Wednesday, 26 June 2013

THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN

CONTAINS SPOILERS (THOUGH IF YOU HAVEN'T MANAGED TO SEE IT IN THE LAST THIRTY-NINE YEARS YOU PROBABLY NEVER WILL)

I know, I know, rewatching James Bond films is so last year. It's something you only really do when revisiting the series in preparation for the new one, which I did last year, all of them, in order. You don't pick and choose in a Bond retrospective, so I even made myself sit all the way through Thunderball, which is a terrible film and by far the dullest of the entire saga. But sometimes you just get the urge to slam one of them on: there's an evening free and nothing much else on the shelf catches your eye. Well, that's my excuse.

Though there are a few good things in the ninth James Bond film The Man With The Golden Gun, there are far more seriously bad things. The plot makes no sense (even by second-tier 007 standards), the jokes and one-liners are mostly awful (even by second-tier 007 standards) and the female characters are appallingly treated (even by second-tier 007 standards). The return of comedy racist JW Pepper from the previous movie is nothing short of an embarrassment, the title song is sub-par (though certainly not down with Madonna's caterwauling on Die Another Day or Jack White and Alicia Keys' random honkings for Quantum Of Solace) and even reliable old Maurice Binder's title sequence full of naked women isn't as visually striking as usual. All things considered it's a massive drop from Live And Let Die, which is also badly flawed but still a personal favourite from the end of Bond's golden age.

The film's Ace Of Trumps is the ever-magnificent Christopher Lee as Scaramanga, the charming and urbane yet terrifying million-dollar assassin. As is so often the case, whenever he's on screen the movie perks up enormously, but the rest of the time you're constantly reminded just how shoddy the rest of the film is and you end up in knots trying to fathom what the hell is going on. Why does Bond have to go to Beirut to retrieve a bullet when he's just received one in the post, especially when it was never confirmed that the Beirut bullet was Scaramanga's anyway? How did Andrea (Maud Adams) manage to acquire a golden bullet without Scaramanga noticing its loss? How come a two-bit gunsmith like Lazar knows of secret agent James Bond's reputation? How does Lt Hip know Bond has been taken to the karate school, and why does he drive off and leave him? Why does Scaramanga have a funhouse built into the back of his house? And why has Hi Fat built his solar power plant there, in one of the least accessible parts of the world?

Britt Ekland's character in particular is atrociously treated: most notably when she's about to give her all to Bond, when he bundles her into a wardrobe and proceeds to spend the next two hours shagging someone else ("Don't worry," he tells her afterwards, "your turn will come"). She's abducted with facepalming ease by the villains and spends the last third of the movie running round in a skimpy bikini and being leched at by a grimy mechanic before causing the place to blow up, accidentally nearly killing Bond by backing into a control panel and setting it off with her bum. I don't think you need to be Andrea Dworkin to find all this a bit questionable, even for the 1970s.

The car chase is pretty good, and the legendary "spiral loop" stunt is brilliant, but it's marred by [1] JW Pepper and [2] the inclusion of a swanee whistle on the soundtrack. John Barry's score has terrific moments, especially for the scenes in Scaramanga's surreal obstacle course/ghost train/hall of mirrors. Herve Villechaize makes for an interesting henchman, and Roger Moore basically does the Roger Moore thing, which I admit I enjoy. But boy, does the bad outweigh the good. Comedy racism and comedy sexism might have been acceptable back in 1974 but it feels genuinely objectionable today, the plot is utter gibberish and for all the flak that Moonraker gets, The Man With The Golden Gun is for me the lowpoint of the Moore years. I really hope they spend at least two years on the next Daniel Craig one so I don't have to stick this one on again for a while.

**

Nipples:

Sunday, 23 June 2013

WORLD WAR Z

CONTAINS SOME MODERATE SPOILERS AND THE END OF EVERYTHING

A $200-million zombie apocalypse epic with a major A-list star fighting the undead? Has Hollywood gone mad? Given that it was a hugely troubled production than went wildly over budget with reshoots, and that it'll most likely not make its money back, it'll probably never happen again, but full marks for spending that kind of cash on it anyway. Obviously it never comes within biting distance of Romero's Dawn Of The Dead, because nothing does, but as an Armageddon thriller detailing the near-extinction of humanity it's pretty good with several terrific suspense sequences and surprises mixed in with the dramatic contrivances.

You can argue the semantics all you like about whether they're actually zombies or just infected, as in 28 Days Later..., but the Z in World War Z doesn't stand for Zebra. If it moves, moans and bites like a zombie, then it's a zombie. Brad Pitt is the former UN investigator who, having barely managed to get out of Philadelphia (these scenes were actually shot in Glasgow!) has to travel round the world to find the source of a zombie pandemic which has already decimated most of the planet. The starting point originally looks to be South Korea, before the trail moves on to Israel and ultimately, er, Wales, in the desperate race to find some kind of weapon or protection against the billions of undead across the globe.

Certainly there are niggles: specially regarding how they get to Wales which is a massive stroke of narrative luck, as is who rather fortuitously survives a plane crash. The ending is a touch subdued, in the "this is not the end" fashion, and on a technical level chunks of the dialogue seemed to get lost in the sound mix. There's also very little in the way of spurting visceral gore, though there's still enough visual horror to warrant a 15 certificate (how nice that they didn't trim down for a weedy 12A). And you might feel the film's greatest horror appears in the opening credits, when a babbling media montage includes a brief but distressing shot of Piers Morgan. Still, the niggles are minor. The set pieces are excellently mounted: the building horror of the first attack in Philadelphia, with the running undead swarming through the streets like ants; the zombies clambering up the fortified walls of Jerusalem in a vast subhuman pyramid; the inflight eruption and a brilliantly tense trek through a medical centre filled with zombies.

Perhaps they could have slimmed the budget by not investing in a 3D conversion: it honestly doesn't need it, and much of the film is fairly dark to start with. The whole of the South Korea sequence might as well be radio by the time the dimly-lit night has been filtered through the 3D polariser and the dark glasses. Again, as with Man Of Steel, The Great Gatsby and Star Trek: Into Darkness, I opted for the 2D version which works perfectly well. It's good dark fun, it rattles along at great pace and doesn't drag over 112 minutes (Romero's Dawn, the Gold Standard of undead cinema, is well over two hours, but it's an exception), pacing those big and well-staged set pieces perfectly as well as the quieter scenes of Pitt and his family. Not one of the very top zombpocalypse films of all time, perhaps, but better than many and absolutely worth seeing.

****

GWENDOLINE

CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS AND BLIMEY

Well, it wants to be Raiders Of The Lost Ark meets Emmanuelle, but it's closer to Jane And The Lost City meets a Madonna video. Still, it's a different beast to Man Of Steel or Avengers Assemble: this adaptation d'une bande dessinĂ©e is frankly much more interesting than blokes in lycra flinging CGI stuff at each other and laying apocalyptic waste to densely populated centres. Okay, it's monumentally silly, and the acting wouldn't impress a toddler, but it's nice to look at, the music's pretty and Just Jaeckin gets to put a lot of mistily photographed nubile flesh on the screen, as is his wont.

Gwendoline is basically a series of silly pulp adventures in which a drippy young convent girl (Tawny Kitaen) voyages to the Far East to track down her missing lepidopterist father, who has apparently disappeared into the wastelands known as the Yik-Yak in search of a rare butterfly. Teaming up with a guy (Brent Huff) who is supposedly a tough, macho hero in the Indiana Jones mould (but is in reality a charmless, deeply sexist dick), Gwendoline and her maid (Zabou) manage to triumph over (or run away from) gangsters, white slavers, smugglers, pirates and a tribe of cannibal savages before stumbling into an underground city populated almost entirely by women in plastic bondage gear....

I originally saw Gwendoline many years ago on the Embassy pre-cert VHS release, when it was cut by the BBFC by nearly three minutes and presented in the wrong ratio; the UK DVD is now in full widescreen and all cuts have now been waived. Sadly it takes too long to plod through the soft porn stuff which as far as Jaeckin (and the audience) is concerned is the meat of the movie; the real reason he directed it and the real reason we rented it. Yes, it's very nice, but in the internet era where gynaecological imagery of attractive young women can be Googled in seconds, it now feels odd to have to sit through a proper film just to see some skinny girls' breasts. Progress, I suppose.

Still, if you can get past the atrocious acting and the general air of stupidity, Gwendoline (known in some versions as The Perils Of Gwendoline In The Land Of The Yik-Yak) it's not actually that terrible. Pornography may be in the wrist in the beholder, but this is definitely on the erotica side of the fence, and Jaeckin's soft-focus style is more interesting than David Hamilton's Bilitis brand of glaucoma smut. This may be little more than a sexed-up Warlords Of Atlantis, wanting to cash in on the Raiders trend, and it certainly takes its time before wheeling on the women in black plastic underwear which, let's be honest, is the whole point of the exercise. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't get some fun out of it.

***

Yummy:

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

THE LAST EXORCISM PART II

CONTAINS SPOILERS AND HERE WE GO AGAIN

Well, if nothing else it's not a found-footage movie like the first one: it's a real film with a score (albeit an aural wallpaper one) and edits and camera placement and special effects, like a real film does. But that aside this has very little going for it. A few decent moments, a nice low-key atmosphere, a few "Boo!" jumps, but that's really not enough for a film which should have a primal unsettling power about it (like the original Exorcist, a film I can't ever bring myself to rewatch) but isn't ever scary or unsettling and, unlike Insidious or The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, completely failed to have me leaving the lights on at night.

But at least they've dropped the pseudo-documentary angle and we're no longer pretending this is real: the first actual shot of The Last Exorcism Part II is a shot of the first film's camcorder lying in the grass. Nell (Ashley Bell) is now in a halfway home for troubled girls, trying to make a new life with a job as a hotel chambermaid, and starting a tentative relationship with a co-worker at the hotel. But the demon Abalam may still be inside her, waiting, and if so then the only way of saving her is another exorcism (meaning the exorcism in The Last Exorcism wasn't the last exorcism after all). And if that doesn't work....

This may not be a found-footage film, but it still has the feel of that wretched and overused subgenre, with handheld camera, a music score that's discreet and barely noticeable, and a naturalistic style to it, though the dodgy CGI fire effects distract a little from that. (Strangely, excerpts from the first film show up on YouTube at one point, suggesting that someone has found that camcorder and uploaded the contents.) But it's never scary and never chilling and doesn't once compel you to look away from the screen in anticipation of something genuinely frightening. Instead there are several sudden loud noises to jump at and an ending which I confess I quite liked, though it probably puts the tin hat on the prospect of a further instalment (The Last Exorcism Part III: No, Honest Guv, It's The Last One, I Promise). At least it's short.

**

THE PURGE

CONTAINS SPOILERS AND IDIOTIC STUPIDITY

The trouble with this film, which is otherwise a perfectly decent home invasion thriller, is that it's saddled with an idiotically stupid gimmick that it can't get over. It can't convince you that it's in any way a good idea, and it can't convince you that it could ever happen. If they'd ditched it early on, on the grounds that it's idiotically stupid, the resultant movie would have most likely been okay: nothing groundbreaking, but nothing to be ashamed of either. But they elected to keep the idiotically stupid gimmick, and so rather than getting excited at the dramatic possibilities they think (wrongly) are being explored, you just mutter "yes, but that can't happen" repeatedly at the screen.

The idiotically stupid idea at the heart of The Purge is that for twelve hours a year (7pm to 7am on March 21st), crime is legal. This is supposedly so that the populace of Future America can purge themselves of their anger, frustration and grievances without fear of reprisals and be better citizens the rest of the time. Ethan Hawke's top-of-the-range home security system (which he can afford because he manufactures them) is already activated when his son lets in the fleeing target of a bunch of homicidal sociopaths: they vow to break in and take their revenge....

Bollocks. Let's ignore the fact that Hawke's home protection system consists of nothing more than some metal shutters which are easily removed, without a second line of defence or even a panic room. Let's also ignore the filmmakers' overuse of the ancient gimmick of villains being shot on the back by characters you didn't know were there. The Purge, this cathartic primal scream of legitimised slaughter, is an idiotically stupid idea as it suggests that there's be nothing to stop you setting about a hospital with a flamethrower so long as you did it in between those set times. (Significantly, sex crimes are never mentioned.) There's just no way that's ever going to be voted through even in a future America run exclusively by whackjobs.

Oh, sure there's a subtext to it. The primary aim is actually to cull the homeless, the disadvantaged and vulnerable underclass: it's a necessary economic sacrifice made by the peasantry which also helps the rich white folks feel better about themselves as they stay indoors behind their expensive barricades. (For goodness' sake don't show this film to Iain Duncan Smith!) Or maybe, like Last House On The Left (either version), Death Weekend, the first Death Wish and so on, it's about how rich suburban liberals have to find the monster within themselves to fight off the monsters outside, and they don't like it when they have to get blood on their hands. Whatever. As a home invasion movie The Purge is an okay exploitationer with some crunchy violence, but saddled with the idiotically stupid premise of legal homicide it simply doesn't work.

**

Sunday, 16 June 2013

MAN OF STEEL

CONTAINS A FEW SPOILERS

It's sad that the new Superman movie (that's what it is, even though the name is only used a couple of times indirectly) is a massive, massive disappointment. Expectations weren't high to start with as it's a Zack Snyder film: Snyder has made one genuinely decent film (Dawn Of The Dead), one oddly fascinating curiosity (300), one overblown comicbook fantasy (Watchmen) and one morally questionable sleazefest (Sucker Punch). His films have been getting steadily worse and this CGI-overloaded superhero epic is unfortunately continuing the downward trend. But it's also sad that so many things about the film do nothing so efficiently as remind you how much better the 1978 version was. Whether it's Hans Zimmer's forgettable score that comprehensively fails to get anywhere near the power and majesty of John Williams, whether it's the complete absence of joy and humour, whether it's the obsession with CGI and green screen over actual physical effects; half the movie is just reminding you how all the technological advances haven't produced an end result that's noticeably better, more interesting or more emotionally satisfying than a film made 35 years ago. For all the gosh-wow visual whizzbang, it's hard to care very much in the first half and absolutely impossible to give a toss in the second half.

Essentially a remix of the first two Christopher Reeve films that excises Lex Luthor completely (though there is a truck towards the end carrying a LexCorp logo), Man Of Steel kicks off at full tilt with an opening action sequence featuring Jor-El (Russell Crowe) riding a dragon around Krypton during evil General Zod's (Michael Shannon) abortive coup. No sooner have the traitors been banished into the Phantom Zone (encased in giant concrete dildos for no good reason) than Krypton is destroyed - but not before Kal-El, the first natural child in centuries, is launched Earthwards to escape the cataclysm. Years later, Zod and his accomplices track Kal, now Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) to Earth....

Unfortunately, that's where the film loses its grip. From that point on the film is basically one giant effects sequence in which Superman and Zod repeatedly beat each other round the head with girders, throw one another through buildings and charge at each other at Mach 84, all to no real effect. Not just because they're both pretty much indestructible, but because it's rendered in CGI so vast and overblown that it might as well be a cartoon and it has absolutely no emotional resonance. They may be punching one another repeatedly in the dace, but you don't feel the pain because it's so obviously digitised to infinity, and since neither of them can inflict any damage on their opponent, you frankly wonder why they keep at it. And that's the problem: without any emotional engagement it starts to get boring.

This, by the way, is only one part of the CGI overload with which Man Of Steel seeks to bludgeon you into a pulp: the skyscrapers of Metropolis are literally toppling like dominoes, eventually leaving the city like a post-apocalyptic shell (but never mind, the three people from the Daily Planet survive, even if we never find out what happened to every other man, woman and child in the city) as Supes has to deal with General Zod's fiendish "World Engine" machine hovering above Metropolis Central blasting energy into the ground. This zap-kaboom-crash-bang-wallop goes on for maybe three quarters of an hour and not one second of it has any effect other than to leave you feeling faintly bewildered by the end. By comparison, Chicago's Gotterdammerung in the last hour of the idiotic Transformers 3 is an Alan Bennett monologue extolling the pleasures of a cup of tea and a biscuit. And that's before you factor in the 3D, which I avoided in favour of a 2D screening as it's a post-production conversion job and I'm all out of Nurofens.

In the midst of all the destruction and explosions and stuff filling the screen left and right, there's not a lot of human drama that makes it through. The relationship between Clark and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is barely there, although it looks like it's being set up for the probable sequel. Cavill makes for a good physical Superman in the suit, Amy Adams is certainly better than Margot Kidder; Russell Crowe has far more to do than Marlon Brando ever did - not just the dragon riding at the start but he turns up several times later on, while frankly (and this surprises me) I'd have liked more from Kevin Costner as Pa Kent. But everything they do doesn't so much play second fiddle to the mayhem as play fifteenth bassoon to it. They've had their twenty seconds of talking, can we get back to throwing trucks through the air and knocking down office blocks now?

Because that's what Zack Snyder is interested in and I suspect that's what the modern multiplex audience is interested in, kaboom, kaboom, KABOOOOOM. I'd dearly love to be proved wrong but I don't doubt it's going to make a ton of money and Man Of Steel 2 will be with us in about three years. Never mind that it takes precisely the same amount of time to achieve far less than the Richard Donner film from 1978. Never mind that it isn't even as interesting as Bryan Singer's dull Superman Returns. Never mind that the endless spectacular action sequences exist solely on a hard drive or a USB stick. Never mind that there's no charm, no lightness, no soul to the film, no laughs, no fun and no subtlety. Without some semblance of humanity, some hint of character to latch on to, I was bored. And I'm now fervently hoping that the rest of the summer's huge blockbusters are much, much better.

**

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

LET'S GET LAID!

CONTAINS SPOILERS AND OH DEAR, PUT THEM AWAY, LOVE, PLEASE

Were British men in the late 1970s so frustrated and desperate that they'd sit through any amount of absolute drivel just to see some naked women? Never mind the writing, acting, direction, lighting, music, story, jokes - it's got boobs and bums in it! If you'd got a couple of floozies willing to take their clothes off, every other aspect of the film could go hang. If you'd got a big name like Mary Millington or Fiona Richmond, the work was done. What's the film about? It doesn't matter, Fiona Richmond is in it. Phwooooar. Nothing more is needed.

The end result is, of course, a film that's as sexy and erotic as a bag of tripe. It happened with Hardcore and it happened again with Let's Get Laid!, a lumpen sex farce-cum-thriller in which Richmond is paired with Robin Askwith, of all people. It's 1947 and demobbed squaddie Askwith discovers a body in the flat next door: the flat belongs to one of Britain's finest actresses (!) Richmond and the corpse turns out to be a top spy. Askwith is mistakenly identified as the murderer and chased by the police (led by comedy stalwart Graham Stark) as well as the gangsters (led by evil Anthony Steel) who want the mysterious gadget the dead man had smuggled out of East Berlin....

Every so often Richmond and/or one of the other women in the film will take their clothes off for a sex scene that couldn't be less of a turn-on if John Motson was commentating, or a ponderous fantasy/musical number (one particular melody is repeated throughout the film so often I was heartily sick of it by the time the end credits rolled). What comedy there is is pretty lame; most of it resolves around Askwith in drag, Askwith putting on a funny voice (he appears in two roles) and Askwith running around in his underpants, and it doesn't work. Nor does the climactic theatre chaos, in which Askwith has to appear in a cretinous West End musical with Richmond despite not knowing the words, while the villains fire guns at them from the flies.

This is rubbish. It's directed by James Kenelm Clarke (who made the video nasty Expose, again with Richmond, as well as Hardcore), the DP is a young Phil Meheux, and the hilarious gag in the title is that Askwith's character is Gordon Laid. To be honest, you'll have more fun figuring out the odd names Kenelm Clarke has saddled his characters with: Fenton Umfreville, Moncrieff Dovecraft, Goddard Ronaldshay. Are they anagrams? MI5 codewords? Post-war goalkeepers for Charlton Athletic? The movie's not funny, it's not sexy, it's not interesting, Richmond can't act (for what it's worth, since Let's Get Laid! isn't the kind of film you watch for the acting), it's stupid, boring and has no decent jokes in it. Let's Get Laid!? Let's not.

*

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

STRANDED

CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS

As Doulgas Adams once wrote, Space is big. Mars may be just about close enough to see, but we're still nowhere near actually setting foot on the place. A Mars colony would be a soulless, confining place on a hostile, lifeless, airless world that offers us very little in the way of tangible resources and is, to our puny species, still too unimaginably distant to make the missions viable. And unless there's a substantial exodus of people, ideally the size of a small town, the loneliness and sense of isolation would be unbearable.

It's pleasantly surprising to find a movie that makes an effort to convey that loneliness: even if it doesn't pull it off it's having a go at suggesting just how removed a manned mission to Mars would be from the rest of the species. Stranded is a fairly low-budget Spanish movie (shot in English), in which a crew of just five (including Joaquim De Almeida and Maria De Medeiros) crashland on the Martian surface and can't take off again. Worse: a rescue mission wouldn't reach them for over two years and the available water, air and food wouldn't sustain all five of them. Vincent Gallo does the maths and concludes that no more than two of them could survive long enough, so the remaining three take their cue from Captain Oates and walk off towards the ravine....But what will they find?

There's little emphasis on special effects - the opening shots of the orbiter have the feel of BBC news simulations of space events, and Mars is actually Lanzarote viewed through an orange filter - preferring to concentrate on the human drama as they try to cope with the prospect of dying pointlessly more than thirty million miles from Earth, and the early scenes of the crew coming to terms with their predicament I thought were pretty gripping. It has to be said, though, that the developments in the third act (specifically what's at the bottom of the ravine) are monumentally implausible.

Stranded actually dates from 2001, which places it around the same time as Brian De Palma's messy but interesting Mission To Mars and the Val Kilmer movie Red Planet, but for some unknown reason it appears to have dropped through the cracks, despite winning three top prizes at the 2002 Fantafestival. It doesn't appear to have even made it as a major rental title: the first I heard of it was in a 4-in-1 box set in Cash Converters. And that's frankly a shame because while it's certainly no masterpiece, it's not bad at all and does convey something of that unimaginable isolation. Directed by Maria Lidon, who also plays the mission commander, but for some reason she's credited herself as "Luna" (which isn't even the right planet).

***

MAXIMUM CONVICTION

MODERATE SPOILERS

So this is what the mighty Steven Seagal has come to at the age of 61. Let's be honest, we never expected a Taxi Driver or a Dog Day Afternoon from Seagal, but even after all these years it's surely not too much to hope for another Out For Justice: a stripped-down, silly exploitation movie that's still kind of fun to watch. He certainly isn't fun to watch in this noisy, badly made thriller in which most of his dialogue is incomprehensible and he looks like he could barely force a draw with Davros in unarmed combat - half his fight scenes look to have been shot without him and he's just turned up for a few closeup inserts. He also wears rose-tinted sunglasses indoors, which can't be a good idea when looking for bad guys in dimly lit corridors.

Essentially Maximum Conviction (a silly title for a film staring two actors who can barely give any conviction at all) is Die Hard In A Military Prison. Seagal and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (emphatically not the Six Million Dollar Man) are the ex-Marines assigned to close down a military jail housing half a dozen miscellaneous scumbags and two hot chicks dubbed Persons Of Interest by the CIA. A crack squad of badass villains led by Michael Pare are after the secret files embedded in a microchip in Hot Chick #1's chest (don't ask), but they haven't reckoned with The Two Steves...

Cue an hour or so of shooting, kicking, fighting and stabbing, much of which is pretty indifferently staged though slightly more violent than usual - enough to get it an 18 certificate. Much has been written over the years of Seagal looking permanently constipated but this time around he gives the impression of just having soiled himself and (understandably) not wanting to let on. It's silly - Big Steve Austin spends half the time investigating a problem with a garbage truck (it's got the badass squad hiding inside it, a plot development given away by putting the logo of Troy Disposal Services on the side of the truck) - and the whole plot hinges on one of the inside men accidentally dropping a coded message on the floor and not noticing.

It's not that Maximum Conviction isn't as good as Seagal's early movies (which were hardly overlooked by the Academy in the first place); it's that it's barely on a level with many of his more recent, cheaper DTV timewasters. Neither of the leads come across as anything but lumbering brutes: there's no wit, no charm, no humour to them or to the film as a whole. In the end it's just fairly boring, fairly mediocre, and not worth the effort; even diehard Seagal fans might find it punishing. To be honest, in The Man's ever more undistinguished filmography, Half Past Dead remains an immeasurably better Die Hard In A Prison movie.

**

Thwap:

LOVELY MOLLY

YEAH, WHATEVER. CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS

Yet another movie in which people move into a new home and are immediately beset by supernatural forces with unfinished business. Just hitting the shelves is Apartment 1303, a remake of the Japanese film of the same name which tackles precisely the same subject matter, along with the modestly effective The Echo, and in the last few years there've been various other shockers in similar vein. Sinister and Insidious are the recent high water marks of the genre and to be honest none of the others have come anywhere close for pant-wetting scares.

Lovely Molly is like so many of them: it certainly tries, and it has the odd effective moment, but it can't manage much in the way of good honest look-away horror. Molly and her new husband Tim move into her late father's house in the woods: as a trucker he's away a lot and she's left on her own - but is she alone? Is the house haunted by the ghost of her abusive father, or is she just going quietly insane? Is it her memories, is it the drugs?

Things don't look promising right from the start when it becomes clear that much of the film is going to be shot through camcorders, and even the "regular" film sequences have that same tiresome found-footage look to them, with natural lighting, wobbly hand-held camerawork and an ambient, non-musical score. (Incidentally, can we have soundtracks composed by sensibly named human beings again rather than groups? The credit "Music by Tortoise" just looks silly.) And yet again the camcorder sequences cheat shamelessly, obviously having visual edits without jumps in the audio, leading you to wonder who's gone to all this trouble to edit this wedding video together when there weren't two cameras present.

This is directed by Eduardo Sanchez, who helped kick off the damnable found-footage thing in the first place with The Blair Witch Project. Presumably rooting the horror in a mundane, everyday, believable reality with gritty, flawed characters, is supposed to strike a chord of recognition with audiences in the way that outlandish fantasy horror involving vampires and werewolves and Castle Frankenstein can't, and the grimy, non-airbrushed mood is certainly more believable than opulent production design and bellowing symphony orchestras, even if the overt stylised fantasy is more to my personal taste. The bottom line is that - yet again - for a horror film it just isn't scary. It has a well-captured mood of glumness, and it has a nice believability to it, but that's all. Shame.

**

Lovely Jubbly: