Ash vs Evil Dead Movie PosterAfter picking up a woman at a bar and banging her from behind Ash gets a warning reminding him of an evil he encountered 30 years ago. With the book of dead in his possession he realises he may have to face up to a little mistake and save his town.

In terms of cult horror nostalgia Ash versus the Evil Dead captures the tone of the films perfectly thanks to Sam Raimi’s foundation setting direction of the debut episode El Jefe.

Raimi offers floating P.O.V forest shots, blood, gore, twisted heads and demonic voices within the first 12 minutes. Later there’s Vaule Stop stockroom action with a maniac toy doll and flashback exposition using the first two films. Raimi throws in more floating P.O.V shots this time in a car park, there’s creepy demon faces in a diner, a Lucio Fulci eye tribute and Lucy Lawless for good measure. To top the episode off a cop investigates the odd occurrences and Ash teams up with two co- workers to take on a demon in an action packed caravan showdown.

Bruce Campbell is outstanding and intriguingly expands the character of aged Ash Williams. Written by Raimi, Ivan Raimi and Tom Spezialy the first episode’s production values are high, many of the effects are first rate, the horror delivers scares and the comedy is on sleazy point.

As one of newest batch of film properties becoming TV shows this encapsulates the essence of the Evil Dead, basically it’s a chainsaw-handed, reluctant demon hunter fan’s dream.

In the first episode of the second season Ash returns to his home town Elk Grove to stop the Necronomicon getting into the hands of a demigod’s children.

The season two’s Home picks up shortly after where season one ended. Our trio’s superficial dream life (for Ash that is) in Jacksonville is cut short when demons turn up at a spring break party. Ash, Kelly and Pablo make their way to a crematorium in Ash’s creepy town to help Ruby out, but not before Ash runs into some old school ‘friends’.

Director Rick Jacobson with writer Craig DiGregorio offers more blood, shotgun, chainsaw action and more great gags along with one liners. Lee Majors shows up as Ash’s estranged father which expands Bruce Campbell’s Ash back story. The effects are great, the monsters (Lucy Lawless’s Ruby’s demon kids) are scary. Armed with the Kandarian dagger there’s a great action scene where Ash reluctantly helps Ruby and we welcome Kelly doubles played excellent by Dana DeLorenzo and Ash gets more hero worshipping from Ray Santiago’s delirious amusing Pablo.

Jacobson delivers on the scares and the comedy is on groovey sleazy point.

*** The Last Call contains spoilers ***

Ash holds a party to draw in the car-jackers and get his Necronomicon book back.

Where as another horror themed TV show based on a film, has lost is wind (and Titty Twisting production values), Sam Raimi and producer Robert Tapert’s Ash Verses Evil Dead goes from strength to strength with the ‘Last Call’ episode being no exception.

Ash’s ‘Ashy Slasher’ reputation from the murderous events from The Evil Dead film is explored further. Actor Bruce Campbell’s Ash’s father son relationship is tested with a bucking-bronco ride and is humorously left semi-resolved when Brock Williams, wonderfully played by Lee Majors bites the dust. Ted Raimi cameos along with the excellent regular cast. Lucy Lawless’ demon Ruby, Ray Santiago’s Pablo and the lovely anti-Hollywood cast Dana DeLorenzo’s Kelly get some quieter moments. What director Tony Tilse does with some great writing from Noelle Valdivia is mix the action, comedy and horror perfectly.

Ash’s infamous 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 car goes on a Stephen King Christine-like rampage with some wincing bloody tyre action. There’s some great lines and Deadite bathroom fight action with heads getting lobbed off and penis’ and Ketamine laced drinks getting consumed. What more could you want? Great horror fun, highly recommended.

Eyes Wide Shut Movie Poster*** This review contains spoilers ***

A man is drawn into an underground sexual group which puts his family in danger.

Based on Arthur Schnitzler’s 1926 novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story) as a mystery thriller Stanley Kubrick’s Eye Wide Shut at first glance doesn’t deliver, with only a few taught scenes littered throughout as an elite secret society is discovered by the film’s main doctor character played by Tom Cruise. However, as a visual and atmospheric piece of cinema it excels.

Interestingly, it’s not the famous masonic segment or Bill (Cruise) and Alison (Nicole Kidman) relationship woes nor the basic thriller premise that ignite interest it’s the plot’s undercurrent, what is not said but implied and insinuated through looks, background items and actions that makes Eye Wide Shut so interesting. It can been seen to have many layers and can be inter-played and interpreted in different ways similar to, but more subtle than the likes of Revolver (2005) or Mulholland Drive. Just touching the surface, did Bill and Alison handover their daughter to the secret society at the end? Was Alison already a member? Was Bill’s friend killed? Are the characters all lying to Bill? Kubrick presents endless questions, which answers only throws out more questions.

The camera work, lighting, sets, music and costumes are great. Supporting actors Sydney Pollack, Vinessa Shaw, Leelee Sobieski and Rade Serbedzija really shine. Oddly Kidman feels subdued throughout and Cruise (possibly cast too young) while reaching some emotional heights never seems moved by the bizarre nightmare he finds himself in, again this could be interpreted in different ways depending on your thoughts if you believe that there is more going on beneath the exposition or if it’s taken at face value. Eyes Wide Shut arguably only really works if you deem more is going on than there actually is.

Overall, excellent atmosphere with a story that allows the viewer to draw their own conclusions. If you expect a conventional thriller you may be left disappointed but if you enjoy daydreams about chance and missed opportunities this may float your boat.

Body Snatchers Movie PosterOn an army base in Alabama aliens being a plan to replace the human race and a family is subjected to the horror of the takeover.

Loosely inspired by Jack Finney’s novel Abel Ferrara’s version creates a maternal nervousness mostly from overlooked child actor Reilly Murphy who plays Gabrielle Anwar’s Marti Malone half brother Andy. What Andy sees and goes though is quite horrific, conditioned at preschool, chased by soldiers and loved ones, seeing dead bodies fade to dust. Things children shouldn’t see or be subjected too. This Ferrara’s strongest aspect along with some, interesting bloody effects with the pod’s creeping tentacles snaking up into noses, ears and open mouths.

Ferrara’s 1993 version of Body Snatchers never quiet reaches the paranoia of 1956 version or character development of the ’78 remake but it has a good stab at it. Ferrara is limited in terms of creating atmosphere due to the confined setting of a military base but makes the most of shadowy hangers, warehouses and swamp which grows the effective looking pods. Due to the South set base he’s unable to muster Philip Kaufman’s grittiness or raw emotion of his own King of New York (1990) or Bad Lieutenant (1992).

The cast are notably Tilly offers a great looming performance and gets the best lines, memorably – “Where you gonna go, where you gonna run, where you gonna hide? Nowhere… ’cause there’s no one like you left.”. Anwar (23 at the time debatably by default) delivers a fitting subdued, introverted teen. Notable is underrated Christine Elise as Billy Idol-like wild child Jenn Platt and Lost Boy’s Billy Wirth as Anwar’s love interest pilot Tim Young. In addition, there’s R. Lee Ermey and Forest Whitaker in military roles both of which, like the rest of the cast, are sorely underused.

Anwar awkwardly bookends with some dated voice-over narration which adds to the unevenness of Body Snatchers, aside from Tilly, the characters are sketchy and underdeveloped. Some effort is made to give Wirth’s Young a troubled history but its a single throwaway line. Only Miami Vice’s Terry Kinney as Steve Malone gets some meaningful dialogue.

Like Kaufman’s predecessor it features some shrewdly fit in nudity and comes courteous of Meg Tilly and Gabrielle Anwar. But the final act feels rushed and hastily edited with an array of explosions and Ferrara’s 90’s vision feels incomplete.

Overall, choppy studio production issues aside, its an interesting underrated physiological horror.

img_2248*** This review may contain Zombie spoilers ***

Five carnival workers are kidnapped and held hostage in a large compound and are forced to play a twisted game of life or death called 31.

Director Rob Zombie offers a 70’s style horror which harks back to the gritty Last House on the Left days of brutal film and channels video nastiest, beards and flares. 31 is bloody, graphic and offensive with vibes of Hostel, Texas Chiansaw, The Running Man and Battle Royal to name a few.

While it may not be Zombie’s most original film this 1970s set dark, violent, murder play is not for the faint hearted. Any who likes Zombie’s work will know what to expect tonally and will enjoy this nightmarish addition, however, 31 has debatably the most straightforward narrative of his work to date.

The addition of the theatrical, renaissance game leaders who run and bet on the games from the safety of a theatre adds some visual flare. As the ‘contestant’ fight for survival in a warehouse factory like setting for 12 hours Sheri Moon Zombie’s Charly character gets the most development. Notable are veteran Meg Foster, excellent Jeff Daniel Phillips and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs. Malcom Macdowell is perfectly cast as as Father Napoleon- Horatio-Silas Murder an eccentric aristocrat. Richard Brake as cigar smoking, switchblade, greatest of hunter killers Doom-Head is memorable.

There’s wince inducing horrid murder setups, killer chainsaw clowns, Nazi midgets, a giant man and his sidekick psycho girlfriend. The period soundtrack and John 5 Carpenter-like score accompanying the on screen shenanigans is perfect.

Zombie’s flare with freeze frames, swipes, 8mm footage and a horror carnival atmosphere from David Daniel’s cinematography is commendable. Halloween 1 & 2 aside even with its graphic offensive nature it feels like Zombie’s most warped, yet, mainstream film.

With its ending setting itself up for a sequel it’s recommend for those who enjoy the horror torture sub genre.

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter Movie Poster

*** This review contains spoilers ***

Jason Voorhees continues his killing spree on a family and a group of neighbouring teenagers near Crystal Lake.

Picking up just where part three left off, with a story from Bruce Hidemi Sakow, as a fourth part in the series The Final Chapter holds up well, director Joseph Zito and writer Barney Cohen offer in retrospect all the expected Crystal Lake horror tropes, teenage sex, skinny dipping, boobs and blood that are synonymous with the series. Thanks to some good acting from Kimberly Beck and a young Corey Feldman, as special effects fan Tommy, it stands out as one of the more gory, rounded and entertaining instalments. (The 2009 remake of the original borrows many elements from this 1984 outing)

The cast are pretty good, Lawrence Monoson plays pot smoking one- track mind Ted and Crispin Glover is geeky virginal Jimmy who both ham it up providing some humour. Glover’s wacky dancing will be forever etched in your mind, together with a corkscrew through his hand his and meat cleaver in his face. There’s also catalogue model looking Peter Barton, who is solid enough and meets a skull crushing grizzly demise. Erich Anderson is camper Rob Dier, brother of Friday the 13th Part 2’s victim Sandra and is purely functional.

Notable are Joan Freeman as divorced mother Mrs. Jarvis and convincing Barbara Howard as towel clad straight laced Sarah. Twins Camilla More as Tina and Carey More as Terri are effective and along with well cast Judie Aronson’s Samantha who provide the (debatably dated) obligatory T & A, offer some good characterisation amongst Zito’s sleaze.

Post Gremlins and pre Stand by Me Feldman’s horror-obsessed Tommy is uncomfortably surrounded by horny teenagers throughout. While a good addition, the pre-teen actor in the mist of all this on screen murder and flocks is actually quite disturbing in itself.

The Final Chapter with credit attempts to refine the first three but in true slasher tradition many of the character motivations are thin. In addition, it does have some hooky moments, the ending with a skullcap Feldman imitating a child Jason is outlandish and the freeze frame ending echoes 70s horror or a Columbo episode, but these are easily offset by make-up artist Tom Savini’s great practical effects and weapon orientated bloody kills using a harpoon, scalpel, meat cleaver, kitchen knife and double-bit axe to name a few. Ted White’s Jason Voorhees is impressive and we get to see the slaying menace unmasked and meet a shocking blade slicing end courtesy of Savini.

Hockey masked White and Zito cook up enough action set ups and jump scares to keep things interesting as the teenagers are picked off one by one. The on location rural lake and forest backdrop along with Harry Manfredini’s Ki ki ki… Ma ma ma music queues and João Fernandes’ cinematography conjuring up atmosphere.

Overall, outrageous shaven head moments aside, it entertains with plenty of kills which fall surprisingly into a satisfying logical order. Recommend late night fun.

Suicide Squad Movie Poster*** This review may contain DC spoilers ***

U.S. intelligence officer decides to assemble a team of dangerous, incarcerated super villains who are held to ransom for a top-secret mission.

David Ayer’s dark comic book film Suicide Squad offers plenty of solid acting, but the film feel like a series of abridged clips in a paper thin story, which is a shame given Will Smith’s fine performance as Dead Shot and Joel Kinnaman’s first-rate Rick Flag. Actually the cast save this suicide run including the likes of Viola Davis, Jay Hernandez who has an horrific back story as Diablo and gets a memorable show down with an Incubus. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is notable with plenty of presence as Killer Croc. Ben Affleck’s Batman’s cameo and The Jokers failed attempts to reunite with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is at times more interesting than David Ayer’s popcorn servicing plot.

Ayer’s bid to frame all the squad Magnificent Seven/Reservoir Dogs style arguably feels staged and overtly over done. Steven Price’s music helps the action and poses with some techno Rambo-like motifs. The all-villain fighting team spend too much time fighting faceless hordes of monster entities. That’s not to say that Ayer doesn’t deliver of the directing duties or aesthetics, the look of Suicide Squad oozes an edgy ominous atmosphere and a quantity of dialogue and cutting humour hit the mark. Its just all undermined by paint by numbers plotting and a collection of convenient coincidences as team log heads with intelligence operative Amanda Waller and/or is attacked by the Enchantress, her brother and their minions.

With the team forced to carry out the governments wishes or have their heads blown off to Ayer credit there’s poignant moments with a sense of camaraderie and heart much of which come from Smith, Kinnaman and Robbie. Jai Courtney redeems himself as Boomerang after his stint as Kyle Reese. Sadly, at times confined to flashbacks Jared Leto’s admirable maniacal uncomfortable take on The Joker is left to just pop up now and again like a whirlwind Silver tooth evil Cesar Romero. Robbie’s Quinn and Leto’s Joker tortured Stockholm syndrome-like relationship is scarily realised. Their switch-blade romance reminiscent of Natural Born Killers and the like would have made an interesting dark original film in its own right.

Nigglingly Ayer on occasion debatably reduces Robbie to eye candy (by default) and Harley could have been played by anyone with the equal amount of nihilistic sassiness which under serves both the character and the actor, thankfully the flashbacks flesh her out but Robbie is spread quip thin in the main story. The editing and pacing doesn’t seem to help things either, Suicide Squad possibly could have benefited with the back-stories being extended and playing out chronologically, even over two films – as it rushes to get to a place and that somewhere never quite pays off which is a crying shame giving the effort put in. Cara Delevingne puts in a good dual role innings as June Moone/Enchantress but the otherworldly unstoppable CGI villain while well realised feels out of place, the CGI versus the gritty underdogs doesn’t seem to hold up in the closing. There’s also a tagged on ending with an unnecessary (Marvel style) scene that sets up the Justice League movie instead of a Suicide Squad sequel, which leaves the Squad characters hanging.

Warner Bros’ Suicide Squad is entertaining but frustrating, it’s worth watching for the actor’s efforts if you can over look its short comings. Will Smith and company require another fairer crack of the whip.

***This review contains spoliers***

Suffering from amnesia, confused and alone Melissa slowly discovers that the world isn’t what it supposed to be.

Award winning short film Mörkret Faller A.K.A Darkness Falls, not to be confused with Darkness Falls (2003) comes from Swedish director/writer Jarno Lee Vinsencius. I was lucky enough to view a screener of this well crafted little gem, Vinsencius offers a tight sci-fi thriller short with a filmactic feel.

Opening with an aerial shot in a chilly winter setting, we are introduced to an injured girl who awakes in dusted snow white forest. Hearing noises she fleas into the night to a café with no memory of who she is. Vinsencius’ offers a moody atmospheric piece which echoes the likes of Memento, Insomnia and the best of X-files, running just under a perfectly paced 15 minutes the dialogue driven Darkness Falls packs plenty in, mysterious letters and meetings, as Melissa tries to unravel who she is. The acting is first rate, the small cast have a respectable weighty presence, striking Joanna Häggblom is impeccable as Melissa and notable is Niclas Fransson as Felix.

Darkness Falls hots up when Melissa meets a man David (played by the talented actor Demis Tzivis) who knows what she is going through and they are chased by shady female agents. Vinsencius injects some interplanetary hi-jinks and effects used at just at the right moments. In addition, he throws in a twist loop ending with some impressive alien creature design from Ellinor Rosander and a sound scheme by Michael Tiedtke. With reminiscent Philip K. Dick story vibes and some DNA of my own novel The Final Version there’s paranoia mysterious leaders and tracking transmitter chips. Its dark, high concept stuff, with clones and duplicate planets but Jarno Lee Vinsencius reins it successfully on a personal level.

Intriguing, well scripted, grounded short – highly recommended.

After a car accident a woman is haunted by a terrifying ghoul.

A true horror classic, director Herk Harvey and writer John Clifford both waived their earnings in order to get the film made. Upon release in 1962 the film was a failure in the box office, thankfully its subsequent airings on late night television helped to gain it a strong cult following so Clifford and Herks work was not all in vain.

The delightful Candace Hilligoss is perfectly cast as the troubled woman that after surviving a traumatic car accident, that kills her two friends, becomes haunted by a frightening ghoul and drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival. It’s a shame that Hilligoss only acted in two features as she gives an impressive performance as Mary Henry who is refreshingly independent thinking and self-sufficient pushing boundaries of 1960’s America.

The music is very creepy and a little too intrusive in places, however, for it’s time and budget it is a well crafted film. Carnival of Souls many not be as sleek and stylish as the Haunting (1963) but it is far more eerie. The zombies are not as imposing as in Night of the Living Dead, however, they are vastly creepier and macabre.

Oozing atmosphere it’s a creative and unnerving film that concludes with a common place twist but back in ’62 it was ahead of it’s time, a true cult classic.

Star Trek Beyond Movie Poster*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The USS Enterprise crew are tricked to a nebula in the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a ruthless enemy who wants to tear the Federation apart.

Director Justin Lin offers a fast paced third instalment with plenty of explosions and phaser laser shoot-outs. The action comes at full velocity especially after the Enterprise (is unnecessarily destroyed again). With the established cast of well loved characters Lin effortlessly helms what feels like a big budget Star Trek episode as they crash land on a planet. The effects are for the most part excellent, even if larger-than-life for epic set-up sake, especially in the opening attack and closing with the fleets star ship USS Franklin, zooming about a giant space station Starbase named Yorktown.

With Kirk regulars (Chris Pine), Spock, Bones (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Sulu (John Cho), Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and Scotty (Simon Pegg) the cast look more at ease, seemingly settled in their established roles and bring the well loved characters to life suitably. Echoing Wrath of Khan (1982) thankfully protagonist Idris Elba as Krall has a strong screen presence and is one of the better Star Trek baddies, for a moment in the closing it appears he’s going to become sickly honourable but appreciatively the writers were wise to avoid the trope. The new addition Sofia Boutella as Jaylah is excellent on all accounts, her character fits universe perfectly. There are flashy moments where she uses a holographic device similar to Total Recall (1990), Escape from L.A (1996) and Superman II (1980) etc, still, her character is well developed and Boutella breathtakingly executes the fight scenes (there is an opportunity for her to join the cast of characters with untimely death of the excellent actor Yelchin). Under Lin’s direction Elba and Boutella simply shine throughout.

While it lacks any real Gene Roddenberry nebula exploration writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung offer a straight forward story, the usual fitting Star Trek speak and relationship touches, echoing past films and series of the original crew, notably Bones’ interaction with Spock and Kirk. If anything it on the nose honours the original outings a little too much while not investing time in investigating the planets vegetation or natural life forms in place of a survival piece. It retains the series’ sci-fi roots, but skimps on the science and discovery, replacing it with blockbuster exploits. The staging, sets and costumes are perfect; Star Trek Beyond has some great visuals and it is wonderfully produced. Michael Giacchino’s great Star Trek theme finds it way throughout out and his additional scored music is more upbeat and less sterile, fittingly taking chances like Lin’s Beyond in whole. It’s interesting that they use the Franklin an old Starfleet ship, with Pegg and Jung’s transparent twist being reminiscent of H. G. Wells’ Morlock or the Cave (2005) to name a few. Touchingly there’s not only a tribute to Spock Prime (Leonard Nimoy) but to the whole original time-line crew where Zachary Quinto’s Spock comes across his older alternative time-line self’s belongings. The joint mission statement brings it casually to a Star Trek 50th Anniversary fan servicing close, enticing a fourth adventure.

Overall, Beyond feels like an expensive and extended action packed episode, while not boldly going to places they haven’t been before, it’s an enjoyable comfortable stop.

The Shallows Movie Poster47 Meters Down Movie PosterI’m a sucker for shark films, okay maybe not shark-comedies, chainsaw flying shark-edies and Ghost Shark films.  So you know where I’m coming I enjoyed the MEG (novel soon to be a movie) imitators Megalodon (2002) and the more satisfying Shark Hunter (2001) despite their limited production values. Hyped Shark Night failed to beat the better mainstream Deep Blue Sea.

The versus films for example Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus, Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus, Mega Shark Versus Mecha Shark and so on, are all pretty much DVD chum along with Sand Sharks, , Jurassic Shark, Shark Zone, Red Water, Jersey Shore Shark Attack the list goes on and on. There’s also the countless Jaws rip off’s – The Last Shark, Tintorera, Mako: The Jaws of Death etc.

There’s the better ones, Bait and the serious Open Water and The Reef. This is just touching the surface, as you can see there are loads of shark films, many of them just not very good. Then just as you thought it was safe, two entertaining, seriously toned great white films come along, like buses at once. While they may not have the characters of the Moby Dick-like classic Jaws, as well as being well directed and filmatic they have the two ingredients which make them work, great looking great whites and entertaining premises. You have Jaume Collet-Serra’s The Shallows with Blake Lively and Johannes Robert’s In the Deep with Mandy Moore and Claire Holt both are entertaining in their own right here my low-down on the two.

The Shallows (2016)

The Shallows Movie Poster***This review may contain jaw chomping spoilers ***

After the loss of her mother, medical student Nancy Adams travels to a secluded beach. Hitting the waves Nancy finds herself being stalked by a great white shark.

With a broken surf board lying near by a young boy finds a Go-Pro helmet cam and we get to see a recording of how its owner met their demise. We’re then introduced to Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) bouncing around in a vehicle in the middle of nowhere, with the feeling we’re in a torture tourist film. However, thankfully this is a killer shark film. Interestingly, director Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, Unknown) quirkily shows her social media texts and photos as a wipes on screen. Played by Óscar Jaenada , Carlos the broken English local (who does not kill Nancy) drops the surf board touting tourist off safely at the beach. The perfect body, on the perfect beach, with the most perfect waves and scenery sets up a false sense of security.

It’s not long before Nancy encounters some surfers who warn her of a strong current and rocks. It not just abs, bikini and cleavage. Surfing film fans may find the first minutes particularly interesting, its wonderfully shot as they surf the waves off the beautiful beach. In addition Collet-Serra makes full use of the unorthodox novel way (breaking the third wall) of the videophone calls and watch face projection on screen. These shots set up the family dynamics, back-story and elapsing time to hold attention and keep momentum. The proceedings are enhanced by Marco Beltrami’s (World War Z, The Thing 2011) score. But this is all inconsequential as deep down you’re waiting for the shark to strike.

After a dolphin appears to break things up with a jump scare, Collet-Serra is wise to get to the great white quite quickly with an excellent shot of the sharks silhouette through a huge wave hot on Nancy’s heels like something from a Steve Alten novel. When the water turns red – the survival story beings. The Shallows doesn’t present great shakes in term of story, it’s a basic don’t get eaten tale reminiscent of Open Water (2003) and The Reef (2010), person verse nature. The Shallows offers big budget set ups and thrills with a whale carcass and buoy being bashed by the great white, the effects, bruises and bite makeup are finely done, there’s also plenty of blood, severed limbs and bites on display. There’s a solid performance from Blake Lively who is focal throughout. But the star of the show is the shark, when it breaks the water it’s exceptionally realised, it feels and looks for the most part scarily real. This is not a Syfy channel special effect, this great white is unnerving and frightening.

There are calm before the storm moments where Lively’s Nancy befriends a seagull, tends to her wounds, talks to herself, the night time shots are particularly eerie as she silently stalked. Inevitably each chance of rescue is thwarted by the tenacious killer. With a handful of shark attacks littered throughout there’s enough moments to maintain interest. Dehydrated, no food and losing blood writer Anthony Jaswinski’s offers part an endurance test story as well as a creature feature. As Nancy goes from salvation points, through the salt water, rock to rock, there’s plenty of tension as she times her swims in an attempt to out manoeuvre the shark. The slick editing and Jaswinski’s story brings the film full circle playing against expectations and with sleight of hand you’re into the unknown, with Nancy’s fate up for grabs in the closing act where she faces off with the extremely aggressive predator. With high-tides, jelly fish stings, storms closing in, flare guns, Collet-Serra keeps the thrills coming until the end.

Refreshingly it doesn’t rehash Jaws. Shark fans will no doubt get an uneasy and unsettled kick out of some of the elaborate stunt setups. With its small cast, excellent lead, beautiful location cinematography, if you’re into stranded shark films you can’t go wrong.

Overall, a fast paced, grounded shark attack film and a recommend bite of entertainment.

The Shallows Movie Poster

 On to, In The Deep (2016)

*** This review contains major spoilers ***

Two women become trapped in a cage 47 meters below the Mexican waters.

It’s been a long time since there have been modest budget serious well produced shark films, then in 2016 two come along at once. Thankfully, In the Deep’s set up is quite different to The Shallows, but it shares the same high production values and execution. Director Johannes Roberts offers a novel, tense, at times claustrophobic great white film that will leave you gasping for air.

Sisters, one in the mist of a breakup Kate (Claire Holt) and wilder worldly travelled Lisa (Mandy Moore) are restless in the safety of a hotel pool and room in Mexico. Coincidently, Roberts like in The Shallows adopts the film technique of texts, in this case Lisa’s ex, popping up on screen, breaking the fourth wall. With Kate being upset the sisters go on a night out and meet two locals, who they later hook up with for a meal and kiss. The next day after a motorboat ride they all go on a $100 each cage dive on a rickety boat, the Sea Esta.

Matthew Modine is the captain of the unofficial excursion and his extended cameo, which is mostly a soothing voice on a radio advising the inexperienced divers on what and what not to do. Modine offers some weight and star power to the film as a everyday sailor Taylor. Like the aforementioned film, it’s also different to Jaws, The Reef and the like and stands on its own.

Although, writers Ernest Riera and Roberts sacrifice developing Modine’s functional character in place of getting the sharks on screen quicker, they put enough into brunette Moore’s self-conscious Lisa and carefree blonde Holt’s characters for you to invest their fate. They have an arc from the nightclub holidaymakers to strong women striving to survive. The story is straightforward enough, but visually at times it excels.

When the sea-hand Javier (worthy of note Chris J. Johnson) starts chumming – a shark, approximately 20 foot shows up, bigger than those on the Discovery Channel or in the National Geographic. After the two locals try the first cage as the huge shark circles, the two nervous but excited sisters have their turn with their diving masks and tanks checked. Suffice to say, it all goes wrong when the rusty winch breaks and the the girls descend 47 meters. What follows is a survival test, trapped in the cage at first, then running out of air as they make attempts to move the winch, swim from the bottom ocean floor in the aggressive shark infested waters, to get more air in various ways etc. Only to be thwarted by the finely realised, terrify sharks.

With sharks attacking from nowhere there are some genuine jump scares which are heightened by the sound design and tomanddandy’s music. Mark Silk’s cinematography really shines, not just on the surface but below water. It’s not just the confines of the cage that add chills, it’s the vast ocean open space, the silence of being submerged and void beyond the sea cliff’s edge. Notable there’s a scene with their radio’s out of range, Lisa tries to communicate with the surface leaving herself venerable in the endless salt water. Going beyond the sea floor cliffs edge later underwater Kate swims, stopping on top of a protruding rock deep below the blue sea. The unseen giants overshadow each move the women make with the threat of an attack at any moment. Every time the sisters leave the cage you feel the edgy chill of the imposing sharks.

Anyone scared of the water will no doubt get glass-boat diving chills out of In the Deep. And those who love shark films will not be disappointed with the whites on display as they attack, from below and on the sea floor with only cave recesses and the eroding cage to protect the sisters.

Roberts keeps the pressure on as things get worse when a diver is killed and the second attempt to save them goes awry. There’s also a fearful doubt throughout that those topside have left them. We get plenty of blood-filled wince moments with the cage crushing Kate, spear gun cuts, shark bites and flares. As they fend off the predators when trying to get air tanks and get to the top it never slows in pace. In addition, Riera and Roberts add an interesting surprise Gravity, Descent-like twist in the tense final act.

Overall, a fine and welcomed addition to the killer Carcharodon carcharias genre.