Monday, 22 May 2017

The Last Witch Hunter

"The Last Witch Hunter" (2015, Breck Eisner, Atmosphere Productions, One Race Films, Goldmann Pictures, Summit Entertainment) is a horror-fantasy action thriller set in New York City.

Kaulder (Vin Diesel) vanquished the Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht) over 800 years ago when her Black Plague took his family, friends and countrymen. Before her demise, however, the creepy queen bestowed upon Kaulder the curse of eternal life.

In modern day we find Kaulder is still hunting and stopping witches from causing havoc under the orders of the Axe and Cross organisation. Often, however, he does not kill the witches, finding that they are sometimes young and unable to control their powers. In some instances, however, offending witch criminals are arrested or executed at his hand. He is helped in his task by a priest known as "Dolan". His current Dolan is number 36 (Michael Caine), although a new, younger Dolan is prepped ready to take over as number 37 (Elijah Wood).

When Dolan the 36th is harmed, Kaulder goes on the hunt for the perpetrator with the help of a young witch called Chloe (Rose Leslie). However, the deeper Kaulder gets in on the mystery, the more he fears that the dark, forgotten powers of the Queen are rising...

A silly, hokey, dark action fantasy film that plays through almost like a film version of someone's D&D campaign read-through. Whilst it's entertaining enough, it does suffer from some slow scenes and a few side plots that don't add much to the overall story. The effects are fun, though, and our Witch Queen is a much better realised character than, but somewhat similar to the concept of Enchantress from "Suicide Squad".


Monday, 15 May 2017

A Dark Song

"A Dark Song" (2016, Liam Gavin, IFC Midnight) is an indy horror from Ireland centred around the Occult.

Sophia (Catherine Walker) is a grieving mother who goes to an isolated house in the Welsh countryside with occultist, Joseph (Steve Oram), in order to perform a series of rituals to summon her guardian angel and speak with her deceased, 7-year old child. However, any slip can lead to the ritual going awry, with possible deadly results.

A slow, quiet movie with a really effective soundtrack and a stylistic storytelling method that doesn't particularly grab you by the shoulders, but does build up ominously. The black magic rituals have an element of realism to them that make the scenes effective. The magic is hard, and dirty and gross. The pretty stuff is simple and limited and the things on the other side are not friendly.

The gritty realism of the occult elements really play well with the disharmonious relationship between the determined, desperate woman and her reluctant, angry, world-weary spiritual guide. Sophie's inexperience and desperate resolution goes up against Joseph's seen-it-all-and-sick-of-it attitude, and his brash rudeness towards her drives her to fight against him, making the already gruelling process worse.

The quiet, desolate story telling style is effective, but it does make the experience of the film quite slow-going. While there were parts where I was on the edge of my seat, there were certainly sparse areas where I was just waiting on something moving the plot forward.

An altogether gloomy piece with a haunting impact. Innovative, if a little slow to get started.

[Image: IFC Midnight]

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Belko Experiment

"The Belko Experiment" (2016, Greg McLean, Metro Goldwyn-Mayer, The Safran Company, Troll Court Entertainment, Orion Pictures, BH Tilt) is a horror movie along the lines of "Battle Royale".

Mike (John Gallagher Jr.) works at Belko Industries; a non-profit of no explained purpose based in Columbia. He and his colleagues (including girlfriend, Leandra (Adria Arjona) and boss, Barry (Tony Goldwyn)) come in to work to find new, heightened security. This isn't the only strange thing to happen that day... With shifty security, a limited, non-local skeleton staff only being allowed entry and a strange voice over the loudspeaker giving terrifying orders, it looks like things might get violent. And, spoiler alert: they do. Really violent.

An intense, savage romp that remains entertaining, but doesn't cover any new ground. The story is not the most innovative, but the action keeps moving and the characters remain three dimensional. The casting is good; especially Wendell (John C. McGinley) who makes an excellent creep and an equally effective office-politics Goebbels.

While I think the creators intended the film to have some deep meaning about office life, human survival and faceless corporations it kind of gets lost in the gory, gory, gorefest that is most of this film. A slimy, bloody, B-movie massacre, but not as cerebral as I had anticipated.

[Image: Metro Goldwyn-Mayer, et al]