A Cloud So High

This film is a mess. A story about a serial killer who is the son of a retired cop (yeah, I know), it is shot partly as a Netflix-style documentary, partly as a drama, then also incorporates first-person narration of the inner monologue of the killer, all the while there is an experimental soundscape running as the audio.

Even if everything was really well done, this mish-mash was enough to tank any film. And it’s not, it’s not really well done. The acting is porn level of quality. Almost all the dialogue has reverb behind it. Sooo much of it is in slooowww motion. It takes so long when it has no substance, and you just wonder what is taking up all this time.

Mince.

Let The Wrong One In

Comedy horror about a vampire infestation of Dublin. A hen night from hell is on the rampage, and Deco, a drunken junkie is trying to get back in the house now that he’s starting to sizzle in the sunlight for some reason.

Matt is easily manipulated by his older brother, Deco, and guilted into letting him back in the family home without their mother knowing. Never a good idea, but this time is especially bad, because it looks like Deco is a vampire. Matt tries to help Deco adjust to his new condition, keep him from his craving for blood, and protect him from trainspotter-turned vampire hunter Henry. Henry is wonderfully played by Anthony Head, aka Giles from Buffy, aka Repo Man, aka all round nice guy from the internet.

A big silly, fun adventure, with excellent death effects.

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Night’s End

Total nonsense and complete fun.

Ken, a sad divorced dad, who is a shut-in and an alcoholic, tries to earn a living by posting videos online. When a viewer notices an odd event in the background of one of his videos, he blows up as a ghost case. Help comes in the form of Colin Albertson, a paranormal writer who encourages Ken to do a ritual to trap the restless spirit in a jar.

Managing to fit in a couple of good scares with a couple of good laughs, this is a solid Friday night film.

Cyanide

A short film about survival. A lassie runs and fights for her life in what seems to be a never-ending competitive gauntlet.

The director introduced this by saying the original idea was “What if the chicken fight from Family Guy was serious?” As silly as that sounds, this short film actually works. Which is almost against the odds, because there’s no dialogue, no speech beyond an automated computer announcement, and it’s basically just a chase scene followed by a fight scene. That’s action-packed but you’d think it wouldn’t really hold together as a story.

But you’d be wrong. It’s actually really well done. I had a clear idea of who the main character was, what she wanted, the situation she found herself in. Like, yes it’s mostly a fight scene, but the story of what’s going on is told through it. Given that there’s only two actors in this, both have to be commended. Things could have been very different if they hadn’t been top of their game.

Simple, straightforward, clear, but also action-packed, energetic and exciting. Good stuff.

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Out of the World

Out of the World is about a taxi driver/serial killer who falls in love with a deaf dancer. Now, there are so many tropes in that description I can feel you shrinking back. I’ll be honest, I shouldn’t like this film. It’s one in a long line of sympathetic looks at poor misunderstood outsider men who do terrible, terrible things to women.

But I do. I do like it. It was its own rhythm, its own style, it is visually stunning. It is even beautiful. And while the female lead is contending with a very problematic framework, the choreography just lifts her out the scenes, giving a whole physical language to her performance. I loved the score and the way it was shot, like the outside world is just paint running down the wall, and the people in it just smears on your vision. Out of the World is dreamlike, occasionally descending into nightmare.

There is a floating quality to the film to match the protagonist’s disconnection, and a hallucinatory element to match his psychosis. As both he and the dancer begin to wordlessly draw together, the whole thing becomes a nightmarish ballet.

American Badger

Boring. Like, almost criminally dull.

I mean, I can see what he was going for, a noir action/romance, like Sin City meets John Wick. But, ugh.

The gravelly voiced narration, a genre staple, is just cringey, feeling not like the main character’s inner thoughts but the filmmaker having to speak directly to the audience over his film, to explain or even apologise. The camera work is just another nothing. Like, if two characters are meeting outdoors, it feels like the camera just followed them there because it knew their meeting was part of the story. There’s no sense that a shot is deliberately set up in such a way as to convey something. There seems to be almost a total absence of visual language. I feel like if you asked the director why a scene was shot a certain way, he’d say to keep the actors in frame, and not much else.

There’s a hollowness to the film. Because the movie is working with tropes, it’s fair enough to not go into overly complex explorations of the central characters – he’s a hard-bitten assassin, she’s a vulnerable and loving prostitute – but at the same time, there does need to be some variance in how they’re presented, otherwise they become one-note, and the audience has no reason to care about them, understand them as an individual character beyond the archetype.

And the violence is just . . . Having seen the trailer, I had hoped American Badger was trying to move away from shaky cam multi-cuts to a more fluid, in camera choreography style of action. But it’s not. The fight scenes do look well co-ordinated, but there is still a lot of shaky cam and cuts on top of it, leaving you more queasy than excited. Plus also the obligatory sexual violence.

American Badger feels like one of those comics rated mature, that are so not mature. Like X-Men is dealing with life, death and identity over in the kiddy section, and Mark Miller or Garth Ennis has drawn a woman getting shot in the tits and it’s labelled mature. This movie is a 14-year-old boy’s idea of the movie he’d make.

I don’t want to get ripped into it, coz it’s a first feature and you always cut someone some slack on their first go, and also because diatribes usually just end up making a movie sound much more interesting than it actually is. So yeah, American Badger’s not the worst movie in the world, it’s just not got anything to it. It doesn’t fail enough to be interesting, it’s just dull.

Run Hide Fight

That was fucking great! Run Hide Fight is Die Hard for high school shootings. On the purely fun level, this movie is gripping, with twists and turns, cat and mouse, rising tensions, just excellently put together.

There’s a little note of caution when you see a hero vs school shooters film because you don’t want folk to emulate it in real life, which is an unfair standard, coz no one thinks Die Hard might promote unwise behaviour in real life terrorist hostage situations. But there is a sensitivity around school shooting movies that isn’t there with other mass carnage event action films. And perhaps rightly so. It’s a good thing to expect a degree of responsibility in storytelling.

Yet, I feel you have to go back to the quote about fairytales – they aren’t important because they tell us monsters exist, they’re important because they tell us they can be beaten. We all want a hero like Zoe, we all want a happy ending, and we all want justice, in this aspect of life as in every other. And there is a glorious wish fulfilment to Run Hide Fight that is so satisfying, and leaves you cheering, “Fuck yeah!”

Also, I think this film does strike a good balance between the action film it is and a degree of responsibility. I would say it does not aggrandize the villains, or show them as sympathetic losers, but as ego-driven self-entitled narcissists. While they espouse a lot of the excuses you’ve come to associate with these type of killers, with Zoe as their mirror, it’s kinda shown as all just bullshit to cover doing what you want because you think you have a right to. The only difference between the rest of us who have our own shit to deal with, and these killers, is they think they have the right to make their point on the broken and bloody bodies of other people. They’re bastards, plain and simple.

And because it is an action film, when it rounds the corners of sensitive topics, like why this is so easy to do in America but not anywhere else in the world, it has to walk a fine line of being honest about its subject while not puncturing that fun, fictional world of the film. For example, at one point someone asks the ringleader of the shooters how he put all this together, which is a fair question, narratively speaking, because this is an elaborate plan, with various steps, co-ordinated among a team, in which they seem to be 2 steps ahead of the police at every turn. He replies quite frankly, that the live shooter lockdown procedure is public knowledge, as any changes and amendments have to go before school board hearings, which are open community meetings. Which is insane. I watched that and was like, “Is that for real?” and yup, a Google search later and you can find live shooter policies online. Which blows my mind, it means you can literally plan your attack with foreknowledge of how it will be responded to, and any weaknesses exploited. What the fuck America?!

So yeah, it’s a difficult balance, but Run Hide Fight pulls it off, and you never feel like you are being talked at. The performances are great, especially from the lead Isabel May. The whole thing hits its mark and just builds in momentum to the final showdown. Thumbs up!

Vicious Fun

Super fun neo-80s meta horror comedy.

Joel is a smug obnoxious horror movie fanboy with more than a small dose of male entitlement and skeevy ego. His Nice Guy TM obsession with his flatmate leads him to tailing the latest guy she’s dating to a bar, in a jank boundary-crossing move. There he proceeds to drown his sorrows at not being appreciated for the romantic devotee and cinephile genius that he is. Passing out in a closet, he awakes after the bar is closed to find a backroom private meeting of a serial killer support group. Having to use all his wits and understanding of horror genre tropes to survive, Joel goes on a bloody nightlong fight for survival.

You’d think starting in such a low and unlikable place with the main character might alienate the audience, but his hapless incompetence and dawning self-awareness makes the movie an upbeat experience. It helps that he’s played by Evan Marsh in a way that rounds the edges off the worst of his character and gives him a plucky appeal.

In fact, the whole cast is awesome. Ari Millen plays the American Psycho archetype Bob, a charming psychopath who leads the murderous troupe. I loved Ari in Orphan Black where he played the Castor clones, so it was great to see him in this, pure revelling in how bombastic and playful he could get with it. Julian Richings is also in it, playing a Gacy-inspired killer clown. You may not recognise the name, but you’d know the face, he’s been in, like, nearly every horror movie made since the 90s. You’ve got comic actor David Koechner as a crazed mercenary with a love for wholesale slaughter. The whole thing’s bananas.

While the self-aware horror movie jokes sometimes stray into being a little self-indulgent, it’s only pleasantly so. Vicious Fun is stylish, funny, with interesting deaths and a killer score, celebrating as it skewers horror movie tropes.

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