Cinepub


31 Days of Horror 11: Dark Skies (2013) by Jamie

Haunted house movies! They’re a Halloween staple what with their ghostly object stacking, ghostly images appearing on CCTV footage and ghostly alien abductions. Yeah, you read that right. Alien abductions. Dark Skies is a haunted house movie where the force behind everything going on are aliens rather than ghosts. The main problem being that the aliens in this film do much the same bullshit that ghosts do in these movies.

In your average haunting movie you can explain away a ghost opening a fridge and throwing all the food on the floor or taking all the canned goods and stacking them as the typical actions of a mischievous spirit. It’s just a poltergeist fucking with people because that’s what poltergeists do. These silly pranks stretch credibility, however, when we are asked to believe that they are the work of beings who have travelled millions of light-years. Are they a race of highly advanced high-school pranksters? What’s going to happen next? Are they going to beam a bag of burning dog shit onto my front porch and ring the doorbell before flying away at the speed of light? Am I going to wake up with several hours of missing time and a wedgie?

And then, after doing these little pranks, the aliens begin to get nasty for no reason other than we’re later told by an expert that this is just how this shit always goes down. Yes, this movie has an expert. In normal haunted house movies it’s a priest, a demonologist or a paranormal investigator. In this movie, it’s another abductee in the form of J K Simmons and he’s here to do what every expert in these movies does. Show up near the end to explain what the force wants, what you might to to avoid your fate and just how small of a chance you have of avoiding it.

In all honesty, I know I’m making it seem as though I hated this movie but I didn’t really. It’s enjoyable enough, it’s just that I resent the film makers trying to make me think this isn’t just another stupid haunted house movie because aliens. It is. It follows the exact same structure as these movies do except where you’d normally have someone say poltergeist or demon, they say Grey. Still, the acting is a notch above your average haunted house movie and I have something of a soft spot for the Greys due to my years of watching the X-Files as a kid. It’s biggest problem is that it does seem to drag in places but if it happened to be on I’d say give it a watch or you could watch the superior ‘Alien Abduction: Incident at Lake County‘ but then I’d recommend that above many things. God I love that movie. Anyway, three pints out of five. Laterz.

Dark_Skies_Poster

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Review: The Purge by Jamie

One of the problems with being a film fan in the 21st Century is that I often find myself unable to avoid knowing everything about a movie before it’s released. Twitter, Facebook and the internet in general have all left me with knowing perhaps a little too much about something before I see it. There are still, however, movies that slip through the cracks. The Purge was one such movie. I think I saw one trailer for it which I obviously didn’t really take much away from and then largely ignored its existence until it’s release.

On a week that I thought was pretty light on releases, I checked the Cineworld website on Friday and noticed that once again I had overlooked The Purge. I booked my ticket and decided to watch the trailer again. It was an interesting concept, I’ll admit, but nothing I was particularly excited about. Maybe something from a sub-par episode of Charlie Brooker’s brilliant ‘Black Mirror’ series. So it was with pretty much no expectations that I headed off to the cinema.

Now for those of you that don’t know, the premise of the movie is thus: It is 2022 and America has become a practically crime free utopia. The reason behind this is The Purge, one night of the year when all crime is legal. It’s a night which people look forward to with a mixture of excitement and fear, some relishing the chance to give in to their baser animal desires whilst others choose to lock themselves away behind state of the art security systems until the night has passed. The film follows the Sandin family who have made their fortune through selling said security systems. They have a normal night of waiting it out ahead but things go awry when their son lets a man who was being attacked into their home. Will they be safe with the man in the house and what will happen when those who had been hunting him show up to finish the job?

So what did I think of it? Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised. Things are perhaps a little too slow to start off with but once the plot really gets underway, the movie becomes increasingly tense to a degree that I don’t think I’ve really felt since the first ‘Rec’ movie. And while that first act of the movie is slow, it does set the characters up as a believable family which serves the movie well during those tense scenes later.

Now the film is not perfect by any means. There are aspects which have no real explanation. The son, for example has a watch with which he monitors his heartbeat but no reason is given for this and it seems as though it’s only there to serve as a prop for something which happens later during the scene. I get the feeling that the movie is trying to say something about society as well. The man who is attacked is homeless and wears dogtags around his neck, something which I thought would be addressed, like a kind of “Oh, isn’t it ironic that this veteran is being hunted after fighting to preserve the freedom these people enjoy” kind of thing, but it never is. The people hunting him are privileged kids just looking for a thrill and hoping to purge, an act which they see as their right as American citizens. So the message of the movie is something about the rich using the poor as an expendable resource and whilst the film certainly hammers at this message, pretty much saying that outright at points, it’s never one which really feels as hard-hitting as I’m sure the film makers intended.

Another problem with the film is that it’s overly predictable. Without wanting to give too much away, as soon as certain characters reappear during towards the end of the film, you know exactly what direction it’s going to go in. Still, to the film makers ‘credit, the ending plays out well and with a good deal of humour, particularly regarding just how awkward things would be once the night is over.

Still, over all this a strong thriller with a somewhat original concept and even in a crowded theatre filled with loud, noisy teens, the tension came through the screen. God, I feel old having just typed that last sentence… Anyway, I really recommend this film, though perhaps give it a little while or try and see it in a cinema which you know will be a little closer to empty. Three pints out of five. Laterz.

The Purge.




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