The Battery

 *SPOILERS* This review may contain spoilers.

Breathe in. Feel that? Fresh air.

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Even after being stuck in the back of an old car for days, smoking and drinking the water from tinned veg, getting drunk and everything else that goes with it, the air still feels fresh.

Why?

Let me tell you, The Battery is the most refreshing zombie apocalypse story to appear in an oversaturated mess of end of days dramas. Even I will admit that, and you all know about my boner for “The Walking Dead”.

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The Battery follows Ben (writer and director Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim), as they make their way through the desolate back roads of New England. Our hero’s played on the same baseball team before society collapsed, forming “The Battery”, the term used to describe the artillery like force of a pitcher catcher combination, however as the movie plays out, it seems they weren’t as close as other Batterymen of days gone by like Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford or Jack Coombs and Jack Lapp. It transpires that the last two men on earth ended up together as a matter of circumstance rather than bond and the movie becomes more a character study, watching how these men deal with each other’s differences in the face of adversity.

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By now you may be asking why are people still making zombie apocalypse movies? Haven’t we seen every side to this story? Well, no, would be the simple answer. The Battery manages a somewhat new take in its narrative. First things first, the zombie make up, it’s not great. When you coexist with the mega budgeted “Walking Dead” it’s damn near impossible to match it with your practical effects. The undead look like me last Halloween.

The story is where this low budget effort shines. The situations are implied. The zombies are implied, for the most part. What we see is how the characters react and adapt to what has happened. We see our characters discuss the peril they have faced in the months following the outbreak and we can paint our own picture of what the world looks like now which is clever.

While watching “The Battery”, you’ll find yourself asking yourself the question, “am I a ‘Ben’? Or a ‘Mickey’?. Who would you be in the apocalypse? Would you be Ben and adjust quickly and easily into a world where societal norms as we know them don’t apply, scavenging through dead people’s belongings, killing zombies without fully knowing what being a zombie means for the person, not showering? Or would you be Mickey, pining for the world that once was, looking for someone to take control, hoping for a return to the status quo? I know who I’d be. I’d be Ben. 100 per cent. Liam would be Mickey (but less of a whiner). The arc for both characters is nothing new, both men realise the faults in themselves while realising the strengths from the other and it’s the stand out acting from both main characters which allows for believable transformations. This narrative travels along at a decent pace and only slows down when we reach our final location. However this change of pace is intentional and works with the story.

For me personally, what makes this story new, is the bleakness of the apocalypse. While the movie ends ambiguously, we aren’t given the impression that Ben and Mickey are thriving. Watching “The Walking Dead”, we follow Rick and the gang survive countless life threatening situations, and that gets boring. With “The Battery” we see the survivors who’s story isn’t as long or successful. The ones who’s story is already over before our usual hero wakes up from his coma. The zombie filled car left in the highway. “The Battery” tells us how they got there.

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This movie works for me, and I intend to watch it many more times before I’m through. 4/5. And with that, I’m off to buy all of Jeremy Gardner’s movies.

Don’t Breathe (2016)

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After the terrific reimagining (it’s not a remake!) of Evil Dead (2013), Fede Alvarez is back with Don’t Breathe, a claustrophobic, edge of your seat thriller in which, you quickly realise, you should never judge a book by it’s cover.

I have been cautious of blind people ever since 1998 when the man, who I believed to be the “local blind guy,” gave me the fingers from his window as I sat across the street. It turned out that he wasn’t blind at all and I had totally confused myself, but the wary caution still exists! Don’t Breathe kicks off with a wide shot of a run down, neglected street in Michigan. As the camera slowly pans in, we see a foreboding figure of a man slowly make his way along the road, dragging a young girl behind him, beaten and terror stricken. It acts as a little precursor, readying the audience for the possible brutality that lies ahead and it works beautifully. Bringing us back to the present day, we’re introduced to three mid-twenties kids as they break into a well furnished, wealthy home. Rocky, played excellently by Jane Levy (Evil Dead), Alex (Dylan Minnette – Goosebumps) and Money (Daniel Zovatto – It Follows) are petty thieves, stealing from homes which fall under the surveillance of Alex’s father’s security firm. After a tip off, promising a substantial sum of money, the trio decide to break into the home of a blind (really blind, not like the guy in 1998) Gulf War veteran, played by Stephen Lang (Avatar) in a shining performance that I believe may be the best of his long career. Rocky, Alex and Money soon learn that the job isn’t going to be as easy as it initially seemed when the blind prey quickly becomes predator.

You’ve all heard the rhyme “Three Blind Mice,” well Alvarez turns it on it’s head, pitting the three well-sighted mice against the bigger, stronger (albeit blind) cat in a tense, gripping and often brutal game of cat and mouse. With 90% of the film taking place inside a dimly lit, locked house, with almost zero ways of escape, Don’t Breathe manages to feel very claustrophobic at times, excellently adding to the ever building tension of the audience as they try and cling on to any shred of hope that some good will, surely, come out of the situation they are bearing witness to.

Don’t Breathe has it’s fair share of jump scares, some which may be seen as a little on the cheap side and some of which are executed perfectly. However, the sound production is really where this film shines. Lengthy periods of silence, with the occasional atmospheric drone is a refreshing approach in modern horror and allows the film to avoid the tired cliché of eerie music playing as a scare looms, obviously, closer. Also, as the Gulf War veteran is totally without sight, the silence illustrates that his other senses are heightened, having him (and the audience) listen out for even the slightest sound of breathing creates a new level of danger for the prey. Perhaps their biggest danger, however, is that they all have Samsung phones. That shit is definitely going to catch fire when they least expect it!

With stellar performances from Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Stephen Lang, Don’t Breathe is a highlight of horror cinema this year. It’s clever, twisted and is sure to have even the sternest horror hound getting a little white around the knuckles. Fede Alvarez has shown again that, although he is still relatively new to the Director’s chair, he has the ability to give us something refreshing and brutal each time. Unlike our antagonist, I await Alvarez’s next project with eager eyes.

The Walking Dead S7 ‘Sneak Peek’

This post will contain opinions that could be considered *SPOILERS*

Season 7 of The Walking Dead is but two weeks away and FOX have released a ‘sneak peek‘.

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I have just watched it, and I feel sort of let down. Let me start with the highlights. The Walking Dead is back and that is fantastic. Negan is bad ass. Rick tries to stay bad ass, but is shown to be very weak in comparison, at this moment which will be a very interesting character arc throughout the season.

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Here’s where I am let down. This peek hints heavily that Daryl is the one who meets Lucille. Negan says he’d be lost without his “right hand man” and this suggests Daryl as we know his place in the group. Though on the flip side, does Negan know the relationship between Rick and Daryl? Is he referring to Abraham here as they were together when Negan got there? There is a theory online the the young girl Enid is a spy for the Saviours (Negan’s ‘gang’), but I personally don’t see that storyline tying in with the Enid we have already seen in season 5 and 6. However it is entirely possible that someone has spied on our group enough to know who’s who.

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Strong hint number two comes in the final shot. Rick is dragged into the RV, showing Negans strength over the situation. It reduces our hero to a petulant child or misbehaving animal bein dragged to the naughty step. If this scene makes season 7, my theory is Rick can kiss a hand goodbye.

I digress, let’s get back to the Daryl hint. With the final wide shot of the RV and the camera panning to the ground to show the deceased’s pool of blood, what we can see is a blanket, and if you recall, Daryl was covered in a blanket due to the injuries he sustained at the end of season 6. Again, if the blanket on the ground makes it to the show it could be from Daryl throwing it to the ground in protest of a friend being murdered. All possibilities will have been considered.

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As big shows like this are inclined to do, this sneak peak could be a massive red herring. It could contain dialogue that won’t appear in the show. The creators are definitely smart enough to put false clues in to trip up eagle eyed viewers, and they definitely have thought out every possible angle and potential spoiler before releasing a sneak peek. They will have someone dedicated to monitoring the online buzz and will play into that.

They have also more than likely filmed different versions of who gets the bat. I think all we can conclude for definite is that someone will die. One predicition I will put my name to, it will be a male who doesn’t see season 7, and one thing that is 100% true.

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I can’t fucking wait for October 24th!

Wolf Creek

Australia, where no one can hear you scream.

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It would take you 40 hours of continuous driving to get from one side to the other, and the majority of the country is nature. A haven for tourists and backpackers and world adventurers. The people have a great sense of humour and enjoy a beer. It sounds like heaven on earth. Unless you run into one of the few more than unhinged inhabitants down under.

By now, you should all be familiar with Mick Taylor, the fictional serial killer based on Australia’s backpack murderer, Ivan Milat, who killed seven people between 1990 and 1996. Mick Taylor, you’ll recognise from Wolf Creek 1 & 2, played outstandingly by John Jarratt and again in the six part mini series of the same name, “Wolf Creek”, and that is what we will be discussing here.

Let’s get the best part of the show for me out of the way first. The theme tune. A creepy and hauntingly brilliant rendition of an old kids rhyme, “Who killed Cock Robin?”, by Lisa Salvo. It’s only 1 minute long but it creates such a lasting memory and I still sing it today. Now, to the show.

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Episode one starts with a bang. We are introduced to our family. Mum, dad, son and daughter. The family is headed by two US cops traveling through Aus in an RV, experiencing the outback and taking a well earned break. The youngest child, the boy, is a typical pre adolescent, trying to show his dad he’s a man. The girl, is a stereotypical 17 year old. Moody and in a huff because she’s on vacation and not with her friends back home.

As they are enjoying a beer by the campfire, they are joined by Mick, who just happens to pass by. Just like in the original movie, this exchange begins innocently enough and then boom. The family are all dead. All except our moody teen who was sulking in the RV with the headphones in. She susses out the situation and makes a run for it, is shot in the back and when Mick can’t see her body, is left for dead.

I’ll keep the spoilers to minimum from now on. The teen, Eve, is our protagonist and we follow her transition through these six episodes, physically, literally and emotionally. This seventeen year old spoiled American girl really steps up the 1990s Barbara badass morph very quickly. She drops the headphones and picks up the guns. Cuts her hair and gets a dog. Upsets a lot of dangerous SOA / Crocodile Dundee types and also becomes an underwear waitress. All while looking for Mick.

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Like I said, Australia is a big place, so looking for one person is a complete needle in the bush. Exactly how long Eve has spent down under on the hunt, but it is long enough to get a job, a flatmate and create a reputation among the locals.

Throughout the episodes, we follow Eve on a few adventures and some very unrealistic situations involving Australia’s biker gangs. However while far fetched, the outcome does make sense in the universe this series creates.

One thing, every outlaw we meet is a dead ringer for Tom Hardy in Mad Max and this can make it hard to tell them apart if you watch episodes one week at a time. Some of these Tom Hardys leave very quickly and it can feel like rushed or lazy writing.

Let’s head toward the culmination of the series, and the inevitable climax. We’ve been watching Eve stalk and hunt Mick for six hours, and if after all the trouble he gets the better of her, we would walk away disappointed and angry. However, if this young girl manages to over power Mick fahking Taylor, would you believe it?

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The creators head somewhere down the middle and allow successful closure for Eve while keeping their eyes on the franchise. While this doesn’t make full sense, it sort of has to happen as there is a somewhat trailer for Wolf Creek 3 out in the Internet for anyone to view.

The acting in this series is fantastic. John Jarratt turns a brilliant performance in the character he has perfected over time. Lucy Fry, the Aussie actress plays a convincing American, and a very convincing girl on a mission. Eve’s transformation into the strong girl she becomes is the true reason for the show. While the movies are horrors, the show is a tense thriller. A character development within Mick’s world.

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If you enjoyed the movies, like stunning visuals of vast Australian landscapes and love an accent then binge watch this show right now. I can’t end without saying, “that ain’t a knife….”

Blair Witch

If you go down to the woods tonight, you’re in for a big surprise, if you go wild camping in the woods tonight, then it’s your own damn fault what happens to you.image

First off I want to address my points made in the current episode of the podcast. I am testament to the fact that anyone can be an online movie reviewer these days, but that doesn’t mean that all our opinions should be listened too. Some reviews of “Blair Witch” aren’t favourable, others cite the “poor box office opening weekend” and one tag line accused the audience, “you did this!”. Pressure should not be placed on directors, actors or the movie itself based on opening weekend takings.
I, myself, found life got in the way of getting into the theatre, which must have been the same thing that affected the rest of the sold out screen I sat alongside on “Blair Witch’s” second weekend. If a movie makes back what it spent, then it’s a success, end of. Now, let’s get to the scares.image

“Blair Witch” follows James and some friends as he heads into the woods near Burkitsville Maryland to find his lost sister Heather, while his friend Lisa documents the process for her film class. If you are familiar with the original movie, you will know what happened to Heather and since she clearly ain’t Bear Grills, though if you look her up online these days her fingers are pretty green, there’s no way she would be alive.image

The exposition to explain the legend, the different ghost stories, the fancy cameras and the gps system is a little thick in places. Some of the conversations do not feel genuine, real friends do not need to explain to each other information they should already know. Once that is out of the way and we are tented up and ready for a good nights kip, the woods start playing funny buggers. The cinema surround sound tries the best it can with cracking twigs and falling trees to heighten the fear, but in my view it only goes to remind that you are in a movie theatre in the middle of Glasgow and not alongside these characters in peril. I’m out of the movie, and I’m consciously worried that I won’t get sucked back in.

There is a disjointed storyline playing throughout. One of a somewhat time loop. It’s never fully explained, but mentioned enough to make you aware that there are no answers. The search for these answers plagued our drive home, evening and following morning, though proved as fruitless as searching for hikers lost in the woods 17 years ago. Take this time paradox theme away and “Blair Witch” is ten times better.

Let give credit where credit is due. The visuals are stunning, the iconic stick man creates a wonderfully creepy atmosphere from early on and a clever use of a drone camera allows us to see above the trees making the feelings of claustrophobia overwhelming, even with the setting being outside. This theme gets tighter as we head toward the gripping conclusion.

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Parallels can be drawn with the original Blair Witch Project. Obviously people making a documentary in the woods is the stark similarity, but some scenes are almost replicated. The extended look towards the cars as they walk into the woods, a last glimpse at a familiar world they are leaving behind. The extreme close camera angles reminiscent of the original nostrils scene, and then there’s the house. We get to go back and visit the house in more detail. This is extremely familiar to me and I haven’t been back to Burkitsville in over 10 years. Seeing more of a world we are familiar with is very pleasing to a viewing audience and Adam Wingard is very aware of that fact. You know where you are in the movie when you reach that house, even if we are lost in the woods.

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I sound like I have a lot of criticism about what I seen tonight, but the truth is, I enjoyed myself. The scares are good, however the movie never created a building tension. My heart rate never increased in anticipation of a scare. I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief and truly step into the movie, but honestly, I did have fun.

Horror is a niche market and I think that explains the mass of negative reviews and bad box office takings. I fit the niche and this movie landed with me. I have my hang ups and there are scenes I could have done without, namely a tree that’s branches are essentially a very convenient ladder, but over all, I came out smiling. Let me tell you, the monster reveal outside the house, without giving too much away, is outstanding. Not too much, not too little.

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Go see “Blair Witch” while it’s still in cinemas, it’s great. Is it better than the project? No. Is it better than “Book of Shadows”? Of course it is.

Don’t Blink

What do you need to make a movie? Big bucks? Lots of CGI? boobs? I argue that all you need is a good story (assuming you will always have good actors).

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‘Don’t Blink’ is a 2014 horror sci-fi movie written and directed by Travis Oates (the voice of Piglet in the 2011 Winnie the Pooh movie) and starring Brian Austin Green (Kickboxer 2) and Mena Suvari (American Pie) and centres around ten friends holidaying in a mountain cabin when one by one they disappear.

Films like ‘Don’t Blink’ always stir my inner filmmaker. Character driven, single location, clever camera shots and good sound to avoid spending money on CGI and you can make a brilliant movie! As long as your story is good. What we have here is almost there.

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We begin ‘Don’t Blink’ by meeting all of our characters, learning some back story for the important relationships. However, and this criticism is only relevant for the opening sequences, the exposition we are given in the dialogue feels somewhat forced. While it is information that tell us who the characters are, they are asking each other questions that in real life, the answers would already be known amongst friends.

The actors in this movie are all around mid 20s to early 30s it seems, and perhaps why I find their life issues and stages relatable. The over used high school / college age group is not clichéd here and I find that refreshing.

When we reach the cabin, something is wrong straight away, the whole environment is deserted, a breakfast spread left half eaten, kitchen taps running and a recent fire in the mantle. It is in this strange and stressing situation we see the divide in leadership from our “alphas” in the group, one urging to leave, the other seeing the benefit in staying. A lack of gas being the main reason leaving would prove just as dangerous as staying.

Pretty quickly our group start disappearing, literally into thin air. I believe the high number of characters in this story is to allow normal deduction to reach the conclusion that people are simply disappearing as this reason would be no ones first thought.

Characters ark throughout the disequilibrium with Jack (Brian Austin Green) relenting on his original leading alpha bravado in realising he is out of his depth and Alex (Zack Ward – A Christmas Story) snapping under the pressure of having the right idea in the beginning but out votes from carrying it out.

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It is in Zack Ward’s performance that we have something special. All the actors are accomplished and believable, but Zack creates a multi levelled human in times of extreme stress, and the script does well to ask some pretty deep moral questions. If you could do anything and there would be no trace whatsoever after you were gone, what would you do?

If this moral question was the overall theme of the movie, we would have a winner, but there’s no payoff. I can’t say it doesn’t hit the mark, because it feels like the mark wasn’t even aimed for. The reasoning for the events of the movie aren’t badly explained, they aren’t explained at all.

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Perhaps I missed something along the way, perhaps it does ask questions and leaves the end ambiguous, perhaps the the whole movie is the impact of action vs consequence, but for me, a clever “wow” moment would have vastly improved my enjoyment for this great story. Hell, even a weak explanation would have been better than nothing at all.

Maybe I blinked and missed the point?

Evidence

Found footage has been done so many times now, can the formula ever be renewed? Here we look at the Evidence to find out.

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Evidence is a 2013 movie directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi and he is no stranger to found footage as earlier works include 2009’s The Fourth Kind. If you recall, that movie took a fresh spin on the grainy handheld camera angle by filming duplicate professional scenes to give the movie a realistic documentary recreation feel. Continuing to form, Evidence tries to spin the genre again. We follow two detectives while they watch the footage from several cameras recovered from an abandoned gas station somewhere in the Nevada desert as they try to piece together all the evidence to solve this gruesome crime.

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What makes this movie different from others in the same ilk? The “tech whizz” never utters the line, “I’ve downloaded all the footage and edited it together to run in sequence”, because let’s be honest, police detectives aren’t coming to work to watch a movie. We have to believe these victims are really dead and watching disjointed ‘evidence’ helps the audience suspend their disbelief. The story plays out one camera at a time, and good story writing allows later scenes to fill in gaps and answer questions asked earlier on.

The next fresh approach is the killer who dons a welding mask and blowtorch. This is fun, for around five minutes, but I’m not sure the physics of using a blowtorch to get the same effect as a ‘light sabre’ from a galaxy far far away hold up.

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Thus begins the criticism. The camera footage is “corrupted” from all devices, and we get loud digital static popping up consistently throughout, even once used as an extremely cheap jump scare. This effect is later on somewhat explained into the twist of the story, however it doesn’t excuse how distracting and off putting it makes the viewing experience. The high pitched, almost ultra sonic, squeals of Rachel (Caitlin Stasey – Tomorrow When The War Began) behind the camera wear thin real fast and I for one began counting down the minutes till she met her molten demise.

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Believing this genre of horror is difficult for me as I can never believe recording a life threatening event is more important than escaping it, with that aside, the story actually is pretty clever. The set up is formulaic and picking off characters one by one is nothing new, but by offsetting these scenes with those of our detectives, (Radha Mitchell – Silent Hill & Stephen Moyer – True Blood) we do feel a sense of relief each time we travel back to the safe environment within the police station, juxtaposed with the chaos of the gas station and that separates Evidence from most found footage efforts.

The final twist begins well, and the final reveal is executed perfectly, however travelling through the discovery montage, the very last scene leaves me asking a question. Why? The motives, much like in Eli Roth’s ‘Knock Knock’ don’t seem real or genuine. I know there are plenty of messed up people in the world, but these characters? I don’t buy it.