White God

DirectorKornel Mundruczo (2015)
StarringZsofia Psotta, Body, Sandor Zsoter
Find itIMDB

True story: when I was roughly oh-say-eleven-or-so, holidaying at my grandmother's house in Dublin, one of the stupider things I had done thus far with my life was to bark at a neighbour's dog. I say neighbour's dog - it was an unaccompanied little fucker randomly wandering the streets. Like myself, I guess, parent or guardian-less as I was at the time. It was here and there that I took the decision to bark at said random dog - a good, solid (fairly aggressive) woof that could never have been anything less than a dumbfuck stupid idea. Needless to say, that dog took great umbrage, and proceeded to chase Baby Porkhead down the street, slathering (I assume) to rip the wee shite (I assume) to shreds. I would have deserved it. Thankfully I escaped by the skin of my teeth, leaping over granny's fence and landing flat on my face the other side, skinning my knee and bruising my face. What can I say - I would have deserved slathering death and I have, ever since, nurtured a grudging respect (and slight fear) of dogs.

It's this fairly universal fear that informs White God; the thought that these usually benign, cuddly creatures who live among us could turn on us at any moment - terrifyingly effective killing machines with a face full of knives and a dislike of being barked at. Don't get me wrong, I love dogs (I bawled like a baby at Jurassic Bark and certain Santa's Little Helper episodes of The Simpsons) but I'd be lying if I said I'd never wondered how I might kill a dog with my bare hands to save my life if I had to. Hey, you've seen Cujo.

The murderous dog movie and the Marley & Me weep-athon subgenres meet in White God, a film which is in equal measures terrifying and heartbreaking. We watch as young Lili (Psotta) and her trusty dog Hagen (Body) move in with her estranged father (Zsoter) - a situation no-one is particularly happy with. During one blazing row, dad chucks Hagen out in the street (not a local street either), traumatically separating the poor girl from her beloved pet. It gets worse from here as cuddly, friendly and loveable Hagen falls into the hands of various nefarious bastards, with the ultimate eye on turning the mutt into a drooling death machine. This they succeed in, but Hagen has no interest in dogfights, and it's not long before the hound is raising an army to wreak vengeance upon the city which has used and abused them so. This, by the way, is much less stupid than it sounds, using an entirely real cast of actual dogs. It's like Rise of the Planet of the Apes, except very real and mostly plausible.

Illustrated with Simpsons screencaps because less heartbreaking.

The film would make a great double bill with the equally powerful White Dogbeing just as politically and racially charged (it's all allegory, but that title) - and even more emotionally raw. White God is not easy viewing, then. Seeing the world tear Lili and Hagen apart is plenty hearbreaking even before we factor in seeing the cuddly canine beaten and abused while his doggy friends are shot at and murdered.

White God is expertly written, paced and cast. If it's a little on the long side, that's because it needs the space to breathe. And what (dog)breaths; it might just be the best film of the year. That's if you can bear to watch it all the way through. What? No, I just have something in my eye. A dog hair, maybe.


Director: Patrick Brice (2014)
Starring: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
Find it: IMDB

Weird Asshole: The Movie. In Creep, a freelance cameraman is hired out via a Craigslist advertisement to document a day in the life of a terminally ill man. That said terminally ill man turns out to be an unhinged psychopath (and not terminally ill at all) should come as no surprise to anyone in this post-Catfish age: he did meet him on Craigslist, after all.

Being a movie about some guys who decide to stalk a little girl they met online.
But it's fine because two creepy wrongs make a totally not at all creepy right (plus TV show).

Not the Creep about the London underground, then, and nothing to do with Radiohead. Patrick Brice's found footage horror film is an effective, intelligent and, yeah, creepy depiction of male stalking and obsession. We can tell that there's something not quite right with Josef (Duplass) from the off, not the least his insistence that the first bit filmed for his little documentary (intended to be shown to his son after his death, like that Michael Keaton movie) is him whipping his undies off and crying in the bathtub. It's not long before Aaron (Brice) and ourselves come to the conclusion that Josef is, frankly, a bit of a creep.

To say much more would be to spoil the various twists and turns the film has up its sleeve. While it does nothing at all to alleviate the age old question we always end up asking during these movies, it's more tolerable than most, employing its jump scares in a manner that feel organic and in service to the story. Duplass is tremendous as Josef - although we never really feel threatened by him like we should, we can't quite tell what the character might be capable of either. That lends the story a great sense of unpredictability and one particularly excellent bit of bait-and-switch. It's darkly funny too, which is always preferable to the dour misery of Paranormal Activity or relentless trauma headaches of its screaming imitators.

In spite of its subgenre trappings and the over-saturation of the market with films like it, I had a blast with Creep. If I may be predictable for a moment - it's special. So fucking special.

Terminator Genisys

Director: Alan Taylor (2015)
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney
Find it: IMDB

Thanks to JJ Abrams and his 2009 Star Trek effort (which I thought was okay at the time, but really isn't), the reboot-quel is a thing. This, when it's at home, being an instalment in a franchise which rewrites previous entries but acknowledges that no, it did all happen - it just doesn't really matter anymore. At best, that gets us Mad Max: Fury Road (which, granted, barely counts). At worst, Terminator Genisys. And yeah, the lack of a colon in that title is bugging me too.

Disregarding the events of previous sequels, the story here sees John Connor (Jason Clarke) send best friend and secret dad Kyle Reese (Jai fucking Courtney) back to 1984 to save mother dearest Sarah Connor (the film's other, even worse Clarke) from the plot of Terminator. Only when he gets there, things are not as we remember them. Sarah is not only already savvy to the existence of Terminators, but has her own in tow - the aged 'pops', played by a returning Arnold Schwarzenegger. Just one or two Terminators isn't enough though, and it's not long before Sarah, Kyle and Pops are battling swathes of machines, new and old (including a digitally de-aged Arnie and a tacked-on T-1000). This being my own personal dystopia of movie blockbusters, that involves heaps of CGI, stupidly bloodless violence and big, loud action sequences so busy that it's impossible to tell what's going on most of the time. Not since Transformers 2 have I been so actively bored by a film with so many action sequences. And this is a franchise I actually like, most of the time.

Jai fucking Courtney is Kyle Reese: 
Truly, we are living in the darkest timeline.

There's a bit of amusement to be had in the earlier sections, which replay moments from the original Terminator with a nudge and a wink (the fight between old Arnie and de-aged young Arnie being a highlight) but that falls apart the moment the characters start speaking. Courtney and Clarke have no chemistry whatsoever, completely failing to sell the love story element. While we expect Courtney to be wooden, there's no excuse for Clarke (Emilia, not Jason), who fails to convince on every level of being Sarah Connor. She's not helped much by a script which turns Sarah Connor into a woman who uses the word 'like' as a form of punctuation. Like, not cool.

This generation's Michael B- No, I can't. Not even in jest.

By the time the film skips to 2017, fucking about with a Smartphone app, Matt Smith (simultaneously wasted and awful in a glorified cameo), and a time-travelling John Connor (not a spoiler), I had pretty much given up on Genisys. As Kyle and Sarah are arrested for the second time in one film, I was screaming at the movie to end already (it's three times for Kyle, who is arrested almost as soon as he gets to 1984). Only J.K Simmons and a wry Arnie manage to enliven matters, the latter even tugging a couple of heartstrings in spite of the contrivance of it all. It ends baiting a sequel (of course it does) but here's hoping that particular future can be averted. Now, where's that time machine at?

Terminator Genisys may be lacking a colon, but that doesn't stop it from being full of shit.

Knock Knock

Director: Eli Roth (2015)
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo, Ana de Armas
Find it: IMDB

Knock knock. Who's there? Why, an Eli Roth film that doesn't massively annoy or largely disappoint, hopefully. No such luck with this one, which mostly manages to sidestep the latter (my expectations for Roth being fairly low at this point) but delivers on the former in spades. It's a Keanu Reeves horror film though! And for that, it deserves a look-in, at least.

Reeves plays loving dad and devoted husband Evan Webber, an American one-percenter with a house almost as beautiful as his wife and kids. Staying at home to work while said family take off to the beach for the weekend, Evan settles in for the night with only his old rock music, weed (it is an Eli Roth joint after all) and dog for company. And then there's a knock at the door...

It's here where Knock Knock is at its most fun - the bashful, confused but tempted family man battling against the attentions of two nubile damsels, both of whom seem uttery determined to do the dirty with the dim dad. It plays like a hilarious game of cat and mouse; a sexy farce in which Keanu keeps leaping out of seats, changing the subject and desperately trying to keep his cock in his undies while two very young, very beautiful young ladies offer him 'free pizza' on a silver platter. Keanu's words, not mine. Talking of Keanu's words: how much did Uber pay Eli Roth to get him to have Evan declare the taxi service 'the only reliable way to travel'?

Where it all dives into familiar tedium is after the deed is done, when Roth's horror inclinations are allowed to come out to play. What follows is like a cross between Hard Candy*, Fatal Attraction, Funny Games* and Sheri Moon Zombie's performance in House of 1000 Corpses*, intensified double via Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas. Trashing the house, drawing gigantic hairy boners on his wife's fancy artwork (alright, that did make me laugh) and acting like shrieking snot children, the duo give two of the most annoying performances I've seen in a horror film in years. Which would sort of be the point, I guess, so well done.

Which is more than we can say for Keanu, who is surprisingly bad at times. Fair play to the man for following up the wonderful John Wick with a film in which he plays a victimised idiot who spends almost the entirety of the second half tied to a chair, helpless and ridiculed. This he does gamely enough, but there's nothing about his performance which couldn't have been replicated by any number of less famous, lesser-paid actors. His presence is a gimmick - a gimmick which works well, but a gimmick nonetheless.

Knock Knock.
Who's there?
Keanu who?
Keanooooooo, not my ears!

Shorn of the expectation that comes with his enormously delayed Green Inferno*, this understated home invasion piece is short and sharp enough that it's hard to get into a tizz. Besides, it is pretty effective in its constant ratcheting of the tension, and admirably inventive in torturing poor Keanu. Like everything Roth has done so far, it has a tendency to go overboard, but it's worth a look at least. Even better, it finishes on one of the best laughs I've had from a horror film in years.

Knock Knock isn't a terrible film by any stretch, but it is Uber annoying.

*Which I also found to be tremendously irritating.