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Henry (Robin Williams) is mistakenly told by his doctor (Mila Kunis) that he has 90 minutes left to live and sets about putting right the wrongs of his immediate past.

“The Angriest Man In Brooklyn” is a comedy-drama from “Field of Dreams” director Phil Aiden Robinson, based on the Israeli film “Mar Baum” (known in English as “The 92 Minutes of Mr Baum”).

The supporting cast is the real treat here, most notably the incredible Peter Dinklage in a fairly major supporting role as Henry’s brother. Dinklage has an innate understanding of delivery and timing, imbuing his underwritten character with an immense likability while teasing laughs out of the slight material. James Earl Jones also has an absolutely hilarious cameo as a electronics salesman, providing the film’s one true laugh out loud moment, and it is genuine pleasure to see him back in front of the camera, however briefly. The ever reliable supporting player Bob Dishy gets the opportunity to react wonderfully to a few lines without being given any of his own and Louis CK is fun but absolutely wasted in a one scene cameo. The only problem with the presence of these sterling performers is that we see too little of them.

In contrast, it is a tragedy, given the talent floating around the rest of this movie, that we end up spending so much time with Williams and Kunis, both badly miscast and horribly uninteresting. Williams may occasionally be an electrifying performer (and much of his dramatic work has shown a surprising depth to his abilities), but it is impossible to feel sympathy for his loud-mouthed creation, oscillating between off-putting over-acting and moments of stillness that merely draw undue attention to how weird and stretched his face looks nowadays. He is clearly supposed to be an angry Brooklyn archetype, a caricature he only occasionally remembers to play up to before reverting back to his standard persona in a performance as inconsistent as it is unconvincing.

Kunis here is a strange blank void (although she is capable of more, as demonstrated by her excellent turn in Aronofsky’s “Black Swan”) and it is hard to believe her as a stressed-out junkie junior doctor. This is partly because no matter how intense the situation she is always pristine, an immaculate porcelain doll, and partly because of the vapid look she has every time she has to deliver any sort of medical dialogue (when she asks “Do you know what a brain aneurism is?” with a weirdly blank expression on her face, it is almost impossible not to shout “Yes, but you clearly don’t” at the screen).

This almost feels like it was conceived as an warm-hearted PG-13 antidote to Bobcat Goldthwait’s similarly themed and under-appreciated “God Bless America”. But where the dialogue in that film was razor sharp and pierced the soul of our society while being intelligent enough to skewer it’s own hypocrisy, here the rants are trite cliche, banal mundanities littered with profanity masquerading as wit. Robin Williams saying the C-word with his buttcrack hanging out isn’t comedy, no matter how much the makers wish it were that easy.

A great deal of the dialogue is delivered in voice-over form by Williams and Kunis, with both sounding bored to death by the words coming from their mouths, half asleep and waiting to be jolted awake by a courier arriving with their paycheques. It is amazing that a film so short (clocking in at 83 minutes in total) can run out of steam so astonishingly early, as if the writers couldn’t think of any more for these characters to do. The runtime is gracelessly padded out by flashbacks that crudely spell out the plot points you need to look out for: “I wanted you to be a lawyer not a dancer, dammit…this will be important later…MORE SHOUTING”.

The lack of subtlety carries over into the music, which wouldn’t feel out of place in the soundtrack to a worthy “Lifetime” drama from the late 90s. Tiresomely jaunty, whimsical melodies let you know which scenes are supposed to be “comedic” before composer Mateo Messina starts clubbing you about the head with ham-fisted mawkishness during “emotional moments”, clearly, and perhaps rightly, not trusting in the material to do the job on it’s own.

The film does do a good job of capturing the diversity and bustle of the Brooklyn streets on occasion, although rarely when the main characters are in shot. This leaves you with the impression that whoever was in charge of the second unit cared a great deal more about the quality of their work than director Robinson did, particularly during the scenes where truly terrible green screen takes over from location shooting, completely undoing the drama of pivotal moments.

Ultimately “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn” has nothing to say, a film with no purpose. It fails comedically and dramatically by not committing to anything it does; ill-conceived, half-baked and thrown together with no care. If you are fond of Peter Dinklage and have a great deal of patience then you may get a kick from his work in the movie, but anyone else would do well to avoid this whole acrid misadventure.

Blue Ruin (2013)

Posted: May 31, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Drifter Dwight has retreated from life due to tragedy, living out his days stealing food from bins and sleeping in his disused car. When a kindly police officer informs him that his parent’s killer is to be released from prison, he snaps from his malaise and sets off on a journey that will have far reaching consequences.

Where many revenge thrillers are gleeful fantasies, “Blue Ruin” is sad, melancholy and, at times, almost tranquil. For long stretches the film is wordless and you are left to piece together the story from the actions of the main character and exposition delivered in brief snatches.

The violence that must come, as necessary to the story as the air these characters breathe, arrives in sudden explosions; unpleasant, palpable and with a genuine weight to it that most films can only dream of achieving. Punctuating this are genuine gut laughs, as the form of the genre is subverted; contorted away from fetishistic daydream toward maudlin and mundane reality. The perfect example of this arrives when our hero attempts some Rambo-esque field surgery on an arrow wound before the scene quickly cuts to him staggering into a hospital and collapsing in agony.

The direction is down to earth, as long languid takes emphasise the fact that this isn’t your typical revenge movie. The stylised flatness is a constant reminder that this film has no intention of descending into Hollywood hyperbole. The somber slow-burn pace is tinged with an innate wistfulness, which makes it all the more effective when Saunier masterfully ramps up the tension.

At the film’s centre is a wonderful turn from Macon Blair, returning from director Saulnier’s earlier film “Murder Party” (and those that have seen that film will appreciate exactly how much of a departure this is from that peformance). The camera is on him for the majority of the film’s runtime and he is a consistently enthralling and unusual presence. His Dwight is believably beaten, defeated by the tragedies that life has thrown at him; his big wide eyes, innocent puppy dog face and hangdog demeanour eliciting a never-ending stream of sympathy  as he plunges ever deeper into a dark world that is as alien to him as it is to the viewer.

Devin Ratray is also excellent as Dwight’s gun-nut old friend, a brief but immensely likeable cameo that lightens the mood and reminds you that Dwight was once just as normal as any of us before his world was blown apart. Ratray’s main claim to fame is his appearance as Kevin’s older brother Buzz in “Home Alone”, and based on the evidence here, he is not a child star who should be consigned to a “Where are they now?” clip-show. A moment toward the end of the film that could easily be dismissed as a kind of Deus Ex Machina is a trespass immediately forgiven, as you get the chance to spend a few more minutes with his boisterous character.

Director Jeremy Saulnier showed real promise with his first film, the likeable but flawed “Murder Party” and he largely delivers on it here, despite being hamstrung by an incredibly low budget. He gambled on himself, with what he couldn’t earn through a Kickstarter campaign coming chiefly from his own pocket, and beat the house at it’s own game. While small in scale, this is a film that packs a real punch, a quirky “Anti-Hollywood” picture that delivers as much bang for your buck as any blockbuster.

the dirties (2013)

Posted: April 17, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Two best friends are making a film for their high school media class; a dark comedy that sees them taking brutal revenge on a group of school bullies they dub the Dirties. When their film is rejected for being too violent, one of them jokingly suggests doing it all for real…

First time director Matt Johnson’s unique take on the school shooting genre is an incredibly assured debut from a real new talent. Presented documentary-style, the fly on the wall conceit takes us into the lives of these characters, letting us get to know them as people, subtly exploring their mindsets and focussing almost entirely on the journey to the inevitable conclusion rather than the event itself.

Johnson also takes the lead in this film, and is an electrifying presence as he straddles the line between charming sociopath and deluded, hyperactive child. At times incredibly annoying in his childishness, it is a testament to his performance than you end up not only sympathising with him, but feeling actual empathy. He is no monster, just a confused kid lashing out, someone who has lost sight of the borders between healthy fantasy and reality. It is all too easy to see how he got there, and still be charmed by him. Owen Williams gives a more naturalistic performance as his best friend, cowed by life as well as his showy, exuberant buddy, and is equally as effective, the emotional heart of the film without ever succumbing to trite pathos.

The interplay between the two is believably light and frothy, and we see all their silly plans and personal in-jokes. In another film film their behaviour would be the basis for broad comedy as they get up to typical misguided teen shenanigans, but here it is often difficult to laugh knowing where the film is going; serving as a melancholy reminder of the humanity of the characters. These are not the cold, troubled teens that the media tells us of, but laughing, joking buddies whose single-minded nerdiness has alienated them from their peers during that awkward period when children lie on the cusp of adulthood.

The documentary style is not the most dynamic way of telling a story, with “found footage” increasingly synonymous with low-quality and lazy film-making, but it becomes increasingly necessary as the film unfolds, perfectly playing into the theme of distancing yourself from reality. As the movie goes on the possibility begins to hang in the air that you are not watching a faux-documentary, but a fantasy, the characters seeing themselves through a non-existent lens, life feeling no more real to them than the plots of the films they devour. This ambiguity, the questioning of what is “reality”, takes it to another level, the film increasingly becoming a study of mental illness rather than a salacious reinterpretation of the similar terrible events that periodically dominate the news.

“The Dirties” may well draw comparisons with the similarly themed “Elephant”, but where that was a cold, heartless journey towards a final act, this is a warm film about how characters got to where they are. The somewhat abrupt conclusion sums up the differences between the two; rather than making hay from the brutality like Van Sant’s film, this culminates with a personal moment between the two leads, telling us everything about where they are as characters at that moment. While it does have many of the flaws that bedevil “found footage” films, Johnson has crafted a brave and intelligent film does well to rise above it’s low-budget limitations. It is a credit to the makers that this is as enjoyable a watch as it ultimately ends up being, while it is encouraging to find a movie from first time film-makers that tackles a controversial topic not with the intent of assigning blame or generating shock, but of promoting understanding and provoking thought.

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Princess Evie is deposed by the evil sorcerer Jerak, and now roams the wilds incognito. When she crosses paths with the famed swordsman Deathstalker, they join forces on a quest to reclaim her kingdom.

Although nominally a sequel to 1983 sword and sorcery cash-in “Deathstalker”, “Deathstalker 2: Duel of the Titans” couldn’t be much more different from it’s Conan rip-off big brother. While the original took itself incredibly seriously, the sequel is essentially a wild-eyed parody of that film, a scattergun spoof that never takes it’s tongue from it’s cheek.

Replacing Rick Hill, the meat-headed lunk who portrayed Deathstalker in the first movie, is John Terlesky, having an absolute whale of a time. He keeps the character’s nonchalant attitude, but turns him from brutish barbarian anti-hero into a wise-cracking rogue hiding a soft side, a sword wielding cross between Groucho Marx and Han Solo. His enthusiasm for the role is genuinely infectious, and his performance alone makes this by far the best film in the Deathstalker series.

Former Penthouse model Monique Gabrielle takes on the duel role of the deposed Princess as well as her evil doppelganger and she simply can’t act. Not even a little bit. Still, she is so innocent and charming that you really don’t care, and her lack of skills become part of the fun, whether it be staring blankly into her cheap knock-off crystal ball, hilariously attempting to channel the voice of the bad guy or angrily throwing objects at midget musicians.

The film was directed by B-movie stalwart Jim Wynorski, best known for the terrifically fun “Chopping Mall”. He also had a big hand in the script and is the man to thank for the film’s endearing light-heartedness. He knew exactly what type of film he was making and ramped up the campiness, striving to make everything as much fun as he could. Much like the ZAZ comedies of the time like “Airplane” and “The Naked Gun”, the film openly spoofs other movies by using their most famous scenes in an incongruous setting, with humorous nods to “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Goldfinger” and even “Rocky” as well as many more. It is one of these moments that provides the film’s only major bum note, an overlong parody of a pro-wrestling match that drags on interminably, an idea that may have seemed good at the time but doesn’t work in practice.

Although flawed, “Deathstalker 2” is a cheesy, campy, over-the-top spoof of itself, fully aware of it’s failings and all the better for it. It may be incredibly low-budget, and fairly badly made (look closely and you will find footage from the original “Deathstalker” filling up it’s runtime and even a parked car popping up in the background of one shot) with performances that often dip toward incredibly inept, but it is quite simply a ridiculous amount of fun, a real 80s B-movie treasure. Stick around for the end-credits out-takes too.

stagefright (2014)

Posted: April 8, 2014 in Uncategorized
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10 years after the murder of her actress mother, Camilla is working as a cook at a musical theatre camp for teens. When the decision is made for the campers to stage a revival of her mother’s last play, Camilla decides she wants to try out, but a mysterious figure seems hell bent on halting the production. 
 
“Stagefright” (not to be confused with the excellent 1987 Michele Soavi slasher movie of the same name) is a modestly budgeted light-hearted musical-horror written, directed and scored by first-timer Jerome Sable.
 
Although light in tone, “Stagefright” is more a film with a ridiculous concept played outrageously over-the-top than an actual comedy. It is a shame that more of the silliness couldn’t be translated into genuine humour, as although the film feels like it should be a comedy, it never really becomes one, despite raising the odd chuckle. 
 
The best realised aspect of the film is definitely the music. Sable clearly has a genuine affection for traditional musical theatre as well as an understanding of the medium, with one song in particular being a well constructed ode to the restorative power of showtunes that packs in references to musicals past in loving fashion. The songs used for the in-film musical are accurate pastiches of the form, although again, they are mostly played strangely straight, being more a reverential homage than parody. A rare exception is the film’s first big number, a high-school musical spoof that packs more laughs into it than the rest of the film combined, setting a tone that the film never quite lives up to. 
 
Although infrequent, the horror elements are quite well done when they do happen. A few of the murders are surprisingly graphic, particularly the early death of a cameoing Minnie Driver as Camilla’s mother. While a late surge in violence redresses the balance somewhat, the horror, like everything else, takes a back seat to the musical elements for too long, making this feel like an extra long episode of “Glee” with one or two gory moments and the occasional laugh, rather than the true genre hybrid it was intended to be.
 
“Stagefright” is a bizarre curio with a great, original idea, but it is too uneven in tone to  be truly satisfying and doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Credit must go to director Sable for at least trying to do something a little bit different in an era where taking chances is becoming increasingly rare, and the film does have moments where it delivers on it’s promise. It is a shame that it didn’t really come together, because no matter how much you genuinely want to like the film, when all is said and done it is a bit of a mess; a movie that tries to be several things without ever quite managing to be any.  
 

bad johnson (2014)

Posted: April 5, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Rich is a personal trainer who blames his inability to remain faithful on his penis. One day he wakes up and it’s gone, roaming the streets in human form.
 
“Bad Johnson” is a broad low-budget comedy directed by one of the writers of “The Last Exorcism”, Huck Botko. Botko’s previous experience behind the camera has mainly come in mock-documentary form, and, while it is hard to praise his work here, he is assured enough for someone helming their first proper movie. 
 
While the acting is uniformly bad right across the board, with actors seemingly cast because of mild resemblances to established stars delivering performances that would be shameful in a porn movie, the biggest issue here by far is the script. 
 
The basic idea is actually a lot of fun, perfect grist for a big dumb comedy movie. Sadly when writing this, first-timer Jeff Tetreault forgot to include anything that was actually funny, relying on the premise providing it’s own humour and hoping that the material could be elevated by an able cast. The jokes he did write are unsubtle, unfunny and charmless, leaning heavily at times on hideous racism. The end result is a sub-Farrelly brothers high concept gross-out sex comedy that forgot to include any gross-out moments, sex or comedy. 
 
“Bad Johnson” might have been an amusing three minute Youtube skit, or better left as a silly trailer for a non-existent film. As a full length feature it commits the cardinal sin of film-making: it is plain boring. You are left scratching your head and wondering how exactly you can take a concept as completely out-there as this one and make it brain-achingly, stultifyingly dull. This is the type of film where you spend the majority of the run time looking at your watch and calculating how long is left, while repeating to yourself “let it end, dear god please, let it end”.
 

lesson of the evil (2012)

Posted: April 1, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Hasumi is a teacher at an exclusive Japanese school, the Shinko Academy. Outwardly he seems the perfect educator, adored by students and fellow teachers alike, but he hides a dark side that puts those around him in grave danger. 
 
Takashi Miike is the very definition of a cult director, most well known for films that intentionally shock and polarise opinion but with a vast variety of genres under his belt. With around 90 films to his name he is never less than prolific, and “Lesson of the Evil” (“Aku no Kyoten”) sees him return to the horror genre for which Western audiences know him best.
 
Initially “Lesson of Evil” is a gripping thriller, a chilling character study played out at a leisurely pace. Hideaki Ito is excellent as Hasumi; charming, handsome and oozing charisma. The more we get under the skin of the character, the more frightening he becomes; Ito’s cold, dead eyes exposing his true nature and the terrifying boredom with the world that lies beneath his cheery facade. The battle of wits with the students and a teacher who suspect him that makes up much of the first hour of the film is brilliantly done, the tension building to nail-biting levels with Ito’s performance leaving you unsure who to root for, no matter what he does. 
 
A sudden turn around halfway through shows you just how far the character will go as the film leaves behind the trappings of a psychological thriller and devolves into a much more standard slasher film filled with an absolutely ludicrous amount of bloodshed. Miike ramps up the nastiness and even tosses in a bit of humour, perhaps to remind us that films are not meant to be taken seriously, especially when dealing with the extreme cinema that Miike specialises in. The violence is genuinely relentless, at times even monotonous as the film grinds on; a remorseless cavalcade of death. 
 
Miike introduces subtexts to justify the severe narrative turn, most obviously a message about not trusting figures of authority simply because they are in charge, no matter how charming or honest they may seem on the surface. Tied in with this is a fairly unsubtle anti-American sentiment, with the final-act slaughter taking place against a backdrop of casino style facades, a representation of the moon landing and, most tellingly, big bold letters stating that “The World is Yours”. The weapon of choice for the killer, a shotgun that talks to it’s wielder in a broad American accent, really hammers the message home; especially for a movie that comes from a country where gun-crime is so infrequent. 
 
As the film becomes more outrageous Miike also takes the opportunity to mock certain horror tropes, such as the current found footage fad and the enduring craze of sequels to films where all of the story has been told. While the violent turn does give Miike the opportunity to say things that he couldn’t in the more sedate confines of a character study, that doesn’t make it any easier to watch. There is always a rawness to the violence, a reality than borders on repetitiveness, that makes it extremely unpalatable. Although that was clearly Miike’s intent, many will think that he has finally gone too far given the identity of the victims and the cold-blooded remorseless nature of the slaughter. 
 
“Lesson of the Evil” may not be as graphic as some of Miike’s other films but it is ultimately as shockingly bad taste as anything he has served up. While nicely performed, stylishly shot and a spellbinding watch up there with Miike’s best work, it is still hard to recommend this film, as you really do need to be completely desensitised to cinematic violence to get past the fact that it is essentially a movie about a grown man arbitrarily murdering children. Those that can accept the unpleasantness of the premise will find one of Miike’s more effective films, and a rare example of him having something to say beyond his urge to shock. 
 

13 sins (2014)

Posted: March 30, 2014 in Uncategorized
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With a pregnant wife and mounting debt, a salesman finds himself in deep financial peril when he loses his job on the eve of his wedding. A mysterious phone-call from an anonymous caller provides a possible solution, as he is offered money to complete thirteen tasks.

“13 Sins” is a remake of the 2006 Thai film “13 Beloved” (also known as “13: Game of Death”), directed by “The Last Exorcism” helmer Daniel Stamm. This film follows the plot of the original fairly closely, but, as is typical of Hollywood remakes, what made that film truly distinct has been ironed out. Gone are the quirkiness and odd humour that flavoured the original, replaced with a more conventional tone and stream-lined narrative. The end result is a generic high concept thriller that is enjoyable enough but essentially empty and anodyne.

Much like the recent “Cheap Thrills” and 2012’s “Would You Rather?”, this film marries the increasingly over-used concept of a powerful protagonist putting the main character through a series of trials with a none too subtle subtext about the way the elite control the poor using money. Unlike many of the vast multitude of other films with similar premises, here there is no rationale behind the tasks our hero has to undertake beyond a thrown away line explaining that they want “to show that anyone can be turned into a monster”, a murky, muddled explanation symptomatic of the film’s lack of commitment to it’s concept.

It is the unsubtle attempt to tap into the “We Are The 99%” sentiment that most rankles, feeling like film-makers looking down their nose at a problem they consider zeitgeist rather than truly engaging with it. This film doesn’t even have the guts to follow through on it’s premise, settling for a vague (possibly papal) conspiracy and a resolution that seems to suggest that it’s ok to be poor and have a messed up life as long as you act out once in a while.

While “13 Sins” isn’t bad, nothing truly stands out. Twists are signposted, thrills undercooked; even for a remake this feels stale and derivitive. It’s enjoyable enough if you disengage your brain, but we’ve been here before and seen it all done far better many, many times.

 
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Paul (David Keith) is a sound engineer and bespoke hi-fi installer who finds himself under suspicion when a series of housewives are murdered in his sleepy Arizona hometown. 
 
Donald Cammell has long been a mystery, an elusive cinematic genius responsible for only four full length films before committing suicide in 1996. His feature debut was 1968’s “Performance”, a film that failed to find an audience upon release but has grown in stature to the point where it is considered one of the all-time classics of British cinema. It took nearly 10 years for him to produce another film and when it arrived, in the form of 1977’s “Demon Seed”, it was equally polarising, with a reputation that has again grown over time. 
 
After another 10 year break he returned with “White of the Eye” which this month gets a plush DVD re-release from Arrow Films, complete with never seen before footage and a host of extras. 
 
Cammell was always a director with real visual flair and “White of the Eye” looks stunning, making full use of it’s Arizona backdrop as sparse hills fill the screen, rolling on for miles against striking blue skies. At first the film seems to be a kind of redneck Giallo (a “Yella”?) taking obvious inspiration from the motifs that populate that genre, particularly those of legendary Italian filmmaker Dario Argento. An early murder scene plays out through point of view tracking shots, and a gloved killer smashes a beautiful woman’s head into a pane of glass in a direct nod to one of the Italian maestro’s trademarks. Several times the film explicitly recalls Argento’s “Tenebre” with recurring close-ups on a dilating eye, and even the title itself sounds exactly like the name of mid-70s Italian thriller.   
 
The film builds up a rich picture of the little town these characters inhabit, full of odd characters whose histories remain beguiling out of reach, the spotlight falling on them one-by-one like the line-up of suspects in a standard slasher whodunit. Little clues and red herrings litter shots, inviting you to participate in the mystery, a seeming adherence to a clear formula makes it all the more shocking when the film reveals it’s true colours. A powerfully low-key reveal snaps the film straight out of the trappings of a typical genre flick and leaves you with a feeling that any rule could be broken, a dangerous air replacing the previously gentle pace and offbeat quirkiness. 
 
From there on in the film becomes increasingly bizarre, openly mocking the cliches of slasher films, thrillers and even the Hollywood notion of a dynamite finale in a bravura final act that still manages to feel strangely intimate despite it’s gloriously self-aware excess. These characters may not know they are in a film but Cammell has made them strangely aware of the roles they must play, at once hopping on the genre bandwagon while blithely flicking a middle finger at the driver; ticking off conventions one by one because the TV in their head tells them to.  
 
David Keith is perhaps best known for his supporting role in “An Officer and a Gentleman” but has never been better than he is here. A charming, amiable presence for much of the film, there is always a hint of danger coursing through his performance as the flawed hero of the piece. Cathy Moriarty, an actress who could have been one of the biggest stars of the 80s but for a car accident that robbed her of her prime years, is equally good as his wife, a role that was her first in 6 years. Both handle the final third shift in tone admirably, particularly Keith, keeping their characters believable as the action becomes ever more outlandish.  

 
“White of the Eye” is a film that was always going to feel strangely out of time, and it remains difficult to pigeonhole. Not salacious or trashy enough to be considered typical late-80’s slasher fare, and not slick enough to sit among the mainstream thrillers of the day, it is clear this was a film never intended to simply fit in. It was a brave move to couch a psychological thriller in the trappings of genre cinema, potentially alienating both it’s target audiences, but Cammell was never a man for compromise. Rather than following a formula, Cammell matched a style then undercut it, crafting a film that takes real glee in setting your expectations then blowing them apart. Quirky, stylish and distinctive, “White of the Eye” is a long lost rough diamond just waiting to be rediscovered. 

cheap thrills (2013)

Posted: March 18, 2014 in Uncategorized
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An eviction notice hanging over his head, newly unemployed family man Craig heads to a bar to drown his sorrows. There he bumps into an old friend and two strangers, a rich couple willing to give them money to take part in outrageous dares.

The full length directorial debut of E.L. Katz, “Cheap Thrills” is a horror/comedy that has been attracting a lot of attention at film festivals and will see a wider release later this year.

Essentially nothing more than a charmless and cobbled together extrapolation of Quentin Tarantino’s segment of the film “Four Rooms”, it soon becomes clear that no deeper thought went into this beyond raising the stakes of that premise. The only real highlight is the section most clearly inspired by that film (and the original Roald Dahl story on which it is based), a brief upturn that not only betrays it’s origins but also illustrates how poorly executed the rest of the film is.

“Cheap Thrills” may be nasty in tone but it still manages to be incredibly dull in execution; playing out like a kitchen sink drama that becomes increasingly horrific, with neither element done well enough to be satisfying. This is a film that tries hard to shock, but even at it’s most outrageous it still feels tepid. Alongside it’s underwhelming attempts at horror are overwrought drama and unfunny humour, constantly grating on your sensibilities like nails on a chalkboard.

It may have been possible to be more forgiving of the film’s flaws if the characters involved were likeable or in any way believable, if you cared about their predicament or empathised with their situation. Instead they evoke no sympathy or interest, especially as the plot becomes increasingly contrived and their behaviour ever more idiotic.

It is hard to know who this misfire was aimed at; it isn’t funny, scary, thought-provoking or even especially gory. Most damningly, “Cheap Thrills”, for all it’s desire to be provocative, is simply dull. A far greater torture than the acts these characters commit for money, would have been forcing them to sit through the full length of this mean-spirited and predictable movie.