Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Pact


Nicholas McCarthy directs his first feature film in newly released horror film, The Pact.

Following their mothers death, sisters Annie and Nicole reluctantly return to their former home full of painful and tormenting memories of their childhood there. Primarily the plot takes a definite path down the supernatural road, an eerie presence leading whoever enters the house through a door in the hall and to their fate. For thirty minutes we witness this presence haunting the sisters, most memorably in a short but shocking “Skype” scene. When Nicole disappears and Annie is left with the care of her daughter, she hunts down the history of the house and the victims that were once lured there. But as the supernatural presence reveals more clues and Annie finds a hidden room concealed by wallpaper, the element of the spiritual is forgotten as she unveils something a lot more ‘real,’ sinister and present among her: her family’s shameful secret.

The Pact is no doubt a combination of a series of familiar horror plots, borrowing from the modern haunted house tales such as Dream House (2011) as well as the covert serial killer film like Shadow (2011).  

Though the film struggles to claim any story originality, apart from perhaps the juggling of the two sub-genres, its style is captivating and largely sets it apart from horror movies of today. McCarthy abruptly and unexpectedly cuts scenes from the house, to another location, from day to night, effectively keeping up the pace of the narrative and showing a clear transition of passing time. The original score composed by Ronen Landa is a strings and key composition featuring violinist Anna Bulbrook (of indie rock band The Airborne Toxic Event) and pianist Dan Tepfer. The score plays softly and wistfully throughout, forming a dramatic and menacing atmosphere as the characters creep cautiously around the house. At a height of drama the music does not crescendo but remains one continuous tone, creating an effective shock and surprise. This method is most notable in the killing of the policeman as a knife punches up from the bottom of the screen and into the victim’s neck, the music remaining constant throughout the frame.

McCarthy ties off the film nicely in a short and sweet demise of “Judas” (the house’s lurking killer), avoiding the tiresome 10-minute ultimatums that films often fall victim to. While he keeps the audience attentive and succeeds in juggling the dispersive elements of the story to inform a logical conclusion, he falls short a little in the plot’s overall impact. The threat all too suddenly changes hands and the discovery of Judas is a bit too easy with a quick google research and an unconvincing scene with a weegie board, loosely tied around her mother’s religious status.

While the plot doesn’t have much to boast, the stark simplicity, yet arty, cinematographic style will certainly leave horror fans smiling.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A Fantastic Fear of Everything


Simon Pegg stars in this new, qwerky British comedy. Jack (Pegg) is a children’s book author but is bored of writing fables about heart-warming hedgehogs. In order to break free of expectations he writes a book about the history of serial killers and becomes obsessed by murder. Trapped in the world of his new book and paranoid that he is an ancient killer’s next victim, Jack locks himself in his house in fear…a fear that someone is behind every corner, a fear of the constantly ringing phone… a fear of EVERYTHING. But when his agent rings to tell him he must attend a meal with a publisher who is interested in his book, he has only hours to battle for sanity and prepare himself for the now unknown and strange world outside of his apartment. But smartening up for a man he irrationally believes to be the grandson of one of histories most notorious serial killers becomes Jack’s trickiest challenge.

Without his partner-in-comedy Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Paul) Pegg has no-one to play off but his emotionally damaged, obsessively anxious self. It works. Pegg encapsulates a madman character brilliantly, as the long-haired British actor, in little more than dirty white briefs and a gown, creeps cautiously along his landing, kitchen knife in hand, frantically screaming at every creek and clutter.
The impression of a simple narrative about a man losing his mind to his dark writings, driven largely by a solo-performance, delivered by co-directors Crispian Mills and Chris Hopewell in the primary stages of the film is turned on its head in the latter half of the narrative. Amidst Jack’s fear of murder and serial killers is actually a fear of washing machines, rooted in his abandonment by his mother in a laundrette as a young boy. This bizarre phobia distracts from what was a peculiarly amusing and captivating storyline of a man’s psychological suffering and instead turns into a series of events leading to a crime scene which plays out his fear of being savagely killed. But playing on the irony of its-always-who-you-least-expect, his fate is not in the hands of his researched malicious multiple murderers, but of the local community officer. Trapped underground the laundrette with a young woman, Jack suddenly finds his long-lost logic and the comical efforts of his madman character all too quickly parish.

What starts as a promisingly original dark-comedy suffers to a distorted and spiralling narrative which never really pinpoints the tragedy or triumph of Pegg’s character. Although a worthy performance by Pegg in the most part, it is by no means a comedy classic in comparison to his previous works.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Moonrise Kingdom


Director/co-writer Wes Anderson tells a qwerky tale of a young boy scout who flees Camp Ivanhoe, causing his Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), fellow khaki scouts and local authorities to search for him.
It’s 1965 in New Penzance, New England and two youngsters have the weight of the world on their shoulders; Sam (Jared Gilman), an orphan and least popular kid at camp, and Suzy (Kara Hayward), a “troubled child” in the eyes of her parents with no friends. A year after they first met at church, the two 12 year-olds flee their unhappy existence and try to make it on their own together. But despite Sam’s camping expertise, they don’t get far… with the scout hunt and Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) and sheriff (Bruce Willis) comprising a local search party, the young lovers have to do more than stab a hunting scout with scissors and set up camp at a nearby cove.

A worthy ensemble cast bring together a touching story of two emotionally damaged youngster’s pubescent struggle who find an unfamiliar comfort in each other’s company. Though the film deals with potentially serious issues, namely in the affects of adverse child/parent relationships, Wes champions a child’s willing independence and adventurousness, without undermining these still modern-day concerns. A doting sense of light-heartedness is imbued within their journey, rooted in Sam and Suzy’s innocence is a somewhat humorous but likely depiction of a childhood romance as Suzy asks Sam to feel her chest, ensuring him it will get bigger. The film’s comedic stance is signposted early on in Scout Master Ward’s militant attitude towards the boys, taking his role as camp leader seriously. As he observes his scouts activities he questions why one boy has built a den on top of a tree and gives another a warning for speeding on his motorbike. The random but striking appearances of Bob Balaban as a narrator, who once enters the diegetic narrative, dressed in duck-boots and a gnome-like hat, adds to the peculiarly pleasant droll composition.

There is a strong sense of a much-missed authenticity in the nostalgic return to rural America with the artificiality of the simple, stark locale with one-hut-one-man-institution and close-knit, Sunday school community. The red painted houses and the way Suzy is dressed (as well as her younger brothers, in their brown dungarees and side combed hair), coupled with the backing track of the orchestrated choir, is a firm nod back to the era. The use of Suzy's binoculars not only adds a worthy cinematographic element but too represents adventure and freedom, the 'superpower' to see further than her isolated existence. The juxtaposition of the geographical constraints of the island and the vibrant emotion writhing to break free is delicately positioned as situational for the characters involved yet metaphorically speaks wider of its self-defined plot dimensions.

Wes Anderson, admired for his direction in Rushmore (1998), has produced a breath of fresh air in this poetic world of dreamlike perfection. From the delicate opening sequence in which the camera takes its time to pan the quaint house of Suzy and her family, the camera seemingly drifts through each scene in search of a lost purity, capturing the idyllic setting that is 1960’s New England.