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.

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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)

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.

 

Halloween Review: The Addams Family

What are you planning on doing this Halloween? You may be too old for trick-or-treating, and you may not be in the mood for a party, but the best way to spend Halloween is watching a fun spooky movie or binge-watching a fun spooky TV show. If you want a TV show or a movie to get you in the Halloween mood, you could certainly do worse than The Addams Family.

Based on characters created by Charles Addams for a series of cartoons in The New Yorker, The Addams Family hit TV screens in 1964, running until 1966. The characters were nameless in the cartoons, but the TV show was when they became known as Gomez, Morticia etc. (One suggested name for Pugsley was Puberty, which would later be the name of the Addams’s third child in Addams Family Values). A family with bizarre tastes, living in a Gothic mansion with a torture room playroom, a lion as a pet and a zombie-esque creature as a butler. Yet despite their quirks, the characters remained strangely likeable.

True, there are some elements of the TV show that are pretty dated. When a robot assistant is made for Lurch, the robot is “played” by Forbidden Planet‘s Robbie, and the Addams even have a big B-Movie sci-fi computer. Though an episode featuring said computer – where Gomez runs for mayor – is strangely relevant today, given that Gomez learns in order to defeat a sneaky, underhanded politician, he has to be sneaky and underhanded himself, and people are willing to vote for Gomez because he makes ridiculous promises and politicians are known not to keep promises.

Still, the show is pretty easy to binge, given the zippy pace of most episodes, the simple and easy-to-follow stories and how much they actually managed to get out of the characters. It can be seen as something of a one-joke premise – they’re weird and everyone isn’t – but they’re so well-acted, so many jokes still land. Lisa Loring’s Wednesday isn’t as sardonic as her movie counterpart, but still makes some twisted lines work; a guest jokes that the Addamses might have Satan over for dinner, and Wednesday says ‘No, that was last week’ like it was the most normal thing in the world. John Astin’s Gomez perfectly mixes eccentricities with a romantic and fatherly nature (Astin would reprise the Gomez role twice, once for a Scooby-Doo crossover and again for an animated series based on the movies).

Another highlight is Ted Kassidy as butler Lurch. Lurch was originally a mute character, but Kassidy’s ad-libbed ‘You rang?’ went over so well, Lurch got more lines. Episodes with Lurch as the focus are some of the funniest, with Kassidy doing so much with so few lines. An episode has Gomez and Morticia wanting to sell Lurch’s prized harpsichord to a museum, with Lurch’s response to the plan being ‘I quit.’ Then Gomez and Fester build a new harpsichord for Lurch to have, planning for the delivery men to take the real one on Lurch’s day off. The delivery men arrive a day early and when they explain what they’re here to do, Lurch let’s out a brilliant ‘Betrayed!’

It may be old but the 1964 Addams Family show is still a lot of fun to watch, as are the later movies The Addams Family and Addams Family Values.

Charles Addams’s original cartoons were a little darker than the TV show, and so is 1991’s The Addams Family, actually recreating some of the cartoons, like the Addamses pouring boiling oil on the carol singers at the beginning. The house is a lot more sinister-looking than back in 1964, and even personified, with a gate that acts as a guard dog and books that can conjure up storms. The implication with Thing originally seemed to be he was a creature we only saw part of, but here, he’s an actual disembodied hand.

In this, Fester (who, while Morticia’s uncle in the TV show, is Gomez’s brother here, a change that helps the characters have a greater connection) has been missing for years after a disagreement between him and Gomez. However, a man named Gordon (Christopher Lloyd), who has a stunning resemblance to Fester, shows up at the mansion, pretending to be Fester to help his criminal mother find the Addams fortune. The plot is a rather typical one for a family movie, but it remains interesting, thanks to Lloyd’s performance as both Gordon and Fester.

Another highlight is Christina Ricci as Wednesday, a humorously macabre and quotable character. However, all of the family get their chance to shine, with Morticia reading fairy tales to children and making them think about the pain the villains went through, and Gomez’s inquiry to a call-in show.

The Addams Family is an enjoyable movie, but Addams Family Values is even better. One reason this is is because two of the best actors from the first film – Lloyd and Ricci are given a bit more to do. The film features the birth of a third child in the Addams family – Puberty – and after that, Fester falls for Debbie (Joan Cusack), a Black Widow murderer who wants to kill Fester and take his money, reckoning without his apparent indestructibility. Cusack is another enjoyable performance, a character just as deranged as the Addamses but in a different way.

This also features Wednesday and Pugsley being sent off to summer camp, which is where most of the highlights of the film happen. Of course, carnage happens when they come there, but you better believe the camp deserved it.

So be it movie or TV programme, what better way to spend Halloween than with the ooky, kooky family?

The Mummy Review

Universal has planned a “Dark Universe”, a series of interconnected movies about the studio’s famous monsters. It not only feels like an attempt to cash in on Marvel’s success, it feels something of a late entry. There have been so many crossovers of creepy creatures from legend and literature already, Dracula and Frankenstein have met each other in countless books, movies, comics and even cereal adverts. It thus seems unlikely the Dark Universe will have anything really new to bring to the table, especially if The Mummy is any indication.

I actually would hesitate to call this year’s The Mummy a remake of either the 1932 or 1999 films of the same name – the titular mummy here is not Imhotep but Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) – but there isn’t really anything here that hasn’t been done before and better. Not only does it do things the previous Mummy movies did better, it makes use of a technique that was stronger in An American Werewolf in London.

Tom Cruise plays Nick Morten, who accidentally uncovers Ahmanet’s tomb and ends up cursed by her, allowing her to invade his mind. She plans to use him as a vessel to bring the god Set to Earth, yet Mark wasn’t really a character I could care about. 1999’s The Mummy was no less silly but Brendan Fraser was actually likeable and got in some fun banter with the other characters. There’s sadly little of that here.

Boutella’s performance as Ahmanet is actually successfully seductive and sinister, and the film is probably worth a watch for her alone. Another notable performance is Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll (and Mr. Hyde; having both is the only thing this universe has done better than Penny Dreadful so far). It made me want to see him play the role in an actual adaptation of Stevenson’s novel, so that is one area this film made me want to see more.

The Mummy is a flawed film and offers little new, but it’s not a total waste of time.