Thursday, 19 April 2018

Pyewacket (Canada 2017: Dir Adam MacDonald)


The Dark Eyes of London site has been a rather singular pursuit of mine for the past five years, but I'm not immune to accepting the odd guest contribution from time to time - gives me time to go and make a cup of tea. The following has been written by Richard Halfhide, who has his own site, the extremely informative and highly commendable All Slights Deserved.

The name ‘Pyewacket’ first appeared in The Discovery of Witches, a 1647 pamphlet published by Matthew Hopkins, the infamous Witchfinder General. Described as having an appearance that “no mortal could invent”, Hopkins claimed Pyewacket was among a motley assortment of colourfully-titled familiar spirits (among them ‘Vinegar Tom’ and ‘Sacke and Sugar’) that a witch in Essex summoned forth following the witch hunters’ usual methods of persuasion, thereby earning herself a trip to the gallows for her troubles. 

Fortunately, those dabbling in witchcraft today have less to fear from Puritan reprisals, but far darker consequences may still ensue, according to the latest effort by Canadian writer/director Adam MacDonald. It’s the story of Leah (Nicole Muñoz), an angst-ridden teen whose fraught relationship with her recently widowed mother (Laurie Holden) reaches breaking point after the latter decides they should relocate to a remote house out in the sticks. Determined to be rid of her antagonist, and inspired by a recent meeting with an occult author, Leah casts a spell that inadvertently summons the titular entity.

Nicole Muñoz as Leah in Pyewacket
Unsurprisingly, what follows is very much a case of ‘be careful what you wish for.’ Pyewacket’s malign influence is first teased by a series of inexplicable incidents, leading up to more sinister occurrences. Claustrophobic camerawork does an effective job of drawing us into Leah’s darkening, increasingly introspective world. Yet there’s an annoying tendency for scenes to be a little too tight, when character development and horror alike might have benefitted from being drawn out. 

As the troubled teen, Muñoz performs ably, while Holden, best known for her appearances in The Walking Dead, has the ideal face for her ambivalent role, particularly in the latter stages. Unfortunately the script really doesn’t really give them enough to delve beneath the surface of their dynamic and the dialogue is sometimes wincingly clunky, making it difficult to feel much sympathy for either.  

There is, however, a foreboding atmosphere to the cinematography and Pyewacket’s first appearance, a shadowy presence in the corner of a room, is well executed. While it’s been bracketed with the new wave of Canadian cinema, the tone (visually and figuratively) put me more in mind of US indie psycho-thriller Super Dark Times. But whereas that film had the confidence to let the dread simmer into a toxic brew, Pyewacket seems to feel obliged to add further ingredients. One particular later scene featuring a Skype conversation is a serious misstep; a sop to a commercial formula that does the story no favours when it would have been better to explore Leah’s growing sense of alienation.

Ultimately, it comes across oddly like a torn-from-the-headlines TV movie, as though the story had been inspired by an actual incident, albeit with some added sensationalism. This may have been the intention, but it feels like a clumsy compromise of plot over substance. As an exploration of the relationship between a mother and daughter, Pyewacket is clearly geared towards a very different audience than Greta Gerwig’s whimsical Lady Bird, but that doesn’t mean richer characterisation is off limits.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Wish Upon (USA/Canada 2017: Dir John R. Leonetti)

“By the Director of Annabelle’’ runs the advertising strap for Leonetti’s latest film. This wouldn’t be much of a recommendation (I found Annabelle a fairly turgid movie and an unnecessary franchise extension from The Conjuring) except that last year he also made the flawed but downbeat Manson murder story Wolves at the Door which was a real change of pace.

Wish Upon surprises by being something different to both these movies – in fact it’s closer to Wes Craven’s later output in its glossily lensed combination of teen trauma and mild horror. Although we’re safely back in the world of PG-13 shocks, there’s something quite unsettling in the way the sinister elements are superficially handled – and the complex ‘will they, won’t they’ kill sequences are indebted to the Final Destination movies.

Joey (The Conjuring) King plays Claire Shannon, a high school student with problems: she’s being systematically bullied by class ringleader Darcie - in part because of her dumpster trawling dead-end ex musician father, and also because of her association with ‘loser’ friends Meredith and June. Claire is also still recovering from the shock of witnessing her mother’s suicide at a young age. When her father gives her an old music box found in a skip, which includes an inscription – in ancient Chinese - that promises to grant the owner seven wishes, before you can say ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ Claire deals with Darcie, inherits a fortune, gets her dad playing saxophone again and nets the class hunk.

But of course all this comes at a price – for every wish granted a repayment in blood is required. And part of the fun of the movie is working out who’s going to be the next sacrifice and how it will happen.

As mentioned, despite the high death rate, there’s nothing in any way graphic about the film – perhaps the scariest thing here is the appearance of Sherilyn Fenn as a neighbour, who at the age of 51 is either the result of a very effective old age makeup job or has had rather a tough life. Fenn’s fate – by waste disposal (and you can pretty much predict how that works) – is just one of a number of elaborate death setups triggered by the demon in the box requiring wish granting recompense. 

These and other scenes – Joey’s father getting the band back together and treating us to a sax solo, and the way that Claire and her friends dismiss with a quick ‘whatever’ the deaths all around them – left me rather uncertain how seriously I should take this film. 

But there’s no mistaking that, despite its multitude of WTF moments, Wish Upon remains an entertaining movie, if ludicrous in set up. It also has an ending that, even if you do see it coming, is pretty shocking after the light-heartedness of the previous 80 odd minutes. Very very cautiously recommended.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Ghost Stories (UK 2017: Dir Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman)

Dyson and Nyman's adaptation of their successful stage play of the same name positively drips dread and ennui. It's a film version of reading one of those ghost story collections published by Pan or Fontana back in the 1970s: contemporary but with gothic touches, strangely quaint but with an undercurrent of pathos and terror which, like the ever present dampness of the film's locations, gets under the skin.

The title is possibly an homage to Masaki Kobyashi's 1964 portmanteau film Kwaidan - 'Ghost Stories' being the English translation of the word - and adopts a similar approach, albeit with a wraparound story almost stranger than those around which it entwines.

Professor Philip Goodman (Nyman) is a professional debunker of fake mediums. Raised in a strict family, he has learnt to be an unbeliever, despite being Jewish. Courtesy of a cassette tape delivered to his house, Goodman is led to a reclusive psychic investigator, Charles Cameron, living in an isolated caravan. Once there he is given a folder containing three case studies that Cameron feels may alter Goodman's traditional sceptical stance.

The three stories told by each of the subjects - Tony Matthews (Paul Whitehouse), Simon Rifkind (Alex Lawther) and Mike Priddle (Martin Freeman) - are slight, little more than brushstrokes of accounts, all geared towards a specific supernatural incident which in each case causes mental damage to the three men.

The success of Ghost Stories for me was not in its plot - the details of which I am unable to give away, but which I found the least satisfying part of the film - but in its characters. Nyman is well cast as Goodman, his hangdog looks and panda eyes a testament to a life not well lived. Glimpses into his childhood show a tortured and confused soul - the transition from boy to adult in the film is for once entirely believable, and his wrestling with his Jewish faith against his chosen profession provides an additional complexity. Similarly the three case studies present equally bleak characters: Paul Whitehouse is a coiled spring of inner anger and confusion as a night watchman stalked by something in an abandoned women's prison; Alex Lawther superb as a highly strung young man in a house full of spirits, who also encounters something spooky in the woods; and Martin Freeman as the smug businessman haunted by real life tragedy and a vengeful poltergeist.

The stories within stories are eventually resolved into a conclusion I found a little disappointing, mainly because it's a device that's been used many times before. But it didn't really matter. What Ghost Stories gives viewers in feel, location and mood - particularly those of a certain age - is a passport back to some of the eerie touchstones of the 1970s, already well documented influences on Dyson and Nyman's writing. Public Information Films (Dark and Lonely Water in particular), The TV series Hammer House of Horror and the BBC's Ghost Story for Christmas offerings are all clearly inspirations. As you would expect from the film's writers, the pathos inherent in The League of Gentlemen series is also very prevalent. It's a film of strong but hidden emotions, of words remaining unsaid and very English understatement. You might come for the scares, but you'll leave with the sadness.

The Facebook Reviews! Part 2

Beyond the Door 2 aka Shock (Italy 1977: Dir Mario Bava) First time for re-viewing this since I saw it at the cinema in 1980 twinned with a heavily snipped version of Vicente Aranda's The Blood Spattered Bride (1972), under its original title Shock. Although it's Bava's last feature directing credit it's much better than I remember and is very creative on a slim budget. Its urban setting pre-empted most of the 'haunted semi' movies of the late 70s/early 80s (it reminded me of an extended Thriller TV episode with added gore, and Bava's son Lamberto, who worked on it, said that his father was very influenced by Stephen King's writing at the time). Poor old Daria Nicolodi goes through it in a way that reminded me of Jennifer Lawrence in mother! (co-incidentally both actors were 27 years old at the time of filming their respective movies). And for those who haven't seen it, there's a sleight of hand trick at the end that's incredibly effective.

Madhouse (Italy 1981: Dir Ovidio Assonitis) The third in Assonitis' run of horror movies as director (preceded by Beyond the Door and Tentacles), Madhouse is slow to start but, as the title suggests, works up a bonkers head of steam. Trish Everly plays Julia whose ten tons o' crazy twin sister Mary is confined to hospital after contracting a wasting disease. Pretty Julia is a teacher at a school for deaf children (there are some sweet scenes with the kids) but her life is in peril not just from her sister, who has escaped from hospital and is hellbent on revenge, but other members of the family too. Madhouse is all about the last half hour really but on the way you get a demonic (ok just angry) mutt, some slow motion running and a soundtrack whose instrumentation largely comprises double bass and syndrum (you know, like the one in the 1980 Kelly Marie song 'Feels Like I'm in Love'). The movie's working title was Happy Birthday and even if you've not seen it you don't have to be a genius to work out how the film's big set piece might be set up. Filmed in the freezing cold in Savannah, Georgia in a rambling old house, Madhouse has just enough going for it to sustain the attention; it's infinitely better than Beyond the Door, that's for sure.

The Party (UK 2017: Dir Sally Potter) Saw this yesterday. I am afraid it left me completely cold, which wasn't the case for the rest of the audience, who collectively found it a hoot. The script had the opportunity to be acidic but Patricia Clarkson's one liners were all undercooked, and Timothy Spall, who I have a lot of time for, overacted for England.

The only vaguely interesting character was played by the gorgeous Cillian Murphy - the rest of it was just an arch chamber piece rattling around in search of a decent one act play. Funniest bit was the audience who presumably didn't know it was only 71 minutes long (perfect for me as I had somewhere to go afterwards) and were audibly shocked when it ended abruptly. I did like the house's walled garden though. Always wanted a walled garden.

Aenigma (Italy 1987: Dir Lucio Fulci) Not nearly as dire as many have made out, this shows a rather restrained Fulci at work in a film which despite its indebtedness to movies like Carrie (revenge on girls who play a near fatal prank - actually the 1978 Carrie ripoff Jennifer is closer to the mark) and the 1978 Aussie movie Patrick (said revenge carried out by comatose patient in a hospital bed) has enough originality to make it watchable. 20 year old Lara Lamberti is pretty good as Eva, a newcomer to a Boston school (actually Sarajevo) where a bunch of girls have previously played a trick on one of their classmates, Kathy (Mijlijana Zirojevic). The prank goes wrong and Kathy is rendered comatose, but the wronged student uses newly arrived sex mad Eva as a vessel to wreak revenge on the girls that put her in her vegetative state.

There's death by snails (which, if you're interested, takes ages), aerobics, and a weird menage a trois involving the doctor taking care of Kathy, Eva (and by default Kathy too). Working with reduced budgets and ill health, it's perhaps a marvel that Fulci's film turned out as well as it did. Best seen as one of the director's many attempts in the 1980s to branch out into different territories, and certainly better than many of his other 'experiments' in the same decade (Conquest, I'm looking at you).

Far from the Madding Crowd (UK 2015: Dir Thomas Vinterberg) Vintenberg's reworking of the Thomas Hardy novel is so polite and anxious not to offend it almost asks for your permission before showing itself to you. Although some of the turns are good - Michael Sheen as the increasingly unhinged William Boldwood steals the show - Carey Mulligan doesn't yet have the range of emotions needed for Bathsheba Everdene so merely comes across as a backs to the land proto feminist, and Matthias Schoenaerts - complete with Mittel European accent - misreads the complex and brooding Gabriel Oak character as requiring the 'strong and silent' treatment. To be honest I wilted a bit when the first title card read 'Dorset - 200 miles from London' and it didn't really pick up from there. This is Sunday tea time stuff and no more, with all the depth of the source material removed in favour of lots of profound turn-of-the-seasons shots and just one more close up of Miss Mulligan framed by the magic hour west country landscape. Disappointing.

Begin Again (USA 2013: Dir John Carney) Call me uncharitable (and I am aware that Begin Again has its fans), but I found this film both uninteresting and faintly nauseating - a movie for those who believe in the ultimate truth and beauty of car advertisements. Mark Ruffalo is a vaguely alcoholic record company mogul who seems to have been responsible for most of the key musical happenings in the western world, but has become disillusioned with his firm's obsessions about getting songs onto adverts and putting media teams behind every signing. His delight at seeing winsome Keira Knightley, singing one of her breathy compositions in a bar, makes the scales fall from his eyes as he realises that he's been missing the essential truth of good honest from the heart music. What's baffling is that Knightley seems to be the first 'singer/songwriter' he's come across - where has he been for the past five years?

If the set up sounds interesting (and it takes 45 minutes to get this far using the old cinematic standby of showing three different perspectives leading to one moment), the remaining hour focusing on Ruffalo and Knightley recording their album alfresco on the streets of New York City definitely isn't. This is essentially a retread of let's-do-the-show-right-here wish fulfillment movies of the past, but lacks any of the grit that underlies the film's message about keeping it real - it's as manufactured as the music it sets out to rally against. Director John Carney should have watched Alan Parker's 1980 movie Fame to get an idea of how to combine urban settings with the euphoria of artistic creation, but this just had me thinking of that advert with the guy hanging out of his impossibly expensive loft apartment to the strains of 'Easy Like a Sunday Morning'. Atrocious.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Never Steady, Never Still (Canada 2017: Dir Kathleen Hepburn)

The bleak, inhospitable wastes of Canada's British Columbia provide the setting for Kathleen Hepburn's debut directorial feature about a year in the life of Judy, a woman in the advanced stages of Parkinson's disease trying to keep her life together following the death of her husband.

The always reliable Shirley Henderson plays Judy, who has lived with the disease for the majority of her life with husband Ed. Their somewhat indolent son Jamie makes up the family, kicking around at home until Ed finds him work in the nearby oil rigs. When her husband dies suddenly, Judy must learn to fend for herself. The harshness of the landscape and her progressive disease conspire to make everyday living incredibly difficult, while Jamie, bullied at work, intensely unhappy and wrestling with issues of sexual identity, rejects the need to take his father's place in the household, favouring instead a life of hedonism and escape.

If the synopsis outlined above suggests that Never Steady, Never Still isn't an easy watch, you'd be right. Occasionally it's also an unsatisfying one. The elements are all in the right place: Norm Li's photography, with the authentic Canadian locations building up a genuine sense of place, all naked branches, vast snowy wastes and rolling seas, is often stunning; and Ben Fox's minimal synth pieces underscore the film's natural soundtrack well. Shooting on 35mm provides an organic feel to the movie, which digital arguably would have made too harsh. This is a slow film, letting the landscape do the talking; unfortunately the script and the human drama on display aren't always as impressive. Hepburn has cited the inspiration for the film from her own relationship with her mother who also lived with Parkinson's for over twenty years. This closeness to the subject matter certainly makes Never Steady, Never Still a very personal film, full of small details. But the bigger drama, and the motivations of the characters is at times rather lost.

Henderson's portrayal of Judy is impressive - she captures the crippling limitations of the disease well, and the constant tensions between her status as 'patient' and the need to remain an independent, living and loving woman are sympathetically and powerfully rendered, particularly in her relationship with the young, healthy and pregnant delivery girl Kaly, with whom she strikes up a friendship. And Theodore Pellerin as Jamie, 18 at the time of filming, captures the frustration and ungainliness of someone trapped between boy and man.

But there are some tonal and pacing issues here, perhaps symptomatic of a first feature - one scene, featuring an extended conversation with Jamie and Kaly towards the end of the film, simply goes on far too long and disrupts the flow of the movie.

Hepburn's film is never less than impressive in its depiction of characters struggling in difficult climes, and facing hardships that most of us will never experience. I would just have liked more than landscape and character.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Unsane (USA 2018: Dir Steven Soderbergh)

Claire Foy is Sawyer Valentini (yep, you read that right), victim of a stalker who seeks help for her particular PTSD by receiving counselling at the Highland Creek Behavioural Center. At least that's what she thinks is happening, but after signing some consent forms without reading them, Valentini finds herself stripped of most of her clothes, begowned and incarcerated within the facility, ostensibly for her own safety. What follows is her attempt to understand why she's there, secure her own release in collaboration with her mother (Amy Irving) and deal with George, a member of staff within the Center who looks suspiciously like the person responsible for her original trauma.

Steven Soderbergh's first film in four years has been described as 'brave' mainly because top drawer directors generally don't make films like Unsane. It's a movie in thrall to its influences, everything from Italian giallo (the film's title was also one of the alternative names given to Dario Argento's 1982 movie Tenebrae), to Samuel Fuller's 1963 film Shock Corridor, and the conspiracy flicks of the 1970s; the last shot freeze fame and brief end titles show that he knows exactly what he's doing stylistically. It's not a horror film per se but its elements are sufficiently fantastic to make it more than a straightforward thriller. Soderbergh gets around any suggestions of plot implausibilities - and there are a lot - by directing at breakneck pace and never placing the camera far from Claire Foy's petrified but increasingly resolute face. It's a good performance from this actor, her job being to create a sympathetic character out of a few backstory brushstrokes and have the audience on her side from the first minute of the movie to the last.

The director's sideswipes at the US pharmacy industry are present and correct - it's revealed that Valentini's incarceration is part of a numbers game whereby patient admissions secure lucrative medical funding - and his portrayal of dispassionate authority figures, particularly facility owner Miss Brighterhouse (Aimee Mullins, coming on like Nurse Ratched with a promotion), leaves us in no doubt who the real bad guys are.

Soderbergh's film, apparently shot in secret largely on iphones (if we are to believe the publicity), may not be breaking any new ground cinematically but it's a genre first for the director, unless you count his 2011 pandemic movie Contagion. It's passable entertainment but no more, but while you're watching the director does a good job of convincing you that it's more than the sum of its parts.

Friday, 30 March 2018

The Facebook reviews! Part 1

Over the last few years as well as running this site I've posted up on social media a number of micro reviews for a range of films across many genres, but mainly focusing on horror and sci-fi. In an irregular feature I'll be posting them up, six reviews at a time, on DEoL. So pull up a coffin, snap open a can of AB Negative and have a read!

Hell Night (USA 1981: Dir Tom DeSimone) Apparently the power of a very jittery MPAA severely impacted on the amount of explicit gore on show in Hell Night. But the relative lack of the red stuff actually helps this movie along. Marti (Linda Blair) is one of a gang of freshmen students who have to spend the night in a house with a macabre history as part of a hazing ritual. The grim legends turn out to be true, with one of the deformed children of the original occupant remaining hidden in the mansion, ready to prey on unsuspecting students.

The first part of the movie provides the usual studenty hi jinks as actors way beyond school years fool around fairly annoyingly. It then settles into something a lot more interesting when it's basically Blair and her BF running around the basement of the house pursued by a giant misshapen killer who in close up seems to be facially modelled on the subliminal demon glimpsed in The Exorcist.

Of particular interest is the presence of Suki Goodwin, playing Marti's friend Denise. Goodwin's English accent sounds rather odd against the rest of the US cast, and a little research shows that she is the daughter of the late Denis Goodwin, one time scriptwriter with Bob Monkhouse, who took his own life at the age of 45. Apparently Goodwin was happy to do nudity in the film, but was acting as the girlfriend of the rather more reserved Vincent Van Patten, who insisted they both kept their clothes on in the spirit of decency.

The Mutilator aka Fall Break (USA 1984: Dir Buddy Cooper) Somebody asked me why I would rewatch terrible films? Just subjected myself to what I think is the fourth viewing of this movie. It's a difficult one to answer because, well, this film is dreadful. Firstly you know who's doing all the slaying and mutilating so that fun is taken away from the viewer. And then there's the acting, which improves as the body count rises (less terrible acting to deal with) but in the opening scenes is excruciating. 

But look a little closer. This is good old fashioned independent film making, supposedly shot in 29 days, with lots of local colour (and local people fleshing out the cast). There are some terrific old school effects on display courtesy of then fledgling Mark (From Beyond, Evil Dead II) Shostrom. It's got an at times faux musique concrete soundtrack and an ace theme song. And the killer looks like a mentally disturbed Rock Hudson! An indefensible waste of 90 minutes of my life? No, no and indeed no.

Beyond Skyline (UK/China/Canada/Indonesia/Singapore/USA 2017: Dir Liam O’Donnell) For those who don't remember, Skyline was a 2010 aerial alien invasion movie directed by brothers Colin and Greg Strause. The film delivered top notch effects but bottom notch drama, an uneasy mix with much of the human cast trapped in an LA apartment building watching the CGI carnage through a telescope. The brothers Strause haven't directed anything since, preferring to fall back on their SFX skills (they also did the visuals for Skyline) for movies like Into the Storm (2014) and Geostorm (2017). Liam O'Donnell, the producer of the first film, has chosen to move into the director's seat, for the first time, for a belated and not particularly needed sequel - actually, it's more of a big budget reboot.

At the end of the first movie, the tentacled aliens had asserted their hold on New York City as well as LA, and had just perfected the art of transferring the brains of their victims into ambulatory alien but human shaped bodies, presumably to extend their invasion from airborne attack to ground combat. Beyond Skyline develops the ground combat idea, and chucks everything into the mix, including martial arts, kaiju creatures, exotic locations, a baby who grows up in two days, and some effective CGI work. It's pretty dumb but looks good, and O'Donnell leaves room for a third movie, which if it's anything like this might be worth catching.

The Possessed aka Demon Witch Child aka La endemoniada (Spain 1975: Dir Amando de Ossorio) This one sometimes gets left out of the discussions on post The Exorcist euro cash ins, but is a demented classic from Mr 'Blind Dead' himself, Amando de Ossorio. Veteran actress Tota Alba looks extraordinary as sweary old Mother Gautère, who is persecuted for her crimes of witchcraft, killing herself before she can be dealt with by the authorities. Her coven arrange for Gautère to possess the body of the police commissioner's young daughter Susan, and before you can talk about somebody sucking something in hell, the young girl gives local sailors a run for their money in the cussing stakes.

Marián Salgado as Susan (who dubbed Linda Blair in the Spanish version of The Exorcist) is as game as her American progenitor and particularly vile looking when she transforms into a pint size Mother Gautère, all wispy hair and challenging dentistry, with a side order of castration and random cackling. de Ossorio takes his usual side swipes at organised religion and the nature of good and evil, and the soapy and often wildly theological plot goes off in all directions before the final showdown. This is great value film making from a director never afraid to show his influences, but who rarely turns in a boring film.

Beyond The Door aka The Devil Within Her (Italy/USA 1974: Dir Ovidio Assonitis) The second The Exorcist knock off this week, and by no means as entertaining as Demon Witch Child. I remember this one getting blanket coverage on commercial radio back in 1975 under its UK title The Devil Within Her (much as Suspiria did a year later), which was an indication even then that it wasn't exactly box office gold. Juliet Mills, who had thus far made her fortune in rather wholesome TV roles, plays Jessica, pregnant and undergoing all kinds of disturbances both at home and in her own mind. Her husband Robert (Gabriele Lavia) seems powerless to help, and only former flame Dimitri (Richard Johnson) has the necessary credentials to battle Jessica's possessed soul and stop the creamed spinach exiting from her mouth.

This is a long, drawn out movie with very little narrative tension and some terrible performances. Assonitis' first directorial outing did not bode well for future outings - he would continue to bore with mutated Octopus vehicle Tentacles (1977) and the equally baffling Madhouse (1981) - his lumbering exposition giving way to a frankly silly climax and incomprehensible denouement. Mills is quite game and looks the part, and the San Francisco locations are pretty (all interiors were shot in Italy though) but it's unintentionally funny in places (Mills's wonky eye effects and a scene where a harassed Richard gets hassled by some serenading buskers stand out) and it's all a far cry from the movie that started it all. A sequel of sorts followed with Mario Bava's 1977 movie Shock being retitled Beyond the Door II because of its possessed child storyline, but I wouldn't recommend a double bill.

The Cloverfield Paradox (USA 2018: Dir Julius Onah) I was considering a single DEoL entry for this one but in the end couldn't summon up the enthusiasm to write more than a few sentences. Directed with hod carrying finesse (apologies to brickies) by newcomer Julius Onah, this finds a space station full of scientists from around the globe testing out a solution to a worldwide energy crisis, who all descend into stereotype when faced with an on board catastrophe, rather like an interstellar version of Mind Your Language.

Of course things go wrong (and the going wrong provides a kind of Lovecraftian 'why' to the events in the first movie). Chris O'Dowd as the Irishman of the group gets all the gags, including some limp one liners when his arm, which has been severed in an accident, takes on a life of its own. I will admit that some of the FX look rather good (thanks to what looks like the entire eastern branch of IL&M judging by the credits) and it's a blessing not to have any on board robots, but it's all really silly with a script that is more than unusually sucky for this type of thing.