Boyhood

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Boyhood is fast becoming one of the most celebrated films of 2014. Written and directed by the masterful Richard Linklater, and filmed over the course of 12 years, on viewing it is easy to see why. What Linklater has achieved with Boyhood is storytelling at its most honest and pure.

Throughout the film we follow the character of Mason, played by the wonderfully understated Ellar Coltrane, as he transitions from child to adult, literally and figuratively. Linklater’s choice to keep his narrative simple, which some may argue is occasionally slow, instead of punctuating Mason’s life with overtly forced dramatics, results in an end product that is beautifully normal. The passage of time and the milestones that are marked are universally recognisable, and when packaged and punctuated by such a sharp film-makers eye the pathos is resounding. To see the entire cast age naturally without the contrived hand of make-up and prosthetics adds a unique dimension to the already wonderful performances from the cast.

Boyhood is ultimately an intimate epic about the intricacies of growing up and Linklater should be applauded for the scope, vision and execution of this remarkable piece of film-making.

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The Purge

PUIRGE

The Purge has an interesting, if a bit really ridiculous, premise. Set in 2022, on one night a year, America’s New Founding Fathers have granted its citizens 12 hours to ‘purge their sins’. They can enact their most depraved and twisted desires, such as murder (politicians and certain weapons are out of bounds), without feeling the weight of the law on their shoulders; it’s good for the national psyche don’t you know? Police, ambulance and fire services lock their doors, as do the residents of the upper echelons of the American elite; they shut out the horrific events occurring outside, yet watch with glee from their 50″ TVs. The poor become the most vulnerable, as gangs of affluent ‘hunters’ grab their semi-automatics and wage bloody carnage on the most defenceless members of society. It’s 12 hours of dystopia I tell you!

As good as this all sounds for the expectant horror fans among us, The Purge absolutely fails to deliver any tension, resolution or continuity within the story, or a set of sympathetic, intelligent characters. Ethan Hawke, his wife, their slutty daughter and geeky son live in an intentional parody of Middle Class America; their house might as well be on the set of Desperate Housewives or Cougar Town. And in spite of some really great character development at the beginning, when the alarm sounds for Purge hour, this film loses all hope and actually lost the entire audience in my screening.

The Purge has an allegory that suggests the 1% mentality, the closed-gate, rich communities and the gulf between the have-all and the have-none are inexplicably linked with America’s violent future, while mirroring the present. Nevertheless, this is completely rammed in your face, replete with overt, problematic race and class politics (why does the one homeless guy have to be black?) and any allegory eventually becomes secondary to the unadventurous gore and mindless acts of brutality. There is one stand-out scene which was grimace-inducing, but that was the only time the movie garnered any reaction from anyone in my screening.

Movies like The Strangers, Straw Dogs and Funny Games, although they all have their problems, at least make you feel violated as their plots get more intense and depraved, even if the endings are…abrupt. The Purge gets scared of its own premise and becomes an average action film and loses its way; I didn’t feel emotionally invested in the weak horror elements or thrilled by the action. There are huge inconsistencies in plot, character motivations (can everyone just stick together please?) and the direction and message just became a sloppy mess. When the ‘crazy’ group of 1% youth turn up at the family’s house – “We don’t want to hurt our own” they proclaim – they clearly aren’t normal human beings; the main guy, Rhys Wakefield, is a cross between Hannibal Lecter and Frankie Howard. It’s a terrible, clichéd characterisation and one that doesn’t make sense with the entire premise of the movie; the idea is that on one night of the year, the normal citizens of the States can go on killing sprees. It would have been way more effective if these normal people didn’t then turn into faux-possessed weirdos that looked straight out of The Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.

As the film hits fifth gear, it becomes even more frustrating. There are two half-arsed twists that are painfully obvious and the ending is just non-existent. Maybe the movie falls victim to its premise, because, in the direction it went, it became impossible to have a decent resolution to the plot, however that is not an excuse. It says a lot about a movie when cinema-goers all huff, puff and tell your movie to fuck off as they leave. I didn’t hear a good word about it from anyone and the screening was packed.

I revel in a decent exploitation action flick – Law Abiding Citizen. And I find a horror movie that delivers twisted, brutal imagery that makes you feel violated quite exhilarating – Martyrs. What I don’t love is a smorgasbord of plot holes; confused, boring second acts; stupid, unsympathetic characters; predictable linearity; and films that don’t have an ending – The Purge.

Sinister

Meh.

I’ve been looking for a horror film that actually scares me for some time now. I’ve frequented horror message boards to ask hardcore fans about whether they have seen any scary films recently and Sinister kept being suggested. One guy said to me;

‘ I don’t know if it was my environment, the plot, the tension, the music (oh god, the music in that movie, the f***ing music) or what, but I was genuinely scared.’

This seemed enough of a recommendation to rent the film on my AppleTV and settle in for a Sunday morning horror treat. And settle I did, all too easily, into a film that resorted to tame jump scares, revealing the ‘horror’ too early, and shooting everything at night with white backlights and Hammer Horror fog. I’m not sure if it was the beers the night before or the fact it was Sunday morning, but I found myself tired and bored.

Sinister

Ethan Hawke, a true crime novelist, his wife, two children and Christmas cardigan move to a new house. Unbeknownst to his family, the house happens to be the location of a quadruple murder and kidnapping and they have relocated to enable Hawke easy investigation into the murders and a quick finish of his newest crime book. Selfishly, he doesn’t reveal the house’s history to his family and it takes some night terrors from his son and a visit from a ghost to his daughter for his wife to find out anything. By this point we have seen creepy super 8 home videos showing previous murders of varying brutality, complete with a clichéd score – I was expecting plinky-plonk creepy nursery rhymes but sadly I was disappointed – and jump scares of the most obvious order. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few points before the reveal that had me feeling a little bit uncomfortable but nothing more than that.

I’ve heard people say that the supernatural doesn’t scare them anymore and that the only truly terrifying movies are home invasions because they hold some semblance of reality. While I agree with this to some extent, I still think it is still possible for the supernatural to be scary if it is done well. Miike’s One Missed Call has a final act that ramps up to 11 and has some properly scary set pieces. When Yumi and her friend are in the abandoned hospital there are at least two moments in which my bottom tried to eat my boxers; the woman on the ceiling…eeek. Sadly the same cannot be said for Sinister. It lacked any real bite to the horror, was replete with terrible exposition over iChat (Apple features heavily as telecommunication and personal computer supplier in this movie) and I didn’t hit the heights I was warned about or what I personally expected. So is Sinister scary? No. Unfortunately, this Sunday morning my boxers remained uneaten.