Review – Hush

Last month, I was lucky enough to stumble across a couple of movies that have not been released in cinemas and have instead gone straight to streaming platforms. This used to be a sign of a forgettable movie; “straight to DVD” being in effect a three word review that said all you needed it to say. But, as viewing patterns and technology evolve, we can’t always rely on this any longer. And, if we do, we run the risk of missing some real gems, such as the movie I’ve reviewed here.

Hush was released this year by Netflix and is directed by Mike Flanagan who was also the director behind Oculus. I wasn’t a huge fan of Oculus, but there were enough interesting elements in it to make me give this one a shot. Flanagan also co-wrote the script with the lead actor Kate Siegel, so in every way this is a small scale production.

Kate Siegel plays Maddie, a deaf author who lives by herself out in the forest. One night, a psychotic serial killer comes to her house intent on adding her to his list of victims, but not before he has played a very twisted cat and mouse game with her.

It’s a very simple premise, but it is one that works. There are two main reasons for why this is a standout horror movie that I hope more people seek out.

Firstly, the premise of having a deaf/mute girl as the main character brings some really interesting elements to the horror genre. While watching the movie, you realise how dependent you as the viewer and the characters within horror movies are on sound to alert you to danger lurking around the corner/in the next shot. Reducing the film’s reliance on creaky floorboards, shaking doorknobs etc. means that tension levels automatically shoot sky high.

You just have to watch the trailer above to get a sense of how the film uses the lead character’s hearing impediment, as well as our modern technology in the form of cell phones and instant messaging, to really good, creepy effect. This part of the film also bears strong resemblance to the opening scene of Scream, in the best possible way.

Surprisingly, I found the fact that Maddie doesn’t speak to be an oddly empowering aspect of her character, making her stand out from the endless female targets in horror movies. It took a while for me to realise that I was watching a horror movie that had almost no screaming in it. It’s very refreshing and sets film apart from more torture-porn-like films. In a way, Maddie’s silence is her strength. In a situation where the odds might seem stacked against her, by refusing her stalker the – for him – gratifying sound of her despair and fear, she is helping to rig the whole game just slightly more in her favour.

Secondly, the film’s small budget has been used to the absolute best effect and it translates to a focused, taught story. We never leave Maddie’s house and its immediate surroundings and this gives a sense of claustrophobic tension. The small budget and small,  but solid cast, is what helps it feel like a well executed horror movie unlike so many baggy, unfocused horrors we are subjected to.

The running time is kept short at 1 hours 20 minutes so we don’t waste a lot of time on back story and character motivations. Nothing impresses me more these days than when a director has the good sense to allow his/her movie to hold something back, to not tell us everything, and to let its audience free of its grip before they start looking at their watches and shifting in their seats.

Hush is the kind of horror movie I wish received more attention, so that studios took more notice. Not so that they could swoop in and plan Hush 2, 3 and 4 but rather so horror movies that have great stories and believable characters were given the time of day more often. At a time where cookie cutter horror movies are being churned out, Hush is – excuse the pun – a quiet little film that packs a punch.

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Trailer Tuesdays – Midnight Special

I have been excited for Midnight Special for some time now. The first trailer came out a while ago but we now have another one to enjoy:

There’s a host of reasons why this is a film to look forward to.

  • The director is Jeff Nichols. Nichols directed Take Shelter (2011) and Mud (2012), both excellent movies that are worth your time if you haven’t already seen them. He makes movies that infuse you with their mood and linger with you long after they’re finished.
  • The cast. You had me at Michael Shannon, but throw in Joel Edgerton and Adam Driver too and things really start to get interesting.
  • The mystery. The trailer gives us a peak into what the movie is about but, if Nichols’ previous films are anything to go by, you need to be prepared for the movie being about more than what you see on the surface. And it won’t be spelled out for you either, you’ll have to do some thinking.

In essence, the trailer shows us the story of a father and son on the run, as the son clearly has some special powers that his father can’t keep hidden any longer. The FBI is after them, but so are others, as their story becomes public knowledge. The premise is intriguing and it could be a refreshing perspective on what happens to someone with powers that humans cannot explain – who would want to get a hold of such a person, how can you make sense of the purpose of those powers? And if that someone was your child, what would you do?

Midnight Special is released in March, and I’ll be keeping fingers crossed that this lives up to expectations.

Trailer Tuesdays – The Legend of Tarzan; The BFG

Trailer Tuesdays is a regular feature where I look at recent trailers to get an idea of what we can expect of movie releases in the future. Today, as it’s almost Christmas, I thought: “Why not two, instead of one?” – the same attitude I have towards mince pies, roast potatoes and glasses of mulled wine.

So we shall start off with The Legend of Tarzan; a sizeable blockbuster coming out in summer 2016.

There is a lot going on in this trailer, but very little of it is storyline. A quick Google search reveals that this movie takes place some time after Tarzan has moved to England with Jane. He goes back to the Congo on a trade mission but things don’t go as planned due to the interference of the film’s villain, a Belgian Captain played by Christoph Waltz.

Did you get any of that from the trailer? Yeah, me neither. Never mind, the trailer does look gorgeous, ditto Alexander Skarsgård as Tarzan.

The director is David Yates who is most famous for having directed several Harry Potter movies. I myself have little to no knowledge of the Harry Potter movies, so I don’t know what to expect from him. I am a bit concerned that Yates has another big movie on the cards for next year, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as that’s a lot of work for any director.

My other main concern, as with anything Tarzan-related, is will they be able to avoid the blatant racism of the source material? I’m getting some Heart of Darkness vibes with the masses of ominous, faceless  “natives”  and I hope that’s just due to the trailer being so superficial.

One of the best books I read recently was King Leopold’s Ghost, which covers the atrocities of the Belgians in the Congo, and it would be truly amazing if Waltz character isn’t just some moustache-twirling movie villain, but a factually based representation of the numerous Belgian officials who managed to completely de-humanise a people.

If the movie is able to follow through on the stunning visuals, recognise the ludicrousness of its own roots and portray its African characters with depth and multitudes, I think this has the opportunity to be a rip-roaring ride.

Next up is the film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG:

If you don’t know the story then, firstly, shame on you. Secondly, it’s about a little girl living in an orphanage, who happens to see a giant one night and is then abducted by him to his homeland, Giant Country.

We’re big fans of The BFG in our household and have tackled some long road trips giggling along to the story’s “whizzpopping”, “snozzcumber” and “frobscottle” all the way, so this is one I’m already emotionally invested in.

The BFG is directed by Steven Spielberg and I believe I have seen a film or two by this young upstart before. Although I haven’t adored every single Spielberg film, you can’t deny the man’s experience and craft, so this movie already has a great foundation.

And from what we see in the trailer, I’m really excited. The short glimpses of the giant are breathtaking; I think it’s a real challenge to make a character like him come to life on screen. We’ll have to wait and see what he looks like in full. It’s only a teaser trailer, so there unfortunately isn’t much material to judge it on. However, knowing the special touch that Spielberg has with movies which focus on good old fashioned adventure and childhood wonder – I’m thinking more E.T. than Hook here – I’m rather optimistic.

That’s it for today! Let me know what trailers you’ve seen recently that have left you giddy or groaning.

 

 

Trailer Tuesdays – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Despite having proclaimed my love of trailers a million times before, both here and elsewhere, it still amazes me that we have reached a stage where trailers get trailers of their own, sneak peaks, world premieres, sequels and what have you. I’m not complaining, I just thought I was the only one crazy enough to enjoy trailers that much.

And so we have been presented with trailer #2 for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, after a teaser trailer was released a few days previously.

I’ll be the first to admit that the prospect of sitting through a Zack Snyder movie isn’t really something that excites me. I followed the steady stream of news about the production of the movie with a mix of disinterest and pity: “Aw, look at those folks trying to simultaneously outdo Marvel AND recapture the greatness that was Nolan’s Batman, cute!” Although it was refreshing to hear of the inclusion of Wonder Woman, I had little hope for her story getting the treatment it deserves.

All that being said…..Holy sh*t Batman, this trailer looks amazing!

Firstly, we have Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne having a little verbal sparring match, which I found delightfully bitchy. The short clips of their heroic acts also sets the scene nicely for their differences so there’s an instant understanding of how these two could end up disliking each other so much.

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Is it me or are Super’s nostrils flaring?

Then we meet Lex Luthor and start to see how he plays a part in orchestrating the animosity between Superman and Batman. He seems nervous, bordering on unhinged, but you have moments of him talking  that suggests he has a plan and he’s in control. There’s a lot of scowling from our superheroes, explosions, chases and general epicness.

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Okay, guess Superman’s in da house!

Essentially, what has given me hope for this movie is that it seems like it might be funny; witty even. It’s refreshing as Man of Steel left little room for laughs. Yes, Marvel has done the funny super hero thing for ages now, so it probably won’t be long before that’s as unpopular as the ubiquitous origin story. But I can only take so much action before I need a good chuckle, so I say keep it coming. I look forward to seeing two big, strong men squabbling, it reminds me of some of the most enjoyable scenes from that other recent Henry Cavill movie, Man From U.N.C.L.E.

And then, of course, when the two enemies find themselves in a spot of bother, and it looks like they are both about to be obliterated, BOOM:

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Wonder Woman saves the day! I love this part of the trailer and the little exchange Batman and Superman have afterwards to try to make sense of what has just happened. I don’t for one minute think this means Wonder Woman will be a truly awesome female superhero, but I will at least refrain from writing her, and the movie, off as I had already started to do.

I don’t know yet if this will be a masterpiece, but I will watch it and that is all the work a trailer needs to do right?

Ho, ho, horror

Hey, it’s October now and that means Halloween is around the corner, so I’m in the mood to talk about horror. Until this weekend, it had been entirely too long since I had watched a good horror movie. I saw, and enjoyed, “It Follows” a few months ago and it was without a doubt the best horror of 2015 for me.  But how long does one have to wait for a decent horror to come along?

There might be light at the end of the tunnel though.  “Crimson Peak” is out next week, and as it has A) Guillermo del Toro as a director and B) Tom Hiddleston starring, my hopes are sky-high. Don’t fail me now del Toro!

Then, a couple of weeks ago, the trailer for the new Christmas themed horror-comedy “Krampus” was released. I watched the trailer desperately hoping to feel some level of excitement. And, I’m sorry to say, I’m not really feeling it. I love comedy, I love horror, I love Adam Scott and Toni Colette but this one left me feeling little more than “meh”.

The mythical figure of Krampus has the potential to be seriously frightening and unsettling, but I would prefer to see something closer to the wiry, black goat creature seen on many old postcards instead of this massive, hulking beast in a robe. In fact, Beast from Disney’s “Beauty & the Beast” is who I first thought of when I saw the trailer.

DEMON

Prisoner

Seriously, I’d just go with him hoping he would show me his amazing library.

However, I wanted to find out more about who was behind “Krampus” and started reading about the director Michael Dougherty. And that’s how I came across “Trick ‘r Treat”, Dougherty’s 2007 movie. If you are looking for something to get you in the mood for Halloween or just feel like watching a really solid horror, I’d highly recommend it. It’s a compilation of a few different stories taking place in the same town on Halloween. The movie manages to be both funny and scary and also cleverly handles various horror tropes. I felt genuinely delighted after watching the movie, which is a fairly strange thing to say when you’ve watched whole chunks of it through your fingers.

“Sam” from Trick ‘r Treat. If this kid came to my door for Halloween, all he would get is a whole lot of nope.

So, if nothing else, I now have a Halloween classic I can return to year after year when I need to get my fright fix. I’d love to hear your horror recommendations in the comments section.

Surprise Me

If trailer viewing counted as a hobby, I would list in on my CV. I am addicted to trailers and always keep up with the latest. For me, it’s like getting a peek at a Christmas present. If what I see looks good, I keep having to peek over and over again. Sometimes, what I see is a disappointment and I end up never opening the damn thing.

Me, when I find a new trailer I haven't seen yet.

Me, when I find a new trailer I haven’t seen yet.

A trailer is something a bit like the cover and blurb of a book. It’s meant to whet your appetite and set the tone for the movie viewing experience. But the trailer you’re watching can end up being nothing like the movie you watch months later. It’s all too easy to make an exciting trailer even if you don’t have enough material to make a decent movie. We all know those trailers for comedies where all the actual jokes worth even the shortest of chortles are in the trailer. The movie itself is left scraping the barrel of laughs, so to speak.

More often than not, I have been excited by a trailer only to be let down by the actual movie. I’m not going to lie, when it comes to trailers I am probably easily amused. I seem to remember watching the Troy trailer on repeat back in 2004. And the movie, well, we all know how that went.

Sometimes, though, a trailer can leave you going “meh” when the the movie is actually wonderful. I find this a really puzzling phenomenon. I have been thinking about it lately after the release of  The Gift. I watched the trailer when it came out a few months ago and just found the trailer so underwhelming. I felt like I knew the whole story already and there was no need to see the movie.

But  the reviews are out and are overwhelmingly positive. What I have heard so far is that the trailer almost deliberately misleads you so that you can be surprised by what you see in the movie. This is hard to pull off and an intriguing strategy, so now I am of course desperate to see the movie. And it’s made me wonder how many other movies I have missed out on, because the trailer didn’t catch my attention.

Do you have any examples of a rubbish trailer coming before an amazing movie? And what does make a bad trailer and a good trailer anyway? I hope to explore trailers often on this blog and I’d love your feedback.