Happy Death Day 2 U Review

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If the third film in this series isn’t going to be called Squashed Bananas and Stew, I’m going to be very disappointed.

The original Happy Death Day had a pretty novel idea; the Groundhog Day plot is nothing new, but Happy Death Day kept it interesting by combining it with a murder mystery, where student Tree (Jessica Rothe) is murdered by a masked killer on her birthday, and then relives that same birthday, each death creating a new loop until she solves the case. So too is this the plot of the sequel.

Yes, Happy Death Day 2 U does commit one of the most annoying sins of a sequel: repeating the story of the first because it worked the first time. It also commits a terrible sin of horror movie sequels and explains the bizarre events of the first film. That said, this explanation does add a little wrinkle to the film’s plot that makes it worth a watch.

The film not only pays tribute to Groundhog Day, but has a little of It’s A Wonderful Life too, where Tree is teleported into another dimension and though her boyfriend Carter (Israel Broussard) is with another woman, Tree is overjoyed to see her mother still alive, which leads to some effectively emotional scenes. Not only does Tree have another mystery to solve, she must also make the difficult decision whether to stay in this new dimension or return to her own.

That plot is pulled off extremely well, mostly thanks to Rothe’s acting. One really feels Tree’s confusion and frustration. That, combined with some excellent jokes and interactions mean that, while Happy Death Day 2 U may feel somewhat repetitive, it is still worth a watch.

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Escape Room Review

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Well, Sony last year released a Venom movie without Spider-man. This year, they released a Riddler movie without Batman.

I joke, but when watching Escape Room, one will spend most of the runtime thinking about how similar it is to other movies. Saw is an obvious choice for comparison, but you might also find similarities to The Game, the creepypasta No-End House and even Charlie and the Chocolate Factory given how we have flawed characters tour a bizarre building with rooms and traps catered specifically to them.

That said, sometimes clichés are overused for a reason, and Escape Room does keep one’s interest by creating some interestingly surreal rooms for the characters to solve. Indeed, the main reason to keep watching is to see what twisted backdrop for the puzzles will be coming next. It really does give the sense that the characters have entered a new world without going into overtly supernatural territory.

This rooms would probably be more interesting if the characters trying to escape were. Other than student Zoey (Taylor Russell), I couldn’t really bring myself to care about any of the characters, despite their backstories. A lot of the movie is them conversing and arguing over what the right solution is, and you’d probably have more fun watching someone play a video game. When the mastermind is revealed, it, again, is really nothing you haven’t seen before with characters like Edward Nigma. Escape Room is a decent film, but nothing that hasn’t been done better.

The Nun Review

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The Nun, the latest film spun off from 2013’s The Conjuring, certainly seems to have an appreciation for the classical elements of the horror genre. Several scenes take place in a fog-shrouded graveyard with constant shots of crows perching, the very place you’d expect Scooby Doo to sneak around in. The opening scene includes a door that leads to a dark abyss, doors opening by themselves, candles going out and upside-down crosses, all the types of things you’d expect to find in a theme park haunted house, and these things only get more frequent as the film continues.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and The Nun could have been a frightening and fun film even with these clichés, but sadly, the clichés are made even more stale by attaching them to a dull and lifeless story that makes an hour and a half seem like an eternity.  The two main characters – priest Father Burke (Demian Bichir) and training nun Irene (Taissa Farmiga) – are played well enough, but there isn’t really anything that interesting about them. Burke is similar to The Exorcist’s Lankester Merrin – an exorcist battling his own demons – but never comes off as engaging nor are the demons he faces as frightening as Pazuzu. The demonic nuns, who bear more than a passing resemblance to Kurt Barlow from the Salem’s Lot miniseries, are more laughable than terrifying.

A good horror film should have you hiding under the seat, hoping the terror will pass and that the main characters will survive. The Conjuring franchise can create a movie like this, as last year’s Annabelle Creation proved, but watching The Nun, you’ll just wish it’ll end.

Ghost Stories Review

It has been argued that the best format for a horror story is a short story, because then the horror is delivered to you in one sitting. So that is perhaps why not only do we see a lot of horror short story anthologies on our bookshelves, we see them on the screen as well. It’s why we have Tales from the Crypt, Creepshow and Trick r TreatGhost Stories, brought to us by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson adapting their stage show of the same name, follows this format, though there is something bigger beneath the stories it tells.

Professor Phillip Goodman (Nyman) has been exposing so-called psychics and debunking the paranormal, but then he is sent to investigate three people who claim to have had genuine interactions with the supernatural. A former night watchman (Paul Whitehouse) who encounters a spectre on his shift, a young man (Alex Lawther) who has a nasty surprise while driving without a license and a man (Martin Freeman) haunted while awaiting his child’s arrival.

The stories themselves are very suspenseful and well-told, utilising the classic horror tropes marvellously. It truly does feel like classic British horror – it may even be familiar to those who have read or seen Whistle and I’ll Come to You. The film really gets interesting after the stories are told, and Phillip sees that things might not truly be as they seem. Actual places are turned into paper backdrops, an unseen baby eating dog food…it truly feels like a nightmare.

If you enjoy British horror, anthology horror, or well, horror in general, this is a fine film to watch.

(The original version of this review had spoilers but I made it less spoilery as per Andy Nyman’s wishes)

Six Terrifying Versions of Humpty Dumpty

Easter is just around the corner, and when you think of that time of year, what comes to mind? Bunnies. Chickens. Daffodils and sunshine and of course, eggs. When you think of eggs in a whimsical, fairy-tale setting, the story of Humpty Dumpty is bound to come to mind. It’s a poem that’s only four lines long, and yet has become a massive, instantly-recognisable pop culture icon.

It also is one of those things from your childhood that can come off as a bit creepy when you think about it as an adult. A children’s poem, a nursery rhyme that revolves around a sentient creature being smashed to pieces, unable to be reassembled. Several writers and artists have noticed that too, and have created their own versions of Humpty Dumpty that err more towards horror than humour. These are just a few of those versions:

Smarties Mini Eggs

Well, okay, this isn’t exactly what you’d call horror, and is an advertisement for children’s snacks, but there is something, well, rotten about this advert. Here, Humpty’s fall was no accident. He was sitting on the wall, minding his own business, when he gets spooked by a Mini Egg, causing him to plummet. Adding insult to injury, as he’s being carried away on a stretcher, the Mini Eggs laugh sadistically, even calling out “omelette”. The nice pastoral backdrop only makes this malicious act all the worse.

McFarlane’s Action Figure

This “Twisted Fairy Tales” figure is definitely not one for the squeamish; here’s a link if your stomach is strong enough. It hasn’t gone unnoticed that the rhyme never actually says that Humpty was an egg (not even by yours truly) and that’s the direction this action figure takes. This Humpty is one of flesh and blood, not shell and albumen, and that’s fully revealed to us here. However, even with all these disgusting details, even with all the stitches and blood and worms, the most noticeable thing about this character is his cute little propeller beanie.

TurboTax

If you ever wondered what Humpty would be like if he existed in real life, this might give you an idea. I must say, however, that the “king’s men” anachronistically existing alongside helicopters and televisions make this a very surreal take on the rhyme. Unlike most versions, Humpty is put back together but you still feel bad for his predicament here, especially given that he’s fully conscious while broken in pieces. When he says “everything hurts”, you believe it.

WC Field’s Version

The most famous appearance of Humpty outside the rhyme was Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, and while he was arrogant there, it wasn’t exactly what you would call frightening. The same can’t be said for his appearance in 1933’s Alice in Wonderland, where he was played by none other than WC Fields. A giant rubber-faced egg with beady eyes and a gigantic smile that could rival that of the Cheshire Cat. It’s a wonder Alice stayed to chat.

The Big Over Easy

This is a spin-off of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, and like that series, features several characters from literature interacting with each other and satirising the very nature of fiction itself, with “Amazing Crime Stories” being a true crime magazine that wants to outlaw bodies being discovered by people walking their dogs. This is a murder mystery about the circumstances of Humpty’s fall, where it might have been more than just the fall that killed him and he might not have been such a good egg after all. Not only does Humpty appear, but the case is being investigated by Jack Spratt and Mary Mary, with Solomon Grundy as a suspect and Wee Willie Winkie as another victim. It’s an interesting and entertaining read, as is its sequel.

Kinder

When one thinks of “creepy Humpty Dumpty” this is most likely the first thing that came to mind. Certainly one of the most infamous renditions of the character, with him almost always coming up in discussions about unintentionally-disturbing children’s TV. He has the same beady eyes and wide smile as Fields’, but it’s even worse here. Like McFarlane’s, is a creature made of flesh, but is terrifying without resorting to excessive gore. A giant talking egg in the real world would be a frightening sight and this just proves it.

Unsane Review

Includes spoilers

That’s right, I’m using that warning instead of “may include spoilers” because the first thing I’m going to talk about regarding Unsane is the ending, or rather, what the ending isn’t. Unsane is the story of Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) looking for help regarding a man who is stalking her and ending up involuntarily committed to a mental institution. Now, this set-up led me to think ‘Oh no, is it going to turn out she really is insane like in Shutter Island and The Ward?’ Such a “twist” would especially be egregious considering the film was about something as serious as stalking.

Thankfully, “Sawyer is crazy” is not the twist of the film, but what the stalker, David (Joshua Leonard) wants everyone to believe. When Sawyer is taken to the institution, she sees that one of the doctors is her stalker giving himself a different name, but no matter how much she yells, no-one at the institution believes her.

Unsane can be rather hard to watch. It acknowledges the clichés of asylum-set horror flicks and makes sure to push them aside to create a truly terrifying story of a woman trapped in a frightening situation. The institution feels oppressive and David is a chilling villain so this horror film is an horrific one, where you fear for Sawyer’s safety.

Upon hearing the title and synopsis of Unsane, you might think it to be another dull horror flick set in an asylum, but it really is a chilling, thrilling watch.

Top Ten Movies I Reviewed in 2017

10
Logan

A fitting end to the character of Wolverine, at least until his inevitable introduction into the MCU.

9
Better Watch Out

Surprisingly clever film which will make good viewing for those who seek something other than saccharine holiday fare.

8
It

Proof that horror remakes are not always unnecessary, and has a lot of fun with its monster.

7
Split

Thrilling and suspenseful with a surprising and satisfying twist, but worth watching just for McAvoy.

6
Spider-Man Homecoming

While not the best superhero or Marvel-related release this year, this was still enjoyable and had a great performance from Michael Keaton.

5
The Lego Batman Movie

A tonne of fun and a barrel of laughs, it’s strange that a Lego movie is a better 2017 Batman movie than a live-action Justice League.

4
A Monster Calls

Not only has some interesting visuals but a heartfelt story as well.

3
Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot was one of the best parts of Batman v Superman and shines even more in the best DCEU film yet (or ever, it might seem).

2
Baby Driver

Hilarious, exciting and makes good use of music.

1
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Speaking of a film that makes good use of music, this is a film you could watch again and again, filled with great comedy, action and even emotion.