Come Out and Play (2012) Mexican Somnambulistic Scares

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We all have a picture of life south of the border, Mexico has always evoked images of fiestas and siestas, one meaning to party hardy and the other to have an afternoon nap because of said partying. Things are slower and more relaxed in Me-he-co amigo. So is this little horror film from south of the border.

It features a film that moves so slowly it feels a bit like sleep walking. Sleep walking that leads you straight into a Village of the Damned cum Children of the Corn type nightmare. Oozing an atmosphere that feels like molasses trickling down a table leg, Come Out and Play is a film you can’t hurry along.

Written and directed by Makinov  and based on a novel by Juan José Plans, Come Out and Play is the first feature film by Makinov and it combines the slowness of an old ballad with the discord of a one legged dancer.

Starring Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Vinessa Shaw, and Daniel Giménez Cacho; whom I’d just seen in  Mel Gibson‘s Get the Gringo play the three main protagonists in the film, although Cacho isn’t in the film nearly long enough.

The film opens with Francis (Moss-Bachrach) wandering through Mexican streets during carnival asking for directions. He is trying to rent a boat so he and his heavily pregnant wife Beth (Shaw) can get to an island village that is famous for its carnivals. After securing the boat, Francis and Beth go down to the marina and head to the island.

When they arrive there are a group of boys lining the dock fishing. All of them seem to be friendly and help to tie up the boat and help the couple to bring their bags on the dock. Only one boy isn’t friendly and despite Francis’ best attempts, he doesn’t respond to his kindness. The couple then make their way into the village and it’s seemingly deserted.

The three protagonists.
The three protagonists.

When they find a cafe, it looks like everyone has left in a hurry, leaving half empty glasses on tables. There is a “ham” radio on the wall that keeps intermittently broadcasting a woman who sounds distressed. Since Beth is tired, Francis decides to go and find some people.

From the moment that Francis and his wife land on the island, the atmosphere of the film screams, “Wrong!” Everything seems off and eerie. The place is completely deserted and you know that if you were there, you’d run right straight back to the boat, get in, take off and never come back.

Of course the young couple cannot do that as there would then be no film. It is explained through their dialogue that these two are world travellers and that not too much spooks them. Too bad, it seems that travelling around the world dulls your “Spidey-senses.” They eventually find out what has happened on the island and it’s not good.

If you are expecting a “jump-scare” movie or one that throws horror at you in a violent manner, this is not the film for you. Come Out and Play builds an almost unbearable tension from the moment these two arrive at the island. Despite the slow pace of this film, I could not tear my eyes away from the snail like events on the screen. Although I did “second-guess” the ending, it still made sense and to be fair the director did signpost it very well.

I’d give this little gem a 4 out of 5 just for the slow moving creepy atmosphere of the village on the little island and for leading me twice to the wrong conclusion on how it would end; before I finally paid attention to the signs that the director so helpfully put in place.

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Jonah Hex (2010) Under-viewed, Under-Loved

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I finally got to see this film last night and I will say upfront that, despite having “toe-thumb” and plastically enhanced Megan Fox in it, I kind of liked it. Of course there was a slim chance that I would as it has three of my favourite actors in it; Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, and Michael Fassbender.

I was actually surprised to find that I did like it. The film has been almost universally panned from its release. I am not sure if that is because of die hard fans of the original comic not liking it, or something else. Admittedly the film is a bit choppy in the continuity of story department, but, the prosthetic on Brolin’s face that helped to transform him into Hex was brilliant.

The story, which is based on the DC Comics of the same name, deals with civil war soldier Jonah Hex who refuses a direct order from his commanding officer Quentin Turnbull (Malkovich) that results in his (Turnbull’s) son’s death. As punishment, Turnbull, makes Jonah watch his family die in front of him and gets branded on the right side of his face with Turnbull’s branding iron (QT).

Jonah is nursed back to health by a Crow Native American Indian tribe and his time spent in the world of the dead leaves him with the power to make the dead talk. He searches for Turnbull and finds out that he has died. He then becomes a bounty hunter, punishing the guilty. While doing this job a bounty is put on his head. Meanwhile, we find out that Turnbull is not dead, he’s just gone homicidally mad and is planning to start and finish his own brand of civil war.

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Josh Brolin as Jonah Hex.

I thought all the actors, even Megan Fox as Lilah, did a great job. Their performances sold me on this western/fantasy/action film and I never once felt like I was not enjoying it. This may have something to do with the fact that, apart from the title, I’ve never read the comic. Because of this I did not go into the film expecting anything. I just watched it and rather enjoyed this farfetched fantasy take on the civil war story.

I decided to take a chance on the film when I saw it on sale in my local Tesco Extra Store for £3 (about 5 bucks American) and felt that at such a low price I wouldn’t be out very much if I didn’t like it. But since I did enjoy it, it’s now a bargain. The film looked great, the CG and the scenes leapt out at you and the film looked like a western; a big selling point for me if it’s meant to be a western, cross genre or not.

The really big surprise was that I liked Megan Fox’s character. As a rule there has only been one other film where I really liked her performance and that  was Jennifer’s Body the 2009 horror film. She really doesn’t do much for me, especially after finding out about her plastic overhaul. *Not to mention those “toe-thumbs,” shudder.*

I’d have to say that this fantasy “oater” is a good popcorn munching film of the”mindlessly entertaining” sort. So I’d have to give the film a 4 out of 5 stars for managing to make Megan Fox look good in a film. Of course having Brolin, Malkovich, and Fassbender gives it an extra star as well.

Megan Fox as Lilah.
Megan Fox as Lilah.

Ip Man (2008): Donnie Yen’s Masterful Performance

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It is not often that a film benefits from having not just one legend, but two associated with it. Ip Man has two. Starring the legendary Donnie Yen in what is quite possibly his best role ever and featuring choreography by the legendary Sammo Hung. (Who when asked how he was going to work with Yen to direct the action scenes, Hung replied matter-of-factly, “With my mouth.”) *Wikipedia* 

Both men are well-known for their fight choreography with Sammo nudging Donnie out by sheer number of years that he’s been practising his craft.

Directed with past Yen collaborator  Wilson Yip, Ip Man is the “true story” of Yip Man grandmaster of Wing Chun and master of film legend Bruce Lee. Touted as being semi-biographcal, the film is pretty liberal with the “truth” as things of this nature tend to be. While the rudimentary facts may be correct a lot of things were added to make the film more entertaining.

Despite this frugality with the real facts, the film is a powerful one. The recreation of Foshan in Shanghai looks so authentic you feel as if the film company had really gone back in time to shoot the scenes.

Some complaints were raised about Ip Man’s house being incorrect and that he never shovelled coal during the occupation and the facts of his move to Hong Kong are misleading. But as the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance says, “print the legend.” Or in this case, make it up.

Yen is stunning as the placid, peace-loving martial artist who won’t give lessons and spars with the local masters privately in order to save them the public embarrassment of being beaten.

At one point, he has to take on a usurper from outside the town. This ruffian fights his way through all the Foshan martial art instructors until only Ip Man is left. Going to his home, the outsider brings what looks like the members of every school in the town to watch him beat Ip Man.

Everyone in Foshan knows that Ip Man will be victorious and he is.

Everything changes in 1937 when the Japanese invade China and this is where majority of the drama and tension come into the film.

The legendary Sammo Hung.
The legendary Sammo Hung.

The fight scenes are exciting, original, and furious. The Wing Chun style is breathtaking to watch and the other martial arts battles are impressive as well.

The entire cadre of actors in the film sold their characters and I spotted quite a few familiar faces in it.

My only complaint was that in some instances parts of the story were a bit “over the top” so that it almost felt like a “kitchen sink” drama instead of a biopic. But theatricality aside the film looks, overall, fantastic and I got caught up with the characters and the “true” story completely.

A real 5 out of 5 stars for a film that had me munching my popcorn furiously throughout. I’m now going to “watch’ my way through the rest of the films in this four film series.

Even if you don’t love martial arts films the story of Yip Man could turn you into a fan.

The real Ip Man (Yip Man) and a young Bruce Lee.
The real Ip Man (Yip Man) and a young Bruce Lee.

Repeaters (2010): Groundhog Day Hell

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What would you do if you had a chance to relive just one day over and over? Try to change your destiny? Change the world? Change your life? In a 24 hour rewind you wouldn’t think that there would be a huge opportunity to change very much. Three “twenty-somethings” find out just how life changing a repeated second chance is in this brilliant little film from Canada.

Written by Arne Olsen (Relic Hunter, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie)  and directed by Carl Bessai (Severed, Normal) Repeaters is the story of three inmates of a drug rehabilitation centre in Mission City. Kyle Halstead (Dustin Milligan), Sonia Logan (Amanda Crew) and Michael Weeks (Richard De Clerk) all hang out together and one event filled day they become caught in a time warp that results in them re-living that day repeatedly.

The combination of great story-line and great performances by the lead actors made this spontaneous purchase of an 8 pound DVD turn into a real gem of a film.

Richard De Clert, Amanda Crew and
Richard De Clert, Amanda Crew and Dustin Milligan.

The publicity/marketing for the film states that the film is like Taken meets Groundhog Day. Now that sounds good, but in my humble opinion the film is more like Groundhog Day meets Flatliners.

My only real problem with the film was the lead actors resemblance’s to other actors and (in one case) to one of my first cousins. The most obvious one was Amanda Crew who looked so much like Jennifer Love Hewitt that I kept wondering how she’d managed to look so young. Obviously the film makers saw this resemblance as they never lost an opportunity to put a knit hat on her head that enhanced the likeness.

Still, resemblances aside, the actors did a magnificent job in the film. The three of them interacted with each other and other characters in the film, brilliantly.

The best thing about the film, was their evolving feelings about the repetitious day. Denial, acceptance, enjoyment, disillusionment. and realisation. Unfortunately, the two male characters had more of a story arch than the female lead, but despite the slight annoyance of this fact the film still delivered a pretty impressive punch.

There is not a whole lot of information available on this 2010 Canadian independent film, but they do still have a website: Repeaters.

If you get a chance, check this film out. This is the third Canadian film to completely blow me away and it’s left me with a growing admiration for my “first cousins” and their creative ability.

A real 5 star film about a supernatural event that will blow you away.

Watch this film.

Director Carl Bessai.
Director Carl Bessai.

The Wrong House aka House Hunting (2013): Disjointed Thriller

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Written and directed by Eric Hurt, House Hunting (The Wrong House in the UK) is Hurt’s first feature length film. On IMDb the film has received a score of 4.5 which, I think, is a bit harsh.

Starring Marc Singer (who I haven’t seen since his V mini-series days in the 1980’s) and Art Lafleur, the film is about two families who both wind up looking at a house for sale out in the middle of nowhere.

Charlie Hays (Singer) and his new/second wife Susan (Hayley DuMond) and daughter Emmy  (Janey Gioiosa) form a nuclear but dysfunctional little family. Emmy hates her new step-mom and Charlie tries to keep the peace between the two.

They all go out to look at a house that Charlie is interested in. On their way there a bloody girl runs out of the woods and collapses in front of their car. When this happens a second car that has been behind them stops and out steps the Thompson family.

Don Thomson (Lafleur) and his wife Leslie (Victoria Vance) and injured son Jason (Paul McGill) take the Hays family and the girl into their vehicle and head to the house. Once there, the families find out that they can’t get away from the place.

Marc Singer and Art Lefleur.
Marc Singer and Art Lafleur.

The film starts out with an interesting concept. Wikipedia states that the “theme” of the film is that “other people are Hell.” I disagree. I think the film’s theme is one of secrets and sins. Everyone has one or the other, in some cases both, and the two families peccadilloes all come home to roost while they are trapped in the house.

Arguably, the film can’t seem to make up its mind on whether it is a ghost story or psychological horror film. This adds to the overall confusion of the events and why some of the things that transpire don’t really make any sort of “logical” sense. Part of the story’s arc deals with the information that Hays’ bank foreclosed on the family who lived in the house previously. Indicating some sort of Faustian pact with the “ex” owner.

There is also an intercom system that repeats a “recorded” message and “sells” the house to prospective buyers. One of the disconnects in this film is that system. While the house has no electricity and no heating, the intercom works fine throughout the entire film.

Some of the actors were a bit wooden, but Singer and Lafleur more than made up for that. Lafleur is one of those actors who seems to have been in just about every film or television series made. He has made a career out of playing very similar parts and if ever there was an actor who could be said to making a career out of being type-cast as an “also-ran,” it would be him.

Despite the dichotomous nature of the film and the lapses in logic, it is strangely watchable. I actually enjoyed it and was surprised to see it get such a low score.

I would say that as far as films go, I’ve seen much worse (Underground springs immediately to mind) and it did at least keep my interest until the end of the film. Annoyingly, there are no special features on the DVD so Hurt has no forum to explain his thought process.

So, a 3 out of 5 stars just for the presence of Singer and Lafleur.

Writer/Director Eric Hurt.
Writer/Director Eric Hurt.