Spling reviews The Unfamiliar, Videoman and Peninsula as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.
Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…
This week, we’re talking about three films with a Halloween twist.
Starting off with a film on DStv Box Office…
An army doctor returns home to discover a new and disturbing “normal”.
Writer-Director: Henk Pretorius
Stars: Jemima West, Christopher Dane and Rebecca Hanssen
– You could describe The Unfamiliar as The Babadook meets Pet Sematary…
– Built on good key performances, sharp casting and relative anonymity helps create an immersive quality to this out-of-the-box horror.
– The stripped down treatment shows restraint, using slow-burning tension to escalate suspense rather than resorting to cheap tricks.
– While it adheres to genre conventions, it understands them well enough to subvert expectations quite masterfully.
– The horror’s tension lies between the tug of Hawaiian “voodoo” and a woman’s attempt to repatriate herself with her family.
– It’s a beautifully composed and entertaining film, allowing its intriguing story to unfurl without drawing too much attention to style.
– There’s a marked consistency to The Unfamiliar, getting by on good pacing, slow-burning suspense and enough genre cliche footholds to avoid going too arthouse.
– Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, it buries you with its surprising depth and originality.
– There are moments when The Unfamiliar is running on pure inspiration recalling films like Frequency for its creative mix of intrigue, drama and fantasy.
– The filmmakers have kept CGI and special effects to a minimum using them so perfectly they seem old school, invisible even.
– The Unfamiliar is flawed but completely outclasses the glut of slick jump cut horrors out there, redeemed by its artful approach and moments of true inspiration, which reveal glimmers of the horror it could have been.
A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer
Moving on to a film on FrightFan.tv…
A VHS collector and a woman obsessed with the ’80s, both alcoholics, initiate a romance that helps them battle their personal failures.
Writer-Director: Kristian A. Söderström
Stars: Stefan Sauk, Lena Nilsson and Morgan Alling
– Videoman is an unconventional Swedish dark romance comedy drama thriller with horror elements based on the real Gothenburg video collector, Ennio Midena.
– Centred on an ardent VHS collector, the retro film takes on the passion of its characters as a woman obsessed with Egypt and the ’80s enters the fray.
– Operating like a one-man mafia, his VHS rental service and high standards when it comes to returns make his obsession officious and aggressive even.
– Videoman is such a blast of fresh, creative and imaginative energy that its largely compelled by its visual tone and independent spirit.
– Adopting a neon blue and pink palette to reverberate the decade, it includes a modern take on the ’80s sound making it a real throwback and love letter to the bygone era.
– Leaning on solid co-leads in Sauk and Nilsson, playing troubled characters in a state of arrested development, there’s a curious melancholy at the core of this oddball romance and dark comedy.
– Acting many years younger than their character’s ages, the performances are sincere and bring a lightness and honesty to their intricate worlds.
– Bending the bounds of reality, there are some surreal moments that border on horror as tension mounts around an impending deal with a mysterious figure.
– While Videoman isn’t always tame it does have a naïveté, which helps redeem some of its more risqué moments, which while infrequent truly represent the dark side of the VHS underground.
– It’s definitely not for everyone but will appeal to those who enjoy extraordinary and unclassifiable films like Napoleon Dynamite and Circus of Books… it’s extraordinary enough to warrant…
A solid 7 on the splingometer!
And finally a horror releasing in cinemas this week…
A soldier and his team battle hordes of post-apocalyptic zombies in the wastelands of the Korean Peninsula.
Writer-Director: Sang-ho Yeon
Stars: Dong-Won Gang, Jung-hyun Lee and Re Lee
– Picking up in the aftermath of the original, Peninsula is set some years after the devastation of Train to Busan as a group of renegades enter a peninsula overrun with zombie hordes, encountering a community of survivalists.
– The South Korean zombie apocalyptic thriller has flair and doesn’t do anything in half measure but struggles to add weight to its characters or accumulate substance beyond style.
– Tending towards video game action, horror and violent confrontations, it’s a little uninspired as much as the energy keeps things dynamic and stylish.
– Unfortunately, while featuring a broad ensemble there aren’t any standout performances or compelling characters to take real ownership of this tale.
– Echoing Resident Evil, Mad Max and The Girl with All the Gifts, the CGI is never quite up to scratch, exploited to the point that chase sequences seem to be completely digital outside of the car interiors.
– You can’t fault the passion of the actors, the gloomy and disquiet of the atmosphere or the gung ho premise, but it will have a dull sense of the familiar to fans of the original and isn’t captivating enough to win over new audiences.
– Trying to siphon emotion from melodramatic moments, it oversteps the mark in an overcooked brand of sentimentality.
– Without emotional investment in the characters or a strong interest in overcoming the obstacles, it becomes a bit of a chore.
A flat 5 on the splingometer
So just to wrap up…
THE UNFAMILIAR… good performances, restrained direction and artful handling smooth over rough edges in this entertaining psychological horror… A satisfactory 6!
VIDEOMAN… earnest performances, a strange genre blend and creative flair guide this unconventional dark comedy and nostalgic romance ode to VHS… A solid 7!
PENINSULA… this stylish, energetic and full tilt zombie horror thriller lacks substance and struggles to measure up to the original… A flat 5!
For more movie reviews, previous Talking Movies podcasts and upcoming Bingeing with Spling watch parties visit splingmovies.com.
And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!