Previews: Last Christmas Trailer, Ready or Not, More!

Lots of film-related goodness in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the brand new Last Christmas trailer, Ready or Not, and the BFI Musicals season…

Last Christmas Trailer

The latest Last Christmas trailer was released today. The romantic comedy is about a young woman who works as an elf, and a stranger who works into her life. The film stars Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, and Emma Thompson (who co-writes and produces). Last Christmas is directed by Paul Feig, coming of the success of last year’s brilliant A Simple Favour. Last Christmas hits UK cinemas on 15h November 2019.

Ready or Not Trailer

Ready or Not has been receiving a great response in the US, and UK audiences only have to wait a few more weeks to see it. The film is about a young bride who must take part in her new husband’s eccentric tradition. The film stars Samara Weaving, Mark O’Brien, Adam Brody, and Andie MacDowell. Ready or Not lands on UK screens on 27th September 2019.

BFI Musicals Season

The BFI is launching a season of musicals at BFI Southbank and across the UK later this year. The season will celebrate the work of Gene Kelly, Barbra Streisand, Doris Day, and other icons of the genre. Highlights include UK-wide re-releases of Singin’ in the Rain, Tommy, and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The BFI Musicals season runs from October 2019 – January 2020. Full details can be found here.

Isabelle Trailer

Isabelle is a new thriller with influences from Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist. The film is about an expecting young couple who move to a new home, and their unusual neighbour. Isabelle stars Adam Brody and Amanda Crew. The film will be released on digital platforms in the UK on 30th September 2019.

Film Review: The Conjuring

The Conjuring

The Conjuring is an atmospheric horror that successfully combines the visceral with the psychological.

In 1971, Carolyn and Roger Parren move into a Rhode Island farmhouse with their daughters. When strange events begin to occur in the house, Carolyn contacts noted paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren to remove the dark presence…

The latest offering from James Wan, helmer of Saw and Insidious, combines elements of the haunted house film with that of an exorcism flick. This works for the most part, with the detective aspects being employed for expositional purposes.

The Conjuring builds tension in an effective manner. There are well-placed jumpy moments. These are executed with some restraint, rather than being an onslaught.

References to other horror movies begins with The Conjuring‘s opening titles. The film’s title on screen immediately evokes The Exorcist. This is not the only allusion to the 1973 film. Other horror films are also referenced in Wan’s film.

The only real let down is that too much is overstated in The Conjuring. Th film attempts to drop some red herrings but these fall like clangers rather than hints. The result is that the end game is rather predictable. This is only the case as The Conjuring adopts the tried and tested methods of horror films past.

Wan’s direction is solid. There are several nice transitional and tracking shots employed in the film. The sound is an effective tool in generating tension. For the most part, the film looks of the era it is set.

It is a nice touch that Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are cast as the experienced investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, given that both actors could be considered veterans of the genre. Elsewhere, performances are decent.

There is enough in the film to give both the immediate jumps and disquieting feelings that should stay with viewers. The Conjuring is not perfect, but it is a very entertaining horror.

Film Review: The Amityville Horror

For a film with the word ‘Horror’ in the title, The Amityville Horror is not a very frightening film. Although the 1979 film is effective in building atmosphere, it is let down by the lack of frights.

George and Kathy Lutz and their three young children move into a house in Amityville, New York. The scene of a multiple murder, the couple begins to experience strange occurrences in their new home. After their family priest attempts a failed exorcism, things seem to get worse, especially for George…

Adapted from a book by Jay Anson, which is apparently based on true events, The Amityville Horror offers plenty of stock horror conventions. Influence from films such as The Haunting and The Exorcist are clear, in both theme and on-screen devices. Young Amy’s apparent connection with a spirit evokes William Friedkin’s 1973 film, while the moving chandelier can be compared to Robert Wise’s 1963 haunted-house classic. Nevertheless, The Amityville Horror perhaps has also influenced later films in the genre itself. The scene where George attempts to break through the bathroom door with an axe instantly recalls 1980’s The Shining, although Stephen King’s novel was published two years before in 1977.

The Amityville Horror is not usually remembered with such fondness as other horror pictures of the era. There appears to be two main reasons for this. Firstly, despite the supernatural context, there are very few actual scares in the film, and those that do appear are mild rather than shocking. Secondly, the pacing of Stuart Rosenberg’s film is awry. The film builds very slowly, and in comparison the ending feels rushed. The slow momentum of isolated incidents each day suggests a major pay-off, but sadly this never occurs.

Where the film excels is in generating a pervading atmosphere. George’s slow decline enhances the sense of unease, coupled with the gentle release of information about the house’s past. By far the most effective tool in building tension is Lalo Schifrin’s fantastic score. Given Amityville Horror‘s low budget, the filmmakers are wise to keep special effects to a minimum; the ones that are featured have not aged well.

James Brolin and Margot Kidder both do well as the unlucky couple, despite the material they have to work with. Rod Steiger brings passion and urgency as Father Delaney, while Helen Shaver is jarringly over the top as friend Carolyn. Natasha Ryan is well cast as the young Amy, providing both innocence and an air of menace in the role.

Although The Amityville Horror was a big box office success on its release, the film has not really stood the test of time. Sadly, there are plenty of other haunted-house movies that are far more affecting.

The Amityville Horror was screened at Union Chapel by the Jameson Cult Film Club, as part of their Chills in the Chapel Halloween event.

Film Review: The Hole

Every film seems to get a 12A rating nowadays. If The Exorcist was released today, it would probably be rated 12A. Which may not be a ludicrous as it sounds, because The Hole is more frightening than The Exorcist. Strange but true, as the old television show of the same name informed us.

Teenager Dane and his younger brother Lucas discover a mysterious hole in the basement of their house, after moving to a new town. As the pair try to figure out the origins of the hole with their neighbour Julie, strange occurrences begin to take place…

Considering that the movie is aimed at a family audience and has child protagonists, The Hole is just about the scariest film of the year. What makes the frights so effective is the dependence on common fears. Whilst not every viewer will hold the same fears as the ones depicted, they are nonetheless universal enough that most can relate.

What heightens the tension in The Hole is the lack of authority figures. Whilst the boys live with their mother, she is frequently at work, and always out of the picture when supernatural incidents occur. Although on the one hand it is difficult to believe that Lucas or Dane will meet a grisly fate because of their ages and the nature of the film, on the other the brothers are put in pretty perilous situations.

Narrative-wise, The Hole offers nothing really original. It is quite typical of a supernatural, haunted-house style film. However, Joe Dante’s film excels in its execution of the chilling moments, which arise frequently. Like some of the best supernatural horror films, The Hole plays on the principle that it is the unknown that is most frightening. Therefore it is the scenes that suggest supernatural activity (through camera work, sound and editing), but show very little that are most potent. There is a real tension generated throughout the film, one that is only let down by the very last segment.

The performances of the cast are good overall. Chris Massoglia and Nathan Gamble at times seem to show a lack of apprehension at circumstances, but perhaps this is intentional given the target audience. Javier Navarrete’s score is highly effective; sound in this film goes a long way to generate tension. The art direction of the climax is pleasing, even if the scene itself is lacklustre compared to what precedes it.

The Hole is a film that should satisfy adult horror fans, despite being marketed at a family demographic. Take the kids; it will be character building for them.