Friday, June 16

47 Meters Down Review


47 Meters Down 

Dir: Johannesburg Roberts

Starring: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine, Yani Gellman, Santiago Segura, and Chris Johnson

It's been more than 40 years since the release of "Jaws" and people are still afraid to go in the water. That's the undeniable quality of the film, that its effect on generations of film fans is still, firstly, fear of what lurks in the water. Since its release numerous films have tried to emulate the qualities that so richly personify the film but very few have come close 

Andrew Traucki's "The Reef" effectively captured the tension, Renny Harlin's "Deep Blue Sea" crafted the creature feature quality, and Chris Kentis' "Open Water" had the character dynamics; but where each achieve their own identifying quality they are all completely influenced by "Jaws" in one way or another. 

Director Johannesburg Roberts' film "47 Meters Down", which was released last year on DVD but was pulled for a wide theatrical release, takes the shark attack film and places it deep beneath the surface of the water. Mr. Roberts' film is full of claustrophobic atmosphere, a film that makes the most of the simple premise of monsters lurking in the dark.


Lisa (Mandy Moore) and her sister Kate (Claire Holt) are vacationing in Mexico. Kate, the adventurous of the two, is helping Lisa cope with a recent break-up. In an effort to show her ex-boyfriend how adventurous she can be, Lisa is coerced by her sister to go on an excursion in a shark tank. Unfortunately things take a turn for the worse when their winch breaks and they plummet to the ocean floor surrounded by sharks. 

The simpler you can make a shark film, the better it usually is. In the case of "47 Meters Down" it's about as simple as a film like this could get. Mr. Roberts doesn't waste too much time on dry land, aside from a simple introduction to the two sisters personalities and a little back story that persuades the characters decision to get inside a rusty shark tank, the film gets down to the fearful focus of the situation as quick as it can.


It's within this atmosphere that the film takes shape, turning the murky waters of the deep ocean into the same atmosphere you might associate with a haunted house. In the same way, each time one of characters ventures into the darkness to help assist their escape from a watery tomb, the film begins to feel like you're watching someone juggle sharp knives; the element of sudden, quick danger becomes ever-present. This structure and environment are the shining elements of this film, one of the primary reasons it works.

Unfortunately, with the simplistic design there is less time to focus on character development, even though for a small moment in the beginning the film introduces a character element between the siblings that is interesting. Once the two sisters only have each other to depend on deep in the ocean, the film begins to incorporate some nice twists regarding equipment issues and the physiological aspects of being so deep in the water. But neither of the actors are provided much more than making the same statements and asking the same questions, "I'll be right back", "Don't leave me down here", "Watch out"; it becomes laughable during times that are suppose to be intense.


"47 Meters Down" is ingenious in its simplicity, a story that operates to build moments of tension and offer the occasional jump scare. While "Jaws" will undoubtedly never be duplicated, its effect on the genre will always try to be emulated; in that regard this film works much better than most. 

Monte's Rating

3.25 out of 5.00

Friday, June 9

It Comes At Night Review


It Comes At Night

Dir: Trey Edward Shults

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, Christopher Abbott, Riley Keough, and Kelvin Harris Jr. 


In John Conrad's cynical, politically influenced work "Under Western Eyes", the author takes steps in describing themes of terrorism, the degradation of character, and the suffering experienced by ordinary people caught in the wave of political influence. Mr. Conrad makes a poignant statement during the course describing how two factions of society lived in pre-Revolutionary Russia when it is stated, "only that a belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness".


It's within this nature of humanity that writer/director Trey Edward Shults positions his new film "It Comes At Night"; within the turmoil that humanity faces with the unknown, within the natural distrust that exists deep in the souls of humans, within the emotions that motivate choices to act without compassion. In the same way the genre of horror effectively plants its most troublesome and terrifying roots with these same elements, blossoming monsters, madmen, and demons, Mr. Shults builds a film that is an unnerving look into the monsters that humans can become in the face of fear, desperation, and loneliness. 



An unknown terror has forced humanity into isolation, survival has come down to wearing gas masks and carrying weapons whenever you venture outside. Paul (Joel Edgerton) runs a meticulous house with Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and Travis (Kelvin Harris Jr.), maintaining strict rules that includes not going out at night, keeping a certain red door locked at all times, and separating themselves from any other outside human interaction. During one evening a young man named Will (Christopher Abbott) tries to break into Paul's home, after a torturous interrogation Paul compassionately decides to invite Will and his family into his home. Paranoia and distrust take over, making survival a deadly game for the two groups. 


Mr. Shults first film, "Krisha", was an uncompromising character study that functioned on the surface as a drama but underneath was composed in the same way a filmmaker would craft a horror film. "It Comes at Night" operates very much the same, an analysis on how people function in a world without rules, in a world where the element of trust has all but disappeared. Placing characters within this treacherous environment provides the director opportunity to build tension through the interactions of the people living together and a mystery concerning how the characters will react during certain situations. However it also crafts a film that functions with all the mannerisms of a horror film, from the trepid movements into the darkness, the manipulative camera movements, and the use of sound to heighten the atmosphere. The monster here is keenly crafted as noises and movements in the darkness of the woods. In a nice touch the camera will many times linger on a specific point of perspective, a red door, a tree, an open road, just long enough to make the viewer investigate the frame looking for something that isn't always there.  



Mr. Shults wisely keeps the emphasis on the real monsters in the film, which is humanity. You get the feeling early on that something isn't right with Paul and the people living with him, you can make the guess that this group of people have already had to make terrible choices along their journey into obscurity. For Paul friendship and companionship are aspects long forgotten and the composition of the family dynamic doesn't seem to exist. Paul's relationship with Sarah and Travis is uncomfortable and awkward, so when he encounters a more traditional family unit he displays compassion, this family in need is sort of a symbol of hope in a hopeless world. Watching this group of people progress through different stages of trust is fascinating, and watching their ultimate dismantling is heart breaking. 


The film maintains a deliberate pacing, never getting too far ahead of itself though in a few moments not offering enough narrative development to achieve the same impact that it achieves with its third act. This film is less a horror film and more a meticulously paced character study, though that doesn't make it any less scary. "It Comes At Night" may not be the film that makes you jump in your seat but it's the kind of film that will stay with long after you leave the theater.


Monte's Rating

4.00 out of 5.00


The Mummy Review


The Mummy

Dir: Alex Kurtzman

Starring: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jack Johnson, and Russell Crowe

The legendary Boris Karloff portrayed many iconic characters throughout his long career, The Monster in "Frankenstein" and "The Mummy" are undoubtedly two of the most recognizable. Mr. Karloff's role in these films is a fundamental building block in creating the foundation for Universal Pictures, which would go on to make the classic monsters we can all identify today.  

Tom Cruise has been chosen to lead the Universal Monster universe in a new direction, with a new franchise. In recent years, the actor has become somewhat typecast as the "smartest guy in the room" action hero and he's actually quite good playing this character. Mr. Cruise has a charisma about him and a dedication to keep everything authentic, even down to performing his own terrifying stunts or taking roles earlier in his career that were different and out of character. This makes it all the more perplexing when you consider his completely miscast role in Universal's newest "The Mummy", which is an introductory piece to the new "Dark Universe" concept that aims to bring all the classic monsters into the same united world. Mr. Cruise, talent and all, just doesn't belong in this film and the film itself is a terrible first step for the design of this monster franchise.


Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) is a soldier with a penchant for antiquities, ones that he steals and sells for his own gain. Nick has a sidekick named Chris (Jake Johnson), the voice of common sense to Nick's insane ideas. The two encounter some resistance in a small Iraqi village, but after calling in an air strike that decimates the area a tomb is uncovered hidden below the surface. The tomb belongs to a princess named Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) who was banished far from her kingdom after murdering her family. Her vengeful resurrected body is unleashed on the world and Nick has been chosen to assist in her devious plan. 

The setup may not be exactly identical to the last incarnation for this ancient monster, which came out in 1999 and was directed by Stephen Somers and starred Brendan Frasher, though it does share quite a few moments, most obvious a giant dust storm with the face of the villain in it. However, it also pulls more influences from other films. You'll get an awful attempt to emulate a shining aspect of "American Werewolf in London", a piece of the underrated 80's horror gem "Lifeforce", and even a little underwater zombie mayhem care of Lucio Fulci's "Zombie" (all that's missing is the shark). Though, while this film pulls material from some good places, it never fully assists the film in crafting anything that helps the story or characters.


Again, this franchise exists within the realms of the Universal Monster's. The film never hides the fact that this is basically Universal's version of Marvel's "Avengers" saga. You actually get the message loud and clear in the first few moments of the film. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, in fact it's what many horror genre fans have been waiting for since they saw "The Monster Squad" or the "Abbott and Costello Meet..." films, it never proposes the material in interesting ways. Instead "The Mummy" feels contrived and rushed. Characters are introduced and developed less by meaningful interactions and more by scenes of them running from one place to another either in search of or retreat from the monster. 

Tom Cruise is the star here, playing what seems to be a bumbling thief who has heroic moments. But his character and performance don't match the tone the film is trying to achieve. The two female leads in Sofia Boutella as The Mummy and Annabelle Wallis as a researcher, are overlooked. Ms. Boutella has moments to shine when she actually gets to play the monster, most of the time she is tied up or seen in flashbacks. Ms. Wallis is simple hampered with a terrible role as merely a liaison to Nick's adventure.


"The Mummy" tries hard to bring in all the elements that make for mindless summer blockbuster fun, unfortunately it struggles to even be a film that distracts with visual entertainment for near 2 hours. The spectacle never feels big enough, the interesting characters are only provided a few real moments to be used, and the glaring plot holes raise questions consistently throughout. It's an unfortunate mistake that makes "The Mummy" less of step towards a franchise and more towards a hasty exit from the summer cineplex. 

Monte's Rating

1.50 out of 5.00