Intruders (2011)

The word Intruders can mean a lot of things, it’s a nice title for a film that gets a lot more ambiguous than it’s standard horror vibe may put out. Here ‘intruders’ on the surface level refers to a faceless marauding monster that terrorizes two children at night by showing up in their bedrooms, but curiously they are in completely different regions, one a girl (Ella Purnell) in London and the other a boy (Izán Corchero) somewhere far away in Spain. What is this evil cloaked figure, where does it come from, why does it only torment these poor kids and what’s the connection between them? These are questions with answers that lie like dark secrets within this shadowy, challenging narrative and I was pleased to note that this is anything but a routine monster/ghost story and has some disturbing, sad revelations that are hard to see coming. The boy in Spain wrestles with this demon as his mother (Pilar Lopez De Alaya) confers with a concerned local priest (Daniel Bruhl) about the situation. Over in London the young girl’s mother (Carice Van Houten) and father (Clive Owen) grow increasingly hopeless and desperate as this thing won’t stop showing up in their daughter’s bedroom and her mental state gets worse and worse. In this case the word ‘Intruders’ sort of means memories more than anything else, decades old trauma passed from one generation to the next until it’s somehow resolved and the monsters can be put to rest. I like the two different locations, bustling metropolitan London and creaky, eerie rural Spain juxtapose nicely while the multinational, eclectic cast are all fantastic with Owen a standout in the film’s key role. It’s a great script with some truly unsettling fright sequences, a twist ending that I dare you to guess even a few minutes ahead of time and some emotional catharsis in the third act that hits home, hard. Highly recommended.

-Nate Hill

Zack Snyder’s Army Of The Dead

We don’t deserve a movie as outright cool, fun, entertaining and badass as Zack Snyder’s Army Of The Dead. Know how I know? Because of all the flagrant, inflammatory hate I’m seeing in discussion threads across the universe of social media, hate being doled out largely (not exclusively, before you lunge for my throat) by people who would have surely left this film alone and even enjoyed it if Snyder had nothing to do with it. Know how I know *that*? Just trust me, I know how these fuckwit Snyder hating trolls operate and I know it’s only because of his involvement that they are being this way. Anyways enough about them and onto the film, which is sensational and one of the best I’ve seen this year. Snyder sets the action in and out of a cordoned off Las Vegas where an undead outbreak several years before has decimated sin city and the zombies, unlike anything you’ve seen so far in the genre by the way, have taken up a sort of primordial tribal residence amongst the once glitzy landmark city. A Japanese billionaire (Hiroyuki Sanada) assembles a team spearheaded by Dave Bautista’ ex special forces short order cook to venture in and bust open a casino vault with millions inside, but is that what he’s really after? Bautista is wonderful and proves yet again what a talented presence he is on top of being a solid action dude. His character reconnects with an estranged daughter (Ella Purnell) who works inside the quarantine zone and here the film finds a pathos usually uncommon in this arena. Others in the cast make vivid impressions including Tig Notaro as a cavalier helicopter pilot, Mathias Schweighöfer as an adorably aloof safecracker, Theo Rossi as a despicably abusive government soldier, Ana de la Reguera as a fearsome warrior and perennial slime-ball Garrett Dillahunt as a smarmy private security expert with a shady agenda. My favourite was the lovely Nora Arnezeder as the aptly named Coyote, a highly trained scout who regularly ventures into the hot zone and serves as their guide, she brings a humanity and urgency to both her lines and action choreography that really struck a chord with me. The zombies are ruled by a sort of patient zero Alpha named Zeus, played ferociously by Richard Cetrome, who also played the leader of the pack Big Daddy Mars in John Carpenter’s Ghosts Of Mars, a nice shoutout to a similarly maligned flick that actually totally rocks. Zeus has a Bride (Chelsea Edmundson) who for me was the most striking character in the film, a serpentine zombie queen with fiery contact lenses, a shrieking battle cry and wonderful physicality provided by model Edmundson. And yes there is a zombie tiger too, and yes she is one incredibly badass and beautifully rendered creature creation that is a highlight of the film. Look, this is a torqued up, totally ridiculous, hyper-stylized B movie about an outbreak in Vegas, wherein lies an undead jungle cat, zombies who ride skeletal horses and can both breed and have little zombie babies all wrapped up in a heist flick with a father daughter relationship, anti government undercurrents and more action that you can shake a severed head at, so if you’re trying to poke holes of logic and burrow for plot holes in a film that intrepidly incorporates all of that under one two and a half hour tent, well babe the only person you’re fooling is yourself. So what the story isn’t a succinct high-wire act of pushpin writing beats and realistic arcs? It’s a kickass old school horror flick with a huge cast, buckets of beautiful and strikingly graphic gore (eat your heart out, Bear attack scene from The Revenant), wonderfully unique mythology, dark humour, tons of gorgeous twilight and magic hour cinematography, splashes of genuinely affecting emotional work and a fucking zombie tiger named Valentine! So chill out. My top film of the year so far 🐅 🐯

-Nate Hill

Indie Gems with Nate: Wildlike

It’s random netflix time again, where I decided to take a look at Wildlike, a film I’ve never heard of before, and one that I will not be getting out of my head anytime soon. I have a certain affinity for films set in the wilds of the pacific northwest, films that use nature and scenery to accent themes relating to humans (eg. The Grey, Into The Wild). I also saw Bruce Greenwood on the poster, and that guy just seems to have a head on his shoulders when it comes to choosing scripts, so off on this journey I went. Newcomer Ella Purnell is astounding as 14 year old Mackenzie, sent off to live with her uncle (Brian Geraghty) after her mother has a breakdown following a family tragedy. The poor girl goes from the frying pan into the fire though, when it’s revealed that her is sexually abusing her, and may have in the past. The abuse shown in this film is not loud or violent, nor is it melodramatic or designed for shock value. It’s quiet, frank and subtle, the damage of it measured in a glance, a tear streaming down a cheek or a barely percievable shift of weight from Mackenzie when he looks at her. Geraghty is a handsome dude, nowhere near the bespectacled, paunchy clichéof abuser so often seen. He plays it straight, a pleasant and agreeable fellow who can’t even comprehend the kind of damage he’s doing. The scenes of abuse themselves are quick and fleeting, made all the more uncomfortable by how intimate they seem. This is the closest to what I’d imagine realism with this sort of thing looks like, and i had trouble not turning away. When she can’t bear it any longer, Kenzie makes a run for it into the nearby town, hiding out and eventually befriending lone hiker Greenwood, who is healing from wounds of his own. Kenzie is confused and broken from what has happened, and the filmmakers know that when this befalls someone whose brain and soul are not developed enough to understand it, they act in strange ways. Purnell is heartbreaking and should have been in contending for some sort of award. Going from almost no film work to lighting up the film with this brave, staggering turn was something I was honored to see unfold on my humble iPad screen. Much of the story unfolds in the breathtaking Alaskan wilderness, the camera capturing misty mountains, verdant landscapes and little coves that ferries weave in and out of. You just have to contrast this type of subject matter with beauty of some kind, and Kenzie’s journey takes her from darkness into the possibility of light, surrounded by the natural world and the companionship of her new friend and protector. Most of the time it’s just the two of them out in the desolation, aside from when they meet a kindly group of campers, including Ann Dowd, an incredible actress who seems to be riding some sort of comeback these days. Films about this sort of thing range all across the board, from hamfisted pulp revenge, to tender and inquisitive documentation. This one respectfully shows you the kind of irresponsible, selfish and sick behaviour humans are capable of, particularly towards the ones they are supposed to love and protect. It also looks at kindness and compassion that can come from a complete stranger and shelter those who have been broken. There’s both light and dark in this world of ours, and Kenzie meets them both face to face. Purnell owns the film, and I think we will see great things from her. Couldn’t recommend this film, and her performance, enough.