The Mummy (2017)

Shared movie universes are all the rage these days. Well, since Marvel gave themselves a license to print money, anyway. DC Comics,Transformers, the Fox X Men films and many more are all in development so it’s only natural that Universal Studios who practically invented this concept with their monster movies, back in the 30s and 40s have decided to throw their hat back in the ring. 

The first entry in Univeral’s Dark Universe, their new series of shared universe horror films, is The Mummy. Starring Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella, The Mummy has been savaged by critics and flopped theatrically and I’m not quite sure why. Maybe people expected too much, but I enjoyed The Mummy for what it was, an action packed, horror-tinged adventure film. A mash of genres and full of excitement, even if it never manages to be truly scary, The Mummy nonetheless maintains tension and pulls the viewer along at a fast pace. The film only ever slows down when introducing the shared universe stuff, even then, never becoming boring. 


Tom Cruise stars as Nick Morton, a sleazy army officer more concerned with stealing artifacts along with his pal Vail,  played by Jurassic World’s Jake Johnson. While attempting to loot a tomb in Iraq, Nick encounters Jenny (Annabelle Wallis) An archaeologist he has some history with and together they accidentally unleash something ancient and evil. Sofia Boutella plays Ahmanet, a vengeful Egyptian Princess sentenced to be mummified alive for murdering her father and his son. Along they way she also tried to summon Set, the God of Death and control the world. Basically, if you’ve seen the Brendan Fraser version, she’s Imhotep and Tom Cruise is Rachel Weisz. 


Packed with awesome effects, some big laughs and loads of violence, The Mummy is a great romp. I kept waiting for it to get bad, but it never did. Sure, Cruise is not giving it his best, but it never dips into being unwatchable. If you’re into cheesey horror adventures, you’ll love it. This one has a huge budget and TOM FUCKING CRUISE in it.

One scene that absolutely wowed me was the plane crash, as heavily shown in all of the trailers. What a dizzying, thrilling set piece that is! Breathlessly shot and very tense, it creates a sense of dread and Cruise sells the whole thing. Like a spooky Mission Impossible stunt. 

Sadly, I can’t say The Mummy is Oscar worthy or even massively original. In fact you can play “spot the influence” all the way through. Personally, I found a huge John Landis influence, the zombies had a Thriller vibe and the ghostly apparition of a dead friend warning of trouble was straight out of  An American Werewolf in London. It had that typically Landis darkly comedic tone all the way though, the main character cursed, yet seeing the funny side. It also felt at times like the Uncharted games, very quippy and dry, with a similar desert setting. Cruise was actually dressed a little like Nathan Drake too. 

Cruise himself has had a fair bit of a critical bashing, which is undeserved. The romance angle between Nick and Jenny didn’t fully work, but it fits his character and by the end, everything does make sense. The scenes with Cruise and Jake Johnson were great, Johnson surely has to end up leading his own franchise at some point. He’d make a good Boomerang if they ever do a Superior Foes of Spider-Man movie. 

The film looked great, with each setting looking different and reflecting the tone of the scene, kind of how Bond films do it. Or maybe it’s furthering the Uncharted influence and acting like video game levels. I particularly liked the Prodigium headquarters with all the references to other monster films. 

Okay, so let’s talk Dark Universe. At the time of writing, The Mummy is getting buried at the box office, surely affecting future creative plans. I hope nothing too drastically, as what is set up here is actually very cool. I also LOVED Russell Crowe as Henry Jekyll and his old pal Eddie Hyde. As a pair of supporting characters Jekyll and Hyde will hopefully pop up in the next Dark Universe film, Bill Condon’s Bride of Frankenstein. Due to open February 2019, staring Javier Bardem and if rumours are to be believed, Angelina Jolie. Everyone’s favourite hat wearer Johnny Depp is the Invisible Man too, but where he will appear isn’t certain. All puns fully intended. 

Don’t listen to the critics, judge The Mummy on your own terms. I found a lot to like and was left wanting more from this world. Great action, effects and funny, worth the time of every horror fan. Even if it’s not truly a horror film. 
The Mummy is still in cinemas now 
7/10

For Fans Of :
The Mummy (1999)

An American Werewolf in London 

Mission Impossible 

The Relic 

Split (2017)

M Night Shyamalan’s Split is a remarkable film. A psychological horror – thriller, darkly comic at times and frighteningly intense at others. 

The story of three girls taken captive by a man with multiple personalities, this could have been a torture porn or exploitation film in other hands, but M Night Shymalan raises the tone and crafts something special. Layering flashbacks, subplots and different characters perfectly, Split never loses track of its multiple strands, each one getting it’s time in the light. 

The unsettling opening scene sets the tone for what follows, as we see Dennis, Kevin’s bespectacled, intense personality, systemically take town three girls, whilst remaining so stoic and calm. It’s a frightening statement of intent from a writer director at the top of his game. 

Anya Taylor-Joy, star of 2016’s horror masterpiece The Witch, plays Casey, a withdrawn, damaged girl, who’s deeply upsetting backstory is revealed slowly throughout the film. One of the three girls taken by Kevin, Casey is held prisoner along with Jessica Sula as Marcia and Hayley Lu as Claire, in an unknown location. Taylor-Joy is carving out a career as a modern day horror icon, next appearing in 2018’s X Men horror film The New Mutants as Magik. 



James McAvoy, also formerly an X Man, gives the performances of his career so far here. He plays a man with 23 different identities, each one that were shown is completely distinct. I feel if this wasn’t a horror/thriller, we would be looking at an Oscar nomination for him. From Barry the fashion designer, Hedwig the dopey 9 yer old to Patricia, a stern British woman, McAvoy is unbelievable. Every single personality inside Kevin is fully realised and an individual character in it’s own right. McAvoy really gives a virtuoso performance here, showcasing his talents and proving himself as a top tier talent. What’s more, nothing ever comes across as silly. Even when he’s dressed as a woman, McAvoy commands your attention with his intensity, never appearing anything less than a fully developed character. It’s a stunning achievement. 

The rest of the cast is great too , especially Brad William Henke’s creepy uncle in the flashback scenes and veteran actress Betty Buckley as Dr Fletcher is particularly great. Dr Fletcher’s character drops lots of the information about Kevin’s disorder. Other movies would use her character for exposition dumps and not much else, but Shymalan makes her so compelling and Buckley herself has such a warmth and heart that you can’t help but feel the fear and the compassion yourself.

This being an M Night Shymalan movie, there are two things you’d always expect. One is his gratuitous cameo, and the other is a plot full of twists and turns. Both are present here. Shyamalan’s career renaissance has been impressive thus far, Split only proving his ability to shock and thrill even more. The Sixth Sense was a huge bar to set for himself, so seeing him returning to that level is nice.  It’s difficult to go into detail without spoiling a lot of what makes the movie great. I do feel that while Split’s twists are why it works, that multiple viewings would only improve the film. 

Leaving spoilers out of it, both the ending and credits scene made my jaw drop. A huge talking point for sure and the recently announced sequel sounds very interesting indeed!

Split is a rare thing, a hybrid of genres and influences, ending up as strong as the sum of its parts. Rather like it’s main character. 

9/10

For Fans Of: 

Silence of the Lambs

Unbreakable 

Raising Cain 

10 Cloverfield Lane 

Twin Peaks: The Return (2017)

The first two episodes of Showtime’s revival of the Lynch/Frost surrealist drama have aired and it’s given us a lot to mull over.  While I do talk some spoilers, I’ve left a lot out, as some things need to be seen for themselves. 

Simultaneously being something totally new and also, essentially the most Twin Peaks thing ever, Lynch and Frost have returned from the Black Lodge rejuvenated and ready to go.  The first two episodes answer some twenty-five year old questions but ask a whole lot more. 

At its core, Twin Peaks has always been the story of Laura Palmer and The Return is no exception, with the first episode opening with Laura’s promise of seeing Special Agent Dale Cooper again in twenty-five years. This new series has a murder mystery of its own, with a high-school principal, played by Shaggy himself, Matthew Lillard being arrested for a truly horrific double murder, is he under the control of BOB or one of the other denizens of the Black Lodge

Speaking of which, Agent Cooper’s evil doppelganger from the finale of season 2 is still on the loose and rampaging around our world, desperate to stay out of the Black Lodge. It’s never explicitly stated that he’s BOB, but a long haired Kyle McLachlan definitely gives off that vibe, channeling the spookiness of the late Frank Silva.  Although I know Silva passed away in 1995, I constantly expected him to appear, baring his teeth and climbing over a couch. The real Dale Cooper is still inside the Red Room, with MIKE,  looking for an escape. It’s hard to take, especially as Coop is one of the nicest, most earnest heroes TV has ever seen. His scenes here are sad but an essential continuation. We can’t go from “How’s Annie?” back to coffee and pie. Not so soon, maybe not ever. 

This new Peaks is free of network censorship and fully embraces the gore, swearing and nudity it wasn’t allowed first time round. It’s a lot more like Fire Walk With Me or even Lost Highway than the original series. But that’s fine, it suits the progression and it works. Nothing, even the creatures or whatever they are, seems forced or over the top.  

While Twin Peaks has always been a little scary, I would definitely say this new version is pretty much horror. While shows like True Detective have aped the Peaks style, here Lynch blows everyone away with his slow burning terror. Lingering shots, pulsating music, purposefully dragging scenes out, Lynch rachets the tension and drags us along with him. The discovery of the corpse(s) in the apartment building slowly pull you to the edge of your seat. The storyline in New York with the glass box is flat out terrifying, feeling like some of the J-horror that has been inspired by Lynch. Some people might find this slow approach tedious or the creatures silly, but chances are they’d have found backwards talking and a Log Lady daft too. 

Catherine E Coulson, the Log Lady, sadly died in 2015 just after filming her scenes, and her appearance here shows how ill she was. With chemotherapy hair loss and a tube in her nose, she looked so frail , my eyes filled with tears seeing her that way, but she delivers her dialogue so perfectly and so real, it’s an incredible performance to leave us with. This double episode was dedicated the memory of both her and Frank Silva, which was a nice touch. Knowing that we’ve lost several cast members since filming adds an extra layer of emotions to our viewing experience too, especially to a show with themes of death and finality such as this one. 

We do get a return of some of the original cast, with Ben and Jerry Horne, Richard Beymer and David Patrick Kelly still as hilarious as ever! Andy, Lucy and Hawk in the Sheriff Department had me aching for Sheriff Truman but I know Michael Ontkean is now retired and living in Hawaii. Near the end it was wonderful to see a scene into the bar, with The Chromatics replacing Julee Cruse, but it felt like the old days. Seeing James and Shelly as well as some new characters. Jacques Reno back from the dead and tending bar in the background was odd, unless he’s got an identical cousin. Hey, it’s happened before!

Darker, scarier and just as mysterious, Twin Peaks: The Return has raised the bar for TV yet again. David Lynch and Mark Frost are still light years ahead of everyone else. 

The current epsiode of the Supernerds UK Podcast is a Twin Peaks special and features my interview with Jerry Horne himself, David Patrick Kelly! 

Available on ITunes, supernerdsuk.com and all places podcasts are found!
Find my thoughts on Episodes 3 and 4 here 

Alien Covenant (2017)

It’s worth noting that Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein was originally titled, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus” 

 

Crashing into the cinema, like an out of control landing vehicle, Ridley Scott returns with a sequel to 2012’s Prometheus. Furthering the story of the origins of the Xenomorphs, David and the engineers. 

Covenant, written by John Logan and Dante Harper from a story by Michael  Green and Jack Paglen ,  sets it’s tone immediately and opens with a short prologue, where we see Guy Pearce’s Peter Weyland, much younger and minus the old man makeup, igniting the life in the synthetic human, David, (the returning Michael Fassbender). Further pushing the themes of creation and purpose of life that drove the last film. It’s hard to talk about Covenant as an Alien film when so much of it’s story relates directly back to Prometheus

The film then picks up with our rag-tag crew of colonists heading for a planet, with 2000 sleeping passengers and a lab full of frozen human embryos. While recharging the ship’s batteries, a solar storm damages the craft, killing the captain. On carrying out repairs they receive a signal from a mysterious local planet, capable of sustaining life, yet unknown to us.  

Newly promoted Captain Oram (Billy Crudup) makes the decision to alter the mission and things take a fairly predictable turn for the worse, because it’s an Alien movie and that’s how this works.
I enjoyed Alien Covenant. It’s a dark, gory, suspenseful sequel that does indeed answer some of Prometheus’ questions, yet leaves enough dangling threads of its own, to be answered in the sequel, with filming  currently set for a 2018 start date. 

The cast, while not being quite as star studded as before, certainly manages to more than hold it’s own, with Danny McBride and Katherine Waterston filling the Hicks and Ripley archetypes. McBride in particular, while seemingly an odd choice, is phenomenonal in the role and I look forward to seeing him in more films like this. 

The creature design was, as always unsettling and visceral, though the CGI looks obvious and less affecting than the Giger designed, original, practical Xenomorphs did. The albino neomorph was a nice addition to the lore, coming across less devious and more animalistic than we’re used to. Similar to the dogburster from Alien 3 in some ways. 

I’d like to talk about something that maybe considered spoiler territory, but I’ll keep it vague. If you want to remain fresh, skip to the last paragraph! The return of David midway through the film was an unexpected delight for me. I had no idea he would be so integral to the plot. Fassbender playing two different versions of an synthetic was great. Laid back and caring Walter and evil British Villain David.  

Spending 10 years alone on the engineer homeworld, David becomes isolated and obsessed with creation. Complete with his own fortress castle, barricaded away from the nightmare creatures he caused to exist, David became an engineer himself. A quick flashback shows what he’s done and then his new plans kick in. Scott uses Fassbender perfectly and seeing a Synthetic human become the main character really reinforces the film’s message. 

A slow burning, somewhat Gothic science fiction horror movie disguised as an entry in the Alien franchise, Alien Covenant is Prometheus 2 in every way possible. For me, that’s certainly not a bad thing.

8/10

For Fans Of:

Alien

Prometheus 

Frankenstein (1931)

Blade Runner 

The Belko Experiment (2017)

Do you ever have those days where you want to bash your co-workers across the head with a stapler? You do?! Boy, do I have a film for you!

The Belko Experiment, written and produced by James Gunn and directed by Greg McLean,  is a brutal, horror-thriller, peppered with a sly vein of dark humour and a tremendous cast of unlikeable characters. 

A group of American white collar workers based in their company’s Colombian offices are locked in the building and forced to murder each other for some unknown reason. If they don’t comply, their mysterious captor will start the killing for them. Every employee was fitted with a GPS chip in case of kidnap, but there’s bad news, the chips are secretly some Task Force X style bombs. 

While being a riff on the old Running Man/Battle Royale trope of being forced into murdering people to stay alive, Belko cleverly marries this familiar concept to the idea of the workplace and it’s competitive environment. Not a totally original concept, but you’ll agree it’s a nice fresh take. 

 The two movies I was reminded of most were meta-horror classic The Cabin In The Woods and 2009’s Exam, another single location thriller about corporate competition. 

Belko stars Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona and John Gallagher jr as the main three of our unlikeable characters, but this movie is a real team effort, with Sean Gunn, Michael Rooker, John C McGinley, David Dastmalchian rounding out a strong ensemble. Every cast member is potential cannon fodder and we are left guessing who will be next on the chopping block, with some deaths being very surprising indeed!

The level of violence in this movie is astounding, everything from guns and knives to exploding heads and murder by office equipment. Greg McLean’s direction pulls no punches, showing us enough gore and then some. I’m a fan of horror and I do enjoy spectacular kill scenes, so I quite liked the Final Destination-esque way in which Belko tops each death with something a little more gruesome. 

If you arrived at The Belko Experiment through James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, be aware this is a very different beast, even more dark hearted than Super or the Dawn of the Dead remake he wrote for Zack Snyder. I’d have liked a little more character development, as we’re never really taken beyond any surface level details, however, I enjoyed the rapid pace and lean story,  so I can’t complain too much. 
A story about survival in a literal cut-throat working environment, The Belko Experiment is entertaining, gory and darkly funny. 

7/10

For Fans Of:

Dredd

Exam 

The Running Man

The Cabin In The Woods 

Office Space 

Life (2017)

Daniel Espinosa’s Sci Fi thriller Life is going to end up as one of those films most people catch on TV and wonder why they missed it at the cinema. A victim of Alien Covenant‘s schedule change, this exciting, tense ensemble picture was taken from May and dropped into the most crowded March ever. I’m pretty sure it’s going to underperform hugely, which is a shame, as this is a film very much worth watching. 

The story of scientists on the International Space Station experimenting on soil samples retrieved from Mars and unleashing a creature, there’s nothing hugely original here, but the film really works. 

Life’s small cast of Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, an oddly wooden Jake Gyllenhaal, Ariyon Bakare, Hiroyuki Sanada who seems to be playing the same character he did in 2007’s Sunshine and Olga Dihovicnaya gel well together and the chemistry between them does sell the isolation and enforced close proximity of people who have to both get on and be professional. Especially in the company of an increasingly hostile and deadly alien organism. 

Coming across like a somewhat realistic take on Ridley Scott’s original Alien, Life puts it’s diverse ensemble cast in danger of being killed by a rapidly growing and evolving creature, named Calvin by school children when the crew announces it’s discovery to Earth. I’m not going to pretend it’s a brand new concept, but Daniel Espinosa  really does make  Life into a fresh feeling experience. I think the fact that the emphasis on realism and relatability to real life science lulls the audience into suspending disbelief enough that when Calvin evolves from single cell to his final monstrous design, you buy it and don’t question anything. 

Chock full of tension, gore and some gorgeous cinematography,  Life  is a solid, Sci-Fi thriller from the writers of Zombieland and Deadpool and comes highly recommended from me. Walking the line between realism and horror, believable enough to scare you, far fetched enough to not give you nightmares. 

7/10, Life is in Cinemas now .

FOR FANS OF :

Alien 

Sunshine

The Thing

Gravity 

Event Horizon 

GET OUT (2017)

Jordan Peele is famous for being one half of the amazing comedy duo Key and Peele, but after seeing GET OUT I’m pretty sure “Jordan Peele, Writer/Director” is his true calling. 

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is heading for a weekend away with his girlfriend Rose’s (Alison Williams) family. Worried that they may not be accepting of him being black, Rose assures Chris everything is going to be fine. Some strange incidents with the family’s (all black) staff and bizarre racial comments from Rose’s family lead Chris to think something not quite right is going on. 

Rose’s hypnotherapist mom ( Catherine Keener) is placed under suspicion as the house workers seem to be acting odd or brainwashed. Anything else is knowing too much. The hypnotism scenes were truly unsettling and I’ll probably never use a china tea set ever again. The whole idea of “The Sunken Place” is phenomenonal and transcends horror, especially in 2017. 

Slowly building tension, no cheap jump scares and a very sharp, clever script makes GET OUT quite possibly the freshest horror/thriller in quite some time. I wouldn’t call it scary, but this film really makes you feel something. Dread or anxiety maybe, something a little deeper than you’re usually feeling during a horror movie. 

Discussing racism in America is probably more socially important than it has been for quite some time, especially in this post Obama, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN landscape. GET OUT addresses this both head on and subversively. Peele pulls no punches and some of the tensest moments are with Chris and how he’s made to feel. The stark black and white colour scheme of the posters and ads reflects this perfectly. 

Daniel Kaluuya’s performance is nothing short of star making, I find it very odd he’s being criticised for being British and not Afrcian-American, but he’s responded marvelously to these comments, ironically proving he understands being marginalised for who he is. Truly an actor to watch. 

The supporting cast is phenomenonal, Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener as Kate’s white liberal parents managing to be lovely yet sinister and Stephen Root popping up with a creepy performance as a blind art dealer. Surely a metaphor in there somewhere.

I avoided all trailers and ads for GET OUT, mainly because Peele being the writer director was enough for me as well as the fact horror trailers ruin everything! Too much! I didn’t quite expect what we got. I think knowing as little as possible is the best way to see this movie,which is why I’m not about to ruin it here. 

9/10, GET OUT is in Cinemas now. 

FOR FANS OF

The Cabin In The Woods 

Hard Candy 

The Stepford Wives 

Ex Machina