Sightless – review

Brief synopsis: After a violinist is blinded in a violent assault, she wakes up in a hospital bed and is told that she will be blind for life. She calls her brother and he arranges an apartment for her and a part-time nurse. When she begins to hear strange sounds and suffer nightmares, she thinks that she might be losing her mind. 

Is it any good?: Not really, no. Sightless takes ideas from far better films – Shutter Island and Misery to name two – and fashions a convoluted story that promises more than it delivers.

Spoiler territory: a young, blind woman, Ellen Ashland (Madelaine Petsch), makes her way across her apartment to a balcony. She climbs over the rail and jumps. A month earlier she was in the hospital, waking after being assaulted and blinded by a chemical being thrown into her face. 

With her eyes still bandaged, a nurse, Omar (Deniz Akdeniz) comes and speaks to her. He takes her bandages off. This is the first time Ellen realises she cannot see. Omar tells her that he will go and get the doctor to speak with her. He knocks twice on the wall as he leaves.

Doctor Katsuro (Mathew Yang King) comes in to examine her. The doctor tells her that the damage to her eyes is irreversible. Ellen speaks to Detective Bryce (Jarrod Crawford) about the assault. She tells him that the only valuable item she had was her violin. She is sure that the assault was personal. 

The detective asks if it could be her ex-husband or a fan, as she is famous. Ellen tells him that she has not been famous for a long time. Bryce tells her that her type of fame never goes away. He assures her that they will catch her assaulter. 

Omar comes to see her later. He has her brother on the phone. He is in Japan but has arranged an apartment for her and a part-time nurse, Clayton (Alexander Koch). The nurse comes highly recommended. 

Ellen moves into her new apartment. She is woken by knocking on her bedroom door. She is in her new apartment and Clayton has come to meet her. He has keys. A reluctant Ellen allows Clayton to enter the bedroom. She tells him that she does not remember coming to the apartment. Clayton looks at her medication and tells her it probably knocked her out. 

He tells her about the layout of the apartment and that he will prepare lunch for her. Ellen leaves her bed and goes into the lounge-cum-dining area. Clayton explains that he will be there on the weekdays from eleven to two. He is there to help her adjust to her new reality. He leaves, telling her he has to go to his next appointment. 

Ellen calls her friend Sasha but gets her answer machine. She goes to sleep and is haunted by the night of the assault. The next day, Clayton brings her a parrot. Ellen asks him what colour it is. He tells her that it can be whatever colour she wants it to be. He explains that she is as free as her mind allows her to be. 

Ellen walks over to the balcony and calls Clayton over. She tells him that she can hear all the street sounds clearly at that window but, she walks over to an adjacent wall’s window, she cannot hear anything at that wall. Clayton tells her that it is because the window has thicker glass. He tells her that she has a phone message. 

It is from the detective. There were no fingerprints and most of the suspects are accounted for. They did find a boot print. Clayton tells her that she is safe in the apartment. Ellen scoffs, telling him that is what her ex-husband always told her; that she was safe with him. 

She asks Clayton if he googled her. Clayton lies but quickly admits that he did. So he knows about her ex-husband’s shady past and financial impropriety. Her husband destroyed a lot of people’s lives, including her friend Sasha’s. Imprisoned for his crimes, Ellen believes that one of the people that he ripped off is targeting her because they cannot get to him. 

Clayton asks her about her music. She had been a child prodigy, her album a bestseller. She does not want to talk about her musical past. Clayton tries to keep talking but she shuts him down. After lunch, Clayton tells her he is leaving but is leaving her a gift. He gives her a cane. 

Alone, Ellen turns on the television but she cannot find a channel, the television just giving off static. She puts on some music and picks up the cane. Later, Ellen lays in bed trying to sleep. She hears footsteps and tries to call security. She gets an answering machine. She gets up and checks the front door. 

Ellen goes into the bathroom. She pauses, a bottle of pills in her hand. She nervously puts the pills down and calls Clayton. As he answers, she ends the call. He calls her back. Ellen tells him it was an accident and ends the call again. She hears a woman crying and a man shouting at her. The voices are coming from the air vent. 

The next day, Ellen tells Clayton about what happened. He tells her that her senses are going into overdrive and fooling her. He asks her if she wants to go out for lunch. No, she does not. Later, she stands by the balcony window listening to the outside world. 

She leaves the apartment and goes to the apartment next door and rings the bell. Nobody answers. She leaves a note on the door. Clayton is over again. He is taking Ellen through some computer commands. She does not want to learn about the computer. 

She asks him how he got into this line of work and why. He tells her it was because his mother was sick growing up. He tells her that because she was bedridden, she would, with his help make ornate birdcages. It is what helped to give him a vivid imagination, something he finds useful in his work, dealing with different personalities. 

Ellen asks him to describe what is happening outside. Clayton tells her what is happening in the outside world. She asks if she can ‘see’ him. He lets her touch his face. Clayton leans in to kiss her but an alarm interrupts him and he loses his nerve. He leaves. 

Alone in her apartment, Ellen is drinking. There is a knock at the door. Lana (December Ensminger), the woman from next door, calls to her. She saw the note. Ellen opens the door. Lana introduces herself and tells her she brought tea. Ellen tells her that she is blind. Lana looks around the apartment. She takes out a cigarette and asks Ellen if she minds her smoking. Ellen tells her she can smoke outside.

Lana lights up anyway, especially on hearing that Ellen’s brother is a smoker. Lana asks about her brother. She then asks her about losing her sight. How does she know that she lost her sight and was not always blind? A panicked Lana tries to leave. Ellen grabs her. She feels her face and feels stitches on it. Lana whispers in her ear, telling her not to trust anyone. 

Lana leaves the apartment. Her husband, Russo (Lee Jones), is back. Ellen calls Clayton and tells him that she thinks Lana’s husband assaults her. Clayton tells her he met the husband and that he is a nice man. She calls detective Bryce. He sends a police officer over. She speaks to him again. He tells her that the neighbour has a bit of a history for histrionics and is not mentally stable.

The next day, Ellen is talking to Clayton and telling him that she hears the same sounds at the same time every day. The next day, she calls him over to the window as she hears the car. There seems to be a pattern. He tells her that the man gets picked up the same time every day when he arrives at the apartment. 

He tells her that she is letting her other senses overwhelm her. Later, Ellen is listening at the air duct. Before she retires, she stands in her bathroom remembering the night of the attack. She contemplates suicide again. 

The next day, Ellen goes to see Lana and encounters Russo instead. He intimidates her, telling her she is paranoid. Clayton comes to see her. He tells her he has feelings for her and thinks it would be better if he gave up his position. He tries to kiss her again and she recoils. Ellen tells him she needs him to be professional and get her through whatever she is going through at that moment. Clayton apologises and leaves.

She calls Sasha again but gets her voicemail. She gets attacked by a masked assailant in her apartment. She passes out after being strangled. She wakes up to the voice of a paramedic, Rafferty (MIkandrew). He tells her that he tended to her wrist wounds. He cannot see any neck marks. He leaves the room. Clayton comes into the bedroom. 

He tells her he is worried about her drinking. Ellen speaks to detective Bryce. He tells her that Sasha has disappeared and the boot print he found is Sasha’s size. He thinks she attacked her. Ellen tells him that a face mask was the last thing she saw. Bryce tells her there are no signs of a break-in and no one was seen on the security cameras. 

A fraught Ellen realises that no one believes her versions of events. Clayton comes to see her the next morning. After he leaves, Ellen dictates a suicide letter to the computer. She goes to her balcony, climbs over and jumps. 

A while later, Ellen wakes up on the floor of a dark room. She can still hear the same sounds but everything around her is different. She feels her way around. Her fingers are met with soundproof cladding. As the outdoor sounds continue, Ellen tries to find an exit. She feels her way back to the balcony and climbs back into the apartment. 

She tries to escape, going out of the apartment to the lift. It does not work. A panicked and confused Ellen knocks on Lana’s door. She tells Lana that she left her lighter in her apartment. In the apartment, Ellen starts the water running and whispers to Lana, asking her why they are there. Lana tells her it is because she saved them. Russo comes to get Lana. 

Clayton turns up after Lana and Russo have left. Ellen confronts him about his lies. He tells her it is to help her acclimatise to her new reality and because she is suffering from PTSD. Ellen relaxes and he prepares dinner for them both. 

At dinner, Clayton gives her a violin. He tells her it can help her get back to her old self. The oven dings. Clayton knocks twice on the table and it triggers memories of the multiple interactions she has had with people since her assault and their commonality. 

Ellen realises that all of her interactions have been with Clayton. She asks him to have a drink with her, telling him to take a seat. She drops the drink she hands to him. As he goes to pick it up, she hits him with a knife block. She takes his keys and leaves the apartment. 

She finds herself in a warehouse. She feels the costumes of all the characters Clayton had inhabited. She finds Lana and tells they need to leave. Lana tells her that she is home. She is his sister. She tells Ellen that she cannot save her like she saved Clayton. She saved him from the dark. 

Ellen hears Clayton. She is still trying to persuade Lana to leave with her. Lana tells her she has to go alone and there is only one way out and it is back in the apartment through the air duct. Ellen leaves the room but is immediately caught by Clayton. He knocks her out and ties her up. 

When she comes to, he tells her that his father abused him by locking him in the same basement that she is in for three and a half years. He only had his imagination to keep him company. His sister snuck music into the basement; Ellen’s music. The only way she could understand how it was for him was if she was blind to everything as well. 

Ellen tells him that she will make his world real but only if he can be himself, not the multiple characters he has been. Clayton is hesitant. She takes the chance of his distraction to grab his taser and shocks him unconscious. She gets to the air duct but realises it is not large enough for her to get out of. All she finds is a vial in it. 

Clayton catches up with her in the apartment and throws her around as she tries to escape. He grabs her, seeing the empty vial in her hand. She spits the contents into his face blinding him. Clayton begins shouting for his sister. Lana comes and lets Ellen out, taking out of the basement. 

Six months later, a still blind Ellen has started playing the violin again and is about to do a concert. The end. 

Final thoughts: Sightless is a moderate, if slightly underwhelming, thriller. Written and directed by the backward named Cooper Karl, it is a film a little too clever for its own good. Karl shows the story mostly through the perspective of the blind Ellen, so before the revelation that her present existence is fabricated, there is no real indication as to where the film is going. 

All the other character that the viewer sees are creations of Ellen’s imagination, in a visual sense, brought to life by Clayton. The PTSD could have been caused by hallucinogens given to Ellen by Clayton but that is left somewhat unclear. 

Because the film is shot entirely within the confines of the apartment and fake building, there is never any sense of the ridiculousness of the story – how come nobody noticed a world-famous violinist had gone missing? – so one is not pulled out of it by those thoughts, which is a good thing. 

The film moves at a good pace, even if nothing seems to really happen. Petsch is very watchable, her performance easily making one forget that she is in Riverdale. Koch is similarly impressive as the not quite trustworthy Clayton. 

The film is well directed by Karl and looks good with the shot selection and constantly keeps the viewer confused as to what is going on. Ensminger is fine as Lana but the character is mostly exposition and has very little else to do. 

Clayton’s reasoning for blinding and kidnapping Ellen is as bad and equally ungrateful as the reasoning of Yashida in 2013’s The Wolverine, repaying a good deed with an extremely horrible one. 

At one-hundred-and-twenty-nine minutes long, Sightless is not a long film and bumps along quite quickly. Unfortunately, it is not as smart as it would like to be. 

Voces – review

Brief synopsis: a young family; husband, wife and their young son, move into a remote, rundown, house. The husband plans to renovate the house and sell it, just as they have done before. The young son begins to hear voices. 

When the boy is drowned in the outdoor pool, the wife leaves to stay with her parents. The husband hears his son’s voice. He goes and sees a man who looks into paranormal activities to get to the bottom of the mystery. 

Is it any good?: Don’t Listen (Voces – original Spanish title) is a well-told and beautifully directed horror film. The acting is good from all concerned and the story maintains one’s interest throughout. The editing and the directing are first-rate and, along with the sound work, crank up the tension throughout. Worth watching. 

Spoiler territory: Daniel (Rodolfo Sancho) retrieves a football from the outdoor pool that has come with the old, large, multilevel, house he has recently purchased. In the house, his son, Eric (Lucas Blas), is being spoken to by a psychologist, Doctor Carol (Beatriz Arjona). She asks him why is he having trouble sleeping and how he is feeling.

Eric tells her that the voices keep him awake. They won’t let him sleep. The doctor asks what the voices say. They tell him to draw pictures but he cannot tell her what they say. Eric stops talking and starts to play with his toy robot. 

Sara (Belén), Eric’s mother, asks the doctor what is wrong. She tells her that she thinks Eric is just disrupted by the constant house moves and that he should be fine once he makes some friends. The doctor leaves.

In the car, as she is driving, the doctor’s radio cannot pick up a signal properly. Back at the house, Eric is drawing. In the car, a fly goes into the doctor’s ear.

As she struggles to get the fly out, her foot presses down on the accelerator. Eric is still drawing. The doctor goes off the road, crashing. Eric has drawn a picture of a tree branch with blood on the end. Back in the car, the doctor has been killed, a tree branch through her face. The fly comes out of her ear. 

Later, Daniel is working on the house. A crack in the wall is infested with flies. He goes and gets some bug spray and uses it on the crack. Over a walkie talkie, Eric asks his father to get his ball from the pool again. 

As he retrieves the ball, Eric sees the bug spray in his father’s tool belt and asks him about it. Daniel tells him it is for infestations. 

Eric asks if he means like the flies by the fireplace in his room. Daniel tells him, yes. Eric’s mother calls for his bath. In the bath, Eric is distracted as he hears voices again. they are coming from the shower radio. 

The voice is his father’s. He tells him he hates him. Sara comes into the bathroom. He asks her if his father hates him. She tells him that his father loves him. 

Later, Daniel is watching television, engrossed by an interview with Germán Domingo (Rámon Barea), who has released a book, Sounds from the Great Beyond. Germán tracks the EVPs (electronic voice phenomena), voices that are believed to be from the afterlife and transmit via radios and other electronic media. 

Sara asks Daniel if he told Eric off. No, not at all. Sara is worried about their son. Daniel repeats what the psychologist said; he will be better once he has made some friends. 

During the night, Daniel is woken by the gate to the swimming pool banging. He gets up and closes it. Eric is woken by voices from the walkie talkie. 

His robot toy springs to life. As he grabs it from the floor to switch it off, he sees old, gnarled, feet. He looks up to see a shadowy figure behind the semi-transparent dust sheet that is hanging in his bedroom. 

Eric rushes to his bed and hides under the covers. Daniel comes into the bedroom to find the petrified Eric. He is followed by Sara. Eric clings to his mother. 

The next day, Daniel sees that the flies are still coming out of the crack in the wall. He hears Sara drive up. Eric is with her. He has been expelled for biting his headteacher. 

Sara tells him that he will have to see the psychologist again. Eric tells them that the doctor is dead. They ask him how he knows that. He tells them that the voices told him. 

Daniel calls to schedule an appointment with the doctor. They find out that, as Eric said, she is dead. Sara wonders how Eric knew. Daniel thinks he must have been told at school. 

Daniel goes to talk to his son. He asks him about the previous night. Eric tells him he was talking to him on the walkie talkie. Daniel tells him it was not him. 

Eric is drawing in the middle of the night. A shadowy figure watches him. An hour later, Sara wakes Daniel because she hears the pool gates banging. 

As Daniel goes to sees about the gate, he notices that the front door is open. He grabs a shotgun and looks around the house. A shadowy figure moves unseen by him through the house.

Sara goes into Eric’s bedroom. He is not there. Daniel sees Eric’s pyjama top, just outside the house. Frantic, he runs to the pool. He finds the boy dead in the pool. 

They bury their son. Sara goes to stay with her parents. She tells Daniel she cannot live in the house. Daniel tells her that everything they own is tied up in the house. 

Alone in the house, Daniel watches a video of when the family first arrived at the house. Eric had been very happy to see the new house. Daniel calls Sara and leaves a message for her. 

He switches off the television and goes to leave the room. The television springs back to life. he switches the television off again and goes to sleep.

Sara calls Daniel. She tells him she got his message but it was very muffled and there was screaming obscuring it. He tells her that it is probably the bad service in the area. After the call has ended, he plays the message back to himself. He puts the message into his computer and plays it again. He hears Eric’s voice calling for help. 

Daniel goes to a book signing by Germán Domingo. He begs Germán to listen to his recording. Germán is reluctant, having heard his share of hoaxes but Daniel convinces him. 

Convinced there is something in the recording, Germán and his sceptical about EVPs daughter, Ruth (Ana Fernández), head to the house. They drive past the site of doctor Carol’s death.

At the house, Daniel welcomes them. Ruth asks if there is a room that she can set the equipment up in, a basement maybe. Daniel tells her there is no basement but there are many free rooms. Germán warns Daniel that he may not like what they find. Daniel tells him he just wants to help his son. 

Ruth sets up cameras and microphones around the house. She is startled by Daniel, who asks her about working with her father. She tells him that she only occasionally works with him. 

She does not believe in the afterlife. With everything set up, Ruth mans the monitors as her father checks for sound around the house. Ruth sees a figure sitting in Eric’s bedroom. 

She tells her father that Daniel is messing with the infrared and needs to leave the house. He tells her that Daniel is outside. Germán goes to the bedroom to check but cannot hear or see anything. 

Ruth tells him that the figure is right in front of him. Germán’s headphones shriek causing him to pull off the headset. Later, Germán is telling Daniel about the incident as all three watch the recording of two thermal images, one being Germán, in the bedroom. 

Ruth is still not convinced. That night, Ruth is asleep in front of the monitors. Germán is woken by a nightmare. A voice beckons him. He goes down to the kitchen. In the kitchen, he sees his deceased wife, Sofia (Nerea Barros). They sit at the dining table as she speaks with him. 

She wants him to join her, pulling out a knife and slicing it across his wrist, back and forth. 

Ruth screams at her father. Sofia has disappeared and Germán is cutting his own wrist. Ruth stops him from cutting himself. He is very disorientated, looking for Sofia. Sara’s phone rings in the night and she answers. It is Eric’s voice. 

The next day, Ruth is out on the balcony when she looks out to see a tree with multiple cats hanging dead from it. She tells the two men. Daniel buries the cats as Germán tells him that the voice he heard probably was not his son. Daniel is sure it was. Sara arrives back at the house. 

Ruth goes into town to buy some items. A mature woman (Rosa Alvarez) calls to her. She knows she is at the house with the voices. She tells she should not return to the house. 

The voices tell you things that are not true. Back at the house, Sara is in Eric’s bedroom. She is about to leave when she hears the robot. She turns around and sees Eric, his back to her, sitting on the ground. She approaches him but he scampers under the bed. 

Sara looks under the bed. She sees old, gnarled feet on the other side but when she looks up there is no one there. She looks again. The feet are there again. They climb on to the bed. She looks up. Nothing.

Eric runs past her and she shuffles back towards a wall. She puts her hand down on a gnarled foot. A matching hand grabs her face. 

Germán is looking through reference images, the cats’ deaths having reminded him of something. He finds one similar to the cats hanging from the tree. He tells Daniel that it is a warning. 

A warning of what? Ruth returns and tells them it was a warning of it being the territory of a witch. The house had been a courthouse and witches had been tried there during the inquisition. 

Their conversation is interrupted by Sara’s body crashing through the window, her hanging from the bedroom above. A fly leaves Sara’s ear. The police and coroner come and pick up her corpse. 

Germán continues to research the images. He tells Ruth he thinks he knows where the bodies are buried. Ruth wants them to leave. Germán refuses, he wants to solve this mystery. 

A distraught Daniel sees Sara and Eric behind a dust sheet whilst sitting in his bedroom. When he moves the sheet, they disappear. Back in the room where the monitors are set up, Ruth sees the film of Sara before she died. She killed herself. 

Infrared picked up another brief presence in the room. Ruth and Germán hear a shot in the house. They go to Daniel’s room and see him with the shotgun. He is wild-eyed, pointing the gun at something unseen. They take the gun off of him. 

Germán tells him he thinks he knows how to stop the voices. They need to find the corpse of the witch. Daniel says he knows where it may be. He smashes through the wall where the flies keep appearing from. Behind the wall, they find a staircase to a basement. The three of them go into the basement. 

They find a skeleton in a cage. It is the witch. It is her voice causing things to happen. Germán says they have to burn her. They return to the house and look for gasoline. 

Daniel finds half a can but Germán tells him they need more. Daniel keeps looking as Germán takes the half can back to the basement. He tells Ruth not to come with him. If he does not return in ten minutes, she is to leave. 

Back in the basement alone, Germán is bombarded by apparitions, seeing the fate of the witch in the inquisition and different shocking visions.

In the house, Ruth sees her mother, Sofia. She has not seen her since she was a child. The apparition tries to entice her but Ruth refuses. Sofia disappears. Ruth sees the gnarled old witch. The witch disappears. 

In the garage, Daniel is also being haunted by the witch. The witch disappears and is replaced with Sara and Eric. They beckon Daniel to them. Daniel hugs the apparition, thinking it is his family. It is the witch.

Down in the basement, Germán throws gasoline on the witch’s corpse. Ruth appears in the basement. She is controlled by the witch and stabs her father in the stomach.

Germán picks up the shotgun. In the garage, convinced to join his family, Daniel has doused himself with gasoline. Germán knocks Ruth unconscious and shoots the corpse, causing it to burst into flames.

His actions release both Ruth and Daniel from the witch’s power. Ruth helps her injured father out of the basement. She wraps his wound. 

The next day, Ruth checks on her father. Daniel goes into his son’s bedroom. He sees Eric’s drawings. They depict all of the deaths and incidents that have happened. One of the drawings triggers a memory. He remembers taking Eric to the pool and holding him under. He killed him. Shocked at the recollection, Daniel kills himself. The final drawing shows that he blows his head off. The end.

Final thoughts: Don’t Listen is a very good horror film. Written by Santiago Diaz, Angel Gómez Hernández, Victor Gado and Juan Moreno and directed by Hernández, who also came up with the story, Don’t Listen is a beautifully crafted film. 

The camerawork by Pablo Rosso is stunning. Every image looks fantastic. The editing is good, the sound is good, the makeup is good. This film is so well put together that there is very little to distract from the storytelling. 

The story starts slowly but builds nicely, with a constant sense of foreboding after the unfortunate doctor’s demise. Even though there are only four deaths in the film – the doctor and the family – the film still manages to be tense. The acting is good from everyone on show, making an extraordinary story more believable. 

The only, slight, complaint with regards to the story is the family seemed to suffer just because they bought the wrong house. There is no indication that they deserved the fate that befell them, neither bad character traits nor ill-intentioned decisions. It is only a minor slight. 

Don’t Listen – Voces – is an entertaining horror, clocking in at ninety-seven minutes. A gem in the slew of tripe on Netflix.

Vampires Vs. The Bronx – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: A teenager in the Bronx is trying to save the neighbourhood from gentrification and a shady company buying up the buildings in the area. When he discovers that the company is a front for vampires moving into the area, he and two friends are determined to save the neighbourhood. 

Is it any good?: Unfortunately, no. Vampires Vs. The Bronx has a simple and promising premise that is weakly executed. The young leads are good but not great and the script is not as funny as it thinks it is. The film starts off well enough but gets poorer through its runtime. A pity. 

Spoiler territory: Vivian (Sarah Gadon) goes to Becky’s (Zoe Saldaña) nail salon. She tells Becky, as she is having her nails manicured, that she is moving to the Bronx. Becky tells her that she is moving out, selling up her business that very night. 

Manicure finished, Vivian is leaving as Frank (Shea Whigham) enters the salon. Frank has brought some papers for Becky to sign so as she can sell the salon. Flirty banter is exchanged as Becky signs the papers and tells Frank that he is welcome to visit her in the suburbs when she settles. He asks her if she has a husband or boyfriend. Becky says she does not. A minute later, Becky is attacked and killed by a vampire. 

The next day, Miguel (Jaden Michael) is putting up posters for a block party he is organising to try and save the neighbourhood. Gloria (Imani Lewis) is filming a live vlog, telling the world about what is happening in the neighbourhood and how businesses are selling up. She notes how many disappearances there have been of late even as the neighbour is seemingly becoming more upwardly mobile. 

In the local convenience store, Tony (Joel ‘The Kid Mero’ Martinez) greets Miguel and complements his block party poster. Tony is not too convinced that the party is worth the effort but he allows Miguel to put up his poster. Bobby (Gerald W. Jones III), comes to meet Miguel. 

Outside the store, the two boys run into Rita (Coco Jones), who is with a couple of her friends. Rita and her friends are older than the two boys but Bobby, knowing Miguel has a crush on Rita, has told the girls that they can get them tickets for the block party. 

Miguel, momentarily caught out by his friend’s ruse, eventually comes around and tells Rita that he can get her tickets. He is, he feels, looking good in front of the girls until his mother, Carmen (Judy Marte), shouts for him from their apartment window. 

The two boys go to meet up with another friend, Luis (Gregory Dias IV). They notice that Becky’s nail salon has also been bought by the same company that is buying all the businesses; Murnau. The local priest, Father Jackson (Cliff ‘Method Man’ Smith), sees the boys together. He warns them to stay out of trouble. 

Henny (Jeremie Harris), a local gangbang leader, drives up with his crew. He talks briefly to Bobby. Miguel asks Bobby why he was talking to Henny. Bobby tells him that Henny wanted him to do something but he refused. The three boys keep walking and run into Vivian. They think she is lost but she tells them that she just moved into the neighbourhood. 

The boys move on. They see that the local courthouse has been sold to the same developers. Bobby persuades Luis to plays videos games with him at Tony’s and the two leave Miguel, who says he is going to keep putting up posters. 

Still at the courthouse, Miguel sees some strange figures. He rides off quickly, turning a corner and crashing into Slim (Germar Tarrell Gardner), one of Henny’s crew, causing him to spill a drink on himself. Miguel retrieves his bike and rides off. Slim, embarrassed in front of his friends, pursues him. 

Miguel turns down an alley and goes up a ramp. Slim, unable to see him, shouts a warning. Slim sees another man, Alexis (Adam David Thompson). Alexis walks towards him. Slim pulls a gun. Alexis looks at him, hypnotising him and attacks him. Alexis is a vampire. Miguel, who is watching the scene unfold between the two men, sees everything. 

Miguel flees to Tony’s store. He runs into the store, frantic and telling a surprised Tony, Bobby and Luis that Slim has been killed by a vampire. Before he can explain what he has seen, Alexis comes into the store. He buys hand sanitiser and leaves. Miguel takes the others back to the alley but Slim’s body is gone. 

Elsewhere, Frank is getting rid of Slim’s body for Alexis. The next day, Miguel meets up with his friends. He wants to investigate the vampires. Luis is inclined to believe him but Bobby thinks he is crazy. They go to Tony’s store and watch the film Blade, the Marvel superhero film about a being who is half-human, half-vampire and hunts vampires. 

Luis gives them the lowdown on vampire rules. The boys go to the Murnau offices to try and investigate. They meet with Frank. He has one of Miguel’s block party posters. The boys feel trapped but the meeting is interrupted as Luis pretends to pass out and Vivian turns up for a meeting. Booby steals a small document bag from Frank’s office. At Bobby’s home, the boys find a flash drive in the document bag. On the drive, they find a plan for a large vampire crypt. The work out that it is the old court building. Also in the bag is a strange, black key. 

They break into the building and find the vampires but Bobby’s phone wakes them up and the boys are forced to flee but not before they think they have filmed the vampires. The boys get apprehended by the police as they flee the building. 

The police tell them that they are going to see Frank, to see if he wants to press charges. Miguel shows the video to locals gathered around Frank’s offices having heard about the boys being picked up. 

The vampires do not show up on the video. Miguel challenges Frank to come out into the daylight, hoping to prove that vampires exist. Frank comes out of his office to meet the crowd and address Miguel. The boys are forced to give back the document bag. The boys’ parents and family come and drag them home, Frank having agreed to let the matter rest. 

Frank returns to his office and get out a small box. He looks for the black key in the document bag. It has gone. An angry Carmen tells Miguel that they are going to church. Frank goes to sees Henny. He wants him and his crew to cause more disruption in the neighbourhood so as the more stubborn residence will sell. He also wants him to retrieve the key and kill the boys. 

Bobby ignores Miguels calls, Luis and Miguel are forced to attend church by their respective guardians. Henny comes to recruit Bobby. At the church, Miguel plans to steal some holy water. Vivian goes to see Tony. She is looking for Miguel. When she is about to leave, Tony notices he cannot see her on the CCTV. She is a vampire. Vivian kills Tony. 

Back in the church, Miguel and Luis sneak into the priest’s office to steal holy water whilst the congregation is praying. The two escape the church with the holy water but are caught by Rita. Bobby is regretting his decision to follow Henny when he finds out they are working for Frank. Henny also wants to know where Miguel and Luis are. Bobby makes an excuse and sneaks out of the bathroom window. 

Miguel, Luis and Rita see Tony’s place boarded up. Bobby finds them at the store. Henny and his crew find all of the kids at the store. They escape out of the back but run into Alexis and three other vampires. They run into the street and encounter Vivian. Not knowing she is a vampire, they tell her that she is in danger. 

Henny and his crew shoot Alexis and his fellow vampires. The vampires, unaffected by the bullets, kill them. Vivian takes all the kids to Carmen’s apartment. Bobby notices she cannot come into the apartment. He works out she must be a vampire as they cannot enter a place unless they are invited. 

Vivian reveals to them she is a vampire and threatens to drain them like Tony unless they give her the key. Miguel throws holy water on Vivian, causing her to retreat. Vivian meets up with the other vampires and Frank. He has bought the building that Carmen lives in, so the vampires own it and no longer need an invitation to enter. 

The next day, Miguel, Bobby, Luis and Rita, head to the courthouse building to kill the vampires before nightfall. In the courthouse building, they find Vivian’s sarcophagus empty. Rita leaves to get reinforcements. The others search the building and find them hanging from the ceiling in one of the upper rooms. 

Miguel stakes one of them, killing him. The rest of them wake up. Bobby kills a second one. The remaining three come to attack. Vivian gets the key back, Miguel having left his backpack in the confusion. She tells them that with the contents of the box she can create more vampires. The boys escape. One of them grabs Luis. Luis gives him a sacrament wafer, killing him. Only Vivian and Alexis remain. 

Frank tries to stop the boys but Bobby appeals to his human side. Vivian kills Frank. The two vampires chase the boys. Luis splits from the other two. Alexis catches up with Luis. Luis manages to kill him with his broken skateboard. Vivian catches up with the other two. She is about to kill Miguel but is confronted by the locals. 

As they attack her, Vivian is easily besting them. She grabs Bobby and is about to turn him into a vampire. Miguel rides into her and stakes her through the heart. A couple of weeks later, the block party goes ahead and is a success. The crew promise to be on the lookout for any further vampires. The end. 

Final thoughts: Vampires Vs. The Bronx is an intermittently okay film. With a story by Osmany Rodriguez, who also directs and a screenplay by Blaise Hemingway, the film sparkles occasionally through the script. All the usual vampire tropes are observed, bringing nothing new to the genre at all. 

From the look of the film, Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer is obviously a big influence. As that is one of this reviewers favourite television shows of all time, this film was always likely to compare unfavourably to the brilliance of Buffy. And so it proves. 

At only eighty-five minutes long, Vampires Vs. The Bronx is a short film but because it loses momentum and lacks urgency, with the vampire threat peripheral for much of the film, it feels longer than it should.

Gadon’s Vivian is so obviously the villain that Christmas being in December is more of a surprise. The actors do well with the material on offer but there is a definite unevenness to the script with the likes of Lewis’ Gloria and other minor characters working better, even though they are mostly just for comedic banter. 

Vampires Vs. The Bronx is not terrible but perhaps would have worked better as a series, allowing the characters to grow more. Unfortunately, the film is just an okay effort that is neither horror, comedy or drama, instead a confusing mishmash of all three. One to give a miss.

The Babysitter: Killer Queen – (Netflix) review

Brief synopsis: After surviving a traumatic satanic, murderous night two years earlier, high-schooler Cole, finds that he is the butt of ridicule and shunned by most of his peers because no one believes his story of a night of horror, murder and mayhem. 

Only his friend, Melanie, believes him as she was with him the night of the incident. When Cole finds out his parents plan to put him in a mental institution he tells Melanie. She persuades him to escape for the weekend. Unfortunately, for him, Melanie has an ulterior motive.

Is it any good?: A sequel to the 2017 horror-comedy, The Babysitter, 2020’s The Babysitter: Killer Queen, is an enjoyable one hundred plus minutes of hokum that sees the original cast reprising their roles as well as a few new additions. 

Carrying on in the same vein as the earlier film, there are gruesome, bloody deaths, sharp, quick-witted dialogue exchanges and cartoonish, video game direction. The Babysitter: Killer Queen is an enjoyable and worthy sequel. 

Spoiler territory: Cole (Judah Lewis) is a diffident and nervous high school student. Two years after having nearly being killed by his Satan-worshipping babysitter, Bee (Samara Weaving), nobody believes his story as no evidence of the night was left behind. All the students, the student’s guidance counsellor, Carl (Carl McDowell) and even his parents, Archie (Ken Marino) and Phyliss (Leslie Bibb) do not believe him.

The only person who believes him is Melanie (Emily Alyn Lind), who was with him on the night but will not back his story. Cole goes to see Carl. Carl tells him that his only problem is he needs to have sex. Cole meets up with Melanie and voices his concerns about everyone thinking he is crazy. She tells him that he should not talk about the night.

As they are talking, Melanie’s boyfriend, Jimmy (Maximilian Acevedo) and two other friends, Diego (Juliocesar Chavez) and Boom Boom (Jennifer Foster) turn up. Another student asks Jimmy if he is going to the lakes at the weekend. Jimmy answers in the affirmative. They all head to class. In class, a new student joins. Her name is Phoebe (Jenna Ortega). She is a little strange and bold. 

At home, Cole’s parents are discussing treatments that they think he needs to be taking. Cole walks in on them talking. They pretend to be discussing dinner. Later in the evening, Archie tells Cole he needs to keep taking his pills until he gets back to feeling normal. Cole protests a little, explaining that he was always told to be true to himself. 

In their bedroom, Archie tells Phyliss that Cole still believes he had a terrible encounter. They decide they will have to put him in a psychiatric school. Cole discovers that his parents plan to move him to a psychiatric school. 

At school, Cole tells Melanie. They plan to do it that lunchtime. She tells him that he needs to get away and that he should come to the lake with her for the weekend. 

Cole’s parents turn up at the school to collect him. Cole decides to go with Melanie. He does not realise that Jimmy, Diego and Boom Boom are coming as well. 

Cole’s parents, unable to find him at school, go to Melanie’s house to look for him. Her father, Juan (Chris Wylde), answers the door. He is not at all worried about his daughter being away until he finds out she took his car. 

Down at the lakes, Cole is having second thoughts as he sees his peers having fun and frolicking by the water. He feels out of place. Melanie persuades him to stay, telling him his innocence is endearing. Cole’s parents report him missing. 

At the lakes, Cole and the others are on Jimmy’s uncle’s boat. The group play a card game. Cole and Melanie end up kissing in a closet. They get back to the game. Diego asks Cole about his cult horror night.

Melanie tries to dissuade him but mentions the devil book. Cole never told her about the book. Melanie realises the ruse is up. She kills Boom Boom. 

Melanie, Diego and Jimmy have all signed the devil book in exchange for getting the life they desire. Cole freaks out when he sees Max (Robbie Amell). He saw him die two years before. John appears and then Allison (Bella Thorne). 

Cole swears that they are dead. Allison tells him they are dead. Max explains that they have until sunrise to complete the ritual they did not complete two years before otherwise, they would have to wait another two years to try again. 

Sonya (Hanna Mae Lee), comes into the room carrying cookies. She died two years ago as well. Cole grabs the fish hook Melanie killed Boom Boom with and threatens the group. 

Phoebe, coming across the boat accidentally, walks in on the scene. Cole thinks that it is all her fault. Phoebe, seeing Boom Boom’s corpse on the floor, makes an excuse and leaves. 

With the group momentarily distracted, Cole escapes and jump onto the back of Phoebe’s water ski. Max chases after them and shoots a harpoon arrow at them. He only manages to hit the water ski’s fuel tank, causing it to leak. 

Cole and Phoebe escape to another part of the lakes. Melanie, Jimmy and Diego, the new younger cultist and Max, John, Allison and Sonya, argue. Melanie sees the fuel trail in the water and sets it alight. 

The water ski blows up and the group go to the site of the explosion. Phoebe, already on a secret quest of her own, leaves Cole. She sees a man sitting by a fire. She talks to him but his intentions are less than gentlemanly. Cole comes to her rescue. 

The seven pursuers look for Cole and Phoebe. Sonya finds them first, killing the would-be molester of Phoebe before turning her attention to the two youngsters. Cole, who is in the car of the dead molester with Phoebe, runs Sonya down. He crashes her into a wall, the surfboard on top of the car sliding off and decapitating her. 

The others find Sonya’s corpse and decide to split into two groups, the younger cultist leaving three originals. Max, John and Allison go off to search for them. Cole and Phoebe head to a cabin that Phoebe used to stay at with her family as a child. 

Allison sees the kids first and goes after them. Back home, Archie, who is at Juan’s, is getting high and playing video games. At the lakes, Cole and Phoebe are spooked by a hare. Allison shoots the hare. She comes down to confront the kids. They manage to distract her by appealing to her need to be famous. Allison, offended by a comment, shoots wildly at them causing a bullet ricochets and hit her in the chest. 

The two run off, pursued by an enraged Allison. She falls between the rocks, her head getting stuck between rocks, her body dangling above the ground. Cole and Phoebe pull on her legs, parting her body from her head and killing her. Max is right behind them and immediately tries to kill them with an axe. 

They escape to a motorboat and ride off. Max, undeterred, jumps into a lifebuoy that is attached to a rope and the rope to the boat. Phoebe slows the boat down and sprays silly string into Max’s face. She sets it alight. He falls into the water, which puts the fire out. He comes to attack again. Cole switches on the boats propellor and Max gets killed. 

On the pier, with only four of them left in pursuit, Jimmy and Diego tell Melanie they are leaving. She tells them that they cannot because the deal they signed has no get-out clause. They decide to leave. They both blow up. 

Melanie decides to execute another plan. She calls Cole’s dad, telling him that Cole is not acting right. Archie, who is still at Juan’s, says they will come and pick them up. 

Cole and Phoebe head for the cabin. Melanie and John follow after them. In the cabin, Phoebe takes them down into her basement room. Archie and Juan head to the cabin. In the cabin, Cole and Phoebe get amorous. Cole loses his innocence.

Archie and Juan reach the cabin. Melanie tells Archie that Cole is freaking out. Phoebe tells Cole she was in the car that crashed into her parents. She feels it is her fault they died. 

Archie comes and calls to Cole. Phoebe tells Cole not to go upstairs. Cole, determined not to leave his father in danger, comes out of the basement with a crossbow. He tries to shoot John but misses. John grabs a sword and comes after him. He cuts through a rope, causing a large horned ornament to fall on him and kill him. 

Melanie comes into the cabin. Cole tries to tell his father that she is part of the problem but he does not listen. Phoebe throws a machete at Melanie. Melanie catches it. Cole and Phoebe run from the cabin. Archie goes after Cole. Juan tries to stop Melanie. She kills him. 

Cole and Phoebe split up. Archie catches up with Cole. He drugs him and takes him to the car. Melanie and Phoebe fight. Phoebe is winning but Melanie pulls a knife and takes her hostage. Cole wakes up at the gas station and steals the car leaving Archie. He goes to where Melanie has Phoebe and gives his blood. The others return; Max, John, Sonya, Allison and the original leader, Bee.

Melanie mixes his blood with Boom Boom’s. She, along with Max, John, Sonya and Allison, drink the blood. They all die, Cole’s lack of innocence spoiling the ritual. 

Bee knew that the ritual would destroy them and had set the actions in motion, having been Phoebe’s babysitter also. Her deal with the devil came about because she had wanted to save Phoebe’s life in the crash. 

Happy that the ordeal is over, the three hug. Bee tells them that all the demons are not dead. She drinks the blood herself and dies. Archie sees Bee die and realises that Cole had been telling the truth. Cole returns to school a happy high-schooler. The end. 

Final thoughts: As I said before, The Babysitter: Killer Queen is wonderful fun and total hokum. The actors commit fully to the material and seem to be having a blast reprising their 2017 roles. Directed once again by McG, he employs various cinematic techniques and exercises all of his flair in directing the film. 

Written by Brad Morris and Jimmy Warden, with the screenplay by Dan Lagana and McG, the script crackles with sharp and clever witticisms. 

With Weaving’s Bee taking a much smaller role in the sequel, it is left to Lind to fill the role of antagonist. She does so wonderfully, sneering and scowling as the wish craving Melanie.

The Babysitter: Killer Queen flies through its one-hundred and five-minute runtime and keeps one interested throughout. If you enjoyed the first film, you will enjoy the sequel. 

Dark Forces – review

Brief synopsis: A man stays in a creepy hotel full of peculiar characters as he searches for his missing sister. 

Is it any good?: Absolutely not. Dark Forces – original Mexican title – Fuego Nergo (Black Fire) – is almost indescribably terrible. As this is a review, I am somewhat committed to the notion of having to describe what I witnessed. This film, somehow, scored a three-point four on IMDB. Admittedly, that is a low score but it is still too high for this tripe. 

Spoiler (not really) territory: The son of a powerful and wealthy drug lord, Bernardo Arellano, has never worked a day in his life. He spends his time having lavish parties with other sons and daughters of cartels, where the drugs and the booze flow freely. 

Bernardo’s drug of choice is cocaine. He loves it. Luckily, his father loves him dearly and is always happy to give him a few keys for his grand fiestas which are the best in all of Mexico. As the girls dance around in swimwear, the boys watch movies, drink and do drugs. 

Bernardo is a massive film fan. He loves the classics – Bullitt, The Matrix, Nosferatu, anything by Tarantino or starring a peak Burt Reynolds. He also loves a good telenovela and horror films, not the good ones though, the hokey, B-movie variety. Bernardo talks to his father. He wants to make a film, he’s got ideas, things that will look amazing on the big screen. 

His father is sceptical. Bernardo has never wanted to do any kind of work but he seems passionate about this film stuff and he is his only son. He will finance his venture. Fuego Negro will become a reality. An excited Bernardo uses his father money – and fearsome name – to enlist actors, technicians, sets and all of the things required for filmmaking to make his dream a reality. 

So as to avoid any legal ramifications, I must state that everything I have written about Bernardo Arellano is pure fiction except for Fuego Negrobecoming a reality. Unfortunately.

I have no idea about Arellano’s life or upbringing or the financing of the truly awful Dark Forces but I promise you the yarn I spun in the few paragraphs above is far more entertaining than the damn film. 

Dark Forces is an abomination of a film. It has only two redeeming qualities: it is short at only eighty-one minutes long and the image quality is topnotch. That is it for the good. Everything else in the film is bad. Everything. 

Written and directed by the aforementioned Bernardo Arellano, Dark Forces is an exercise in what not to do in filmmaking. The script sounds as though it was written as the film was being made with no thought as to the impact of the previous scene. The two lead actors, Tenoch Huerta as Franco and Eréndira Ibarra as Rubí, both have extensive credits on their acting resumés. 

Not that you would think so on the strength of this trash. Huerta’s performance is so wooden it is an insult to teak. Ibarra is only slightly better, she at least getting to change costumes, even if continuity sees her putting on a white garment in the shower only to emerge in the next scene in black lace underwear. 

The makeup is a distracting farce. Bad wigs, underuse and overuse of blood and noticeable latex, the poor execution of makeup distracts from an already confusing mess. The story, such as it is, sees Huerta’s Franco looking for his sister, Sonia – the actress’ name is not listed in IMDB credits. She probably asked to be omitted – in a seedy hotel. 

In the hotel, he encounters various characters all of whom seem to know that he is looking for his sister. We never find out why he is looking for his sister or anything about her. He rescues, well helps her back to her apartment, Rubí, after she has been abused by some guy who you really do not care about. We do not find out why he was abusing her. 

She asks Franco to check her foot, which he does as though it is not only a normal request but a perfectly acceptable one from a strange woman. She is then attracted to him, touching his hand and leaving a blood spot on it. Somehow, this becomes a massive stain of blood, which Franco rubs all over his face back in his own apartment. 

Franco has dreams of a vampiric figure – Nosferatu references – coming to attacking him as he sleeps. There is a slimy, eel-like creature that inhabits another character, Jack (Dale Carley), escaping out through his mouth and into Franco’s mouth. I guess they couldn’t afford the Alien effect or Arellano has never seen the film. 

There is a seventies, Bond-fantasy fight scene, where various women individually attack Franco. It is rubbish. I have seen better fight choreography on TikTok. Roger Moore’s geriatric karate in Octopussy was better. Nothing in this film makes sense. 

It is as though Arellano filmed a load of loose ideas, edited them in a random order and then tacked on a sister rescue at the end. It is billed as a horror, action and mystery film but is free of any horror unless one counts bad vein makeup and blood as horror. It also has very little action except for the bad fight scenes and a random shootout with an escapee from a telenovela ranch. There is mystery and the mystery is how this film got made or financed. 

Dark Forces is eighty minutes of your life you will never get back and even in the lockdown, it is not worth your time. One would be better off watching already dry paint drying, for eighty minutes, than watching Dark Forces. Avoid and anti-socially distance as far as possible from this film. Terrible.

Girl on the Third Floor

Brief synopsis: a man moves to a rural townhouse as part of a deal with the federal authorities. The house is old and the man plans to renovate it before his wife, who is expecting their first child, moves down from their old home in Chicago. Strange things start happening around the house.

Is it any good?: Girl on the Third Floor is terrible. The acting is horrible. The pacing is cold molasses-slow and the directing is awkwardly basic. How Netflix keep finding films of such mediocre quality is some sort of talent in itself. Just awful.

Spoiler territory: Don Koch (C. M. Punk) moves into a large old abandoned house, in the suburbs, Portsmith, planning to renovate it before his wife, Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn), who is pregnant with their first child, moves down from Chicago to join him. For company, Don has his dog, Cooper. Don plans to stay in the old house whilst he renovates it.

He finds gunk behind a wall and leaves it. Okay. A marble comes out of the wall in an upstairs room and rolls down the stairs. The dog eats it. Makes no difference to the film or plot but it introduces the marbles.

The first person he meets is the local pastor, Ellie Mueller (Karen Woditsch), who rings the doorbell and welcomes him to the neighbourhood with a drink. Don tells her he moved there because they feel it will be a good place to raise a family. He tells her they are not particularly religious. Not that it matters because that plot strand does not go anywhere either.

The next day, Don calls Liz and, speaking to her via video phone, shows her the house. He never turns the phone around mind, so I’ve no idea how she sees the house. He decides to fix the oozing wall. As he is working, the power drill fails, its battery dead.

Don, obviously a person with anger management issues, rages as he goes to put it to recharge. He steps on a marble – a bit of a theme, marbles in this film – and that triggers another explosion of expletives. There is a knock at the door. It is attorney Manny Bharara (Anish Jethmalani) and he has some documents for Don to sign. He seems unreasonably disdainful of Don who, it transpires later, defrauded a lot of people out of money.

Later, Don goes into town to get some food. He goes to the local bowling alley. He meets the owner, Geary McCabe (Marshall Bean). He tells Geary that he has moved into the old house. Geary asks him if he is gay, as straight men tend to suffer in that house. Don, angered – there’s a surprise – by the questioning of his masculinity, says he is having a child. Geary is nonplussed.

Don returns home and is scared by Cooper moving around the house quietly. He is a dog. Not likely to be partying. He speaks to his wife by video and gets a peek at her cleavage – highlight of the film – and turns in for the night. The next day, whilst working on the plumbing under the kitchen sink, in perhaps the tightest space it is possible for to get one’s head into, and banging around with a mallet – a plumbing expert. Not. – smashes into a wall that releases black gunk all over him.

Don goes outside and washes himself off at a standpipe. While he is trying to clean himself, a woman starts giggling. He turns to see a young woman. He asks her why she is there. She tells him she likes the old house but it is usually empty. He tells her that he has bought it. She flirts a little more and leaves.

Don goes for a run. When he gets back and tries to use the shower, an old creaky, partially rusting shower, that he has just decided to stand under without testing, it all goes wrong and he ends up raging again. Don gets back to decorating. The young woman returns in the evening. Don invites her into the house for a beer. Don and the woman have sex. She leaves, Don, seeing her out.

He returns to the house and hears a loud crash. A ceiling in one of the upstairs rooms has fallen in. Don talks to Liz and, once again, shows her the damage without ever turning the phone. The next evening the woman returns. Don politely declines her advances. She leaves. Don goes to sleep and has a vivid dream about his wife and the young woman and is shocked awake by the same woman changing to a horribly disfigured woman.

It is the weekend and Milo Stone (Travis Delgado), a friend, comes to help Don. He looks at the collapsed ceiling. He does not think Don has enough tools. They get to work on the ceiling. Later, the two men head to the, now strangely bustling, bowling alley. Milo meets Geary and tells him how Don was a bit of a high roller in Chicago.

Geary jokes that Don swapped the penthouse for a whore house, telling them how the old house he has bought used to be a house-of-ill-repute. Don scoffs, noting that it has not been a brothel for over a century. The next day, Don wakes to find Milo already working. Milo tells him that his assistant has made coffee.

Don finds the young woman in the kitchen. He confronts her aggressively, finding out that she is Sarah Yates (Sarah Brooks) – everyone in the film is given a surname even though it is never used – asking her why she is there as he had explained his situation with his wife. Milo sees the exchange.

After Sarah has left, Milo confronts Don about his conduct. Don leaves the house, angry at having been called out for his decisions. He tells Milo if he does not like it, he can leave. Milo gets back to work. He hears a noise coming from the basement and goes to investigate. He sees Sarah. She hits him in the face with a hammer. An injured Milo tries to escape the basement. The disfigured girl is at the top of the stairs. Sarah bashes his head in.

Don returns and thinks Milo has left. Later he speaks to Liz, showing her – well not really, never turning the damn phone – the work they have done. A woman walks past whilst he is talking to her and Liz asks who is there. Don, thinking he is alone, looks around the house. He does not find anything. The next day he changes the locks.

He gets another visit from the pastor. She asks him if he wants to talk. He tells her it has been hard. She replies, somewhat cryptically, that the house is difficult. Cooper hears a noise in the house during the night and goes downstairs – a non-barking dog – to check it out. The next morning, Don wakes up looking for the dog. He ends up in the laundry room and finds the tumble dryer running. The dog is dead inside of it.

Don calls the police. Patrolman Weaver (Bishop Stevens) comes to the house. Don tells him that he thinks it was Sarah. Weaver does not know of any Sarah and there is no sign of a break-in to the property. Don rages. Again. The patrolman leaves his card, telling Don to call him if anything else happens.

Don sits in his front room drinking a beer. A marble rolls towards him. He looks up to see Sarah standing in the room. Don apologises to her for the way he treated her. He tells her he has a present for her in the kitchen. As she goes to the kitchen he smashes her in the head with a hammer killing her.

He wraps her body up and takes it to the basement, planning to bury her in the wall. He is interrupted by a call from Liz. She wants to know what he is doing. Don, the calm individual that he is, rages at her and ends the call. He returns to the basement and the body is gone. He searches around the house for her. He finds a child’s room with strange drawings on the walls.

He drills a hole in his wall and puts a camera into it – yes, I know, barely has tools but has a pinhole wall camera – to see what is in the walls. Something moves and starts giggling in the walls, spooking Don. He grabs a hammer and starts smashing into the wall. He finds Milo in the wall. In the other holes he has smashed in the wall – for some reason he smashes several holes into the wall at random heights – there is something breathing.

He goes to try and contact Weaver. A photo comes up on his phone. It is Sarah giving him the finger and a message: actions have consequences. He turns to see the disfigured woman emerging from a draw. A marble rolls towards Don and gets under his skin. A screaming Don cuts into his leg just below the marble and follows the marble as it travels painfully up his leg. I have no idea why he did not cut above the path of the marble, I suppose it would have shortened the scene.

It runs up to his neck and he puts the knife into his neck. Yeah, he does. He screams, writhing on the floor as the disfigured woman watches him. The marble bulges below his eye and pops out. Don scrambles across the floor screaming at the disfigured woman. She releases several more marbles.

Liz turns up at the house. She has come to surprise Don. She looks around the house and goes down to the basement. As she comes back up she meets Sarah. She is somewhat sceptical of Sarah’s story, that she works for Don. The doorbell rings. It is the pastor. Liz goes to tell Sarah that she is going to talk to the pastor but Sarah has disappeared.

Liz returns to the pastor and invites her in. The pastor tells her she would rather talk on the porch. The pastor asks her about her marriage, intimating that the house test marriages. Liz returns to the house. She sees an eyeball in the sink. She calls Don’s phone and finds it in the house. She goes and sees the pastor.

Liz tells the pastor about Don’s less than salubrious character, telling her he defrauded clients and cheated on her whilst she was pregnant. The pastor, who is not particularly helpful, tells her that some can make the house a home and some can’t. Okay then. Liz returns to the house. The house is a brothel with men everywhere and Sarah putting on a BDSM show. Liz, obviously emboldened and crazed by pregnancy hormones, walks around the house screaming for her husband.

Every room she goes into, something strange is happening. Liz, eventually decides she should leave the house but is stopped by Sarah recounting the history of the house. She then comes after her with a knife. Liz runs into a bedroom and locks the door. A bloodied Don emerges from another bedroom. Liz tells him they have to leave. Don says it is not that easy. He says he is going to change. He slices down the centre of his face and Sarah’s head is underneath his face.

Liz leaves the bedroom. She sees Milo in the wall. He laughs at her. The disfigured woman squeezes out of a hole in the wall but Liz smashes her head with a hammer. Sarah goes over to the corpse of the disfigured woman. Liz leaves the house. She finds the pastor sitting outside the house.

Liz looks to the pastor. She knew. The pastor says she did but everyone has to make their own choice – whatever the heck that means. Liz goes back into the house and bashes another hole in the wall, this time finding a mummified corpse – I’m assuming it is Sarah but there is no explanation and I’ve suffered this film twice! – she and the pastor bury the corpse.

Six months later and Liz has had the baby and has stayed in the house – because of course, one would – she comes to see the baby, telling it that they are going to the park after its nap. Liz leaves the room. Marbles drop into the cot where the baby is. Don looks down on the baby from a grill above. The end.

Girl on the Third Floor is awful on a level that is hard to explain. It is badly written, woefully acted – except for Dunn as Liz – and makes no sense whatsoever. The directing, especially when it came to verbal exchanges was amateur in the extreme, with each character just saying their line whilst in the shot. No reaction shots, no movement, no change of depth or distance to affect a particular vibe.

The film takes an inordinate amount of time to get going and the victims – Milo; undeserving plus black man always dying first, Cooper; undeserving though a smarter dog might have barked and Don; deserved but you’re beyond caring by that time.

Four people – FOUR – wrote this nonsense – Trent Haaga, Paul Johnstone, Ben Parker and Travis Stevens. Stevens also directs. How four people could read this and think it not only made sense but would make an entertaining film is beyond me. It is difficult to see what sort of story they were trying to tell.

There are – unfunny – elements of humour in the script but in no way could they have been aiming for a horror-comedy. The scene they show in preview on Netflix is one of the best bits of the film and nothing happens in that clip.

Girl on the Third Floor – one really has no idea how many floors the house has and it is a title with no meaning – is a wretched, uninspired, pointless and dreadful piece of cinema. Give the widest of berths.

Dark Light – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: After her divorce, a woman takes her young daughter and moves into her old vacant family home in rural Mississippi. When strange things start happening and her daughter disappears, she is the local sheriff’s number one suspect. The woman fights to not only clear her name but also to find her daughter.

Is it any good?: In a word, no. Dark Light flatters to deceive. It is visually well made and edited but the acting is poor and the script absolutely wretched. A film that just gets worse over its runtime. It is bloody awful.

Spoiler territory: Annie Knox (Jessica Madsen) is looking for her daughter. She moves quietly around her home, shotgun at the ready with a flashlight attached to the barrel, shouting for her daughter Emily (Opal Littleton). Around the house, Annie hears noises and footsteps. Doors close without warning and she is anxious at every sound.

She sees Emily in the elevator and goes to grab her. Emily starts screaming as Annie scoops her up. Annie hears a noise behind her and puts her daughter down, turning and shooting without looking for the target. She sees her ex-husband, Paul (Ed Brody) lying on the floor. A still tense Annie turns back towards her daughter and raises the gun once more. She shoots.

Annie gets taken away by the police for shooting Paul. A wounded Paul wants to know where their daughter is. The police take Annie away. The story goes back to Annie and Emily moving into the old house. Annie tells her daughter that this was where she grew up. Emily sees the elevator and asks what it is. Annie tells her its an elevator but no longer works.

Emily asks if her dad is going to live with them. Annie tells her no but he will visit. Later that night, Annie hears noises and goes to check around the house. She finds the front door open and shuts it. She checks the gap under the basement door. Something moving spooks her and then the door opens behind her again.

Back in the present, sheriff Dickerson (Kristine Clifford) is questioning Annie about her missing child. Annie is perplexed as to why she is being held, saying she would never harm her daughter. The sheriff points out that having shot her ex-husband, they cannot be sure of that.

Before Emily’s disappearance, Paul had turned up at the house unannounced to see his daughter. Annie is not best pleased to see him but she reluctantly lets him into the house to see Emily. He comes into the house and Emily rushes off to go and get a toy she wants to show him. Annie and Paul have an awkward, uncomfortable conversation.

Later that evening, Annie and Emily play hide n’ seek in the foliage of fields around the house. As it is dark, both of them carry torches. Annie, having grown up in the area, quickly finds her daughter, shining the light on her playfully. They keep on playing. A bright light shines on Annie. She thinks it is Emily but when she tells her to stop shining the light she does not reply.

Annie realises it is not her daughter and searches frantically for her. She looks back to the house and sees Emily standing on the roof. She rushes back to the house. She calls the sheriff. The sheriff tells her that the lights she saw in the field were probably local kids. Annie is convinced that they were not random kids playing in the field.

Annie checks out what she saw online and sees a video of Walter Sims (Gerald Tyler) talking about a humanoid race living secretly amongst the populace. Annie takes his details off of the internet. Annie sees lights shining from outside and rushes to Emily’s bedroom. Emily is fine. Annie goes outside to check what the lights are. She sees multiple lights shining around the field. She looks back to the house and sees something approaching her daughter.

Annie runs back into the house. The figure has disappeared. Annie calls the sheriff again and tells her the story of what happened. The sheriff is sceptical. In the present, sheriff Dickerson is not believing Annie’s version of events. In the past, Paul and Annie have another conversation. She tries to tell him that something is not right in the house. Paul tells her that she should not have moved back into the house, especially with her fragile mental health. He threatens to take Emily away from her.

Annie gets a monitor so as she can see Emily at night. She is woken in the night by a scream and looks to the monitor. Emily is not in her bed. She rushes to her bedroom and finds her daughter standing by her door. She wants to sleep with her. Annie continues to hear noises and goes to check the house. She sees a figure walking around the house. Emily disappears again.

She contacts the sheriff. The sheriff almost runs over Emily as she heads towards the house. Emily says to Dickerson that she does not want to go home. Emily also has a bloody nose, something that had happened earlier In the day also. The sheriff warns Annie that she is going to report her to child services.

Back in the present, the sheriff asks Annie about her gun purchases the previous week. Annie tells her that she bought them for personal protection. Earlier that same night, Annie had seen an alien taking Emily and had shot at it as it took Emily into the elevator. The elevator had then gone down. She had hurried into the basement to try and catch it.

Annie relays the story to Dickerson. Dickerson tells her she is going to jail. Annie is put in a truck with a police officer and another prisoner. The truck has an accident on the way, the driver having to avoid a cow blocking the road on a very rainy night. The truck goes down a bank and flips over.

Annie regains consciousness and frees herself. Everybody else in the truck has died. The police find the truck. Annie returns to her house and cleans herself up. She decides to go and find Walter Sims. Sims invites her into his house and tells him about his ancient alien beings theory. He is worried that Annie found him through the internet.

Annie tells him what she saw. He tells her that they target children to harvest their inner light, their energy. Annie wants to kill it. Sims locks her in his house and goes to find the aliens, fascinated by them and not wanting her to kill them. Sims heads to her house. He quickly encounters one of the aliens.

It attacks him and Sims runs to his car. He is driving away and is attacked again in his car. He escapes his car and runs into a railway yard. He is caught by another one and killed. The police find his corpse. The police go to Sims house and see all his notes about the missing children. Annie manages to get out of Sims’ house.

Annie heads back to her own house to look for her daughter. She hides when Paul comes to the house. He goes into the lift and is attacked by one of the aliens. Annie goes to get in the lift to look for both Paul and their daughter. She goes to the basement stairs but is chased by one of the aliens. She gets away but as she is about to go back into the basement, she is stopped by Dickerson, who is pointing a gun at her.

Annie puts her gun down. Dickerson is killed by one of the aliens. Annie runs as the same alien comes after her. She repels it by attacking it with a lampshade pole, shocking it. It does not die. Annie heads to the basement. She finds Paul and wakes him from unconsciousness. They both go looking for Emily. They see the alien feeding on energy from Emily.

Paul causes a distraction so that Annie can grab their daughter. As mother and daughter try to escape, they see Paul get killed. Annie slows the alien down by shooting it and takes her daughter back to the house. She douses the house in petrol. The alien burst into the house and attacks her. She slows the alien once again by first tasering it then shooting it. She sets the house on fire.

Annie and Emily get into Paul’s car and drive away. Emily asks if the alien is dead and Annie tells her it is. In the fields around the home, the light that shines from the aliens’ heads lights up the night. The end.

Dark Light is utter garbage. Written and directed by Padraig Reynolds, it is a film that gets worse over its runtime with a haphazard story, undefined antagonist and the least subtle script this reviewer has ever suffered through, with every utterance exposition. Reynolds can certainly direct the visuals and the film flows relatively nicely but he should get someone else to write. The script is first-year scriptwriting student bad.

I am going to kindly believe that it was the script that contributed to the wholly wooden performances by the entire cast. Admittedly, they did not have much to work with, every character speaking in the same manner, pace and cadence. The central character had no compelling reason to stay in the freaky house but did anyway.

If she did, Reynolds did not put it in the script. Annie suffered from depression. How do I know this? Because Paul comes right out and says it. He does not allude to it or talk around it. He just says it. Her mum had depression and committed suicide. Guess how I know? Bloody Paul and his helpful exposition!

Sims talks some bollocks about ancient, advanced aliens and then decides to go and meet them, even though he knows that they basically eat children and have done for years. As soon as he finds himself in bother he runs like Usain Bolt. He was also supposedly worried about being found via the internet, even though he had, in the video he had produced talking about the aliens, asked people to contact him!

Reynolds also could not decide how he wanted the aliens to kill people with them slashing, frying and, quite randomly, biting the unfortunate Paul in the neck. The aliens snatch children but the sheriff had never before been told of disappearing children even though Sims, the kook, had hundreds of pictures of missing children on his wall. Annie, who had already been spooked by the old house, decides to take her daughter into a field, at night, to play hide n’ seek. It was as if she wanted to lose the damn child.

Dark Light – a title that makes very little sense – is a mishmash of ideas all poorly executed. Scoring a, I can only say, generous four point two on IMDB, Dark Light is a film to give a wide berth. Wretched.

Child’s Play – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: When a disgruntled employee in the factory that creates the Buddi doll, a wifi enabled, learning computer, small toy boy, decides to adjust the setting on the doll, removing all its safety features, it has dire consequences after it ends up in the home of a poor single mother who gets it for her son.

Is it any good?: No. Based on the 1988 film of the same name, this modern update of Child’s Play is another lazy attempt from Hollywood to tap into the nostalgia of the pop culture of the eighties, adding elements of WestWorld and Carrie. There is no good reason to sit through this film. Unless, like myself, you are reviewing it.

Spoiler territory: The Kaslan company, fronted by there founder, Henry Kaslan (Tim Matheson), have created an extremely popular toy, Buddi, that connects to all of Kaslan’s home products. It’s a walking, learning Alexa. Like Alexa, their fictional Buddi doll can connect to all the homes smart devices and control them with an E.T glowing finger, because there was not quite enough eighties nostalgia in the film.

In Vietnam, where the dolls are produced, one of the factory workers (Phoenix Ly) gets bawled out by his supervisor (Johnson Phan) for daydreaming. He is told to finish up with the doll he is working on and to leave. It seems you can get fired in a Vietnam factory for daydreaming, a bit harsh.

The factory worker, peeved by his boss’ treatment of him, removes all of the safety protocols on the CPU that controls one of the dolls. This includes removing the language and behaviour safeguards, also the violence inhibitors.

Violence inhibitors? Why would a doll have violence capabilities? Anyhow, after he removes all the safeguards on the doll and puts it together, he commits suicide by swan diving from a window onto the always conveniently placed parked car that movie corpses land on. This does not slow the doll business and the Buddi dolls are shipped, including his altered one.

In Zed department store, single mother, Karen (Aubrey Plaza), is dealing with a disgruntled customer (Eddie Flake). The man is not happy that the Buddi doll, he has waited three weeks for, has ginger hair and not blond like the picture. Karen tells him that the version he is after is the Buddi 2 – so the upgrade in this film is from the much-maligned ginger hair colour to the Aryan race hair colour of choice. Okay. – the disgruntled customer gets a refund.

Karen returns home and is ogled by the creepy building attendant, Gabe (Trent Redekop). In her home, her son, Andy (Gabriel Bateman), who has a hearing aid, greets her. The two have recently moved and she asks him why he has not unpacked a box. The rest of the apartment seems to be perfectly lived in already. Andy, the ungrateful tike, complains about his broken mobile.

Karen points out to him that she is already doing double shifts to purchase a new hearing aid for him. He says to her that the phone is his primary source of education. Karen takes the phone off of him, threatening not to give it back to him.

He has a screensaver that has a Buddi doll singing on it. Karen is sick of seeing the Buddi doll. She tells Andy that he should make friends. She says she will give him his phone back if he goes out and makes friends. – it’s night time and she wants to send her thirteen-year-old child out to socialise with a couple of kids she spots out of the window. Do not follow parenting advice from this woman!

The next day at the store, another customer returns a Buddi doll. She says it is faulty and she will wait for the new model. Karen asks her supervisor, Wes (Amro Majzoub) if she can take the faulty doll for her son because it is his birthday next week. After some blackmail related coercion, Wes lets her take the doll.

The next day, Andy comes home from school and Karen is with Shane (David Lewis), her boyfriend. Andy does not like Shane. He decides to leave them alone. He goes and sits in the hallway and meets police detective, Mike (Brian Tyree Henry) who he asks what he is doing in the corridor. Mike’s mum, Doreen (Carlease Burke), comes into the hallway and calls for him to come in. Mike comets visit his mother for dinner once a week.

Karen comes and finds Andy speaking with Mike in the corridor. Mike introduces himself, telling her he is a detective. Karen and Andy return home. She tells him she has a surprise and gives him the faulty Buddi doll. Andy is initially underwhelmed by the doll but switches it on and connects it to his phone. The doll comes on and scans him, imprinting Andy to its memory.

The doll talks and Andy wants to call it Hans Solo but the doll thinks he says Chucky (Mark Hamill) because the names sound so similar obviously. Andy is frustrated that the doll does not seem to work properly. Karen reads the instructions and tells him he needs to download data from the cloud for it to integrate with all the Kaslan systems.

It still does not work properly but Andy, not wanting to offend his mother, takes it to his room – it walks along like a small child – and shows the doll around. Andy gets ready for bed and Chucky asks if he wants to sing the Buddi song. Andy declines but the doll sings it anyway. Chucky asks if they are going to have fun the next day. Andy hesitantly says yes.

Andy turns over in the middle of the night to find Chucky staring at him. The doll starts singing again. As he gets ready for school the next day, Chucky copies his movements. When Andy returns from school, Chucky is waiting at the front door. Shane is with his mother again. Andy rants about Shane, convinced he will leave them eventually. Chucky tells him he will never leave him.

Andy is playing a board game with Chucky when one of the pieces fall to the floor next to the cat. When he goes to pick up the piece, the cat scratches him. Andy goes to clean the scratch and get a plaster. When he returns to Chucky, he finds the doll strangling the cat. Andy stops him killing the cat. He tells him that he can’t keep doing weird things. Shane comes and tells him to clean up his room. Andy decides to play a trick on him with Chucky.

Whilst Andy works on getting Chucky to make scary expressions, Falyn (Beatrice Kitsos) and Pugg (Ty Consiglio), two local kids, come and meet him. Pugg swears in front of the doll and it repeats his expression. Pugg and Falyn are surprised because they think it should not be able to swear. Andy tells them the doll does what it likes. No alarm bells there then.

He tells them that he plans to scare Shane. Pugg and Falyn are immediately on board. They scare Shane and the three begin to hang out together. Andy watches an extremely violent horror film with Falyn and Pugg and all three laugh at the excessive violence. Chucky, who is watching the film, goes and grabs a kitchen knife. He slices Andy when he tries to restrain him.

The next day, Chucky turns up on the kitchen counter. He repeats Andy’s words about Shane, calling him an asshole. Karen tells Andy that she is going to restrict his time with the doll to an hour a day. She puts Chucky in a cupboard. Andy goes to school. When he returns home, Chucky has killed the cat. He tells Andy he killed the cat because it made Andy unhappy.

Andy gets rid of the cat’s corpse. Chucky goads Shane again and Shane takes it out on Andy thinking he is messing about with him. He confronts Andy and asks what his problem is with him. Andy tries to call his mother but Shane stops him. Chucky records it all. Karen and Shane row about him telling off Andy. Shane goes home. He puts on his wedding ring. He has a wife and family.

Later in the evening, Shane goes to take down some Christmas lights from around the house’s gutter. Whilst he is on the ladder, it gets knocked from under him. He falls and breaks both legs. Prostate on the ground, Chucky starts up a bladed lawnmower. Shane tries to scramble to his mobile. He is forced to stop as he has to hold the mower to stop it from going into his head.

Chucky walks on to his chest brandishing a kitchen knife. Shane lets go of the mower and gets killed by the mower, it chopping into his head and skull. Chucky stabs him multiple time to make sure he is dead. Andy wakes up to find Shane’s severed head looking at him from his dresser. Chucky tells him they can play now.

A spooked Andy calls Falyn and Pugg. They decide to warp the head in wrapping paper. As they are leaving, they are stopped by Karen. Andy tells her that he got a gift for Doreen. She insists that they go and give it to her. Andy goes and gives her the head and Doreen, for some reason only known to her, plays along with his ruse, even agreeing not to open it until his birthday.

The three kids get Chucky and Falyn pulls out his power supply. Andy throws him in the garbage. Gabe finds the discarded doll in the garbage and decides that he can make some money by repairing it. Detective Mike tells Karen that Shane is dead. Later, Andy goes to dinner with Doreen and Mike.

Gabe, who has cameras on everybody in the building, leaves a partially animated Chucky on the table. Chucky watches Andy talking to Doreen about a driving app. Gabe finishes fixing Chucky and is distracted as he watches Karen undressing in her bathroom. Chucky interrupts the video signal and kills Gabe in gruesome fashion.

Omar (Marlon Kazadi), another kid on the block, ends up with Chucky. The kids all go to the Zed store for the launch of the new Baddi doll model. Chucky tells Andy that if he won’t be his friend he won’t be anybody’s friend. Andy tries to destroy the doll but Omar comes and stops him. The two fight. Andy ends up with Omar’s mobile, which is linked to Chucky. He sees the doll go after Doreen through the car app.

Chucky controls the driverless taxi that Doreen orders. He takes her to a car park and crashes her into a parked car. He then kills her with a kitchen knife. Andy tries to tell his mom about Chucky but she does not believe him and takes Omar’s phone to give it back to him. When she returns, she finds Andy smashing up the furniture.

Falyn thinks Andy might be telling the truth and gets Omar’s phone off of him to check the video feed. They see that Chucky is after Andy. Andy is at the new Buddi doll launch because Karen is working. Mike is told they found the head of Shane. Mike recognises the wrapping paper and heads to the Zed store and handcuffs Andy.

A worker in a Buddi costume gets stabbed in the neck by Chucky. As Mike goes to help him, Chucky takes over the store. And the lighting. Chucky begins to kill people with drone helicopters, using the blades to slice up the now frightened patrons of Zed. They start running for the exits and Chucky begins to shut down the store.

A new Buddi doll, that is furry and looks like a bear, comes to life and goes after Andy. Falyn smashes and frees Andy from the handcuffs. Andy, Falyn and Pugg go to escape the store but Chucky takes Karen hostage. Andy goes back for his mother. Chucky puts a noose around Karen’s neck, the rope attached to a hydraulic crane, slowly rising. He goes to kill Andy. Andy starts singing to distract him and knocks him off to one side. Andy goes to try and cut his now dangling mother down.

Chucky attacks him again, leaving Karen hanging by the neck with both Andy and Chucky hanging on the rope above her. Andy cuts the rope and they all fall to the floor. Andy stabs Chucky through the chest with a kitchen knife and then goes looking for his mother. Chucky comes back at Andy, flying through the air at him. Mike shoots him. Karen rips the doll’s head off.

The kids smash the remnants of Chucky and burn them. Zaslan comes on television and denies any culpability for the issues with the Buddi doll. As a store person puts a doll on the shelf, its eyes flash red. The end.

Child’s Play is rubbish and an absolute waste of time. The original version is not even very good but was at least novel for its time and spawned several sequels. This ‘re-boot’ – a lazy excuse for a film – adds nothing and does not improve on the original even slightly. Unlike the remake of Carrie, which was up against a horror classic, Child’s Play actually had scope for improvement.

Instead, written by Tyler Burton Smith from a story by Don Mancini, the writer of the original film, Smith makes very little effort to stamp his own personality on proceedings. The script is pedestrian at best, with many of the story elements making very little sense.

Some of the killings are shoved in just to make up the numbers – Gabe, Doreen – the Korean opening was nonsensical, taking the safety elements off of a toy as though it were a nuclear missile.

If the film had gone for parody it might have worked. Directed by Lars Klevberg – who also directed the far better Polaroid – walks us through this horror by numbers, with barely any of the scares working and easily predictable. The acting is fine given the material and nobody on show is noticeably awful but I suspect that, unless they were big fans of the original, most of the adults at least only turned up for the pay cheque.

Child’s Play is a lazy, uninspired, pointless remake of an okay horror that did not need to be remade. Definitely, one to give a miss.

The Platform – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: a principled man volunteers to go into a featureless, multi-levelled prison to earn a diploma. His humanity is tested, as the level one is on determines how much food you get.

Is it any good?: Yes. A psychological horror, The Platform – El Hoyo (The Hole – original Spanish title) – is a powerful story about humanity and its base instincts.

Spoiler territory: a restaurant boss (Txubio Fernández) presides over a busy kitchen creating a myriad array of meals and delicacies. Goreng (Ivan Massagué) wakes up in a cell. There is an older man in the cell with him, Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor), who tells him they are on level forty-eight.

Goreng does not know what that means. He looks around and asks if they are in the hole. Trimagasi explains to him that they are and it is the beginning of the month. That means, Trimagasi continues, only one thing. What are they going to eat? Goreng does not know the answer. Trimagasi answers his own question. They will eat whatever is left from the level above; level forty-seven.

Goreng looks down into a large rectangular hole in the floor. Below there are multiple levels, with two people on every level. He cannot see how far it goes down. He asks if Trimagasi knows what the hole entails. The old man tells him eating. Goreng calls down to the people below but Trimagasi tells him they will not talk to him. Why? Because they are below. The same goes for those above.

Trimagasi grabs his pillow and kneels next to the edge of the hole. A red light on the wall goes off and a green one comes on. Goreng asks why that is. Trimagasi does not answer. He looks up to the hole. A platform descends from the hole. When it gets to their level, it stops. The platform is covered in half-eaten food with plates and glasses strewn all over.

An unperturbed Trimagasi digs into the food, shovelling food into his mouth with both hands. Goreng looks at the platform with disgust. He works out that the food has already been consumed by at least ninety-four people. Goreng picks up an apple and puts it in his pocket, planning to eat it later.

The platform lowers to the next level. The room begins to get hot. Goreng mentions it to Trimagasi. He explains that the room will continue to get hotter or colder if anyone holds on to food. Goreng throws the apple into the hole.

Before being put into the hole, Goreng had been made to understand that he had to commit to the period that he agreed to spend there. He would not be able to leave beforehand. Goreng had enquired as to whether he had been accepted. Not yet. What one item did he want to take into the hole? He would take a book.

He tells Trimagasi about being accepted into the hole. Trimagasi asks him if he volunteered. He did. Six months in exchange for an accredited diploma. Trimagasi says he should get two diplomas as he is there for a year. Goreng asks what did he do to end up there. He had been watching an infomercial and bought a kitchen knife but had been angered by the same sales team promoting a similar knife in the next commercial. The knife had been better. Trimagasi had hurled his television out of the window and it had killed an immigrant who had been cycling past.

Goreng asks how many levels there are. The old man does not know but he has been as low as level 132. Goreng says what about the food. Trimagasi says there is no food by the time it gets to that level. Goreng reason that one has to eat. Trimagasi tells him that it does not mean one does not eat. Goreng tells him that he chose a book as his item and asks what he chose. The old man shows him the kitchen knife that never goes blunt from the infomercial.

As the days go by, Goreng eats from the leftovers. Trimagasi scratches the number of days into the wall. They spend a month at each level and are then moved. They do not know which level they will be moved to and simply wake up on another level.

Goreng asks Trimagasi how many levels he has been on. The old man tells him he started on level seventy-two. He mentions several other levels. Goreng challenges him, saying that if he is with him, he must have had a different roommate before. As he does not look as though he has missed a meal, Goreng speculates that he probably fed on one of his former roommates.

Trimagasi does not answer. The food platform comes down. There is a woman, Mihara (Alexandra Masangkay) sitting on it. The old man ignores her and begins to eat. Goreng tries to talk to her but she recoils. Trimagasi tells him that she is looking for her son and that she kills her cellmate every month in the hope of being put with her son the next time.

The platform moves down to the next level with Mihara still on it. The men on the next level attack her. She kills them. The months continue and one-night Trimagasi notes the smell of gas. He tells Goreng that they are being put to sleep and will be moved. He only has two months left.

Goreng is gagged and tied to his bed when he wakes up. Trimagasi has tied him up because they are on level 171. Trimagasi reasons that, given Goreng’s youth, he would be at a considerable disadvantage when it got to a decisive time. Trimagasi plans to starve him a little, to clean him out. Then he will flay him. A week passes and the old man plans to begin on his thigh. He cuts into his leg and cuts away a chunk of muscle.

Mihara comes down on the platform and smashes him over the head. She takes his knife and slices his throat. She then cuts Goreng free. She gives him the kitchen knife. Goreng drags himself over to the dying Trimagasi and kills him. Goreng passes out. He wakes later and Mihara has bound his wound. She is eating Trimagasi. She feeds some of his flesh to Goreng.

Mihara returns to the platform and keeps going down in search of her child. Goreng is eating the remains of Trimagasi and sees him in his mind. The gas comes again. He wakes up with a small dog licking his face. He is on level thirty-three, Imoguiri (Antonia San Juan) and her dog Ramasesses 2 is in the cell with him. She is amazed he decided to bring a book into the hole.

Goreng wants to know how she knows his name. She was the one who interviewed him for the hole. He asks how many people she sent the hole. She reminds him that he volunteered. She also volunteered to come into the hole. How many levels are there? She says there are 200. He tells her there is not enough food for that many levels. She says that they have to try and convince people to only eat enough and leave some for those below.

Imoguiri tries to reason with those below. They ignore her. She tries over several days to no avail. Goreng threatens to defecate in the food if they do not agree to ration their food. Mihara comes down on the platform the next day. She is poorly. Goreng pulls her off of the platform and looks after her. Mihara regains her health and kills the dog. She goes back on to the platform.

Goreng tells Imoguiri about Mihara’s son. Imoguiri says she does not have a son and that she came in alone. She was the one who put her in there. She tells him that she has cancer and that it is terminal. Goreng continues to apportion the food, Imoguiri does not eat anything, mourning the loss of her dog. They are on the last day at that level. The next day Goreng wakes up on level 202.

Imoguiri has committed suicide. Hung herself with her sheets. The mental apparition of Trimagasi appears again, telling him she hung herself so as he could feed. An apparition of Imoguiri also appears, agreeing with the old man. Goreng is going mad.

With no food getting down as far as 202, he counts the days and tries to work out how many levels there are in the hole as there are obviously more than two hundred. He wakes up on level six. He is with Baharat (Emilio Buale), an excitable black man who is trying to get those on level five to help him climb up.

They tell him to throw the rope up and they will help. As he climbs the woman defecates on him as he gets near to the top. He falls back to six. Goreng watches the men on seven fighting over the food. He has a plan. He persuades Baharat to help him pass through the levels and only allow people to eat enough food to live. Every level will eat every other day as he had worked out that he believes there are 250 levels.

The men start to execute the plan. After going down several levels, Baharat, who had been using intimidation to stop people grabbing at the food, encounters Sr. Brambang (Eric L. Goode). He respects him greatly and listens as he tells him that he needs to be more respectful and that they need to send a message back up to level zero. The message should be an exquisitely prepared meal. The choose a panna cotta.

The men agree. Their more laid back approach falls on deaf ears and the men are forced to return to violence and intimidation, all the while preserving the panna cotta. The further down they go, the more savage the inhabitants are. The platform goes past floors where all the inhabitants are dead.

The men come to a floor where Mihara is being eaten alive by a man, he stops temporarily to stab her to death. Goreng attacks him. Baharat fights his roommate who slices him across the guts with a samurai sword. Baharat kills him and then kills the other man who had been strangling Goreng. They return to the platform. They keep moving down through the levels, the inhabitants ever more savage.

The platform eventually stops at level 333. There is a young Asian girl in the room. They get off of the platform. It goes down further. They give the girl the panna cotta. Goreng hallucinates again, Ttimagasi talking to him. He is woken up by Baharat telling him that the girl is the message. He wakes up. That too is a dream. Baharat is dead having bled out from his wounds. He puts the girl on the platform. Trimagasi tells him that the girl is the message, not him. He leaves the girl alone on the platform. The platform, which travels quickly when going up, takes the girl up. The end.

The Platform is a gripping psychological horror up until the last five minutes where it leaves you a little unsatisfied with the conclusion. There are a lot of unanswered questions: What is the hole? Why was the girl in there? What was the purpose? Was it a prison or an experiment? Did anyone ever get out? So many questions!

The performances are excellent from all involved and the set design is wonderfully stark and oppressive. Sound is good as well, with the music adding to the already tense atmosphere of the story. Especially at this time – writing during a worldwide pandemic – this story of base human instincts seems particularly relevant.

Written by David Desola and directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, the film does not answer any of the moral questions either, instead leaving it to the viewer to decide who they would relate to or align with.

Visually, the film is stark. Rich in the kitchen scenes and scary in the hole scenes. Truthfully though, I could not see the point of the kitchen scenes. They only showed that the food began as haute cuisine. As the film demonstrated that even those who found themselves in a privileged position did not appreciate it, there was little to give weight to these scenes.

That being said, The Platform is an engaging watch and it was only really on second viewing and given time to think about it, that I could find these frustrating niggles in the plot. At ninety-four minutes long it is perhaps too short and could have given the viewer a bit more story context with and extra fifteen minutes. The Platform is, nonetheless, a good and highly watchable film.