Tuesday, 26 July 2016


"Rebirth" (2016, Karl Mueller, Netflix) is a film about peer pressure and the dangers of self-help groups.

Kyle (Fran Kranz) is a guy trying to live the American dream. He has a wife and a kid and a white collar job and spends his evenings going to through the same routines. Every day is the same and he feels a nagging feeling of unfulfilled potential. But in the main, he has a beautiful family and a beautiful home and what more could a guy want?

Kyle's everyday life is soon turned upside down, however, when his old college friend, Zack (Adam Goldberg) shows up at his office looking and acting every inch the free spirit he was in college. Intrigued, Kyle agrees to join Zack on a weekend self-help retreat called "Rebirth" which Zack maintains is the key to self discovery and enlightenment.

When he gets there Kyle finds the experience to be somewhat different to his expectations and he becomes lost in a maze of confusing situations, emotions and rooms as he tries to make sense of it all. But his terrifying ordeal may not simply end when he finally escapes the labyrinth as although you are free to leave "Rebirth" at anytime...."Rebirth" may not leave you....

I like Fran Kranz. I've mentioned this before. I think he's a talented actor and it's just a bonus that he's also cute. This film has flaws, but one thing really shines through and that's Kyle's palpable frustration and terror. He feels like he's missing some big joke and everyone is in on it except him and his awkward attempts to join in to the 'big group' are almost hard to watch. He's a dull, normal, everyday guy and he doesn't want to be the protagonist. I feel for the guy.

Nicky Whelan, however, steals the show as the mysterious, sophisticated and cold Naomi.

I have met people who are involved in something I'd consider along the same lines as "Rebirth" as an organisation. They live the brand, they breathe the brand, they wear the brand, they drink the brand, they eat the brand and they only talk about the brand. They're so indoctrinated into their organisation's influence that it's honestly scary. And while this film pokes fun at organisations like the one I'm thinking of, it also makes a hard hitting statement: everyone thinks they need this. Everyone thinks they're doing something wrong and that they could achieve more, all they need is for some nice, easy, secret potion to make everything fall into place. And that potion's price is not so important if it's shiny enough...

The film is really slow to start and I did find myself thinking about giving up, but once it got going it was interesting enough. Almost everyone in the film is an asshole. And the underlying tone that everything is a big sham but no one is willing to say it is pretty haunting. But all in all the film feels a little under produced and something felt missing, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Whilst it's not exactly a ground breaking film, I did enjoy it and felt some things about it ponder at the back of my mind over the course of the following day, which I appreciated.

[Image: Netflix]

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The Incredible Shrinking Man

"The Incredible Shrinking Man" (1957, Jack Arnold, Universal International) is a classic 50s sci-fi film based on the book and screenplay by Richard Matheson.

Scott Carey (Grant Williams) and his wife, Louise (Randy Stuart), were enjoying a short holiday on his brother's boat when a strange mist engulfed their vessel. Luckily for Louise, she was inside the boat at the time, but Scott was completely covered. Some months later he notices that he is losing weight and height and that none of his clothes are fitting him!

Doctors find a possible cure which seem to halt Scott's decrease for a time, but soon he begins to shrink again! As well as affecting his relationship with his wife and drawing a lot of unwanted attention from the media, Scott also soon learns that the home can be a dangerous place when you are the size of a borrower!

A surprisingly emotional film with good dialogue, sympathetic characters and amazing effects for the time! I felt completely drawn in to the action and could easily believe that Williams was truly shrunk. The action scenes with the cat and the spider are truly inspired.

I love a good classic sci-fi horror, but am more than aware of some pretty terrible films from the era. "The Incredible Shrinking Man", however, is not one of these. The film still stands well today and is extremely watchable.

The outlandish subject matter does have some glaring flaws: how would a doctor make the connection so easily between the shrinking symptoms and their cause? But the film remains surprisingly provocative and thoughtful, with a haunting ending.

Although the film makes fun use of props and proportions to enhance the physical impact upon our protagonist, it actually maintains quite a cerebral subject matter, focusing more on the psychology of this change. A quite disturbing film.

[Image: Universal International]

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977)

"The Island of Dr. Moreau" (1977, Don Taylor, American International Pictures) is one of the film adaptations of H.G. Wells' famous novel.

Andrew Braddock (Michael York) survives a shipwreck and eventually lands on an unknown island after 17 days at sea. He finds himself the welcomed guest of honour at the island's leader's house, that of Dr. Moreau (Burt Lancaster); a mysterious and unusual scientist who has been living on the island for some time.

Moreau is joined by a mercenary called Montgomery (Nigel Davenport) who serves Moreau as his associate, but does not like the man, and a beautiful young woman called Maria (Barbara Carrera). There are natives on the island, too, who are very odd-looking, they almost do not look like men at all. Moreau's personal servant is one such native called M'Ling (Nick Cravat).

Braddock becomes intrigued by Moreau's experiments and learns, to his horror, that the 'natives' are not in fact human at all, but man-beasts: the results of Moreau's twisted experiments to make humans from wild animals....

Although key aspects of the story were changed for the screen, and Moreau's experiments lose some of their shocking awfulness by being entirely serum based, instead of part vivisection, the film still packs a cold, dreadful punch.

Michael York is always so upstanding and polite. His portrayal of Braddock is good, however, and his anguish is quite disturbing. Lancaster portrays an excellent Moreau. His menacing intellect and his obsessive control over the island are unsettling. The makeup and effects are really impressive, but then, John Chambers was the makeup designer (Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, and other such impressive credits) so it could not be anything but.

It's a relatively tame flick, considering the subject matter, but this is in most part due to the era in which it was made. But it is still an enjoyable film with some solid performances, but not as much mystery as I would like.

[Image: American International Pictures]

Sunday, 10 July 2016

The Cell

"The Cell" (2000, Tarsem Singh, RadicalMedia, New Line Cinema) is a psychological horror about the mind of a serial killer.

Catherine (Jennifer Lopez) is a child psychologist who is on a team leading the way in a new, experimental treatment for coma patients using virtual reality and mind-connecting. She is brought in on a case with a deranged serial killer (Vincent D'Onofrio) when he goes into a coma before the FBI could find out the location of his most recent victim. Catherine and FBI agent, Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn), are in a race against time to save the girl before it's too late. But can Catherine survive being inside the mind of the killer?

I did not know what to expect going into this film but I have to say it actually performs quite well. Lopez gives a relatively good performance as the concerned dr and as the kick ass virtual lady. And it was strange to see Vince Vaughn in a serious role, but his obsessive, desperate FBI agent character came across quite well.

The effects are beginning to look a little too over-processed in comparison to today's effects, but still give a good virtual impact. The makeup and costumes are really spectacular as well. The virtual reality dreamscapes really do look very freaky too, but it's the subject matter that really make this film interesting. D'Onofrio really gives an excellent portrayal of the killer. His sexual perversions and fetishes are disturbing, but it's the cold, calculating and yet nervous nature of the character that are truly scary. He knows he's a monster, but he can't help himself, and worse, he thinks he's entitled to be considering his past...

An intriguing, surrealist sci-fi with music video-esque aesthetics.

[Image: RadicalMedia]


The Old Dark House (1963)

"The Old Dark House" (1963, William Castle, William Castle-Hammer, Columbia Pictures) is a horror-comedy remake of a film of the same name from 1932 and is based on a novel by J.B. Priestley.

Tom Penderel (Tom Poston) is an American car-salesman working and living in London. He is flat-sharing with an eccentric, rich fellow called Casper Femm (Peter Bull) and is invited by Casper to see his family's mansion and deliver his new car there. When he reaches the house he discovers that his friend is dead and that Casper's family will not let him leave the house. They reveal that all Femm family members must be present at the mansion each night by midnight or else they will forfeit their share of the family fortune. Penderel is not initially too concerned until it seems that someone in the house is hell-bent on keeping the full Femm fortune for just themselves, and they won't let anyone stand in their way!

A cheesy, fun, Castle film with a cast of weird and unusual characters (played by some iconic faces) and a divinely dilapidated setting. It's silly and hammy and contains ridiculous fight scenes. And it is good fun.

While it is extremely dated not just in styling, but in humour, the film is still very enjoyable and worth checking out.

[Image: Columbia Pictures, et al]

Thursday, 7 July 2016


"Christine" (1983, John Carpenter, Columbia Pictures, Delphi Premier Productions, Polar Film) is the film adaptation of Stephen King's novel, "Christine".

I'm on a bit of a John Carpenter kick.

Christine is a sentient 1978 Plymouth Fury car. She's furious and out for blood. Anyone's blood. She is purchased by Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon), an unpopular nerdy teen who plans to bring her back to her former glory. Christine is grateful to him. She just likes to show her gratitude in strange ways.... like attempting to murder Arnie's best friend, or his class bullies... Or, well, anyone really. Arnie becomes obsessed with his new metal lady-love and cannot look away.

Although I enjoyed the book and I am a fan of Carpenter's films, I'll admit to being a little bored with this film after a while. The car is pretty and the music is superb, but in the main there's only so much fear that can be derived from an angry killer car with a sarcastic stereo. The action, naturally, becomes very same-y and the film suffers for that in my opinion.

[Image: Columbia Pictures]

Monday, 4 July 2016

The Thing (1982)

"The Thing" aka "John Carpenter's The Thing" (1982, John Carpenter, Turman-Foster Company, Universal Pictures) is one of the most defining and masterful pieces from genre great, John Carpenter. I'm a Carpenter fan, but "The Thing" really stands out as one of his finest films. It's also one of my favourite sci-fi films which comfortably straddles the worlds of horror and science fiction.

Based in the Antarctic, a group of American researchers are disrupted by an apparently crazed Norwegian helicopter chasing after and shooting at a dog. The dog is saved, but the Norwegian gentlemen and their chopper are not so lucky. The crew of Americans are shaken, but put the dog along with their own and decide to investigate the Norwegian camp. They send their own 'copter pilot, Macready (Kurt Russell), and camp Doctor, Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart), over to find out what they can but all they find is the burnt remains of the Norwegian camp, some research and a grotesquely misshapen corpse.

Their troubles really begin, however, when they return back to their own base to find that the creature they saved is not in fact a dog and that this Thing is now amongst them....

An intense and well crafted sci-fi mystery with a good cast of three-dimensional characters and some truly disturbing effects (which still stand up today). The plot keeps moving along at a good pace as our team begin to unravel, each suspecting that he is alone amongst imposters. It's a good character study on the human mind's reaction to fight or flight survival. The character banter-turned-bickering really helps hammer home the change in team dynamic, too.

I'll just put my hands up now and admit how much I like Kurt Russell: he is one of my favourite actors. It helps, of course, that he was as handsome as hell in this film, but he really is one talented and very cool guy. Macready loses his shit along with the rest of his camp-mates, but he does it with style and a big hat, and you have to respect that.

"The Thing" remains a disturbing film and, as much as special effects have developed and changed over the years, this film still holds its own and churns the stomach. But it's more than just the effects. "The Thing" creates a tense and uncomfortable atmosphere that draws the viewer in to the camp where the danger isn't just the lurking creature, but the other frightened humans ready to murder each other to survive.

[Image: Turman-Foster Company, Universal Pictures]
Sure, I could have chosen a monster-pic.... But Kurt Russell just seemed like the right choice to me...
Ok... Here's a monster pic too for good measure: