Tuesday, 28 April 2020



One of the joys about the streaming services is that you never know what you're going to find beyond the Top Trending titles; as with movies in general it's often worth the dig beyond the main attractions. Of the two main suppliers, Amazon Prime and Netflix, the latter probably wins out simply because Prime has a far larger selection and it's far more difficult to wade through of an evening (and of the potentially interesting titles, many on Prime are of poor picture quality and a lot are even worse than that, so curating a decent watch-list on there is a full day's work). That's not to say that everything on Netflix is better - their big new release Coffee & Kareem is absolutely terrible - but they don't seem to pick up any old sludge the way Prime apparently do.

Of these two serial killer thrillers, The Plagues Of Breslau (Plagi Breslau) more rewarded the hunt, marred principally by Netflix automatically picking the English dub when I needed the subs on for captions and newspaper headlines, and inevitably the two didn't entirely match (it wasn't until afterwards that I found I could have watched it in Polish language). Beginning with the discovery of a fresh corpse in a cowhide that had shrunk in the sunlight and suffocated the occupant, it becomes apparent that someone is re-enacting Frederick The Great's week of purging the city of its degenerates, plunderers and oppressors back in the 18th century, using suitable and terrifically grisly medieval punishments....

It doesn't flinch from the gory details (it's lucky to have a 15 certificate) and maintains a dark, humourless tone throughout, with its abrasive, take-no-crap detective battered by personal demons (her fiance was killed by a drunk driver who dodged punishment) as much as professional ones. Surrounding characters are more cartoonish: the glamorous TV journalist openly filming the bloody carnage, the perpetually tipsy prosecutor. Halfway through the film reveals the killer's identity and switches, Se7en-like, from a whodunnit to a why, with a couple of nice plot twists and a satisfying motive.

It's a lot better than Die Ontwaking (which Googles as The Awakening although according to the IMDb it doesn't appear to be known by that title), a cheaper and less gruesome South African variation on the serial killer theme. This reveals its killer pretty much from the start: a creepy middle-aged shopkeeper specialising in African adornments and bric-a-brac (ritual masks and, bizarrely because they're not even remotely African, shrunken heads), but his motivation in removing his victims' tattoos remains unclear. I'm normally a sucker for African and Africa-based movies but this is fairly unremarkable and makes very little sense; the sole point of interest is that the sexist dickhead cop is played by one Gerard Rudolf, a familiar name to those of us who made it to the end of Adam Mason's much-walked-out-of Dust back at FrightFest in 2001...


Friday, 10 April 2020



An in-name-only sequel that has nothing to do with the Mandy Moore movie from 2017 (except for naming the high school after Matthew Modine), this is a bog-standard sharks vs teenies horror that just about plays its mid-ranking cards well enough, but is stuck with a quartet of entirely uninteresting characters who stray into annoying and stupid so often that most of the time you're actually on the side of the sharks.

Four squealing nubiles (two of whom are unhappy stepsisters and the other two so undefined they barely register as life forms, let alone named characters) decide not to go shark-watching from a glass-hulled boat and instead take off into the Mexican jungle where one of them knows of a secret underwater entrance to a submerged Mayan temple. Inevitably (because they're all dumb as a bag of lemons) they split up, scream, knock priceless thousand-year-old archaeological treasures over, get lost, get stuck in narrow crevices, run out of air and get endlessly and repeatedly menaced by sharks. Will they manage to find an alternative route out, or will they suffocate and/or get eaten in the unexplored and unmapped catacombs?

Three quarters or so of 47 Meters Down: Uncaged takes place underwater and the photography is terrific, and a couple of the shark appearances are nicely effective. And at least it doesn't have a "really?!?!?" climactic plot swerve the way the first instalment did. But it's just hard to care when everyone is this thick - they don't use a guide line, they don't inform anyone where they are and where they're going - and it's sometimes hard to tell which girl is which behind the masks. The film does liven up considerably in its closing stretch when it finally starts shedding some blood, and starts racking up some suspense in the process, but it's too late in the running time. Final thought: the first film at least spelled Metres correctly; this has the "wrong" American spelling which means those of us with movie title OCD are going to have catalogue them in reverse order (and split them up entirely when someone makes a film called The 47 Methuselahs or something).