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Gone: An 'Is She Crazy, Is She Sane' Psychological Thriller
Jill (Seyfried) doesn’t have the best relationship with the police. After being kidnapped and thrown into a hole in the middle of the forest, which she luckily managed to escape from, the police refused to believe a word she said and stuck her in a mental institution. Fast forward a bit and she’s out of the loony bin, dealing with anxiety problems, carrying a gun and taking kickboxing lessons. She comes home one day from her waitressing job to find her sister gone. Convinced that the kidnapper came back for her and took Molly (Wickersham) instead, she tries to get the police to take her claims seriously, but to no avail. Left with no other choice, she takes to the streets piecing together the clues to find Molly and her kidnapper, before time runs out.
This thriller requires you to suspend your powers of logic for a while. While for the most part it tries to be more of a psychological thriller, the moments which require Jill to do some actual sleuthing are a long shot - to put it mildly. The clues she finds as to the kidnapper’s whereabouts are either absurdly simple or completely farfetched. The latter in particular are a real crime since the kidnapper keeps asserting that he kidnapped Molly to lure Jill. If his aim was truly to lure Jill, the clues he left her wouldn’t have been so discreet, random and easily overlooked.
Also, the characters are pretty shallow. The police officers are uniformly incompetent or lazy or a mixture of both. They stand around looking annoyed for the whole film. As for Jill, she’s rather strange. She fluctuates between two states: one in which she’s single-mindedly obsessed with saving her sister and the other in which she compulsively lies to everyone she meets. The first is logical and, based on her own history with the kidnapper and her relationship with Molly, highly understandable. The latter however is just plain odd. We’re never given a motive or reason for why she’s such a pathological liar and it seems rather out of character. Would somebody in her nerve-wracking situation have it in them to lie so well, or keep their numerous stories straight for that matter? We’re told that Jill stuck to her story for the entire time that she was locked up in hospital. Would somebody who wouldn’t tell a fib to get out of a mental hospital become a chronic liar?
In addition to being a liar, the film also keeps trying to push the possibility that Jill isn’t really all there in the head, though seeing as it’s Jill’s word against that of the useless police force, the idea never really registers the way it should in order to give the film a decent psychological bend and keep the viewers guessing.
Despite its inconsistencies, Gone manages to be a decent, light thriller until the ending which derails the film completely. It’s not innovative and the film is very basic despite the attempt to give it depth. However, it’s rather fast paced and Seyfried makes for a very watchable heroine, even if her character makes little sense and is unworthy of her talent.
Let’s dive in and get to the point; there is little-to-nothing new or innovative about Mark Neveldine’s young-woman-possessed-by-a-demonic-spirit offering in The Vatican Tapes – a generic and uncreative horror entry that fails to inspire, move or frighten.
The film begins with a brief video scene showing a possessed woman named Angela (Taylor Dudley), before switching back through the plot’s timeline to find the main character preparing to celebrate her birthday with boyfriend, Pete (Amedori). After unexpected visit from her God-fearing father, Roger (Scott), and a minor accident that sends her to the hospital, Angela begins to show some troubling signs of aggression and unusual behavior. We come to learn that this is the beginning of a systematic demonic takeover, which soon catches the attention of Father Lozano (Pena), who subsequently takes the case to the Vatican when he begins to suspect that Angela may have been chosen as a vessel for the Anti-Christ. Are you still with us?
The Vatican Tapes marks the very first horror film for the director of the Crank film series, Mark Neveldine whose seeming inexperience in the genre is evident throughout. Written by Christopher Borrelli and Michael C. Martin, there’s very little to the story – it’s as basic, straightforward and predictable as you can get – and its clumsy execution only goes on to exacerbate. Possessed (ha!) by a level of incoherence, the film and its undeveloped and plain uninteresting characters make it near impossible to invest in the film.
Told in flashbacks and with the shaky found-footage format that just refuses to go away, the plot never really finds its footing and seems rushed, making it awfully difficult to figure out what’s actually going on at times. Similarly, the acting suffers, especially the picture’s biggest name, Michael Pena, who seems uncomfortable in his own skin throughout.
With a reported budget of $13 million, the film has thus far only made $900,000 return and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the production failed to recoup its expenditures. But then what can you say for a film that, in some scenes, looks like it came from a Wayans brothers’ horror spoof in a sub-genre that hasn’t produced a film to top the one that started it all off, The Exorcist?
Like it or not, the Terminator franchise holds a special place in Hollywood history – thanks in part to Arnold Schwarzenegger. The once great franchise is arguably Arnie’s most iconic role and despite being three year away from his 70th birthday, the former Governor of California doesn’t look half-bad in the fifth, but far from final, instalment in the franchise.
Terminator Genisys is the first of what has been described as a new, standalone trilogy, but if the first film is anything to go by, fans will most likely be throwing their hands in despair at what’s to come.
Set initially the year 2029, the film’s main device is time travel and the butterfly effect – concepts that are becoming increasingly difficult to keep fresh and original. While co-creator, James Cameron, has unabashedly put his support behind the Alan Taylor-directed flick –going as far as to say that it has reinvigorated the franchise – Genisys only served to further dilute a series that just can’t keep up with contemporarily conceived sci-fi action.
The story opens with A.I. system, Skynet, all but defeated by the freedom fighters, lead by John Connor (Jason Clarke). In one last attempt to defeat the resistance, a T-800 Terminator is sent back to 1984 to kill John’s mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke), who is of course under the protection of the Guardian (Schwarzenegger). What happens from then on is a bit of mystery.
Possibly the biggest problem of the film is that it tries far too hard to maintain elements of the original series and fails to do so well. While staying faithful to the films that have made the Terminator franchise so iconic is commendable, all references and lines of continuity feel forced and unsubtle, as if to say, “hey, look – we haven’t forgot the original!”
Seeing Arnie don the Terminator character once more is, in itself, a novelty – especially after the horrendous CGI used to resurrect him in 2009’s Terminator Salvation. But outside of that, you come away with very little when the end credits start to roll. The two Clarkes starring in the film hot the right notes in their performances, but suffer the convoluted script more than anyone.
While reboots, remakes and distant sequels have generally found success in the last few years – some commercially, some financially, some both – the fact that the film has only recouped half of its budget, which includes a marketing budget of at least $50 million dollars, speaks volumes about how tame and just plain unexciting this endeavour has been.