• 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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  • Saw VI (2009)

    After a solid but overall less convincing fifth installment, the sixth entry in the psychological horror franchise is a step in the right direction without reaching the quality of the first four movies. The film has a strong moral side as the test subject is a ruthless insurance executive this time around who decides upon life and death by applying or refusing a policy. Rather than facing deadly traps himself, he encounters colleagues in such traps and must decide who is going to live and who is going to die until he will be judged himself at the end of his ordeal.

    The side story is already quite intriguing and unpredictable but the main plot is even stronger and follows the events of the previous installments. Detective Mark Hoffman tries to provide evidence to incriminate deceased Agent Peter Strahm with his own crimes but gets caught up in a web of lies that he soon can't control anymore. He is trying to keep John Kramer's sinister legacy going while distracting his colleagues and superiors long enough to find a way out of his difficult situation. However, John Kramer's ex-wife Jill Tuck also becomes an increasingly important pawn in a deadly game of chess between the police forces and the successors of the philosophical serial killer.

    The movie convinces with a bleak atmosphere reminding of a film noir atmosphere from start to finish. The plot is clever, intense and unpredictable. The traps are creative and seem less grisly than usual. The movie ends with a dramatic showdown recalling the franchise's greatest installments. It's obviously difficult to surprise audiences with a sixth installment as some ideas have been used before but this movie is certainly great for what it is.

    Those who expected a steady decline of the franchise after a slightly weaker predecessor, will be surprised by this movie's resilient quality. It once again underlines the franchise's success despite negative reviews by so-called experts around the world. Those experts can watch three-hour long sentimental dramas and nominate them for ten Academy Awards. Fans of the franchise will rather watch ninety- minute long surprising, intense and brutal psychological thrillers like this one. Quality doesn't always need to be intellectual. I would watch Saw VI over any Terrence Malick flick in a heartbeat. You should give it a try to as you might get positively surprised.

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  • Saw V (2008)

    Saw V focuses less on deadly traps but rather intensifies the duel between a desperate, lonesome and sinister Agent Peter Strahm who tries to find evidence to frame brutal, cool and pitiless Detective Mark Hoffman for inheriting Jigsaw's legacy and keeping the deadly games going. As nobody believes the agent who is even put on medical leave, he steals files from past cases to research them in order to put pressure on the detective. He discovers the case of a convicted murderer who died in a pendulum trap he didn't have the chance to escape which breaks with Jigsaw's code of honour. When Agent Peter Strahm discovers that the convicted murderer had killed Detective Mark Hoffman's sister, he holds the evidence to arrest his opponent. However, the motivated agent seems to underestimate the fact that his opponent is already aware that he has lost his cover and has been preparing a trap for the one who is chasing him.

    While the main plot is tense, sinister and gripping, this movie uses less deadly traps than its immediate predecessor but the ones that are shown in the movie are actually among the most creative ones in the franchise. Five people with a sinister connection face a series of deadly traps that bring out the worst in each of them. As usual, there are meanings behind the different traps that the five adults must understand in order to guarantee their survival.

    Even though the fifth entry in the franchise convinces with a solid main plot with two intriguing characters portrayed by two excellent actors and a side story involving a series of clever traps, this movie is a little bit less convincing than the four predecessors. This is mainly due to a lack of unexpected surprises towards the end of the film despite a tagline that claims otherwise. The middle section is also somewhat plodding and especially the scenes with Jigsaw's ex-wife Jill Tuck could at least have been shortened or even cut altogether.

    Still, fans of the franchise will certainly appreciate this film that includes once again many flashbacks that explain and revisit events from the past four entries in an intriguing way. It only makes sense to watch these movies in chronological order as it's impossible to understand the characters' motivations and intertwined story lines if you have skipped one or several of this film's outstanding predecessors. Despite being an overall great film, Saw V is the first sign of a slow decline of the franchise that would have two more sequels before going on hiatus for about seven years. While the first four entries in the franchise are essential for anyone who likes horror movies and psychological thrillers, Saw V is highly recommendable for fans of the franchise but not as extraordinary as it could have been with some more time to develop an even tighter script.

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