By the time my viewing experience of The Emoji Movie came to an end, I genuinely came to wonder whether or not I’d died during the trailers preceding the film, and all of the subsequent 80 minutes of “cinema” I witnessed were in fact merely my brain’s synapses randomly, desperately firing in all directions, generating such a senseless, pointless, sloppy mishmash.
Full review at Flickering Myth.
When the Planet of the Apes franchise was dubiously rebooted six years ago, it was practically impossible to consider the artistic leaps and bounds the series would subsequently take, venturing from 2011’s unexpectedly canny retooling through to 2014’s ambitious, expectation-defying Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and now, perhaps finally, that rarest of things – a second sequel that incredulously improves further still.
Full review at Flickering Myth.
Mickey Keating’s (Pod, Darling) latest effort proudly wears its exploitation roots on its sleeves while mixing in a slice of Tarantino for good measure, though it’s fair to say that Carnage Park is strictly only for Grindhouse enthusiasts.
Despite beginning on fairly unremarkable footing, The Purge franchise has blossomed into a solidly compelling thriller franchise with a wealth of possibilities to mine for the future. If not quite reaching the same level of gritty intensity as the previous film, Election Year is still a worthy threequel that further expands the series’ urban nightmare mythos.
Despite its low marketing presence and bizarre decision to completely forego the festival circuit, Kevin Macdonald’s (Touching the Void, The Last King of Scotland) submarine-set thriller wrings plenty of tension out of its gleefully old-school set-up, and despite the occasional misstep, is a visceral ride well worth taking.
The already-dubious WWE Studios label delivers yet another belated movie sequel nobody really wanted in the first place, as Larry the Cable Guy steps into Arnold Schwarzenegger’s role for another tired rock around the Christmas tree in Jingle All the Way 2.
Veteran horror film cinematographer John R. Leonetti (Child’s Play 3, Piranha 3D, the Insidious series and The Conjuring) directs his third feature film (following the risible Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and The Butterfly Effect 2) yet, like his prior efforts, has been saddled with a bare bones script which denies him the chance to deliver an effort rising above awful. This lame spin-off from last year’s smash horror hit The Conjuring is a tired patchwork of films like Rosemary’s Baby and Child’s Play, satisfying as an homage to neither.
Taking place a year before the events of James Wan’s film, Annabelle introduces us to expectant parents John Gordon (Ward Horton) and his wife Mia (Annabelle Wallis), and one day, John gives the titular doll to Mia as a gift. Soon thereafter, a violent altercation between their neighbours spills into their own home, leaving the neighbours dead, just as a drop of blood from the female assailant spills onto the doll. Creeped out by Annabelle, John and Mia throw her away and move house to get a fresh start, but of course, the doll mysteriously returns, as a series of increasingly disturbing events take place in their new homestead, threatening the life of their newborn daughter Lea.
Even the most devoted fans of The Conjuring won’t take much convincing to admit that Annabelle is a relatively flimsy premise with which to milk horror fans’ goodwill; though Wan’s film was itself relatively conventional, it benefited from strong actors, well-defined, likeable characters and sharp direction, none of which bless this hastily-produced spin-off. Still, the worst thing about Annabelle is simply that it’s stunningly dull; no number of telegraphed jump scares can enliven a depressingly self-serious excursion which won’t simply give into its kitschy desires and deliver what everyone wants – another killer doll movie in the vein of Child’s Play.
With a wry sense of humour and certain self-awareness about its own silliness, Annabelle could have been a pleasant surprise; instead, it’s just a 98-minute tease, repeating a tired formula (something creepy happens, cut to a static shot of the doll looking sinister) without any feeling of fun or palpable dread whatsoever. Instead, it’s a banal retread of Polanski’s horror classic with an obvious thematic similarity to the Chucky series, albeit with a totally different (and vastly inferior) execution.
Indifferent performances are also relatively problematic here; leads Horton and Wallis barely make a dent, in part due to the hateful script and because they simply aren’t very interesting to watch, while veteran character actors Tony Amendola and Oscar-nominee Alfre Woodard just about inject some life into proceedings as a concerned priest and the family’s kindly neighbour. Director Leonetti meanwhile stumbles by employing relatively inexperienced lenser James Kniest to perform the duties he usually would; the night-time scenes in particular suffer from a garish, muddy, documentary-like aesthetic which is usually best reserved for neo-noirs (specifically those directed by Michael Man). In a relatively glossy film such as this, it sticks out like a sore thumb, and looks resoundingly amateur.
Though it’s well-rooted in its time and place with plenty of Charles Manson-fueled paranoia, and it temporarily rouses audience interest with a potentially jaw-dropping ending – one which it subsequently chickens out on – Annabelle is about as cynical as contemporary Hollywood horror gets; boring, derivative and effortlessly conceived. Short of a potentially enticing Annabelle vs. Chucky film, it’s best to keep this doll locked up where she belongs (though having already grossed 10-fold its budget at the box office, that isn’t likely).
Annabelle is in cinemas now