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Summer of ’84 Review

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Genre : Horror, Mystery
Country : Canada
Director: RKSS

Cast:
Graham Verchere, Caleb Emery, Rich Sommer

 

Like plenty of other fans of genre films 2015’s Turbo Kid was constantly on my radar. Seemingly overnight this short for ABC’s of Death became the talk of the horror community. Directed by the Canadian trio of François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell (collectively known as RKSS) Turbo Kid promised to be a throwback to the cheapo sci-fi movies of the 80’s. Utilizing Canada’s natural environment, a killer synth soundtrack and practical effects Turbo Kid delivered in a way few other nostalgia-leaning movies have. Clearly having an affinity for a time when VHS was king RKSS returns to the 80’s. More specifically the Summer of ’84.

It’s the summer of 1984, the perfect time for 15-year-old to be a kid one last time. That is exactly what Davey Armstrong planned on doing until he saw something suspicious. Suspecting a local police officer of a string of murders Davey and his friends spend the summer investigating. But things take a turn for the dangerous as Davey and his friends uncover the truth about the Cape May Killer.

 

 

When Turbo Kid came out one of the most recognizable traits of the movie was how RKSS wore their influences on their sleeve. For Turbo Kid it was eclectic group of cult classics with R.O.T.O.R. and BMX Bandits being the most obvious. In Summer of ’84 the people behind RKSS try their hand at more familiar fare, the 80’s coming of age tale. And while Spielberg seems like the obvious route to go RKSS look to other 80’s classics for inspiration. A werewolf-less mix of Monster Squad, Silver Bullet and Stand by Me, Summer of ’84 nails the aesthetic and feel of those 80’s classics without feeling dependent on it. In fact, of these 80’s inspired films Summer of ’84 is one of the deeper tales. Like Stand by Me what starts as a lighthearted adventure becomes a look at growing up and the hardships and horror unique to suburbia. And just like The Goonies a huge reason Summer of ’84 works is the cast assembled.

Like all classic coming-of-age stories Summer of ’84 is led by a quartet of endearing teenage boys. And while each of them fills a certain niche each feel like real people thanks to the glances we get at their home life. Home lives that, no matter how bad they get, disappear as these friends get together. Sharing a real sense of comradery and chemistry their investigation into the Cape May Killer is led by Davey, portrayed by Graham Verchere. Obsessed with conspiracy theories he has is like Fox Mulder if he were one of the Goonies. By his side is best friend Woody, played by Caleb Emery. As good as the other actors are the chemistry Woody shares with Davey feels the most real. Another stand out performance comes from Rich Sommer as Officer Wayne Mackey. As Davey’s main suspect he straddles the line between good and evil beautifully and will have you guessing until the end.

While some trends come and go 80’s nostalgia always seems to be in vogue. Whether it’s a hit series like Stranger Things or smaller fare such as slasher homage Lost After Dark the 80’s will always have a place in pop culture. And few creators get this quite like RKSS. With a love for the time period this trio are able to replicate the style without outright repeating it. Aside from some pacing issues Summer of ’84 is able to find its own voice delivering a clever game of cat-and-mouse that delivers more than one shocking twist.

Rating 8/10
Links : IMDB

Summer of ’84 is now available on VOD

HORROR

Pet Sematary: The Film Remains True To The Original Idea

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A place to bury our pets and remember them.
It might seem scary, but it’s not.
It’s perfectly natural.

In the distant past, I was an avid reader and devoured books constantly. That has been considerably reduced over the years. But, occasionally I grab a reading book. Generally, that only happens during a well-deserved summer vacation on one or another beach. Stephen King‘s oeuvre has always enchanted me. This summer vacation I read his book “Elevation” in one go. Not that it was high-quality literature, but King is such a wonderful storyteller whose stories grab you and don’t let go. That actually applies to most of his books. Of course, there are also film versions of his books that are worth seeing. Personally, “Christine” and “Carrie” are movies (horror-related) I enjoyed the most (but I can easily name a few more). And the film “Pet Sematary” from 1989 can also be counted with films that had a huge impact on me. The only question I first asked myself (and many others too, I guess) was: “Is it really necessary to release a remake of this film?“.

 

Pet Sematary

I really, really, really hate remakes.

Those who know me a little have read already a few times that I hate remakes, reboots and so on. I admit that cinematographically and when it’s about acting, it’s most likely to be an improvement compared to the original. But the story, the content, the soul of the film, as it were, will remain the same. And isn’t that a bit too easy? But then again, they could also rigorously change the content or storyline. But don’t you think this would create a completely different movie? And is there really someone who has the guts to thoroughly change a movie classic? Well, Kelvin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer were brave enough and succeeded in retaining the spirit of the story, despite the drastic plot changes. Only, it didn’t impress me as much as the original did.

 

Pet Sematary

 

A drastic plot change.

Some elements from the old movie escaped my memory. For example, there’s Zelda (Alyssa Brooke Levine). Either her part wasn’t explicitly emphasized in the first film. Or the number of years have begun to take its toll on me. In any case, this was actually the most creepy image used in this remake. The most crucial adjustment they have made is the choice of the victim. In the original, the youngest son Gage (Hugo / Lucas Lavoie) can’t avoid a rushing truck. I remember this fact as very shocking to me. That sweet-looking little guy, the kite falling down and the tumbling children’s shoe. I can picture it right now. Not that the choice in this remake is less terrible. But it didn’t shock me as much as it did in the original film.

 

Pet Sematary

 

There’s the initial question again.

This choice not only gave the whole thing a different turn, but the scaryness of the film also suffered a major blow. I found the role Gage played in the first film, more creepy than that of Ellie (Jeté Laurence) here. On the other hand, the cat Church looks more ominous and evil, than its alter ego in the original film. And the dead student Victor Pascow (Obssa Ahmed) also came into the picture more explicitly. Broadly speaking, the film remains true to the original idea. The concept of a father’s all-embracing love for his child. And the will to cross borders to reverse it all. There are no surprises in that area. Which in turn leads to the initial question: “Why a remake?“.

 

My rating 5/10
Links: IMDB

 

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Action

Alita : Battle Angel – Fast Paced Action-Rich Combat Scenes

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While I’m learning name, do you have one for me?
Alita.
It’s a nice name.
I love it!

I was really looking forward to this movie “Alita: Battle Angel“. A cyber-punk setting and unparalleled computerized images that are perfectly injected into a real-life environment. Of course, you know Alita (Rosa Salazar) is the result of a hard-working graphic designer who has been sweating for hours behind his computer screen to project a graphic shell onto a real-life person. However, it didn’t bother me. Alita seemed like a lifelike person. Even though she had those unnatural large Bambi eyes. I admit that at the beginning, my eyes always wandered down to her derriere to see if there was such a sweet little wagging tail. But eventually, how strange it might sound, I thought the end result was quite meager. Poor in terms of atmosphere and narrative.

 

Alita : Battle Angel

Cheesy father-daughter story.

Maybe my expectations were a little too high. Or was it the cheesiness of the father-daughter story? There’s the all-consuming grief after the loss of a daughter. A search for a surrogate daughter to appease this sorrow. And that causes Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) scouring the dump of Zalem (the last air city that immediately reminded me of the movie “Elysium“) for discarded cyborg parts, so he could construct Alita. He’s a kind of Frankenstein. But this time using non-human parts.

 

Alita : Battle Angel

 

Oh no. The romantic part.

Or maybe it was the romantic part. The last thing I needed. Really. The moment Hugo (Keean Johnson) came into the picture, I already knew that this rebel-looking hunk would make a romantic connection with this artificial being. And I really didn’t feel like witnessing romantic frivolities that make young teenage girls float. The only thing you aren’t sure about is the outcome. A happy ending? Or a catastrophic one?

 

Alita : Battle Angel

 

The visuals are tremendous.

The only thing I regretted afterward, was that I hadn’t seen it on the silver screen. Probably it will all have been bigger and more impressive. Because frankly, the visuals are really amazing so to call (Not so hard when you see the budget they had). Great eye for details. A city that looks like a run-down anthill where metallic constructions stand next to remnants of the past. And a whole bunch of futuristic technologies and vehicles.

 

Alita : Battle Angel

 

Past-paced, action-rich combat scenes.

And also, the action-rich combat scenes look great actually. Swirling images in slow motion and impressive choreography you might say. Especially the fight in the bar with Zapan (EdThe transporter refueledSkrein), the skirmish in an alley after she followed Ido and the underground fight with Grewishka (Jackie Earle Haley) appealed to my imagination. And finally, there are also the Motorball competitions. Action-packed, fast-paced and mouth-wateringly brought into the picture. It immediately reminded me of the old film “Rollerball” from 1975.

 

Alita : Battle Angel

 

Impressive visuals, poor story.

But despite all the graphic power and hard action, I found it overall disappointing and moderate. Even though the fighting was extremely solid in terms of views, it was too safe and colored inside the lines. Perhaps because they were aiming at a young audience. But most of all I missed a solid and clear story. The so-called Great War was mentioned, but they didn’t do much more with it. The flying cities were also a complete mystery to me. There was no explanation. Beware, I had the same thing with “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets“. Also, a visually overwhelming film where the story is difficult to understand. This last film is also based on a comic, just like “Alita“. I can imagine that fans of these comics can empathize better with the story. But my biggest annoyance was that at the end I realized that I had watched a lengthy intro to the sequel that is probably already on the table at Twentieth Century Fox. And I hate sequels. Good advice Fox. Provide the continuation with a touch of humor, because that was missing too here.
Conclusion: a film that looks magnificent with a not so impressive story.

 

My rating 5/10
Links: IMDB

 

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HORROR

Monster Party – The Acting Is Far From Amateurish Or Toe Curling Bad

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Them fucking yuppie scums
won’t know what hit them.

Perhaps it would be better that future burglars screen the residents of the targeted house first and then see if there’s something to get. That’s certainly a lesson those young burglars have learned in the movie “Monster Party“. After seeing the mansion they’re planning to rob, they’re convinced that the loot will be big enough. What they didn’t expect was an utter crazy company at dinner with a fairly dark secret. A kind of AA meeting. But not the “A” of alcohol but the “A” of aggression. And this with a capital A.

 

Monster Party

Oh boy, a humorous horror.

My expectations weren’t high at all. I thought the movie would be a second-class slasher once again. And what bothered me the most about the film, was the fact that it’s a combination of humor and horror. And let that now be the combination I least believe in. While watching most of these types of horrors I always get the feeling that neither of the two genres is completed. Most of the time the humor is so lousy that I can’t even smile. And at the same time, the horror story is usually only moderately worked out. Well, a person can be wrong. In the case of “Monster Party” I was completely wrong. Both the cynical, black humor (the kind of humor I like the most) and the bloody and creepy parts weren’t that bad.

 

Monster Party

 

It certainly is a hornet’s nest.

When the three juvenile criminals Dodge (Brandon Michael Hall), Casper (Sean Strike) and Iris (Virginia Gardner) choose this larger target where they can demonstrate their burglar’s talent, they aren’t realizing that they are plunging into a hornet’s nest. The Dawsons are a wealthy family who organizes a dinner party at their large country house and Iris happens to work there as a waitress for the appointed catering company. The three youngsters all have a good (financial) reason to take the risk. From the outset, you have this feeling that the members of this company aren’t functioning normally.

 

Monster Party

 

Just wait till the madness starts.

Have you watched the trailer already? Well, then you already know how it unfolds. Impatient gore fans most probably will be waiting nervously for that moment when the madness starts. And that waiting will be rewarded. Not only because of the bloody situations (and they were reasonably inventive as to how some were slaughtered). But also because of the extraordinary acting performances. Especially Kian Lawley, as the crazy son Elliot whose gaze is a mix of madness and sadism (and he enjoys it), and Julian McMahon as host Patrick whose ultra-calm appearance is really nothing more than a masquerade. Virginia Gardner also acts excellently at specific moments. And for the first time, I even thought that these bloody events were amusing. And there’s more. Director Hoffman has a little surprise in store. Normally I would say this type of surprise was a bit exaggerated. Not now. I thought it was a nice contribution to the movie.

 

Monster Party

 

A noteworthy low-budget slasher.

I’m pretty sure “Monster Party” was made with a micro-budget. The number of locations in this film is fairly limited and the massacres usually take place off-camera. But the main characteristic of a low-budget film wasn’t present here. Mostly the acting-part is rather tedious and crappy in low-budget movies. But in “Monster Party” the acting is far from amateurish or toe-curling bad. On the contrary. And they acted with noticeable pleasure. Cinematographically it looks slick. The pace is just right. And there’s even a feeling of tension as the plot unfolds. In short, a noteworthy film you definitely don’t need to avoid. Watch it when you get the opportunity.

 

My rating 6.5/10
Links: IMDB

 

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