Review : Goodnight Mommy (2015)

Goodnight Mommy is an Austrian film directed by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz. It was released in 2015 and won numerous awards in various festivals. Marketed as a horror movie, Goodnight Mommy is actually a psychological thriller and as far as I’m concerned, a film d’auteur.

Goodnight Mommy

Goodnight Mommy tells the story of Lukas and Elias, twin brothers who live with their mother. After coming home from a face-changing surgery, leaving her with bandages covering her face, the brothers start questionning whether it is really their mother who came home.

The first aspect I need to address is the cinematography. It is simply majestic. The movie is filled with beautiful shots which you can’t help but be amazed by. It is a brilliant exemple of cinematography helping tell a story and enhance an atmosphere. The pace is quite slow and yet the movie is never boring. It is immersive and it keeps you intrigued from beginning to end as you wonder what is going to happen next or what is really going on in this secluded house.

The two young actors portraying the main characters are really twin brothers so their relationship and brotherly behaviour is of course very believable, which is really helping the story. Their performances were very good and never over-the-top, like it is often the case with young unexperienced actors.

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Goodnight Mommy is : it is unsettling. It is suspensul and filled with a quiet tension. Some viewers have complained about some violent scenes but being used to horror movies, I found the film to have just the right amount of blood and violence. It is far from being a torture porn as some viewers have claimed online and I felt it was necessary to the story, to gradually lead the viewer to the heavy climax.

Lastly, the ending is quite haunting. Frankly, I did not anticipate the outcome so it was, in my opinion, very efficient. It is definitely the kind of movie which deserves a second viewing to relive this tale from a different angle.

I highly recommend Goodnight Mommy. It is an elegant, brutal and atmospheric thriller which explores the consequences of the lack of communication inside a family unit. It is the kind of movie you need to talk about as soon as the credits start rolling.

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Review : Air (2015)

Air was released in 2015 and was directed by Christian Cantamessa, produced by Robert Kirkman (creator of The Walking Dead) and stars Norman Reedus and Djimon Hounsou.

The movie takes place in a near future, where air has become poisoned and is no longer breathable. The majority of humanity didn’t survive and those who did (the valuable people such as scientists and engineers) have been put in tanks, in a state of suspended animation. Two technicians, Cartwright and Bauer are in charge of one of the facilities and are in charge of taking care of those tanks to ensure the survival of the people inside while attempting to maintain their sanity in this dull and claustrophobic environment.a

Setting the events of the film in an old missile silo was a great idea as it creates a sense of claustrophobia. Everything is grey, the lighting is minimal and it emphasizes the dull existence of the main characters. It also has a space sci-fi feel to it, though it takes place underground, on Earth.

The movie only revolves around two characters, which is its strength. The apocalypse is only secondary and is never fully addressed. Instead, Air focuses on its characters and the film spends its first act developing them so the viewer gets to know them.

The acting was very good, both from Norman Reedus and Djimon Housou. Their characters were quite the opposite and each played their part really well.

However, there were many aspects of the movie that turned me off. First, Cartwright (Djimon Housou) has hallucinations of his dead wife. Many times in the movie, the hallucination points him in the right direction or gives him clues to find what he’s looking for…in what world does this make sense ? How does a figment of his imagination know where spare parts are stored ? I found that extremely unrealistic and a deus-ex-machina of sort, a bad one at that ! Also, the moral dilemma that sets events in motion was very weak in my opinion.

To conclude, I’m not sure I would recommend Air. It wasn’t a bad movie but it has too many weak moments to be enjoyable.

Review : Sinister 2 (2015)

Sinister 2 was directed by Ciaran Foy and released in 2015. The sequel to Sinister tells the story of a mother and her twin boys who move into a farm to escape the abusive father. A terrible massacre happened in the church next to the house. Deputy So & So (who assisted Ellison Oswalt in the first movie) continues Ellison’s investigation and ends up meeting the family and tries to protect them while attempting to put a stop to Bughuul’s death trail.

Sinister 2 is nothing like its predecessor and fails in its attempt to recreate what made the first installment such an efficient horror thriller.

Everything is laid out for the viewer and the movie shows too much so there is no real sense of mystery. Sinister 2 relies entirely on jump scares when the first movie succeeded in creating a creepy atmosphere. Furthermore, the horror elements seemed secondary to the family drama. The investigation is not nearly as interesting and immersive as in the first movie because there is no sense of wonder.

However, showing the ghost children and the boogeyman through reflections on screens and glass was a good visual choice and it works well. Unfortunately, the ghosts are not scary at all so it is difficult to fear for the main characters when the threat is not believable.

The characters are stereotypical and cliché and the ending was predictable, with only the unlikable characters being in real danger.

To conclude, Sinister 2 is an unnecessary sequel which fails at recreating what made Sinister such a great horror thriller.

Review : Sinister (2012)

Sinister was directed by Scott Derrickson and released in 2012. It stars Ethan Hawke as Ellison Oswalt, a crime novel writer who moves with his family in the very house where gruesome murders occurred in order to investigate and write his next book. Soon enough, eerie events start happening as Ellison discovers the terrible truth behind those crimes.

Sinister is one my favourite horror movies that came out in recent years. It includes all the horror clichés but uses them in a very efficient way. I particularly like how it creates a creepy atmosphere and thus does not need to rely on many jump scares to frighten the viewer.

It has all the elements to create a great horror movie : a haunted house, ghosts, found-footage and a boogeyman. Its found-footage sequences are the best ones I have seen in recent years as they are useful to the story and not simply a gimmick like in most movies. The use of the 8mm format makes it even creepier.

Ethan Hawke gives a great performance and is really believable in his role. As we witness his investigation and discover more about the crimes at the same pace as the character, it really immerses you in the story and keeps you intrigued.

The directing was also very good. The use of lighting, the eerie music and scenes shown in complete silence etc… Everything is done to enhance the mysterious and scary atmosphere of the movie. For example, Ellison’s office is always in the dark with very little lighting to symbolize the dark territory the main character is exploring.

I was genuinely scared throughout the movie, which is quite rare for me with recent horror movies. I also really enjoyed the movie being a horror thriller rather than a simple boogeyman horror movie.

Finally, without spoiling the film, I loved the fact that it doesn’t have a happy ending. It is tragic and scary to the very last second. Sinister is a great horror movie that I highly recommend.

Review : Starship Troopers 2 (2004)

Starship Troopers 2 : Hero of the Federation was directed by Phil Tippett and was released in 2004.

This direct-to-video film is the prime example of unnecessary and pointless sequels, whose creators’ sole purpose is to make money off the great movie that Starship Troopers is.

The war against the bugs is still taking place. A squad of soldiers is stranded on a bug-planet and take refuge in an abandoned outpost. There, they find another soldier, imprisoned for the murder of a commanding officer. They must survive until a rescue team arrives.

Though the script has been written by Starship Troopers‘ screenwriter, it has nothing of the greatness of the original film. It lacks in every aspect that made the first movie so enjoyable, entertaining and clever.

It has some redeeming qualities : a dark and claustrophobic atmosphere, some effects work quite well and it is more horror-oriented than the first movie. Unfortunately, these do not outweigh the negative and overall I didn’t enjoy Starship Troopers 2 : Hero of the Federation.

The nudity felt unnecessary, the plot seemed to be going nowhere and the characters were forgettable. One detail really bothered me, especially since I watched the first movie just before watching the sequel, was using the same actor for two completely different parts in both movies. It really confused me and took me out of the movie.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend Starship Troopers 2 : Hero of the Federation. It has none of the qualities that made Starship Troopers such a great movie. Stay away from this pointless sequel.

Review : Starship Troopers (1997)

Starship Troopers was directed by Paul Verhoeven and released in 1997. It is a science-fiction film set in the future. The world is now one global federation at war with an alien species (giant disgusting bugs). Our main character is John Rico (Casper Van Dien) who just graduated high school and is about, along with his friends, to enroll into federal service. Carmen (Rico’s girlfriend) and Carl (Rico’s telepath friend) got high grades and are able to join elite departments. Rico, on the other hand, joins the Mobile Infantry. The movie mainly follows Rico and fellow troopers during training and combat.

Starship Troopers became a cult classic over the years and it truly deserves it. First, it is a great action-packed sci-fi movie. Almost two decades later, the special effects still hold up. There isn’t one boring moment in this film, from training camp to the war itself, it will keep you entertained throughout.

But Starship Troopers is more than a generic war movie, there is more than meets this eyes. One element of the movie that I especially love is the use of propaganda commercials. They are full of humor and yet reflects our own society (media influencing the masses). They are well made and work on several levels. The entire movie allows a political reflection but it never takes a side : is a fascist / military-driven society a good or a bad thing ? The viewer decides. In my opinion, this model of society cannot work and isn’t made to be stable or last. But the movie actually makes you think about it. And that’s why I think Starship Troopers is a very smart action movie.

The characters are very likeable, especially our hero, Rico. The supporting characters are also worth rooting for. Even when they act against Rico, they usually have reasons so it’s hard to blame them as we understand their situation as much as Rico’s.

To conclude, Starship Troopers is a great sci-fi movie with great action sequences, great special effects and great characters ! I definitely recommend it !

Review : Zodiac (2007)

Zodiac was directed by the great David Fincher and has an amazing cast which includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo.
The movie depicts the investigation of the Zodiac killer from 1969 to 1991. As most probably know, the Zodiac is one of the most infamous serial killers in the United States. The main characters are a journalist (Paul Avery) and an illustrator (Robert Graysmith) working for the San Francisco Chronicle and the crime detective (David Tosci) investigating the murders. The Zodiac regularly sent letters and crypted messages to newspapers, most likely to mock the police, unable to identify him. Robert Graysmith became obsessed over the years with finding out who the Zodiac was.

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Zodiac is an incredible movie which every crime-drama fan would love. The pace is quite slow and yet there is not one dull moment. The general tone of the movie is very sinister but realistic. I particularly admire how David Fincher does not show a lot of the killings, making those the viewer witnesses that much more intense and memorable. The murders are not gory, they are very realistic, which makes them very frightening as it is easy to identify with the victims.

Also, David Fincher is a master at capturing the investigation process on screen. He manages to make a scene where a character is searching through files exciting and suspenseful. I found the movie methodical with no plot twist necessary to keep you focused. You simply cannot take your eyes off the screen, almost sharing the characters’s obsession of catching the Zodiac.

The entire cast does a phenomenal job. Every performance, especially the main characters’, is brilliant. I especially liked Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, Robert Graysmith. He gradually becomes so obsessed with identifying the killer, even when the case became cold, that he alienates his family and unintentionally puts his life in jeopardy when getting too close to succeeding. Robert Downey Jr is also particularly good at depicting Paul Avery’s decline.

The real-life Robert Graysmith wrote a book about the Zodiac killer (as shown in the movie) which I plan on reading as I loved the movie and watched it several times.

Zodiac is a movie I highly recommend. From the cinematography (there is brilliant camera work such as the camera following the first letter being delivered) to the performances, this movie is fascinating.