mess the script is leaving behind. Honestly, wait until the very end; the script’s direction is more lost than every city boy and girl has ever been on these mountains throughout the whole franchise. And since you’ve made it to the very end, watch at least the last scene, it’s awesome.

To my surprise, that script is by Alan B. McElroy, the writer behind the original Wrong Turn (2003), and it may be a reboot but has nothing to do or has nothing on the original one. Emmanouelle Chriqui and Eliza Dushku are irreplaceable.

Stay safe!

The Whisperer in Darkness (2011): Mystery / Sci-Fi / Thriller

Alleged evidence of ancient creatures will make a professor travel to a remote village only to discover that the truth is a lot more frightening than he anticipated.

Pseudo-noir and semi-serious, H.P. Lovecraft’s adaptation does not rank very high on my “Favourite Lovecraft Films”. Having said that, this merely means that I didn’t enjoy this ecranisation. Writer/director Sean Branney and writer Andrew Leman collaborate once more on a Lovecraft’s adaptation in reverse roles – Leman directed The Call of Cthulhu (2005) and Branney wrote the script – and, I must say, the way they have envisioned Lovecraft’s writings, his world, and his creatures is captivating. As much as the film itself resembles a student project, the script is tight, engaging, and… Lovecraftian!

There are moments, I believe, taken from In the Mouth of Madness (1994): https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2019/01/04/in-the-mouth-of-madness-1994-drama-horror-mystery/ (by far my favourite Lovecraftian adaptation) but it is definitely not plagiarism, just inspired by it. There are numerous filmmaking issues that I will not go into as I respect the hard effort the filmmakers put into it. It is a very decent film with very honest intentions. If you are passionate about Lovecraft, like I am, you will turn the blind eye to whatever seems not real and you’ll enjoy the visualised version of the homonymous story by Branney and Leman, two truly loyal fans of the man who changed the literature of horror as we know it.

Stay safe!

Score Composition for Dark and Eerie Sequences

Tonight, I’m interviewing Aris Lanaridis. Aris is a film & media composer, sound designer and music producer. Tonight, he is talking about how music affects and enhances the suspense in horror films and what principles dictate how and what kind of music is used.

About Aris

https://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/staff/aris-lanaridis

https://tagg.org/teaching/mmi/filmfunx.html

https://www.linkedin.com/in/arislanarides/

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zofia_Lissa

Pulse (2006): Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

Mysterious entities, start taking over a group of friends through an obscure wireless signal that starts spreading rapidly all over the city.

I’ll be quick… Dark and promising opening sequence that once it gets you hooked it unhooks you with its formulaic narrative. The audience it addresses becomes clear straight away and is none other than… American pre-millennials. Just before the social media, androids and iPhones become our lives, this the generation that started carrying everywhere their cell phones with the ostentatious design.

In case you are wondering why I am doing a review now, it is because I’ve had that DVD on my shelf for the last 15 years and I never got to watch it. Now, I know why. Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s original script and Wes Craven’s adaptation were, allegedly, significantly altered by Ray Wright, something that made Craven walk out before production even started and renounced the film. Besides Wright, director Jim Sonzero did not do a good job either. Unfortunately, he treated his audience like they were mentally incapacitated and that alone is a reason to look down on the film. I’ll give you one example to get an idea. Kristen Bell is wearing make-up from beginning till end. No matter what happens, the make-up is intact. Shocking that there were two more (horrendous) instalments after that.

I’m not going to waste your time. To sum it up, the story could have been promising, the script is dull, the filmmaking techniques were outdated way before the film was made, and it is not Kristen Bell’s and Ian Somerhalder’s fault for being in it. They are really good actors. Watch it at your own risk.

Stay safe!

Red Dot (2021): Drama / Horror/ Thriller

In an attempt to heat up their relationship, a couple travels to the north of Sweden only to become a target and fight for their survival.

I have to thank my good friend Shiying for suggesting this one to me, and I’m so glad she did. The film’s strong suit is hands down, the narrative. The script is solid and its two protagonists, Nadja and David totally relatable. Its horror works in two levels: survival against the forces of nature and survival against the forces of unnatural (?) human evil. As the story unfolds, the difference, not that is really needed, is broken down for you so you can reconstruct it yourselves in the end. But, please, let me for argument’s sake humour you. When we distant ourselves from nature, it is not nature to blame if it does what it has been doing way before we stepped foot on this planet that we ended up looking down on as if we owned it. Then, there is the other threat; us. The detached from nature beings who developed, amongst other things, ideology, philosophy, and politics and used them against one another, as well as… nature.

Leaving my ecological concerns out of the equation, Red Dot steps on these characteristics of ours and very manipulatively deceives you. The twist is well designed and the editing, of course, selectively discloses what it requires for you to fall into the trap. The second part of the second act could be easily analysed in terms of how the restricted narrative led to the moment of truth, but that would ruin it for you so I’m not gonna do it. Watch it and decide for yourselves whether you saw it coming and how ‘smart’ or not you thought it was. My major objection, and that’s the only thing I’ll tell you, is that the third act’s harshness would be far more breathtaking if the verbosity levels were dropped, even to zero. But that’s just me.

Have a go at it! It’s well worth it. From beginning to end, Nanna Blondell and Anastasios Soulis lead the way with their incredible performances. What also stands out is Oscar-worthy cinematography. Before everything goes tits up, see how it starts at the petrol station. My initial thought was: ‘As if they don’t have enough on their plate, them two… it’s just what they needed’. And that’s what makes Nadja and David totally relatable, as I said in the beginning. You are going somewhere with your boyfriend/girlfriend and they show up. How would you react? What would you have done differently? How would you cope with the consequences? It is how every good thriller/horror starts…

Stay safe!

P.S. Shiying, that’s for you! Thank you, luv!

Possessor (2020): Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

A secret agent, who works for a shadowy organisation that has the technology to control people, is sent on a mission to assassinate a high-profile target, but with unexpected consequences.

As a huge fan of the Canadian film school, I will tell you that Possessor does not disappoint. Films like that need to be highly praised, if anything, for their boldness. Writer/director Brandon Cronenberg is not to be compared with his father (David) as he has his his own distinct voice to narrate a story worth telling. The influences from eXistenZ (1999) and Videodrome (1983) might be visible but even these works are not parthenogeneric, and every generation “steals” from the generation before it, anyway. This has always been the case in art and science and that is the root of evolution (maybe of devolution too). My only “like his father” reference is the theme of “sex”. Brandon has taken over the torch of sexual exploration and mental darkness as projected through the lens, and I believe in future films of his we’ll see a lot more. The hallucination scenes are only the beginning…

Possessor‘s practical visual effects most definitely stand out, giving meaning to to the original purpose of visual effects before they became the means to overshadow a mediocre or bad narrative. Cronenberg’s high-concept, hi-tech, cinematic schizophrenia dictates what effects are needed and to what end, allegorically cautions the audience of the brain’s unknown vastness, and offers the thrill of its exploration by presenting the shock of the characters’ experiences through their own decisions.

Andrea Riseborough has proved time and time again that there is nothing she can’t do in front of the lens and mesmerises with her performance. Christopher Abbott, is a rising star and he’s terrific in everything he’s been in. Watch Sweet Virginia (2017), The Sinner (2017), and It Comes at Night (2017), if you don’t want to take my word for it – and that’s just within a year. As for Jennifer Jason Leigh, no introductions are needed as she’s been constantly offering her versatility to the cinema for over forty years now.

To conclude, Possessor is a must-watch that adds value to the Canadian film school and excites with its uniqueness and unpredictability. Regardless of the film schools though, it distinguishes itself from the traditional Hollywood narrative and blends the horror/sci-fi/thriller genres in a way you have not seen before. Pay attention to the opening sequence’s details. Gabrielle Graham, as a theatrical thespian, captivates with her performance and Cronenberg guides her character, Holly, to commit the poetic crime in a way that only Shakespeare would describe. From then on, it’s all uncharted territory.

Stay safe!

Ghosts of War (2020): Horror / Thriller / War

During WWII, five American soldiers are sent to a French Chateau to make a stand, not expecting to encounter a sinister supernatural force.

The “thriller” and “war” genres are indicative from the get-go. Even though it gets quite brutal but also comedic straight after, their arrival at the French mansion brings a certain mystery with it. Admittedly, the introduction of the interior of the mansion is quite spooky and entertaining, decently maintaining the balance between “horror” and “comedy” and, consequently, the audience’s attention. The “Nazi shootout” sequence becomes the film’s climax with all of us deeply enjoying their vicious deaths. The “facing the ghosts” sequence is also enjoyable and should have given the film the ending it deserved. That could be a happy ending, depressing ending, jaw-dropping-twist ending… An ending nonetheless. But the filmmakers thought otherwise! Before I move to the ending, I’d like to say that the acting is brilliant and all actors deserve to be praised. Excellent job!

Writer/director Eric Bress comes back as a director for his second film after The Butterfly Effect (2004) and, up to the point that I mentioned, does a very decent job. His directing still remains intact after that but his writing, eventually, damages the rest of the film. I cannot tell you why without spoiling it for you so, should you decide to watch it, stop here and see for yourselves. You are more than welcome to come back to my review after you have watched it.

Stay safe!

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Spoilers Alert!

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The ending is nonsensical because it tried to copy two films with similar, but successful for their narrative ending: The Thirteenth Floor (1999) and Dark City (1998). These fall under the jaw-dropping twists I mentioned earlier and, back then, gave the films the endings that everyone was talking about after watching them. In Ghosts of War this is most definitely not the case. It’s like Agent Smith (the ghosts) infiltrated the matrix and now Neo (Chris) would collaborate with the machines (the scientists) to restore the balance. It could not make less sense.

Other than nonsensical though, the ending is dangerous. What the filmmakers did here is dangerous. They associated the Nazis with ISIS. They “juxtaposed” their crimes as if that makes them the same. The Nazis and ISIS are not the same. I’m not going to give you a history lesson, but when the era is different, the culture is different, the history behind them is different, the motives are different, and then when one atrocity is related to war and the other (mostly) to terrorism… the comparison is not even wrong, it doesn’t exist. There is nothing to compare.

Filmmakers and studios need to be careful, nowadays. They hold responsibility for what they release and careers can be ruined in a blink of an eye.

Edgar Allan Poe: The Man, The Myth, His Legacy

Tonight, I’m interviewing Pantelis Tsibiskakis. Pantelis was born in Thessaloniki, Greece. He studied languages and art both in the UK and the US. Tonight, he is talking about one of his favourite poets, and admittedly mine too, Edgar Allan Poe, his writings, the adaptations, his personal tribulations, but also his legacy.

I’ve used three of Pantelis’ poems in my short story The Last Route (2020): https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/11/04/the-last-route-2020-horror-thriller-drama/

You can find more about him, but also all of his work at the link below: https://ziti.gr/syggrafeas/tsimpiskakis-pantelis/

Run Hide Fight (2020): Action / Thriller

When a group of students invades their school with weapons and take hostages, a girl needs to use her skills to save those in need.

Read that logline and let it sink in before you read further…

The film is well shot and edited and the actors do a decent job. The setup prepares you for what is about to happen, it shocks you when it does, but then it gives you all the emotional space you need to relax and “enjoy” something that is not meant to be enjoyable. Immediately, it seems like a corporate-industry-hostage situation involving pompous adult assholes that doesn’t matter if few them die in the process like unimportant stunts.

Then, from the first plot point, quite a few issues are raised:

  • The van driving through the cafeteria’s front window that no one heard smashing.
  • The gunshots at the cafeteria that no one heard firing.
  • The relaxing verbosity after the van and the first shootings that lightens up the mood.
  • The parallel stories that take the focus off and go easy on the monstrosity that plagues the United States.

And these are jut the major ones. The Die Hard missionaries and the 17 y/o female John McClane give this ongoing toxicity a sweet Hollywood flavour when no word can describe the horror of kids turned kamikazes at the place that is meant to be the starting point to change the world. I know that it is trendy nowadays to portray women doing extraordinary things, but there is nothing trendy or extraordinary about exploiting scenarios that have deeply scarred people’s lives. That applies to boys, girls, men, women, and non-binary people. Keep the trends for the social media. People’s wounds are still wide open.

Elephant (2003), The Life Before Her Eyes (2007), My Friend Dahmer (2017), and We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) are but a few films that have managed to, somewhat, realistically capture that horror. But even, they are well made films. You wanna let horror crawl under your skin? Start with Bowling for Columbine (2002) and then go through the real-life mass shootings before and after. There has never been and never will be heroism in this ongoing heart-wrenching and soul-sucking tragedy.

Just death.

Followed by unspeakable, never-ending, inconsolable mourning.

Stay safe!

P.S. You wanna know who funded this film? This is the first film for the The Daily Wire, an American conservative news website turned TV/Film production company which, according to NewsWhip, is “by far” the top right-wing publisher on Facebook: “The Daily Wire is by far the top publisher among its peers in terms of engagements to its content, with more than 130 million Facebook engagements to its web content for the year”. Just saying…

In the Fade (2017): Crime / Drama / Thriller

Having nothing else to lose, a woman seeks revenge after the bomb attack that killed her husband and son.

With the camera mounted on the shoulder, Fatih Akin fully explores the act of “The Family” and hugely invests in Katja’s bereavement in a shocking political, documentary-style crime/drama that will cut your breath short. Diane Kruger’s powerhouse performance will bring tears to your eyes and most definitely adds to the narrative’s realism.

“The Trial” is immense. The disgusting defense lawyer, the remorseless couple, and the prosecutor’s speech, and Katja’s reactions throughout it, compose an excellent court thriller that will, even temporarily, question your beliefs regarding taking justice in your own hands. If that doesn’t bring out “The Punisher” in you, I don’t know what will.

“The Sea” needs to be divided into two segments: “The investigation” is the thrilling part as no one knows what she really has in mind and also no one knows what will happen if she gets caught. That keeps the suspense building up. The second part, “the revenge”, is quite shallow. It feels like Akin is not sure of how he wants to proceed or what he wants to say. Meaning, he doesn’t know what kind of ending he wants the film to have, making it a “semi-revenge” film, in the end. “The Sea”, as a total, makes an enormous contrast to “The Trial” where utterances matter the most. That means that actions should matter here the most, and unfortunately, this is not the case.

To sum it up, In the Fade is a must-watch and, no matter where you are in the world, you can translate the film’s hate to what is happening in your neck of the woods. I hope it gives you some perspective. Among others, Golden Globe Winner (2018) Best Motion Picture: Foreign Language, and Cannes Film Festival Winner: Best Actress- Diane Kruger.

Now… a little a background information. Makris, the Greek guy who appears in court, is a supporter of the, once upon a time, political party called “Golden Dawn”. For those who don’t know, that Neo-Nazi party and its supporters had always been the disgrace of Greece but also humanity’s. The party has been taken down and its members have been sent to jail, where the rest of us hope that they rot there forever. As for the actor who plays Makris, Yannis Economides, he is one of the most prolific Greek / Greek-Cypriot directors of his time, and one that I personally highly admire. Johannes Krisch, the defense lawyer, is nothing like his character in real life so, for portraying himself in such manner so effectively, he also deserves a round of applause.

Stay safe!

1BR (2019): Drama / Horror/ Thriller

A young woman, new to Los Angeles, ends up renting a place in a block of flats where the neighbours are not what they seem.

Not knowing anyone from the cast or crew or anything about the film itself, I gave it a shot just for that. I love indies, especially when I know nothing about them and feels like I should have. 1BR was meant to be one of them…

What starts as too coincidental, convenient, and questionable, such as the single, good looking, and kind neighbour, is followed by an interesting first plot point and a second act that promises something extremely sinister. That promise will get your undivided attention… but will almost instantly let you down as it doesn’t live up to it. Here’s the tricky part, though. If you wanted, that promise to be kept, it means that, one way or another, you are into some torture porn or similar so, this film is not for you. If, on the other hand, you were glad that that promise was not kept, it means that even the idea of the concept appalls you so, this film is not for you either. So, who is this film for then? Maybe, you can find a third category.

From where I stand, no half measure ever brought any decent results hence, no one likes them. You either go for it or you don’t. Any reservations on the script will be enormously amplified on the screen. To put it plainly, 1BR is not daring. It teases you with something that, eventually, does not offer. Nicole Brydon Bloom’s acting is more than decent but David Marmor’s script and directing fall into the half measure category. Two, respectively, “full measure” films that didn’t hold back were: The Invitation (2015) – review to follow, and Martyrs (2008): https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/11/24/martyrs-2008-horror/. While it could have been The Invitation meets Martyrs, it isn’t. Too many variables should have been different for that to happen.

We can’t really have it both ways in life, and the same applies to films. What also applies to both is that we are free to choose but not free of the consequences.

Stay safe!

Redemption Day (2021): Action / Thriller

After his wife is kidnapped by terrorists, a war hero races against time to get her back.

I’ve written before about opening sequences and protracted shots and I’ve said that they raise the bar high for what comes next. In Redemption Day what comes next is, unfortunately, too American and too cliché for my standards so, it becomes the exception to the rule. Regarding the narrative, everything you are expecting to happen, does happen, the time you expect it to happen. There are no twists or no difficulties in completing the mission, really. The characters are forgettable, with the “good” ones being highly skilled, and the “bad” ones highly incompetent and stupid which makes an extreme disanalogy. The dialogue is worse than the “bad” ones mentioned above so, no further comment. Then, directing, acting, choreography, and editing, are mediocre, at best.

My distaste for the film has nothing to do with anything I’ve mentioned so far though. People do what they can, with what they have. My distaste is because of its propagandistic intentions. The film’s oversimplification of who is “good” and who is “bad” is borderline insulting. The world doesn’t work this way and Islam, or any other religion for that matter, has nothing to do with the monstrosities the human species is capable of. That is something that the film is trying hard to show but fails to do so.

I would prefer if co-writer/director Hicham Hajji made a film on the two innocent, young, female, Scandinavian hikers who were found beheaded in Morocco two years ago. That would be a challenge, wouldn’t it? No superfluous heroism, no formulaic scripts, no childish gunfights, no need for constant background music to dictate to the audience how to feel, and no goddamn propaganda that nobody needs. Filmmaking should be, among others, challenging, intriguing, and innovating. As fun and entertaining the days of Commando (1985) may have been, they are long gone and all of us have moved on. I hope some studios do the same.

Stay safe!

P.S. Andy Garcia has no place in this film.

The Mist (2007): Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

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When a mist out of nowhere brings with it monsters beyond anyone’s imagination, a diverse group of people in a supermarket must do whatever they can to protect themselves from the monsters or from each other.

Probably an unpopular opinion, but this is one of my favourite Stephen King adaptations. The film cuts right to it when at the same time develops the characters and brilliantly builds up the suspense. And when the mist covers the city and everyone’s trapped in the unknown… that is the calm before the storm. A calm that cuts your breath short only to take it entirely when the storm unleashes, gradually, what is beyond everyone’s imagination. Admittedly, the visual effects are not what they should have been but, please, see past their mediocrity.

The narrative is astonishing. It feels like the world’s schools of thought are gathered in a supermarket and argue realistically as you and I would have if we were stranded, surrounded by such extra-dimensional calamity. Every character in the store is relatable. Love them, loath them, side with them, or mock them… they constitute society as we know it. They form the mob, they become demagogy. See how the tide changes, how easily everyone shows their true colours when the sh*t hits the fan. Where would you stand – or think you would?

Frank Darabond, after masterfully adapting The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and The Green Mile (1999) adapts yet another Stephen King novel, delving into the human nature while toying with the idea of hellish dimensions and man playing God. Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, William Sadler, Jeffrey DeMunn, Melissa McBride, and Alexa Davalos, most of them frequent Darabond collaborators, side with each other or go against one another and offer you an unforgettable thrill.

As I said, stick to the psychological side of it, turn the blind eye to the digital VFX, and place yourself in that supermarket. As for the end, I have written an article on soundtracks and powerful cinematic moments so, feel free to check it out only after watching the film as it gives away the one of a kind Greek-tragic-irony-like twist: http://theworldofapu.com/powerful-sequences-soundtracks/

Stay safe!

In the Middle of the Night (2020): Horror / Thriller / Drama / Short

A son calls his parents in the middle of the night, but his gradual disorientation gets them really worried.

DISCLAIMER: This story contains strong language and violence, and is intended for an older youth audience. Listener discretion is advised.

Based on my homonymous short horror script, In the Middle of the Night.

© 2020 Konstantinos Papathanasiou. All rights reserved.

Driving Home for Christmas (2020): Horror / Thriller / Drama

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After a long day’s work, on Christmas eve, a man calls his family on the way back only for a stranger to pick it up.

DISCLAIMER: This story contains strong language and violence, and is intended for an older youth audience. Listener discretion is advised.

Based on my homonymous short horror script, Driving Home for Christmas.

© 2020 Konstantinos Papathanasiou. All rights reserved.

Run (2020): Horror / Mystery / Thriller

An ambitious disabled young girl starts getting an eerie feeling that her mother is not who she thinks she is.

Dark, dramatic, and promising opening sequence that sets the tone of Aneesh Chaganty’s suspenseful horror. A huge Stephen King admirer, Chaganty pays numerous tributes to him and co-writes and directs a down to earth, psychological horror about the strongest love in the world, a mother’s love, and juxtaposes it to a mother’s greatest suffering and its inconceivable effects.

Very well shot, very well edited, and very well acted! Sarah Paulson and real-life wheelchair-user Kiera Allen give quite the performances and should be highly praised. What’s more, the bold and provocative twist meets the expectations of the first act’s horrific drama and the second act’s build-up.

Run is yet another film whose world wide release dates were postponed due to the outbreak of the pandemic. Yet, even though it doesn’t really reinvent its kind, it definitely deserves a watch, and it does not disappoint! Some plotholes could be spotted throughout the story’s development but don’t let them get in the way as the film means well. I liked it better than Chaganty’s previous feature Searching (2018) – https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2018/12/06/searching-2018-drama-mystery-thriller/ whose target audience was for the… TikTok generation.

Stay safe!

The Call (2020): Horror / Mystery / Thriller

Two women from a different time, living in the same house, manage somehow to communicate and befriend each other over the phone; a friendship that will soon become torture.

Korean narrative does not fail. Ever! The Call is a drama first, and a mystery/thriller second. The heroine’s background is as heavy as they come and the current paradoxical pain only builds onto it. Remember The Lake House (2006)? Well, not a bad film to be fair but… this is better! This is actually the psychotic, gruesome version of it! Where the tables turn more than once and the drama matches the suspense and the agony.

The film explores the unpredictability of human nature but also the consequences of our utterances and actions – especially, when we don’t know what we are dealing with. Time travel, in all its variations, is only scientific school of thoughts that clash with each other. Coincidentally, this is the third film I’m watching the last couple of months that explores the time travel implications. Tenet (2020): https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/11/29/tenet-2020-action-sci-fi/ and Primer (2004): https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/11/26/primer-2004-drama-sci-fi-thriller/ were the other two.

The Call is by far not an original concept. Frequency (2000) was the first, I think. But it is the perfect example of”old wine, new bottle” with a non-Hollywood denouement. If I’m being honest, the twist in the very end is nonsensical and should have been left out. Lastly, Jeon Jong-Seo and Park Shin-hye are just incredible!

Therefore, turn the lights off, sit back, relax and for a couple of hours just forget the word “pandemic”.

Stay safe!

P.S. Watch the trailer! One of the best trailers I’ve seen in a long time.

Greenland (2020): Action / Drama / Thriller

A comet’s passing ends up being an extinction-level catastrophe and a battle for survival for an estranged family.

Fast-edited action films are a Hollywood trademark. There is a misconception though that the faster a film is edited the better results are going to yield. I’ll prove my point in a second. The beginning of the first act is quite formulaic with the camera set on the tripod, playing out exactly as it supposed to. But once I was about to sigh in despair, to my surprise, just before everything goes tits up, Ric Roman Waugh, dismounts the camera and goes on a road trip where the narrative’s delay of resolution stretches the suspense to very high levels. I don’t know if that was a conscious decision or not but I must say that Greenland becomes a quite realistic, intense thriller where most humans become scarier than the comet’s nucleus. But very touching is the vast minority who, till the very end, they dedicate and sacrifice their lives to do as much good as they can in times humanity needs it the most (Comparisons with our current pandemic are most welcome).

Gerald Butler and Moreena Baccarin go through absolute hell and with them the young Roger Dale Floyd. All three of them are absolutely thrilling! This isn’t like the Geostorm (2017) bullshit that even Butler didn’t wanna be in. Everyone believes in this one and works as hard as they can to make it work. And it does work, indeed. My breath was taken with Baccarin’s performance when her kid was abducted (no more spoilers). I can’t imagine a mother acting any other way.

The point I wanted to prove is that War of the Worlds (2005), by far my favourite apocalyptic thriller, is, arguably, the slowest edited film of its kind. Same applies for Jurassic Park (1993). So, don’t get fooled by multi-chopped action sequences; it’s an illusion. Greenland invests in both character and story development and is definitely worth a watch. The two things that seem problematic to me and could have changed are the title, which gives away a ton of information, and the ending, which like Signs (2002), it should have ended when cutting to the prolonged darkness. See and decide for yourselves.

Stay safe!

Primer (2004): Drama / Sci-Fi / Thriller

Four friends, in an attempt to be innovative, invent something beyond their wildest dreams.

I remember watching Primer coming out of the army. As much as I was into films, I couldn’t “read” them the way I do now and, of course, the physics behind it meant nothing to me then and, respectively, without asking much, I accept it now. Consequently, I cannot comment on it, but I can speak of the filmmaking itself.

The voice over indicates that what we are watching has already happened and, for some reason, their story is worth telling, even though the first act indicates the opposite. So far, it looks like a mockumentary on a bunch of guys who are working on something that even they don’t know what it is. Much less the viewer.

Half an hour into it, the first plot point comes in strong. Both the main characters but also the viewer are now aware that they have invented a time machine. Narrative-wise, I will not reveal anything else. What has already been established is that composer / actor / sound designer / editor / producer / writer / director Shane Carruth, since the opening sequence, has remained meticulous with his writing on both character and story development. By the way, I have never seen anyone taking on so many different roles. Anyway…

What would you do if you knew you could travel in time? What would your thoughts be? What would you be afraid of? What would your reservations be? How far back would you go? Would you acknowledge causality’s dangers? Carruth does an amazing job perplexing even further his low budget’s sci-fi narrative and, at the same time, he maintains the dialogue more realistic than any of could develop it.

I do not understand certain people’s choices. Why isn’t Carruth a household name? Why show so much talent and then let go? Just do another film ten years later and that’s it? I know he struggled but the guy managed to make Primer with… $7,000. This is the most impressive and tiniest nano-budget mind-bending feature ever existed.

Ultimately, I am convinced that the film itself is greater achievement than its invention.

Mara (2018): Crime / Horror / Thriller

A female psychologist who assists the police in a series of murders comes across an ancient myth of a demon who causes sleep paralysis.

Hollywood… more often than not, it can be seen as a meat grinder. You put the meat into the funnel, and thin stands of that meat come out. There is no chance you put the meat in and something else comes out. Mara is that expected outcome. You know what is going happen, when is going to happen and there are no twists. The, whatever, attempt to surprise the viewer is simply doomed. Because both character and story development are based on clichés, and so is editing and sound – hence, the unfortunate jump scares. Don’t blame these departments though. It’s always the narrative that dictates the techniques.

I know there are reviewers who love annihilating films like Mara. I don’t. So, in a respectful manner, I will share with you my humble opinion, in one sentence: Mara is disjointed from possible every aspect. Olga Kurylenko has come a long way and her acting skills are remarkable so really look forward to seeing her in something like… what Andre Basin considered as cinema. Craig Conway delivers a powerful performance but he does’t have much to work with, really. Extra credits go to James Edward Barker and his impressive original score that finds no place in any of the epidermic attempts to scare or sensitize.

Stay safe!

Spell (2020): Horror / Thriller

A family of four land crashes over the Appalachian mountains but when the man wakes up prisoner, injured, and alone in a sinister house, he’ll do everything in his power to rescue his family.

Has there ever been a comedy about the Appalachian mountains? Other than it was a horror, I didn’t really know anything about Spell. I thought was going to be about white inbred people who do… what white inbred people do, but boy was I wrong. Imagine a lovely Southern African-American, Christian community except that they are not lovely and they are not Christians. Kudos though to Loretta Devine for her amazing performance.

I think it started off decently and then it became somewhat pointless. Actually, now that I have watched it, I feel like I need to know more about why both black and white are depicted in such manner in these places. On second thought, how do the locals feel knowing that the rest of the world knows nothing about them but the Hollywood version of them?

Regardless, the film has many weak points. Without spoiling it to you, specifically, if I had just realized what I was eating, the film would have played out differently straight away. Overall, everything is laid out for you; nothing is left unexplained. Something that wipes out the mystery and, even worse, undermines the audience’s intelligence. Shame for the film, but also both the Caucasian and Afro-Appalachian people. One day, maybe they’ll make a film on Hollywood based on what they have heard about it. That’s gonna be a comedy/horror I’ll definitely enjoy. I might even kickstart it for them…

Stay safe!

P.S. Must say that my fellow Midlander Lorraine Burroughs looks, as always, absolutely stunning and look forward to watching her in Muscle (2019).

His House (2020): Drama / Horror / Thriller

A refugee couple escapes Sudan in a time of war, they arrive in England, only to have to adjust to a whole new reality and face a ghost that followed them all the way to their new house.

Welcome to a journey that no one is welcome. A soul-wrenching and haunting experience that no one should ever have. Yet, hundreds of thousands, unknown to us people do. To this very day. His House, feature debut for Remi Weekes, is a drama with horror elements whose natural drama is more horrifying than its supernatural horror. Sope Dirisu and Wunmi Mosaku carry the film on their shoulders and manage to pass on to the viewer all the survivor’s guilt and immigration’s hostility but also the sense of having nothing left! Matt Smith always adds flavour to everything he’s in.

It is not a “haunted house” horror film. It is a haunted conscience film and an introduction to a different set of beliefs and norms to the “civilised” world. Well written and brilliantly shot. Jo Willems’ cinematography deserves an extra credit.

Keep your mind open and expect nothing beforehand. Brave attempt from both Netflix and BBC Films that gives a taste of how it feels like to be a stranger and struggle into a world that sees you as a piece of s*it or a laughing stock at best.

Safe safe!

P.S. You can enjoy a lot more of Dirisu in Gangs of London (2020) and Mosaku in Lovecraft County (2020).

Take Shelter (2011): Drama / Horror / Thriller

Haunting apocalyptic visions will make a man doubt himself, face his family, confront society, and build a shelter for what he thinks is coming.

One of my favourite underrated, films of all time. A visually stunning film that gives the opportunity to actors to unleash their talent, the suspenseful narrative to naturally and patiently unfold, and the viewer to unconditionally absorb what cinematic experience really means. And that shows right off the bat from the opening sequence.

If you haven’t watched it, writer/director Jeff Nichols will get you wondering all the way: Is it? Is it happening? Is it in his head? But that’s not just it. Think about it… How much “different” can society tolerate? How many times were you sure you were right and no one believed you? But… how many times were you sure you were right and how did you feel when you realised you weren’t? Also, how many times have you truly followed your gut no matter what everyone else thought or said?

Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain do a wonderful couple on screen, expressing all these doubts and beliefs and transgress the rules. Shea Whigham is always underrated and I hope one day a major festival acknowledges his talent and award him respectively. Last but not least, from beginning to end, pay attention to Adam Stone’s cinematography; it is absolutely thrilling.

Take Shelter does leave the viewer with some unanswered questions but that’s part of the journey’s mystery and the reason why a film’s flavour lasts way past the scrolling end credits.

Stay safe!

The Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020): Comedy / Horror / Thriller

Brutally savaged bodies pile up in a small mountain town during full moon and an alcoholic sheriff must solve the crimes, keep the town in order, and his estranged daughter safe.

Comedy/horror… How does one put the two opposites successfully together? I don’t know if there is a universal answer but, in this instance, it’s how actor/writer/director Jim Cummings puts them together. The comedic acting contrasts the dark and haunting photography and the soundtrack either adapts to the tone or interestingly causes antithesis. My round of applause though goes to the editing team not for the impressive flash forwards during the killings but for balancing Cummings’ vision on how to find humour in dramatic but also horrific situations.

I’ll deliberately keep this one shorter than usual. Turn the lights off and give it a go. Films such as The Wolf of Snow Hollow can be the escape we need against the depressing and abhorrent reality we currently live in even though we have to return to it eventually.

Last but definitely not least, rest in peace Robert Forster. You will always be remembered.

Death of Me (2020): Horror / Mystery / Thriller

After a night they don’t remember anything, a vacationing couple finds a video of them where the husband kills the wife.

The Hangover (2009) meets The Wicker Man (2006). Yes, the Nicholas Cage version.

Death of Me… a film where everyone aimlessly is running around. I’ll cut straight to the point, there are significant issues with the story development but also the editing. The story itself is more than decent but then the project collapses by the minute as it unfolds. The acting is also decent – considering, but the film is beyond saving. I think the intentions were good but the execution was bad. I mean… bad! I don’t want to slag it off more because, regardless, a lot of people put in a lot of effort and work. It just didn’t come out right, unfortunately. Maggie Q and Luke Hemsworth are really good actors so, don’t let that film define their skills.

Stay safe!