Magic Magic


Director: Sebastian Silva (2013)
Starring: Juno Temple, Michael Cera, Emily Browning
Find it: IMDB

Mumblecore turtleneck hipster icon Michael Cera stars in this psychological horror film, driving poor Juno Temple around the twist over the course of what will surely turn out to be the worst holiday of her life. Visiting her cousin in Chile, the nervous young Alicia (Temple) is abandoned among a group of people she barely knows in a claustrophobic, remote country house.


Not-so-gradually, the already bewildered Alicia begins to lose her mind, bullied by the aloof Barbara (Catalina Sandino Moreno) and harassed by sleazy, weird Brink (Cera). Add to that a terrible bout of insomnia, definite mental health issues and chronic moodiness, and we're left with the most uncomfortable holiday since that one time I was trapped on a fucking houseboat with a cretin who identified himself as a standup comedian. Temple does a good job with a thankless role, but it's Cera who will win the lion's share of the applause. And rightly so; he's magnificently malicious in it, like a more drawn-out version of his role in This is the End.

Everything else is so purposefully odd that it almost hurts. This is horror for the mumblecore crowd - a darker version of Youth in Revolt. Sadly, Cera didn't bring the moustache back for this one, although he does rock a series of great jumpers. Browning is less effective as cousin Sarah, surrounded by terrible people and having little to do but look tired and react resignedly to her friends' shitty behaviour. Augustin Silva is cool as the only guy in the group who's not an unbearable arsehole, but that just makes his decision to hang around people who are seem all the more conspicuous.

Not being the sort of horror movie with ghosts or chainsaws or even horror, Magic Magic jumps to a Kill List change of pace in the third act, but it's no game changer. Those who hate the film will likely hate it even more, while those who were enjoying it will support its arty dive into nonsense.

Magic Magic is a convincing portrayal of a girl suffering a mental breakdown while surounded by shitheads and Michael Cera. It's grim and dirty in all the right ways and has a great villain in Michael Cera (as far as anyone can be anything in this sort of thing) but remains about as enjoyable as holidaying with a gang of bickering hipster numpties could ever be.


Which is to say, 'not very'.


Faults


Director: Riley Stearns (2014)
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Leland Orser, Lance Reddick
Find it: IMDB

A more serious version of that episode of The Simpsons in which Homer joins a cult and has to be de-programmed by Marge and Reverend Lovejoy. Well, slightly more serious anyway. Starring the always awesome Mary Elizabeth Winstead and That Guy actor Leland Orser, Faults is actually very funny also.

Their daughter apparently brainwashed by a mysterious cult named 'Faults', a pair of worried parents enlist disgraced cult expert and de-programmer Ansel (Orser) to help the girl see sense. Grabbed from the street, tied up and thrown in the back of a van, Claire (Winstead) is smuggled away to a quiet motel room where Ansel plans to spend the next few days undoing Faults' influence. We're soon left wondering, however, just who is in charge around here. Hint: probably not Ansel.


Faultlessly (geddit) acted, well-written and enjoyably surreal in places, Stearns' directorial debut is a fine piece of darkly humorous food for thought. Its work with Ansel is particularly impressive; a character who starts off reprehensible and pathetic before transforming before us into a figure both sympathetic and oddly likeable. Very well done to Winstead too, giving a subtle and nuanced performance which manages to be believable both in vulnerability and later strength. Lance Reddick also appears periodically, serving to boost the cool quotient even more.

Playing at Film4 Frightfest, Faults was one of the festival's more interesting releases - not horror, nor even really a thriller, with minimal violence and gore, it nevertheless emerged as one of the weekend's best. Sure, it's a little slow and even mildly predictable in places, but we can forgive its minor faults (get it!) when everything else is so well done.


Zombeavers


Director: Jordan Rubin (2014)
Starring: Lexi Atkins, Rachel Melvin, Cortney Palm, Robert R. Shafer
Find it: IMDB

I hope you like 'beaver' jokes, because you'll be hearing a lot of them. Recovering from one of their number's bad breakup, a group of girls take off to a relative's cabin in the woods for a weekend of boozing, bitching and setting the world to rights. What they don't count on is the arrival of two groups of uninvited guests - their dipshit boyfriends and the titular zombeavers; zombie beavers.

Yeah, zombie beavers in a movie that is (a) not a fake trailer, and (b) stretched out to feature length. There are only a handful of filmmakers I can think of offhand capable of making a halfway watchable film out of such a concept. No matter the talent involved, there's no-one could make Zombeavers worth watching - not at 85 minutes, anyway - and Rubin doesn't disappoint in that respect; it makes the jump from harmless distraction to far too fucking long in a remarkably short space of time.

The plot, as it is, sees zombified beavers attack when a pair of careless truckers accidentally dump toxic waste in a river teeming with the little fluffy bastards. What follows is like American Pie crossed with Cabin Fever, complete with all of the stupid juvenile humour that entails. Expect, then, gratuitous nudity, an obsession with lesbians, brainless behaviour and endless 'beaver' gags. YES, I GET IT, BEAVER IS A EUPHEMISM FOR 'VAGINA'. Robert R. Shafer pops up to offer the film some of its few genuinely amusing jokes and the kids do die pretty horribly, but it's an otherwise worthless affair.

The beavers themselves look intentionally horrible and shoddy, but the joke is lost in translation by the film also being (unintentionally) horrible and shoddy. It's like the new Grindhouse movement all over again - you have to be very good to pull off a great bad movie, and Zombieavers is just a bad movie. Honestly, if it were between watching this again and Mrs. Brown's Boys D'Movie, I would give serious thought to the latter...

...before watching Zombeavers again, because fuck that noise.

In spite of any good intentions it may have had, Zombeavers is a wretched mess. Unfunny, irritating and badly made (both purposefully and not) it's a dam waste of time.


The Green Inferno


Director: Eli Roth (2013)
Starring: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Aaron Burns
Find it: IMDB

Enthusiastic horror frat boy Eli Roth returns to directing with The Green Inferno, his modern take on the jungle cannibal movie. I love Cabin Fever, mildly despise Hostel and quite like its sequel, so to say that I'm ambivalent towards Roth's work is accurate. There's no denying that his heart is in the right place, but that enthusiasm doesn't always translate to good horror. Still, I was pumped for The Green Inferno - the jungle cannibal subgenre is a personal favourite, and I was eager to see what Roth could do with it.

The answer, predictably, is to fill it with poo, weed and dick jokes. It takes less than ten minutes for one of the characters to describe something as 'gay' and the writing doesn't improve from there. The story sees naive college student Justine (Izzo) fall in with the wrong (or right, depending on your view) crowd - a collective of activists set on saving the Amazon rainforest. Hopping on a dodgy aeroplane, the kids travel to a particularly remote area of the Amazon where they hope to fuck up the corporate destruction they find there. Suffice to say, things do not go to plan.

Not unless the plan is to end up tied to a stick, dressed like some sort of sixties Star Trek extra.

A far cry from the gloomy torture basements and drippy alleyways of Hostel and its sequel, The Green Inferno looks incredible. Lush, verdant and beautiful, the jungle setting makes this one of the most visually compelling horror films I've seen in years. As a visual storyteller, Roth is King - he hasn't made a bad film yet, in that respect. The scene in which our young heroes are led into the cannibal village to their doom is up there with Hostel's big reveal - where Paxton is dragged, kicking and screaming into the dungeons - and, at that moment, I believed that The Green Inferno would turn out alright.

Sadly, 'alright' is as far as it goes. For everything it gets right - and there's a lot - there's just as much it gets very wrong. The Green Inferno is utterly fantastic as long as no-one is speaking at the time. Lorenza Izzo, Aaron Burns and Daryl Sabara (looking like a curly Jay from The Inbetweeners) do well as the most likeable ones in the group, but everyone else is short-thrifted by immature humour and curious lack of tension. The film lost me at its shitting-in-a-cage scene, and didn't do much to regain my interest from there.

The live-action version of The Simpsons left a lot to be desired.

Slightly racist in spite of its best intentions (there's an attempt at giving the cannibals justification, but only barely) and stuck with the stupidest ending this side of Hostel 2, this is ultimately a wasted opportunity. It possesses one truly great gore sequence and a lovely lead in Izzo, but fails to effectively utilise those elements. That's a shame, since The Green Inferno has room to be a modern classic.

Still, I hope that the film gets its release soon. Good or bad, it's a film that deserves to be seen - if only for its juicy visuals - and I'm eager to revisit it, without expectation. The Green Inferno isn't worth getting hot under the collar about, but it's an interesting oddity, all the same.