True Story (2015)




When you hear the names Jonah Hill and James Franco together on the bill, you know that this film will go one of two ways – raunchy comedy or intense drama.

True Story takes the latter – following recently unemployed journalist Mike Finkel, whose life is changed dramatically after wife and child murderer Christian Longo assumes his identity to evade arrest.

The first point I want to make about this film, is that the title is terrible. Nothing about this title makes me want to watch this film, however is named so because the film is based on true events, and the book that the real Mike Finkel writes about his time with Longo is titled True Story. A fair point, but it still doesn’t draw me in from a first glance.

The film is slow in parts, and in certain scenes that include a lot of talking back and forward in two shot for extended periods of time make the film feel a bit faltered. These scenes of talking are beautifully rich in detail, the information given being of crucial importance to understanding these characters and their motivations, however a more inventive shot or editing style may have lifted the moments that drop audience attention.

The acting chemistry between Franco and Hill is great. Maybe because they have a personal relationship outside of work, or maybe just because they’re professionals, but the believability of this film comes from the connection that is established between two men, leading completely different lives, that find themselves ridiculed for their actions, their lives taking completely separate courses to the ones they imagined for themselves.

The films colour scale is very white and blue, which accentuates the bleakness and sadness of the Longo Case, but also casts a parallel between the present and the events that caused Longo to become incarcerated – the killing and drowning of his family members.

The films’ use of flashback is one of the film’s greatest merits. A wonderful technique, when dealing with unreliable narration, to show the audience what Finkel believes happened, as this is what Longo tells him. However the flashbacks are shot in quick bursts of montage, water, suitcase, hair, bodies in water, a car, all images that make limited sense on their own or as a part of the montage – because the pieces don’t fit the way that Longo says they do. This technique is great in the way that it tells us nothing – shot beautifully with no answers to any of our, or Finkel’s, questions, but further accentuate longo’s unreliability and the murkiness of what actually happened to the victims.



At the end of the film, the audience is left unsatisfied – as there is no real justice served or end to the story. This is for the best, however, as the characters depicted in the film are both still alive, their story is not over. And because of this, the lack of closure actually helps the film to stay true to its’ source material, unlike Mike Finkel who does not stay true to his through his journalism.








Demolition (2016)



To truly understand something, you must take it apart and see what it is made from.

This is the philosophy used in Jean-Marc Vallee’s Demolition. A film about a man who is detached from the world, whose little vacant life is blown to smithereens after his wife is killed in a car accident. In order to come to terms with his life after her death, he must take his life apart in order to understand and appreciate it.

The shot and editing style of this film is very naturalistic and basic, which fits in well with the films’ in depth yet subtle tone, exploring the nature of grief. This idea of subtlety is further used in the films’ editing, as Davis’ (Jake Gyllenhaal) deceased wife Julia appears in reflections throughout the film – in water, glass, or reflected off of the many shiny surfaces in their once shared home.

Davis is detached from her death, and from the idea of Julia. He seems uninterested in his In-Laws, and becomes quickly attached to Karen, the customer services representative of a Vending company that he sent a complaint letter to after Julia’s passing. These odd behaviours, added with the honest statement he makes about not really being that sad about her death, makes us feel as detached to him as he does to her.

Davis narrates to us throughout, and in addition to this, writes letters to Karen, explaining parts of his life and compartmentalising his relationships and feelings about the normality of his existence. The film uses letters as a way of conveying truth – as he writes to Karen, and later Karen writes a letter to her son Chris.

In addition to the reflection appearances, there are many times in the film that Davis has recollections of memories with Julia. These flashbacks are filmed romantically, and the warmth that exudes from them feels out of place, juxtaposing the cold way that he talks about his marriage to Karen and Carl, the train acquaintance. The reason for this becomes clear at the films’ close, as Davis comes to terms with his grief, making these shots in hindsight, beautiful and heartfelt.

This confusion that Davis has in his head is partly due to his detachment from life and his inability to feel anything real, and when this reacts with his sharply honest personality trait, creates a time bomb that the film watches closely up to Davis’ detonation.

This detonation comes when Davis begins a new obsession – taking things apart, to see what’s inside. He rips apart his fridge, his work computer, and a bathroom stall, laying each nail, bolt and part neatly on the floor – before later smashing up his entire house. This is a way of dealing with grief and a chance for him to take apart his life in order to start again.

This new ‘hobby’, alongside his growing relationships with Karen and her troubled teenage son Chris, helps him to learn how to feel, through ‘paying attention’, something he has been unable to do until now. He pays attention to young Chris, who is in desperate need of guidance, and Karen, who is unhappy with the life she has chosen. These new relationships that Davis forms reward him with a new understanding of his own life and his relationship with Julia before her death.

The films’ sound, pre-Karen, is void of artificial sound or music. This quietness, juxtaposed with the music that Chris helps him to appreciate, brightens the second half of the film as Davis begins to understand himself and his surroundings.

Demolition is intelligent, quirky, and intensively descriptive in exploring loneliness and pain, as two lost souls work together to feel something in a world that has been cruel to them. A film that sadly, will likely be swept under the carpet, when it should be held in the same esteem as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Silver Linings Playbook or the like.

Friend Request (2016)



Imagine logging on to your Facebook profile and discovering you have NO FRIENDS. Enough to make you die of fright, right?

Following last year’s disappointing Skype horror Unfriended, comes another unoriginal social media jump-fest, Friend Request.

The film follows Laura, a popular College student who befriends a strange and lonely new girl who attaches herself to our protagonist in an unhealthy way. Laura’s rejection of this girl’s affections results in her suicide, which spurs a murderous rampage across the groups’ digital profiles, deleting the characters one by one.

With unconvincing and dramatic performances, and underdeveloped characters, we follow each of them to their individual demises. The plot links social media obsession with the occult and ‘Black Mirror’ worshipping Witches, which makes a refreshing surprise from the norm for this kind of film – we are invited to learn ‘why’ this is happening to them, with a relatively-well thought through backstory for our antagonist, something that isn’t often explained in trashy social media horrors.

The cinematography is quite romantic, which I deem to be the films’ greatest achievement. Aside from dank, washed out darkness that often comes hand in hand with this style of filmmaking, Simon Verhoeven steers well clear of this approach.

The film is colourful, with evening landscape shots of a twinkling lit City, or the sunset pouring through trees in a forest at dusk, or the warm orange glow of Laura’s apartment. This unconventional style is nice to watch, and aids the scares by lulling the audience into a false sense of security and calm before unexpectedly pulling you out of it.

Overall – this film ticks all of the modern trashy teen horror genre boxes. The cheap scares, the slow build up, the iffy acting, the picking-off-one-by-one killing method. Everything you would expect from this film. But Friend Request partly redeems itself through unconventional shot and set design, even if it does end with my biggest pet peeve, the ‘scary face screaming at you’ end shot. Watch this film with low expectations, and you may leave the cinema feeling slightly satisfied.



The Jungle Book (2016)



The hum of the jungle. Heat, sweat, dirt, and lots and lots of green.

The Jungle Book’s visuals are near-perfection, with rich locations overtaken by nature in the most breathtaking way. We are pulled into Mowgali’s world, a world of richness and beauty and nature and ease as he swings himself effortlessly from branch to branch, tree to tree, alongside his wolven brethren.

Just when you start to fall in love with this jungle, queue Sheere Khan, the frightening, domineering bengal tiger hellbent on revenge against the man-cub who is partly responsible for the scars on his burnt face.

The animals are stunning. Complete CGI is not always as good an idea as it seems, however the length that the crew went to in order to create a natural and believable group of animals is to be admired. A large amount of detail especially went into the texture of these animals. The rugged and thick furs of Sheere Khan and Baloo the Bear, the sleek coat of Bagheera the panther, and the coarse, red hair of King Louie the Gigantopithecus are all realistic and feel as though you can reach out and touch them.

This realism was perhaps enhanced by the fact that I saw the film in 3D (A medium that I often try to avoid). I usually deem 3D as an unnecessary gimmick, that neither improves the film nor achieves a greater sense of cinematic truth. However, if any film has an argument for this medium, it’s The Jungle Book. These textures are well and truly brought to life, alongside the accentuated thickness of trees and undergrowth of the films’ landscape.

This attention to detail is also mirrored in the way that they have animated these animals. No detail was spared in the recreation of animal behaviour – and the tiniest of animations, such as Sheere Khan adjusting his paw positioning ever-so-slightly when lying down and speaking to Akela the wolf, help to truly bring this world to life.

It would be impossible to review this film without addressing the wonderful array of star-studded cast members attached to our beloved characters. Bill Murray’s lazy and humble voice could not be more perfect than to be lent to Baloo the Sloth Bear, and Ben Kingsley’s sharp Britishness is a natural choice for father-figure Bagheera, the cautious and protective Panther.

This can be extended of course to Christopher Walken’s cunning and brooding King Louie, Scarlett Johansson’s soft and dangerous Kaa the Python, and Lupita Nyong’o’s motherly and strong-willed Raksha. In addition, Neel Sethi is wonderfully heartfelt and carefree in his performance of Mowgali, interacting faultlessly with the other creatures (regardless to their computer generated nature) and as such, we identify with him instantly.

This film respects the original tale, and the original Disney animated classic, in a modern way for a modern audience. It’s storytelling techniques are applied well, and we are left both satisfied and wanting more at the films’ closing credits. These beloved characters are respected and paid tribute to, and Bill Murray’s rendition of Bare Necessities will have you pining for childhood in a haze of joy and nostalgia.

The only fault I would give the film, is its’ slightly over-the-top insistence on bringing back the original movie’s soundtrack. Baloo’s Bare Necessities worked well as a natural progression for the character – Baloo is carefree and lazy, and it feels right that his character would sing about such things. However the addition of Christopher Walken’s King Louie, who in this film is portrayed to be conniving and untrustworthy, singing I Wanna Be Like You, feels off. The number feels forced and out of character for the large domineering ape, and actually took me out of the action to think “This is weird… Why is this happening?”.

This song aside, the film is touching, imaginative, and a credit to both Rudyard Kipling’s work and the 1967 Disney Classic. For young and old, this film delivers a thrilling and joyous adventure that leaves you hanging off the edge of your seat as our protagonist swings from tree to tree from enormous heights to escape the jaws and claws of the films’ dangerous villain, or singing along as he lazily floats down the river upon the belly of one very soulful bear.

Room (2015)



Room. The four walls that are a fortress, keeping Jack, and ironically named Joy, confined. Mother and child, wall, wall, wall, wall.

The objects inside room, a squalid shed, are given personalities. Table, chair one, chair two, lamp are all real beings for five year old Jack, who has never known anything but the objects in room, the fake flashing images of the television screen, heaven through the skylight and his deeply troubled, abused and victimised mother Joy.

The dark and dreary room, shrouded in a blue-tinged filter, contains no life within it but Jack and Joy. A stifling sense of depression and hopelessness is created by the claustrophobic cinematography and lack of texture that room holds. Jack is blissfully unaware of this, full of childlike innocence and wonder.

Each scene holds itself in the early parts of the film, snapshots of their day to day, tedious lives. Food rations, television, conversations. Rituals. Repeated over and over, with no other way to live without truly living.

One beautifully honest scene between mother and son happens quite early on, when Jack finds a mouse in room. He insists that he become a pet, claiming that mouse can share his food, against Joy’s insistence that the mouse is killed before it eats all of their ration of food. He doesn’t understand the adult and serious nature of their predicament, and Joy cannot explain to such a young child why it is important. Her despair comes from not being able to be honest with Jack, and this constant portrayal of horrible mother versus sensible and logical adult is tested in Brie Larson’s honest and pained portrayal of Joy.


Most of the films early scenes are shot predominantly in two-shot, connecting the characters through their emotional closeness and also the physical tie to each other that room enforces. This is broken only when ‘Old Nick’, their captor and Jack’s biological father, routinely enters room in order to drop off supplies and rape Joy.

When Joy attempts to tell Jack the truth, about the world outside of room, he reacts badly, which escalates into an emotionally charged argument between Larson and Jack’s Jacob Tremblay, who gives an impressively heartfelt performance of Jack as everything he knows about the world is smashed to smithereens. He is expected to forget everything he knows  in favour of this new world, as Joy hatches a plan to help them escape.

Only at this moment do we find out the true story, of how Joy was captured seven years ago and imprisoned to room, how she was tricked by Old Nick and taken from her parents, and as Joy explodes with all of the emotions and feelings she has kept in for all those years, she simultaneously shatters her sons’ childish innocence.

The second half of the film, which takes place outside of room, is beautiful. Shot in rich colour and shocking sharpness, Jack’s first experience of the world is a vast, blue sky. This is the first instance of hope and happiness that the film presents us with, and we are in awe, just as Jack is.

But this film does not make any promises of complete freedom and redemption, and their struggle does not end after they escape Old Nick and Room. For one, Joy having not seen the outside world for seven years, and for Jack never having set foot outside room, poses both mental and physical threat to the malnourished pair. They struggle with the outside world, and the tragedy of their imprisonment is made more horrific by their escape.

The media grabs hold of them, making them instantly famous, and Joy struggles with her depression and cannot cope with this adjustment. Jack also struggles to adjust to other human interaction and interaction with the world that he previously thought did not exist.


It is in the films’ final moments, on revisiting Room, that we see just how far they have come, but also how much further they still have yet to go. Room is a heartfelt, honest and brutal film, whose villain is underdeveloped yet rightfully so. The natural villain here is Nick, yet we see surprisingly little of him. The real nemesis of this film is mental instability following the events that transpired, and how Joy and Jack overcome the horrors of their imprisonment. A gruelling, difficult film that should be seen once, if only once.

The Walk (2015)




For a man whose name literally means ‘little’, Phillippe Petit had a very big dream. To tightrope walk between the two tallest buildings in the world (at the time, in 1974) – The World Trade Centre Towers. The Walk, directed by Robert Zemeckis, tells the story of Petit, an ambitious artist, in his attempt to fulfil this dream.

The film begins in Paris, during Petit’s childhood. It is shot romantically, with a wonderfully thick French accent curtesy of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays our protagonist, to narrate the story throughout.

The use of narration is important as this film was written by Zemeckis and Christopher Browne, based on Petit’s book To Reach The Clouds – which documents his experience.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is precise in his performance, and believably so. We believe that this is the man that plans to walk between the towers, and we believe that he has the skill to do it – and of course, there is such a likeable quality about Gordon-Levitt that his choice of casting becomes obvious as you watch.

As the film progresses through his younger years, gaining experience which leads him to New York, we meet his love interest Annie (Charlotte Le Bon), mentor Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), photographer friend Jean-Louis (Clement Sibony), and Jeff (Cesar Domboy) who become his team of accomplices in attempting the highly dangerous, and highly illegal, coup.

As the story takes us to the USA, we leave behind the cobbled, foliage-lined streets of Paris and are transported to the concrete jungle of New York City. This change of landscape is marked well by the film, as from the moment we set our eyes on the Twin Towers, the shooting style shifts, and the dazzling height of the buildings are accentuated through tracks and dives from the top and the bottom of the towers.

The intricate use of a walk around camera lens to capture such heights, and emphasise them through fluid movement of the camera, creates a stunning 360 view of the New York landscape, whilst also accentuating the danger of being so far away from the ground. This, coupled with the films’ 3D cinematic release, creates a breathtaking and dizzying sense of vertigo in the audience, but also a sense of freedom through the elation that Petit feels.

The sound design in this film is perfect – with music and sound effects that build tension to an excruciating level as he takes his first steps across the wire. The creaking of rope, the erratic heartbeat of our protagonist, the whistle of the early morning wind, all come together to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

In addition to all of this, the way that Phillippe Petit idolises the World Trade Centre, as the centre of his hopes and dreams, sheds a wonderful and positive light on the buildings that have become a beacon of sadness and loss since the terror attacks of 9/11. This is not addressed by the film in any way, and this quality of wonder, possibility and almost innocence that the buildings represent in the film is refreshing for a modern portrayal – and effective in helping us to share and revel in Petit’s dream.

The Walk is daring, thrilling and heartfelt – the purest heist film you will ever see – that takes advantage of modern computer technology in order to recreate a story that has to be seen to be believed. A film that proves that anything is possible through the impossible dream of one man, who dared to face death to truly live.




10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)



Monsters Come In Many Forms“.

This tagline is chosen for its’ ambiguous take on the expectations people will have for this film. The beauty of this film is that the expectation of extra-terrestrial activity takes a back seat, and 10 Cloverfield Lane bares virtually no resemblance, stylistically or narratively, to its’ predecessor, Cloverfield (2008).

This film should be approached as a ‘sister’ or ‘blood relative’ of Cloverfield, rather than a direct sequel. There are no signs of a handheld camera, or even the reveal of an alien until the films closing scenes, and only then does it become the Cloverfield movie people were expecting. Yet this is also the films’ downfall.

No, the monster that is referred to is not otherworldly, nor anything more than a human man portrayed expertly by John Goodman. But before I delve into Goodman’s expertise, let’s go back to the beginning.

10 Cloverfield Lane begins with our protagonist, Michelle, portrayed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Final Destination 3, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World), leaving her fiancee’s home, and we assume, her fiancée. She packs her things in her car and drives away. On her journey, she is distracted by the multiple calls from assumed now ex-fiancee Ben, until a truck collision sends Michelle and her car hurtling through the air and off the road.

Queue title sequence. Sandwiched between the thunderous sound of scraping metal upon screeching metal, the muffled cries of shock from our leading lady, and aggressive thumps as the car rolls over and over, comes the deafening silence of each opening credit, leading up to the title, as ’10’ and ‘lane’ appear out of the word ‘Cloverfield’.

The opening credits is the first time that we are completely shocked and taken aback by the bluntness of this film, but it will not be the last. One of this films’ glorifying qualities is its’ ability to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. The tension building comes from Bear McCreary’s score coupled with this bluntness of action and bravery in conveying it as such on screen.

The next we see of Michelle, she awakes chained to a pipe in an underground bunker on top of a farm surrounded by tall crops (I mean, where else would you set an alien film but somewhere desolate surrounded by a vast cropfield?). This small and claustrophobic space is a stark contrast from J J Abrams recent galaxy exploring exploits, but packs a punch all the same. There is a kind of pleasure in seeing what happens to a small amount of characters, in a confined space, over a feature length cinematic period of time, and this film is brilliantly written to keep the audience on their toes throughout.

Howard (Goodman) is perfect. A wonderful balance between psychotic and satisfied, calm and storm. He enters the film as Michelle’s captor, but insists instead to be her saviour. That he rescued her from the wreckage, and brought her to safety following a nuclear/chemical attack that has rendered the outside inhabitable. The fact that he built the bomb shelter is a bit too convenient, and he uses his ‘heroic’ behaviour as a justification for his psychotic actions. He is controlling and unyielding, quick to temper and contains all the qualities of an abuser – and that is what he becomes (although sadly, we are never invited to fully explore the reasons behind his behaviour or delve any more into his character than his surface maliciousness).

The film has all of the elements of a domestic abuse narrative – complete with Howard naming her ‘little princess’ and threatening to hurt her numerous times, but Michelle is never a victim when she is victimised. Strong, quick witted and resourceful, Winstead portrays a Ripley-esque heroine, constantly planning her next move.

The films cinematography comes in to play wonderfully when discussing Michelle’s resourcefulness. In the first half of the film, the camerawork is smart in using lingering shots of objects that later become crucial materials for Michelle’s escape – for example the shower curtain which she uses to turn into a hazmat suit, or a bottle of whiskey that she uses alongside a magazine and her lighter as a molotov.

In one scene, she explains to the sweet and naive hillbilly Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) about her past, her abusive father and her tendency to run from danger. In this film, Howard is abusive and she is forced to run for her survival, but, as in true life domestic abuse cases, life isn’t instantly rosy and straightforward from her escape.

A moment of relief as she removes her gas mask on the outside to reveal that the air is breathable is short-lived – queue aliens. She must finally confront her fear of staying to fight in the films final scenes. In her choice to stay and fight (and somehow survive being dropped 30 odd ft), she completes her character arc and draws the film to its’ close.

The last fifteen or so minutes of 10 Cloverfield Lane, which sees Michelle up against the dreaded monsters of Cloverfield, is necessary in order to bring in the supernatural element that we have been waiting for since the start of the movie, however this radical change of direction feels off. Personally, I feel that Howard holds his own as the films’ monstrous villain, and because of this the end fight feels forced, if as only put there for the connection to Cloverfield and completion of Michelle’s story.

All in all, the film is blunt, brave and sharp, complete with excellent quality acting and an intense and well rounded script for foundations. It fails as an invasion film, but then 10 Cloverfield Lane never promised it would be one, and is all the better for the change of direction from its’ predecessor.



The Gallows (2015)



Whatever you do, Don’t say his name.

Twenty years after a horrific incident during a High School play, a group of teenagers break into the school during the night in order to destroy the set for the play’s anniversary re-staging – resurrected in a misguided attempt to honour the tragedy.

Travis Cuff and Chris Lofing’s supernatural horror The Gallows has a strong premise. The marketing campaign for the film immediately caught my interest – the angry spirit of a teenaged boy, killed in shocking circumstances who comes back to wreak havoc upon those who disrespect him and his death.

The trailer released for the film, and much of the marketing material, brought to focus one particular scene whereby a girl cries at the camera and is slowly crept up upon by a ghostly figure – before being dragged violently by a noose down a corridor. This trailer is actually one whole scene in the film, and although seemed exciting at the time, pales in scare-factor when sandwiched with the rest of the film.

Found footage horror films are immediately put in the ‘trashy’ category now, as this cinematic technique is vastly overused, and in the least imaginative ways possible. This film, is not an exception to this rule. Most of the footage we see is dark corridors, crying faces and the floor as characters argue amongst themselves. Although the film has a good use of CCTV camera footage, opening with the footage of the horrific accident of twenty years ago, it is not used to full effect.

The same can be said with the use of multiple cameras. We have the main filming camera, but also an iPhone camera with night vision. Most of the action is captured through the main filming camera, but at one point the iPhone camera is used to go back a few minutes in time and show the different perspective of one character after he was locked away from the rest of the group. This was a really interesting concept, but once again was not taken advantage of as it was not used again for the rest of the movie.

The characters shared their actors names, in order to draw the audience into more of a ‘realistic’ and ‘truthful’ film, however this doesn’t really work either because the acting is pretty bad. Lots of panicked screaming and shouting, and talking behind shaky-cam footage, there isn’t much depth to the dialogue or any of the characters. They’re just a group of idiot teenagers being idiots in the dark until they are killed.

As negative as this review has been so far, it’s not all bad. The sound design and timing of action was skilfully done, and due to this tension is built to an all time high at regular intervals. I was tense on the edge of my seat for the majority of the film, as the film makes you wait that extra few seconds before revealing the scare – a technique that leaves you anxious even after the scare has happened.

In addition to this, the use of rope and rope sounds is really effective – there is something about the sound that ropes make that puts me on edge and the film uses this very well. Although the sound is one of the film’s biggest saving graces, it doesn’t quite compensate for the films predictable shot style.

The films’ close is interestingly written. There is the first ending, of which history repeats itself and the twist is discovered, but rather than ending there the film gives us a second ending. The second ending is very Paranormal Activity-esque, with a Police officer discovering the gormless, creepy, possessed looking villains sitting in a Charlie shrine in their house, and is attacked. I found the use of a false ending unpredictable and therefore rounds the film off on a positive note.

The Gallows promises so much and touches upon so many rich and fascinating techniques in its 1 hour 20 running time, but never really follows through with any of them – which is such a shame considering the potential that the storyline could have had, if they’d only tried harder to steer clear of typical, bad teen horror flick stereotypes.

The Lobster (2015)



If you thought that good things come to those who wait, according to Yorgos Lanthimos’ surrealist comedy drama The Lobster, you’d be wrong. And likely transformed into a Weasel.

The Lobster tells the story of David, a man made recently single due to his wife running off with another man. He is then packed off to a Hotel in which he is given 45 days to find a romantic partner, or else be turned into an animal of his choice and released into the forest.

This film is narrated beautifully, through both Colin Ferrell’s internal monologue of David but also from the absent voice of Rachel Weisz. The way that information and characters are introduced using playful narration is a useful tool in this film. For example, David tells us details about a character before the camera cuts to them, foreshadowing the subsequent shot. As it foreshadows action, it is also used to foreshadow character – as shown by Rachel Weisz as a narrator suddenly being drawn into the story as a physical Weisz manifests herself later on as the main love interest.

The characters created within this film are the special ingredient. The Lobster‘s dark undertone is sliced up into bitesize chunks due to the films’ humorous nature, which expresses itself through the thoughts and behaviours of the characters. Starring Ferrell as a chunky, middle aged, walrus-moustached man (who is very different from the roles that Ferrell usually adopts). Alongside him are his unnamed Hotel BFFs – played by John C Reilly and Ben Whishaw as ‘The Lisping Man’ and ‘The Limping Man’, respectively.

These ailments  become important due to the fact that every person in the hotel seems to have a quirky ‘trait’ that makes them stand out. Whether it be lisps, limps, nose bleeds or an intense adoration of butter biscuits, each client is individual and odd in their own way – which is used to comical effect in the film. To top it all off, The Hotel Manager, played by Olivia Coleman, serves as the cold and stern rule enforcement that keeps the establishment running smoothly.

These characters, though thoughtful and each different in their own way, are so detached that we cannot empathise or identify with any of them, including David. The hotel’s strict rules and schedule forces conformity over human emotion, and each character goes along with these rules whilst trying to find their perfect mates, devoid of emotion or sexual attraction.

The films’ snappy and comical dialogue is inhuman and unnatural, and this, combined with clean cuts and repetitive soundtrack is a constant reminder of The Lobster’s style and genre – littered with Jean-Luc Goddard and Luis Bunuel influences. In its’ most blatant nod back to surrealism is, of course, the title – with the lobster being well recognised as a mascot of the surrealist movement since Salvador Dali’s work in the 1930s.

It would be impossible to review this film without mentioning the mise-en-scene and locations. There are three major locations in the film – The Forest, The Hotel and The City. The film is split into two halves, the first takes place in the hotel. Although the film is set in the future, the Hotel has a distinct 1970s feel, and this coupled with the staff demeanour gives off an oppressive air – perfect for the rigidity of the rules in place.

The second half of the film takes place in the Forest, which is beautifully shot, structured well in between colourful trees and undergrowth next to a vast lake. This connotes the freedom that the escapees (or ‘Loners’) have out of the grasp of the Hotel’s oppression. The way that animals appear in the film is shown best through the unnatural animals that walk through this woodland, for example a Camel strides through one shot, clearly not an animal you would find in common woodland, emphasising the characters’ potential fates.

The City is presented to us almost as an unknown, frightening place – even though it is the most natural and human of the three locations. Just a regular city, not unlike London, however the buildings seem to leer down threateningly at the characters and law enforcement are obsessed with arresting potential Single members of society.

As the plot becomes more and more complicated and wickedly strange, we are lead through the action with ease and therefore don’t get lost in the films’ complexity, which is always a danger with this type of movie. An unusual take on a love story with frighteningly accurate societal view on loneliness, The Lobster is informative and stunningly intricate, weaving together both the light and the dark in such a way that leaves you thoughtful and satisfied at the films’ devastating close.


Knock Knock (2015)



The latest in horror enthusiast Eli Roth’s filmography comes Knock Knock, a horror/home-invasion thriller that sees a happily married Keanu Reeves and his home become hostages at the hands of two young women, Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Belle (Ana De Armas), who persuade him to spend the night with them.

As a fan of Roth’s work, I couldn’t help being extremely disappointed. An over-the-top, brash and loud film lacks depth and direction as it grasps lazily at becoming a morality play.

Keanu Reeves’ acting is poor. Wooden, and almost comical as he pleads his way through the film, occasionally muttering profanities at the girls as they tie him up, knock him out, stab him with a fork, and bury him alive, whilst squealing “fucking bitches!” at regular intervals.

Izzo and De Armas both serve as the shrieking, screaming, playfully psychotic captors. Their dialogue is as playful as their performances, constantly teasing Reeves’ Evan as he tries desperately to rid them from his family home. In the performances and dialogue written by Roth (Alongside Nicolas Lopez and Guillermo Amoedo), this film has the potential for the black humour that Eli is famous for, but it falls flat in a whir of shrieks and groans.

One scene in particular that saves this film from complete damnation is a scene that comes very early on in the action, whereby Evan and the girls are left waiting for an Uber to collect them and take them home. The Uber is 45 minutes away, and during this time the girls attempt to chip away at their host. Tension builds wonderfully as he tries to resist, moving around the space to get away from the girls prying hands, all the while the iPhone Uber clock serving as a countdown to his freedom (which of course, does not come).

In addition to this, the use of limited cast and a single location gives the film intimacy and control, however this merit is not used to it’s full advantage and therefore collapses by the lack of texture that this film possesses as it grasps towards becoming a cult film that it does not deserve to be.