Wrestlemania 32, a Review

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Wrestlemania is the grandaddy of them all. The showcase of the immortals. That one night a year when wrestling transcends itself and becomes a legitimate cultural powerhouse. Wrestlemania 32, which I will always call it, despite Vince McMahon’s odd obsession with dropping the numbers from the title in recent years, was marketed as the biggest ‘Mania of all time. In terms of attendance figures, inflated or not, it was. 101,000 people in total, though only 80,000 apparently paid, packed into the AT & T Stadium in Arlington Texas, setting an attendance record not just for the WWE and Wrestlemania, but for any Wrestling event held in North America. So, while it was the biggest of all time, was it the best?

In terms of pageantry and theater, it was, without doubt, the best Wrestlemania ever. The stage was incredible, the entrances beautifully over the top, and the sight of the incredible crowd certainly lent weight to proceedings. Annoyingly for Vinny Mac and the Big E Machine, injuries threatened to derail the event before it transpired. Seth Rollins, Bray Wyatt, John Cena and Randy Orton were all on the shelf, meaning the company had to really scramble to put forward a card worth watching. Whether they succeeded or not is a matter of subjective opinion, and here’s mine.

(I will be, primarily for time and fairness, not covering the pre-show. Does anybody really care? Either way, I don’t, and this is my review. So we’ll stick to the main card.)

INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP SEVEN MAN LADDER MATCH

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Contestants – (C) Kevin Owens Vs Sami Zayn Vs Dolph Ziggler Vs The Miz
Vs Kalisto Vs Stardust Vs Zack Ryder

Winner – Zack Ryder

We kicked off ‘Mania 32 with the customary clusterfuck Wrestlemania ladder match. This year, as with the previous incarnation, the Intercontinental Championship was up for grabs. Of course, Ladder Matches at ‘Mania aren’t a new addition, particularly for the Intercontinental Championship. We all remember the timeless classic between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon at ‘Mania 10. Add to that the history of TLC and Money In The Bank matches, and, by now, it’s pretty much a tradition.

As is also tradition, the match delivered, and was a fantastic high-octane way to start the show and get the crowd pumping. Narrative coherence was left at the door, as any sense of storytelling was bypassed, and this was pure car-crash television. Bodies flew, injuries were suffered, and a good time was had my all. A particularly memorable, and brutal spot, saw Kevin Owens damn near murdered by a Sami Zayn tigerplex directly on the spine of the ladder. There’s no faking that, that was spine on spine contact, and that must have  fucking hurt.

My only real gripe with the match is the choice of winner. Whilst there were seven competitors, and the winner being a shock certainly feeds into the idea that anyone could have won,  sometimes the obvious story just makes more sense. The build up had been heavily focused on Owens and Zayn. The champ, and his biggest rival. It made all the sense in the world for Zayn to win, and precisely none for Ryder. Sure, it was a nice moment for him, and he probably deserves it for his dedication, but it was rendered obselete by The Miz defeating him the next night on RAW. Other than to give Ryder a heavily manufactured ‘Wrestlemania moment’, the choice of victor was ultimately pointless.

Fun match, poor booking.

Rating – 3.5/5

 

AJ STYLES VS CHRIS JERICHO

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Winner – Chris Jericho

Every Wrestlemania, no matter how poor in general, we are guaranteed at least one ‘workers match’. This is, typically, when two of the best pure in-ring talents in the company are given a decent amount of time to ensure ‘Mania has at least one iconic in-ring contest. This was Wrestlemania 32’s workers match. Chris Jericho, one of the greatest in-ring performers (and character actors) of all time, going up against the man who most consider the best in-ring talent in the world today in A.J Styles. It was particularly exciting as most never believed they’d see Styles in a WWE ring, let alone in a high-profile match at Wrestlemania. Surely Mr.TNA would never cross over? Well, TNA’s loss was WWE’s gain, and after getting one of the biggest pops of the modern era in his Royal Rumble debut, Styles was a megastar.

The match, while possibly the best male contest on the card, still seemed to suffer from the curse hanging over the event in general. All the elements were there for a classic, but something was just off. It’s no lie to state that, as great as he is, Jericho has lost a step in the last couple of years. He is, of course, a victim of circumstance, and can’t possibly be blamed for this, but nevertheless it is a fact. Consequently, if this match had happened even four years ago, it could have been a five star classic. As it stands, it was a decent match, and for Styles at least, an impressive way to announce yourself on the biggest stage of them all.

It wasn’t as quickly paced as you’d expect from the two, and, whilst only a reasonable 17 minutes, unfortunately feels a bit longer on repeated viewings. It’s fine, nothing awful, but there are a few noticeable timing issues. Primarily, if I’m being honest, these are down to Jericho much more than Styles, but it still detracts from the match at the whole. It’s a good match that could have been a great match. The choice of winner is also baffling. it made all the sense in the world for Styles to win his Wrestlemania debut, and, to a lesser talent, this loss could have severely impacted his momentum. Luckily, he was fine, and remains one of the bigger names in the company, and is now a former WWE champion. Still, he should have won here.

Good match, but not great, and questionable booking.

Final Rating – 3.5/5

THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS VS THE NEW DAY

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Winners – The League of Nations.

There is so much wrong with this match it’s almost beyond comprehension. Whilst the idea of these two teams facing eachother is sound, in theory, as The New Day were, at the time, the biggest face tag team, and League of Nations were supposed to be the biggest heels. Unfortunately, theory doesn’t always make fact, and in this instance, League of Nations were not as over as a heel team as WWE seemed to think they were. In fact, they weren’t over at all. Nobody cared. I mean it. Nobody. That seems like a hyperbolic statement, but it’s entirely factual. There didn’t elicit boos from the crowd, rather, they received a complete indifference from an audience who simply didn’t care about them.

In theory, then, we had the biggest face team vs the biggest heel team. In actuality, we got an extremely over New Day against a team nobody cared about. Then, just to put the cherry on the shit sundae, the WWE, in their infinite wisdom, decided it would not be for the Tag Team Championships. This, of course, telegraphed the ending, and it became embarrassingly transparent that League of Nations were going over. So we had a situation where the most popular team in the company were almost definitely going to lose to a team nobody cared about, and, consequently, nobody cared.

Now, the match did have one highlight. New Day’s entrance was fantastic. Seeing three grown men bust out of a giant cereal box in front of 100,000 people while dressed as DragonBall-Z characters would never get old. Shame the match was a ten minute waste of time. Fortunately, it would be saved after by a group of retired wrestlers….

Poor match. Poor booking. Poor everything.

Final Rating – 2.5

Stone Cold, Mick Foley and Shawn Michaels kick the shit out the League of Nations, interact with New Day

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Then, something exciting happened. Wade Barrett got on the mic (no, not that), did his British menace thing, and then dropped the obvious cue line you’ll ever hear; ‘No three men in history can beat us.’

Cure Shawn Michaels’ theme song, and the crowd, and myself at home, losing our collective shit. Just as we’d gotten over HBK’s return, out pops old Mick Foley (To a noticeably lesser reaction.) Then, we got the biggy; Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Now, if you’ve ever watched a Wrestling show, you know what happens next. The young team who just won a big match kicked the three ageing legends about and cemented their reputation as a force to be reckoned with.

Like fuck. Stone Cold, Foley and HBK kick the shit out the League Of Nations. We get a Stunner, we get a Mandible Claw, we get a Sweet-Chin-Music. It’s all beautiful.

Then Foley and HBK dance with The New Day. Stone Cold, of course, doesn’t dance for anybody (He just sings for Vinny Mac. If that went over your head, I can only assume missed the Invasion Angle of 2001. Good for you. It was shit.) He drops a Stunner on The New Day. Good times are had by all.

One criticism of this segment I often hear is that the old guard buried the new talent. I hate to break this to these people, but The League of Nations were buried when they found them. This worked for what it was.

Rating – 4/5

BROCK LESNAR VS DEAN AMBROSE – NO HOLDS BARRED

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Winner – Brock Lesnar (Obviously)

There is a rule in storytelling known as Chekov’s Gun. It is the idea that, in narrative storytelling, any elements introduced must be essential and necessary, and anything else shouldn’t be bothered with. In short, if you show a gun, you use the gun in the story. Otherwise, you’re just a teasing Timmy. I think, now, we can rename Chekov’s Gun to Ambrose’s Chainsaw, as this match was much like that stripper that really doesn’t want to touch you; a massive tease that ends in bitter disappointment.

In the build up, we were promised a war, and all-out brawl, the brawl to end all brawls. Brock was a beast that ate men for breakfast and shat out crying children. Ambrose was crazy, and he’d use anything to win. Throughout the build, we saw him collect various tools, culminating with a barb-wire baseball bat and a chainsaw. What was advertised as a relentless war turned out to be more of a minor scuffle.

It started as Brock Lesnar matches do, unless he’s being murdered by Goldberg, as he went straight on the attack and sent Ambrose to the fabled suplex city. It was like watching an angry bear throw around a small child. In fact, watching Brock Lesnar suplex a man should be considered the highest form of modern art. It’s poetry in motion.

Eventually Ambrose got some shots in, and, after a few chair shots, we finally got our weapon that wasn’t a standard chair; a fire extinguisher. Which he then sprayed in Brock’s face, which apparently is the best way to defeat a raging beast, and got a few more chair shots in. Then he pulled out the big guns, and it all went to shit.

He licked the barb-wired bat, because he’s soooo craaaaaaaazzzzzyyyyyyyyyy. And then, I believe, got a single tame shot in to Lesnar’s back before being disarmed. As for the chainsaw, he pulled it out, failed to even start it, it was kicked out of his hands, and never seen again. That was it. Both weapons, weapons the entire contest was marketed around, got about thirty seconds of screen time.

Ambrose, after deciding he wouldn’t bother retrieving the weapons he spent weeks acquiring, then gets promptly laid out with an F-5 on a chair, and Brock wins. This colossal war we were promised was over in 13 minutes.

For the first time all night, WWE finally got at least one booking decision correct. Some say Ambrose should have won here, and it’s certainly true he had momentum, but the idea that Ambrose could slay the beast who ended Undertaker’s streak is, frankly, absurd. The right man won, but the match should have been a lot better.

There was one awesome moment though. Lesnar went to German-Suplex Ambrose onto a chair, but threw him so far he missed the chair entirely, and Brock himself landed on said chair. Consequently, Brock had to sell the chair shot. It was a moment of accidental brilliance.

Rating – 3/5

WWE WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP

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(C) Charlotte  Vs  Sasha Banks  Vs  Becky Lynch

Winner  – Charlotte

Before this match even began it had an extra aura of legitimacy about it that had been sadly missing in women’s wrestling, especially in the Big E, in quite some time. These three females were not your atypical ‘diva’. Rather than be marketed on looks (though they are all very attractive women), they were marketed on in-ring ability.

To further add weight to the contest, former icon Lita unveiled the brand new Women’s championship on the Wrestlemania pre-show, a championship that would displace the horrifically sexist Divas Championship.  Featuring three of the fabled four horsewoman that put women’s wrestling on the map in NXT, and a brand new legitimate title, this had the potential to be an incredible spectacle. It didn’t disappoint.

The three women put on what was easily the best pure wrestling contest of the entire night. There was no hair pulling, no nail-scratching; this was a great 16 minute athletic contest that, while not quite perfect, outshone everything the male competitors did that evening, and proved that female wrestling can, and should be, a huge deal.

Even the entrances were great, Sasha Bank’s in particular as she was rapped to the ring by her cousin Snoop Dogg. Due to the nature of a triple-threat, none of the three dominated the others, and instead we got an even contest worked at a lightning pace, with Charlotte eventually picking up the victory by making Lynch tap to the figure-eight, after her legendary geratric father, Ric Flair, who despite his partying ways is somehow not dead yet, held Banks in place.

It was a perhaps disappointing end to a great contest, and perhaps in hindsight Banks, with her massive surge of popularity, could have, and should have, picked up the crowd-popping win. However, this did play into a larger story (Charlotte’s unbeaten record on PPV) and was the catalyst for the fantastic feud the two ladies had later in the year. The one thing that does hold this back from being rated higher is there were a few minor botches. Nothing spectacular, but enough to rule it out as a certified classic.

Final Rating – 4/5

THE UNDERTAKER VS SHANE MCMAHON – HELL IN A CELL

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Winner – The Undertaker

This was, by some distance, the most bizarre storyline going into the event, and possibly one of the most bizarre ever. For a company that once depicted an eldery women birthing a human hand, that’s saying something. Shane made his triumphant return on the February 22nd episode of Raw, interrupting Vince McMahon’s ‘Legacy of Excellence’ ceremony. He quickly informed his father that he was indeed back, and had some dirt on Vince that could cause major ramifications, and he wanted control of the company. Vince said he could have control, but on one condition: Shane had to face The Undertaker at Wrestlemania, in a Hell in A Cell match. Undertaker, for no good reason, agreed to this. Even after Vinny Mac referred to him as ‘my bitch’.

It was, to say the least, absolutely shocking. Shane McMahon, a 46 year old businessman, was going to wrestle The Undertaker, one of the greatest of all time, at Wrestlemania. It was pretty apparent to most that this was a desperate move by the company to fill the gaps left by so many injuries, so they just threw everything at the wall and hoped something would stick.

The contest itself was, for a lack of a better term, the drizzling shits. Once you got over the novelty of how entirely surreal the whole scenario was, the match quickly lost the appeal. Undertaker’s string of having the best match of year every Wrestlemania was clearly over, he’d lost a step or two, and he seemed lethargic. Shane, not a fully-trained wrestler, looked exactly that. He threw some awful MMA style punches, and the first twenty five minutes of the contest are a plodding mess. Then, this happened…

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Shane McMahon, a human being and not a boneless aquatic species, launched himself off a twenty foot cell. Now, while wrestling is scripted, and most moves are very safe, this is not. It’s a minor miracle, at his age, that he didn’t seriously hurt himself. In terms of spectacle, it’s easily the moment of the evening, and something nobody will ever forget. I myself was sat at home loudly chanting ‘holy shit’.

Undertaker then picked up Shane’s splattered corpse and carried him to the ring, before dropping him with a tombstone. It was the definition of a one-spot match, a thirty minute build up to one moment of madness. In terms of booking, the right guy obviously won here. Shane going down as only the second man to beat Undertaker at Wrestlemania, putting him in a category with only Brock Lesnar, would have been insanity.

Final Rating – 3.5

ANDRE THE GIANT MEMORIAL BATTLE ROYAL

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Winner – Baron Corbin

Now it was time for the traditional ‘We don’t have anything better for these guys, so shove them here and make it seem important’ Battle Royal. This used to be a pre-show thing with no consequence. Now, it’s dedicated to the iconic Andre The Giant, and, arguably, still has no consequence to it. Except now it had a featured spot on the main card.

It was your typical Battle Royal. A load of large men in a tiny space shuffle around aimlessly, trying to perform something that vaguely resembles a wrestling match. Eventually, after enough people fall over the top rope, we get down to handful of contestants, and a match breaks out. Unfortunately, this year we focused on Shaq and Big Show, so nothing remotely exciting happened.

While it was kinda cool to see Shaq involved, this odd idea WWE have, where a celebrity suddenly lays people out like they’re Hulk Hogan in his prime kinda ruined it. Shaq looked strong, and even eliminated The Big Show, a former World Heavyweight Champion.

Oh, and Tatanka returned, but wasn’t mentioned for a large portion of the contest. And Baron Corbin won, which I guess is a good choice, but who really cares?

Rating – 2.5

BRAY WYATT AND ROCK SEGMENT

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The Rock then proceeded to make one of the most elaborate entrances in the history of Wrestlemania, and boy was it cool as hell. He used a flamethrower to set fire to an effigy of his name, because he’s The Fucking Rock and he does what he wants.

After taking about fifteen years to make his way to the ring, he finally starts cutting a classic Rock promo, as only Rock can. You know the drill; Finally, The Millions, If Ya Smeeeeeelelelelelellellelelelll, etc etc. He’s then interrupted by my favourite wrestler, and the only person in the entire company who could hope to contest with Dwayne on the microphone, Bray Wyatt, and his Wyatt Family. He tells Rock that he ‘Plans to eviscerate you on the grandest stage of them all, maaaaaaaaan.’

After initially ripping Bray in classic Rock fashion, including mocking his Southern Accent and his use of the word eviscerate, Rock then gives Bray some genuine credit. He calls him, among other things, the most charismatic man in the company today, and an incredible talent, but, of course, reminds him he’ll lay the smackdown on his monkey ass. Bray, to his credit, keeps a straight face and shuts Rock down beautifully with the line of the evening; ‘You have no idea who you’re fooling with, friend’.

This led to an impromptu match between The Rock and Erick Rowans. Six seconds later, Rock is victorious, setting a new Wrestlemania record. Which is actually kind of cool, because nobody honestly expected a Rock match going into the contest and, while not great, six seconds is better than zero.

The Wyatts then look set to tear Rock apart, before John Cena makes his unexpected return, to the biggest pop of his entire career, and helps Rock clean house.

This, for me, was a fantastic segment. Seeing The Rock never gets old, and, considering his injury, this was the best possible use for Bray Wyatt. Some say Wyatt was buried, but that’s nonsense. Those compliments from The Rock were very deliberate, and the very fact Wyatt was allowed to go stick-to-stick with one of the greatest says a lot about the stock they have invested in him. The only person buried here was Erick Rowan, and, if we’re being honest, he hasn’t exactly got a lot of potential.

Also, Cena returned, which was good to see. People may complain about the guy, but, he’s noticeable when absent.

Rating – 4/5

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH

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(C) Triple H  Vs  Roman Reigns

Winner – Roman Reigns.

Wrestlemania 31 was supposed to be Roman Reigns’ grand coronation as the new face of the company. They’d spent the entirety of 2014 building it, but, when Daniel Bryan returned in January, everything went tits up. When Reigns won the Rumble at Bryan’s expense, and punched his ticket to Wrestlemania, he became the most hated man in the company. Suddenly this image of the noble warrior defeating the beast Brock Lesnar was compromised, and the fans bayed for Reigns’ blood, and cheered the nefarious Lesnar like he was Bryan himself. In the end, they had the veto the idea and use Seth Rollins’ Money In The Bank as a get out of jail card, and he absconded with the title and saved Wrestlemania.

So, a year later, the WWE had clearly learned absolutely nothing, and decided, as stubborn as ever, to try again. It flopped, majorly. Especially when they booked Reigns as the conquering hero, once again, by making him defend his title in the Royal Rumble match, peddling the ‘One Vs All’ narrative. Predictably, to everyone but the WWE, the fans hated Reigns more for this, and when Triple H, former public enemy number one, dumped him out of the Rumble, the fans cheered their asses off. When the fans are cheering a Triple H championship win in 2016 you know something’s gone horribly wrong.

What we got was a match nobody cared about. Everyone and their Gran knew Reigns was going to be crowned, and precisely nobody wanted to see it. In fact, at the start of the match, fans could be seen clearly leaving in alarmingly large droves. The message was clear – We don’t want this. The WWE then decided to make this match nobody wants half an hour, forcing us, the poor fans, into a fourth hour of Wrestlemania, which is torture on a biblical scale.

I’ve tried to watch this match twice, and both times I failed. One the night, I was barely awake, trying desperately not to fall asleep. The other night, I tried again, and I just can’t sit through the whole thing. It’s boring, it’s plodding, it’s heatless because nobody cares, and the eventual victory leaves you with no emotional response other than ‘Man, Reigns is a dick.’

It’s the worst Wrestlemania main event in at least five years, and guaranteed to frequent many ‘Worst main-events in Wrestlemania History’ list. Did the right man win? Probably, but he shouldn’t have been in the match in the first place.

Rating – 2.5

 

Finitione;

Wrestlemania 32 was an odd show, unfortunately hampered by injuries which left it in somewhat of a no-win position. Desperate attempts were pulled to make up for a lack of star power, but it just resulted in an over-stuffed show that, while it looked fantastic, wasn’t that entertaining to sit through.

The Main Event, which is supposed to be the biggest match of the wrestling year, was a dumpster fire, and the other largely promoted contest, Shane Vs Undertaker, wasn’t much better, relying on one insane spot to get over. The wrong people were booked to win, frequently, and the whole show was a bit of a mess.

Luckily, Styles Vs Jericho and the Women’s Championship match were both good contests that, to some extent, saved the show from an in-ring standpoint, even if the booking problems haunted that one too.

It wasn’t the worst of Wrestlemanias, it wasn’t the best of Wrestlemanias; it was just a Wrestlemania.

Final Rating – 3/5

 

 

 

I am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House (2016), a Review

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Director – Osgood Perkins

Writer – Osgood Perkins

Starring – Ruth Wilson, Paula Prentiss, Bob Babalan, Lucy Boynton

 

 

Netflix, for a time, had seemingly become the go-to location for Independentpictures of the highest quality. Sadly, that took a dip last year, owing to endless Adam Sandler vanity projects, as well as several other misfires, causing their once lofty standards to plummet. Fortunately, for every Ridiculous Six, there was a Hush; a fantastic counter-point to the drudgery.

I first heard of I am The Pretty Thing That Lives in The House, in The RueMorgue, a monthly magazine that focuses on macabre cinema and cryptozoology. Osgood Perkins, the son of the legendary Anthony Perkins of Pyscho fame, and writer/director of this piece, promised a classic gothic tale that relied on atmosphere over jump scares, and would be a throwback to the more ambient horror pictures of old. He mostly delivers what he promises, yet, regrettably, the film falls somewhat flat, in spite of its fantastic concept.

The film’s destiny in your eyes as either an affecting piece of horror, or an overdrawn waste of time, will depend somewhat on how intrigued you are by the central mystery that shepherds the narrative. As such, I won’t give too much away with a lofty synopsis, as this is the type of film it’s best to go into blind. The basics, however, are as follows:

Retired horror author Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss) suffers from dementia and lives in a remote New England house built in the early 19th century. Ms. Blum’s estate manager Mr. Waxcap (Bob Balaban) hires live-in nurse Lily Saylor (Ruth Wilson) to care for her. Lily begins to experience strange events, and Ms. Blum only calls Lily “Polly,” never using her real name. Mr. Waxcap explains that Polly Parsons is the protagonist of Ms. Blum’s most popular novel, The Lady in the Walls. Eventually, Lilybegins to read it, against her better judgement,  and the lines between fiction and reality become blurred.

I Am The Pretty Thing’s – (which I will now abbreviate as IATPT for the rest ofthe review) – entire gimmick, or central concept if you will, is the central mystery that governs the rest of the plot. Unfortunately, for me at least, the mystery isn’t particularly interesting, and, sadly, most cinematic aficionados will almost certainly have it figured out within the hour. It is, in fact, telegraphed in the opening narration, if you pay close enough attention.

It’s not a complete bust, and I’d argue the opening twenty minutes are the best part of the entire movie. There’s a sense of crushing isolation, and the narration is so cryptic it’s hard to make any sense of what’s happening, which, I believe, was exactly what Perkins intended. For a short while, you’re almost tricked into believing you’re going to be in for something akin to a David Lynch film, full of genuine mystery and intrigue, and the emotion in the opening is very poignant. Disappointingly, it’s as though Perkins believed we couldn’t possibly follow the entire film in this manner, and decides to start spoon-feeding us the plot at the half-way mark.

From there, the film falls into very predictable and oft-tread territory. What could have been something special and unique falls into the trappings of cliché and generic formula. It’s incredibly frustrating, because you feel like you’ve been duped by the opening. I went through a myriad of thoughts watching this film, which, typically, I’d consider a good thing. However, these thoughts went something like this:

‘Wow, this opening is very good. I’m intrigued; I have no idea what is happening and I want to know.’

“Alright, there’s supernatural elements and a mystery to be solved, but I’m still intrigued.’

‘Surely it won’t be X = X? That would be pretty predictable.’

‘Oh, X is X. Great.’

A lot of the issues lie in Perkins writing, and it’s clear, at least in this particular piece of work, that his visual flair supersedes his ability to write by some distance. The narration that permeates the entire film is unfortunately entirely necessary for the plot to work, yet is grating to the ears. They also stop being clever once you figure out the mysteries, and then become simply irritating. The writing isn’t terrible, per say, but it is pretty apparent Perkins ambition was greater than his ability. Had this concept been in thehands of a Lynch or a Hitchcock, we could have had something truly outstanding. In the hands of Perkins, we get an average horror flick.

The blame can’t be laid entirely on his shoulders, though, and his actors do very little to help him out. Wilson takes the lead, as Boynton plays the ghostly Parsons, and neither give a particularly great account of themselves. Wilson, for the most part, is fine, playing her part pretty much as she needs to without ever steering into genuinely impressive territory. Boynton as Polly, however, is close to awful. Now, I can’t give too much away without spoiling the narrative, which I promised not to do.

So what I will say is this: both Boynton and Wilson give narration during this Feature, and it’s left ambiguous as to who is talking at what time until the end.Unfortunately, there’s no chance of you playing a guessing game, as both are equally lifeless and monotonous, and, even with the benefit of knowing the twist, I probably couldn’t tell you who is narrating when. To reiterate – none of the actors in this film are poor, they just exist, do reasonable jobs, and then it ends. Nobody captivates or enthralls you.

The film also, sadly, fails as a horror film, which should be, for obvious reasons, the primary concern. The atmosphere, while claustrophobic and tense, never really makes you feel uncomfortable in that primal way true horror classics can. There’s no moment of real heightened tension, and, for a film marketed as a gothic horror, it almost feels as though the horror elements were added as an afterthought. It’s as though Perkins wanted to write a deep mystery piece, but also wanted to cash in on the horror market. What we’re leftwith is a confused picture without any real identity, which is incredible whenone considers just how unique the concept is.

It’s certainly not terrible, though. Particular credit has to be given to the cinematography, which is, in a word, beautiful. Every shot is immaculately composed, thought-out and, as a series of still images, it looks absolutely incredible. Annoyingly, though, a lot of these incredible shots simply do not need to exist, and seem to act as filler so the film could make the run time. Perhaps if Perkins had spent less time on his shots and more on his script, these obvious fillers would be unnecessary. The score is also very strong if generic, relying on the tried and tested horror tropes of screeching violins.

Now, this review may have seemed somewhat negative, and, I guess it is. In light of this, I want to make it absolutely clear that, just because this particular effort was a mis-step, it does not mean directors and writers should stop attempting ambitious projects such as these. This was a great idea that, if pulled off correctly, could have been a timeless throwback to the great Gothic horrors of old. Sadly, in this instance, the film falls flat, but there is enough here to suggest Perkins is an ambitious talent with a future ahead of him, and there are certainly worse things you could watch on Netflix. Just don’t expect to be terrified, as the only true horror here is watching wasted potential.

 

Final Rating  – 3.7

 

Joshua Moulinie

 

The Lobster (2015), a Review

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Director – Yorgos Lanthimos
Writer(s) – Yorgos Lanthimos, Ehtimis Filippou
Starring – Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman,  John C.Reilly

 

 

Every once in a while, as rare an event as a solar eclipse, a film will come out that is so unique, so beautifully bizarre, that it becomes almost impossible to categorise, and consequently, to do justice in a written review. So I’ll preface my return to film criticism with this comment – Nothing I say could possibly transcribe the incredible spectrum of emotion one feels when viewing something so rare in these days of Superhero franchises and endless sequels that Hollywood seemingly has become. This is unmistakably art.

Lanthimos is one of the last true writers of absurdist comedy left in cinema today. Anybody who’s seen his most celebrated project, Dogtooth, could tell you he’s a special talent. Again here he creates something that, while not quite a masterpiece of cinema, certainly demands to be seen by any self-respecting cinephile. The best way to describe it would be an absurdist dystopian black-comedy; but it generally defies conventional labels, even in terms of genre.

The concept is both relatively simple, yet delightfully original.  The film is set at an unknown time, in an unknown country, presumed, from the regional accents, to be Britain. David (Farrell)finds out his wife has left him, and is transported to The Hotel. In The Hotel, people are given 45 days to find a suitable partner. If they should fail, then when their time is up they are transformed into an animal of their choice and released into the wild. The catch is that each hotel guest is defined by their most prominent characteristic, and your partner has to match. If your prominent characteristic is, say, you have a limp, then your partner must also have a limp.

Some people break away from the hotel and run off the live in the wild. They are, effectively, a guerrilla militia force. Hotel guests are sent on hunts for these ‘Loners’, and can buy themselves more time to find a partner by shooting them with a tranquilizer dart. David at first struggles to find his match in the hotel, instead making some eccentric friends, before eventually finding somebody in the least likely of places.

The narrative seems complex at a first glance, but, in reality, it’s relatively simple, and that is a testament to the greatness of the writing. Fillipou and Lanthimos not only created a great central concept, they do nothing to waste it. Every character is fleshed out and believable, and, while the film won’t be to everybody’s taste, you don’t have to be a film connoisseur to grasp it. So it’s accessible to all who have the patience to go with it.

The dialogue is hilariously dry, sardonic and devoid of anything we’d consider human warmth. In a world based entirely on the relationship paradigm, and the idea that nobody could possibly manage alone, most individuality goes out the window, and that is represented verbally by the writers in a fantastic way. Everybody, effectively, sounds the same, except for Farrell’s David, who seems like an eccentric outcast by simply being relatively normal. It has some fantastic quotes as well, and if you’re a fan of the driest of dry sarcasm, you’ll find a lot to love.

So at the moment when David finally finds somebody different, somebody he connects with, it’s so awkward, blunt and direct that it manages to be genuinely heart-warming. The first genuine emotional connection in the film packs power, and you begin to truly root for the two of them. We’ve had countless love dramas over the years, film included, and, while most are harmless, very few have genuinely moved me. Seeing great looking relatively normal men and women fall into relationships onscreen has grown tiresome.

The last two films to deal with relationships that warmed me were Sightseers (Ben Wheatley, 2012) and I’m a Cyborg…but That’s Ok (Chan-Wook, 2006). This is due to both dealing with genuine outcasts; honest and real, quirky and strange characters; finding warmth in the most disturbing of scenarios -(an asylum; and serial killings on holiday)- is impossible not to get behind. And The Lobster falls firmly into this category.

This is helped by the performances; Farrell, in particular, impressively anchors the piece, managing to be both stand-offish and charming; a very difficult balance to strike. Weisz is also fantastic as his counter-foil, the one with which he finally finds potential. Olivia Colman, a British favourite, perhaps best known for Peep Show, turns up to deliver a great performance as the villainous co-leader of the The Hotel. She never fails to deliver, and this is no exception. It also boasts a rare appearance from Ashley Jensen of Extras fame. She’s was great in Extras, being the true emotional core of the show, and here she again impresses in what is effectively an extended cameo.

What makes The Lobster truly special though is it does what the best comedies tend to do; that being, to act as a mirror of sorts to show us just how far we’ve degraded as a society. South Park is great at it, and it seems Lanthimos shares this ability. In the age of Tinder dates, where we literally judge human beings as if we were judging meat at some twisted digital market, an age where women’s magazines tell them that if they’re not married by fifty they’ve fucked their lives up, this is a perfect reflection of where we are potentially heading. This is best pointed out by John, David’s friend, who meets a woman with a nose-bleeding problem. To become a match he proceeds to continuously break his nose off hard surfaces.

This desperation, and the general idea that if you don’t find a perfect match you’re somehow sub-human, is the perfect metaphor for our contemporary society. At least, in terms of our views on relationships. This dark, dreary and cold reality is also brilliantly encapsulated by the general aesthetic of the film. The colours are muted and washed-out, creating a lifeless world of greys and neutral blues. It’s ugly, but that’s exactly the point. This is topped-off by some immaculate cinematography of Thimios Bakatakis. Certainly a talent to keep an eye on.

The score is also fantastic, a strange, ambient mix of string and brass. The frantic Cello that accompanies the more dramatic scenes is a particular highlight. It’s interesting, whilst never being entirely distracting, which is the perfect recipe for an effective, if not entirely memorable score.

Now, I’m sure by now, if you’ve read this far, you’re probably assuming this masterclass in cold debauchery, and this magnificently cold metaphor for contemporary relationships is probably going to get a perfect score. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. While the concept is magnificent, and the writers completely explore its full potential, there’s a possibility they may have gone beyond.

The film isn’t particularly long at 118 minutes, but it feels like it could have been about 90 and that would have made for a tighter film. It feels like they hit a wall of sorts in terms of ideas, once they’d mined it for everything interesting, and they could have lost some time. The ambiguous ending, which I personally thought was perfect, may also piss off some of those viewers more conditioned to narrative closure.

These small gripes aside, however, there is absolutely no denying The Lobster is a work of a mind that truly transcends any ideas of conventional storytelling. A mind that is perfect for magnificent concepts with harrowing human drama. The Lobster could, easily, be a magnificent play as well as a film, and Lanthimos is a name that you all need to be keeping an eye on. Not quite a masterpiece but, nevertheless, probably the most interesting film you’ll have seen for a long time.

 

Final Rating – 4.8

 

Joshua Moulinie