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Non-Review Review: The Nun

Nobody really talks about how strange The Conjuring is.

James Wan has effectively managed to fashion Hollywood’s second most successful shared universe from a variety of old-fashioned horror tropes stitched together with a more modern blockbuster aesthetic. The films in franchise – which include The Conjuring 2, Annabelle and Annabelle: Creation – are remarkable because they seem like such a strange basis for a twenty-first century blockbuster franchise. They are all period piece jump-scare driven retro jorror movies that are produced with a very slick and modern sensibility.

Bad habits.

The Nun is another worthy (and interesting) addition to that canon. As with the other films in the series, its basic structure wields more modern storytelling and filmmaking techniques to a more classic horror tone. As with the other films, the production team also understand the appeal of a certain level of variety within that familiar template. The Conjuring was a throwback to beloved seventies haunted house films, Annabelle set its horror against the backdrop of the sixties, The Conjuring 2 moved to England and Annabelle: Creation unfolded against the backdrop of rural America.

The Nun evokes gothic horror. Set in a creepy abbey in Romania during the fifties, following an investigator dispatched from the Vatican to investigate the suicide of a young nun, The Nun thrives in this environment with this iconography. The Nun falters a little bit in its storytelling, especially its exposition, and it stumbles a little bit when it comes to building a climax that works as both an action film and as a horror. However, the film is canny enough in its choice of setting and imagery that it never completely comes apart.

Who goes stair?

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Exile (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This August, we’re doing the third season. Check back daily for the latest review.

If Impulse was Star Trek doing contemporary horror, then Exile is Star Trek doing gothic horror.

It is quite impressive how committed Exile is to its gothic horror trappings. Tarquin doesn’t just live alone in exile and project flattering images of himself; he lives in an honest-to-goodness gothic mansion lit by candles, where he dabbles in the occult while wearing what is a highly stylised dressing gown and between tending to the graves of his beloved(s). Exile does not skimp on its pulpy trappings. Like a lot of the early third season episodes, Exile would make for a satisfying dime-store paperback sci-fi novel; several images from the story would make a suitable cover.

It was a dark and stormy night...

It was a dark and stormy night…

That said, it is quite difficult to pull off gothic science-fiction. The original Star Trek pulled it off on a number of occasions – most obviously with The Squire of Gothos. The later spin-offs have struggled getting the right balance of po-faced seriousness with heightened absurdity. Star Trek: The Next Generation attempted Sub Rosa in its final season, while Star Trek: Voyager had some early experiments with Janeway’s gothic horror fantasy. Neither could be deemed a resounding success, and Exile stumbles a bit in the execution.

There are a number of leaps that the plot doesn’t quite articulate as well as it might. It is hard to believe that Archer would leave Hoshi alone with Tarquin, even with a phase pistol tucked under her pillow. The revelation of Tarquin’s powers should terrify the crew; having the ability to alter another person’s perception across lightyears is utterly unlike anything these exploreres have seen before. However, everybody seems to accept it at face value so that the plot can move along at a reasonable rate.

Somebody has a fixation...

Somebody has a fixation…

The way that Exile ties back into the larger arc is somewhat clumsy, right down to the convenient segue into The Shipment that comes in the final scene. In many ways, the structure of Exile recalls that of Extinction, an effectively stand-alone story that contains a very trite nods to the larger Xindi arc without any substantive connection. Despite the vital exposition that Tarquin provides in his final scene (and the subplot involving the spheres), Exile feels rather unnecessary in the larger scheme of things.

And yet, despite all that, Exile has something quite interesting to say. Written by Phyllis Strong, directed by Roxann Dawson and starring Linda Park, Exile is a very rare episode of Enterprise. It is a story with a very clear (and somewhat prescient) feminist subtext that has some very astute observations to make about certain facets of what might be deemed “nerd culture.” Specifically, male nerd culture.

He sees you when you're sleeping...

He sees you when you’re sleeping…

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Batman: Gothic (Review)

Legends of the Dark Knight was an interesting concept – tell self-contained stories using different creative teams set at various points during Batman’s crime-fighting career. As such, those stories would make the title easy to pick up, without tying it excessively to continuity. It’s a simple and an interesting premise, and it did produce all manner of intriguing Batman stories. Grant Morrison’s Gothicis perhaps one of the most intriguing of those stories, taking the character well outside what readers might have expected.

It’s all upside down…

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