Recent round-up: Night of the Hunter; Side Effects; Warm Bodies & Dark Skies

I’ve been very slack with my posts recently so will whizz through a bunch of films I’ve watched since I was last here. Please try to keep up!

First off is the classic 1955 crime thriller The Night of the Hunter. Robert Mitchum turns in an extraordinarily menacing performance as the sexually repressed travelling preacher Harry Powell, who marries and murders widows in order to take their money. His next unfortunate target is Willa Harper, played by a young Shelley Winters. Mourning the death of her husband, and left alone to raise two children, she quickly falls for the preacher and marries him. And this is when things get really bad for the remaining members of the Harper family.

This is a genius piece of film-making. Beautifully shot with fantastic performances and a dark, intense and gripping story, this is a must watch for anyone who enjoys good films.

The next envelope to land on my doorstep courtesy of LoveFilm contained Side Effects. I read the label, saw who was in it and scratched my head. Why on Earth did I put this on my list? For one thing, I cannot abide Jude Law. The man gives me the creeps. You know, the kind of creeps you get when walking home a bit too late at night on your own? The next name was Catherine Zeta Jones, and I’m not sure I really need to explain why this casting decision baffled and disturbed me… Zorro? Entrapment? That terrible remake of The Haunting? Enough said. Already filled with trepidation, I read on to find…Channing Tatum. Honestly, this man has all the talent and emotional range of a courgette (luckily he isn’t in it for long).

Anyway, Rooney Mara (of Dragon Tattoo fame) plays a young woman suffering from depression who seeks help from a creepy psychiatrist played by Jude Law, with predictably catastrophic results. I won’t say too much about the story as you can find that easily elsewhere, and I think it would spoil your enjoyment should you decide to give this one a go.

This film has a somewhat Hitchcockian feel (that’s not to say it’s of the same calibre), it’s executed with competence, but to paraphrase one of my friends “it reminds me of one of those lurid, 90s erotic thrillers starring Sharon Stone”. I don’t mean that it’s bad. It’s quite an easy watch even though my fears about the casting were well-founded. In short, worth a look.

The next offering turned out to be a very pleasant surprise, in the form of Warm Bodies. This one puts a fun twist on the zombie apocalypse story that’s being done to death right as we speak. Starring Nicholas Hoult (remember the goofy kid from About a Boy?) as a zombie named R who falls in love with a living girl, his warm and fuzzies have a strange effect on him and his zombie pals.

This is a surprisingly charming and funny film, and manages to do something a bit different from your standard brain-eating zombie horror. Our zombie here is a likeable lad and we’re on his side – yes, he might eat your brains, but at least he won’t feel good about it.

Before you get too excited and start thinking I’ve mellowed and have started to enjoy everything I see, it’s back to Earth with a bump. This particular bump comes courtesy of the truly pointless Dark Skies. I admit I didn’t have particularly high hopes for this, and guessed it might be a case of all-the-best-bits-appear-in-the-trailer syndrome, and was I ever right?

It has all the ingredients for a basic haunted house/possessed child yarn that actually ends up being about alien abduction. If that’s a spoiler I’m not even sure I’m sorry if it’s enough to put you off wasting your time watching this. It really is utter drivel, and you’ll thank me in the end.

If the characters or performances were even remotely believable I might be able to suspend my disbelief, after all I loved the X-Files (when it was good), but the biggest problem with this film is that it doesn’t give you any reason to care. The characters are one dimensional and the performances are lacklustre. The father in particular lacks any kind of charisma.

2 responses to “Recent round-up: Night of the Hunter; Side Effects; Warm Bodies & Dark Skies

    • Ah, I’m glad you liked Warm Bodies, I thought it was really cute. As for Side Effects, I totally get what you mean about the ending. Generally thought it was more clever than it was.

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