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Genre:

Action, Drama, Horror

Release Date:

20222 (Hulu)

Director:

Dan Trachtenberg

Cast:

Amber Midthunder, Dane DiLiegro, Stefany Mathias

Plot Summary:

The origin story of the Predator in the world of the Comanche Nation 300 years ago. Naru, a skilled female warrior, fights to protect her tribe against one of the first highly-evolved Predators to land on Earth.

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HORROR

THE BLACK PHONE | A Thrilling Call You Won’t Regret Answering!

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Director Scott Derrickson returns to his terror roots alongside his longtime creative collaborator C.Robert Cargill. They partner again with the foremost brand in the genre, Blumhouse, with a new horror thriller. Adapting a short story of the same name from acclaimed author Joe Hill’s 2005 debut collection, 20th Century Ghosts.

Starring four-time Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke in the most terrifying role of his career, Madeleine McGraw and introducing Mason Thames in his first-ever film role, The Black Phone is produced, directed, and co-written by Scott Derrickson, the writer-director of Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Marvel’s Doctor Strange.

The Black Phone is one of the most anticipated horror movies of the year and It arrives this weekend. It’s a thrilling, sinister, and suspenseful ride set in 1978 in a Denver suburb, an era where paranoia arose due to the cult leaders, serial killers, and child abductors that hit the headlines. In The Black Phone, the Colorado town are plagued by their own demon, known to residents as “The Grabber” who’s already abducted five young boys in the area. Their faces are already plastered across missing person flyers hung upon fences and lampposts. We soon meet thirteen-year-old Finney (Mason Thames) and his younger sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw). Finney is dealing with bullies at school and is socially awkward, while Gwen has these visions that able her to peer into the future. All this angers their alcoholic and abusive father played by Jeremy Davies.

Ethan Hawke as The Grabber in The Black Phone, directed by Scott Derrickson. via Blumhouse, Universal Studios

However, it’s only a matter of time as Finney is abducted by the sadistic killer and awakens in a soundproof basement where screaming is of little use. Trapped he discovers an antique black rotary phone that’s disconnected on the wall in this grey dank basement and begins to ring. The boy picks it up and begins to receive calls from the Grabber’s deceased victims, and they are dead set on making sure that what happened to them doesn’t happen to Finney. These calls hold the key to Finney’s only chance of escaping.

Timing is key in horror and The Black Phone utilises it with its pacing and storyline as the film gradually escalates the tension and thrilling suspense once Finney’s in the hands of The Grabber. From a filmmaking aspect, we get carefully crafted cuts that elevate the sequences with fear and terror. The Grabber is meant to represent raw evil and the monstrosity that’s out in this world, we don’t know much about the man behind the mask, but what the film utilises is that evil can come from anyone as they choose to go through that sinister route.

(from left) The Grabber (Ethan Hawke) and Finney Shaw (Mason Thames) in The Black Phone, directed by Scott Derrickson.via Blumhouse, Universal Studios

Ethan Hawke’s performance is truly unhinged but also deranged. He spends most of his chilling performance under the mask, so he relies on his effective body language and emotive stares, as the eyes are the windows into the soul. His menacing performance and unpredictability of the character had me on the edge of my seat as there were some nail-biting moments. And though Hawke haunts and dominates the screen it’s the performances of the young actors that truly give the film its heart. And through the bulk of the movie Both Thames and McGraw share a sibling bond and truly handle the elevated mature material.

Thames’s character learns with the help of the Grabber’s deceased victims to stand up for himself, which in itself is a vulnerable leading performance and one that gives us an emotional climax. However, the silver lining and my favourite performance in this movie is from McGraw, her character Gwen always has her brother’s back and her bond with him is unbreakable as they reassure and lean on each other as they cope with their abusive father. Gwen is also the one in search of her brother after he gets abducted by the Grabber and thanks to her dreamlike visions she may uncover the truth of his whereabouts. Her character also made me laugh, seeing the film with my sister truly elevated their bond for us.

(from left) Gwen Shaw (Madeleine McGraw) and Finney Shaw (Mason Thames) in The Black Phone, directed by Scott Derrickson. via Blumhouse, Universal Studios

The Black Phone has the perfect mixture of supernatural scares, which in turn are elevated by Mark Korven’s eerie and suspenseful score. What also accompanies is a swinging soundtrack of upbeat 70s songs. Director Scott Derrickson brings a personal element to the film showing what it was like in the 70s stylistically and both he and writer Cargill have a natural feel for what it was like being a kid in that era. The cinematography is incredible with warm browns and oranges, film grain and filtered light flooded the screen in this idyllic horror. They’ve taken a phenomenal story by Joe Hill, Stephen King’s son and have infused trauma, fear, profanity, and maturity. With killer visuals, It left me pulse-pounding.

VERDICT

The Black Phone is a solid masterclass in thrill and suspense, it’s more than a simple story and a phone call I urge everyone to answer as its atmospheric, unsettling, and has a great premise. All this creates the best horror film of the year so far…

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HORROR

Choose or Die – A Miss For Netflix

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Netflix’s home page suggestions can always be hit or miss, and unfortunately its latest release ‘Choose or Die’ falls into the category of the latter. Captivated by Asa Butterfield on the poster, I was curious to see what this film had to offer and begrudgingly it didn’t have a lot.

We follow Kayla, a broke student who has a lot to deal with in terms of her family situation and being the sole provider for herself and her mum. She then stumbles upon a retro video game from the 80s which forces her to choose and ultimately leads to various chain reactions of horrific events involving people close to her.

Lola Evans as Kayla and Asa Butterfield as Isaac

The premise of the film sounds interesting, however, I think it swings and misses quite early into the film’s first act. Eddie Marsan sets the tone and trail of interest for Choose or Die as we are introduced to this sadistic game and the chain of events it will inevitably pursue. 

Choose or Die doesn’t make it easy to empathise with its characters, finding any connection to Kayla or Isaac was difficult. This ‘are they aren’t they’ subplot lingers throughout the film’s narrative but adds nothing to the overarching story. The supporting characters, such as Thea and Laura, are much more interesting and genuinely have you intrigued as to what decisions they will make.

What stood out to me was the violent and gore-like scenes of 80s horrors, with some pretty good stomach churning special effects make-up. Those intense scenes, one involving a rat, had me genuinely glued to the screen, anticipating what may happen next. Choose or Die’s strongest component are the early moral decisions Kayla has to make and ultimately demonstrate Meakin’s passion for the horror genre.

Ioanna Kimbook as Grace in Choose or Die, seen here in the diner in one of the more grotesque decisive moments for Kayla

The way in which this film is shot, felt very “student-esque” with its lackluster camera movements and setting. The set design lacked little depth, except for Isaac’s room which is full of detail, therefore making the world feel small and less three dimensional. An element which pulled me out of this cinematic experience, was the fact that this was evidently filmed in the United Kingdom, and the cast contained predominantly a lot of British actors doing an American accent so I wasn’t fully immersed into this world. 

Meakins clearly uses his passion for the horror genre to influence this film’s dark tone, from it’s leading characters’ moral compass as well as the gorey visuals that inevitably come with those decisions. The whole world feels cold and derelict, be it the place in which Kayla cleans or the housing estate of which she lives in, this is an unwelcoming world that no-one wants to comfort you in. 

Choose or Die isn’t a film that will stick out as one that defined 2022, however I’m sure someone will take something away from this film, be it’s reference to 80s gaming or the violent and graphic elements that the director is clearly passionate about. 

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HORROR

Off Season – To Premiere Exclusively on Shudder

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Shudder, AMC Networks’ premium streaming service for horror, thriller and the supernatural, announced that OFFSEASON will be available exclusively to stream on the platform starting on Friday, June 10, 2022. As a Shudder exclusive, the platform will be the only subscription service that will carry the film in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Upon receiving a mysterious letter that her mother’s gravesite has been vandalized, in OFFSEASON, Marie (Donahue) quickly returns to the isolated offshore island where her late mother is buried. When she arrives, she discovers that the island is closing for the offseason with the bridges raised until Spring, leaving her stranded. One strange interaction with the local townspeople after another, Marie soon realizes that something is not quite right in this small town. She must unveil the mystery behind her mother’s troubled past in order to make it out alive.

Check out the film’s trailer below and read our review HERE as it debuted during SXSW 2021

Written and directed by Mickey Keating (Psychopaths), OFFSEASON stars Jocelin Donahue (Doctor Sleep), Joe Swanberg (The Rental, “Easy”), Richard Brake (3 From HellMandy), Melora Walters (The Pale Door, “Pen15”) and Jeremy Gardner (After MidnightThe Mind’s Eye).

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