A Brief Word on New Releases: “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” and “Rings”

By Andrew Buckner

Well, this is a fascinating turn of events for me. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017), the sixth addition in a video game inspired film franchise I always found satisfying (if for no other reason than these movies always seemed to know exactly what their spectators wanted and was unafraid to hand it to them in spades), is a gargantuan disappointment. Robotic enactments abound. This is most readily glimpsed in Mila Jovovich’s one-note and mumbling depiction of Alice. Worst of all, the movie jumps around at such a frenetic pace that within the first few moments it is hard to focus on anything but the rush this 106-minute presentation is in to get to its predictable climax. The incessantly annoying camera shots, largely evident in the first act, only further prove the stylistic mess writer-director Paul W.S. Andersen creates with the utilization of such components. It is also a testament to the jumbled storytelling, with the narrative concerning Alice returning to The Hive in Raccoon City after ten years to combat the evil Umbrella Corporation one final time, at hand. Moreover, the action scenes, though often intriguingly set-up, are poorly executed. They are also usually so brief that one can barely begin to figure out what is happening on-screen before they are gone. This is save for the occasionally gripping last half hour. We are also given an underwhelming battle that has been hinted at for ages in this section.

I will say that the various twists showcased in this afore-mentioned bit are unusually good. But, it does little to dilute the fact that there is little life and fun left in this ongoing saga. It doesn’t even provide sufficient number of run-ins with the undead to indulge bystanders from that basic angle. Congruently, Andersen’s paint by numbers screenplay fails to convey expository details as they were presented in earlier installments. I’m sure this isn’t just the zombie fatigue I’ve had for the last several years talking when I say, “Stay far, far away from this one.”

Rating: *1/2 out of *****.

(R). Contains occasionally graphic violence.

Now available to buy on video on demand.

On the other hand, Rings (2017), the third entry in a rebooted series I never really cared for before, is nowhere near as bad as most fellow critics and audience members would allow you to believe. It works better as a supernatural mystery than as a horror film. But, these elements still complement one another well. Likewise, the performances are strong all around. This is true of Johnny Galecki’s turn as Gabriel, a college professor, and Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz’s portrayal of our heroine, Julia. Similarly, the script from David Loucka, Jacob Estes and Akiva Goldsman is paced in a confident and relatively character-oriented manner.

Correspondingly, the proceedings were rarely dull. The ending arrangement was also quite enjoyable. This is even if it was predictable from the get-go. It served as a nice apology for the ridiculous, if still attention-garnering, sequence set inside a plane that commences the 102-minute long feature. The picture also stands triumphant where most horror endeavors fail. This is in the fact that it doesn’t rely solely on its antagonist, Samara (Bonnie Morgan), to accrue intensity.

Additionally, the plot, which concerns Julia going searching for her boyfriend, Holt (in a well-done representation from Alex Roe), and becoming caught up in the dealings of a tape that is said to kill you seven days after you watch it, is vastly more arresting this time around. This is thanks, primarily, to the invigorating and unique manner director F.Javier Gutierrez utilizes to relay the fiction. The result of these qualities, in my opinion, is the best of The Ring ventures. See it!

Rating: *** out of *****.

(PG-13). Contains some violence and intense moments.

Now available to rent or purchase on video on demand.

These two features stand as definitive evidence that expectations, especially artistic ones, can be deceiving. Don’t let these pre-conceived notions hold you back from what could potentially be a pleasantly surprising and rewarding viewing experience.

“Deep in the Wood” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: **** out of *****.

Deep in the Wood (2015), from co-writer and director Stefano Lodovichi, is a deftly crafted, psychological labyrinth of a thriller. It takes a notion that parents often jokingly ponder in passing, if their child is really their own, to horrific and mostly unpredictable extremes. For the first hour of the occasionally slow yet, deliberately paced eighty-eight minutes of the runtime, it keeps us ruminating over this exact inquiry. This is in relation to our leads, Manuel Conci (Fillipo Nigro) and Linda Weiss (Camilla Filippi). Such transpires after an ominous, immediately attention-garnering and visceral opening section. This concerns four-year-old Tommi (Alessandro Corabi), the son of Manuel and Linda, going missing at the annual Krampus festival. After this intense and wonderfully mysterious commencement, Lodovichi’s presentation fast-forwards to five years later. Inexplicably, Manuel and Linda’s offspring, complete with matching DNA (but no name or telltale documents), is found. Even though the individual is far more reserved than the Tommi they once knew, which would be understandable given being gone for such an extended length of time, Manuel is quick to embrace their progeny. Regardless, Linda senses something off about the whole situation. There is a wickedness about the youth. It is a trait that becomes harder to ignore, for Linda at least, once he enacts violent deeds. Fearing that this youngster, whoever he may be, is out to kill her, the dynamic between the now divorced duo drastically shifts. From herein, Lodovichi, who penned the brilliantly nuanced screenplay with Isabella Aguilar and Davide Orsini, captivates audiences with this certainly intriguing plot.

What is just as fascinating is the various shifts in perspective extant throughout the piece. This is with Manuel’s viewpoint being the most prevalent. There is also a great amount of admiration to found in the manner Lodovichi fluently has us looking to all three of the central figures in this motion picture as simultaneously the protagonists and the antagonists. Often, and to ingenious results, this alternating factor occurs in the same sequence. This is as we keep asking ourselves are if Manuel and Linda are guilty of kidnapping. Or is it that they are the victims of an evil presence? One that would be along the likes of Damien Thorn: the Antichrist from Richard Donner’s horror masterpiece, The Omen (1976). Alas, one of the strongest attributes of the endeavor is the perplexing journey Lodovichi weaves from this angle. I state this because, sadly, the conclusion is a bit underwhelming. This is given all that came beforehand. It is too familiar and closely aligned to the climactic moments of your stereotypical genre effort.

Still, the minimalistic use of the supernatural elements is admirable. It helps instill more of a reality based sensibility to this already credible undergoing. The performances are all top-notch. They all burn with a quiet passion; an almost never clearly verbalized fervor. Teo Achille Caprio, who hauntingly portrays the nine-year-old version of Tommi, is especially noteworthy in this department. Given the surprisingly small number of arrangements he is included into in the movie, this is increasingly impressive. He parallels his adult counterparts, Nigro and Filippi, in this respect.

Continually, this mesmerizingly atmospheric contribution to Italian cinema is graced with masterfully ambient music from Riccardo Amorese. The same can be said for the magnificent, elegiacally bleak and immersive cinematography from Benjamin Maier. Roberto Di Tanna’s editing as well as the sound work and effects are just as spellbinding. All of this is capped off by Lodovichi’s bold, phenomenal and constantly Hitchockian behind the lens treatment of the material.

Though there are instances when the narrative seems as if it could be tightened, this does little to hinder the proceedings. As a matter of fact, it is all in tune with the richly developed, character-oriented nature of the exertion. The intensity, whether it be in the unfolding circumstances on-screen or in the emotional layering of the piece, is also non-stop. Best of all, Lodovichi never resorts to any of the trappings of paranormal related entries to evoke these sensations. This is with faux scares and bumps in the night galore. Instead, Lodovichi garners all of this from his simple and striking telling of the tale itself. Such makes the minor flaws inherent in the affair, such as those declared above, increasingly superfluous. In turn, Lodovichi has gifted spectators with an audacious, memorable and undeniably worthwhile experience. His latest labor is another superb installment in his ongoing filmography. I highly recommend seeking it out. You can do so when Deep in the Woods becomes available on video on demand on June 13th, 2017 through Uncork’d Entertainment.