We Belong Together – review (Netflix​)

Tracy (Draya Michele) is released from incarceration. She decides to enroll in college. Thomas Lewis is a recovering alcoholic who is trying to get his life together after a divorce from his ex-wife, Megan (Elise Neal). Because of his alcoholism, Megan got custody of their daughter, Brittany (Cassidey Fralin), who he has not been allowed to see whilst recovering.

Thomas is a professor of Greek mythology, and Tracy decides to take his class. In the first class, the students are introduced to Leslie (Jessica Vanessa DeLeon) a teaching assistant to Thomas, who has taken the class before. Tracy focuses on Leslie. Tracy bumps into Thomas outside of the class. She tells him that she is looking for a job. He hooks her up with a contact in a steak restaurant he knows.

The next day, Tracy comes in with a new hairstyle. It is the same as Leslie’s. Tracy catches up with Thomas after the class. She got the job thanks to his contact, and just wanted to thank him. While he is speaking to her, Leslie comes and interrupts. She tells Thomas she is going to be working late at the college.

Alone in the college, Leslie gets attacked by a shadowy figure, strangled, and thrown off of a balcony. The next day the class is cancelled due to Leslie’s murder. A couple of homicide detectives, Daily (Brian White) and Hanks (Alan Miller), come into the class to ask about the murder. They have CCTV photos of the suspect.

Tracy comes to see Thomas. She tells him that she and Leslie had become friendly and that Leslie used to pick her up from work. Thomas reluctantly agrees to pick her up from work following Leslie’s untimely demise. Thomas goes to the diner and meets Tracey, still having some reservations about the situation.

Thomas takes Tracey home, and she makes sexual advances towards him. He declines, telling her that he is still in love with his ex-wife. Also, he thinks that, as she is his student, it would be unethical. Thomas goes to see Megan. He tells her he still loves her and wants to work through their problems. She tells him it is too late.

do I seem crazy to you? Do I?!

The next day, Tracy comes to see Thomas again. He succumbs to her charms. They begin seeing one another. One evening, Thomas tells her how his son died whilst in his care, and though his wife did not blame him, he blamed himself and began to drink heavily, which is why he is teetotal.

Thomas tells his AA sponsor about the relationship. His sponsor tells him to be careful. Thomas goes to see Tracy and finds out that her parents died in a fire and that she is an only child. She takes anti-depressants for the trauma. Tracy says she has a surprise for him, and that he should get in the bed. She ties him to the bed and pours alcohol into his mouth, getting him drunk.

The next day, Thomas is late to meet his daughter. He is supposed to take her swimming. Tracy takes offense at him not wanting her to meet his daughter. While Thomas is out with Brittany, Tracy sends him an excessive amount of voicemail messages, even threatening to ruin his life.

She goes around to his house to see him, apologising for the messages. While Tracy is at the house, Thomas gets a call. Megan has been in an accident. Thomas tells Tracy he has to go.

He goes to the hospital and stays overnight, sleeping near Megan, who is in a coma. Megan’s mother, Diane (Valerie Pettiford) tells him to go home. She will call him if anything changes.

Thomas finds Tracy still in his home. He breaks up with her even as she refuses to accept it. He returns to the hospital. Megan wakes up. She tells him that she loves him. He asks if she was speeding, and she tells him no, her brakes failed.

Tracy goes to the hospital and gives Brittany a bracelet, telling her that she is her step-mother. The detectives come to talk to Thomas. They got an anonymous tip-off that he cut the brake line in his ex-wife’s car. While Thomas is at the police station, a mysterious man sneaks into Megan’s room in the hospital and post photos of Tracy all around her.

Thomas takes Megan home. Diane takes Brittany out to play. She gets kidnapped. Thomas finds her on the roof of Tracy’s building. While he is getting her back, Tracy goes to Megan’s house and tries to kill her. The police catch her before she can drown her.

Two months later, the police tell Tracy and Megan that Tracy Jacobs is, in fact, Laura Santiago, an escaped psychiatric patient. She was not an only child. She has a brother, who also suffered from mental problems. They both were incarcerated, suspected of killing their parents.

Tracy’s brother frees her from another institution. The end.

We Belong Together is, unsurprisingly, bloody awful. My description of it must seem incomplete and haphazard but, I promise you, it is better than the film. What is good about the film? Nothing.

The story is lazy, uninspired, unoriginal, boring nonsense. The acting is pure B movie level, the worst performance coming from the perennially pouting Michele. The worst thing about her performances is that she looks like she is acting all of the time.

The rest of the cast have been in better films than this, and so can be partially forgiven for taking a payday. Written and directed by Christopher B Stokes, who is better known for music videos, the film is, at least, shot quite well and in focus. So there is that.

The crazed girlfriend is a trope that has been used so many times, that, to make it work, one needs either an excellent script or a subtle, different take on it. This film has neither. The script is terrible, and it is as subtle as a baby screaming for a nappy change, feed, attention, or all three.

It is as if the director pointed the camera at the actors, and gave them an outline of what was meant to happen in the scene, let them improvise it, and went with the first take every single time.

The music is irritatingly ominous at all times, the editing is sloppy, and the focus on Michele’s admittedly not unattractive face, in some misguided attempt to allow us to witness her particular level of crazy, is amateurish.

We Belong Together—a line she shouts in desperation as this pile of poo was drawing to its conclusion—is a car wreck of a film, and one would do well to avoid watching it. You are welcome.

Secret Obsession – review (Netflix)

Jennifer Williams (Brenda Song) is running for her life from a mysterious man hunting her on a rainy night. Desperate to get away from him, she hides out in a remote service station restroom. He follows her into the restroom, but she manages to escape, running out and getting into her car outside. He follows her and sees her in the car.

As she tries to drive off, he disappears. She starts the car but cannot drive off. He is in a truck behind her and has attached a tow rope to her car, preventing her from moving. She jumps out of the car and runs, frantic with fear. She runs into a road and is hit by a car.

Jennifer ends up in the hospital, her body busted up and the impact of the car having caused her some brain trauma. At the hospital, her husband, Russell (Mike Vogel), comes to see her. He is told she is in surgery and unconscious. A few days later she wakes up. She cannot remember him or the accident she had.

Russell assures her that it will all come back to her and stays with her as she recovers in the hospital. Eventually, he takes her home to a remote location in the woods. Detective Frank Page (Dennis Haysbert) is investigating the accident. He interviews witnesses and finds out that a truck was there. He wonders why Jennifer was there.

Page is convinced, due to certain aspects of the investigation, that Jennifer’s incident was not an accident. At the Williams home, a wheelchair-bound Jennifer tries to piece together memories.

Nothing is familiar. Jennifer, feeling bad about not remembering her husband, insists on being in the bedroom with him, even though it is upstairs. Russell carries her up to the room.

I wear glasses. I’m trustworthy.

Page contacts Russell; he wants him to bring Jennifer down to the station to talk to him about the accident. Russell says that he will the next day. When Jennifer asks him about the call, he lies and tells her it was a work call.

Russell goes to see Jim Kahn (Paul Sloan). He wants to know why Kahn was asking about his wife. Kahn wants to know why he cares. Russell hits him with a tyre iron and chokes him to death.

Jennifer wakes up to find the bed empty, Russell is not there. She sees him burying something in the garden. Page is not met by Russell as planned, so he decides to go and find him. He goes to the hospital and talks to nurse Masters (Ashley Scott).

The nurse tells him she has not been able to get hold of the Williams, as she wanted to schedule physiotherapy for Jennifer. The address Page has for the Williams turns out to be bogus.

Jennifer is looking through a photo album and notices something odd about one of the photographs. She goes downstairs and tries to get on to Russell’s computer but does not know the password. Russell returns and almost catches her, but she tells him she is just trying to prompt her memory.

Page continues to investigate and finds out that nobody called to tell the husband that Jennifer was in the hospital. Russell tries to get amorous with Jennifer but she rejects him, his touch triggering a bad memory. Russell gets angry, showing a side of himself she had not seen up to that point. Page calls nurse Masters and asks for the surveillance tapes from the hospital carpark.

He sees Russell on the surveillance tape. Page finds out that Jennifer’s maiden name is Allen. He tracks down her parents’ address and heads to their house. He finds their rotting corpses in the bedroom. Jennifer is suspicious of Russell and finds her driver’s license in his wallet. She sees that it has her maiden name on it.

Russell leaves the house and locks her in the bedroom. She picks the lock and gets into his computer, her maiden name being his password. On the computer, she sees photos and realises that all the photos that Russell has shown her are fake. Page finds out that Russell is not who he says he is and has taken the place of the real Russell, her husband.

Jennifer tries to make a call on the mobile phone Russell bought her but finds there is no sim card in it. Russell comes back and knocks her out. He ties her ankle to the bed and goes out. Jennifer wakes up and escapes the bond. She finds her old mobile in the garage. Russell returns and opens the garage door, causing her to hide. The real Russell is dead in the boot of the car.

No door can hold me!

Jennifer hurries back to the bedroom before Russell can discover she left. Page finds the house and Russell tells him to come up. Jennifer tries to warn him but Russell knocks him unconscious and puts him in a freezer. He threatens to break Jennifer’s ankle and takes her back to the bedroom, tying her to the bed once more. She escapes again and gets out of the house. Russell goes looking for her.

She tries to distract him and attacks him with a log. He easily overpowers her, knocking her to the ground. He takes out the gun he got off of Page and is about to kill her. Page, having escaped from the freezer, tackles him to the ground, causing him to drop the gun. As the two men struggle, Jennifer picks up the gun and shoots Russell.

Three months later Page is retiring and Jennifer is leaving her old life behind. Page gives her a letter from the real Russell. The end.

Secret Obsession is so achingly predictable that it borders on boring. With elements of Misery, Sleeping With The Enemy, Play Misty For Me and just about every film featuring an obsessive wannabe spouse, it brings nothing at all new to the niche genre.

With a real made-for-television vibe about it, Secret Obsession is not awful enough to offend but it is not good either. The acting is passable, with Haysbert the most recognisable face in the cast. Vogel is perfectly serviceable as the obsessive Russell, menacing and threatening in equal measure.

Written by Peter Sullivan and Kraig Wenman, with Sullivan also on director duties, Secret Obsession is a thriller by numbers that is low on thrills and a little too long for the convoluted story it tells at ninety-seven minutes long.

Song is engaging enough as the injured object of desire, Jennifer, but truthfully, the story is too thin and plot holes too large for the film to flow properly, the main plot hole being that an absolute psychopath like Russell could have bodies piling up around the country and nobody noticed.

As is the way with some of these made for television thriller-dramas, the music is cranked up to eleven and just irritates rather than adding to the atmosphere. Secret Obsession is not the worst film I have seen, but there is nothing to recommend it either. Probably best to give it a miss.

Kidnapping Stella – review (Netflix​)

Ex-convicts, Vic (Clemens Schick) and Tom (Max von der Groeben) go shopping. They buy soundproof cladding, handcuffs, blackout curtains, locks, and other miscellaneous objects. They prepare a room; a sturdy double bed, blackout windows, extra locks on the doors, both the bedroom door and the door to the small, remote apartment. The apartment is in an abandoned block of flats.

Having prepared the room, the two men go and grab a woman, Stella (Jella Haase). They tie her up, gag her, and put her in back of a van, and take her to the apartment. Both the men have masks on, as they take her to the bedroom, cut her clothes off, put her in a plain red top and pants, and chain her to the bed. She has a cloth bag over her head and is struggling the whole time this ordeal is going on.

They take the bag off of her head so as to take a photo of her next to the newspaper of the day. They then leave the room. After disposing of her belongings, they return to the room. Only Vic speaks, he wants her father’s email address and mobile phone number. She gives them the information.

When they have left the room, Vic uploads the photos to a USB drive and leaves Tom alone with Stella. He tells him to check on her every ten minutes. When Vic returns they have another conversation with the woman, telling her how to indicate if she wants to go to the bathroom. They leave the room.

I didn’t say anything!

Vic and Tom are sitting down to eat. Vic notes that Tom is not eating. Tom says he is not hungry. Vic forces him to eat something. Vic is definitely the one in charge, confirming that notion by having Tom recommit to their plan. Vic goes out again.

Tom goes to check on Stella. She indicates that she wants to use the bathroom. Tom brings a bucket, and, realising he will have to undo her restraints, brings a gun as well. He releases her and gives her the bucket. Stella persuades him that she cannot do her business whilst he is watching. Tom turns his back.

She hits him with the bucket and grabs the gun. Still handcuffed to the bed on one side, she tells him to let her free. Tom refuses. He tries to grab the gun, and she gets a shot off. While he is disorientated by the deafening explosion, she grabs his mask and pulls it off. She knows him. Tom is her ex-boyfriend. Tom manages to overpower her and puts her back in the restraints.

Vic returns with bad news. Her father does not want to pay. They have to go back into the room. Vic tells Tom to set up a camera, he is going to cut off one of her fingers. Stella panics, screaming through her restraints as Vic puts the bolt cutters to her hand.

Tom starts the camera and Vic takes the gag out of Stella’s mouth. She begins to plead with him not to cut her finger off. She begs her father to pay the ransom and tells him that she is pregnant. Tom stops Vic.

I’m strangely not hungry….

Back outside of the bedroom, Vic takes issue with Tom interrupting him. Tom apologises and says it will not happen again. Vic checks the footage. He is happy. They go back into the room to feed Stella. Tom notices that the bullet cartridge from his scuffle with Stella is on the floor. Tom’s nervousness puts Vic on edge. Tom retrieves the cartridge and flushes it down the toilet.

Vic goes out to send the video footage. Tom asks Stella about the pregnancy. He does not believe she is pregnant. Tom is angry at her because she abandoned him when he got arrested and imprisoned. She tells him that she knew she had to get away from him once she found out she was pregnant.

Stella begins to choke. As he goes to help her, releasing her hands, she tricks him and handcuffs him to the bed. unfortunately, she cannot get out of the apartment.

She tries to call for help, having retrieved her mobile, but because she does not know where she is, she cannot tell the police where to find her. She goes back into the bedroom, trying to get the keys to leave the apartment, and is knocked unconscious by Tom.

He puts her back on the bed before Vic returns. Vic returns. Stella’s father has caved in, he will pay the ransom. Tom goes to prepare the van. He finds records of Stella’s doctor’s appointments. Meanwhile, Vic is with Stella, and finds the mobile phone on her. He asks her how she got the phone. Stella confesses that she tried to escape and he overpowered her. She also tells Vic that she is his ex.

Vic asks Tom if she is telling the truth about everything. Tom says she is. They take Stella to a remote location and chain her up. Vic says he has the coordinates for the money pickup. They go to the forest. Vic tells Tom to go and get the money.

I can be reasonable. Give me money.

There is no money. Vic tells Tom that he knows that Stella was his ex. He tells him he is going to kill him. Tom runs off and Vic pursues him. He shoots him, wounding him. Tom hides. Unable to find him, Vic leaves the forest.

He returns to Stella. As she knows who he is, Vic decides to kill her. A wounded Tom comes and stops him, hitting him with a metal bar. Vic shoots him again. As he is about to kill him, Stella kicks him and he drops the gun. Tom grabs the gun and kills him.

Tom is dying, Stella begs him to get the keys to her, so she can get out of the restraints. She frees herself and Tom dies. She leaves the two dead men, and finds the car with the ransom money. The end.

Written and directed by Thomas Sieben, Kidnapping Stella is not a bad film. With good performances from the three actors, and a straightforward premise, the film mostly works well over its ninety-minute runtime.

Set for most of its runtime in one location, Kidnapping Stella starts really well, and then sort of plateaus. With Schick’s Vic positioned as the antagonist, and Haase’s Stella a reluctant protagonist, Groeben’s Tom floats somewhere ambiguously in-between, neither committing to the plan, with him having instigated the snatching of Stella, out of anger, nor committing to Stella.

Though the situation is played out realistically, with all concerned acting as one would expect, in terms of dramatic tension, it does not really work. Stella almost escapes twice, the second time making a call to the police, which should have heightened the dramatic tension.

But because there is no impression of the situation getting out of control for Vic, or of the two men being close to being apprehended, or even being sought, the tension that should be present never appears.

It seems the budget may have restricted certain aspects of the film, with the only other person present being the voice on the end of the phone when Stella calls for help.

Though the kidnappers set a time frame—two days—to execute their plan, we never get a sense of urgency or pressure, which is the film’s real weakness. A sense of urgency would have made Kidnapping Stella a must watch. Instead, Kidnapping Stella is an interesting, okay viewing rather than a compelling one.

Elizabeth Harvest -review (Netflix)

    Elizabeth (Abbey Lee) is the young beautiful, newly married wife, of billionaire Henry (Ciarán Hinds). He takes her to his sprawling, modern, mansion, located in a remote and mountainous region. There, she meets his son, who is blind, Oliver (Matthew Beard) and his housekeeper, Claire (Carla Gugino). 

    Henry shows the impressionable Elizabeth around the very impressive home, the rooms accessed by biometric thumbprint scanners. He tells her that it is now her home as well as his and that she is free to go wherever she wants with the exception of one room. 

    The next day, Henry tells her that he will be away on business for a day. Left alone in the vast house, Elizabeth tries to amuse herself and explores the house. As night falls, she sees Oliver and Claire taking a walk in the grounds. She is totally alone in the house. Curiosity gets the better of her and she goes into the room Henry asked her not to go into. 

    In the room she comes across a clone of herself and freaks out, running from the room. The next day, Henry has returned and Elizabeth cannot hide her disquiet at what she has seen, though she does not say anything. Henry acts a little odd, speaking cryptically throughout the day. As night falls the two are in bed. Henry gets up, leaving the bed. A nervous Elizabeth gets up to see where he is going.

    Henry appears before her. He has a large cutlass. He tells her that he knows that she went into the room. Elizabeth tries to flee. He catches up with her and kills her. The next morning, he, Claire and Oliver, bury her in the grounds. Claire is not happy about the situation, discussing it as they sit down to breakfast. It is obvious that it has happened before. 

    Local policeman, Logan (Dylan Baker), comes to see Henry. They have a history and Logan comes to tell him that he is under some scrutiny at work, with colleagues being pitted against one another. Claire is in her room writing in her journal. Oliver comes and interrupts her with a bouquet of flowers. They have a brief exchange and then he leaves her alone.

   Six weeks later, Henry is carrying Elizabeth over the threshold of his home once more, introducing her to Claire and Oliver again. Showing her around the home again and warning her not to enter the room again. Elizabeth is different this time around. She is still curious but seems more worldly. Henry leaves again, repeating the pattern. Elizabeth discovers a clone again, but this time she leaves the room open as she flees. 

    The clone wakes up and roams the house. She finds Elizabeth sleeping. Henry returns the next day. He wakes Elizabeth up. It is midday. He wastes no time in confronting her about entering the room and tries to strangle her. Elizabeth fights him off and runs. She takes up refuge in the kitchen, grabbing a couple of kitchen knives. 

    Meanwhile, Henry has gotten some Halothane, an anaesthetic, and soaked a cloth with it. He grabs her and puts the cloth over her face. Elizabeth goes limp and he thinks she is unconscious. She stabs him in the back, killing him. When she recovers from the effects of the Halothane, she tries to leave the house. None of the locks work, not even for Henry’s fingerprint. She tries to call the police but cannot get through properly. 

    Elizabeth cleans up the blood and hides the body. Claire and Oliver are surprised to see her when they return. Claire is overcome and, with an existing heart condition, collapses. She is taken to the hospital. Oliver stops Elizabeth leaving. He knows she has killed Henry. They burn the body. 

   Oliver quizzes her about her memories. He tells her that she is a clone. Detective Logan comes to the house again. Oliver tells Elizabeth that she has to get rid of him. As she is talking to him, Oliver shoots him. They burn the body. 

   Oliver tells Elizabeth to go and pack a bag, so as she can leave. He then locks her in the bedroom with Claire’s journal. He wants to know what is in the journal. Claire has documented the entire history of her encounter with Henry. She was a doctor who the retired billionaire, also a doctor, had invited to come and see her. 

   His wife, Elizabeth, had died of a rare disease and he had been broken by the grief. He had cloned her in the hope of finding a cure for the condition. That is why he invited Claire to his home. Claire’s curiosity and desire to solve the conundrum caused her to stay with the morally dubious Henry. 

    Claire had catalogued the evolution of the different Elizabeth’s. The Elizabeth who was reading the journal was the fifth one. Oliver still has her captive and she tries to escape when he brings her some food. He gives her the wrong code. When she returns to find him, he has disappeared. She finds him in the room with clone six. He tricks her again, administering a sedative. 

   He locks her up again, this time chains her to the bed. He wants her to keep reading, wanting to know if there is anything about him. He tells her that his father blinded him for looking at her when he was young. Claire’s journal says that she believes that Oliver is not Henry’s son but his clone.

Henry showed Claire Oliver’s birth certificate, Elizabeth tells Oliver. Elizabeth fools Oliver and forces him to give her the keys to the chain on her leg. She is about to escape, but Elizabeth six comes into the bedroom and points a gun at her.

Elizabeth stabs Oliver and takes him hostage. Elizabeth six shoots, killing Oliver and wounding Elizabeth. Elizabeth leaves the house but Elizabeth six shoots her again and she collapses, dying. Elizabeth tells her to read the journal. 

   Elizabeth six finds out that Henry has left everything to Claire, as sort of a deal for her compliance. Claire returns to the house and Elizabeth six leaves. The end. 

    Elizabeth Harvest – a terrible title – is a visually arresting, slow burner of a film. Written and directed by Sebastian Gutierrez, it is a compelling story of obsession, power and morality. Henry’s misguided attempts to recreate his wife, border on obsession and it is only his vast riches and ego that allow him the scope and hubris to even attempt to do so. 

    That he should, intrinsically, know that any clone is not actually the woman he loved, to such a degree that he kills four of them without compunction or remorse, makes the obsession even more macabre. 

   At one hundred and five minutes long, Elizabeth Harvest is not a long film. Having said that, it is a film that needs patience, as the story is not apparent until thirty minutes into the film. With the script being so sparse, the film goes very much with the often-repeated film adage of to ‘show, don’t tell’, with one forced to pay attention to what is going on visually. 

    Gutierrez’s style is very reminiscent of Alex Garland’s works such as Annihilation and Ex Machina, though he does seem to like oft-kilter camera shots a lot more. Their works are very similar in the approach to story however, with the viewer forced to work for it. 

    The setting of the house is quite relevant, especially in its stark, clean, modernity. Vast and spartan in design ethic, it reflects the values and nature of those who reside there; the two scientists in Henry and Claire and the strange Oliver. By contrast, Elizabeth, regardless of the version, seems very much out of place, a visitor not a resident. 

    The acting is good from all the cast. Ciarán Hinds’ Henry is suitably menacing and ego-driven, Matthew Beard’s Oliver, a reticent figure until given freedom by his father’s death. Carla Gugino’s Claire seems initially good until we are shown she is just as complicit in proceedings and weak in the worse way. 

   Abbey Lee, an obvious model-turned-actor, is brilliant as the much cloned Elizabeth. She is at different times, as different Elizabeth’s, afraid, dizzy, dopey, angry and determined. It truly is a multifaceted performance. 

   Gutierrez’s direction is good for the most part. There are some indulgent creative flashes and unnecessary shots, but nothing that is so egregious as to detract from proceedings. Elizabeth Harvest is a good-ish film, slightly let down by pacing and artistic indulgence. Having said that. It is worth a look if you like science thrillers. 

The Bar – review (Netflix)

    Elena (Bianca Suárez) is a beautiful young woman living in Madrid. She goes about her life, chatting on the phone to her friend as she explains what she has worn for a date she is on her way to. Sergio (Alejandro Awada) is enthusiastically telling someone about a great deal he has on some merchandise.

    A couple of police officer moves on a rogue sleeping, bible quoting, beggar, Israel (Jaime Ordóñez). He gives them an earful for their troubles. Trini (Carmen Michi) wants to purchases some fruit but only has a twenty euro note. She tells the fruit vendor to put it on her tab.  

    Elena keeps chatting but is cut off as her phone battery dies. She is in front of a small cafe/bar and goes in to try and see if she can get her phone charged. As she enters the bar all of the patrons turn to look at her. She is that kind of attractive. Elena goes and orders a coffee. A mesmerised Sátur (Secun de la Rosa), asks if she would like sugar. No saccharine.  

    Amparo (Terele Pávez) owns the bar and is not afraid to voice her displeasure as a fat man (Daniel Arribas) comes into the bar coughing loudly and pointing towards the toilet. Already in the bar, Andrés (Joaquin Climent), an ex-policeman, a tech and advertising worker, Nacho (Mario Casas), and an office worker (Diego Braguinsky). 

    As Sátur fusses over Elena at the bar, a street sweeper (Jordi Aguilar) comes in. Israel comes in and screams expletives. Shocking to those who do not know him, Amparo is unfazed and tells him to pipe down. Trini comes into the bar and goes straight to the slot machine. She stops to get some change from Amparo and then returns to the machine.

    Israel bothers Elena as Andrés tells Amparo that he should be in a shelter. The officer worker pays for his coffee. Sergio enters the bar and immediately orders a coffee. The office worker who has just exited is shot in the head. Everyone in the bar is shocked with the exception of Nacho, who is wearing headphones and does not notice the commotion.

    As they look out at the office worker dead on the ground, they notice that the streets are deserted. Sátur tries to call the police but cannot get a signal. Elena notices the office worker moving. He is alive. Everyone is too afraid to go out. The street sweeper decides to go out. He gets killed. 

   Everybody in the bar freaks out, convinced that a gunman is targeting the bar. They all hit the floor. There is silence outside, no movement or people at all. They turn on the television to see if there are any reports. Nothing. Trini notices that the bodies have gone. The seven captives start to get anxious. Andrés’ getting snappy, Israel’s bible quoting grating on him. 

   Sâtur puts forward a theory that they are all in a dream or the government is stress testing them. Amparo slaps the notion out of him. Literally. Sergio picks up the notion of a government conspiracy but says that maybe the police are after a terrorist, who is in the bar. It is better to kill eight people rather than risk thousands, he reasons.

    Nacho goes and tries to hide his bag. Sergio notices and he and Andrés grab him. they want to know what is in the bag. He refuses to say. They open the bag. It has his hard drive in it, with his campaign work. Elena smashes it. Nacho points out that Sergio has a briefcase. He too refuses to let anyone see the contents. Amparo grabs the case, Sergio moves toward her and Sátur grabs him. Sergio strikes Sátur. Andrés pulls out a gun. 

   Israel grabs the case and runs to the front door. He opens the case. It is full of women’s underwear.  A noise comes from the toilet, Amparo remembers the fat man is still in there. Andrés shoots the lock. The fat man is over the toilet bowl, shuddering. They think he is on drugs. 

   Trini sees a truck. Men in hazard suits and mask get out of the truck and pile tyres outside of the bar and set them on fire. On the news, broadcast says downtown Madrid have been evacuated due to fire. Sergio suspects that it is to cover up the murders. The fat man staggers out of the toilet. He looks awful, eyes bulging and pus oozing from scabs. He collapses to the floor. 

   As Elena goes to help him, he warns her not to touch him. He dies. Sátur checks his pulse, he’s dead. The fat man had a mobile phone. A photo of himself on the screen shows he was in the military. His phone has a signal. Nacho calls a girl at his office to try and get their situation on the news. Sátur screams down the phone in a panic and the girl hangs up. 

    Andrés says he knows who to call, but Amparo tells him not to touch the phone. It been infected by the dead man and possibly, so have Nacho, Sátur, Elena, Trini and Israel, all having come into contact with him. Andrés pulls his gun again. He, Sergio and Amparo separate from the others. Amparo tells them to go into the basement. They take the fat man’s corpse with them. 

   Trini begins to panic in the basement storeroom and wants to get out. As she acts out, she knocks over some drinks bottles. The liquid disappears quickly. Sátur tells them it has gone down the drain, the drain leads into the sewers. They uncover the drain and Israel tries to squeeze into the sewers. Whilst he is stuck in the drain, they hear shots from the bar. Then the hatch to the bar begins to smoke. The bar has been set on fire.

     As Elena, Nacho and Sátur struggle to get Israel out of the drain, Trini panics again and runs up to the hatch and burns her hands trying to get out. A little later they ascend to the bar. The bar is now a charred wreck. The fat man’s mobile buzzes in the bar. He has a message. They go through his messages. There is a possible cure for whatever ailment killed him. There is a vaccine but only four doses. Nacho has picked up Andrés’ gun.

    Sátur checks the fat man’s body. No syringes. Israel finds them in the toilet. He takes one dose, even as Nacho points the gun at him. Nacho attacks him and is overcome, Israel ending up with the gun. As they fight, the remaining doses fall down into the basement. Trini goes to retrieve them but ends up dropping them into the sewer. 

   Elena is the only one slim enough to fit down the drain. She squeezes into the sewers but refuses to send the syringes back up. She forces them all to come down. Nacho makes the hole bigger and they all squeeze into the sewers. Elena hides the syringes. Trini panics again. In the confusion, Nacho attacks Israel and they fight, disappearing below into the sewerage waters. Shots go off and Nacho reappears. 

    As they go through the tunnels, Trini tries to drown Sátur as there are only three doses. She says she was gambling on everyone thinking it was an accident. She tells Nacho to kill her, but he cannot. Trini takes the gun and shoots herself. They move on, following Elena to the place where she hid the syringes. She retrieves the syringes, one for each of them. 

   Israel is not dead. He kills Sátur. Nacho and Elena run. He pursues them. They find an exit to street level, but Elena drops her syringe. Israel is right behind them. Nacho give her his syringe as Israel grabs him and pulls them both into the sewers. Elena escapes on to the Madrid streets, traumatised by her experience. The end. 

     The Bar or El Bar in Spanish, is a brilliantly directed and edited film from Álex de la Iglesia, who also co-wrote it with Jorge Guerricaechevarría. From the director’s credit at the begin blending straight into Bianca Suárez’s Elena walking into shot to the final shots of her walking around dazed and confused, The Bar hurtles through its one hundred minute runtime. 

    After quickly introducing the main protagonists, in the first seven minutes, the event that launches the film, the first shooting, happens and it is a camera work masterclass in the set up. It happened so fast I actually had to rewind the scene. With the immediately heightened situation, the characters reveal themselves quickly. 

    All the actors on show are great, their performances allowing you to overlook the somewhat farfetched aspects of the premise – everyone knows to immediately disappear after the shooting? How? – that does not detract from the acting however. Though Elena is the easiest character to root for, it is Sátur who is the true moral compass of proceedings. 

   His character honestly wants everybody to be safe and well. The extreme situation they find themselves in, exposes the true character of all present. Even the seemingly crazy Israel, so fantastically portrayed by Jaime Ordóñez, wants to live and understands the gravity of their predicament. 

   The pace of the film is pretty relentless, with very little let up, with either a character acting up out of fear or a piece of information pushing the story into a new direction. The Bar is a highly enjoyable and well made film. If you can ignore the obvious plot holes and suspend disbelief, it is worth one hundred minutes of your time. 





Gerald’s Game – review (Netflix)

   When a middle-aged couple, Jessie and Gerald Burlingame (Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood) go to a remote location to try and spice their marriage. As they drive, Gerald nearly hits a stray, hungry dog on the path to the house. Gerald has brought handcuffs and takes a Viagra tablet, planning for a kinky night of rough passion. As he starts to play, Jessie becomes uncomfortable and demands he let her out of the cuffs. 

   They begin to argue, each blaming the other for the state of their relationship issues. As they argue, Gerald suddenly clasps his chest. He has a heart attack and dies. Jessie is still handcuffed to the bed. As she desperately tries to free herself, her mind starts to play tricks on her. She sees her dead husband and a more assertive version of herself. They tell her how to stay alive. The stray dog comes into the bedroom and starts eating bits of Gerald, much to Jessie’s dismay.

     She falls asleep as night falls. She wakes momentarily and sees a misshapen man (Stacey Struycken) leering at her. Gerald, the one in her head, tells it is death. She falls asleep again and remembers herself as a twelve-year-old girl (Chiara Aurelia) and an unsavoury incident with her father. Awake the next day, she sees Gerald and her other self again. They grill her about her childhood and her father’s inappropriate behaviour. She falls asleep again. 

    She is twelve again. Her father is apologising for masturbating on her. He manipulates her, saying that they need to tell her mother. She refuses. He pushes her to tell, saying that she will tell someone at some point and that they should tell her mother. Jessie begs him not to say anything. He agrees and says they should make a pact never to tell anyone. 

    She is woken by the dog licking her foot. Freaking out she kicks the dog away again. She only sees Gerald, her assertive, pragmatic self nowhere to be seen. He tells her that death is stalking her, waiting for her to expire. She sees the misshapen man again and then falls asleep once more. 

    She is an adult and sees herself as a child. She talks to her young self. Young Jessie gives her a clue as to what to do to escape. Awake again, both Gerald and her assertive self are back. She slits one wrist with broken glass and slips her hand out of the cuffs. 

    She escapes the cuffs and is bleeding heavily. She bandages her damaged hand and goes to get the car keys, she collapses from blood loss and dehydration. When she wakes up. The stray dog is distressed by something in the house. She sees the misshapen man at the end of the corridor. She has to go past him. She gets the car keys and gives him her wedding ring as she walks past him. She drives off, still weak from her ordeal. She crashes into a tree in the woods. She is found and returns to normal life. 

    Back in the normal world, she sets up a foundation to help abused youngster so as they do not have to go through what she went through. She also finds out that the misshapen man she saw was real. He turned out to be a particularly macabre serial killer and sexual deviant, with a rare disease that caused his disfigurement. At his court case, she turns up to face him and, in doing so defeats her personal demons. The end. 

    Gerald’s Game – another questionable title for a film – is a lot better than perhaps my synopsis of the film would have you think. Carla Gugino’s central performance is riveting. She is ably assisted by Bruce Greenwood and herself. As the film is pretty much set in one room, it still manages to move at a good pace, with the story of Jessie’s psychological battle with her demons and her mind trying to work out how to stay alive and escape. 

    Bruce Greenwood is brilliant as Jessie’s doubting voice, goading her allowing her to hide, from herself, her own mental weakness. Chiara Aurelia’s young Jessie is good as well, especially in the uncomfortable eclipse scene, sitting on her father, Tom’s – a creepy Henry Thomas – lap. 

   From a Stephen King story, the script is by Mike Flanagan and Jeff Howard, with directing duties also falling to Mike Flanagan, is expertly crafted. The camera pretty much stays on Gugino’s Jessie chained to the bed, close-ups and full body shots giving a sense of loneliness and desperation. 

   The film does fall apart a little at the end, with the epilogue and the explanation of the misshapen man, which was weak and took away from the power of the preceding ninety minutes somewhat. 

    The film, however, is about Carla Gugino. She keeps you watching and puts in an incredible and believable performance. Gerald’s Game is an enjoyable film at one hundred and three minutes runtime and is worth seeing for Gugino’s turn alone. 



You Get Me – review (Netflix)

   Tyler Hanson (Taylor John Smith) is in love with Alison Hewitt (Halston Sage) a girl he has met after she moves to Los Angeles from San Francisco. Their relationship is going really well until they both go to an end of summer party. At the party, one of Alison’s exes from San Francisco, Chase (Rhys Wakefield), is at the party. Chase tells Tyler what a party animal Alison was in San Francisco. Tyler drinks too much and meets Holly Viola (Bella Thorne) whilst going to the bathroom.

   It turns out that they are both having a pretty bad night. Holly tells Tyler that she had been dumped, whilst he confesses that he is bummed over his girlfriend’s ex. A drunk Tyler confronts Alison and she ends up dumping him. Tyler leaves the party and goes out with Holly. They end up spending the night together and the next day, seemingly, bonding. Holly tells him that she is not from Los Angeles and that she moves around.

   Tyler returns home and gets a text from Alison. He gets back together with her. The next day, when Tyler is back with Alison, he sees Holly at school. She comes into the same class as him. Tyler tries to tell her that he is back with Alison. Holly is initially cool, but when Tyler tries to tell her that he does not want to see her anymore, she freaks out. 

   Holly befriends Alison and Alison’s close friend, Lydia (Anna Akana). She also makes advances at Gil (Nash Grier), Tyler’s best friend. She gets closer to Alison and even goes and stays over at her house. Tyler is, understandably, worried about Alison finding out. He meets her step-mother, Corinne (Brigid Brannagh) by chance at the school. He finds out she is not where she says she is from. 

   Lydia is suspicious of her as well and voices her concerns to Alison. The fact that Holly has no internet presence concerns her. Moments later she has an allergic reaction to a smoothie Holly gives her, putting her in hospital. Holly’s relationship with Corinne is strained as her late father left everything to Corinne. Corinne tells her that she knows that she missed a couple therapy sessions. Corinne is a little frightened of Holly. 

   Holly tells Alison she is pregnant and the father does not want to know. Holly finds out that Alison has never met Tyler’s family. She goes over to his house and meets his sister. Tyler is furious. Holly tells him that they should be together and they are in love. Tyler tells her to leave and never come back, pushing her to the ground. She goes to Alison’s house. 

   Tyler goes to see Lydia and tells her about his indiscretion with Holly. He tells her he is going to tell Alison. When he goes to tell her, the next day, Alison already knows and dumps him again. Holly believes, with Alison now out of the picture, they can be together. Tyler tries to ignore her.

    Holly gets Tyler suspended for assault. Tyler tries to warn Alison that Holly is dangerous after he finds out her first name is Elizabeth and finds her online. He finds out that she has a history of mental problems. Holly kidnaps Alison and texts a picture of her to Tyler. He races over to rescue her.

   Holly is expecting him and has Alison tied to a chair. When a car pulls up, Holly disappears. Corinne comes in and sees Alison tied up. As she tries to free her, Holly suffocates her. Tyler arrives at the house. Holly is waiting for him. She wants to replay their weekend. Tyler just wants to find Alison. Holly has her suspended above them. Tyler frees Alison but Holly locks them in the house. 

   Holly catches up with them and holds a gun on them. She cannot decide who to kill first. Gil, who had been called by Tyler earlier, comes in and distracts Holly. She shoots Tyler in the shoulder and then tries to shoot Gil and misses. Alison takes the opportunity of Gil’s entrance to stab Holly with a poker. She falls into the swimming pool. The police turn up and she is arrested. Tyler realises he got lucky. The end. 

   You Get Me, another Netflix film, is a teen version of Play Misty For Me or Fatal Attraction, a couple of classic films about deranged women getting obsessed with a man after a carnal encounter. Not likely to be recalled with the same respect as those two films, You Get Me is, nevertheless, not a terrible film. 

    The opening, with the dreaded voiceover, is not promising, with Taylor John Smith’s Tyler telling us what we are watching as we’re watching it. After that slightly awkward starting point, the film settles down nicely, quickly getting into the main story and introducing the scarily excellent Bella Thorne’s Holly. Her dark eyes and slight smirk, hint at an underlying madness from the outset.

    Though it is a relatively straightforward thriller, madwoman-on-the-rampage, by numbers film, the acting and chemistry between the leads elevate the film to a watchable and enjoyable level. The acting is good across the board in the film, but it is Bella Thorne’s performance that drives the film. She is dangerous and sexy, coy and crazy, friendly and psychotic. Thorne projects all of these emotions perfectly, never overselling, letting her eyes do most of the work. 

    Halston Sage as Alison has the most difficult role. Being the unknowing party, and then a victim is an unforgiving role. She is required to be nice and trusting, whilst not being so dull that you hope she gets killed. Sage manages to get the balance just right, making Alison likeable without her being irritating. 

   The script by Ben Epstein is clever, allowing Tyler to be indiscreet with a license. The fact that Tyler, at an age of testosterone overload, is denied sex by Alison because she wants it to be real and then finds out she was a wild thing in San Francisco, is cute. That he succumbs so easily to Holly might be frowned upon by the overly prudish, but it works perfectly well within the framework of the film. 

    The film is well paced, with no unnecessary scenes shoehorned in for show. Directed by Brent Bonacorso, it looks impressive, with the camera allowing the story to be told by the actors rather than trying to impress with camera work trickery. 

   Even though it is only given four point seven on IMDB, You Get Me is a far better film than the score would have you believe. By no means a classic, it is entertaining and good enough to take an easy ninety-minutes out of your day for. A solid seven out of ten.