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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 14.Apr.24

All You Need Is Death  
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
All You Need Is Death
dir-scr-prd Paul Duane
with Simone Collins, Catherine Siggins, Charlie Maher, Olwen Fouere, Nigel O'Neill, Barry McKiernan, David McDermott, Barry Gleeson, Vinny Murphy, Benedict Stewardson, Sarah Burns, Gary Whelan
release US 11.Apr.24,
Ire/UK 19.Apr.24
23/Ireland 1h30

Is it streaming?

Gleefully unhinged, this Irish folk horror movie delights in unsettling the audience with freaky sights and sounds, plus lots of warped mythology. The narrative is deliberately bewildering, and the characters are almost absurdly nuts. Indeed, first-time filmmaker Paul Duane often tips right over the top with his excessive creepiness, but the result is gripping and even haunting. There's an emotional undercurrent here that continually catches us by surprise.
Travelling around Ireland, Anna (Collins) and her boyfriend Aleks (Maher) are surreptitiously recording rare folk songs for an enigmatic client (McDermott) and collector Agnes (Siggins). In a small village, they discover the elusive Rita (Fouere) and are startled that Agnes arrived before them. After dismissing Aleks from the room, Rita sings an ancient song that's only passed on from mother to daughter, never written down. But Agnes' secret recording of it ignites a menacing force, sparking Rita's puppeteer son Breezeblock (O'Neill) to seek answers. And scary things begin happening to Agnes, Anna and especially Aleks.
Everything is unsettling, from dialog and costumes to the intensely atmospheric settings. The heightened approach adds a camp tone that makes the movie almost ridiculously entertaining, even though it's also relentlessly arch and gruesome. And at the centre is this unnerving song about a tortured love affair, which Rita titles Love Is a Knife With a Blade for a Handle. This ancient story is rendered in swirly cutaways to add to the woozy ambience.

Glowering looks and ominous pronouncements feature heavily, as these characters get caught up in something older than humanity itself. Because many details are between the lines, each actor relishes the ambiguity, skilfully offering hints without many explanations. As usual, Fouere's thunderous presence commands the entire film, even if she's only briefly on-screen. Both Collins and Siggins offer a terrific mix of fiery strength and open-handed vulnerability. O'Neill is also superb as the, ahem, wounded son whose curiosity about his identity spurs him on.

Even with its malevolent tone, the film remains evocative and often achingly sad, due to the characters' internal yearnings. Rita refers to her song as an evil spirit, sung in a prehistoric language that's almost hypnotic. So it seems almost logical that it unleashes this disturbing chain of events. Duane has created a timeless movie that instantly feels like a cult classic, peppering the story with wonderful details while keeping the narrative slightly out of reach. Most intriguing is the idea that songs can contain and release huge emotions.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 9.Apr.24

Boy Kills World  
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5
Boy Kills World
dir Moritz Mohr
scr Tyler Burton Smith, Arend Remmers
prd Wayne Fitzjohn, Sam Raimi, Roy Lee, Alex Lebovici, Simon Swart, Dan Kagan
with Bill Skarsgard, Famke Janssen, Michelle Dockery, Jessica Rothe, Yayan Ruhian, Brett Gelman, Sharlto Copley, Andrew Koji, Isaiah Mustafa, Nicholas Crovetti, Cameron Crovetti, H Jon Benjamin
release US/UK 26.Apr.24
23/South Africa 1h55


Is it streaming?

skarsgard and ruhian
Likely to please gamers and geeks, this raucous action comedy delights in its hyperviolent mayhem and a story that hinges on nothing more than furious revenge, aside from a bit more revenge. It's a snarky, snappy movie with solid actors who are in impressive fighting-fit form, and it happily indulges in buckets of comic book-style bloodletting. Anyone seeking more than this might be disappointed or even bored.
In a dystopian city, a young boy (played by Nicholas and Cameron Crovetti) is separated from his family during the Culling, an execution ritual organised by tyrant Hilda (Janssen), who rules with her sister Melanie (Dockery) and brother Gideon (Gelman), plus Melanie's slick husband Glen (Copley). The boy is raised in the woods by a shaman (Ruhian) who trains him to be a ruthless killer so he can exact revenge on Hilda. Now grown, this unnamed deaf-mute (Skarsgard) ploughs a path of destruction to the ruling family's mansion, where he's in for a few surprises.
Brutal violence fills most scenes in the movie, usually as the boy massacres armies of faceless goons. He sometimes gets help from unexpected friends (including Koji and Mustafa), and occasionally faces off against a fierce fighter (such as Rothe). And while it's clear that he will dodge enough bullets to get through this story, most of the other characters are unlikely to be quite so lucky.

All of this is staged with intricate choreography, augmented by whizzy camerawork, a deafening soundtrack and constant digital carnage. Still, the actors manage to create some intrigue in their roles. Skarsgard deploys his puppy dog charm and muscly physicality to make the boy someone to cheer for, even if his quest seems oddly hollow. Copley adds a blast of weaselly humour, while both Janssen and Dockery bring some bonkers steeliness to the screen. And Rothe has terrific presence as well in a role that grows more intriguing as things get crazier.

Along the way, filmmaker Mohr comes up with some inventive touches, including combat with a cheesegrater and a nutty (and exceedingly gruesome) scenario in a wintry TV studio. There are also a few clever plot twists lurking in the narrative. But there's virtually no gravitas to be found in this pointless rampage of vengeance, and the endless gun and blade fights begin to get rather repetitive before the vicious three-way battle climax. Thankfully there's a hint of soul in the post-credit sting.

cert 18 themes, language, violence 14.Mar.24

Someone Like You  
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5  
Someone Like You
dir Tyler Russell
scr Karen Kingsbury, Tyler Russell
prd Natalie Ruffino Wilson, Karen Kingsbury, Tyler Russell, Trevor K Ball
with Sarah Fisher, Jake Allyn, Robyn Lively, Bart Johnson, Scott Reeves, Austin Robert Russell, Brandon Hirsch, Lindsay Ross Davenport, Mary Marguerite Hall, Yvonne Landry, Jenique Bennett, Sharon Parra
release US 5.Apr.24
24/US 1h58

Is it streaming?

allyn and fisher
Warm and sudsy from the start, this picturesque faith-based romance focusses on longing glances and inner yearning. With religious dialog wedged into every conversation, the film feels rather preachy. But there's charming chemistry between the characters. Based on cowriter Karen Kingsbury's book, the narrative runs exactly to formula. But this predictability is comforting, because it's clear all conflicts will be smoothed over in time for a happy ending.
Birmingham architect Dawson (Allyn) has been in love with London (Fisher) since they were teens, when her family essentially adopted him after his parents died. Now best friends at almost 30, they hang out in his fabulous lake house, as London prepares to provide a kidney transplant for her mother Louise (Collins). But London's sudden death changes everything, and Dawson tracks down her long-lost sibling, separated as embryos during IVF treatment. In Nashville, Andi (also Fisher) is a few years younger, but is the spitting image. And learning the truth rattles her world.
Dawson's motives are mixed, as he is seeking to both help Louise and fill the London-sized hole in himself. And of course, Andi's emotions are complicated by her loving parents (Lively and Johnson), a sparky sister (Hall) and a beefy boyfriend (Russell) who is itching to propose. But as she learns more about this sister she never knew, she finds space in her heart for her biological parents, and most of all for Dawson, who is simply too dreamy to allow out of her sight.

Performances are whispery and earnest, but delivered with earthy commitment. It helps that there are several offhanded moments along the way to allow for emotions and humour that are much more raw than the more achingly meaningful dialog. Fisher and Allyn are charismatic leads who are thoroughly engaging, even if the roles don't feel like much of a stretch. More complex are Collins and Reeves as London's parents, meeting a daughter they didn't raise themselves.

Sun dappled to within an inch of its life, it becomes tricky to remember who is wrapping whom within each massive bear hug. Everyone in this film is so dazzlingly beautiful that their individual personality points feel oddly minimised. And along with the affirming Christian message, the story is heartwarming on a variety of levels, from a pointed depiction of where true family bonds lie to a reminder to live in the present and seek love where you find it.

cert pg themes, violence 1.Apr.24

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