Sunday, 15 January 2017

THE BYE BYE MAN

CONTAINS SPOILERS

Utterly generic template horror movie gets utterly generic template review spoiler warning and, indeed, utterly generic template review. There are no surprises on offer in a film that, barring specific details, is as production-line a supernatural bogeyman and haunted house popcorn screamer as they come: if Lin Shaye had wandered in from the Insidious movies she wouldn't have seemed wildly out of place (especially given an early cameo from that series' Leigh Whannell).

The Bye Bye Man is a film that goes out of its way to avoid challenging expectations so much it looks like it came from an online screenplay generator full of [Insert Name Here]. Three dimbo college teens, a couple and a black best friend, lease an old house off-campus but soon find themselves beset by curious visions and hallucinations which may or may not be (but obviously are) connected to a reporter back in 1969 who went on a shotgun rampage and then killed himself. He was under the influence of a demonic figure called The Bye Bye Man, whose gimmick is that he doesn't actually exist in the physical world but the more you think about him, the more real and threatening he becomes. Merely saying his name brings him and his (dubious CGI) hellhound ever closer....

So it's a bit A Nightmare On Elm Street, a bit The Babadook, a bit The Conjuring and Insidious, a bit Lights Out, a bit Sinister. There's even a vaguely goth hot psychic chick brought on to be [a] predictably ridiculed, [b] predictably killed off in an unnecessarily violent and spectacular manner (that one dates all the way back to Witchboard!). But.... as a Friday night teen horror movie it does work on the level of basic Boo! and long scenes of fools wandering around a creepy old house in the dead of night without switching the lights on for no good reason. The early appearances by the Bye Bye Man himself (Doug Jones) are pleasantly unsettling, and the tricksy hallucination sequences where everyone is seeing different things are nicely handled. It's a pity that it sticks so rigidly to the formula. Delayed from last year after apparently being toned down for (yawn) a lower certificate - the close-range shotgun murders are ridiculously bloodless - it's worth a look but don't go in expecting anything radical or gamechanging.

***

Sunday, 1 January 2017

LIST: THE WORST FILMS OF 2016

Boy were there some cinematic skidmarks in 2016....Again, my personal choices from the films I saw that had UK cinema releases in the last 12 months, no matter how minimal or brief.

10. BLAIR WITCH
Has found footage developed in the last few years? Amazingly, no; just more of the same. Why didn't they just make a proper film?

9. THE NEON DEMON
Looked nice but thoroughly empty.

8. FROM VEGAS TO MACAU III
Incomprehensible gibberish if you haven't seen the first two. It's incomprehensible gibberish even if you have seen the first two.

7. HIGH-RISE
The most divisive film of the year? I know it's not the accepted wisdom but I got annoyed with it very, very quickly.

6. CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE
Dumb action comedy melange that didn't work, wasn't funny, wasn't exciting, and was a colossal waste of the usually reliable Dwayne Johnson.

5. MISCONDUCT
The silliest big star thriller of the year (Pacino! Hopkins!), possibly the milliennium.

4. LONDON HAS FALLEN
Tasteless, ugly bang-bang with an uncomfortable line in Muslim-bashing and some terrible CGI destructo-porn effects.

3. BATMAN VS SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
A hundred and fifty minutes of miserable, incoherent nonsense at full volume, with no laughs and no entertainment to be had.

2. GRIMSBY
Sacha Baron Cohen's latest attempt to redefine comedy as "thing that is not funny". Gross, grotesque, and actors like Mark Strong have no excuse.

1. THE GREASY STRANGLER
It made me feel unclean and slightly ill and I wish I hadn't seen it.


Dishonourable mentions (in no particular order) to Shadwell Army (ID2), Yakuza Apocalypse, Ride Along 2, Bastille Day, Criminal, The Assassin (best director at Cannes or not, it bored the daylights out of me), Warcraft, Kill Command, We Are The Flesh and The Call Up.

LIST: THE BEST FILMS OF 2016

So how was 2016? Anything good at the multiplexes? Arthouse fare suitably cerebral? Did the blockbusters bust enough blocks? There was certainly some good stuff on - not sure it was a vintage year, but there was some good stuff on show and of the ones that I saw (whether at cinemas, on Blu or via streaming services), these are the ten films I liked, admired or enjoyed the most. As ever, I use the Launching Films website of UK theatrical releases in 2016, regardless of when or where I actually saw them. They're my picks, so obviously they're not going to match up with yours....

(Also, a couple of titles have changed from the list I submitted to HeyUGuys last week. Sorry about that.)

10. UNDER THE SHADOW
There were some pretty good horror movies this year; sadly this one didn't get anything like the kind of release it deserved.

9. BONE TOMAHAWK
Ditto: supremely nasty in places, more of this sort of thing please.

8. HELL AND HIGH WATER
Terrific crime thriller, fantastic mood.

7. VICTORIA
One take. One shot. Enjoyable thriller and a stunning technical achievement.

6. THE NICE GUYS
Probably more straight-up fun than any other film this year.

5. GHOSTBUSTERS
So much more entertaining than a million online dunderheads wanted to believe.

4. THE HATEFUL EIGHT
Don't retire. Okay, so it's flawed and half an hour too long, but the good stuff is so good I'll forgive it. And it looks great on 70mm.

3. ROGUE ONE
Again: pathetic bellowing halfwits whined about it not having white male leads in it (the way The Force Awakens didn't and the way The Phantom Menace did). Creepy CG aside, it's a further testament to what happens when George Lucas isn't involved in these things.

2. TRAIN TO BUSAN
The best zombie movie in thirty years. FACT.

1. SPOTLIGHT
My favourite of the awards contenders from the start of the year:

Honourable mentions (in no particular order) to Deepwater Horizon, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Eye In The Sky, Green Room, Goodnight Mommy, Evolution, Room, Midnight Special, Mechanic: Resurrection (shut up, I enjoyed it) and The Witch,