• DAVID STEPHENS

MOST DISAPPOINTING FILMS OF 2017


MOTHER!

(Directed by Darren Aronofsky)

Well, alright, alright, alright… as a certain Mr McConaughey might say. We’re well aware that a sizable chunk of people and critics regard this as a genuine masterpiece and a great piece of unconventional cinema. We’re just not in that group. We also know that opinions are subjective, everyone is entitled to theirs, and this film was deliberately made to get one definite reaction or another. We also recognise that this is a well-made film with real talent both in front of the camera and behind it… We just didn’t like it, is all.

The (shrouded in mystery) plot shows a mismatched couple's relationship being tested when uninvited guests invade their perfect home… but of course that’s not what it’s about though is it? We have two main issues with it really. 1) The marketing was clearly misleading and promised at least some kind of coherent narrative that seemed to suggest a genre experience of some sort. 2) It’s hard to give a damn about characters in a movie when you suddenly realise that it’s basically a huge allegory that’s a step up from an Aesop’s Fable with its chicanery. This pretty much eliminated any possible shocks or emotional integrity for us. That’s just us though. If it works for you, then it works. We actually loved Aronofsky’s “Black Swan”, and in this movie Jennifer Lawrence and Michelle Pfeiffer do give excellent performances. But it just wasn’t for us. And we were pretty grouchy on leaving the cinema (and we weren’t the only ones in the audience to do so). The end.

Jigsaw

(Directed by Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig)

This is actually kind of painful. One of the YGROY group is a huge fan of the “Saw” franchise and was really looking forward to this, and a potential reinvigoration of the brand. Unfortunately this just left us underwhelmed and disappointed. All the promos and the previous films from the Spierig brothers, along with a returning Tobin Bell, seemed to indicate that this could be something special and return to the best entries of the series. However that wasn’t to be the case…

The plot has the classic “Saw” scenario, with five people fighting their way through deadly automated traps, whilst bodies are appearing on the streets pointing to the return of the departed Jigsaw himself, John Kramer (Bell). It’s not that the film is terrible; it’s that it feels like another tired re-run of some of the past entries. The final denouement relies on a repeated plot-development that has been used before, as does some of the manipulative progression in the storyline. It’s okay as a standalone movie, but it’s just not fresh enough or dynamic enough to warrant a new arc to the franchise. And as for the frickin’ laser beams… It could be salvaged by a more brutal and inventive follow-up, but that remains to be seen if it will happen after this one.

The Bye Bye Man

(Directed by Stacy Title)

BBM was one of those films that studios sneakily push on general release after a substantial holiday period. That doesn’t inspire confidence, and despite a good looking trailer and concept, it didn’t deserve any either. To its credit, the movie does try to introduce a brand-new boogeyman, played by perennial creature actor Doug Jones. And the film has a really good opening (with Leigh Whannell blowing away innocents) but it’s all downhill from that point onwards for this PG-13 horror unfortunately…

Three friends stumble on a deadly secret in a rented house, where the deadly titular character can be virally unleashed by merely saying or hearing his name. There’s a kernel of a great horror there, but it’s so clumsily developed that it never really scares or convinces. The mythology is sloppy, the villain just prods people in the head or gives them mad thoughts, there are unexplained visuals and elements (the devil dog), BBM’s motives are never explained, characters are annoying, and Carrie Anne Moss and Faye Dunaway are criminally wasted in the plot. Apart from that… it’s fine. Rumours of a harder and more coherent cut exists (seemingly an obligatory wrinkle for every PG-13 horror these days), but as it stands, it’s not a good bye.

Wish Upon

(Directed by John R. Leonetti)

Whilst “Happy Death Day” is the perfect example of a good PG-13 horror that doesn’t let the certificate get in the way of a good time… “Wish Upon” is the opposite of that. Using that old chestnut of “power corrupts” and “wishes always go tits-up in a horror movie”, this was another film that couldn’t fulfil on its promise. Ignoring that awful title (“Doom Wish” or something would have been less unwieldy), basically it’s an update of that old yarn “The Monkey’s Paw” (written by W. W. Jacobs in 1902) that’s directed by the maker of “Annabelle”. Only this time it’s got self-centred teenagers making people fall in love with them, instead of deleting world leaders from existence or something…

A magical music box falls into the hands of an unlucky teenage girl who discovers its power to grant wishes, but doesn’t take into account the price for doing so. Although it’s slightly ambiguous, somebody connected to the holder bites the dust after a wish is made. So there’s the promising mixture of “Final Destination” fateful demises, along with wishes-go-wrong shenanigans. The trouble is that the deaths are boring and bloodless, and the wishes are so insipid and selfish that nothing really qualifies as being a real horror movie, apart from the horribly predictable ending. Again, a harder-cut of this apparently exists, and may well be a better film. But as it stands, it wastes a pretty decent cast (Joey King, Ryan Phillipe) and feels like a missed opportunity.

Rings

(Directed by F. Javier Gutiérrez)

This is another failed attempt to rejuvenate a horror franchise, which fumbles the ball and just repeats past mistakes without realising its potential. Gore Verbinski’s “The Ring” is still held up as one of the best J-horror remakes, although “The Ring 2” is a bit of a complicated mess despite being directed by Hideo Nakata. This needless sequel and attempt to restart the franchise totally misses the target though. Bringing back creepy-girl Samara for more watery TV shenanigans, it inserts some really cool ideas into the mix… and then completely forgets to use them.

Years after the previous films, a girl searches for her missing boyfriend and uncovers a dangerous experiment being run by a college professor, who seeks to understand Samara’s curse. So she has to find out more about Samara’s background. Again. Following a great opening scene (Samara emerging from a doomed airplane’s flight panel) and at least two groovy ideas (the controlled viewings of the tape, the spread of the footage across the internet), it descends into yet another Origin-of-Samara plot that wastes its potential. It ends exactly where it should have started. Bar a creepy cameo from Vincent D'Onofrio, this is nowhere near as cool and effective as the original movie.

Incarnate

(Directed by Brad Peyton)

Now this looked really promising on paper. Starring Aaron Eckhart (“The Dark Knight”) and Carice Van Houten (“Game of Thrones”), it was sold as a more advanced version of “The Exorcist”. Coming from the Blumhouse “Tilt” production side and directed by the guy who made “San Andreas” and the upcoming monster movie “Rampage”, it should have at least been an interesting stab at the possession genre. Nope. It bombed in the US, slunk guiltily onto home media in the UK with absolutely no fanfare, and owns 18% on Rotten Tomatoes.

A crippled scientist performs “exorcisms” on the demonically possessed by entering their subconscious minds, but meets his match in the evil force that holds a young boy in its power. Basically it’s an “Exorcist” rip-off, using ideas and concepts from films like “Inception” and “The Matrix”. But the dreamscapes are inexplicably dull (a nightclub, a fair, a park, etc) and the ideas just don’t mesh together or feel workable. Houten is wasted and only David Mazouz shines in the film. Poor old Eckhart (who’s had little luck in the genre since “I, Frankenstein”) has to trundle around in a wheelchair like a paranormal “Ironside”, but still gets to beat people up in bars. He also has to speak lines like ““In order to avoid a fate worse than death … you must choose death instead”. Eurgh. Add an ending that you can see coming a mile off, and this is a real bust…

The Snowman

(Directed by Tomas Alfredson)

One of those films that should have been SO much better, you wish you could transport yourself into an alternate universe to see the good version. This could have been excellent, and despite flashes of greatness it is dull and inexcusably… m’eh. Made by the director who brought us the wonderful “Let the Right One In” and “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”, it features an extraordinary cast headlined by Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson. It’s even based on a cult literary detective with global recognition. So why did it fail at the box office?

Gifted (but alcoholic) detective Harry Hole (Fassbender) investigates the murders of women in Oslo, whose deaths coincide with the appearance of creepy snowmen. After the flood of negative reviews, Alfredson went on record to declare that he was rushed by the studios and he only shot 85% of the script. And boy, does it show. In hindsight, one failing is that this is based on the seventh story in a series, and Hole is a difficult character to relate to with no backstory. We keep getting told how good he is at detecting, but there’s no evidence for it (things fall into his lap and there’s a connection with the killer) or why he’s such a dick to people. The story is nothing special and brilliant character actors like Chloe Sevigny, J.K. Simmons and Toby Jones appear for seconds, spout some lines and disappear with no impact to the story. It’s a shame because there’s some stunning cinematography and some effectively creepy murders. But this is certainly no serial-chiller.

#rings #wishupon #mother #incarnate #thesnowman #jigsaw #thebyebyeman

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