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The Woman In Black: An Occasionally Scary Ghost Story
Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe) is still depressed over his wife’s passing four years ago and his work is suffering as a result. As a last chance, his boss gives him an assignment to take care of some business in a remote village; he’s to deal with a mountain of paperwork needed to put a manor on the market – one that’s owner recently died and which the locals don’t seem very eager to sell. Undeterred by the very hostile, unhelpful locals, Kipps begins to work at the house and there he starts to see the ghost of the eponymous woman in black. He slowly pieces the puzzle together, figuring out her identity and the relationship between her and the deaths, both past and present, of many of the children in the village.
The film’s selling point seems to be Daniel Radcliffe, who stars in his first role post Harry Potter, which is great except that he happens to be the weakest part of the film. He’s not bad per se, he’s just woefully miscast. He plays a depressed father to a four-year old whose mother died during childbirth. The thing is, Radcliffe doesn’t look old enough to be a father let alone to a four-year old, and the way he interacts with his onscreen child is more reminiscent of a sibling relationship, or one between a babysitter and their ward, rather than that of a father and child. Other than that, he does a good job portraying a man grappling with feelings of guilt and forced to be in a place that reminds him of his deepest fear at every turn.
What’s really different about this film, at least compared to newer horror productions, is that it allows for breathing space. The film doesn’t shy away from long, quiet shots that aim to set up the atmosphere. These scenes lull you into a false sense of complacency before boom! A shrieking head pops out, or a wind-up toy suddenly starts moving. Thankfully, the screaming humans, running around frantically, are kept to a minimum. The film is also filled with children who get up and quietly commit suicide. The opening scene – which is of three young girls playing – shows them as they get up, cross over to the window and in sync, silently throw themselves out of it. As beautiful as it is, it is also disturbing – it sets up the film’s quietly eerie tone very well.
For the most part though, this is a run of the mill ghost story where floorboards creak, doors slam at their own accord and shadowy figures pop out, scare the daylights out of everyone then disappear again. There’s nothing in it that we haven’t seen a billion times before and while it isn’t scary – not by a long shot – it will make you jumpy; the occasionally over the top score makes sure of that. The Woman in Black brings nothing new to the table but it makes better use of the generic ghost tricks than most films of this ilk.
There is very little exhilaration and a great deal of banality to be found in Steven Quale’s Into the Storm; the latest Twister-inspired disaster-movie which, thanks to its unoriginal and heavily-flawed premise, leaves a trail of unwanted destruction behind and unfortunately, a lot to be desired.
For a small and passionate group of storm-chasers, led by the documentary filmmaker, Pete (Walsh), camera operatives, Daryl (Escarpata) Lucas (Whittaker), Jacob (Sumpter) and meteorologist, Allison Stone (Callies) ,it’s all about catching that perfect tempest. However, it’s been a while since any of them have seen anything worthy of filming, and the crew - whose program funding is being threatened - is in desperate need of a genuine thrill.
So, when they hear about a deadly tornado – which has already claimed the lives of four teenagers in Northern Oklahoma and is now headed to a small, sleepy town of Silverton, Colorado – they decide to go after it.
Meanwhile, a graduation ceremony is underway at the Silverton High School and its vice Principal Gary Fuller (Armitage) has his hands busy, leaving very little time to watch over his teenage sons, Donnie (Deacon) and Trey (Kress), who he has instructed to make a student time-capsule video. However, Trey – the more sociable of the two – decides to use this opportunity to help his crush and classmate, Kaitlyn (Carey), reshoot a video about an abandoned mill, completely unaware that a severe storm is about to hit their little town and destroy everything in its wake.
A seemingly generic and engaging plot, featuring by a group of uninteresting characters, is the film’s most obvious weakness. The decision to shoot most of the action using the now rather grating concept of found-footage only serves to condemn this film further into the depths of triteness; not only does it detract from the film’s main action set-pieces, but also fails to offer anything new in this already worn-out technique.
On a more positive note, however, the special effects – when given a wider space to twist and turn – actually work and the calamity of this unforgiving storm manages to be brought to realisation.
Unfortunately, though, when the wind stops blowing and the weightless performances become the focus, there is very little emotion or genuine tension to invest in.
Stepping away from its single-setting format, the unnecessary sequel to 2013’s disappointing but surprisingly profitable home-invasion thriller, The Purge, moves its story out of the house and into the streets where once again James DeMonaco’s intriguing but equally mind-boggling ideas are damaged by clumsy pacing and feeble performances.
The twelve months have passed since the last Annual Purge and the residents of a urban, dystopian LA are once again preparing themselves for the bloody ritual; an annual ceremony where any crime – including murder – is made legal for one night.
The story kicks-off with three story strands which come together early on in the film; married couple, Shane (Gilford) and Liz (Sanchez), are left stranded and vulnerable to attack, when they’re car breaks down under suspicious circumstances. Meanwhile, struggling diner waitress, Eva (Ejogo), and her daughter, Cali (Soul), fight for their lives when they’re wrist nightmares come true and they’re house is broken to. They’re eventually saved when a group of paramilitary personnel intervenes, killing their drunken attacker. However, they drag Eva and Cali out to the street, where they plan to execute them. Luckily for them, Leo (Grillo) – a policeman looking to avenge the death of his son by a drunk driver – saves them. Little does he know, however, that Shane and Liz have taken refuge in his car and, after some heated words, the group end up navigating the Annual Purge together.
Even the most cynical of filmgoers has to admit that, despite how ludicrous and seemingly implausible the idea of The Purge actually is, there’s something genuinely disturbing and deliciously unnerving about it. The idea of a legalised ‘personal cleansing’ ritual – which has supposedly managed to cut crime and poverty by half – definitely sounds like something worth exploring onscreen. However, as it is the case with so many interesting concepts it’s the quality of the execution that counts and, even though the film does manage to build tension and offer some thrilling action set-pieces, the execution is left wanting.
One of the main reasons lies behind the acting, or lack thereof, from a group of actors who look – and sound – like they’ve stepped straight off of a soap-opera set; Ejogo and Soul are utterly unconvincing and Gilford and Sanchez are unnecessarily theatrical, though Grillo keeps things together.
All in all, The Purge: Anarchy is a half-baked sociopolitical ideology and a semi-exciting thriller that, once again, lacks character and a solid spine.