The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

The spirit is weak, but the flesh is willing. Let’s just substitute some of these words around and pretend we’re talking about a film franchise here ok? Let’s say that “spirit” is akin to “premise” and that “flesh” can be substituted for “movie studio”. Sometimes things just shouldn’t be – it just shouldn’t exist. Like raw tomatoes. Why? Because they’re just unpleasant and unnecessary. This can also be said of the need to make sequels to films that don’t lend themselves to sequels because they wrapped themselves up rather neatly at the end of the first instalment. Hell, even films that left loose ends like District 9 haven’t even spawned a sequel (why, Neil Blomkamp, why?!)… so you’ve got to question why it was necessary to make a sequel to last year’s The Purge in the form of The Purge: Anarchy

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

The Purge was a neat enough film. It didn’t blow us away here, but it worked – take a look at our review where we gave it a Phage Factor of 3/5. As I say, it was good, but had multiple flaws and didn’t really bring us any terror. It told the story of a family that had barricaded themselves into their home during the annual “purge” where for one night the US has no laws and people are free to rape and murder who they want but with no legal reprisals. The story wrapped up. There were no loose ends. So… naturally… The Purge: Anarchy just decides to base itself around the same “purge night” with an entirely different cast to attempt to string together a story by clumsily weaving three / four different stories together to tell something new.

Here, we focus on three groups of individuals that for one reason or another must band together when they find themselves on the streets during the annual purge; they don’t have the safety of a house to hide in, they must fend for themselves. These folks include Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo and Zach Gilford, amongst others, but honestly none need to be circled out, as they’re all relatively bland characters. Essentially, they must fight against the night to survive. Whilst you, the viewer, must fight against the urge to sleep or get annoyed at the writers attempting to shoehorn in an overarching storyline that will inevitably lead to The Purge 3

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

You’re probably already getting the impression that I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Purge: Anarchy. You’d be correct. It just didn’t excite me in any real way beyond its premise. And indeed, that excitement mainly stemmed from the “home invasion” style of the first instalment, something that is abandoned in favour of wandering the city streets with our motley crew (I must stop spelling that as Motley Crue!). Frankly, this style just didn’t work too well and didn’t play out as this movie being a “horror” movie. It almost degraded into a by-the-numbers action movie with people moving from place to place, firing a gun a couple of times, then carrying on moving.

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

However, what really startled me and led me to become annoyed were the flagrant attempts to establish a “lore” that would allow The Purge: Anarchy to continue beyond this second film. There’s a lot of mention of a “resistance”… so it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out where the franchise is going next. It’s inevitable that this will continue much in the same way that Saw and Paranormal Acticity had / have done. Saying that, at least those two films finished their first instalment on something of a cliffhanger with an obvious “to be continued” vibe to them. The Purge didn’t and this film, plus its subsequent instalements all smell faintly of “cash grab”, which is a shame. I liked the first film, I really did. But I couln’t see how it was going to be continued. And now I see why that was.

Ultimately, if you hadn’t guessed already, The Purge: Anarchy is the film that ne’er should have been. It’s “ok” by modern standards for sure, but it’s no longer a horror movie, or even a thriller. No, it’s taken itself down the action route with few thrills and chills to be had. The premise of the film still remains interesting, but the potential to outstay its welcome has already arisen by the second instalment. This is something that didn’t really hit other forced franchises such as Paranormal Activity or Saw until the 4th outing. Mind you, even those films have gone on.. and on… and on… So who knows, maybe this will pick up?

Yes, the flesh truly is as weak as the spirit on this one. Its dragging itself through the city streets whilst the ominous blast of the air raid siren rings through the air to mark the beginning of the annual purge. Indeed, if The Purge: Anarchy was personified it would be sitting in the middle of the street armed with only a spork and a half eaten tin of baked beans: it wouldn’t fight for long…

Phage Factor:

2 Stars

Only God Forgives (2013)

Only God Forgives (2013)

According to the Bible, our sins can be absolved by repenting and honestly regretting those actions you’ve made in your life. Only then will God forgive you and allow you passage into heaven. Now, I’m no theologian (hell, I’m a Phage), but that sounds a sweet deal. You can do literally ANYTHING you want in life and get access to the easy (after)life. I always question this logic when talking with genuine theologians, as surely there has to be limits on the depravity that you can commit in your life. Stole a packet of sweets from the local shop when you were 6 years old? OK, fair enough… that can be forgiven. What about stealing the packet of crisps and force-feeding them to someone with a sweet allergy, causing them to get horrendously ill… still forgiveable? Maybe… But what about committing genocide with those sweets? Can that be forgiven? They must be some pretty bad ass sweets… that’s for sure. But the logic is flawed, surely? Why this lofty pre-amble? Surely it’s obvious? Only God Forgives is out… does it make me worship at the altar, or should it repent for sinning against my eyes and ears?

Only God Forgives (2013)

Only God Forgives is the “follow-up” to Drive, insofar that it stars Ryan Gosling and is from the same writer / director, Nicolas Winding Refn. Let’s get one thing clear here: I loved Drive. I thought it was powerful, wonderfully shot and had a great display of acting from all in the cast. It was probably my highlight of 2011. It’s a polarising film though, no doubt about that. For every Phage that loved it, there are probably two that despised it, or at the very least failed to “get it”. How does Only God Forgives look in comparison? Chalk this up as another polarising slice of cinema…

With the US getting this film a few weeks ahead of the UK, I was already (accidentally) primed for what to expect. Reviews flooded at me, and they lurched between “cinematic gold” to “crushingly disappointing”… But I went in thinking “I know better than those guys, surely they missed the point of the film?” After all, the moody trailers looked fantastic and I know what to expect from Refn… but I was disappointed. Brutally so.

Before I start tearing into the flesh of this cadaver, let’s dance over the plot. Only God Forgives follows Julian (Ryan Gosling), who works / runs a Thai Boxing gym out in Bangkok. His life gets flipped when his brother is murdered… after raping and killing a 16 year old sex worker. Their mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) immediately flies into Julian’s life and sets about trying to get revenge for her dead son. And the only revenge applicable here is “eye for an eye” – she wants the head of whoever was responsible for this. “Whoever” just happens to be a member of the local police force, Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm)… and he’s quite nifty with a sword…

Only God Forgives (2013)

It sets up like a standard revenge flick, mixed in with the grubby Bangkok underworld. It should be a gripping ride. But it’s not. Only God Forgives is not the film I wanted, nor expected. It’s a highly self-indulgent piece of cinema masquerading as art. The classic elongated shots on Gosling are there… you know the ones I mean: he’s staring into the middle distance and the camera loiters on him for what seems like an eternity. There’s also the occasional eruption of gore, as was the case with Drive. Then there are innumerable karaoke pieces that are meant to illustrate the current “mood” of the picture and lots of jumping and jerking around in chronology. All in all, it made for one bewildering and slightly confusing movie.

Now, the thing that struck me about Drive was Ryan Gosling. He wasn’t really someone that meant much to me back then. Some will gush about The Notebook, but to me – he was a nobody. Then we had Drive and Crazy Stupid Love… OK… I quite like this guy. But since then? I’ve yet to be blown away again. A lacklustre Gangster Squad, a disappointing The Place Beyond The Pines… and now this. Whilst there’s nothing bad per-se about his acting here, there’s also nothing to blow you away. He walks around a lot, stares into the middle distance and gets his ass handed to him on occasion. Indeed, I think the best acting in this film came from Kristin Scott Thomas as the boys’ mother. She was deplorable, foul and thoroughly dislikeable, which Thomas delivered well. But that’s also the problem with the film itself… everyone’s pretty dislikeable.

Only God Forgives (2013)

Every character is flawed here. There is no hero. There is no antihero, really. Everyone has an axe to grind and carries their demons with them. Hell, the plot revolves around trying to avenge the death of a guy who was a murdering rapist. It’s not a noble quest, and indeed the guy got what he deserved in The Phage’s humble opinion. So if you couple the flawed, under-coloured characters with the meandering, loose plot and sense of style over substance, you’re left with quite a hollow shell of a film. It’s odd that I couldn’t help but think of Guy Ritchie‘s Revolver at points, as that too was a case of a film getting too big for its boots and jumping the shark. It also placed an emphasis on neon lights…

Only God Forgives isn’t the film I was expecting. In fact, it probably tallies as one of the biggest disappointments of 2013 for us here at Film Phage. Maybe we held our expectations too high, or wanted a continuation of Drive. Simply put: this isn’t a good film, not for us at least. I’m sure it will polarise audiences, but there just wasn’t enough glue to hold this film together. It felt awkward and forced at times. Although it’s a misstep for Refn, we’re still eager to see what he’ll pull out of the bag next… just don’t let us down…

I bet you can already see the line we’ve been aligning throughout this piece can’t you? The ironic line involving the title of the film? Yes… I don’t know if God can forgive this film (ba-dum-tsh!). Whilst it’s not up there with genocide-inducing sweet deaths, we struggle to forgive this. Not that I have a God-complex; for I do not believe that I am God… I am merely a Phage. But in the cinematic realm, we have a high opinion of ourselves. But we will forgive it this one time… as we say… just don’t let us down again. Please? There’s a sweetie in it for you…

Phage Factor:

1.5 Stars

The Purge (2013)

The Purge (2013)

At Film Phage, we like it when a film has a lofty premise; something that at least attempts to distinguish it from the rest of the crowd. This is especially needed in the constantly stagnating “horror” genre. We’ve had found footage, gore-porn, LOUD NOISES and a host of other techniques attempt to make us squirm in our seats. But The Phage always stuggles… possibly because we have no emotions – we’re a cold, emotionless wretch destined to wander the Earth like some shambolic zombie-Phage. Or, it could be that no new “idea” has been that terrifying. Having said that, we do like a bit of sustained menace in our films… something to keep the tension up… so, is The Purge up to the task at hand? And just what do The Purge and The Phage have in common? Read on…

The Purge has a nice enough premise to it. By “nice”, I actually mean quite monstrous, but well thought up. Essentially, in the US of 2022, July 5th is Purge Day. Between 7pm and 7am, the residents of the US are free to commit any crime they like – murder, theft, mutilation… anything they like, and not be charged with a thing. It’s said that this is meant to “purge” people of their criminal urges and malicious intents. But don’t expect any help if you’re attacked; there’s no police, no ambulances and no assistance coming until 7am. The result? Super low unemployment and low crime rates. So, of course, the film is mainly set on the aforementioned night when it all kicks off…

The Purge (2013)

At its centre, we follow the Sandin family – clearly upper-middle class, successful and benefiting from the purge; mainly owing to James (Ethan Hawke), who sells the security systems that people come to rely on. So on lock down in 2022, it’s just him, his wife Mary (Lena Headey), and his two children Charlie (Max Burkholder) and Zoey (Adelaide Kane)… or so he thinks. But things certainly go awry when the young, morally conflicted Charlie sees a man pleading for help outside the shutters of the Sandin homestead. He decides to open the doors and let this stranger in… on a night when anything goes. Can the family remain so passive and not indulge in the orgy of violence that they’d ordinarily sit out of?

I genuinely like the concept. I think it’s got some lofty ambition and the social commentary runs through the entire film. What is the real reason for the purge: the release of hatred, or an excuse to kill the lower classes that can’t afford to lock themselves away? It’s an interesting question and I found myself enthralled by the developing tale… up until the end of the first act. After this point, it all became a little too… dull.

The Purge (2013)

The opening is strong, and I definitely bought into the premise, but once we get to the moment where the monumentally dumb Charlie lets a stranger into his house, the film started to fall apart a little. We have some mild tension creep in here, then the threat level is elevated somewhat when others come looking for the sheltered man, but the film never induces terror. I’d be hard-pushed to call it a “moderate level of threat” to be honest. If you want to see a similar film with ramped up tension, then check out the fabulous French horror film Them (or Ils, if you want to be all French about it). Want a British take on the grim face of terror? Then try Eden Lake. I’d even argue My Little Eye from years ago makes more of a go of it. But The Purge? I’d skip on by if you’re looking for any modicum of fear to be evoked.

The problems with the film are in no way due to the acting talents of Hawke and the always-reliable Headey, who definitely carry the film for the duration. Their performances are solid and do exactly what’s expected of them. As some will know, this isn’t Hawke‘s first foray into horror, following on from last year’s LOUD NOISES fest, Sinister. I’d argue that whilst The Purge is more grounded in reality (something that should elicit worry and anxiety from the audience), Sinister had more scares to it. And considering the scare quota of Sinister was about 4, you’re getting an idea of how “scary” this film is. Having said that, you can’t escape how genuinely creepy Rhys Wakefield is in his antagonist role… that smile below… it’s what you’ll take from this movie!

The Purge (2013)

Perhaps the main problem with The Purge is the fact that it bills itself as a horror movie. The studio took the wrong angle here. They’d have been better off playing it out as a thriller. That, or they should have jacked up the jump levels. Sure, I’m glad they didn’t resort to cheap loud noises, but they needed something there. A lofty plot and interesting premise can only carry a film for so long.

Ultimately, The Purge didn’t purge me of my desire to be scared. It still persists. The opening 30 minutes of the film are great, grizzly and thought-provoking, but after that we’re subjected to a rather timid example of “stalkers in a house” – something that has been done to death since… well, since forever. So whilst I must applaud James DeMonaco on writing an interesting idea, it’s a shame it wasn’t more fleshed out from beginning to end.

So, back to the opening… what do The Purge and The Phage have in common? Are we prone to violent outbursts? Do we peak too soon and get really boring the more you read on (don’t answer that!)? Or do we just share a smattering of letters in common? I’d like to think it’s just the last of these options… unless you steal a slice of our pizza… You don’t wanna make a Phage mad now…

Phage Factor:

3 Star

Mud (2013)

Mud (2013)

I like it when an actor blindsides you with a performance you really weren’t expecting. Especially when they’ve been somewhat typecast in previous movies. Sure, you might be able to identify the odd movie they had that was a break from the norm, before they reverted back to their “type”. And actors sure do love playing up to their “type”! I don’t think we’ll be seeing Dwayne Johnson playing a hopeless romantic any time soon… unless his romance is between him and a free weights section at the gym. Conversely, you’ve got someone like Channing Tatum – a guy that’s willing to experiment with his roles, which has led to some startlingly good performances where he doesn’t just dance around the screen… But all of this pales in comparison to a performance from 2012 by one Matthew McConaughey. That film was Killer Joe. His new film promised more of the same: a break from “type”, but did Mud deliver?

Hey Joe!

Hey Joe!

I must say that Mud came at me from under the radar. I had no hype for it and it honestly wasn’t even pushed very hard in the UK. If I’m honest, I only became aware of it thanks to Keith over at Keith & The Movies putting it as his “most anticipated” movie of 2013. This guaranteed I had to go out and see it when it hit the UK… and it’s now hit. In an extremely limited release! Coming off the back of a disappointing The Place Beyond The Pines, I was eager to see a movie that lived up to my expectations from its protagonists. Well, Mud did at least achieve that… but just didn’t hit all the high notes I was expecting.

Mud is the tale of two boys, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), who are growing up in the river communities of Alabama. Life’s pretty boring, but they love to explore, so they think all their dreams have come true when they find a boat lodged in a tree following a flood – their own private hangout. But the boat’s not entirely unoccupied. It’s here that they encounter the eponymous Mud (Matthew McConaughey) – he’s homeless, but don’t call him a hobo. What unfolds is Mud’s tale of why he is where he is – he’s murdered someone for treating his girlfriend (Reese Witherspoon) in a terrible manner. He’s on the run, and not just from the police, but from the dead guy’s family too… And our two young leads become embroiled in proceedings.

Mud (2013)

Let’s start off with what I really enjoyed about the movie, and that’s the acting. I felt that every actor was really pulling their weight here. A lot of credit has to go to Tye Sheridan for carrying the movie so well on his young shoulders. He really had to run the gamut of emotions in this movie and really captured the frustrations of being at that age – dealing with the confusing Mud situation and dealing with those pesky “love” emotions. Similarly, Jacob Lofland was ably suited to his role too; providing much of the comic relief in the movie. Not that there were laughs galore to be had, but he broke the tension well. But this is Matthew McConaughey‘s movie, yet again. His character, Mud, is a mysterious one. And thankfully it’s one that doesn’t rely on getting his top off (all the time… it does happen though), or smiling at the camera as McConaughey is so accustomed to. I’d argue that his performance here isn’t as startling as that of Killer Joe, or indeed A Time To Kill, but it’s still resoundingly strong. And before I leave this little “acting love-in”… Reese Witherspoon? Who’d have expected her to be doing some genuine acting too!?

The other thing I loved about the movie is it all just “fit” into place. It didn’t seem like a movie – it was like the cameras turned up and just captured the everyday lives of its inhabitants as they were. It’s hard to put this into words to accurately convey the feeling I had here, but the cinematography and direction by Jeff Nichols was suitably apt.

Mud (2013)

However, the film isn’t without its problems – crucially in pacing. The movie does drag its heels at several occasions and the film doesn’t need to be over two hours long. Not by any stretch of the imagination. It seems like the constant “fetch quests” that the boys went on carried on for far too long. This gave the impression that the film was somewhat directionless, as you couldn’t really see any plot progression aside from the fact that you wondered what was going to happen to McConaughey‘s character… at some point. All of this changed dramatically in the final 30 minutes, which was choc-full of action and drama. But for me, it was a case of “too little, too late”. The plotting was there, the script was there and the acting was definitely there. It’s just a shame the film became a little too enraptured with itself to really steam along at a brisk enough pace. Don’t get me wrong, I can do slow and lingering, but there’s a limit on this. Unfortunately, Mud went past that point.

Mud is another star turn for Matthew McConaughey, who’s picked up something of a habit of taking roles you wouldn’t have assigned to him half a decade ago. Whilst I wasn’t as blown away by Mud as I was by Joe in Killer Joe, this can still be classified as a success for him. Similarly, I want to see more from Tye Sheridan in the future. The kid’s got talent and I’m keen to see where he goes next. Unfortunately, the film trips itself up with its rather slow pacing, which makes the second act drag to an alarming degree. So, ultimately, Mud‘s a solid movie, but isn’t one I’d rush out to see again any time soon.

Why don’t more actors follow Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum? Take some of those wild and whacky roles. Take a risk! I want to see Megan Fox in a cerebral thriller about feminism, I want to see Tommy Lee Jones doing some slapstick comedy opposite Rob Schneider and I want to see Samuel L. Jackson… erm… what genre hasn’t this guy done!? OK, perhaps everyone should follow Jackson‘s lead and not the others’. Then they can all star in such fabulous movies as Snakes on a Plane, The Spirit and Deep Blue Sea… oh, wait…

Phage Factor:

3.5 Star

Sightseers (2012)

Sightseers (2012)

Cinema-goers are an eclectic bunch. The love for film transcends every demographic – old, young, nerd or jock. Everyone’s welcome at the cinema. I’m not sure that should always be the case, as some patrons are slightly more… unusual than others. We’ve all had the misfortune to sit near one. Or maybe you actually are one of those fruitcups that makes everyone else sitting around you either a) incredibly annoyed with you, or b) scared of you. Good for you. Probably. You know the people I’m talking about though; some will guffaw with laughter over the mildest of amusements (replete with thigh slapping), whilst others will actively talk to the screen out loud because I’m sure the characters in the film can hear you and appreciate your feedback. Well, my viewing of Sightseers was definitely one of those viewings and the film lends itself to the screwballs.

Sightseers is a British “comedy” about a roadtrip around the British Isles by Chris (Steve Oram) and his newly-minted and incredibly timid girlfriend Tina (Alice Lowe). The couple travel to the most mundane of British amusements (a pencil factory, a tram museum etc.) whilst towing their caravan behind them. However, there’s a twist. Chris is a little bit psychotic… he’s a bit of a serial killer when his patience is tested. Hilarity ensues. Well, it should… but it doesn’t. Not one iota.

Sightseers (2012)

This is an incredibly dark film. So dark that nary a ray of light can penetrate it. I cannot label this a comedy unless you get your jollies from either a) incredibly banal jokes, or b) extreme violence. If this is you… I’d contact someone about that. You’ll know you’re one of these folks if you find yourself talking to a screen at the cinema. If you’re like me however, you’ll leave the cinema feeling incredibly beaten down and slightly unhappy. This isn’t a comedy, so don’t believe the plaudits and opinions some of our bigger and more noticed peers may be throwing at this film.

Whilst I found the initial half of the film incredibly hard going, owing to its humour missing me entirely and the plot blundering along at an incredibly slow pace, I did find my interest improving over the course of the film. The whole “serial killer” vibe is very much a one-trick pony, but I was intrigued to see how the plot would progress and conclude. The two lead actors, Oram and Lowe are fantastic in their respective roles, so nothing can be taken from them. Their characters are incredibly vivid and well-realised, it’s just a pity that I didn’t find myself warming to either of them over the 88 minute runtime.

Sightseers (2012)

I just struggle to get over the humour of the film. A while ago in my Cockneys vs. Zombies review I mentioned a similar phenomenon wherein there was much knee-slapping from certain audience members who couldn’t get enough of the Brit-themed zombie action. I struggled to see how this was funny in the slightest, despite labelling myself a massive advocate of British comedy. I think it ultimately comes down to a divide in the population. Whilst some members of the public love shows like Peep Show and The Inbetweeners, others will find that humour too awkward and instead opt for Two Pints of Lager and Miranda. I fall into the former camp and cannot tolerate the latter. For my non-UK readers, let me put it a different way. The former two shows are a lot like The Office (US and UK) – quite awkward situational comedy, whilst the latter are the classic laughter-track sitcoms that swamp the TV landscape where laughter comes as a result of someone falling over or saying “bum”. As non-cerebral as you can get.

With that being said, I feel that Sightseers appeals to those in the latter camp. For better, or worse, I just couldn’t identify with this film on any level beyond watching it to review. As I say, it’s not a bad film, and will definitely have its audience out there in the world, but it really wasn’t for me. Releasing it at Christmas was also a peculiar choice too. This is definitely an October film – a dark, oppressive season for a dark, disturbing film.

2012 has been somewhat of a stale year for British comedy at the box office, at least by The Phage‘s reckoning. The Wedding Video, Keith Lemon: The Film and Cockneys vs. Zombies all failed to bring me joy and Sightseers has the same fate. That being said, Sightseers is a very different type of film that may have just been mis-labelled as a comedy. It’s more of a thriller / horror with dark humour thrown in for the ride. Whilst the acting is incredibly convincing, the film just didn’t entertain me. And whilst I’m not averse to a downbeat ending (in fact, I quite enjoy them), the whole film was so downbeat that the ending was just a nail in the coffin for me.

But then again, if you were the person in my screening that proclaimed “oh dear” at the top of your voice when someone died, or you asked questions of / warned the characters on-screen, then you probably thought this was a great film. It seems the UK has more than its fair share of the mentally unstable that frequent the cinema at mid-week. I can’t help but feel that Chris and Tina from Sightseers would be two of those characters. Let’s just hope that person X from my screening doesn’t own a caravan and harbor a homicidal rage. We can but hope.

Phage Factor:

2 Stars

Sinister (2012)

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never been a fan of Anchorman and all of its sayings that some fans will spit back at you ad-verbatim like it’s still a fresh and exciting movie, and not something that’s now eight years old. But one quote, or scene, does stick with me – and that’s the one in which Steve Carell‘s character just exclaims “LOUD NOISES!” as his contribution to an argument. It was funny. It was apt. So why am I bringing this up in a review that’s not for The Campaign? Well, because I don’t think there’s any other phrase, spare “LOUD NOISES!” that really sums up horror movies of the past five years. Does Sinister follow this well trod path, or is it something altogether more… sinister?

The set up for the film is that true crime author Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) moves his family to a new town so that he can write his new book about some grizzly murders that happened there: a quadruple hanging. Of course, Ellison decides to move the family into the exact house where the hangings happened (unbeknown to his family) so that he can draw inspiration from the surroundings and maybe uncover a thing or two about the unsolved murders. But Ellison uncovers a box of film in the attic that explicitly details a series of brutal murders all featuring a rather evil looking presence. Obviously, I can’t divulge much more, but that’s the premise. But is it any good?

Well, it’s a mixed bag. I also can’t help but feel that Sinister and Insidious have more in common than a single word title. Let me make this clear: I thought Insidious was an OK horror movie that had a solid narrative… for the first 2/3 of the film. That last act was appalling and looked like it was shot in a high school drama class. Honestly – the “make up” on the “big bad red faced demon” was abysmal. That whole ending left a sour taste in my mouth. But the main problem with Insidious and Sinister is their reliance on the aforementioned LOUD NOISES! The films rarely employ true terror or fear. The vast majority of the jumps come from cheap amplified noises. This isn’t horror. This is just making people jump. I could pop a balloon behind you right now and you’d jump. It’s not horror or terror – it’s surprise. This is why I can’t really say that Sinister distinguishes itself from the pack. It’s more of the same.

Ethan Hawke is fantastic here… even if he does look like Johnny “Drama” Chase…

I will however say that the plot, whilst supernatural and a little forced, works well. I enjoyed the general premise of the film as a whole and I really must commend Ethan Hawke here. He seamlessly holds the film together and really slogs it out on-screen. It’s refreshing to have a horror movie that’s genuinely well acted by its lead protagonist. One thing I’ve got to mention though… since when did Johnny “Drama” Chase from HBO’s Entourage (RIP) start acting in films? In the trailers I swore that Ethan Hawke was Kevin Dillon – they look almost identical. I was half expecting to see Turtle and E run on-screen and make the film into a total Bromance (yes, I loved Entourage, and can’t let go of it). But getting back on track: Hawke is brilliant. That’s not to say the rest of the cast are slouches, but they never stood out in the same way. James Ransone‘s Deputy was the comic relief and Juliet Rylance ably portrayed Hawke‘s wife, Tracy, but the children? Eh… less noteworthy. They’re no Pierce Gagnon, that’s for sure. Can’t we cast him in all films from now on? And cast Tom Hardy in there too? I’d pay.

If you shhh it makes the LOUD NOISES even LOUDER!!

Whilst I wouldn’t say I was disappointed by Sinister, I almost knew what I was going to get from the outset. As soon as I see all of these “terrifying”, “you won’t sleep at night” and “best horror of the decade” quotes I’m immediately suspicious. Especially when they come from small-time horror film sites about as big as Film Phage – hey, it’s true, we’re small time  here (for now…). I just feel that either the standards for horror are slipping, or that people have forgotten what it’s like to be truly terrified by a film. Maybe I’m just hard to scare in that regard, but I didn’t feel tense or have an feeling of horror for the entire runtime. It was just interesting. I still say that nothing has come close to capturing the nuanced horror of Rec or even The Ring upon first viewing in a darkened cinema. There’s just too much emphasis on cheap jumps as opposed to psychologically terrifying someone. Although it’s lambasted, you’ve got to credit the original Paranormal Activity for at least trying this and making people doubt their own eyesight. A clever innovation. A clever innovation that will not be found in Sinister, despite Hawke‘s best efforts.

The only thing truly sinister about Sinister is how they managed to amass so many positive quotes from fellow critics that made the film seem the equivalent of a live-action ritual sacrifice with demons emerging from the lacerated corpse. Instead what we have is a film with a solid plot and a dodgy sound system that spikes way too often.

I’ll say one thing: Sinister beats out The Possession as best horror film I’ve seen in the past few weeks, but considering that’s its only competition that’s not saying much. With only Paranormal Activity 4 and perhaps Silent Hill: Revelations still to go, it could be another very unscary Halloween. LOUD NOISES!!!

Phage Factor: