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Trifecta of Horror: Wyrmwood (2015), VHS Viral (2014) and Drive Angry (2011)

Wyrmwood

Those looking for a Mad Max hit whilst they wait for Fury Road’s home release, could do themselves a massive favour by throwing their peepers in the direction of Wyrmwood. Directed by Kiah Roache-Turner, the film follows Barry and Brooke; siblings caught up in a zombie apocalypse. Brooke has been captured by a mysterious dancing doctor in a biohazard suit , whilst Barry hooks up with a bunch of blokes who have found a new use for zombie blood. Exhilarating, violent and with a decent splash of claret, action and horror fans will lap this up.

VHS Viral

After two solid entries in the franchise, Viral struggles to match the pace of its predecessors. Entries hardly engage, with one even giving up the the whole premise of being found footage. That’s never a good sign is it? Equally frustrating is the film’s desire to eat itself with a nonsensical segment wraparound that sees a man chasing after a haunted ice cream van. Pointless to the extreme, let’s hope things improve if there’s a fourth entry.

Drive Angry

Nicholas Cage stars in this 2011 supernatural road movie about a convict busting out Hell to rescue his granddaughter. Cage is that convict and along the way he’ll drink hard, enlist the help of Amber Heard, and kill seven men whilst having sex with a stripper. Yes, this overblown movie is transmitted directly from the brain of a teenage child, but by Christ, it’s a lot of fun.

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Trifecta of Horror: Leprechaun: Origins (2014), Housebound (2014), Deliver Us From Evil (2014)

Leprechaun: Origins

It’s out with Warwick Davis and in with WWE wrestler, Dylan ‘Hornswoggle’ Postl, in this reboot/reimagining/retooling/retiling of the 90s slasher that spawned sequels no one really cares about. A group of crazy kids go on holiday to a part of Ireland that looks absolutely nothing Ireland. There they’re taken in by two walking stereotypes, who offer them an abandoned cottage to stay at. But saint and begorrah, it be infested with a creature that be after your lucky charms. Turning up the seriousness to 11, Leprechaun Origins has no limericks, no green hats and no fun.

Housebound

Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O’Reilly) is in a whole heap of trouble. Having been placed under house detention at her mother’s house, Kylie has to put with her mother’s constant questions, overaffection and, worse still, her conviction that her house is haunted. Initially dismissive, it’s only when Kylie begins to experience things that go bump in the night herself, that she starts to take the issue seriously and delves into the house’s terrible past. Despite the film running longer than the storyline can justify, Housebound is a fairly successful black comedy with some real chilling moments. Fans of early Peter Jackson are in for a treat.

Deliver Us From Evil

We’re in New York and police officer Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) is investigating a series of crimes, when he inexplicably joins forces with a… sigh… priest. Cue lots of possessions, jump scares and Joel McHale wearing his hat backwards. This is a travesty in terms of horror, failing to add anything original to the genre. Should you see this in your partner’s Netflix queue, break up with them immediately. Seriously. There is no punchline. Clearly they are thinking about watching this with, which shows a distinct lack of love for you. I’m sorry, but it’s time to go meet someone else. You will get through this, I promise.

Taken 3 (2015)

Liam Neeson is back as Bryan Mills in Taken 3 – infuriatingly written as Tak3n in some quarters – the second sequel to the surprise hit of 2008. The last entry, Taken 2, followed the idiom of it’s not broke, don’t fix it and essentially became a retread of the first albeit with more daughter, more Famke Janssen and added orienteering with grenades.

This time around Taken 3 turns out to actually be a large misnomer, with no one being taken, swiped, pilfered, shanghaied, kidnapped, shoplifted, disappeared or hijacked. Instead, our Irish hero finds himself on the run from the police when he is set up for the murder of his ex-wife (Famke Janssen in what is fair to say a small cameo). With his ex’s husband from the last two films – now being played by a sleazy Dougray Scott – pointing the finger of blame squarely at him, Bryan must find out who set him up and why. Hot on his heels is Inspector Dozler, played by Forest Whittaker, potentially the slowest detective to hit our screens since Inspector Clouseau.

Whilst the first two films had enough going for them to at least be recommendable to others, Taken 3 is by far one of the laziest sequels we’ve seen since The Hangover Part 3. Breaking from the formula to use a script that was very likely doing the rounds under another name, it suffers greatly from the plot, to the set pieces, to the huge gaping plot holes, to the overall performances of everyone involved. Throw in some retconning of the highest order and a distinct lack of actual action until gone the hour mark, and you are looking at poor night at the cinema, irony be damned.

The audience deserves better, but evidently no one making Taken 3 feels the same way. Here’s hoping T4ken is a long way away.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

After Kick Ass, Matthew Vaughn returns to the material of l’enfant terrible, Mark Millar with Kingsman: The Secret Service, loosely based on Millar’s comic book The Secret Service.

Taron Egerton plays Eggsy, a London kid from the wrong of the tracks who is taken under the wing of Colin Firth’s Harry Hart, a gentlemen spy for a secret service known as Kingsman who set up shop, literally, on Saville Row. Whilst Eggsy tackles his spy training head on, internet tycoon Richmond Valentine (a lisping Samuel L Jackson) is traversing the globe looking for the rich and powerful to join his solution for global warming. Spoilers: he’s up to no good. Can Eggsy and Hart stop him before it’s too late?

Based on a script co-written with his usual collaborator Jane Goodman, Vaughn’s Kingsman is an explosive and blackly humorous response to the po-faced spy thrillers such as the Bourne Trilogy (there is no fourth) and Daniel Craig’s Bond. It’s also spectacularly violent, with a key scene set in a Westboro Baptist type church being the most gloriously vulgar and memorable. Anyone raising an eyebrow at Colin Firth being in an action film will be pleasantly surprised as he fights his way through a scene that feels like both The Raid movies compressed down to five minutes.

Whilst the film never lets up, there are some missteps. Kingsman was clearly filmed in the UK, and its apparent in many a scene that steps foot outside the British Isles. Admittedly not the crime of the century, but it does take you out of the film. There’s also a crude joke towards tot eh end that attempts to heighten and satirize the typical conjugal rights ending to a Bond movie, but instead rewrites Eggsy character unnecessarily.

However, these are minor quibbles in a film that for the most part is a blistering, balls to the wall comic book adaptation.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part one) (2014)

As well as clocking in as one of the longest film titles this year, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part 1) also, unfortunately, happens to be one of the more underwhelming films too.

Once again, Jennifer Lawrence dons wig and quiver as Katniss, victor of the 74th Hunger Games and now working begrudgingly for District 13 led by the steely-eyed, President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore). Under the tutelage of ex-Gamekeeper Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour-Hoffman), Katniss is prodded and poked into becoming the face of the District’s rebellion. Like a member of the royal family, she is carted around from place to place with a camera crew/marine guard filming her every moment. Meanwhile, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) appears to be now working for the Capital who are ramping up their propaganda to sedate to the great unwashed.

You know how in the run up to an election, you become awash with leaflet campaigns and door knocking from every party. You start becoming deaf to their accusations that the other party is the worst. Mockingjay (Part 1) is similar in that despite its big name stars and large budget, we’re basically following some people on a campaign trail.

Those who have read the source material will know the action doesn’t really ramp up until the second half, which makes it all the more obvious that this is simply a cash-in. There is nothing here that wouldn’t be missed if someone was to take a scalpel to the film and cut it down to 45 minutes tops. This is not a slur on anyone involved in the film itself. Everyone is fantastic and on the ball through out, with the exception of Liam Hemsworth who hasn’t convinced in any of these films. It’s just it’s hard to defend Mockingjay (Part 1) against accusations of lining the pockets of those above. No movie needs this much setup. Like The Deathly Hallows Part 1, people are being duped into thinking this is a complete film. It’s not. It’s flashy exposition. It’s the prawn cocktail before we get to the roast dinner.

When the second part is released next year, there’ll be a better idea of how well this film fits in with the narrative. However, for now, this is an incomplete movie. After the success and, quite frankly, joy of Catching Fire, it’s a shame the suits had to be involved so much.

Trifecta of Horror: Killer Barbys, Simon Says and I, Frankenstein

Killer Barbys (1996)

Jess Franco (Oasis of Zombies) directed this musical/giallo/horror comedy back in 1996 and this is your first time being exposed to his work, then we’re sorry. Starring real life band, The Killer Barbies as The Killer Barbies, a fictional band who get caught up all Scooby Doo like in a mystery involving something, something, zombie, something, gore, something, and something. Oh, it’s very hard to raise even a stink up about this film. It’s a total mess, whose deliberate shabby charms fail to keep your attention past the half hour mark. Franco has a large fan base, but it’ll be hard to find anyone who would willfully cheer this one on from the sidelines.

Simon Says (2006)

Crispin Glover plays twin brothers in this surprisingly entertaining horror from William Dear (Harry and the Hendersons). Finding an idyllic place to camp, a group of horny teens, plus the obligatory final girl, find themselves being hunted down after visiting the shop of Simon and Riff, both played by the aforementioned Glover. It’s a story we’ve seen a thousand times before, but Glover’s insistence on jumping with both feet when performing means it’s hard not to get swept up in it all. Invite some friends over this Halloween and have some fun.

I, Frankenstein (2013)

Aaron Eckhart plays Adam, the immortal creation of Dr Frankenstein, who finds himself caught in the no man’s land of a battle between Heaven and Hell. Bill Nighy pops up as Adam’s antagonist to phone in a performance that gives the film and screenplay all the respect it deserves. It’s not eh outlandish concept that’s a problem. Frankenstein’s Monster as a martial arts expert and demon killer sounds like rollicking idea on paper. However, it’s played so dry, you wonder what film Eckhart et al convinced themselves they were really in. Drowning in CGI, I Frankenstein is like watching your mate play XBOX over his shoulder.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

When it was announced that Michael Bay was involved in the latest big screen adaptation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the wailing and gnashing of teeth of a fanbase comprised of thirty year olds, who should know better, could be heard from space. But was they’re primordial rage before they picked the kids up from school justified?

Well, not really.

Let’s us be honest, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is far from perfect, but it is an extremely entertaining – whisper it – kids film. Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo don’t have the gritty realism some would expect or even demand from a reboot. After all, we’re in the age of grit aren’t we? A time where even Superman is not allowed to smile. However, whilst the heroes in a half-shell certainly kick arse, they are also a bit silly; getting into childish fights with each other and being scalded by Splinter. Even when the film threatens to veer off into dark territory, it pulls a joke from its sleeve that leaves a large grin on your face and reminds you of the days when blockbusters weren’t always just about appealing to the fanboys. It’s everything you remember from Saturday mornings.

To expect a film like this to be anything more is to fall into the trap of believing that the things we loved as children should grow up with us. And whilst a number of references are made during the course of the narrative that acknowledge the original cartoon, this is not a film that’s worried about the grown-ups in the room. It’s talking to the kids and successful at doing so. Yes, the plot is simplistic and at times the dialogue merely serves to signpost who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We were more concerned about Will Arnett leering over Megan Fox, which thankfully didn’t happen too often. But really shouldn’t be seen outside of Bay’s Transformers series.

Jonathan Liebesman has directed a great piece of bubblegum cinema that is a hell of a lot of fun. It crucifixion in the press seems misjudged and hopefully, when the boy’s make it onto DVD and bluray, it’ll get the proper recognition it deserves.

Go ninja, go ninja, go.