Tag Archives: Thriller

The Glass House

The Glass House is one of those silly, sensationalist, bombastic pieces of melodramatic domestic turmoil branding itself as the slickest thriller on the block. It thinks it’s a lot smarter, more suspenseful and shocking than it actually is and despite the fact that it’s a total riot of bad movie cliches and overcooked hoo-hah, I still had a bit of fun with it. The main reason it kind of works is casting; Diane Lane and Stellan Skarsgard are just watchable in anything no matter the quality, and here you get to see them play the world’s worst foster parents to two wayward orphans (Leelee Sobieski and Trevor Morgan). They at first seem like nice, caring folks: they’re rich, well put together, hospitable and live in a big old house atop a hill that’s just secluded enough to come in handy later when things go wrong. Soon it becomes apparent these two are whackos though. Skarsgard’s Terry is a dangerous manipulator who is hellbent on nabbing the kid’s four million trust fund left by their parents, while Lane’s Erin is an unstable junkie prone to weird outbursts and scary behaviour. It’s tough since no one really believes these kids and the whole thing circles the drain to one of those hilariously over the top forgone thriller conclusions that has a chase, several implausible fights, some cat and mouse stuff and plenty of villainous posturing from the two leads. Sobieski is always solid (see Joyride for a much better thriller starring her), Skarsgard no stranger to playing unhinged psychos and Lane although cast against her sweetheart type rocks the batshit chick aesthetic well. They’re all just stuck in such a formulaic, dull ass, waterlogged script that doesn’t step an inch out of line or do anything different than we’ve seen loads of times before. The only thing that really stands out beyond being adequate is the lighting, which really cracks on blu Ray. Other than that and the game performances it’s a trip through mediocrity town.

-Nate Hill

Tomas Alfredson’s The Snowman

There’s no nice way to put this: Tomas Alfredson’s The Snowman is a fucking embarrassing mess of a film. It frequently looks very beautiful but stunning snowy visuals can only get you so far in a film whose story is so jagged it’s borderline nonexistent. Based on an airport thriller novel, this tries to be a grisly murder mystery in the vein of Fincher’s Girl With The Dragon Tattoo or something and ends up stumbling over its own lopsided narrative, getting lost in a sea of serial killer cliches and providing a host of excellent actors with basically jack shit to do.

Michael Fassbender is Detective Harry Hole (snicker), hard bitten Oslo lawman who comes across a serial murderer who leaves victim’s bloody scarves wrapped around an eerie looking snowman. So begins an impenetrable investigation dating decades back and relating (somehow) to a bunch of characters whose involvement just seems out of nowhere really. There’s a set of twins played by Chloe Sevigny, who always picks edgy, boundary pushing roles but seems listless and lost here. J.K. Simmons shows up briefly with a horrendous Norwegian accent as the police captain overseeing the case. Others meander in and out including Rebecca Ferguson, James D’arcy, Toby Jones, Adrian Dunbar and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Oh yeah and Val Kilmer too, playing a cop in flashbacks who lost his mind trying to find this killer, with godawful dubbing over his voice. At one point he actually steps out his office window and paces out onto a ledge like he wants nothing more than to escape this train wreck of a film. What a cast, just thrown to the winds.

I remember when the trailer for this came out, I couldn’t have been more excited for it. Snowy setting, eerie serial killer mystery, hard boiled cop with his own demons, I mean it’s so much up my alley it was practically knocking on my door. I answered by seeing the thing finally and wish I just stayed inside. The resulting film seems like it was thrown into a snowblower for editing and just launched across a field for release with little thought for character, incident, motivation, suspense or anything remotely engaging. It’s a shame because up until this, Alfredson’s track record was pretty impeccable. A straight up dud.

-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

William Eubank’s Underwater

I’m pumped that I got to see William Eubank’s Underwater in theatres, because it’s the kind of giddy, delightful escapism that you don’t get on the big screen too often anymore. I love creature feature flicks, love SciFi, love films set underwater, there’s a feel akin to outer space that is just so immersive and enchanting. Throw in Kristen Stewart, who I love as an actress no matter how much hate y’all throw her way, and well this thing seems like it was made for me!

Seven miles down the Mariana Trench, a vast drilling expedition has made a bit to much of a racket and awoken something up on the ocean floor, something big, pissed off and scary as fuck. Stewart and her research team feel the repercussive effects about a mile further up on their rig, and in the first couple minutes of the film, all hell literally breaks loose. This is after a brief, moody and atmosphere setting introduction to Stewart’s Nora, a tough but damaged and fatalistic engineer whose survival instinct kicks in the minute things go haywire, evading extreme pressure, aquatic dementia, claustrophobia, panic and undersea monsters to stay alive along with her captain (Vincent Cassel) and crew that includes T.J. Miller as hysterical comic relief, John Gallagher Jr and Jessica Henwick as their research assistant who brings a sense of warmth and humanity in her excellent performance.

This is a tight, no nonsense B movie that hits the ground running, basically takes place in real time, has some very inventive biology for the creatures that I won’t spoil (there’s a WTF reveal in the third act that gave me chills) and feels like one long extended scene that somehow finds a few moments to actually make you feel for these people. Stewart rocks a blonde crew cut and sports bra, vaguely evoking Ripley from the Alien films but finding her own bleak, badass groove. Her final ‘fuck you’ to the aquatic beasts is a stand-up-and-fucking-cheer moment that solidifies her character as a capable, selfless and gritty heroine. This isn’t going to win any awards but it’s a shining example of the type of thing I want to go see at the multiplex: thrilling escapism, heroes to root for, nasty monsters from the deep places of the earth, a beautiful sense of style brought by cinematographer Bojan Bazelli and wonderfully spooky, cathartic score composed by Marco Beltrami and Brandon Roberts. I couldn’t recommend this enough.

-Nate Hill

Jan De Bont’s The Haunting

It amazes me that anyone involved in the making of Jan De Bont’s The Haunting thought they were doing anything that could be classified as remotely ‘scary.’ The film barely deserves its PG-13 rating and quite honestly I’ve seen spookier ghosts in that Eddie Murphy Haunted Mansion thing. Now, having said that: I do recommend seeing it for the absolutely stunning, breathtakingly elaborate production design and set artistry. The visuals are so beautiful they really deserve a better film to showcase, but oh well.

Basically silly professor Liam Neeson wants to study fear and it’s effects on people, so he places an ad and soon a few people have agreed to spend a night in gargantuan Hill House manor under the guise of a sleep deprivation experiment. Lili Taylor, who is no stranger to haunted houses now that she headlined The Conjuring, is someone I usually love but her performance here as the lead is grating, weird, shrill, dull, stilted and bizarre just to use a few adjectives. Catherine Zeta Jones fares better as a sassy bisexual babe who relishes line delivery and whose ornately beautiful aura slinks in nicely with that of the baroque estate. Owen Wilson is unfortunately also cast and gets saddled with the weirdo comic relief thing, falling flat in every scene and just coming across as vaguely neurologically damaged. Others fly by in smaller roles including Alix Koromzy, Todd Field, Virginia Madsen, Michael Cavanaugh, Tom Irwin, M.C. Gainey and Bruce Dern as the cranky caretaker.

There’s this half baked plot around the guy that built the place, kid’s souls trapped within and something about Taylor’s character being the reincarnation of his wife, which is a horror motif I’m honestly just so sick of. Really it’s just the cast bumbling about these gorgeous sets while things go bump, and occasionally unforgivably bad CGI giant hands reaching out of walls to give them a spank or two. It’s an unrepentant mess. But like I said before, these are some jaw dropping sets they’ve built, full of ornate detail and embellished craftsmanship, from a house of mirrors built into a carousel to a glass solarium complete with spiral staircases to a water featured corridor with book shaped stepping stones to what has to be the world’s largest walk-in fireplace and so much more. Honestly I’d just put it on with no volume, pull up an atmospheric playlist on Spotify and enjoy it sans dialogue or even it’s own score, to saturate yourself in the visual aspect.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Mary

There are worse ways to spend your lazy Sunday than watching Gary Oldman and Emily Mortimer on a haunted sailboat. Mary is one in a handful of lower budget things that Oldman has insisted on doing lately despite being a desired actor of high acclaim (I didn’t write that last bit with a straight face FYI) and for the most part they’re to be avoided (the two pulpy crime ones with Jessica Alba and Olga Kurylenko are just shit), but I kind of enjoyed this maritime horror yarn for what it was. Oldman plays a fishing tour guide in coastal Florida who dreams of one day having his own boat and patching up his rocky marriage to spitfire Mortimer. Fate tracks him down in the form of the Mary, a mysterious derelict schooner up for auction. It needs a bit of work but there’s nothing a good montage can’t fix, then soon enough it’s out to sea for her maiden voyage with their two daughters and his trusty first mate (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, who is getting great traction these days). Midway through the voyage strange, supernatural stuff starts happening and it appears that this vessel is indeed haunted by the vengeful spirit of a drowned witch. I’m not going to talk up this thing for more than it is, it’s essentially a cheapie horror time killer and I probably wouldn’t have paid it any attention whatsoever without the presence of Oldman, who I’m a super fan of, and Mortimer who I have always really loved. This is the first time they’ve worked together and it’s really nice to see them onscreen, neither of them phone it in at all despite the fact that the material is clearly beneath them. Decent scares, atmospheric cinematography and solid performances from them make this worth a look. Just don’t get out the top hat and monocle or try and get really critical, because the only person you’ll disappoint is yourself.

-Nate

John McTiernan’s The Hunt For Red October

John McTiernan’s The Hunt For Red October is considered the big daddy of submarine films and up until today I’d never seen the whole thing front to back. I now get the hype. This would always be on AMC or TBS Superstation when I was a kid, and my dad would always tune in no matter what. What a fantastic, thrilling, well acted film and one that carries a life affirming antiwar message while still containing some hair raising scenes of aquatic combat.

Marko Raimius (Sean Connery) is a legendary Soviet sub commander who has disappeared with the covert nuclear boat the Red October, plotting a course for the US eastern sea board and ditching any orders from Russian command. Is he going to nuke the east coast? CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) believes he means to defect and disarm but that’s a tricky thing to prove based on a series of hunches during a time of such uncertainty as this. Jack has an uncanny intuition about this guy, who remains somewhat of a mystery, even to his own crew and country. A harrowing series of chases, near misses, standoffs, moral wrestling, betrayals and political posturing ensue but at its heart this is a film about one dude who has had enough of war and just wants out, a theme I greatly appreciated and enjoyed.

Connery is superb here and this might be my favourite of his performances. He’s both enigma and beacon of personal integrity whilst fiercely not letting anyone get in his way, including a pesky, short lived political officer (Peter Firth). He carries the film with a grizzled nobility and despite being an antagonist of sorts, is the most likeable and relatable character. Baldwin fares very well as Ryan too and although Harrison Ford is still my tops, he plays this guy to the hilt with spirit and determination. Other standouts include Scott Glenn as a badass American sub captain, Richard Jones as a wry US negotiator and Courtney B. Vance as a keen radio communicator. The cast is amazing with killer work from Stellan Skarsgård, Joss Ackland, Andrew Divoff, Tomas Arana, Sam Neill, Tim Curry, Jeffrey Jones, Timothy Cathhart, Ned Vaughn, Fred Dalton Thompson, Gates McFadden, Shane Black, Peter Jason and James Earl Jones. This is the very definition of a solid film in all arenas and in that of thematic material and character, it excels wonderfully. My two favourite scenes: Connery and first mate Sam Neill discussing how they’d live their lives in America when all is said and done, where they’d live and what vehicles they will drive. Later on Ryan and Raimius share a moment alone on the sub’s deck as River banks pass by, each remembering their grandfathers teaching them to fish in their respective countries. Amidst all the angst, political unease, torpedos and destruction it’s nice to find little oasis moments of character, serving to remind us that whatever side we’re on and no matter how bad the conflict is, we are all just people. We all need reminding of that once in a while, and both Connery and Baldwin do that exceptionally with their work here. Great film.

-Nate Hill