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).

image

‘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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

Blair Witch

Blair Witch

“They will never be able to pull something like that off again”

image

If you listened to Episode19 featuring Leyna McKenzie, you may remember our discussions on “The Blair Witch Project” in which we marvelled at the feat accomplished by the film makers by keeping the whole movie a secret. The marketing campaign which seen the viewing public duped into believing that the movie was real, the characters were not actors, but indeed demised documentary filmmakers.

“It’s a once in a generation accomplishment”. The feeling being that in today’s age of Internet social media, news blogs, click bait and instant sharing that a secret marketing plan on the same scale would never be seen successfully again.

image

Last night in San Diego, lucky revellers at Comic Con were treated to a screener of “The Woods”. Do you recall that awesome trailer? With the minor key version of ‘Every Breath You Take’ by ‘The Police’? The trailer with the tag lines, “there’s something evil hiding in the woods” and review quotes claiming, “one of the scariest movies ever made”. That movie trailer had peaked my interest and I was on board to have my wits rattled regardless. The woods are a terrifying location for a horror movie, and after the somewhat let down of “The Forrest”, “The Woods” seemed like the movie we all deserve.

Well, Lionsgate and director Adam Wingard have pulled off a massive reveal, catching everyone by surprise and sending the reviewers and bloggers into meltdown. “The Woods” was a working title for an official sequel. The movie is in fact titled, “Blair Witch”. Holy shit! No one knew, bar a small group. Even those within Lionsgate were unaware and we at Scott & Liam vs Evil applaud everyone involved for their effort in keeping this secret. A secret equalling the faked moon landings, the Kennedy assassination or the location of Mewtwo in Pokemon Go!

The movie follows Heather Donahue’s (original Blair Witch Project) brother as he and a group of friends travel into the woods near Burkittsville in search of his long lost sister and that is as much as I want to know about the plot until I see this movie.

The reveal has been exciting. Reading the Twitter reaction through the night has been incredible. The buzz surrounding this release is now huge! I envy every single person in that screener audience at SDCC.

image

The only downside to this piece of cinematic history is we have to wait until September 16th before we get “Blair Witch” into a cinema near us. I’ve packed my bag, I have my tent, and I’m keeping a firm hold of my map! I’m ready to head back to Maryland.

For now, we’ll have to make do with the trailer.

Blair Witch in cinemas September 16th.

Stranger Things

In today’s world of remakes and reboots a video lending company can expand to be one of the giants in media publishing and bring us a brand new fresh TV show that is also dripping with nostalgia without feeling forced right? Hey, Stranger Things have happened.

image

While reading online that the appearance of this show slipped by a few folks, the trailer seemed to be aimed directly at my peepers. I got it straight away and the artwork for this offering seemed to beckon me in. The font for the title alone making all my brain receptors flash ‘Stephen King’, like a fruit machine hitting the jackpot. The poster put me in mind of great movies such as ‘Star Wars’ and ‘E.T.’, and of course the idea that the story focuses in on young kids on an adventure, well, the ‘Stand By Me’ fanboy inside was going crazy.

15th July 2016, all episodes released at once and binge watching commences. The story centres around two main characters. Will, who disappears in episode one and the subsequent hunt to find him, and Eleven, or ‘Elle’ and the subsequent mission to keep her hidden. Both stories are intertwined beautifully while leading to a joint conclusion with terrific writing seeing the show throughout. The pacing is close to perfect, with each episode not only ending on a cliffhanger, but preceding the fantastic intro sequence, starting on one too.

I had my reservations about Winona Ryder, within the first few episodes, mainly prejudged due to the ‘Family Guy’ skit where they claim she is only good if she’s topless. Jeez, Seth Macfarlane is a bit of a dick. However, she creates a performance worthy of awards. A mother desperately seeking her missing son and prepared to do whatever it takes to find him, even if it entails losing grip on reality.

image

These kids, have never known a time without Internet, social media and mobile phones, yet they convey early eighties pre teens magnificently, right down to the dungeons and dragons epic quests. David Harbour puts in an excellent turn as the towns troubled Sherrif, a character that we would all want on our side, but I think it goes without saying, the stand out performance in this show is from future Hollywood A-lister, 12 year old Millie Bobby Brown. With little to no dialogue, Millie, as mysterious girl Eleven, conveys a whole host of dramatic and complex emotions all of which are believable to the audience. You can’t teach that.

Written by the Duffer brothers, whom after this gift will be henceforth referred to as the fantastic Duffer brothers who can do no wrong, we have a whole world brought to life. Each character, wether major or minor is well rounded and believable. Clichéd tropes are avoided and others are given a slight twist, mainly in the case of Steve, the jock love interest for Nancy. While we expect him to be a jerk to allow Nancy to fall for Jonathan, with whom a connection is building, Steve turns it round in the third act by showing he really does care. A believable outcome, but different to what we have seen time and time again.

The nostalgia trip is in the soundtrack, on the walls in movie posters, Jaws, Evil Dead, even The Dark Crystal makes an appearance. It’s in the clothes, the set and the theme. It forges memories, brings forth smells. It generates feelings that don’t over saturate the show nor do they ruin your childhood. It’s eating that long forgotten cereal or candy bar. It’s finding old photographs or long lost mix tapes. It’s faultless.

image

Initially my only complaint for this series was that at eight episodes, it’s too short. However, coming out the sublime end sequence, I didn’t feel cheated. I felt a whole range of emotions, but I felt the show had not let me down, and at that short episode number, a whole season rewatch is definitely on the cards at least once.

Has an immaculate 10/10 piece of art been created?
Stranger Things have happened.

Already Dead

“We don’t need them on our streets”, “they don’t live by our rules”, “they’re not like us”

image

These are the sort of statements we hear (or read online) on a daily basis in Britain these days. Unnecessary hatred geared towards individuals who’s biggest crime is looking or acting different. Wether that’s the colour of your skin, the religion you practice or the people you are attracted to. Already Dead adds Zombies into the line of unwarranted hate.

In a world where the zombie outbreak has been contained by a medication that will suppress the appetite of the undead, zombies can just get on with the rest of their lives can’t they?

Meet George, a zombie in recovery. He has been one of the living dead for fifteen years, being bitten during the initial outbreak. Our documentary filmmakers are finding out what life is like for a being on ‘Zombenzine’. The performance given by Darren Ruston as ‘George’ is flawless. His delivery in ‘zomb-speak’ is highly comical and pure entertainment and by far the stand out performer in this short mockumentary.

What we see is that behind the upbeat positive mental attitude put forth by George, we have a man alienated from society, living in fear of being harassed and attacked in the street purely for an illness he cannot control. An illness he never asked for. It is in this parallel we can imagine what life must be like for those on the receiving end of bigotry, and after the jokes, we must look to ourselves to find the change needed in society.

Art is a powerful platform for addressing real life problems through different mediums. ‘Already Dead’ highlights these issues through a clever script and on point comical timing from all of the cast. This short film is only fifteen minutes long, but packs a strong message that everyone should hear, and on the surface, it is a hilariously told story full of wit and charm.

image

Michael James Dean (writer and director) has done a magnificent job with this short, and managed to elicit an actual laugh out loud moment from this writer who normally internalises his enjoyment while watching movies.

MJD said he did not initially set out to make a statement with this short. They say write about what you know and if you live in 2016, then you know unnecessary hatred of others is out there, but there are also plenty of selfless acts of kindness that go unreported out there too, and good always wins out.

Everarrrggh, sorry. Everyone shoarrgh….should see grah… Already argh Dead. What time is it? Damn, I’ve missed a dose of Zombenzine, Liam’s brains are looking mighty tasty…..aah….tasty…..brains…itchy…tasty.

Fun With Hackley : Axe Murderer

Are you stuck in a dead end job? Do you have insufferable middle managers making your life hell with paper work and red tape? Then the life of Hackley will seem all too familiar.

image

One time top of his game, Hackley is an axe murderer working for RKS, an office job for serial killers. Every kill must be documented. Quotas must be reached and weekly “status meetings” must be attended. Hackley was the leading killer in the 80s and 90s, but now, he struggles to make employee of the month, is out done by younger, scarier killers and finds himself questioning his whole existence.

Hackley, loosely based on Jason Voorhees, and his coworkers all have their origins in popular slasher and horror movies from Scream to Saw. A clever script sees references from your favourite films flipped to the PoV of the killer in a world where violence is more than random or revenge based, it’s monitored, documented, analysed and evaluated. It’s that world that has Hackley bored to death.

Horror movie clichés are exposed in this movie, cleverly bringing to light the questions and problems often noted in slasher films by fans in a sympathetic way rather than by criticising the genre. The film makers are clearly fans themselves.

Fun with Hackley is certainly more comedy than slasher, and while there are many kills throughout the movie, they tend to be just off screen and implied. Perhaps this was done to keep comedy the main theme, however some gory practical effects and a few more on screen kills would have increased the overall enjoyment. At least from this slasher fans perspective.

Allen Hackley turns in a fantastic performance in the lead role but it is his European sidekick, played by Garrett Graham that steals the show. Rancid, perhaps based on Dr. Heiter (Human Centipede) or the kind of sick rich business man who would join the Elite Hunting Club (Hostel) delivers his lines with fantastic comedic timing and truly nails the character.

image

Drinking games could be played to Fun With Hackley. Drink for every horror reference or cliché. Never have I seen so many topical references in a piece of work, and I’ve seen Spaced.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, it is well directed and the pacing is well managed building up to its chaotic conclusion, which if you are playing the drinking game then I fear for your hangover. It packs so much wit into its 90 minute run time I could continue to write for days and I haven’t even mentioned the amazing rap yet, but for some reason, I have an urge to go get tacos.

image

I guarantee you will have Fun With Hackley.

****

Scott & Liam

Knock Knock

image

Knock knock. Who’s there? Another mediocre effort from Eli Roth.

Home invasion horrors should insight terror that grips at your very being. Your safe haven, your fortress, your happy place, where all the evil in the world can be locked out with the turning of a key. That place is violated. All of your possessions are up for grabs, your vinyl collection, your family photographs, your sweet action figures which are all NRFB (never removed from box). Your memories are for the taking.

This idea gives me anxiety just thinking about it, so a movie of this unthinkable, but completely possible event should have the viewer squirming in their seat praying for an end to the nightmare, yes?

Sadly with Knock Knock you are left angry that this whole scenario plays out without so much as a reason let alone a satisfying climax.

Roth suggests that all men will cheat on their partners, ruin their lives and mess up their children psychologically. All it would take would be for two naked women in their twenties to throw themselves at him. There are 3 billion men in the world, we can’t all be the same?

The portrayal of the women in question foray around in all manner of different psyches. Whether this is intentional still remains to be seen. At times they are menacing and psychotic, but for the most part they just appear to be annoying and spoiled. There is no clear motive for the actions in Knock Knock. We can’t fear these girls for the simple reason, at times during the movie, they don’t appear to be in control.
I’ll tell you what else is out of control, Keanu Reeves. I’m a fan, but what is going on with his delivery, is this a comedy?

Some dialogue suggests a more in depth reasoning for the girls behaviour, and there are some scenes I can only assume are supposed to “shock” and “reveal the story”, but ultimately afterwards I found myself asking, “why?”.

image

When home invasion movies such as Michael Haneke’s 1997 “Funny Games”, and even his own 2007 Americanised remake exist, Knock Knock has a high bar to reach. Knock Knock came nowhere close.

Perhaps I was expecting too much. Perhaps my lack of enthusiasm of this movie says more about my desire to see more pain and suffering on the screen than it does about Eli Roth’s filmmaking. The lead character does go through a pretty traumatic event that will change his whole life. Standing in Evan’s (Reeves) shoes, this movie is no joke and a far cry from the empty* he thought he was getting.

*empty – Scottish for having the house to yourself and engaging in “super secret parties”

Where is the “Cabin Fever” and “Hostel” Eli that we all loved?