The Invisible Man (2020)

“The Invisible Man” is a reboot of Universal’s The Invisible Man film franchise, and the latest Blumhouse produced film to arrive in cinemas this year.

Written and directed by Leigh Whannell (Saw, Upgrade), the film features Elisabeth Moss, who plays Cecilia Kass, a woman who escapes her abusive relationship with a Zuckerberg-esque rich scientist named Adrian Griffin, played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen. A couple of weeks after her escape, Cecilia is informed that Adrian has committed suicide and she has inherited five million dollars. Despite her initial sense of relief, Cecilia quickly begins to realize that things don’t add up when an invisible presence is sabotaging her attempts to start a new life.

From the very start, the film offers a masterful execution of suspense. Whannell knows how to shoot nerve-racking scenes, he plays with the camera and the surroundings in ways that leave the audience in a constant state of anxiety. Shot in an extremely constrained budget, the framing of empty spaces is an essential part of why the film is effective, part of the charm is relentlessly staring at the screen trying to take in all the little details, in the hopes of noticing something move, something that tells us where our titular invisible man is. This filmmaking choice only works because Elizabeth Moss is an excellent actor. The film could have easily derailed without all the psychological layers that Moss gives to her character. However, it is not only in the suspense department where the film shines. The film has some good jump-scares too. There’s a particular jump-scare spoiled in the latest promotional trailer that is accompanied by fantastic sound design and will bring chills down your spine when you least expect it.

The technical aspects and overall execution of the film manage to persuade the audience to not pay a lot of attention to obvious plot-holes and inconsistencies of the script. These inconsistencies range from silly to infuriating. It feels at times that Cecilia’s friends and family are purposely choosing to not believe her and, even though this is a classic trope within these types of stories, it could tarnish the film for some people. Nonetheless, the narrative is compelling and the final act –plus what could be considered an epilogue– grants the much-needed catharsis after two hours of watching Elisabeth Moss suffer. When the workings of our villain’s invisibility are revealed, the film doesn’t take a cheesy magical science route. Instead, the explanation is much more grounded in technological “reality”, or at least within the realm of possibility.

This revamping of The invisible man is not going to redefine cinema — there’s a whole subgenre of thrillers based upon the idea of a woman believed to be crazy (The Girl on the Train 2016, Unsane 2018, The Woman in the Window 2020). But this iteration brings a breath of fresh air. Perhaps because as a society we are much more inclined to believe and side with women now (although there’s work to be done still), or perhaps it is entirely thanks to Moss’ acting — it is hard to imagine any other actor playing this role. Cecilia has lived considering every step, every word, every decision, very carefully. The film is very clear on this stance from the moment we see her escaping Adrian’s home. Every variable has been considered. Adrian’s suicide doesn’t make sense to her because she knows that abusers don’t intentionally give up control. From that point onwards, Cecilia’s mission is to fight to tell her story and regain agency. “The Invisible Man” is, in essence, a masterful-executed fun film about believing survivors, wrapped around a suspense horror-thriller bow.


Child’s Play (2019)

The new Child’s Play is out, and it is pretty good.

The film follows the premise from the original 1987 film. Andy Barclay (Gabriel Bateman) doesn’t have any friends, her single mom (Aubrey Plaza) is working extra shifts and our favourite murder doll comes into the picture. Certainly, a single mom working shifts in a retail store cannot afford an AI doll, so she persuades her manager to let her keep a defective Buddi doll as a present for Andy’s upcoming birthday. These dolls — manufactured by the Kaslan company — imprint on the first human who gives them an order, and instantly become their best friend ‘til the end. Throughout the rest of the movie, we see Chucky trying to learn what makes Andy happy and what upsets him. Eventually, Chucky discovers violence and starts using it to erase Andy’s problems. All hell breaks loose and Chucky will do anything to stop anyone who dares to separate him from Andy.

There is a lot to enjoy in this film. In its 90-minute runtime, we get gore and humour at equal parts. For the first half of the film, Chucky is the most creepy/adorable thing you’ve seen. For the second half, he turns into an obsessed maniac that would kill every single person on the planet until only he and Andy are left. However, this is not just a fun slasher film with very gory kills. This movie has a soul. It is full of social commentary and satire. The messages against capitalism, modern slavery and our dependence on technology are very much in your face — but they are effective, and this movie could work as an episode of Black Mirror.

Director Lars Klevberg (Polaroid) redeems himself with this film. The score by Bear McCreary (Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead) is wonderful, and the Buddi theme song is so charming that you won’t be able to stop singing it. The cinematography, by Brendan Uegama (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Riverdale) has a really cool ’80s vibe that fits very well with the plot of the movie and I can’t wait to watch on Blu-ray.

The acting is good overall. Gabriel Bateman’s performance as Andy is heartfelt and compelling, and if you are a fan of Aubrey Plaza here you have her playing her quirky self yet again — only this time she is a mother. If Plaza is not your cup of tea you will have a hard time finding any sympathy for her character. The charismatic Mark Hamill does a decent job with Chucky’s voice, but fans of his work as the Joker will find many similarities between the two voices.

The film has some shortcomings though. It takes a while to get used to Chucky’s new look. The CGI is a little heavy-handed on his face at times. We are talking about the uncanny valley, and it’s hard to say if this was intentional. Despite its great gory scenes, the film should’ve had a higher kill count, especially during the final act — the film doesn’t go all the way, and seasoned horror fans might find it predictable.

In conclusion, if you are a Chucky fan and are conflicted about going to see this movie, don’t be. There is a lot to enjoy here. We will have to wait and see how the film performs in the box office to know if there will be a sequel, but there is a place for both Child’s Play universes to co-exist. This is a perfect example of a “good remake”, a film that tries to say something different by updating the elements from a classic and beloved film, making the story relevant to our current times.


The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

The sixth instalment in The Conjuring Universe was release this weekend in the UK. The Curse of La Llorona is centred around the Mexican legend of La Llorona, a boogieman female figure that steals children away.


Our protagonist is Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini). Anna’s husband was a police officer and he was murdered on duty, leaving Anna to take care of their two children. Despite having problems to balance her work and home life, she decides to investigate the disappearance of two boys. When she arrives at their house, Patricia – mother of the two kids – is hesitant to let her in, but when she does Anna realises something is not right and finds the children locked in a closet. The boys are taken to a shelter and are visited by La Llorona during the night. Anna receives a phone call and she drives, with her kids sleeping in the back of the car, to a nearby river where the two boys have been found drowned. Patricia is there too. She blames Anna for what happened and shouts that she tried to hide them from la Llorona.

Chris, Anna’s son, leaves her sister Sam in the car and tries to have a look at the scene but he encounters La Llorona, who goes after him and marks him. The next day Sam also encounters La Llorona and gets marked. When Anna visits Patricia to help the police get a confession she tells Anna that she is responsible for her children’s deaths, and she prayed La Llorona to take Anna’s children so she can get her two boys back. Anna also encounters La Llorona and gets the same mark. Anna decides to seek help from Father Perez – whom we know from the Anabelle spin-offs – and he tells her about his experiences with the supernatural. Getting the church involved is a lengthy process so the family goes after a former priest turned curandero, Rafael Olvera (Raymond Cruz), to help them.

They all drive back to the house and Rafael starts a ritual to get rid of the evil spirit that torments the family à la Conjuring style.

This movie is not the worst entry in The Conjuring universe. However, it’s also not one of the best ones. There were rumours that the script was reworked to fit into the franchise. The story is set in Los Angeles and it had more of an Insidious aesthetic than any other Conjuring spin-off. The fact that the story is not set in Mexico can be explained by budgetary reasons, but we have had plenty of Insidious and The Conjuring spin-offs set in L.A, so if you are going to make a movie about a Mexican folktale make it as Mexican as you can. Another misstep is that the main protagonists are supposed to be Latinx but they don’t speak Spanish and have zero knowledge of Latinx culture.

This is not to say I didn’t enjoy the film. Despite its flaws, the movie is a solid watch. It takes what mainstream audiences like about horror movies and rolls with it, and there is nothing wrong with that. Especially if you have an actress like Linda Cardellini who can drive the story forward with a great performance. Characters are sympathetic enough that you fear for their lives – shutout to the children, played by Roman Christou and Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen. It is also worth mentioning that this is not your average “let’s get rid of the evil by the power of Christ” narrative. I can’t recall any major horror movie that delves into Shamanism and Santeria with the same respect as The Curse of La Llorona. Overall, the movie is what is being marketed: a decent horror film with a decent third act that works perfectly if you are looking to have fun and eat some popcorn.

If you like what the Conjuring universe has offered so far, check this one out.


Adapting King: Pet Sematary (2019)

Pet Sematary is one of Stephen King’s most deep and terrifying novels. The author wanted to explore grief and the rituals associated with death, while also telling a story about an evil entity that is omnipresent and infects the lives of everyone who comes too close to its sacred grounds. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong. There is no escape. Sadly, this new film adaptation dismisses the core themes of the novel in favor of a more fast-paced and simple story.

The movie starts with the Creed family moving into a new house. Dr. Louis Creed has decided to pack his bags and move to a small town to spend more time with his kids and watch them grow up. His daughter, Ellie, quickly senses something strange about the place and – after watching a procession of kids wearing creepy masks on their way to bury a dog – starts to ask her parents questions about death and the afterlife.

The novel came out in 1983 and the first movie adaptation was released 6 years later. At this point, everyone knows the plot, and if you didn’t the trailer spoiled it for you. Ellie’s cat, Church, is hit by a truck. Judd, the next-door neighbor that befriends the family, takes Louis to a magic burial ground and makes him bury the cat there. Church shows up the next day as if nothing ever happened. Except the cat has become almost feral and consequently not a single member of the family wants him near them. In this adaptation, Ellie also gets hit by a truck on her ninth birthday, and Louis sets his mind to bury her in the burial ground to bring her back, despite he being aware it is a terrible mistake.

The film has some creepy scenes and decent jump scares. It must be said that the movie does not rely heavily on CGI. The couple of cats who played Church did a great job. Also, the young actor who plays Ellie – Jeté Laurence – gives a great performance as the main villain. The third act of the film succeeds thanks to her.

On the other hand, we have Louis, played by Jason Clarke. The script does not provide Jason Clarke any opportunity to shine. Louis is a great example of an underdeveloped character with no backstory or personality. He is the classic white male protagonist by default. If the screenwriters wanted a different approach to the story they should have made Rachel Creed, played by Amy Seimetz, the protagonist of this adaptation. Her character is more fleshed out here than in the previous 1989 film adaptation. Still, her backstory is only explored through short flashback sequences and a few lines of dialogue so we have someone to relate to during the third act of the film. She seems to be the only sensible person around and the movie would have been far more interesting if it was centered around her childhood trauma and the price she must pay for her husband’s actions.
Viewers do not get to understand how the burial ground really works and throughout the movie, we can see inconsistencies with the timing of the resurrections. Does it take less time the bigger the creature is? Does it take less time the more dead people you bury in the ground? Will the resurrected people keep repeating the cycle until we reach the zombie apocalypse? These questions are never answered and make for a dishonest ending.

Pet Sematary (2019)

The main problem with this new adaptation of Pet Sematary is that it never decides what route it wants to take. A movie cannot be a slow burn and fast-paced at the same time.

It is hard not to make comparisons with the book. Stephen King is an author that really cares about his characters and the horror elements in his work are always secondary. The struggles of the protagonists are what drive the story. When Hollywood filmmakers try to adapt King’s novels they always tend to amp up the horror and ignore character development. Therefore, King’s work is perceived differently by audiences who are familiar with his writing and people who have only seen film adaptations of his books. King taps in the horrors of being human, but his movies – apart from The Shining – don’t.

I would say that this adaptation is, overall, a better movie than its predecessor though. It can be enjoyed for what it is, a generic, goofy and fun horror movie. Personally, I look forward to ambitious filmmaking when it comes to adapting King.


Bring back the ’90s: Braindead (Dead Alive) (1992)

I grew up watching ’90s horror movies. The first horror movie I ever watched was It (1990). I was probably six years old, and looking back I can’t help but wonder why the hell my parents thought this was a good choice for a family movie night. I remember being obsessed with Tim Curry’s Pennywise and since that night I’ve been drawn to anything horror themed: films, books, videogames, podcasts, you name it. The ’90s is considered a bad decade for horror – until Screamed revitalized the genre in 1996 – but horror films at the time were fully self-aware, over the top, goofy, campy, and 100% pure entertainment.

Today I would like to discuss Peter Jackson’s Braindead (A.K.A. Dead Alive), one of the best “so bad it’s good” films.

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

The story follows Lionel Cosgrove, a young man who lives with his mother Vera, as he tries to start a relationship with a girl named Paquita. During their first date at the zoo, Lionel’s mother, who was spying on the couple, gets bitten by a Sumatran rat-monkey- or Simian Raticus, to be scientifically correct – and gets infected with a disease that quickly causes her body to decompose and crave flesh. When Vera’s body finally shuts down, she immediately comes back to life as a zombie and tries to kill everyone who comes in her way.

Our protagonist loves his mother more than anything else in the world, so rather than killing her off, he decides to buy tranquilizers from the local – Nazi – veterinarian and keep her zombie mom and her zombie victims heavily sedated and locked inside the house. Vera eventually escapes the house and gets hit by a cable car, so Lionel has no other option than to organize a funeral. But he needs to keep her mother sedated during all the arrangements and recover her body once everything is over. Later, uncle Les pays Lionel a visit. He is not particularly happy that his nephew inherited all the money plus the house and, after discovering the sedated zombies he believes to be regular corpses, he blackmails Lionel into giving away the house to buy his silence. Lionel agrees, and uncle Les rapidly throws a house-warming party that culminates in one of the most bloody massacres in cinema history.

If you were to watch this movie without knowing anything about it, you would not be able to pinpoint when it was made. The story takes place in 1957, and the film relies heavily on the ’50s aesthetic. But the cinematography doesn’t feel like something made in the early ’90s. In fact, the movie doesn’t fully feel like it belongs to any particular period due to the different elements it borrows from other works. The filmmakers were clearly inspired by Evil Dead, Re-Animator, and Psycho. However, the film managed to preserve its own identity, distancing itself from American productions.

The practical effects are beautiful and truly fun to watch. Certainly, the intention was not a realistic take on gore and the film offers some inconsistent makeup effects, but that’s part of the charm. In this movie, we get to see some of the worst and the best special makeup and practical effects of all time, and cool puppetry, too. Peter Jackson has gone on to say his favorite scene of the film is when Lionel’s walk in the park with the zombie baby, which he shot with the remaining $45,000 of a budget of $3 million. I feel the scene creates pacing issues in the film, but he stands by his choices so I’ll give him that. In my opinion, the best part of the film is the final 30 minutes. According to IMDb, 300 litter of fake blood was used for the ending, I think I need to add nothing else.

The relationship between mother and son is fully developed. The filmmakers establish the psychology of both characters very well despite the fact that we don’t see much of the two interacting with each other before she turns into a zombie. We get a sense of who they are and why they rely on each other to avoid confronting their inner demons, in Vera’s case, her loneliness, and in Lionel’s case, his repressed childhood trauma that is revealed in the climax.

I believe this film often doesn’t get the love and attention it deserves. It is the perfect movie to watch when you just want to relax, simple and fun. Released in 1992, the film has reached cult classic status over the years. So, why do we continue to say the ’90s was a bad decade for horror?