There's a zombie outside the screens handing out fliers. Dominic Monaghan is wandering around and it takes me a while to go from "Hey, I recognise him; he's famous, right?" to actually realising who he is. And I find myself excited to see Johannes Kuhnke in person, talking about "The Chamber", because I liked him very much in the excellent "Force Majeure".
Chris Sparling, 2016, USA
A dysfunctional family gather around the deathbed of their matriarch, but pretty soon grievances and hidden agendas come to the fore. The main pleasure from ‘Mercy’ will be from its non-linear narrative that lets you think one thing happened before retracing its steps and showing what actually occured. Of course, now that I’ve disclosed that, part of the surprise will be gone. Even so, there is a downbeat, washed out feel and intelligent playing that makes this a pleasing twisty-turny home invasion thriller from Chris Sparling (the writer of ‘Buried’).
Alastair Orr, 2016, South Africa
Kidnappers abduct a possessed girl and all manner of spooks follow. The group of kidnappers aren’t so intriguing soon they can’t go around any corner without experiencing a ghostly vision accompanied with a blaring music cue from apparitions with a penchant for cricking their necks. Watchable but too conventionally played to muster much interest or scares. This apes the tropes of typical American cattle-prod cinema too closely to offer anything new from a South African perspective. The poster might imply a cartoonish, perhaps exploitation throwback, but this is just another thriller-plot-turns-into-horror narrative with nothing new to offer.
Ben Parker, 2016, UK
A Special Ops unit commandeers Captain Mats’ (Johannes Kuhnke) submarine and once they are submerged, the fact that they are less than forthcoming about their intentions creates increasing problems until they are trapped and in life-or-death circumstances. Claustrophobic, well written and performed, all that needs be done is to go along with the ride. It sticks to its premise and uses human folly and weakness to make things happen, but does so with commendable plausibility. When you have a decent script, all you need do is put a group of good actors in a small space and let them do their thing.
‘El Juego Diabólico’
Daniel De la Vega, 2016, Argentina
Daniel De la Vega, 2016, Argentina
I’m a fan of the work of Adrián García Bogliano, who wrote this with Ramiro García Boglianon, and‘White Coffin’ exhibits all the genre playfulness and cruelty of his previous scripts. It’s the tale of a woman, Virginia (Julieta Cardinali), whose daughter is abducted by a child-killing cult and when this woman dies, she is given one more day to save her daughter. What follows is a gonzo supernatural narrative that burns along at a breakneck pace. It’s a quest where the otherworldly rules aren’t necessarily spelt out and where the narrative sometime skips over scenes you might expect to illustrate crucial moments – this is typical of Bogliano. Delirious without losing focus, darkly funny and truly mean, a genuine horror romp.
THEY CALL ME JEEG ROBOT
‘Lo chiamavano Jeeg Robot’
Gabroielle Mainetti, 2016, Italy
Credited with reviving the Italian film industry interest in home-grown genre films, this benefits greatly from contemporary interest in the still reasonably new super-hero genre but, like ‘Deadpool’,it is so enjoyable and engaging that it is only afterwards that it’s a somewhat conventional origin tale becomes apparent . No matter, like ‘Deadpool’, this shows what can be done with above average script and flare. Small fry criminal Enzo (Claudio Santamaria) falls into something-radioactive-something-something and finds he has super-strength, and that’s just for starters. In fact, his discovery of powers is one of the film’s most delightful passages. He is a reluctant hero and starts out as a petty supervillain (if that isn't a oxymorn), but when he finds himself saddled with a loopy, mentally challenged neighbour Alessia (Ilenia Pastorelli), her incorporating an old Manga cartoon ‘Jeeg Robot’ into her delusions gradually rubs off and brings out the best in him. Meanwhile, nearby, there’s a supervillain in the making…
So, no, nothing new here but the action, relationships and comedy are handled with such straightforward conviction and the atmosphere is so winning that you will barely notice. Indeed, the ambition of the showdown in a stadium is surely enhanced by the lack of budget, giving the effects more impact and credibility when they do occur instead of relying on a plethora of CGI. Entertaining and hugely likeable, this shows how desperate and charmless most of the bigger-budget peers are. And the humdrum message that maybe you don’t have to settle for your lot, that even the lowliest might be heroic becomes quite stirring as the film takes its time earning such a coda.
Carles Torrens, 2016, USA/Spain
Again an example that with a decent script all you have to do is stand back and let the cast do their thing. Dominic Monaghan is the socially deficient Seth who bumps into an old crush on a bus and then turns into a stalker and eventually kidnaps Holly (Ksenia Solo) and … where you might expect a torture porn scenario, this moves in a different direction. A cat-and-mouse game and battle of wits ensues providing a consummate and well-delivered thriller.