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My Letterboxd reviews of Therapy, The Forest, Spectral, 31, Dead Ringers, Suicide Squad and White of the Eye

Therapy:

Here’s a diegetic twist on the found-footage horror where the meta-narrative is more than just a series of links between episodes, as a team of cops race against time to rescue a missing family from a masked assailant, following clues from digital cameras recovered at the crime scene, but uncover a mystery far more messed-up than anyone could have expected. Props to French film prodigy Nathan Ambrosioni (he’s only 17, the bastard!) for a decent attempt at the kind of genre blend that usually separates or scrambles. However, it’s still primarily a found-footage psycho slasher, set in a spooooky abandoned building, in the deep, dark woods — hitting the cliché trifecta — so your mileage may vary.

The Forest:

The Forest is the kind of horror tale I can imagine working better as a chilling short story or novella, rather than its rendition here as a generic theme park dark ride filled with hoary mental illness tropes, making little use of its genuinely haunting woodland setting.

Spectral:

This straight-to-VOD techie sci-fi thriller sees a fish-out-of-water with necessary knowledge embedded with a battle-hardened military unit in pursuit of an elusive enemy and bears no resemblance at all to the plot of Aliens, no siree. It’s quite well composed for its presumably cheap-ass budget, and it’s got some dependable names in Bruce Greenwood and Emily Mortimer. However, the plethora of oddly unnatural US accents (considering the cast seems to be mostly American), the overwritten mouthfuls of dialogue and conspicuous plot conveniences — not to mention a massive helping of gamer-bait gear porn — underscore the artificiality of the whole thing.

31:

Rob Zombie does Saw meets The Running Man via the feckin’ Hunger Games with a bunch of faux-transgressive bullshit slapped on top. Not original, not scary, not thrilling, not clever. Yawn.

Dead Ringers:

Cronenberg goes formal in this disturbing Hitchcockian psychodrama. Though it shares themes of loss, or mutation, of identity with the likes of Videodrome, it’s a different, more frighteningly grounded kind of body horror at work here in a tale of identical twins and the unusual woman whose presence in their carefully curated lives threatens to unravel the ties that bind them — to each other, to reality. It’s quite something.

Suicide Squad:

Here’s the thing. Suicide Squad really looks the part. Kudos to the production designers for a bang-up job. It’s just a shame that none of that makes up for a cliché-ridden story of hubris that’s far too busy and convoluted for its own good, with unforgivable inconsistencies of logic throughout, and a bland cast apart from Margot Robbie, who’s the wrong kind of interesting as a misunderstood Harley Quinn. Oh, and Jared Leto is the worst; thank fuck he’s hardly in it.

White of the Eye:

It’s a bit of a mess, this, Donald ‘Performance’ Cammell’s murder-mystery thriller in the vein of Hitchcock by way of De Palma but lacking either’s focus. Its cross-cutting compendium of clashing ideas was surely intended to produce exciting, provocative results, but they don’t coalesce into anything meaningful or sensical. You know what does make sense? That Cammell was, in the words of Anjelica Huston, a “dangerous man”, and there’s nothing particularly interesting in seeing that danger transmuted through his characters on screen. (By the way, I watched this on Shudder and missed about five minutes of the end between 1:36 and 1:41 because their video file is fucked, which is great.)