Thursday, 18 August 2016

Before I Wake

“Before I wake” (2016, Mike Flanagan, Intrepid Pictures, Demarest Films, MICA Entertainment, Relativity Media) is an innovative film about the dangers of having your dreams come true and the imaginative resilience of children.

Jessie (Kate Bosworth) and Mark (Thomas Jane) are absolutely devastated after their son Sean (Antonio Evan Romero) tragically dies. After some time, they decide to adopt a young boy called Cody (Jacob Tremblay) who is the same age as Sean would be: 8. 

Cody is a polite and pleasant child whose mother died when he was only 3. However, Cody does not like to sleep, and Jessie and Mark are surprised to find out why. You see, when Cody dreams, his dreams become temporarily corporeal in the real world. Jessie begins to take advantage of this skill, but they all soon learn the downside when they meet up with one of Cody's recurring nightmares. And Cody's nightmares can kill...

This film has a lot going for it. Jacob Tremblay gives a fantastic performance as the haunted young Cody and both Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane create realistic and relateable parents. Jessie is consumed with her guilt and pain over the loss of her son, but Mark is determined to make the most of the new opportunity that Cody has given them, and his scenes are frankly adorable. 

The premise is so imaginative and beautifully realised with stunning imagery and a haunting premise. The monstrous nightmare creature is also very different and very creepy. The design of the creature is creative. I love the way it moves. The twists and turns in the plot were good, I found myself thinking about the film quite a lot later on. There are admittedly some leaps in reality at the end of the film, but the full movie comes together nicely. 

Director, Mike Flanagan, was also behind "Occulus", another film I found innovative and haunting to watch. I think we'll be seeing some more from Mr. Flanagan in the future. 

Suspenseful and creative, this film was refreshing viewing. 

[Image: Intrepid Pictures]

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The Other Side of the Door

“The Other Side of the Door” (2016, Johannes Roberts, 42, Kriti Productions, TSG Entertainment) is a British-Indian supernatural horror about a family tragedy, the powers of grief and not doing what you’re told.

Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Michael (Jeremy Sisto) love their trip to India so much that they decide to stay there and start a family. They enjoy a life there for some time, until tragedy strikes and Maria is forced to choose to save one of her two children after a terrible accident. She saves her youngest child, daughter Lucy (Sofia Rosinsky) and cannot get back in time to save her eldest son, Oliver (Logan Creran).

Grief-stricken and guilt ridden, Maria is distant and suicidal. Her housekeeper, Piki (Suchitra Pillai-Malik) offers Maria a chance to speak to Oliver one last time at an abandoned temple, infamous for sitting on the line between the living and the dead. Maria leaps at the chance to tell her son how sorry she is, but she cannot resist the urge to do the one thing Piki warned her not to; she opens the door…

The premise is really good, standard horror fayre, but this film just doesn’t deliver. The styling is very J-horror and feels odd in the Indian setting. And the ‘evil’ ghost of the son is just too literal. But the main issue is just the plot-by-numbers style of storytelling and the fact that the story is based in India and features only one main Indian character. 

Our protagonist, Maria, is a massive pain in the ass who’s moved to India and had children there and hasn’t bothered to learn the language, make friends and even raise her children to understand the local culture. Other than using some Hindu mythology within the story, they might as well have set this film anywhere else.

Anyway, the ghosts are fun, but the jump scares are too obvious and used over-liberally and Maria doesn’t seem to react to the ghosts in the normal way. I get thinking you have your kid back and reading him bedtime stories, but when a creepy-ass ghost creature starts following you, I doubt you’d stand there staring at it….

The film just wasn’t as refined as the story deserved and came across as a cheap knockoff J-horror rather than something new. 

There were certainly good elements, but as a whole the film didn't quite hit the spot. 

[Image: Kitri Productions, et al]


Thursday, 4 August 2016

The Conjuring 2

"The Conjuring 2" (2016, James Wan, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures) is the sequel to the 2013 film and centres around paranormal hunters, The Warrens, as they try to help the family infamously tormented by the haunting in the Enfield council houses in London.

Set in the 70s,  Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) travel to London to help the Hodgson family who believe that their home is occupied by a malevolent entity, which is probably the previous owner of the house, Mr. Wilkins. The Warrens try to help, but Lorraine is troubled by a vision she had seen at a previous investigation.

The Hodgson children and their mother, Peggy, witness some paranormal occurrences, but there are many sceptics thinking that the sightings are not real. However, the more they learn about this angry spirit, the more they think there is to this crooked man.

It seems I'm in the minority here, but here goes...

James Wan creates really thrilling jump scenes and some really stunning visuals, however, "The Conjuring 2" just does not live up to the same impact that its predecessor had. It felt somewhat samey, due mainly to the similar styling and 'universe' rules which Wan has built around his films. Some of the English accents were also a little too Mary Poppins for my comfort level and make the film seem silly. This in turn made the characters feel a little fake and made me care less about what happened to them.

 It has some nice earmarks of a 70s ghost movie and managed to recreate the era very well, but it never struck that chord that actual 70s horrors do. I felt I knew what was coming and the sidebar plot line felt like it belonged in a separate film.

All in all, it has some successful scenes, but as a full film I didn't feel it held together as well as the original one.

[Image: New Line Cinema, et al]