Guns Akimbo

Guns Akimbo could be written off as cheap cartoonish thrills or simply whack-job hyperactive splatter without a touch of artistry like some of its type, but the fact remains that it’s actually a really good film from all standpoints and I had a ton of fun with it. Daniel Radcliffe has been doing his best to shed the deeply rooted Harry Potter mythos and pick some genuinely edgy, offbeat scripts (Horns, Swiss Army Man) and this one slam dunks squarely into that niche. In the not too distant, slightly dystopian future a terrorist cell of lunatics operates a gladiatorial games match called Skizm, in which various freaks, degenerates and maladjusted humans fight each other to the death all over an unnamed city (actually a super arbitrary combo of Auckland and Munich) as advanced drone technology catches it all and a vast, unruly community of online users observe over the interwebs. Radcliffe is Miles, a meek, beta computer programmer whose only joy in life is to troll user-boards relentlessly until he makes the wrong comment to the wrong account and finds himself targeted by the CEO of Skizm himself, a deranged, tattooed fiend called Riktor (Ned Dennehy). He’s kidnapped and wakes up with two giant guns *literally* nailed into his hands and turned loose into the death match that is Skizm for his troubles, where frying pan turns to fire but quick as he finds himself hunted by the game’s ruthless reigning champion, a rambunctious goth waif named Nix (Samara Weaving). Being an inexperienced softie he finds himself in quite the predicament until… well I won’t spoil the story but it goes to some fun places. Much of it is Miles furiously cavorting about the city with Nix in hot pursuit as vehicles are annihilated, bystanders are blown to pieces and several thousand rounds of ammo are emptied into everything animate and inanimate set to a thunderous, skeleton reverberating electronic score by Enis Rothoff. The action is frenetic, meticulously choreographed and strikingly brutal especially whenever Weaving, who is wicked here, shows up to pulverize a horde of enemies like some kind of nightmarish hell-shryke who escaped from Hot Topic. Radcliffe spends much of the film in a confused, exasperated daze and sort of just.. bungles his way into escaping each new hurdle, it’s a fun shtick. Dennehy is an actor to watch out for as the villain Riktor. He’s an Irish dude who made a distinct charismatic impression as one of the second tier baddies in Panos Cosmatos’s Mandy, but he’s positively in another orbit here, a rambling, incoherent, cheerfully psychotic animalistic nut job who is just too much fun to watch. This film falls in the category of super duper torqued up stuff like Crank, Smokin Aces and Shoot Em Up that are a ton of fun for the right audience yet many will find to be just too obnoxious and cacophonous for their tastes, which is fine. I enjoyed this a lot, it’s got style for days, momentum like nobody’s business, ruthlessly pitch black humour and even finds a moment for an albeit heavy handed (literally) yet pretty effective nugget of social commentary on toxic internet gaming culture and the poisonous, desensitizing, voyeuristic prism violence is viewed through online. Fun times.

-Nate Hill

McG’s The Babysitter: Killer Queen

The first Babysitter on Netflix is one of my favourite 80’s nostalgia bath horror flicks out there, so naturally I was curious about the recent sequel, Babysitter: Killer Queen. The first film is a blast of retro pop culture referential bliss, cheerfully gruesome cartoon gore, vividly farcical archetypal characterizations, a beautifully bold colour palette and some punishingly funny dark humour. So how much of that does this sequel bring to the table? Well thankfully a lot, and ends being like… 70% as dope as the first with a ton of rambunctious energy and clever new ideas.. however, it implodes a bit in the third act with some inexplicably off kilter character/plot curveballs that just feel weird, which I’ll get to in a moment. It’s been a year or so since the events of the first films and young Cole (Judah Lewis) is still processing almost being murdered and sacrificed to Satan by his evil babysitter Bee (Samara Weaving) and her mad dog gang of psycho high schoolers. Life goes on and no one seems to believe him until it all happens again, his would be best friend Em (Emily Alyn Lind) turns out to be another devil worshipping bitch who goes nuts on him right as Bee’s followers all rise from the dead for one night’s last chance to finish what they started and dispatch Cole for good. He’s joined by the ‘new girl’ in his class, a spitfire problem kid named Phoebe (Jenna Ortega) and soon enough genuine sparks fly between them. The action is shifted from the pastel suburbia aesthetic and placed on a riverboat and the surrounding Arizona desert/lake atmosphere for a nice change. The gore is fast and furious, the dialogue whip smart and reliably hilarious and the soundtrack packed with joyous 80’s deep cuts of everything from Alannah Myles’ Black Velvet to Tangerine Dream’s Love On A Real Train. It’s a ton of fun, except… well the problem here is Samara Weaving, or a lack of her anyways. Her character is pretty much absent for most of the film, while her exuberant cronies do much of the chasing, terrorizing and wise cracking. When she does eventually show up in the eleventh hour, she seems distracted, listless, even a little pale and not up to the task, like she was somehow forced into this by a contractual obligation and kept her presence as scant as possible. Nowhere to be found is the spunky, sexy, full of charisma and deadly sex appeal we remember her having from the first film. Additionally, they’ve chosen a completely out of left field twist on her character that makes absolutely zero sense when you look at the first film and feels just, so shoehorned in for whatever behind the scenes reasons, most likely spearhead by Weaving’s own ideas about the whole thing. It’s shocking and a bit frustrating and kind of derails the entire franchise, if I’m being honest. Still though, the first two thirds of the film are cracking stuff and on the level of pedigree as the first film, I’m just not sold on the ending, and whoever’s plan it was to go that route with this Bee character.

-Nate Hill

Ready Or Not

You ever have a game night with people who take that shit just a bit too seriously? Well for new bride Samara Weaving, such is most definitely the case. She’s marrying into an impossibly rich, pompous and slightly creepy family, and on the midnight stroke of her wedding night they want to play a game with her, an initiation rite of sorts. Could be Uno, could be checkers or crib, but god help them all if she pulls the hide and seek card. Ready Or Not is a brutal, breathless, hilarious and grisly horror comedy that plays like a big soup mix of Knives Out, The Evil Dead, The Most Dangerous Game, Meet The Parents, The Looney Toons and… well I shouldn’t compare it to all that much because it’s got its own thing going on too, and I fucking loved the dementedly high strung, black comedy saturated aesthetic.

Weaving is a phenomenal talent, who you’ll remember as the sinister but smokin hot Babysitter in the Netflix film of the same name. She bears such a striking resemblance to Margot Robbie that up until now it thought it *was* Margot in this flick, but she’s just as awesome. Basically she’s stuck in a grand old Clue-esque manor while her obnoxious, flippant, asshole in-laws hunt her down with antiquated weapons that look like they’re pilfered off that angry ass colonial hunter from Jumanji. There’s all kinds of hijinks, gory set pieces and an ending that is so off the map of WTF-ness and unexpected pandemonium I had to give it a the ol’ royal slow clap for effort and ingenuity. Scene stealers include the always deadpan Henry Czerny as the clan’s smarmy, perpetually cheesed off patriarch, Adam Brody as his very conflicted son and beloved Andie MacDowell as the two-faced dragon of a matriarch. This is tongue in cheek territory and then some, I mean the concept is right out of a darker version of Saturday Night Live or something. Weaving is just so great, turning white hot panic into exasperated anger and truly getting some exemplary, crowd pleasing moments of extreme violence, especially towards the family’s hapless butler (John Ralston). If you’re a fan of down n’ dirty, super gory and utterly hilarious horror mayhem, this is pretty much guaranteed to be a good time.

-Nate Hill

The Babysitter

The Babysitter is a rip snorting fuckin great old school horror throwback, I’m excited that money is being spent on projects like this, and stoked further that Netflix is purchasing them. With a premise culled from the depths of the 80’s and a revamped modern setting complete with obligatory pop culture references to assure us that although it’s steeped in nostalgia, we are in fact in the here and now, a recipe that cunningly embraces both sides of the fence, each with grass equally green. Plus it’s a fuckin intense, R rated, batshit crazy bloodbath, with smart writing to back up the carnage. Set on a sunny suburban afternoon, young Cole (Judah Lewis) is a bullied lad with loopy parents and obligatory nerdy nostalgic affinities, as well as a special bond with his sexy, sassy babysitter Bee (Samara Weaving), who is looking out for him while the parental unit takes off on a night away. It’s party fun friendship time with the two of them, who couldn’t get along better, until… Surprise!! Bee and her clique of high school friends are actually a murdering satanist cult with blood on their hands and killing on their minds. From there it’s a deliriously gory free for all as Cole discovers this is the night he becomes a man, and has to defend himself tooth and nail from these demented weirdos, and reconcile Bee’s betrayal, a theme I was shocked they had time to explore amidst the bloody chaos. It’s silly in the vein of the Evil Dead, but polished and succinctly written by way of Scream, and peppered with deliberate pop culture Easter eggs a lá Stranger Things, an irresistible flavour overall. Pouty lipped, well endowed Samara is a true find as Bee, earning both Cole’s admiration, adoration and finally fear with her spunky, scary performance. Her little cult is populated by slightly tweaked archetypes including the token black guy (Andrew Bachelor), the slutty cheerleader (Bella Thorne), the creepy Asian chick (Hana Mae Lee) and most entertainingly the douchebag jock (Robbie Amell has fun with the role and then some). Colourful pastel production design provides a palette for gallons of gushing blood to be spilled via stabbings, shootings, impalings, vehicular decimation and one of the best shotgun to the head sequences in years that’s so sudden it even has Bee remarking “holy shit that was graphic”. I love old horror flicks and I can’t get enough of this throwback trend they’ve been doing, when they do their research and put out solid gore-fests and fright flicks, and this one is a fuckin hoot from front to back.

-Nate Hill