Tag Archives: The Blair Witch Project

From the Vault: Blair Witch

In the first of our new From The Vault series, we pluck out unfinished articles from the archives of unpublished material, sitting in the Failed Critics drafts folder, and spruce it up a bit before finally hitting that publish button. First up, Owen Hughes’s long forgotten review of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett’s found-footage collaboration, Blair Witch.
Originally written: September 2016
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Failed Critics Podcast: Blair Witch or Killer B*tch

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Hello and welcome to another episode of the Failed Critics Podcast. Proving that they’re not just a pair of losers with no friends, hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are back again but this time Paul Field and Tony Black join them.

As ever the podcast kicks off with a quiz, this week hosted by Steve, that puts the Failed Critics’ soap knowledge to the test, before they move on to What We’ve Been Watching. Paul makes a bold declaration that Park Chan-wook’s Handmaiden is the Oldboy director’s best film yet; Steve also takes a trip to Korean cinema with zombie-thriller Train to Busan; Tony reaches peak noughties teen melodrama as he continues his run-through of Smallville; and Owen laments ever letting Paul know his address after receiving a copy of British gangster-exploitation flick Killer Bitch in the post.

The big new release this week for the team to chew over is Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard’s eagerly anticipated Blair Witch, the sequel to the iconic cult classic, The Blair Witch Project in case you were wondering. It also leads to the second quiz of the week, with Paul surprising the other three with a game of ‘Bitch’ or ‘Witch’!

Join us again next week for a special triple bill of our favourite westerns as The Magnificent Seven remake hits the silver screen.

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Failed Critics Podcast: Fright Night Triple Bill

Linda-Blair

Murdered in his sleep, chopped up into tiny pieces and stuffed down the back of Paul Field’s sofa. That’s what we presume is the reason behind the Underground Nights co-host taking over duties from the absent Steve Norman this week as he joins Owen Hughes and Andrew Brooker for this week’s triple bill podcast.

Each of the trio picks three films that have frightened them – not necessarily the scariest films they can think of, but rather, those that have at some point in their lives scared them beyond their senses. The theme for this triple bill was chosen with FrightFest in mind, which kicks off on Thursday this week and has a mini-preview of a couple of films that the team are keeping an eye out for.

There’s also room in the whopping 2 hour run-time for the Failed Critics to chat about more controversy over Sausage Party after last week’s damning indictment of the way that film’s producers have been treating the animators. This time, it’s the Swedish age-rating system that feels the full force of the podcast. Take that, Sweden!

New releases this week includes the return of Ricky Gervais’s comedy character David Brent in feature film Life on the Road hitting cinemas this past Friday. Brooker also shines a light on the latest horror-by-numbers, Lights Out.

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Time to Quit Those Spoiler-Filled Trailers

Unironic warning: there are some minor spoilers in this article for the following films:  Jurassic World, Terminator Genisys, X-Men: Apocalypse.

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Time to Quit Those Spoiler-Filled Trailers, Or: How studios are trying desperately to make it so that we don’t need to go to the movies anymore

Directors, producers, studios: we need to talk. I’ve had about enough of forcing myself to avoid your marketing because you are intent on spoiling the entire damn film, sometimes months before we’ve even been given the chance to see the bloody thing.

Over the last 18 months or so, I’ve lost count of the amount of times where I’ve gone into a movie knowing not just the plot and some of the best bits of dialogue, but I’ve actually known the mid-film twist, or the big action sequence that’s supposed to be a surprise. All sense of awe has selfishly been taken away from me.

I go to the cinema to be amazed, to escape the day-to-day shittiness of having to go to work and to give me an excuse to babble on about films. Whether that’s with my mates, or in one of those many reviews I’m allowed to keep writing here.

What I don’t go to the flicks to do, is to watch the gaps in between the plot points and spoilers that I’ve already seen in your bloody trailers and TV spots.

So, of course, from here on in there will be spoilers. Mostly of older films, but I will telegraph them all and hopefully give you the opportunity to skip those you want to.

There are definitely degrees of spoiled bits, I reckon. There’s that key moment in last year’s Jurassic World where Chris Pratt’s main character, Owen, has his little bad ass moment. Zipping through the jungle growth on a bike followed by a herd of dinosaurs; that should be this amazing, awe inspiring moment. But we all knew it was coming. It was in the damn ads.

From the first reveal, to the final trailer: we saw Owen “taming” these animals one second and running with them like Mowgli and the wolves the next. But this ain’t that bad…. OK, it is. But it’s one action scene in a two hour film full of them. It’s almost understandable that you’d need to show something to whet the audiences’ appetite. There are plenty of other scenes you could have used, but whatever.

It’s nothing – and I mean nothing – compared to the now infamous Terminator: Genisys trailers. An average-at-best film (on a good day) needed a good marketing campaign to get people excited for it. After Salvation, no one wanted this pointless half reboot, and a great trailer campaign would’ve got you some serious hype.

Instead, the imbeciles whose only job was to sell me the movie decided to put the film’s defining moment, its big twist, in the god damn trailer. And here’s where my biggest issue with these bloody trailers lies – I can’t avoid them! I was staring at a screen the size of the barn when someone revealed that John Connor was a poxy Terminator!

So many films have fallen foul of this egregious marketing bullshit. Recently, X-Men: Apocalypse had Quicksilver’s family tree and a super-clawed cameo thrown directly into the faces of film goers in its final trailer The latter of which was revealed in TV spots during the ad breaks for any show on after 6pm.

Imagine trying to avoid spoilers for your next big film, only for it to be ruined because you had the audacity to be watching Coronation Street!

Southpaw gave away a vital plot point/character death in its initial trailer. Star Trek Beyond not only gave away massive plot points in its final trailer, but ruined what should have been a head nodding “awwwwww SHIT!” moment from the first reveal trailer. One of those Twitter buddies I hold so dear even had a spoileriffic trailer for The Huntsman: Winter’s War played to him in the trailer segment just before the Snow White sequel was due to be played.

I know it’s not a new phenomenon, I do. I know that as long as trailers have been a thing, they’ve been spoiling what they’ve been advertising, but surely it’s time for something to be done. As I write this, I’m furious (and deeply thankful) that another Twitter acquaintance warned me off of the latest Suicide Squad trailer as it reveals a load of act three spoilers! What the fuck, Warner Brothers?

It’s time these idiots leaned how to market their films. Recently, 10 Cloverfield Lane managed to get the world flocking to see it, even after it looked like a sequel to a mediocre film that no one really asked for.  Marketed perfectly, we all went in clear-headed with no idea what we were letting ourselves in for. And made an excellent film from it, too.

Or you can go the other way. You can pound us with never-ending ads, trailers and TV spots if you want. Why not? Deadpool did it. But its genius is in the fact that after trailer one, we got no new footage shown to us. A load of new stuff made especially for its campaign kept the jokes coming in at ten to the dozen, without killing the comedic payoff once the film actually came out.

Just take a look at what Adam Wingard did last week. He got us all super excited for his amazing looking, insanely creepy The Woods. Then went and revealed that it’s actually a Blair Witch sequel! He managed to grab a franchise many didn’t care for and as many had forgotten – myself included – and made me all kinds of excited for it. I guarantee that trailer has barely scratched the surface of what we see when the film hits!

Come on guys, you can do so much better. Some of the greatest, most memorable films that stuck with us came with stellar marketing campaigns too. There’s no need to explain the film’s plot, beat-by-beat. or reveal twists and show all the best bits in the 2-4 minutes you get to advertise your film.

Ask absolutely anyone. Blowing your load early like that is never pretty and people don’t come back for more.

Failed Critics Podcast: The Blair Witch Project (Commentary)

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Never let it be said that the Failed Critics are afraid to try anything new. I mean, it’s only taken us 192 episodes to finally getting around to doing a film commentary.

Andrew Brooker and Matt Lambourne joined hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes for this special episode as together they watch and share their thoughts, opinions, anecdotes and stories about 1999’s pioneering indie found footage horror, The Blair Witch Project, co-written and co-directed by Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick.

As the four failed critics gathered for their unholy ceremony, only Owen knew which film they were going to be watching that night. If you listen closely when it’s revealed, you can hear the lamentations of Brooker who hates the film, the rustle of a jumper as Steve’s shrugging shoulders indicate he has no opinion either way, and then Matt jumps for joy as he prepares to shit himself at one of the scariest films ever made.

The film was streamed via Netflix UK, so if you want to watch the film underneath our commentary, we’ll tell you when to hit play and you can listen along as we try to remain interesting for the whole 80 minutes. Alternatively, the podcast should just work as a normal hour and 20 minutes of general shenanigans and film related chat. What I’m getting at is you don’t need to watch the film to enjoy this week’s podcast, but it will probably help!

If you like the idea or would like to see more of this sort of thing for some of your favourite movies, leave a comment in the box below, send us a tweet or post on our Facebook page. Otherwise, join us again next week as we get back to our regular format.

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Failed Critics Podcast: One MILLION Dollars! Triple Bill

everestWelcome to another episode of the Failed Critics Podcast. As promised, Steve Norman is back in the host’s chair this week as the award winning duo of Jack and Phil from Wikishuffle depart to be replaced by Matt Lambourne from the award winning video-game podcast Retro Asylum, such is the quality of guest on our shows these days!

As ever, they are both joined by Owen Hughes for this week’s triple bill episode, where each member of the team pick three films made for one million dollars or less in a bid to prove that the quality of a movie is not always dependent on its budget.

Before all of that, the guys also take a look at the Primetime Emmy Award winners announced this past weekend and indulge themselves with the final round of our ongoing quiz – which, for once, isn’t as shambolic as you might expect! There’s also time for:  Steve to tackle Everest, starring Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal and Josh Brolin amongst others;  Matt blows the dust out of his Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie cartridge;  and Owen joins him in continuing the video-game adaptation conversation by listing everything wrong with Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.

Join us again next week for reviews of Sicario, The Intern, and The Martian.

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A Decade In Horror: Halloween Special – The Nineties

It’s October! The leaves on the trees are turning brown, it’s getting darker earlier in the evening and folks are rummaging through their DVD collections, looking for their favourite horror films to watch in time for Halloween. As such, every week this month will see us expand on our Decade In Film series with a spin off article focussing on five horror films from the sixties, the seventies, the eighties, the nineties and the noughties! The format will be much the same as our regular series, but with a slight twist.

Hey, dudes! It’s time for our 90’s article. It’s sooo going to suck…….. NOT! Radical dudes Andrew, Liam, MikeOwen and Paul are back to, like, give us a run-down of their totally awesome favourite horror movies of the bitchin’ 1990’s, man! Super sweet. If you have a problem with that, well I guess you better talk to the hand ’cause the face ain’t listenin’!

The nineties is the decade that took a leaf out of the previous 10 years’ book and decided to adopt the motto: if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again with endless, repetitive, increasingly lame, decreasingly budgeted slashers. But it wasn’t all bad; there are at least five great films released and nothing Michael Haneke has to say about them will make us change our minds!

Towards the beginning of the decade, there was a commercial boom in the genre. The success of Joe Dante’s horror-comedy Gremlins meant a sequel went into production. Disney rode the wave with Arachnophobia released in the same year. Meanwhile, Tim Curry in Stephen King’s IT would become responsible for more cases of coulrophobia than John Wayne Gacy. Of course, The Silence of the Lambs was also a huge success; one of only three films to ever win five Oscars (sorry, it’s impossible to mention Jonathan Demme’s film without including that little bit of trivia at the end).

Despite the moderate success of a few cult movies like Cube, Cemetary Man and Event Horizon in the middle of the decade (and the success of one particular game-changer that we’ll come onto later), it wasn’t until later on in the 90s that horror films collectively upped their calibre. Part of this is down to the international market – and I don’t mean Peter Jackson! Despite the likes of Argento and Fulci in the 70’s and 80’s, world cinema had never truly penetrated the relatively mainstream horror conscious. However, J-horror (as it affectionately became known towards the end of the decade) did with such titles as Ringu (actually released primarily on VHS back then, would you believe), Ju-on (aka The Grudge) and Takeshi Mike’s Audition – not to mention one or two others, ahem. They forced the US market to change tact leading into the new millennium. Well, that and to remake as many of them as possible into the English language. Audiences woke up to what could be achieved and demanded more. But we’ll come onto that next week. Let’s start our reviews in chronological order, as always, and go back at the beginning of the decade with…


Candyman (1992)

candymanThey will say that I have shed innocent blood. What’s blood for, if not for shedding?

The 90’s was a strange decade for horror; trying to get away from the slash and dice of the 80’s, horror film makers looked for a more intelligent premise to their films, rather than some mad man running round cutting everyone to pieces. That said, one of my favourite films from this period is Candyman, a film with a resounding 80’s slasher feel to it, though with a much more adult tone, there are no teenagers getting sliced and diced in this film.

An urban legend shrouding the Cabrini-Green housing development in fear. Candyman is a supernatural killer summoned if you say his name five times into the mirror. He takes the lives of his victims by slicing them open with a hook, which has replaced his hand taken when he was murdered. Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) is researching the legend and bringing the killer back to life, when she says his name… five times. Candyman (Tony Todd) returns to continue his reign of terror and predicts Helen will continue his legend once he is dead.
Bernard Rose directs his own screenplay from the short story “The Forbidden” by Clive Barker, with Barker attached as a Producer on the film. There is a constant feel of despair and dread as Rose delivers a screenplay which is dark and sinister. With some wonderful cinematography by Anthony B. Richmond adding a visual bleakness to the story, as he gives the housing estate a real nightmare feel. Candyman really does has some impressive production values. Phillip Glass provides a great score, while the gore effects and the scene with the “real” bees are all excellent.

Add to that an impressive cast as well; Virginia Madsen is superb, with solid support from Xander Berkeley, Kasi Lemmons and Vanessa Williams. Yet it is Tony Todd with his truly frightening and brilliant portrayal of the Candyman which must put him up there with the likes of Freddy, Jason or Pinhead as one of our greatest horror icons. With Todd’s performance and the films great production values it makes this one of the finest horror films of the 90’s; definitely one of my favourites.

by Mike Shawcross (@Shawky1969)


Body Snatchers (1993)

body snatchersWe’ll give ’em hell, Malone! We’ll show ’em what the human race is really made of!

Ah the 90’s. I thought this would be really tricky and so it was. A smorgasbord of mediocrity, spewed out across the decade. My DVD shelf confirming my fear as the few horror tiles I did buy, skulking and cowering in the shadows, fearing a trip to a boot fair. I was going to choose The Faculty, but that’s basically just Body Snatchers — wait… Body Snatchers…!

1956 version, that was great, loved it as a kid, 1978 was good too (but it’s really slow and Sutherland doing the scary scream only arrives at the end), 1993 and Abel Ferrara serves up a glossier, faster, louder and smarter version. You’ll remember it for Gabrielle Anwar falling asleep in the bath but that’s not why we’re here. Meg Tilly, she’s creepy. I mean really creepy. In all the versions of this story, her performance is the most unsettling. “Where you gonna go? Where you gonna run? Where you gonna hide? Nowhere…….cause there’s no one like you left!”

by Paul Field (@pafster)


Scream (1996)

screamNow you’ve gotta die. Those are the rules!

“The 90’s sucked!” – Randy “The Ram” Robinson
And they really did. A flurry of b-movie guff and untold cash-in sequels diluted the waters so well populated back in the 80’s. Great horror movies were so few and far between that finding my favourite was less of a choice and more of a “there is only one answer” kind of decision.

Luckily, I don’t have to waste words on Scream‘s story and plot. It’s a satirised, high school slasher flick. Simple as that. A killer with a fondness for horror trivia decides that his time is better spent killing teenagers than, I don’t know, being the movie guy on a pub quiz team or taking his knowledge and hoping for a good subject on Pointless.

What makes Scream stand out, instead of its story, is its brains. Wrapped up in this generic looking slasher is a tremendously clever film. With Wes Craven at the helm, we got a movie that doesn’t shy away from satirising the genre that made its director famous. Written by rookie scribe Kevin Williamson, who expertly assembled a script with Naked Gun levels of self-awareness minus the silliness. Together they made a film who’s every scene is not only packed full of the genre’s tropes, but actively points them out to the audience.

Scream is a masterclass in horror from one of the best in the business. In the space of 111 minutes, Craven manages to introduce another icon to the horror movie Rogues Gallery in the form of Ghostface; he deconstructs, explains and then proceeds to break every horror movie rule that he helped create; and he revitalised the slasher film. All while wearing a Freddy Kruger jumper and without insulting the audience’s intelligence.

by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)


Cure (1997)

cureThis Japanese psychological thriller is one of the most engrossing and deeply chilling films of the entire genre.
A string of murders all share the same strange traits, a distinctive mark left on the body and the murderer is still nearby but unable explain their actions.

The story follows Detective Takabe as he tries to understand why these crimes are happening and just how a young drifter named Mamiya is connected to them. Police know that he has something to do with it but nobody is able to remember speaking to him. Neither medical nor psychological specialists are able to get through to him. He never raises his voice, he never displays any violent tendencies, he simply repeats a stock reply to each question posed.

A masterpiece of mystery and suspense, directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa and adapted from his novel, it builds a deeply unsettling tension layer by layer, revealing a little more detail with each crime. For every detail revealed another two puzzles are created and the mystery deepens. This is most certainly not for those who like things tied up in a neat little package but, for those who enjoy being left to do some thinking of their own, this confusing gem comes with the highest possible recommendation.

by Liam (@ElmoreLTM)


The Blair Witch Project (1999)

blair witchI am so sorry. What is that? I’m scared to close my eyes, I’m scared to open them! We’re gonna die out here!

Come now. You didn’t think we’d do an entire article dedicated to 1990’s horror films and not mention the scariest movie of the decade, did you?

The most obvious place to start with here is how minuscule a budget this film was made for compared to how much marketing it received. I first came across The Blair Witch Project quite by accident. Staying up a bit late one school night, I was watching Sky One on Telewest with my mum when this documentary about the three missing members of some other documentary came on. For one brief night, until I spoke to the other kids at school the next day and found it was all just marketing for a movie, this naive 13 year old was honestly willing to accept that perhaps there was the possibility that such a thing as ghosts could potentially exist… maybe.

Even when my playground chatter was dashed by my mates, I still fell hook line and sinker for the marketing ploy. Despite knowing it was all fake, despite then watching it on a pirated VHS, despite all of that, I don’t think a film has scared me more than this found-footage horror. You could argue it was the birth of the modern sub-genre. Going back to 1960 with Peeping Tom, or Cannibal Holocaust in the 80’s, or even Man Bites Dog in the same decade, The Blair Witch Project is the film most often associated with these indie shaky-camcorder, low-quality, bunch of idiots wandering around in the dark bumping into stuff and scaring the crap out of each other type films.

I used to think that perhaps it was a case of nostalgia behind why I still love this movie so much. However, I revisited it a couple of years ago (two years ago exactly tomorrow, as it happens) when introducing it to my youngest brother. It scared the living daylights out of him; the ending even still creeps me out! Even with every third film being found-footage these days, perhaps diluting the terror it can induce (if not the influence), it still holds as much weight today as it did 15 years ago. And I’ll never, ever, ever open a handkerchief left outside my tent when I go camping again. Ever.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)


Thanks for reading! We’ll be back on Friday (Halloween!) with our final entry in this spin-off series as we dissect the noughties.

Into The Storm

Into The Storm is a whole bunch of unbelievably dull sound and fury signifying nothing.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

into the storm 2Found footage requires suspension of disbelief.  It requires enormous suspension of disbelief.  It requires you to believe that cameras are nearly indestructible and have infinite battery lives, that the people holding them are both too stupid to stop filming and just run, have had no prior experiences with holding a camera before because nobody shakes a camera that damn much and are profoundly selfish people for continuing to record proceedings instead of helping other out, and that there is someone out there who felt the need to edit the traumatic experiences that a bunch of people went through and release the resulting borderline snuff-film to the general public.  Like I said, this requires an enormous suspension of disbelief and it’s why the best ones either keep the gimmick as minimalist as possible (see: The Blair Witch Project) or provide enough of an emotional connection to the characters and world being filmed that the bells and whistles don’t distract as much as they should (see: Earth To Echo).  Would some of these films be far better if they didn’t stick to their conceit?  Mostly, yeah, that’s why District 9 and End Of Watch eventually do just drop the found-footage angle.  It’s why Chronicle managed to engineer an in-story way to have its lead character be able to keep the camera steady and provide different angles and the like when filming.

I bring this up because Into The Storm has been hiding a key component of its DNA from its marketing, presumably because 2014 hasn’t been good for found-footage financially (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, Devil’s Due, the aforementioned Earth To Echo unfortunately), and that is the fact that this is a found-footage disaster movie.  And not a simple one, either, where it’s just one guy with a camera.  This is a film with about 200 different cameras, most of them recording different things, several of them destroyed at some point, many by characters who never even cross paths, multiple times do camera-operators in the film stand around filming the leads trying to save somebody instead of helping, and yet it can’t even keep up its conceit the whole way through.  We are supposed to be watching a film, one made in-universe by somebody at some point, yet we keep getting shots and footage that make no sense in the found-footage conceit.  Lots of CG shots of destruction from far away, several from inside some of the tornadoes, some that manage to be totally still even whilst stuck in the path of a tornado.  It’s not like End Of Watch or District 9 or Chronicle where it’s obvious what’s found-footage and what isn’t or that you’re just viewing events through cameras in-universe instead of a constructed film, this is supposed to be a constructed film but it cheats frequently without being clear as to when it is doing so.

So, in the end, I spent a lot of the time sat there wondering how these shots were being constructed.  How is this fitting in the film’s universe?  All the found-footage ends up doing is being a major distraction, something that kept pulling me out of the movie constantly.  “But, Callum,” regular readers may be going, “Didn’t Earth To Echo have a similar kind of where-is-the-footage-coming-from-issue?  You gave that a pass, remember?”  That I did, because the found-footage conceit never got in the way of the tale, of the emotional centre, of the strong characters.  By contrast, Into The Storm has nothing.  Oh, sure, it has characters in the barest sense, in that they have names and characteristics and arcs, but they are all paper-thin and the film doesn’t really seem to care about their existence.  There’s our supposed lead, a high school vice principal (Richard Armitage) with two sons, one of whom is socially awkward (Max Deacon) and has a crush on a popular girl (Alycia Debnam-Carey), the other of whom is a bit of a douche (Nathan Kress) and both of whom resent him because he alternately forgets they exist or is all up in their respective grills.  There’s a team of storm chasers headed by a leader who is a dick who only cares about the footage until he doesn’t (Matt Walsh, for some reason), a storm expert who has been away from her daughter for too long (Sarah Wayne Callies), and two friends (Arlen Escarpeta and Jeremy Sumpter) one of which isn’t cut out for this line of work.  And there are also two redneck hillbilly stereotypes (Kyle Davis and Jon Reep) who want to be YouTube stars and are here for exactly the reasons you’re thinking of.

That is the extent of the film’s interest in its characters.  Everybody goes through all of their arcs, all of which you’ve seen done a million times before (the race against time to rescue the vice principal’s eldest son and the son’s crush will only seem fresh if you simply have managed to block The Day After Tomorrow from your memory for the last decade) and all performed by characters spouting exposition and their current thoughts and feelings at one another in an extremely clunky fashion, but there’s no interest in them.  It’s like the film resents having to spend time with these people.  I mean, I don’t blame them, especially since none of the actors even attempt to elevate this stuff.  Richard Armitage shouts gruffly, Sarah Wayne Callies looks and talks concerned, Matt Walsh acts like a dick until he doesn’t, Kyle Davis and Jon Reep play up their redneck hillbilly stereotypes to the point of insufferability, Nathan Kress acts like a douche.  They don’t even attempt to ham the thing up to enjoyable B-movie levels in order to make up for the lack of characters; everyone’s trying too hard, trying to be all serious serious.  Speaking of, sometimes the film briefly pretends like it wants to be a stark warning about climate change and you get one guess as to how well it pulls it off.

Instead, the film just wants to destroy stuff.  Which would be fine, I guess (forgive me for wanting a bit more out of my disaster movies), if the effects were good and if the whole enterprise weren’t so mind-numbingly boring.  The tornadoes look like a CGI cutscene in a PlayStation 3 game circa 2007, green-screening is prominent and very obvious, certain effects are of a much lower resolution and quality than the rest, that bit in the trailer with the planes and the airport is still laughably dreadful looking, and the inevitable moment where we go into the big monster tornado (which itself looks like Parallax from Warner Bros’ Green Lantern movie) looks as good as the bit in The Matrix Revolutions where Neo and Trinity try to burst through the real world’s sky.  It’s all so, so, so cheap, just barely above a Syfy Original Movie (don’t even get me started on how poor fire looks), which wouldn’t be such a problem if it had stuff going on that didn’t involve destroying stuff.  If the only thing you want to do is smash stuff real purdy-like, you need to come correct with excellent effects and, unfortunately for Into The Storm, every other Summer blockbuster so far this year soundly trashes it when it comes to destruction porn.

There is one part of the film’s marketing that was completely accurate, mind.  The ads made no secret of the fact that this was going to be a loud film.  And it is.  It is very loud, it is ridiculously loud; if I were in the screen next door, I guarantee that I would have heard it shake like an earthquake was about to go off.  Once a tornado hits, every speaker is filled with ear-rupturing booms, the score is drowned out by the chaos on screen, and the “LOUD NOISES” setting is held at a sustained peak for far longer than is tolerable.  The combination of the sheer volume of the film and the handheld nature of most of its shots worked to leave me exiting the cinema once the credits rolled with a splitting headache, a sensation that hasn’t happened to me since A Good Day To Die Hard last year.  One could claim that that meant the film had succeeded in its aim, that I had been taken into the proverbial storm, as it were, and that I should applaud the filmmakers in their achievements.  Bollocks to that, I would reply.  I was instead subjected to the 90 minute equivalent of being trapped on a non-stop tilt-a-whirl at the loudest and most obnoxious speed metal concert around, and that’s not particularly an experience I want out of my movies.

Plus, Into The Storm is just so unrelentingly boring.  There are no stakes because none of the characters have any depth or the attention of the film, there are no thrills because the effects stink, there’s no tension because the film goes so loud for so long that it numbs all of the senses, there’s no fun because the only comedy comes from outdated redneck hillbilly stereotypes who exist for exactly the reason you’re thinking of…  It’s just noise.  Seemingly endless noise.  It’s just sound and fury signifying nothing.  Folks, at time of writing, I am just about 24 hours removed from seeing this film and I remember nothing.  I mean, I remember the ways in which it doesn’t work, but I remember no specifics.  I don’t remember any character’s names, I don’t remember anything that was said, I don’t remember any particular scene, I don’t remember which two of the supposedly important cast actually dies, nothing.  Hell, by the time I’d made the hour’s drive back home after seeing it, I had basically forgotten about the whole thing by then.  The only things that proved that I had actually been to see Into The Storm were a lowered fuel gage on my car’s dashboard and a headache that had partially subsided on the drive back.

This one sucks, folks.  It sucks real bad.  Don’t give it the time of day.

Callum Petch missed his chance to find out that.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

Best Films on TV: 24 – 30 June 2013

Site editor James Diamond presents his picks for the best films on terrestrial television this week in increasingly inaccurately titled blog.

300 This is SpartaMonday 24th June – 300 (ITV2, 9pm)

If, like me, you were disappointed by Man of Steel and Zack Snyder’s by-numbers impressions of Christopher Nolan and Terence Malick, then sit back and watch the film that really announced him as an exciting director to watch. Viscerally violent and almost comically homoerotic in equal measure, it’s also fun to spot the now-very-recognisable actors on display here including a young Magneto, a brunette Cersei Lannister, and a particularly shifty McNulty.

Tuesday 25th June – The Outlaw Josey Wales (5USA, 11pm)

Clint Eastwood’s second Western as a director (after 1973’s High Plains Drifter) and although he was clearly still learning the craft at the time, this film owes more than a passing resemblance to Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name trilogy. Set before and during the American Civil War, Eastwood also stars as the farmer who joins a Confederate guerrilla unit and pledges to take revenge on the Union soldiers who killed his family.

Wednesday 26th June – The Rock (BBC3, 10pm)

BBC3 continue their screenings of one of the most impressive purple patches in cinematic history, known by historians as the ‘Cage Action Era’. This week it’s The Rock, starring everyone’s favourite bonkers anti-hero, alongside a suitably grumpy and charismatic Sean Connery. For tenuous and barely explained reasons, Ed Harris is the army general who has gone rogue and is holed up in Alcatraz threatening to release chemical weapons across the western seaboard. A stark reminder that Michael Bay used to make quite fun films.

Thursday 27th June – The Blair Witch Project (Horror Channel, 9pm)

For all my usual aversion to the found footage genre, I actually really enjoyed this film on release, and it’s staggering to think of the hype surrounding a film made for less than $10k back at the end of the nineties. Obviously the success of the film lead to over a decade of mostly poor and badly made imitators, but for a few brief moments a horror film shocked the mainstream cinema-going public and moved the goalposts in favour of young film-makers with tiny budgets.

Friday 28th June – The Talented Mr Ripley (More4, 9pm)

I’m sure everyone will have already seen The Running Man (Film4, 11.20pm) and Starship Troopers (BBC1, 11.25pm) more times that I’ve said I don’t get ‘found footage’ films on the Failed Critics podcast. So I am going to recommend this thriller from the late Anthony Minghella, starring Jude Law and Matt Damon. Damon plays the titular Mr Ripley, an underachiever who blags a job to retrieve a millionaire’s son (Law) from his Italian sojourn in the 1950s. The fantastic central performances are matched only by the beauty of the Italian locations, and Minghella’s change in tone midway through the film just about holds together. An art-house ‘guilty pleasure’ in many respects.

Saturday 29th June – Stardust (Film4, 1pm)

This Matthew Vaughn adaptation of a Neil Gaiman book is about as close as this generation has got to its version The Princess Bride. A classic tale of a simple young man drawn into a fantasy world in the 1800s when he retrieves a fallen star, only to discover the star is a young woman (Claire Danes) being pursued by three witches (led by Michelle Pfieffer). Rober DeNiro steals the show as a crossing-dressing pirate, while even Ricky Gervais manages not to grate too much during his cameo.

Sunday 30th June – Dr Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Film4, 11am)

I recently lauded this as my one of my two favourite Stanley Kubrick films on Failed Critics Podcast (along with A Clockwork Orange) and every viewing always seems to make me love it more. Despite Kubrick’s reputation for cold and harsh direction of his actors, he famously said that directing Peter Sellers in this was easy, as all he had to was make sure he always had at least three cameras pointed at him. A fine example of how satire and comedy can sometimes be the most frightening way to confront our worst fears.

Also on television on a brilliant day for film is Groundhog Day (5*, 2.15pm), Fantastic Mr Fox (Channel 4, 4.55pm), and Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 (Sky One, 8pm).

Best films on TV: 29 April – 5 May

The best films each day on free-to-air TV as chosen by Failed Critics contributor Owen Hughes. Expect at least one film featuring either JCVD or zombies.

predator_001Monday 29 April – Iron Man (Film4, 9pm)

With the release of the third installment in Marvel’s Iron Man franchise last week (or “this week” if you’re in America) we should be grateful to Film4 for airing the film that started it all. Especially for those of us who don’t own it already on DVD. I mean, I own it. Of course I own it. But the point is, you might not. Therefore, you should definitely take advantage of  this opportunity and remind yourself why Marvel are making some of the most successful and enjoyable movies of our time.

Tuesday 30 April – Predator (Film4, 9pm)

As a nod to our founder, James Diamond, I was tempted to recommend the Caravaggio (sorry, “Carl Vaggio”) opera that’s on Sky Arts 2 on Tuesday, but alas, I haven’t seen it to comment. Plus, it’s an opera. Opera is for slack-jawed faggots, not a goddamn sexual tyrannosaurus like Jesse Ventura in the best film you’re likely to find on TV all week. It’s one of my favourite films and, quite frankly, I’m distrustful of anyone who doesn’t enjoy Predator, nevermind has the willpower NOT to watch it whenever they notice it’s on TV.

Wednesday 1 May – In Hell (SyFy, 10pm)

I can hear the groans from here that I’m picking a straight-to-video Jean-Claude Van Damme film as the best film on TV, but trust me, this is one of his best. I’m genuinely not picking it purely because it features the muscles from Brussels! You know that bit in The Dark Knight Rises where Bruce Wayne is in the prison? That’s basically what the whole of this film is like, but with Van Damme instead of Bruce Wayne. It’s brutal, intense and poses some interesting questions on justice and morality. Also, it features JCVD with a full beard. Bet you’re intrigued now, huh!

Thursday 2 May – Public Enemies (ITV4, 10.10pm)

I’m recommending this film blind, but certain it’ll be a popular decision. The best film on TV on Thursday is Michael Mann’s crime drama set in 1930’s America. Probably one of the best decades and places to set a crime drama? Certainly one of the most popular. It stars Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard who was discussed quite recently on our birthday podcast. Praised for its aesthetics, the performances from the cast and even its soundtrack, I will certainly be recording, if not watching it, that evening.

Friday 3 May – The Blair Witch Project (horror channel, 10.55pm)

Can you remember the first time you were truly scared by a film? That genuine terror that creeps into your subconscious afterwards as you get up out of the sofa, half expecting some maniac or ghoul to be lurking in the hallway or the top of the stairs, patiently waiting for you?  It’s all bollocks, of course. It’s only a film you big sissy. But still, if there’s any film that still puts the willies up me (leave it) then it’s this. Best watched in a dark room, in total silence, late at night (say, around 11pm-ish)…

Saturday 4 May – Martyrs (horror channel, 12.10am)

…and if The Blair Witch Project doesn’t screw with your mind, then let me introduce you to one of the most excruciating watches you’re ever likely to have. The French low-budget horror film, Martyrs, has a reputation that it fully deserves. Gruesome, disturbing, twisted, intelligent, horrific, shocking and uncomfortable are all words that could describe it, but one thing’s for sure; if you’re looking for a film that will violate your mind in the same way certain characters in this movie are physically, then look no further.

Sunday 5 May – The Cannonball Run (5USA, 12pm)

After watching The Blair Witch Project on Friday and Martyrs on Saturday, you’re going to need a bit of light relief! This screwball family comedy featuring the always watchable Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise as ‘him’, Roger Moore playing a brilliant spoof of the James Bond/spy archetype, and plenty of other minor supporting roles for Jackie Chan, Sammy Davis Jr and Dean Martin (amongst others), as they race across America in their cars is both simple and funny. Perfect early Sunday afternoon watching. Or, you can continue the horror weekend with Cronenberg’s sexual body horror Shivers on horror channel later that evening. Or watch both? The Cannonball Run trumps it though, to be honest!

Whine on You Crazy Diamond – Found Wanting

Welcome to another helping of the scooped-out mind-innards of yours truly. This week I want to talk about a style of film-making and, some might say, a genre in its own right – Found Footage.

On Saturday I went to see Paranormal Activity 4 (featured on this week’s Failed Critics Review podcast) and it reaffirmed all of the issues I have with found footage films. They are completely unrealistic, and actually alienate me as a viewer.

First let’s look at the reason people make found footage films. The bottom line is that they are cheap. Very, very cheap. The original Paranormal Activity only cost about $15,000 to make, and The Blair Witch Project was also made for peanuts. Studios love these films because they represent a low-risk green-light decision, especially in the horror genre which, more than any other genre it seems, has an inbuilt audience who are willing to give films a chance.

The reason these films are so cheap to make is not just because they don’t use expensive sets and equipment, but also because the people involved are cheap to hire. From the director, to the screenwriter (especially with a number of these films improvised in nature), to the actors (usually unknowns who are cheap, and this also helps make them seem more realistic. No one is going to believe Brad Pitt in a found footage movie).

So from a business point of view I totally get it. I even admire these films.

But from an artistic point of view?

The other argument I have heard in support of found footage films is that they are ‘more realistic’ and that in the horror genre this makes them scarier. This is where I have to disagree. In my opinion, found footage films are less ‘realistic’ than any stop-motion film, CGI-powered superhero film, or badly dubbed and bloodily violent 1970s kung-fu film.

Let me explain.

Cinema has been around for over 100 years. In that time, as a species we have evolved our perception of cinema as art-form and entertainment, and can now put ourselves in a state of suspended disbelief when watching a well-crafted film. When I watch The Exorcist, or Ringu, I forget that I am watching a film and get drawn into the horror that the characters are facing. This is despite the fact that I am seeing things that I couldn’t possibly see in real life – including camera angles and special effects. A well-directed and shot film feels ‘real’.

So any attempt to consciously make a film appear real has the opposite effect on me. My suspicions are instantly raised. I can’t suspend my disbelief and find myself asking questions – why are they talking about boring things in a film? Who ‘found’ this footage? Why are they recording this seemingly random set of events?

And that’s the killer for me – I spend the majority of every found footage film questioning why a character is filming that particular footage. Once a film sets itself up as being ultra-realistic, the slightest crack in the façade ruins the whole pretence. I have the same issue with 3D films presenting themselves as being more immersive, when in fact the opposite is true – but that’s for another day…

DVD – New out this week is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – and you can hear what we thought of that on the podcast here. Instead, why not treat yourself to one (or both) of the lovely re-releases of classic films available for the first time on Blu-ray. Steven Spielberg’s E.T., or Powell and Pressburger’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.

TVLayer Cake. Film 4 on Fri 26 Oct at 9pm. If you’re not going to see Skyfall on Friday night, then why not watch Daniel Craig’s breakthrough performance in Matthew Vaughn’s debut film that is that very rare thing – an excellent, modern British gangster film.

Lovefilm InstantClose Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). If you’ve heeded my advice above and forked out on the Blu-ray release of E.T., then make an extra-terrestrial night of it and watch Spielberg’s other ‘they came from the stars’ classic from the era in which he could do no wrong.

Netflix UKDreams of a Life (2011). Recently discussed on the Failed Critics Review, this fascinating documentary investigates the circumstances around the death of Joyce Vincent who died in her bedsit aged 38, and lay undiscovered for three years.