Sunday, 28 June 2015


Starring: Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo, Ana De Armas
Writers: Eli Roth, Nicolas Lopez, Guillermo Amoedo
Director: Eli Roth


Evan Webber (Reeves) is a happily married man - remember this, folks, because this movie won't hammer home this point at all - who finds his life crashing down around him when he gets a night-time visit from foxy young ladies Genesis (Izzo) and Bel (De Armas) in Eli Roth's latest thriller, which is a take on the 1977 movie Death Game which saw Colleen Camp and Sondra Locke terrorising Seymour Cassel. Camp appears here in a small role and both she and Locke are credited amongst the producers of this update. As far as the pedigree of the talent involved goes, I liked Hostel a lot and I'm looking forward to Roth's eventually-to-be-released The Green Inferno (which was actually shot before this one). Reeves was terrific in actionfest John Wick. So where did this all go wrong?

Well, it doesn't get off to the most auspicious of starts, the opening scenes throwing in so many overused tropes of happily married life that it becomes unintentionally ridiculous. Aw! His wife loves him so much! Aw! His kids love him so much! Aw! They bought him a really sweet present for Father's Day! Aw! They got him a cake! Aw! He pretends he's a monster and chases them! Aw! His wife nearly gets into an argument with him but they decide not to fight because they LOVE EACH OTHER SO VERY VERY MUCH! Aw!

So, ten or so minutes in and Evan's adorable missus and adorable kids have disappeared to their house at "the beach" because Evan has some important architectural work to do and it has to be done over that weekend. Like all really important architectural projects have to be done over weekends. "Hey, have you finished work on the plans for that new state-of-the-art skyscraper?" "I'll have them done this weekend." "What were you doing for the rest of the time that we set aside for this?" "Er..."

But I digress. Evan's hard at work on his latest architecture project, listening to Detroit Rock City on his fancy, very expensive sound system and only stopping to have a FaceTime conversation with his wife to hammer home the point that they both LOVE EACH OTHER SO VERY VERY MUCH when there's a knock (knock) on the door and things just degenerate - for both Evan and the audience - from there.

To be honest, I was ready for an enjoyable, pulpy thrill ride and I was prepared to let a whole load of believability slide in the name of entertainment. However, I wasn't quite prepared for the enormous, cataclysmic landslip of believability that was passing before my eyes and the whole thing collapses under the weight of its numerous improbabilities. Okay, I can buy Keanu's character eventually falling for these two girls - although he doesn't sell it particularly well, nor does the script - but I don't buy him believing what follows when the girls reveal to him that they're underage and that he's looking at a statutory rape charge if he doesn't play ball. Ahem, excuse me, but neither of them looks remotely underage. One of them looks older than I do. Actually, that's not quite true but you get the idea. At this point in the plot, Evan - who's been painted as a reasonably intelligent individual from the get-go - gets a severe attack of the stupids and doesn't even bother asking them any questions about it.

This film also features someone discovering a person who's tied up but then has them immediately go to investigate a noise instead of untying the person first and then having them both investigate the noise together. Even by horror/thriller standards, these characters are monumentally dumb to the point where you think they wouldn't have even got to the house in the first place because they would have been stuck miles away trying to work out which shoe was the left one and which shoe was the right one. I'm sorry, even something as far-fetched as this has to work on some sort of logical level and for me this just took way too many liberties.

The acting is all over the place. Reeves looks awkward when he's being seduced by the girls, which is fine, but he looks awkward when he's playing superdad at the beginning and he looks awkward when he's being victimised in the second half of the movie. Izzo and De Armas, as the psycho tag-team, are more shrill and annoying than threatening for most of the running time and they generally come across as spoiled rather than genuinely dangerous which fatally deflates any tension that might have been generated from the situation. Also, the movie takes an awfully long time to get to the meat of the plot - about fifty minutes by my reckoning - and the slow build-up doesn't get the payoff it should. The potential was certainly there to make a solid, creepy exploitation flick but unfortunately there's very little here to genuinely disturb or indeed engage.

So, is it the worst film I've seen this year? After all of the above, you may be surprised to learn that the answer to that question is no. Mortdecai, that honour is still yours. However, Knock Knock is a major disappointment and doesn't even fall into the "so bad it's good" category. This, I'm really sorry to say, is just plain bad. Even so, I'm still holding out hope that The Green Inferno will deliver the queasy shocks that this movie plainly doesn't.

Oh, and just one more thing. Closing the movie with the Pixies' track "Where Is My Mind?" - no. Just no. You made me think of Fight Club. Which made me think that I would have so much rather watched Fight Club again.

Monday, 8 June 2015


Starring: Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott, Lin Shaye
Writer: Leigh Whannell
Director: Leigh Whannell

The third Insidious movie takes the form of a prequel in which budding teenage thesp Quinn Brenner (Scott) falls foul of a malevolent spirit after she attempts to make contact with her dead mother. As the rules of this series would have it, if you call out to the realm of the dead everyone there can hear you and Quinn attracts the attention of a deadly supernatural force which then attacks her in a series of increasingly disturbing sequences.

Yes, we're back in the realm of the multiplex-friendly jump scare once more but with Whannell at the helm these jolts are engineered with more skill and care than the norm. Even though a large proportion of them still rely on the usual long period of quiet followed by an almighty BANG on the soundtrack as something appears, jumps out or grabs a character they don't always follow the predictable beats of the genre. It's this ability to wrong-foot the audience that keeps the tension at a decent level, at least for the first hour anyway.

It's only with the introduction of paranormal investigators Specs (played by Whannell in addition to writing the film, directing it and probably doing the catering as well) and Tucker that the pervading sense of unease is undercut by goofy comedy and the flick never fully recovers from that, Elise's ultimate confrontation with the Big Bad in the spirit world struggling to capture the genuine menace of what has gone before. Yes, it's nice to see how Elise first met the not-so-dynamic duo but the story definitely loses some of its momentum by its inclusion.

Still, the first two-thirds of this movie are far better and more involving than any third chapter of a franchise has any right to be and at the centre of it at all is a fine performance from Lin Shaye, giving it all she's got as the troubled psychic Elise, even getting a crowd-pleasing Ripleyesque moment towards the end of the proceedings which is both satisfying and very funny without being too cheesy.

Elsewhere, Stefanie Scott convinces as terrified teen Quinn and Dermot Mulroney is reliably on form as her dad. It's the sort of acting gig he can do in his sleep but he doesn't phone it in here even though his role requires him to do little other than look worried, not understand most of what's going on and shout at his son to get out of bed every morning. As for his son Alex (played by Tate Berney), he has trouble getting out of the bed in the morning, he's not the most complex character ever written.

In a period of generally tepid remakes *cough* Poltergeist *cough* and sorry sequels it's nice to be able to say that the third Insidious movie is solid, enjoyable fare for horror fans and manages to throw in a couple of legitimately creepy moments along the way. It's just a shame that the climactic confrontation is lacking in the taut suspense of the earlier set-pieces. Certainly worth a watch though.