March 2020 In Review

The world's certainly changed, hasn't it? Hope you're all staying safe, and keeping well whatever your line of work is. If you'd like to take your minds off it all, here are the films I watched this past March.

Candyman (1992) [rewatch] - 5/5 - What Bernard Rose has composed is a masterwork of horror, as social issues are expertly woven together with a look at the power of legends, for a compelling feature which'll stay long in your mind. From Phillip Glass's ethereal score, to the stupendous production design, and especially the unforgettable effects, this is exceptional stuff all round.

Tony Todd brings quite the presence and dulcet tones to the titular role, and it's frankly no wonder the character is so iconic. Virginia Madsen does wonderfully as Helen, a character I see as a great take on the white figure who sticks their noses into none of their business. Also, fuck Trevor! He didn't deserve her.

The Lighthouse (2019) - 5/5 - For 104 minutes, I felt as isolated and trapped as the characters we follow. Through the score which got to my core, the exceptional cinematography, and the aspect ratio, it all felt so oppressive in the way I love horror to make me feel, resulting in a simply unforgettable experience. A mixture of surreal comedy and unsettling horror, there are images within this I simply won't forget for a long time. To top it all off, Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe give a pair of utterly exceptional performances, by brilliant actors keyed into the material. I am utterly in awe of Robert Eggers' unique vision.

A Bomb With No Name On It (1976) - 2.5/5 - An early short film by Bernard Rose, and while he throws some interesting visual ideas into the mix, it's ultimately a ho-hom 3 minutes which goes exactly where you'd expect.

Candyman's Tony Todd reacts to Jordan Peele's remake and remembers ...
Favourite of the month & Favourite rewatch: Candyman

Sonic The Hedgehog (2020) - 3/5 - As far as cinematic adaptations of video games go, this is one of the more preferable options. When the film focuses on the central relationship, between Sonic and the Donut Lord, it's a fun buddy romp that I liked being in the company of. It helps that James Marsden acts of CGI characters very well, and Ben Schwartz does wonderful work voicing the iconic Hedgehog. A shame it's wrapped in a cookie cutter "character lost in human world" tale, complete with a disappointing villain played by a forgettable Jim Carrey. I'll return for a sequel, but I do wish the opening setting was more where the film was based.

Dolittle (2020) - 0.5/5 - It's been a while since I saw such a big budget, high profile film feel so baffling and wrong-headed. What's left in Dolittle feels skin-crawlingly awkward with each decision made, and whatever decent ideas were within, are hopelessly lost among the evident reshoots, embarrassing ADR, and whatever is going on with Robert Downey Jr's accent.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) - 4/5 - How wonderfully charming this was. What Marielle Heller makes feels less like a straightforward biopic, and more like a buddy crime flick which happens to be based on a true story. A touching story about two people cast from society who find some solace in each others company, delivered in heartbreaking and humorous ways, and anchored by exceptional performances from Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant.

A Little More Flesh (2020) - 4.5/5 - A fascinating way of pushing the medium of cinema. Be sure to keep an eye out for this engrossing & relevant feature from Sam Ashurst.

Digital Review: Parasite is, by far, the crowning achievement of ...
Favourite seen in cinemas: Parasite

Blumhouse's Fantasy Island (2020) - 1.5/5 - A big screen adaptation of the '70s series which starred Ricardo Montalban, retooled for the horror genre? Certainly a unique idea. There are some interesting ideas touched upon, especially in regards to whether what we really want is what we need. Unfortunately, these ideas are swallowed up among too many other ideas, vying for screentime. The result has horrific elements which left me unphased, comedic moments which grated on me, and a variety of tones which unfortunately clashed. By the time we get to ill fitting & late revelations, I'm unsure what Jeff Wadlow was trying to achieve here.

Parasite (2019) [rewatch] - 5/5 - I couldn't resist seeing this one more time. Everytime I view Bong Joon-Ho's masterpiece, I come away with more and more, which I can share on here thanks to the bounteous wi-fi.

Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986) - 4/5 - Having only seen the original Friday the 13th and Freddy vs Jason, I can't say I was interested enough to check out the remainder of this popular franchise. So considering the date, I decided to try one of the better regarded entries, and I had a great time. Director Tom McLoughlin takes the 6th entry into a franchise, and makes it a smartly aware feature, with smart characters who actually make reasonable decisions throughout. That doesn't mean it skimps on the horrific elements, as the ensuing 87 minutes are a fun watch, complete with impressive kills, centred by a brutal presence put into the films antagonist. Consider me now more interested in checking out the rest of the franchise. 

The Devil Rides Out (1968) - 4/5 - Of all the areas of the horror genre I've been trying, I've unconsciously been neglecting the output by Hammer Horror. This is such an effort to start rectifying that, and I must say, it's an encouraging one. Terence Fisher delivers a very enjoyable story of friends and family looking out for one another, lending an emotional core to this fun feature. It becomes gloriously bonkers, accentuated by the glaring effects work we see. It helps that there are terrific performances put into the characters, but then how can you be surprised when Christopher Lee is leading things? There are a few character moments which could've used a couple more scenes, but I still really enjoyed this.

The Lighthouse is a Masterpiece - YouTube
Favourite first time watch: The Lighthouse

Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995) - 2/5 - It must be said that this is an impressive looking film. From the locations, to the gory moments, it's visually fantastic, but that can only go so far for me. What's left is pretty much what I feared a sequel to the masterful original would be, as Clive Barker's wit is sorely missed. In its place, the filmmakers try amping up the gore, raising the amount of backstory within, and make one of the most irritating characters I've seen in a while, with the male police officer. Praise is deserved for Tony Todd, showing why the role belongs to him alone, and he really deserves better than this.

Final Destination (2000) [rewatch] - 3.5/5 - It's two decades since its release, and James Wong's film still holds up as an excellent take on the slasher subgenre. From the gripping set-piece which opens things, we're thrust into a compelling tale of near-death survivors stalked by the inevitability of Death, keen to rectify what spoilt its grand design. This comes alive in fantastic ways that are gory, brutal, and in especially one way, shocking. The cast may stumble at times, but I believed in their relationships, and most of the performances. Kerr Smith is thrust into a seemingly unredeeming dickhead role, while Seann William Scott is the most glaring casting. He's trapped in a role made to capitalise on American Pie, there to deliver forced moments of humour, and try to unconvincingly look 17 in backwards caps while riding a bicycle. It may speed through the ending a bit much, but this is a fantastic start to a franchise I love.

Final Destination 2 (2003) [rewatch] - 4/5 - Now, this is how you do a sequel. Directed by David R. Ellis, this instalment builds upon the original film in fascinating ways, retooling the concept in fresh directions, while treading over familiar ground. It helps that each of the characters feel real in their own way, and no matter their faults (or how much the humour misses the mark), we feel for these poor people trapped in a no-win scenario. The kills remain wonderfully inventive, as these set-pieces catch you off guard with their direction, while having a gripping brutality to their execution. I loved it.

A Dark Song (2016) [rewatch] - 4/5 - To take my mind off current events, I partook in the first viewing of The Evolution of Horror Film Club. The inaugural film was this feature film by Liam Gavin, and a rewatch really helped me to appreciate this tale of grief all the more. A chamber piece powered by the exceptional performances of Catherine Walker and Steve Oram, portraying characters caught in the middle of something arduous. From the slightest sound, this is so atmospheric and tense, and a fantastic idea brought alive so brilliantly.

FINAL DESTINATION 4 (The Final Destination) - offizieller Trailer ...
Most Disappointing: The Final Destination

Final Destination 3 (2006) [rewatch] - 2.5/5 - So far, this is easily my least favourite entry of the franchise. James Wong returns to direct this third film, and despite an opening I struggled to make out at times, there were enough inventive and brutal kills to keep me satisfied. The cast are all game for their roles, and in many instances, do better work in capturing their characters then the script does. Though a number of them feel one-dimensional, they each felt real in their own way, even if key elements could've been developed upon a bit more. With the amount of middle fingers we saw given, you'd have thought it was a key part of deaths design.

The Perks of Being A Wallflower (2012) [rewatch] - 5/5 - It may be 8 years since its release, but Stephen Chbosky's adaptation of his own book touches my heart just as much as it did upon my very first viewing. Delivered in ways that are heartfelt, humorous, and saddening, this is a wonderful story of friendship, first love, coming to terms with the bad spots life gives us, and having a love for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Plus, it gives us the best cinematic use of David Bowie's Heroes I've witnessed.

The Final Destination (2009) - 1/5 - No matter what issues I had with the films, I could at least count on the Final Destination franchise to deliver an inventiveness and brutality which made me eagerly await what would come next. The fourth entry, titled The Final Destination, can't even offer this, replacing these elements with glaring CG, and moments made to capitalise on the 3D craze, which are just irritating to view in 2D.

While the franchise hasn't been full of three dimensional figures, they each had moments of humanity which made them seem utterly real, even for a brief moment. No such luck, as we're stuck with disposable characters that are a struggle to care for. There seems to have been more interest in having them deliver meta-humour, but it just comes off as forced, and even frustrating. The previous entries weren't exactly subtle, but they seem like masterworks by Hirokazu Koreeda by comparison to this. It just all makes a 78 minute runtime a struggle to get through.

Final Destination 5 (2011) - 4/5 - If this remains the final entry into the Final Destination franchise, then what a magnificent way this was in bringing the series full circle. After the downhill trend of the prior two entries, the series returns to an inventiveness and brutality which I adore, paying off tense set-pieces in ways unexpected and exceptional. It's a shame many of these are beset by glaring CG, and the moments distractingly made for 3D viewing.

Outside of that, the series goes over the similar formula, with a new twist embedded within. It's an interesting change that goes to intriguing places, even if you wonder where it's been in the prior 5 films. Thankfully, enough time is taken to round out the characters, making them worth caring about, from the character focused beginning to the killer finale.

Film Theory: The REAL Killers In The Descent... - YouTube | Horror ...
Most surprising: The Descent

The Lion King II: Simba's Pride (1998) [rewatch] - 3/5 - For my inaugural viewing on Disney+, I decided to revisit what was a favourite of my childhood. Viewing this direct to video sequel with the passage of time, I find it to be an okay follow-on. There are certainly ambitions within the story, detailing the weight of legacy for the new generation of characters, as well as for Simba, still hurting from Scar's actions.

It also wants to continue being a Lion adaptation of William Shakespeare works, as this story attempts to be a Lion version of Romeo & Juliet. Unfortunately, I didn't find these ambitions to be as effectively met as I would've liked, especially the romance which felt rushed. The songs also don't stick in the memory, but it's worth mentioning the animation remains lovely to look at, and the voice actors do decent work, especially the ones reprising their roles.

The Wreckers (1976) - 2/5 - A Bernard Rose short film which showcases intertwining parties, between parents chatting with posh partygoers, and their lovelorn son hosting a party which turns riotous. Some visual cues of interest, but I found little else in these dull 6 minutes.

Super Inframan (1975) - 4/5 - My first Shaw Brothers movie, and it was an utter blast. If Kamen Raider or Super Sentai/Power Rangers were turned up to 11, this would be the result, and it's 88 minutes of utter joy. From the multiple flips, to the excessive use of fire, and especially the villainous designs, this is just the pick-me up we need right now.

Coco (2017) [rewatch] - 5/5 - This story of how music endures, the legacy we leave behind, and inherited pain, is one of Pixar's best works. By the time it reaches the climax, hinging on the memories held within a song, I am emotional. Plus, it's so visually compelling, and the songs are all wonderful.

Martyrs (2015) Official Trailer - YouTube
Least favourite of the month: Martyrs

Martyrs (2016) - 0.5/5 - What Pascal Laugier accomplished with Martyrs was a brutal piece of cinema, with a point to the unflinching nature expertly woven into the narrative. In reimagining the story for an American audience, what screenwriter Mark Smith & directors Kevin & Michael Goetz have created is so toothless and tame.

Firstly, such a brutal film getting remade into something which cuts away so frequently feels like a joke. But even with this change, the original narrative is retooled in a dull manner. What's left feels like an entirely different film that's less ambitious, and is lacking in an actual point. It seems to zero in on the idea of the power of friendship overcoming all, and the film's all the poorer for it.

Ratatouille (2007) [rewatch] - 4/5 - No matter how many times I watch this, my opinion remains the same. I adore Remy's story, and could watch him for ages, but I find Linguini irritates me. It doesn't help that his romance feels so crammed into the film, but I'm always here for Remy and Emil.

The Descent (2005) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - Oh, what a difference 6 years makes. When I last saw this film, I wouldn't have called myself a fan, especially for how I found the characters to be.

What a fool I was.

What Neil Marshall has crafted is claustrophobic & tense in the most unbearable of ways, even before the nightmarish creatures make themselves known. While a couple of the characters felt underdeveloped, that didn't bother me so much. I was fully engaged by them, hoping for their survival in these horrific circumstance. This is especially true when the two leads have such phenomenal portrayals put into them. This is a true horror gem, from the gut punch opener, to the masterful ending (UK cut, not the US butchered version).

First Love (2019) - 4/5 - Takashi Miike' tells a blossoming love story in a genre-bending way. 

Favourite of the month: Candyman
Favourite seen in cinemas: Parasite
Favourite first time watch: The Lighthouse
Favourite rewatch: Candyman
Most Disappointing: The Final Destination
Most Surprising: The Descent
Least Favourite of the month: Martyrs

Number of films watched: 27