Archive for November, 2016

Forsaken Movie Poster*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In 1872 Wyoming, a former gunslinger and his estranged father encounter a ruthless businessman and his posse of thugs.
Director Jon Cassar’s Forsaken is very much a paint by numbers Western, however, the draw (no pun indented) is having father and son Donald and Kiefer Sutherland share the screen. In addition, the supporting cast elevate Brad Mirman’s screenplay with the likes of Demi Moore, Brian Cox and Michael Wincott. Wincott’s Dave Turner, a dangerous principled gun for hire is particularly notable aiming for the heights of Tombstone’s (1993) Kilmer Doc Holiday and underrated Aaron Poole shines as thug Frank Tillman, both actors leave an impression.
Along with Jonathan Goldsmith’s score Cassar’s low-key Western captures the essence of the classics including Shane (1953). And while it’s not a novel as the recent Bone Tomahawk (2015) or as broodingly fun as In a Valley of Violence (2016) it ticks all the American West boxes. Kiefer Sutherland’s John Henry Clayton like Ethan Hawke in the aforementioned film is haunted by the war, Here writer Mirman doesn’t really offer anything new, however, thanks to Kiefer’s simmering cowboy performance he sells the heartache and torment of a repressed killer. The love triangle between Moore’s Mary, her husband and John adds some drama in amongst Cassar’s well staged fights and shoots out as people are force to sell of their land.
Donald Sutherland’s Reverend William Clayton only gets one scene with Cox (who sadly isn’t given much to do) an unscrupulous business man James McCurdy. But the Sutherland’s father and son relationship tensions offer some weighty telling scenes with tragic accidents, war, mother and brother back-story dynamics which hold interest. The preceding peak in the showdown closing act and Winacott and Kiefer cement their gun slinging positions in a satisfying close.
Overall, it doesn’t shake the genre up but is worth watching if only for the Sutherlands, Winacott and Poole’s performance.
Bone Tomahawk Movie Poster*** This review contains spoilers ***
A posse embark on a rescue mission into the wilderness of the Wild West but bandits are the least of their problems when faced with the cannibalistic captors.
Director/Writer S. Craig Zahler crafts an enjoyable mature low key Western romp with graphics scenes (including dismemberment, disembowelment stabbings and gunfights) lettered throughout especially in the closing.
The cast on fine form as a sheriff (Kurt Russell), his deputy (Richard Jenkins), a gun slinger (Matthew Fox) go about rescuing a cowboy’s (Patrick Wilson) wife from – in a twist of sorts Neanderthal troglodytes. Russell is perfectly cast, with his look, straight talking gruff tones fitting a role he can do in his sleep, here though there’s something heroically poignant drenched in his character. Similarly, Brooder, Fox well dressed in white cowboy has a back-story which pulls no punches and is intriguing. Its character driven with some candid dialogue that cements your care for the characters, Jenkins particularly shines as the aged widowed deputy, Russell and especially Fox are memorable.
Zahler offers a novel twist on John Ford’s The Searchers. There’s a sense of scale and a lived in feel in his vision. The genuine attention to period detail reinforces the narrative. It’s dusty, picturesque (with cinematography from Benji Bakshi) but it also offers a over shadowing sense of impending doom and violence as the unlikely group of men go on a journey of survival and danger. The special effects are finely executed, wince inducing and leave an impact. Like producer/director Jack Heller 2011’s of Dark Was the Night the whole thing is low key and even with the characters having dynamite at the ready Zahler doubling duties as writer satisfyingly avoids the Hollywood explosive clichés.
Bone Tomahawk’s slow-burning story complements the gripping performances and as a smart horror Western its highly recommended.

Ouija 2 Movie Poster*** This review contains spoilers ***

A widowed fortune teller who decides to incorporate a Ouija board into her fake routine soon meets real evil when the board starts calling to her daughter, uncovering a horrific secret.

Director Mike Flanagan’s 1967 setting gives it a different feel to many of its contemporary rivals. In its eerie effective first 40 minutes Ouija’s cast shine, it’s only in the special effects driven latter half the character build up which Flanagan and co skilfully created is unnecessarily thrown out. Elizabeth Reaser’s Alice Zander who believes they’ve contacted her dead husband is sadly side lined in favour of digital spectacle. Child star actor now an adult Henry Thomas is particularly notable, his priest Hogan character with a past is played out well. Young actress Annalise Basso as Lina and even younger Lulu Wilson as Doris are memorable, the two sisters feel real enough.

With some help from The Newton Brothers’ score the Ouija board scenes and planchette usage gives some chills as they talk to an entity who they think is their father. It becomes noticeably derivative in the last act, borrowing The Matrix’s Neo’s closed mouth effect, The Exorcist with possessions and the Exorcist III where Doris skitters across ceilings to name a few, there’s enough jump scares and creepy faces to retain interest with its World War Two connection twist. The stretched face look is over used and to Wilson’s credit her performance can be spooky enough without it. The dark shadows darting in the corn of the eye are particularly well executed and more effective than the big stunt set ups.

As a prequel to the 2014 film Ouija it arguably surpasses its predecessor, but in a sea of horrors it’s another addition that simply can’t compete with the classics or more recently The Conjuring films and Exorcist TV series, but Flanagan and writer Jeff Howard thanks to the good small cast ensemble have a solid stab at it.