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Non-Review Review: M.o.M. Mothers of Monsters

M.o.M. Mothers of Monsters is an ambitious and clever piece of indie horror constructed on a tight budget.

It marks the feature-length narrative directorial debut of Tucia Lyman. Lyman has a variety of experience in horror, particular on television shows like Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files, Ghosts of Shepherdstown and Ghosts of Morgan City. With that in mind, it makes sense that Lyman’s first narrative feature should borrow a lot of the language of paranormal reality television. M.o.M. is essentially a found-footage horror film, with the audience navigating and assembling a collection of seemingly raw video files into a cohesive narrative.

Will he snap?

There is something inherently old-fashioned about the found footage horror template. The format was all the rage in the early years of the twenty-first century, perhaps informed by the use of first-person camcorder footage to document events like 9/11. It arguably reached its apotheosis with the release of the security-camera home haunting horror Paranormal Activity in 2007. Contemporary horror has moved back toward more traditional approaches, prompted by the success of films like The Conjuring, making M.o.M.‘s found footage approach feel decidedly retro.

M.o.M. is occasionally a little clumsy and heavy-handed, sometimes stretching its premise a little too far and struggling to balance sharp tonal shifts between heightened sensationalism and grounded domestic horror. Still, there’s something endearingly committed and energetic in this low-fi horror thriller, an infectious and gleeful embrace of its more absurd elements.

Receiving a dressing gown.

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New Escapist Column! On How COVID-19 Will Change The Movies…

I published a new piece at Escapist Magazine this evening, looking at the future of film distribution.

COVID-19 has already had a huge impact on film distribution, from the cancellation of film festivals through to the early arrival of new releases on streaming. However, as the crisis continues and as debates extend over how long the situation will last, it seems fair to wonder about what the long-term implications of this will be in terms of film distribution and movie-watching. After all, there’s a sense in which the massive changes to the industry in the past few weeks are ultimately just the acceleration of trends that studios have been pushing for a while.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On the New Films Available Early on Streaming…

I published a new Don’t Miss It piece at Escapist Magazine this evening

Basically, with the shutdown of theatres, a lot of content is landing on digital streaming services very quickly. It can be hard to keep track of it all, so we thought we’d throw together a quick round-up of the headlines, drawing attention to films like Just Mercy, The Way Back, Birds of Prey, Emma., The Hunt, The Invisible Man and more that will be available straight to your television set in the next couple of days.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

172. Left Behind (-#33)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with guest Andy Melhuish, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Vic Armstrong’s Left Behind.

Captain Ray Steele has it all: a beautiful wife, a loving family, a successful job as a high-flying pilot. Still, he finds his eye wandering and temptation calling. Everything changes when disaster strikes during a long-haul flight, when Ray’s co-pilot and several passengers mysterious disappear without any reason whatsoever. What could possibly abduct passengers from an airplane mid-flight? And what happens to those who are left behind?

At time of recording, it was ranked 33rd on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On the “Just Create New Female Characters” Argument…

I published an In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine last week, on an interesting and age-old debate.

The question of how best to foster diversity in cinema and wider pop culture is a challenging one. Whenever the suggestion of race- or gender-shifting an existing character like the Doctor or James Bond comes up, the responses are always the same: “just create new characters!” It’s a strong argument conceptually, because it’s rooted in the (entirely correct) moral presumption that women shouldn’t need to repurpose old characters, but instead should have new characters. However, it also glosses over the economic and cultural realities of the current cinematic climate. The debate is more complicated than it might appear.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On “Rogue One” as “Star Wars” for the Twenty-First Century…

I published an In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine a little while ago, looking at Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Like most films, the original Star Wars was a product of its time. It spoke to simmering tensions and traumas related to the late seventies, from lingering atomic anxieties to the horrors of the Vietnam War. However, a lot of time has passed since the original trilogy, and our cultural anxieties have changed over the intervening years. Since the purchase of Lucasfilm by Disney, the Star Wars franchise has been fixated and focused on the original trilogy. However, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the only film to make an effort to ask what those tropes and conventions mean moved to the present day.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: Charlie’s Angels (2019)

Charlie’s Angels is a fascinating tonal mess. It doesn’t work at all, but the ways in which it doesn’t work are fascinating.

Charlie’s Angels feels like something of a hybrid. It combines several different styles of blockbuster into a single film. It pitches itself as a campy and goofy stupid 1990s blockbuster, but inflected with a veneer of 2000s self-seriousness and filtered through the lens of 2010s ironic self-awareness. However, these elements do not compliment one another, and Charlie’s Angels is never particularly interested in either smoothing over the gaps or exploring the dissonance. The result is an aesthetic that is probably best described as “comedically sociopathic.

Three of a kind.

It’s a shame, because there is some interesting stuff here. Writer and director Elizabeth Banks plays with ideas like the female gaze, and trying to reappropriate the franchise’s iconography and history for the twenty-first century. However, Charlie’s Angels lacks the clean focus that is necessary for a project like this to work, it cannot even figure out whether it wants to be a ground-up rebuild of the classic model or a nostalgic tweak upon it, and so seems to wander the gulf between those two extremes.

Charlie’s Angels is a strangely lifeless blockbuster, for a film that tries to cram so much in.

Solid as a rock?

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