Saturday, 28 February 2015


Saturday, 28 February 2015
★★★½ (out of five)

A satisfying time-travel yarn that manages to weave some enjoyable knots into its narrative, although anyone au fait with this sci-fi sub-genre will almost certainly predict some of the earlier twists--particularly when the faces of characters are being intentionally hidden, and someone's revealed to be a hermaphrodite (fairly obviously).

Thankfully, PREDESTINATION does have a few other tricks up its sleeve--enough for the experience to never become wholly obvious from the get-go. At a certain point you lose the inclination to stay a few steps ahead of the script, actually, which allows its third act to sweep you along to a bonkers conclusion.

Ethan Hawke's good in the lead role of a 'temporal agent' whose mission is to stop the so-called Fizzle Bomber's campaign of attacks in the 1970s, but I was more taken by Australian rising star Sarah Snook--although to say why would ruin an early twist. It's one of those films where the main selling point is the BIG IDEA and how it's delivered, and I'd recommend this to friends who share the same fascination with sci-fi conundrums. Did I mention this is based on Robert Heinlein's award-winning story "--All You Zombies--"? Well, it is... but don't research that book unless you want to spoil PREDESTINATION's entire bag of tricks.

It's not especially amazing to look at, but it's nicely made by the Spierig Brothers (DAYBREAKERS--another film with a "fun idea") and there's enough weirdness and paradoxical head-scratching to delight those who enjoyed, say, Nacho Vigalondo's TIMECRIMES.

★★ (out of five)

This is a prequel/spin-off to THE CONJURING, telling the origin story of the eponymous creepy porcelain doll. ANNABELLE is directed by that movie's cinematographer, John R. Leonetti, who's come full circle having started his career with infamous possessed doll movie CHILD'S PLAY 3. He also directed the sequel MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION after providing DP work for Paul W.S Anderson's 1995 original; and has THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT 2 on his directorial resume. Yeah, I guess you could say my expectations were low...

The good news is that ANNABELLE feels very similar to its James Wan-directed precursor, and not just in terms of its photography. The types of scares are alike, too—from ghosts walking nonchalantly across hallways in backgrounds, to sustained camera shots preceding loud bangs or music stings, and freakish monsters hiding in shadows. To be fair, much of ANNABELLE had me holding my breath in anticipation, or chuckling at the 'what the fuck would I do in this situation?' thoughts running through my head. But after a decent 40-minute start, it becomes clear this movie doesn't have much to offer that's original, and I started to lose interest in the story and plight of the two-dimensional characters.

It didn't help that Annabelle the doll isn't really a fundamental part of the situation, because a good 90% of the scares are just traditional haunting malarkey and nothing specific to "a possessed doll". Annabelle's just a common denominator, really—which was a bit frustrating, because it made the movie feel like a shittier CONJURING with two unknowns and Alfre Woodard thrown in.

★★ (out of five)

I read that New Zealand comedy-horror HOUSEBOUND (championed by native Peter Jackson, no less) is being remade by New Line Cinema in the U.S, so felt duty-bound to seek out the low-budget 2014 original by newcomer Gerard Johnstone.

The premise sounded like a fantastic starting point for a hilarious supernatural horror, as a delinquent called Kylie (Morgana O'Reilly) is sentenced to eight-months of house arrest after attempting to steal a cash machine. Confined to her mother Miriam's (Rima Te Wiata) decrepit house by way of an electronic ankle-tag, Kylie soon discovers her childhood home's haunted...

I had high hopes for HOUSEBOUND, but was left disappointed for many reasons—but primarily because the central premise was neutered too early, since Kylie befriends the man who controls her ankle-tag and is thus able to leave the house! Why did writer-director Johnstone opt to swerve the tension and claustrophobia of what the title and concept implies? I have no idea. A common complaint about haunted house movies is that any sane person would just leave the building, and yet HOUSEBOUND finds a brilliant way of making a decision to stay feel plausible and yet flushes it away!

My second complaint can't be discussed without edging into spoiler territory, but let's just say the direction the story takes isn't wholly supernatural… and, while it was interesting seeing the plot segue into a Kiwi version of THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, that killed a lot of my initial excitement about what HOUSEBOUND was described as.

Ultimately, HOUSEBOUND is a decent 'calling card' that has done its job and will earn its creator mega-bucks, but I think the positive buzz from various festivals is unearned because it's not especially funny (I didn't laugh once), or very scary (just a procession of jump-scares and creaky doors/ceilings), most of the performances are dreadfully amateur, and it looks like someone's home-video remake of a Hollywood movie. Things get slightly more entertaining in the final act, when momentum builds and it becomes more action-orientated, but then it ends with a frustrating whimper.

Still, I'm looking forward to the U.S remake—provided New Line Cinema honour the squandered potential of the setup and do something better.

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