Horror, Reviews

Split

Copyright © 2016 by Universal Pictures

Story
Three teenagers, Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) are kidnapped by one of Kevin Wendell Crumb’s (James McAvoy) 23 personalities and they are locked in a cell beneath the ground with the sole purpose of being offered as human sacrifices to a surfacing 24th persona known as ‘The Beast’. Sensing that Kevin’s more perverse nature is currently in control, his psychologist, Dr Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley) conducts her own investigation to locate the missing girls.

Review
M. Night Shyamalan’s competency lies in dispensing suspense and terror to hair-raising effect. By condensing the story on the girls trying to flee from their captor, he avoids the mistakes made in calamities like ‘Lady In The Water’ and ‘The Happening’. (Certain) character motivation and rationality are the movie’s finest qualities and casting McAvoy is like watching a filmic one-man show with 23 roles.

There is a kicker though. We are reminded that there are 23 characteristics, but ‘The Sixth Sense’ director only chooses to show us about eight of them for no particular reason. McAvoy’s acting artistry is in top form as he dazzles after being in cruise control for the last two years. He is prudish in a pleated midi skirt and illuminates as a precocious nine-year-old boy.

The depth McAvoy brings to the various individuals intensifies Kevin’s struggle with himself and it would have become unintentionally comical if someone lesser assumed the part. What disheartens me most about this thriller-cum-horror is that it is neither exciting nor scary despite the unique premise and outstanding central performances (Taylor-Joy and Buckley supplying commendable support).

Perhaps it is the ambiguity of what Kevin’s dominant ‘others’ have in store for the girls that is haphazardly written undermines the robust buildup in the first and second acts. Taylor-Joy effortlessly projects fear, confusion, and desperation all in just a look. Unfortunately, all I see is a regression from Shyamalan’s 2015 sleeper ‘The Visit’.

Rating
Entirety: B
Acting: A
Plot: B+

Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and behaviour, violence and some language

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Horror, Reviews

The Purge: Election Year

Election Year

Copyright © 2016 by Universal Pictures

Story
Since forgiving the man who killed his son, former police officer Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) has been hired as Senator Charlie Roan’s (Elizabeth Mitchell) chief of security. She is campaigning for the upcoming presidential election and is strongly against the Purge, intending to end it if she wins. Her opponent, Minister Edwidge Owens (Kyle Secor) who is a member of the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) is threatened by her growing popularity and the party aims to assassinate the senator when Purge Night commences.

Review
Call it cajoling or propagating. It is no coincidence the third chapter of ‘The Purge’ series is released as the race for presidency in the United States is beginning to heat up. The opposing sides mirror the varying ideals that the politicians in the movie stand for – Roan’s main priority is to purge the Purge for good and the NFFA is hell bent on sustaining it.

Sounds relatively simple if compared with new revelations and shocking developments that have defiled the credibility of both Republican and Democrat candidates vying for the top post. We will probably see a ‘truthful’ interpretation of that story in a few years’ time when the public needs a recap on the theatrics that ensue. For now, this will do.

In a not so subtle hint (the title is a dead giveaway), it is a loud and unapologetically honest picture illustrated about hidden agendas, empty promises and politics rearing its ugly head. You know the drill. It is not the most original of ideas but expanding the franchise to a terrain when it is more apt than ever, the result feels genuinely sincere than pretentiously calculated.

‘Anarchy’ took the Purge to the streets and centered on a grieving father gunning for revenge that intensified midway which has now become the focus in ‘Election Year’. Grillo (sole returning member) is shipshape as the ingenious bodyguard and buttressing amiably from the likes of Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson, Betty Gabriel and a frantic Secor. The conclusion (or not) may have evolved from how it started but it aims for a strong finish and I vote ‘yes’.

Rating
Entirety: A-
Acting: A
Plot: A-

Rated R for disturbing bloody violence and strong language

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Horror, Reviews

The Purge: Anarchy

The Purge – Anarchy

Copyright © 2014 by Universal Pictures

Story
The Purge is a day set where all activities of crimes are deemed legal and sanctioned by the government as a means of population control since for the rest of the year, civilians can live peacefully in a felony-free environment. At the start of purging, a young couple, Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) are on their way to his sister’s when their car is sabotaged by a group of masked men forcing them to the streets of Los Angeles by foot. They take refuge in Sergeant Leo Barnes’ (Frank Grillo) heavily insulated vehicle after stopping to rescue Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter, Cali (Zoë Soul) from being executed by highly trained and sophisticated paramilitary men. They form an uneasy alliance to leave the dangerous streets after Barnes’ car is damaged from a shootout and survive until the Purge officially ends.

Review
Despite the frosty reception ‘The Purge’ had to endure from critics and moviegoers about an intriguing idea but uneven execution, its healthy financial accumulation was enough to advance a sequel a year later. Conceptualised from James DeMonaco who was tasked with directing duties for both movies, the Ethan Hawke starrer provided a peek into the near future of capitalism governance and the consequences to the division of its society.

In a not too subtle context, the rich will only become wealthier and oblivious to the plight of the less privilege that are incapable of moving up the hierarchy and only seemed destined for terminating each other. Hence, the low crime and employment rates as mentioned early on. The potential DeMonaco could have taken was thus left unfulfilled as he restricted himself to the confinements of a well-to-do family under siege in their technologically-equipped home.

Having noticed the limitations of his 2013 feature, he has assuredly rectified the problems and presented a more politically-charged thriller to satisfy what audiences are looking for in the first place. It helps that the budget is bigger for what we are getting now is a larger view of what really goes on out on the streets when purging commences. Many aspects are still not probed into (a challenge for its shorter screen time) and the carnage could be more brutal without being too neatly packaged.

A little too polished if I may say so considering the use of dim lighting and hues of green and yellow captures the graininess precisely for a somber night. The best aspects come from the tense circumstances when the main characters have to successfully navigate in the middle of a killing spree without getting caught. Each scene is tautly edited for a consistently brisk pacing throughout the course of the show.

And this is just the icing on the cake. What comes after that is pretty shocking but does share elements from an earlier Chris Evans headlined hit, ‘Snowpiercer’. Twists after twists, it will ensure you are hooked right up to its nail-biting ending. Fresh from the heels of ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’, Grillo steps up to the plate as leading man material and comfortably shoulders the bulk of the film through a stealthy and strong depiction of a man on a mission.

He is supplemented by an engaging Ejogo whose maternal and caring disposition ensures the chaos surrounding the group does not border on mockery. Together, they form an emotional connection that is relatable and genuine enough for the proceeding events to follow. It leaves with many questions for one to ponder over but if you choose to stay safe and give this a pass, then you might just miss out on a greatly improved work from an already interesting scenario to begin with.

Rating
Entirety: B+
Acting: A
Plot: A-

Rated R for strong disturbing violence, and for language

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