Tuesday, 13 November 2018
Monday, 12 November 2018
Thursday, 8 November 2018
Considering the Elm Street series is built on the idea of a disfigured nonce entering children's dreams to murder them, it's no surprise that the films have an elastic relationship with reality. Victims slip in and out of the dream realm to be prodded and abused by Robert Englund's increasingly flamboyant bogieman, while clairvoyant teens are able to build themselves super-identities out of the damned spirits haunting these planes. Formula firmly in place, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master rambles around with a new set of young adults, mechanically embedding character specific dangers before callously offing them with bravura make-up effects.
The Dream Master's attempts to play with the Elm Street recipe are a mixed bag. Showing unwilling allies forcibly hurled into REM sleep to placate a psychic's night terrors neatly combines the anxiety of sequel survivors with a refresher on the forces opposing crispy Fred. That the film rushes to mangle these A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors leftovers (Patricia Arquette's steely psychic Kristen Parker is reduced to a one-note shrieker by her replacement Tuesday Knight) with very little ceremony leaves large sections of the film circling the drain. Eventually Dream Master settles on Lisa Wilcox's Alice, a lucid dreamer well-placed to turn the tables on Krueger.
Alice daydreams through the difficulties of her waking life, be that plucking up the courage to tell the school hunk how she feels about him or putting a drunken, abusive father in his place. Her blips of directed unreality invite another sense of uncertainty into the film, promising a variety of attack that never quite comes together. Although it's expected that scenes will bubble along with the looping chaos of nighttime fantasy, Renny Harlin's film dwells on the method and delivery of Freddy's assaults to the exclusion of anything else. By extending the murders, so the audience can luxuriate in the special effects, Dream Master trades shocks for revulsion, using Kreuger not as terrifying spectre but the wisecracking MC walking us through the latest prosthetic showcase. This imbalance is compounded by the gentleness and general likeability of Fred's newest victims. These young girls aren't attacking him or each other, they're just kids getting on with their lives. Their slaughter therefore registers as mean-spirited or, in at least one case, outright repulsive.
Skulking around and ignoring enemy loot as I commando crawl my way into first place on Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII's Solo Blackout mode. Stick around to the end to see how close the game was (thank you desiccated tree) and how bad a sportsman I am.
Previously depicted as an unbeatable wall of muscle, Broly washes up here in his own in-continuity movie as the personification of the Saiyan's primitive, genocidal savagery. Given how far Son Goku and Vegeta have come - surpassing the legend of the Super Saiyan, tapping into the heavenly power of the Gods and settling down to have kids - it's a kick to see them both absolutely manhandled by an ultra powerful but unevolved example of their vagabond race.
Monday, 5 November 2018
Thursday, 1 November 2018
Wednesday, 31 October 2018
Continuing a series trend for sympathetic depictions of its teenage victims, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors takes place in a psychiatric unit for troubled children. Chuck Russell's film, working from a screenplay credited to Russell, Bruce Wagner, Frank Darabont and franchise creator Wes Craven, doesn't attempt to damn these adolescents for the damage they've experienced or visited upon themselves. In that sense Dream Warriors stands apart from the usually prudish morality of a genre that often attempts to massage large-scale evisceration with unlikable, bullying personalities.
Heather Langenkamp returns as A Nightmare on Elm Street survivor Nancy Thompson, sporting a traumatic shock of white in her hair and working as a therapist for the young patients. Nancy rallies the besieged kids, using Patricia Arquette's Kristen as a psychic anchor in their fight back against vile old Fred Krueger. Not only is Dream Warriors unwilling to condemn its mixed-up cast, it also allows them to fight back against the sins of their parents using weapons derived from the moral panics of suburban America. Disabled hobbyist Will uses his Dungeons & Dragons knowledge to attack Freddy with arcs of Elfen magic while former drug addict Taryn dreams herself as a punked-out street tough, able to fight and navigate the kind of alleyways were she previously felt addled and helpless.
Jack Sholder's follow-up to A Nightmare on Elm Street largely dispenses with the idea that Freddy simply rules the dream realm. The disfigured child killer lingers like abuse, bubbling up in sensitive young men and using their confusion as his bridge into reality. It's five years after the first film, Jesse Walsh and his family have moved into Nancy Thompson's barred-up murder house. Freddy's memory persists like background radiation, turning the home into an oven and still powerful enough to detonate toasters and parakeets at will. Jesse cooks in his packed-up just-moved-in bedroom, unable to sleep lest he slip back onto Krueger's runaway school bus.
A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge takes a different approach to the teen slasher, swapping out the attractive girl next door for Mark Patton's Jesse Walsh, a spaced-out wanderer trying to work out who he is and what he wants. Jesse isn't your typical horror male, he isn't confident or braggadocious, he's intense but vulnerable. The personal possessions he has pointedly little interest in unpacking play like a sports focused veneer, a cover he built for himself in his old life that he no longer has the energy to maintain. Disconnected from his overbearing, boorish father and his smile-at-all-costs mother, its Jesse's friendships that provide the greatest insight into who he is.
Jesse rolls around on the ground with school bully Grady, a mouth-breather who pulls down Jesse's sweatpants when the less chiselled boy stands to score himself some athletic achievement. That the two enjoy lunch and chit-chats together afterwards speaks to something flirty and unacknowledged between them. Grady even acts as a gatekeeper for Jesse, warning him about the gym teacher's leather daddy private life as well as his unprofessional desire for teenage pretty boys. Jesse keeps his closest female friend, little rich girl Lisa, at arms length despite her obvious romantic interest in him. When they do, finally, creep towards a physical relationship, Jesse acts out his idea of carnal desire before retreating, disgusted by the obscene, lubed-up changes to his body. Freddy prays on Jesse's sexual uncertainty, testing what the teenager is willing to consume, or be consumed by, with deliberately illogical scenarios that blur the line between dream and waking life within the film.
Posted by Chris Ready at 10:32:00
Labels: A Nightmare on Elm Street, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge, Films, Jack Sholder
Tuesday, 30 October 2018
Monday, 29 October 2018
Sunday, 28 October 2018
Given the Stahlhelmed cyborg that powers the film's PR campaign, it seems reasonable to assume that Illang: The Wolf Brigade will be a (poorly timed) Axis-chic update on Fahrenheit 451. The pieces are in place - a brainwashed jackbooter slowly puzzling his way through a slippery political situation and the compromised freedom fighter he's fallen for - but appearances are deceptive. Writer-director Kim Jee-woon and co-writer Jeon Cheol-hong's adaptation of Mamoru Oshii's long-running Kerberos Panzer Cop multi-media franchise jettisons the alternative history underpinning the series. Rather than a post-Nazi occupation Japan struggling to assert an individual identity, Illang takes place in a freshly unified Korea suffering under the withering glare of international interest.
Despite the pointedly fascist iconography, not to mention civilian shredding action, Illang isn't particularly interested in exploring a Korean junta. The film's plot is instead built out of internecine crosses and double-crosses. Character's interior motivations are fiercely guarded, to the point of being dull, lest we guess whichever twist is being cued up next. Gang Dong-won's lead blackshirt Im Joong-kyung suffers the most. The actor plays the part shallow and robotic, his interactions with Han Hyo-joo's brittle love interest suggesting a spectral half-humanity trying to latch onto someone else to use as fuel for his explosive, expert violence. Kim has priors in this space, his 2005 film A Bittersweet Life brilliantly explored the willing mechanism of an emotionally inert male. Unfortunately Illang's plot isn't interested in supporting this kind of performance. Im is presented as an unknowing, easily manipulated pawn until the filmmakers believe it's exciting for him not to be.
Thursday, 25 October 2018
Timo Tjahjanto's The Night Comes for Us doesn't sit still, exposition arrives bold and up-front, decoded later through sustained evisceration. Even character relationships are built out of motion, loyal bodies hurl themselves against the in-coming Triad tide, eager to scratch out a couple of vital minutes for their fleeing compatriots. The set-up is basic, routine even - in the middle of a particularly poisonous gang punishment Joe Taslim's Ito, a mobbed-up super assassin, decides this is no longer the life for him. He snatches up Asha Kenyeri Bermudez's Reina, an innocent child caught up in middle-management flexing, and plots his escape. Iko Uwais' subordinate Arian sulks then pursues.
With the vulnerability offered by Reina firmly in place, Tjahjanto's film hurtles off into unceasing action. Although The Night Comes for Us does feature guns of every stripe, they represent brief, terrifying expulsions in a whole designed around violent utility. Everything in Night is a weapon, anything with enough weight to crack or sharp enough to puncture is put to work. Goon bodies are blubbery and pregnable, they lack the fortification conferred by intent. Ito and his friends are different, their courage armours them. They aren't soft, malleable flesh, they're hardened and defiant in the face of injury, able to soak up a truly heroic amount of punishment before they yield. They do not surrender to simple slashes or even small calibre gunfire. Their entire bodies act as deterrent, limbs break then redirect blows, telephone directories provide the level of protection you'd expect from a bomb disposal suit. Even when stabbed their wounds ooze around and seize the incoming weaponry, allowing it to be repurposed against its original owners.
Despite motoring on pure adrenaline, The Night Comes for Us never exhausts. Tjahjanto and his stunt teams avoid numbing the audience by embracing the liquid visual language of GoPro sporting and the sticky violations of body horror. While the yucks act as punctuation and punchlines in the clattering fights, the fluid camera moves add a layer of pure technical flourish to the already impressive martial arts. Tjahjanto folds the burps that signal matched, morphed sequences into his fight design, establishing a grammar that hides edits and accentuates collision. Frames readjust and track, following the motion of attack or the pop of injury detail. Nothing is hidden. There are no zooms or shakes to simulate the fizz of impact, Tjahjanto doesn't hurl his camera about to manufacture an idea of being inside action either. The camera looms over these titans and observes, undaunted by danger or revulsion, keen to gawp at the moment when muscle and bone buckle under pressure and, finally, break.
Wednesday, 24 October 2018
Watching Gareth Evans' Apostle it's difficult to get a sense of what kind of film you're being primed for. Dan Stevens' Thomas Richardson quivers and quakes, cutting the figure of a sweaty, scarred-up pub fighter physically convulsing his way through some deep-seated indignation and the tincture shakes of self-medication. He arrives on a remote Welsh island, home to a heavily overdrawn religious cult, in search of his kidnapped sister. The lush, hungry island seems to exist just out of reach of Britain's authorities, veiled by a churning, stormy sea that defeats unsanctioned approach. Its beaches are littered with rotting wrecks and derelicts, a ready-made resource for the erection of driftwood churches.
From moment one we're waiting for Richardson to unleash himself on the men ransoming his sibling. Evans' biggest successes, The Raid films, concern a righteous, religious man willingly entering a maelstrom to thump his way towards justice. Apostle often seems to promise something similar, smuggling someone violent and capable into the midst of a 70s folk horror. Once ashore Richardson is canny, noting and defeating the subtle steps designed to reveal him. These notes of potential upset are compounded by Stevens' presence. His eyes blare throughout, lending him the slathering energy of a wounded animal. Stevens also moves with the same robotic gait he gave to his genetically engineered infantryman in The Guest, a dead certain murderer programmed to overwhelm. These performance building blocks would seem to tease a methodical, mechanical satisfaction.
A laudanum addiction aside, the snarling Richarson is focused and deliberate, the film assumes his pace, lazily circling around several disparate threads that threaten to converge. Apostle builds to a head, a rational point of conflict or resolution, then abandons these simple opportunities for might to triumph. Writer-director Evans plays against type, revealing a film more interested in situations and set-pieces built around the consumptive terror underpinning primitive, pagan religion. Power shifts dominate the final third as the bloodletting faith battle over their greedy, malfunctioning prize. Mark Lewis Jones' Quinn, a Magwitchian convict who simmers with dark, incestuous desires that eventually tip over into violent egomania, seizes hold of the film, hurtling us deeper and deeper into an all-consuming chaos.