Monday, 30 September 2013

Silent Cry


In the run up to the DVD release of Julian Richards' Shiver, MVD Entertainment will rerelease his 2002 crime thriller Silent Cry at the end of next month.

Rachel Stewart is over the moon when she bares her first child. But when she is told only hours later that her newborn son Charlie has mysteriously died, a mother’s dream becomes a mother’s nightmare as her world collapses. Adamant that something sinister has come into play and that Charlie is still alive, Rachel follows her maternal instincts to search for answers, and finds a painful, dark truth on the way.

The chase is racy and attentive and the scriptwriting direct and well-controlled, entwining themes of betrayal, abduction and conspiracy whilst avoiding the usual pitfalls of wasting time with unnecessary plot twists and turns.

But Richards offers us more than a conventional, cut-to-the-chase crime thriller; Taking the reigns of 20th century cinematic social realism, Silent Cry addresses the ills of urban society as the underclass adopt the prostitutes, drug addicts, lager louts and the typical ‘street trash’ labels that go with it, whilst the real wrongdoers stand protected behind the name of the law. It’s by no means a truly provocative statement, but it helps to revoke the gritty, smutty landscape of the urban underworld of London and, if nothing else, does wonders to provoke a nostalgic TV cop drama feel – despite turning it on its head. After all, everybody loves a plot at the hands of a corrupt cop or a deceitful doctor.

Batting for a single mother woman who has lost her baby is often easy as pie, and here, Emily Woof ensures it’s a doddle. Throwing everything she has into the desperate but determined character of Rachel, Woof is able to strike an admiral balance of the sympathetic, maternal figure and the gutsy, nothing-to-lose heroine – a female character not undeserved of the occasional air punch.

Though the acting sometimes creeps into squally soap opera territory, Woof’s performance is matched by a strong supporting role from Douglas Henshall, whose character as the goodwilled former-homeless cleaner Daniel that helps Rachel, wins us over and makes for an unlikely but interesting straggly-haired hero. TV legends Clive Russell (Great Expectations, The 13th Warrior) and Kevin Whately (Inspector Morse), as well as Craig Kelly (Titanic) also make up Richards’ star studded cast.

Not forgetting that Richards’ work was more classified within the thriller and drama genres at this time in his career, there’s nothing particularly gory in Silent Cry. Gun shots, a stab in the back (literally and metaphorically) and a walk down prostitute alley is about as graphic as it gets. Its brutality is instead more visceral and lies in the mystery surrounding the baby’s whereabouts and the harrowing situation of a mother without her only child.
VERDICT: Effective, haunting and full of suspense from beginning to end, this well-rounded production certainly warrants a thriving comeback at the end of the year.
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Thursday, 19 September 2013

Insidious: Chapter 2


2013 has been a good year for James Wan, bringing two highly anticipated spooks to our screens; earlier this spring came his first haunted horror with The Conjuring and, now, two months later, the inevitable sequel of his 2010 Insidious looks to wrap up his involvement in the continuing franchise.
Insidious: Chapter 2 marks the Australian’s fifth horror movie and, to no-ones surprise, resumes from Insidious’ substandard finale, signposted as a carry on through the bang in which the title ‘Insidious’ explodes onto the screen. Though Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai’s (Rose Byrne) comatose son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) was brought back from ‘The Further’, Wan’s fictitious realm of the dead, the Lambert’s connection to the malevolent spirit world remains strong and unshakeable.

The suspicious mental state of Josh continues into the second and is by far the more interesting activity in the sequel, as is the return of our beloved heroine Elise (Lin Shaye), now dead but as determined to help the family as ever. Though the sequel primarily stands to wrap up the first, it serves up a worthy standalone plot with more to like than dislike. Insights into The Further and its transitory connections with the real world are given priority over the generic haunted house conventions, deriving a less familiar and more nightmarish dark fantasy feel. Saying that, it disappointingly suffers creatively from a lack of other worldly atmosphere, with the bleak look of the misty realm itself not revealing much more scope than what we see in the first.

But what triumphs for the sequel is that it scares. Fewer bumps in the night make way for more aesthetically obvious haunts as the evil spirits are more personified in actual figures and more two dimensional characters than simply through their possessions and supernatural activities (though that’s not to say we don’t get the odd rolling musical toy and self-playing piano). It’s certainly not the slow-burn, creeping around dark corners with a torch movie that the first claimed. Instead, when it really gets going and the spirits come to being, a constant crescendo of boisterous, shrill and deafening noise accompanies garish close-ups to fill the screen in a real attack of the senses. Though not a particularly preferred, effective or original tactic, its ambitiousness to experiment with a different tone is something to be admired.

And where frights come, fun is quick on its heel. Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), the comedic duo that are seemingly compulsory for the modern horror movie, are reprised in jolly spirits, tastefully providing a few harmless giggles through dumb and dumber slapstick moments and eye-rolling one liners, but never really fitting into the mould any more so this time round.

The childhood backstory of Josh and continuous revelations from start to finish displays smart script writing from Wan and Leigh Whannell at its best, whilst too succumbing to the trappings of seeming unnecessarily busy and over-explanatory for its own good. Some scenes can easily be branded pointless. Nevertheless it brings an acceptable ending and a necessary part two to the frustratingly incomplete premise of the first. Having conjured up a number of stirs and scares in his first horror of the year, Wan wraps up 2013 with a noteworthy sequel and a promise to continue his efforts in the genre. Even if his next bill is Fast and Furious 7.
VERDICT: Though not edging close to its true potential, this sequel a step up from the first in terms of both plot and scares, giving you more than enough to digest in its multi-layered script. An inevitably marmite film from Wan bound to divide audiences.