‘Bird Box’

A psychological horror film continuing the trend of unexplained monster/alien invasion (A Quiet Place, The Silence), Bird Box is taut and claustrophobic. Yet, in spite of a strong central performance by Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side, Miss Congeniality), it falls short of its promise.

Directed by Susanne Bier (After the Wedding, In a Better World), Bird Box follows the reluctant mother find some kind of redemption as she leads two young children to safety from a decimated Los Angeles. Journeying on a treacherous river, the trip is made more arduous by the fact it must be made blindfolded.

A Netflix original.

Rating: 61%

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‘Us’

Unlike Jordan Peele’s first feature, the immensely enjoyable Get Out, Us is an overthought, overwrought home invasion horror thriller.

The Wilson family’s beach vacation turns into a nightmare as doppelgängers appear with vacant stares, guttural grunts and wielding sharpened golden scissors. But this home invasion is not restricted to the Wilsons’ holiday home – and it’s soon apparent Santa Cruz and beyond are impacted by these murderous zombie-like creatures.

Lupita Nyong’o (Twelve Years a Slave, Black Panther) takes control to protect her family (the man of the family, Winston Duke – Avengers Infinity War, Black Panther – is something of a fool) as it appears her doppelgänger is the one in charge. Lots of frantic night-time activity, blood and gore (and occasional foray into humour) fail to hide the film’s shortcomings and predictability.

Rating: 42%

‘Hereditary’

hereditaryWhat a disappointment! Hyper-lauded by critics (87 on metacritic) as a true classic horror, director Ari Aster’s directorial debut is a derivative mishmash of much of what has come before it. Ghostly apparitions, (dead) granny on the ceiling, bumps in the night, devil-worship and ancient mythologies…

As a psychological family drama, Hereditary starts off well enough with Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine, Muriel’s Wedding) and family barely grieving for her recently deceased, belligerent mother. But then her 13 year-old daughter dies in a freak accident and everything goes down hill from there – including the film.

For a horror film, there are few scary bits – and even those are a very long time coming.

Rating: 36%

‘Cargo’

cargoposterThe ‘Z’ word may not be mentioned, but enjoyable Australian film Cargo firmly falls into the zombie-horror genre, but with more than a little social commentary.

With suggestions of fracking and other environmental abuses the cause of the epidemic that has decimated the country, Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, Black Panther) searches the outback for someone to look after his baby daughter.

Developed from a seven minute short by directors Yolande Ramke and Ben Howling (both making their feature film debut), whilst Cargo is occasionally plot and dialogue creaky, Freeman instils an engaging level of pathos to proceedings. And the final minutes are stirring and moving.

Rating: 61%

‘A Quiet Place’

quiet_place_xlgHusband and wife team John Kranski (13 Hours, TV’s The Office) and Emily Blunt (Sicario, The Devil Wears Prada) play a convincing husband and wife in this post-apocalyptic survival story.

No explanations as to why and where from (and the stronger for it) – all we know is that ‘they’ are blind but respond to the slightest sound, ending in an immediate and gory death. We start at day 95 and end at day 460-something. In the interim, Kranski and Blunt and two of their kids have constructed a life of virtual silence on their farm, surviving in hiding and in a state of constant dread.

It’s that claustrophobic quiet that creates a deep sense of foreboding and fear – but the strength of A Quiet Place is the balance of horror with a genuine family drama.

Rating: 71%

‘Winchester’

Winchester-new-poster-1More haunted house hokum as Dr Eric Price (Jason Clarke – Mudbound, Terminator Genisys) is hired to ascertain the sanity of heiress Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren – The Queen, Red). Seems she is haunted by the spirits of those killed by the Winchester repeating rifle – and making decisions her board of directors are none too keen on.

With its pertinent anti-gun message, Winchester is timely in the telling of a story based on actual events as Sarah adds room after room to her already enormous home to house the spirits. And the Spierig Brothers’ (Predestination, Daybreaker) latest certainly looks good, with added gravitas provided by Helen Mirren. But sadly Clarke is not convincing as the laudanum-addicted psychiatrist and the chills are little more than lukewarm. All a little too familiar.

Rating: 44%

‘Get Out’

dimsSomething of a box-office sensation in the US (made for $4.5 million: $170 million takings), Get Out is the Stepford Wives of race relations!

Things go mighty wrong as photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya – Sicario, Kick-Ass 2) travels with his girlfriend to meet her family for the first time. Their very white, middle-class upstate suburb just doesn’t ring true.

First time director Jordan Peele injects fresh ideas into the horror film genre with an effective mix of creepiness, gore and humour (courtesy of comedian LilRey Howery). Enjoyable.

Rating: 60%