• Brightburn (2019)

    Someone I used to know was once invited to a family supper. He had attended, enjoyed and been looking forward to such occasions numerous times in the past but that particular supper was a whole different thing. A distant family member, who had been described as a shady person with dangerous tendencies who had been considered the family's black sheep and hadn't been in touch with the family for many years, was unexpectedly there as well. Everybody acted like nothing had ever happened but the person I knew just couldn't do that and was accused of spoiling everybody's fun that night. That family supper was a huge blow to his already struggling relationship with that family. I believe this person shouldn't look back in regret and can be proud of his integrity even though that event had regrettable negative short-term consequences and is an anecdote of a challenging time. Why do I mention that anecdote? This is to prove that family ties can blur and erase the truth. This is exactly what Brightburn is about.

    The movie tells the story of a young couple who desperately wants to have children but it just doesn't work out. One night, an unidentified flying object lands in the forest behind the couple's farm. Inside the capsule, they find a baby boy and raise him as their own child. Twelve years later, a mysterious force from the unidentified flying object hidden under the barn awakes the dark side of the son who starts acting erratically. The parents refuse to accept the truth and believe their son is sleepwalking when he is about to find the capsule that once brought him to Earth or blame the brutal death of their chickens on a wolf when they were actually killed by their son. The son's actions get worse every single day when he breaks into the house of a potential love interest and even breaks her hand when she calls him a pervert in front of other students. The parents slowly start accepting that something is wrong with their adopted son but the mounting pressure pushes the teenager to use supernatural force to commit more and more outrageous crimes to protect his mysterious identity. When the parents finally decide to take action, it's already too late to stop an irreversible series of tragedies.

    Brightburn convinces with a constantly growing intensity leading to a rather unusual ending. The story offers food for thought and makes us question our blind dedication to our families. The film features some quite grisly scenes that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

    On the other side, the plot is obviously very ridiculous. Even if we accept that this is a science-fiction horror movie, the lead characters make so many questionable and at times obviously illogical choices that it's hard to empathize with them at all. The film is also rarely scary and can rather be described as a science-fiction thriller than a genuine horror movie. Another flaw is that the film never offers any explanation regarding the lead antagonist's origins. There is perhaps room for a sequel or even a prequel to offer more insights into the story.

    In the end, Brightburn is a movie that will please to those who are looking for a superhero movie with a sinister twist. The film is entertaining from start to finish and gets more intense as it progresses. The story is however forgettable. On a closing note, family values are obviously as important to me as to the next guy. However, family ties should never blur or erase the truth. If a woman writes on a dating portal that family is her life, I already know she isn't my kind because I want to date a woman and not an entire family and I know this sentiment is shared by several friends of mine.

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  • Overlord (2018)

    When I initially watched Overlord, I was expecting an average horror movie with a few shallow historical references. What I've got however is an atmospheric, gripping and mysterious horror film with appropriate references to the horrors of the Second World War. The story is obviously inspired by experiments Nazi Germany actually conducted on human beings. The story revolves around a group of young American soldiers who are sent behind enemy lines in preparation of the Invasion of Normandy. After their plane is shot down, they must hide in a village where they befriend some French farmers. However, they aren't only willing to escape, hide and survive but also try to destroy a German radio tower located in an old church on a wooden hill. However, the soldiers find something abominable in the basement of said church and are determined to wipe it out without leaving any trace behind.

    The movie convinces on several levels. First of all, the characters have a lot of depth and interest for a horror movie. The American soldiers have different strategies to fight the enemy which makes them quite diversified. It's also easy to sympathize with the French farmers including the resilient love interest of a SS Hauptsturmführer, her joyful little brother and her creepy disfigured aunt who has been abused during an experiment conducted by the invaders.

    The film oozes with atmosphere. We are thrown into the story as the plane of the American soldiers gets shot down and they soon need to fight for survival in the ocean, on the beaches and in the nearby forests. The French village where they decide to hide is a place where fear, hatred and terror reigns. The church tower is dark, eerie and seems to be an endless maze of horrors.

    This flick mixes historical events with fictitious elements. The brutal opening sequence foreshadows the actual Invasion of Normandy. The suffering the French villagers go through also seems realistic. Even the idea that the Germans conducted experiments on human beings isn't pulled out of thin air. On the other side, the true nature of those experiments is the fictitious part that should equally please to cinephiles enjoying action and horror movies.

    In the end, Overlord cleverly mixes action elements inspired by historical events with fictitious horror elements. This dynamic mixture entertains from start to finish thanks to tense atmosphere, strong characters and intriguing locations. The movie manages to portray the horrors of war while also adding an appropriate fictitious touch to it. Many movies have tried to combine war films with horror films and failed but Overlord is one of the most balanced attempts at this gripping mixture. Horror movies usually receive poor critical acclaim but this movie has overall been received rather favourable ratings which actually point out how great this film actually is. Give it a try and you might end up being as positively surprised as I was.

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  • Us (2019)

    Us is an American horror movie with and by Jordan Peele who is the mastermind behind the Academy Award winning Get Out, a horror movie dealing with social issues such as racial discrimination. His most recent film doesn't deal with social issues and balances horror elements with mystery sequences.

    The film's weakest point is the plot. Even though it sounds intriguing at first, it leaves many questions unanswered and even comes around with quite a few plot holes towards the end. The predictable twist can't save the messy script either. The movie revolves around a young girl who encounters a mysterious doppelgänger in a hall of mirrors which leaves her mentally tormented. Several decades later, she reluctantly returns to the region where she experienced this trauma and soon starts noticing strange occurences. She tries to convince her husband to depart with their two children but her doppelgänger and her family soon break into their cottage and attempt to kill them to take their places. The family manages to escape and realizes that citizen all around the region are being attacked by their doppelgängers. The young woman must confront the demons of her past in order to find a way to stop them.

    This horror movie convinces with numerous elements. It has an uneasy atmosphere right from the start that never lets go until its partial conclusion. The acting performances are authentic and especially lead actress Lupita Nyong'o is incredible as tormented soul with a heart of gold and remarkable resilience. Even the child actresses and actors deliver the goods in this film. The opening sequence takes place in the eighties and has a cool nostalgic flair. The locations are carefully chosen and especially the scenes in the hall of mirrors are memorable.

    Even though the movie isn't particularly scary and frustrates with a few plot holes, it is overall very entertaining and its strong acting performances, intense atmosphere and intriguing locations pardon for the film's minor flaws. I hesitated between giving the film seven or eight points but since I was thoroughly entertained by it at the local movie theatre, I decided to give it the better of the two grades. If you like mysterious horror films, you are going to appreciate this film.

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  • Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

    Happy Death Day was the most positive cinematic surprise of the year when it was released about one and a half years ago. The characters were quirky, the plot was surprising, the thrills were gripping, the jokes were humorous and the acting was emotional.

    Sadly, this unique movie was so commercially successful that it has been made into a franchise. This sequel could normally be described as an above average comedy horror mixture. But since it follows a flawless film, it can only be described as a disappointment.

    The first ten minutes of the film are promising. Instead of following the story of the first film's lead actress, we see how a side character of the first installment lives a time loop. However, the film's perspective soon shifts and we see the previous film's lead actress living a time loop over and over again.

    The sequel tries to add a few misplaced fresh elements which take away from the predecessor's free-spirited vibe. The time loop is explained with the help of forced science-fiction elements which are unintentionally ridiculous. The new time loop also takes place in a different dimension where characters behave randomly differently from the first movie which is simply lazy scrip writing. The film tries to be more dramatic as the lead actress must choose between living in a dimension where she is single but her mother is still alive or a dimension where she has a boyfriend but her mother has died. Instead of adding an emotional tone, the film is overtly sentimental which doesn't work because the actors and actresses involved don't have the talent to transmit such feelings. The fact that the lead actress choses her new boyfriend over her deceased mother is also baffling to say the least.

    To make matters worse, this sequel includes an additional scene midway through the credits that indicates that there will be a third film focused on sending the lead actress' sister back in time. Happy Death Day risks suffering a similar fate to other comedy horror franchises from Scary Movie to Scream that repeated themselves endlessly while constantly losing quality.

    There are a few elements that save this movie from being a complete failure. The characters from the predecessor have all come back and are still quite sympathetic. New additional characters add some spice here and there. The movie includes a few hilarious scenes such as the lead actress' sister playing a blind French exchange student seducing a grumpy professor. One can't deny that this movie is generally quite entertaining except for a repetitive third quarter that consists of a series of random setbacks that prevent the lead actress from going back to her original dimension.

    In the end, I wish Happy Death Day 2U didn't exist because it spoils the unique perfection of its memorable predecessor. Objectively speaking however, this sequel is entertaining, funny and quirky as it offers one hundred minutes of popcorn cinema that is quite easy to digest. If I had to give you one advice, I would ask you to watch the first movie and forget that this sequel or any other movie of this franchise even exists.

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  • Saw 3D: The Final Chapter (2010)

    Saw 3D is the seventh installment in the psychological horror franchise about philosophical serial killer John Kramer alias Jigsaw. It was initially planned to conclude the series with two films but after poor box office results for the predecessor, the two scripts were scrammed into one for this movie. The franchise also jumped on the bandwagon and released this feature with three-dimensional effects. The premise of the movie was quite worrisome in my opinion. Two scripts scrammed into one have rarely led to solid movies. Films with three-dimensional effects often focus on visual elements and neglect the plot which would be terrible for such a clever horror series as Saw. The announcement that this would definitely be the final part of the series also rose expectations in order to properly connect and conclude all seven films which would seem quite ambitious to say the least.

    Even though Saw 3D is clearly the worst of the first seven films, it's still better than anticipated. The plot is rushed and leaves a few questions unanswered instead of properly concluding the franchise. The main twist is also highly predictable and makes for the weakest script of the series. The three-dimensional effects aren't particularly spectacular which isn't a bad thing since they aren't overused and don't reduce the movie to sinister eye candy. I could however imagine viewers paying an additional three or four dollars for wearing uncomfortable glasses for ninety minutes feeling cheated.

    The movie revolves around a pretentious self-help guru who has published an autobiography about his survival of Jigsaw's deadly game. He also organizes support groups for other survivors and appears on television to increase sales figures. However, the whole story is made up and he has never been kidnapped by Jigsaw and his spiritual successors. Obviously, he is going to be kidnapped soon enough and has to prove whether he is as resilient as described in his own book in order to save those who have benefited from his ruthless scam.

    While this side story is interesting enough, the main plot that attempts sometimes more and sometimes less convincingly to connect this movie to its six predecessors is even more intriguing. Detective Mark Hoffman is being hunted down like game after blowing his cover but he still seeks revenge for what Jigsaw's ex-wife Jill Hunt did to him. She seeks the protection of the police that is coming continuously closer to capturing the rogue detective. However, the antagonist still has some cards up his sleeve. Nobody however predicts the involvement of a third spiritual successor of the serial killer who decides to intervene to keep Jigsaw's heritage alive.

    Despite being the weakest installment in the franchise up to that point and offering a rather unsatisfactory resolution, Saw 3D should still appeal to fans of the franchise as a good average movie. Still, it might have been the right decision to pull the plug at that point before slowly destroying the reputation of an incredibly consistent horror franchise up to that moment. Obviously, greed has brought the franchise back seven years later with a reboot entitled Jigsaw, making it the eighth entry in the franchise. Another sequel is already being planned at this point. Personally, I don't believe it's necessary to make this franchise a never-ending story. Moderation is the key and seven entries are already more than enough in my book.

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