Film Review: Lake Bodom (Bodom)

Lake Bodom

Lake Bodom (Bodom) is a very entertaining horror-thriller. The film defies expectations, in a tantalising way.

In 1960, a group of teenagers were stabbed to death whilst sleeping in their tent. The crime was never solved, which led to speculation and urban legend. Years later, another group of teenagers visit the site, hoping to recreate the murder scene and discover what really happened that night…

Director and co-writer Taneli Mustonen has created an interesting horror thriller with Lake Bodom. The film is set up as a campsite horror, in the same vein as Friday The 13th and The Blair Witch Project. There is an element to the story that makes gives it a contemporary twist. Other than this, the film feels like a formulaic horror in the first quarter.

As the film progresses, viewers may begin to speculate how the narrative will turn out. At this point, Mustonen pulls the rug from under viewers. The twist in the film is neat, and injects life into the narrative. The film transforms from a horror to a thriller, in an unexpected but welcome way. The filmmakers skilfully bend the narrative so it is about something other than the original murders. Later in the film, there are more twists; each of these conveyed in a plausible yet engaging fashion.

Tension in Lake Bodom arrives in peaks dotted throughout the duration. There is sufficient mystery to capture the attention. This is heightened by the later transformations in the plot. The film is gory without being gratuitous. Production values are good throughout. Characters are depicted with enough personality to stoke interest. The obligatory red herrings are necessary in a film of this nature. Nelly Hirst-Gee delivers a believable performance as Ida.

Lake Bodom is a favourable twist on the campsite horror movie. Highly recommended for genre fans.

Lake Bodom (Bodom) is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2016.

Film Review: Blair Witch

Blair Witch

Adam Wingard’s Blair Witch is a sequel does the trick of terrifying its viewers. The film hits the same beats as its predecessor, but provides the frights despite this.

Several years after the disappearance of his sister Heather and her friends in the woods, James is on the hunt for answers. He takes a group of friends to retrace their steps, hoping to find out what happened to his sister all those years ago…

A belated sequel to a hit film is not always the most appealing of prospects. Nevertheless, Blair Witch does the job of generating scares and apprehension as it progresses. The film begins by introducing its characters at a leisurely pace. This gives the audience an insight into protagonist James, as well as offering a reason for the filming (a documentary for a college project).

Director Adam Winged and screenwriter Simon Barrett follow the same path as The Blair Witch Project. Retreading the same ground, Blair Witch is about a group of investigators armed with cameras. Nevertheless, the film excels in Wingard and Barrett’s capable hands. Viewers will be recognise the sequences, but Blair Witch still frightens despite this familiarity.

Totems from the first film abound in Blair Witch. Whilst the audience may have the impending fear of what will come next, the tension is palpable. Wingard works with audience familiarity with the original film, setting up similar situations and playing them for maximum apprehension. He weaves a claustrophobic web, drawing in viewers despite their knowledge of the outcome. Camera work in editing in the film work exceptionally well. However, the real star in the sound design. Sound in the film is expertly exploited to create and enhance the frights. Acting in Blair Witch is perfectly fine, although there is a glossiness to the cast that dispels the “found footage” masquerade.

Blair Witch will successfully spook its audience. Whilst the film lacks originality, it makes up for this with an onslaught of terror.

Previews: Deepwater Horizon Featurette, Blair Witch, More!

Plenty to gaze upon in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including a Deepwater Horizon Featurette, the latest Blair Witch trailer and more…

Deepwater Horizon Featurette

Here is a Deepwater Horizon featurette. The film is about the events leading up to the  largest man-made disaster, in the Gulf of Mexico. Director Peter Berg follows up Battleship and Lone Survivor by reuniting with the latter’s star, Mark Wahlberg. Also starring Kurt Russell and Kate Hudson, Deepwater Horizon will hit UK screens on 29th September 2016.

Blair Witch Trailer

Here is the latest trailer for the upcoming Blair Witch. This sequel is set twenty years after the events of the original film. Blair Witch has good pedigree; it is produced by the original film’s writer-directors, and directed by Adam Wingard. After You’re Next and The Guest, it will be interesting to see how Winged tackles a modern horror classic. Blair Witch is out in UK cinemas on 15th September 2016.

Ouija: Origin of Evil Poster

Ouija: Origin of Evil Poster

This Ouija: Origin of Evil poster has a very retro look. A follow-up to 2014’s Ouija, this film tells the story of a mother and her daughters who unwittingly invite a spirit into their home. Ouija: Origin of Evil is helmed by Mike Flanagan, the director behind Oculus and Hush. The film is set for release on 21st October 2016.

La La Land Trailer

Here is the full trailer for La La Land. The film is an original musical directed by Whiplash‘s Damien Chazelle. Dream team Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling reunite for the film, which also stars John Legend and Rosemarie DeWitt. La La Land is scheduled for UK release in January 2017.

Rings Trailer

Rings is a sequel to successful horror The Ring, and the third film in the franchise. From the above trailer, it is not clear if the characters have any connection to the original, or whether it is a whole other story. Rings will hit UK screens on Halloween – 31st October 2016.

The Magnificent Seven Trailer

This trailer for The Magnificent Seven introduces viewers to each of the gang. Antoine Fuqua’s remake of the classic western sees Denzel Washington lead the gang of outlaws and bounty hunters. Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio also star. The Magnificent Seven rides onto UK screens on 23rd September 2016.

Previews: Pete’s Dragon Trailer, The Accountant and More!

Lots to see in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the new Pete’s Dragon trailer, The Accountant, Wonder Woman and more…

Pete’s Dragon Trailer

Here is the new Pete’s Dragon trailer. The film is a live-action remake of the animated classic. Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, and Wes Bentley are joined by Oakes Fegley as the title character. Pete’s Dragon will be released in UK cinemas on 12th August 2016.

The Accountant Trailer

Here is the latest trailer for The Accountant. The film stars Ben Affleck as a maths savant who works on the books for criminal organisations. Also starring Anna Kendrick and J.K. Simmons, The Accountant is out in the UK on 4th November 2016.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Featurette

Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson and others discuss the upcoming Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Directed by Tim Burton, Jane Goldman wrote the screenplay, based on the novel by Ransom Riggs. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children hits UK screens on 30th September 2016.

Office Christmas Party Trailer

Office Christmas Party is a new comedy from Josh Gordon and Will Speck, the directors of The Switch and Blades of Glory. The film is about staff who host an epic Christmas party to impress a potential client. With an ensemble cast that includes  Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, and Courtney B. Vance, Office Christmas Party makes its way onto UK screens on 9th December 2016.

Ben-Hur Trailer

Here is the second trailer for Ben-Hur. The film is an adaptation of the 1880 Christian novel, like the three film versions that have come before. This version stars Jack Huston, Morgan Freeman, and Toby Kebbell. Ben-Hur hits UK screens on 7th September 2016.

T2 Teaser Trailer

This feels like it has come from nowhere. A belated sequel to Trainspotting, T2 reunites director Danny Boyle with the original cast, including Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle and Jonny Lee Miller. T2 is set for release on 27th January 2016.

Blair Witch Trailer

Another unexpected sequel to a 1990s film. Horror movie The Woods was revealed to be Blair Witch, a sequel to The Blair Witch Project. Blair Witch is directed by Adam Winged, who has had recent successes with You’re Next and The Guest. Blair Witch hits UK screens on 16th September 2016.

Nerve Clip

Nerve seems to the correct name for this film, is the above clip is anything to go by. The film is directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who rose to fame through their film Catfish. Starring Emma Roberts and Dave Franco, Nerve is out in UK cinemas on 11th August 2016.

Kong: Skull Island Poster

Kong: Skull Island Poster

Kong: Skull Island is a reimagining of the cinema stalwart King Kong. The film has a more contemporary setting than the last version of the monster movie. Kong: Skull Island stars Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson and John Goodman. The film is set for release in 2017.

Wonder Woman Trailer

The film many comic book fans have been waiting decades for is almost here. After her appearance in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman finally gets her own film. Gal Gadot is joined by Chris Pine, Connie Nielson, and Robin Wright. Directed by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman will hit cinemas 2nd June 2017.

The LEGO Batman Movie Trailer

After the character was such a big hit in The LEGO Movie, it is no surprise that Batman gets his own film. The LEGO Batman Movie looks like it will be as amusing as its predecessor, if the trailer is anything to go by. With the voices of Will Arnett, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Cera and Rosario Dawson, The LEGO Batman Movie launches on to UK screens in February 2017.

Suicide Squad Video

This Suicide Squad video concentrates on Harley Quinn from the upcoming movie. The film features a roster of villains who are tasked with completing a mission for a US agent. Starring Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Jared Leto, and Viola Davis, Suicide Squad hits UK cinemas on 5th August 2016.

Nick Murphy Interview

Nick Murphy was at the London Film Festival in October to promote his upcoming film The Awakening. It is the feature debut for Murphy, who has hitherto written and directed for television. I met Nick in the last week of the festival, where he took part in round table interviews.

The Awakening was co-written by Stephen Volk, who wrote Ghostwatch; a different type of ghost story. What was it like working with him?

I haven’t actually seen it [Ghostwatch]. I know! It’s terrible, there are other films I haven’t seen – I haven’t seen The Wicker Man! No, Stephen has got such an understanding of horror, and he wrote the backbone of the film. We never sat down together and wrote. He wrote the bones of the film – the scare story – and I came in and brought in and brought more of an emotional attachment. The sense of loss, grief; the back to the story. I put in a reference in the film where a red ball bounces down the stairs, and was thinking of using the colour red as a signature colour in the film. And Stephen said “Yeah, but that’s The Changeling”! So having him as our resident person who had actually seen this stuff was helpful. Once I started the project, I’d stopped watching anything frightening in order to not have too many references, and yet we’ve all been to the cinema and those things boggle down to the tadpoles in your mind. For example when I wrote the doll house sequence, and I don’t know; there’s something freaky about dolls’ houses and there’s something freaky about dolls.

Following on from that, I found the doll’s house sequence one of the most chilling scenes I have seen for a long time. How did you come up with that idea?

I was writing that sequence – and I’ve got am office in my garden, and it was quite late – and there wasn’t any music playing, it was quite quiet. I didn’t know the sequence before I wrote it really. I thought it would be interesting to re-enact scenes of her recent past in the house and for that to catch up with her. What I didn’t have is the end of the sequence where she sees the doll looking at the doll’s house in the attic, and then I thought, to the left there is a child doll standing behind her and it freaked me out! I had to stand up and walk around my tiny little office at the end of the garden!  I know writers always charm themselves and talk about the effect of their work, but you do get like that. When you write an emotional scene, and you check back an emotional scene, you find it emotional. As you check back on a scene to see whether you feel it is going to be scary or not, you need to be scared. And it’s always a good sign when you’re frightened to be in your office on your own!

Where do you think we are with British horror at the moment? Do you think there is a bit of a revival going on?

I don’t know about a revival. Certainly, people have been a bit fed up with the blood end of horror. And that’s not going to kill the genre, but they’ve seen quite a lot of it. The “two guys, caught in a room, one’s got an axe, what are you going to do” sort of horror, which I really, really don’t like. I know I don’t profess to be an expert in the supernatural genre or the horror genre – and they are different of course – but I genuinely don’t like that sort of stuff. I’m not saying it shouldn’t have been made, but the idea of Hostel or something just simply isn’t my bag. But I think people, far from being fed up with it, the reaction has been refreshing: “Oh God this is just a traditional ghost story”. So when we’ve been talking to people saying that this is actually a traditional ghost story, it’s a classic ghost story, there’s been a sort of “oh nice! I like that”. I think it has almost reminded people of that, whether it causes a revival; in a sense, I hope that nothing ever causes a revival because it means that one trend becomes another trend. I’d much rather see the waters always stirred up, and never quite settling.

It’s quite interesting to have a film of the horror genre coming out that is more ghost-based…

I think the ghost mystery, the mystery of ghost stories helps, that’s what is important. I have been shouting this from the rooftops: we are going to take 9, 10, 12 quid off people at the cinemas these days – we as in us directors – we cannot just end the experience when the lights come up. I think the problem with the Hostel-end of it is that there is less to discuss. What was important is that [The Awakening] had plenty of lobby chat potential. I want people to get back into the lobby and say “but hang on, she was… oh my god! Of course…”. We are taking money off people, and it’s got to be a longer experience, it can’t just be “lights up, scared you, haha off you go”. While the jumps are important in the film, I’m much more gratified when I hear of people realising the following day, or I hear people in the lobby, as I did in the festival, saying “No, but he could see ghosts anyway”. So they are talking about it and that’s great, and then I think you really are into giving people an experience of going out that cinema can offer – a collective experience – in a way that television and home movies can’t quite give.

How is The Awakening marketed, in terms of genre?

That’s an interesting question. You know what, I was never told before where they wanted to place it. So I wrote the script, or I handed it in after my spell of writing, and they made notes about the script and notes about what needed changing, and they advised but they never said “look, we want it to be this sort of film”. I think at the very early stages when I was presented with the project, I voiced an interest in setting it in Feltham, in the modern day, so it would have been in a young offenders’ institute in the modern day. And they said “no, no. no, we are looking at the market and we would like it to be period”, for better overseas sales potential or whatever. But other than that, they were never prescriptive, and the Feltham idea was a rubbish one anyway so that’s fine. As they were never really prescriptive, I didn’t realise what it was going to be.

But bear in mind, when you are a director, there is a big difference between that and a producer, and that and an executive producer. When you are directing, you’re just trying to give the person at home the experience you had as a kid. For me it was the classic cinema on holiday in Merseyside. But we all have that cinema in our minds, don’t we? The one that we went to when we were a kid, where we had that experience in the dark. And you are just trying to give that. In a sense, I was happy and they were happy to work out what it was afterwards. And I think where they worked it out was when they watched it, and one of studio execs said “you know what, it’s a supernatural mystery, that’s what it is – it’s not a horror”. They didn’t really want to decide what it was until they’d seen it, and now I think they are saying that it is a classic supernatural mystery, in the oldest tradition. I don’t want people to call it a horror film. It’s beyond my power to stop them, and I keep seeing people writing “Nick Murphy’s horror film” – no! But I would prefer to keep the horror word out of it. It puts people off, it puts me off, quite honestly. Let’s be clear, The Blair Witch Project was a horror film, and that’s a brilliant film, that scared the pants off of me. But when you close your eyes, the word horror means to most people cutting people up and the possessed children and so forth. So it does have negative connotations to a lot of people; I am much more pleased to keep [The Awakening] into a more popular description really. There is a potential for journey for the characters within a ghost story than there is in a horror film.

Can you tell us a bit about the lead character Florence and the choice of Rebecca Hall in this role?

I was very keen that Florence would be for her day a modern woman. Rebecca and I were shoulder to shoulder on this, we wanted Florence to be what women would turn into ten years after our story. That’s why we very overtly dress her in trouser suits, and Rebecca was completely on board with all of that. I’ve seen actresses in the past saying “I like playing strong women”. And I think, “is it a strong woman? You’ve got a bow and arrow, that doesn’t quite make you a strong woman”. It was very important that Florence firstly suffered, and had an arc of change, and was a bit screwed up in the begining. She is clearly injured, and carrying these psychological injuries. But her rescue is of her own making, and it is not, ultimately, of any male character. All the male characters are the most f**ked up in the whole film. They all carry injuries from which they haven’t yet recovered, or don’t recover. Dominic [West] is a very bright guy (although he pretends not to be, interestingly) and he liked the fact that when Mallory is asked to fly off to the rescue, he doesn’t rescue Florence. He’s impotent in that regard, and Florence rescues Florence.

I’m not an ardent feminist, and I don’t pretend for a second that this is going to readdress the gender bias in cinema. But what I do think is that it allows having an interesting female character suffering psychological injuries that are consistent with the way a lot of women regards their responsibilities to themselves and to their partners and to their hearts. I think this is one of the reasons women have responded so well to the film. It did matter that we had a woman who was smart but likeable. With certain actresses, they can be beautiful in a way that’s annoying. Rebecca’s gift, apart from all the many others, is that her beauty isn’t irritating to women. With the best will in the world to Megan Fox, she couldn’t have played this part. I’m not having a pop at Megan, but while men find her attractive, my suspicion is women aren’t enamoured by her in the way they are by Rebecca. Rebecca’s charm and wit carry the character nicely.

What attracted you to setting the film in the post-war period?

If you are going to write or direct a film, you have got to have a clear one line about what the film is about. If you don’t you never really know what you are building. As soon as we chanced on the idea that we see ghost figures because we need to, I know it would create a period. The sickness, the loss in people’s faces, everything feeds into that central one idea. It was imperative it couldn’t be gothic. I didn’t want lightning, I banned all that.  I didn’t want the terrifying to come from the cinematic tradition, I want viewers to discover it’s terrifying. You look at the outside of our school, it’s not terrifying. At the end of it you look at it and think “that’s a terrifying building”.

Too many of this genre become studies in the genre, and they are not actually telling their own story. If you think of a fabric like taffeta that has two threads in it. One of those needs to be novel, fresh, clean ideas. The other thread needs to be traditions, and cliché if necessary. It is a case of how you wed those together. If you take one out and only have novelty, that’s not in the genre. If you leave only your traditions, that’s boring and no one will forgive you for it. So it is a case of marrying those two.

The Awakening is out on Friday 11th November 2011.

Chronicle Trailer

Well this is intriguing. Above is the trailer for Chronicle, a film I know nothing about. From this stance, the trailer captures the attention. It seems to be a sci-fi/horror, using the handheld camera format. Shades of I Know What You Did Last Summer and The Blair Witch Project become apparent, as well as abilities that can be likened to X-Men. I’m sure we will find out more about this mysterious film closer to its release on 2nd March 2012.

Film Review: TrollHunter

TrollHunter has graduated from the Blair Witch school of filmmaking, but is fun all the same. It is also refreshing to see a well-known but less often filmed mythical creature being tackled, compared to the plethora of vampire films for example.

Thomas, Johanna and Kalle are university students making a documentary about mysterious bear killings. Speaking to those in the know, one individual is singled out as knowing more about the incidents. Initially evading their requests for an interview, Hans allows the students to accompany him. What they discover is far more interesting and dangerous than they first thought…

Presented as a mockumentary, director André Øvredal takes his cues from films such The Last Broadcast and The Blair Witch Project. To a certain extent, it is a shame that the film uses this formula as it does not do anything particularly interesting with it. Nevertheless, it functions sufficiently so viewers identify with the students and share their awe at unfolding events.

The first half of TrollHunter suffers from occasional lulls in pace. The film never really loses its audience, but there are a few stagnant moments. The second half, however, is much more enlivening. The tension works well in this part of the film, pulling viewers along for the ride.

TrollHunter is an amalgamation of various genres. As well as fitting into the aforementioned mockumentary mould, the film is combines action and humour with the traits of a thriller and a road movie. The comedy in the film is not particularly overt, and perhaps it will go over the head of some viewers. Nonetheless, it successfully balances the more absurd elements of the plot.

There is not really any character development in TrollHunter, per se. The students filming the documentary show very little character, they are mostly vessels through which to view the action. Hans, the troll hunter, is a little more interesting as there is mystery surrounding his character. The ending of the film also plays into the sense of ambivalence.

The real stars, however, are the trolls themselves. The special effects in the film do not look state of the art but authentic and are entirely in-keeping with the style. The only complaint really is that Øvredal is very sparing with footage of the trolls. It is interesting to see the various guises, but more footage of the creatures would have been preferable.

Performances are fine in the film, but the emphasis lies really on the creatures rather than the humans. TrollHunter is an imperfect film, but suitably enjoyable notwithstanding.

Film Review: The Last Exorcism

Just when you think you’ve seen enough exorcism films to last you a lifetime, along comes another. The Last Exorcism, however, is a commendable film and one of the better ones in this horror sub-genre.

Reverend Cotton Marcus is the subject of a documentary on exorcisms. He allows a camera crew to film his final exorcism, with the intention of debunking some myths…

Filmed as a mockumentary, the film will immediately draw parallels with The Last Broadcast and The Blair Witch Project. Daniel Stamm’s film differentiates itself from these predecessors by injecting a healthy dose of cynicism. Rather than a neutral documentary hoping to discover some truths, The Last Exorcism is set-up as a film intending to reveal the fabricated nature of exorcisms. This is cynicism is aided by bouts of humour, which add to the sense of verisimilitude.

The story works well; the various twists leave the viewer unsure of exactly where the film is heading. The film works well to maintain audience interest; it is only the last quarter of the film which lets it down. Otherwise, the film does well to build tension, and the scares are infrequent but efficient when they come.

The Reverend Cotton (played by Patrick Fabian) is an interesting protagonist. A religious man who has lost his faith, it is clear Marcus has been affected by having a family and the stories of exorcisms ending negatively. The overriding theme of The Last Exorcism is that of belief. The film parlays the line between the natural and the supernatural; it is unclear whether Nell’s predicament is psychological or paranormal. The overall message of the film appears to promote personal faith over organised doctrine.

Patrick Fabian gives a good performance as Marcus. He appears genuine when expressing both humour and fear. Ashley Bell brings an ambiguous quality to her portrayal of Nell, seeming innocent yet tortured. Effects are used sparingly, adding to the realist feel of the picture. When employed, the sound works to great effect in enhancing the atmosphere.

Not a masterpiece, but The Last Exorcism is definitely worth a watch. Although the thrills are on the limited side, the film engages the audience’s interest throughout.