The Shallows (2016)

2016 release reviews have been far and few here. Especially the bigger ones. Nothing just seemed to peak my interest enough to get me to go to the theatres other than the whole Fantasia phase in late July. Regardless, I rented The Shallows a few weeks ago and gave it a go. The Shallows crept up on me. I had no idea that it was coming out until it was released and mixed reviews showed up (although a lot of them were on the favorable side, I believe).

Let’s check it out!

The Shallows (2016)

The Shallows

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Cast: Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen, Sedona Legge

A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills. –IMDB

 I love shark movies. To actual bits. Sure, there are a few really fluky ones but whether its the “so bad its good” Sharknado or the 90s Deep Blue Sea or the Australian horror thriller The Reef and of course, the classic Jaws, they are packed with so much awesomeness. The Shallows looks like it has that grasped well and it does deliver for the most part. Sure, there are always things of circumstance like we learn that our protagonist Nancy (played by Blake Lively) is studying to be a nurse. What better than a nurse with some medical skills to be attacked by a shark, right? Except while The Shallows is about Nancy and her fight to survive back to shore, its also a character study and development. Jaume Collet-Serra has directed a good portion of thrillers in his filmography, half of them are action thrillers with Liam Neeson but there are some standout titles like Orphan which is the first time I’ve seen his work and love that one quite a bit. Its nice to see him jumping back into a horror thriller like this one. While I do have to say it packs more thrills than horror, there is a lot about how he makes The Shallows and not revealing the shark so much but rather the water perspectives that make the movie a much more thrilling and engaging experience. When you bond with a seagull, you know that the protagonist and the plot has had some effect.

The Shallows

While there are a few scenes with other characters, like the opening bits mostly, a good part of this movie is really just spending time with Nancy alone in the middle of The Shallows with the beach only a little ways away. What makes Nancy great is that she is smart and resourceful. While there are some convenient situations, there are always changing factors to keep the pacing intriguing to see what else she can do and what other options her character thinks of. Especially because Nancy is not only trapped and hunted, but she is hurt. It is a race with time for her especially the changing tides. The Shallows is a thrilling race to safety and survival against a shark but we slowly realize that Nancy isn’t just a hot body, she also has some issues she needs to work out. It is why she surfs and why she hasn’t decided to settle down and stop surfing and travelling around the world and pursuing her career. Blake Lively has gone a long way. I’ve always enjoyed her as an actress, whether it was in her younger roles in The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants or later on in Gossip Girl and this role shows how much she has grown as an actress.

The Shallows

It is a little funny how I’m writing this coming off of discussing another thriller called “Blood in the Water” over at That Moment In which you can find here. What we criticized in that one as making it even more lackluster was what I liked a lot about this one. Essentially the finale of the movie is somewhat shown in the beginning and then it backtracks to the days as we hit that moment we started with. Another thing that is pretty nice about The Shallows is that while it takes great joy in being a serious thriller, there are still taunting moments that are fun, even if a little predictable of the outcome. They fit together to piece together what we do see in the opening scene as well.

The Shallows

Thrilling shark movies are rather hard to find. The Shallows is one that I truly enjoyed a lot. It had tense and intriguing moments. It tries to be thoughtful and aims for a deeper character study of than just human vs. shark and Blake Lively pulls off a great performance as Nancy, a smart and competent character. There is a lot to love in shark movies in a genre that is generally full of tropes and predictable moments, this one pulls off a few fun surprises and a thrilling movie experience.

Have you seen The Shallows? What is your favorite shark movie?

Critters (1986) by Movie Reviews 101 – Ultimate 80s Blogathon

The next entry is a second entry from Darren at Movie Reviews 101 with his review of Critters. He is covering the series over at his site. Remember to drop by to check that out also 🙂

Drew's Movie Reviews

Happy hump day, everybody! For your Wednesday entry of the Ultimate 80s Blogathon, Darren from Movie Reviews 101 returns to the Ultimate 80s fold with a review of the creature feature, Critters.  This weekend, he will be reviewing the entire Critters franchise so this is just a preview of what’s to come on his site.  Darren reviews all genres of movies and hosts the Opinion Battles, which both Kim and I participate in.  He recently created a podcast called the Fantasy Film Casting Podcast.  Be sure to go check his sites out. But in the mean time, here is is review of Critters.

Critters movie posterDirector: Stephen Herek
Writer: Domonic Muir, Stephen Herek (Screenplay) Domonic Muir (Story)
Starring: Dee Wallace, M Emmet Walsh, Billy Green Bush, Scott Grimes, Nadine Van Der Velde, Don Keith Opper, Billy Zane, Terrence Mann, Lin Shaye


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Halloween Marathon: Lake Placid (1999)

The first non main feature to hit the Halloween Marathon this year is of one of my favorite horror sub genres: Creature Features! I love them to bits and I’m pretty forgiving of them.   I’ve never seen Lake Placid although I’d heard about it before.  I’ve watched spiders and sharks and even octopuses but never giant crocodiles so this seems like it can be lots of fun.

Enough talking! Let’s go!

Lake Placid (1999)

lake placid

Director: Steve Miner

Cast: Bridget Fonda, Bill Pullman, Oliver Platt, Brendan Gleeson, Betty White, David Lewis

A group attempts to destroy a giant, 30-foot-long man-eating crocodile, which terrorizes Black Lake, Maine.-IMDB

Its starting to feel like Maine is the center of a lot of horror movies or even places close to it.  Maybe its because Carrie was also based in somewhere in Maine that I say that.  It just feels that way.  Lake Placid is not really Lake Placid but rather they actually mention that where this went down, they wanted to call it Lake Placid but the name was somewhere else so its called Black Lake now. Lake Placid is a fun movie to watch just like most creature features are, unless they are just being way stupid or boring. The cast is fun and the dialogue is acceptable.  There are some silly moments but it does also create some genuinely tense moments and equally some comedic parts.  I’m not too harsh on it because I enjoyed the characters but it could also be because I’ve grown to be forgiving and expect characters to make stupid decisions and rather predictable deaths.  Is it a horrible creature feature? Not by a long shot.

lake placid

Remember last year, I did the whole Friday the 13th series for Halloween.  Part 2 is one of my faves in that series and guess who the director is- the same guy as this one. I guess thats why I like the style of it.  There are some jump scares, some tense moments and in the Black Lake, its rather mysterious in some shots.  They try to make you think there’s something when there isn’t and the twist is pretty funny about the reason of why the 30 foot crocodile chooses to stay there.  And that ending was hilarious and so obvious that they wanted to bank on the possibility of having a sequel, which I’ve learned has 3 sequels? I’m not sure but at a quick glance at IMDB, its there.

lake placid

One of the props does go out to the crocodile scenes being incredibly believable.  I mean, okay, eye to eye with the crocodile, maybe you won’t be so calm and there was a scene like that.  And that crocodile was pretty smart. And I had to do a little research to see if they actually used a real crocodile. Sounds stupid because it was in fact designed (which was expected) but it was fairly real.  Even the reactions and the movements.  While we never caught the crocodile close up until the end for longer moments, and the underwater scene seemed like those rehashed and repeated scenes as it went through the dark water, it still worked fairly well.

lake placid

As for the cast and their characters, this was incredibly well for what it is.  I wonder about its budget.  Brendan Gleeson is a great actor along with a personal favorite of mine being Bill Pullman, especially in the 90s, he was in a lot of random movies. I don’t think I’ve seen Bridget Fonda anywhere before but she’s good. Alongside that, the best parts that led to some comedic moments was the bickering between Brendan Gleeson’s character versus the “crocodile specialist” of the group played by Oliver Platt.  The different views and beliefs about crocodiles and the desire for Bridget Fonda’s character to break out on this “adventure” while having some underwater expeditions and whatnot made this decent.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with Lake Placid and I think that for a creature feature, its really not too bad.  There are the expected bad or clunky dialogue and there are stupid decisions to be made.  Even so, the crocodile was done well and the sequences built to a point that I had a few thrills at the end despite the stupid decision they all had.  Then that final ending scene right before the credits was pretty hilarious even if it forced a possibility for a sequel. Its definitely worth more than the 30 something % that Rotten Tomatoes gave it.

Have you seen Lake Placid? What did you think of it?

Fantasia Fest 2015: The Hallow (2015) & The Morrigan (Short 2014)

Starting the festival with a two movie night might not have been the best choice as I think about it afterwards. But, Kung Fu Killer delivered overall.  If you missed the review, you can find it HERE!  The Hallow was something of a wild card for me.  My line up went back and forth from adding and taking it off until I finally looked at the trailer a second time and decided that it was something I really wanted to see.

Before the movie started, as the movie resumes for various other features and this one popped up, it said that The Hallow might be the best creature feature from the UK since The Descent.  An extremely bold statement and one that raised my expectations.  Not sure that is a good thing before seeing a movie but it did. If it even lives up to 50% of the intensity that The Descent brought, this was going to be a good one.

Regardless, here we go! Before the movie (as with some features in Fantasia) there was a short called The Morrigan.

The Morrigan (Short 2014)

The Morrigan

Director: Colum Eastwood

A couple heads to their cottage house for a getaway and in the middle of the night discovers and shelters a mysterious girl fainted next to their house but little did they know, she also brought with her an evil force.  Great atmosphere and set up.  The acting was a little iffy here and there.  The location was really suitable.  It was enjoyable short.

Moving onto the main feature

The Hallow (2015) 

Canadian Premiere

the hallow

Director: Corin Hardy

Cast: Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic, Michael Smiley, Michael McElhatton

A young family moves into a remote millhouse in Ireland.  Husband and father, Adam is conservationist and his job makes him go into the woods surrounding his new place.  The inhabitants there warn him to stay out as he continuously ignores it and their belief that there are mysterious forces lurking in there that should not be disturbed. Except, his actions lead one thing to another and these beings known by everyone as through lores is The Hallow.  These nocturnal creatures will do anything to take their baby from them.

The Hallow is an interesting concept. It brings not only creatures but also some fantasy and mythology into it.  Is the Hallow an actual thing? I’m not really sure.  I tried to do research but it didn’t seem to come up with anything.  Maybe there’s something similar? I don’t know but its all about selling the premise and The Hallow does a fine job of it, for the most part at least. The movie itself doesn’t have an overly lengthy running time and that does it wonders because once we get an idea of the characters here: Adam, his wife Clare and their little baby Finn, we also start knowing that the town itself is really antsy over what lies in the woods.  Right away, we already know something different and deadly will happen from the start.

The Hallow

While there are some flaws, which I will touch on near the end, The Hallow is a well-paced fantasy creature feature.  First of all, the location and set is mesmerizingly beautiful.  Funny, because it contrasts all the “evil” that lurks out of it.  But then, are creatures ever evil? Are they just acting on their instinct, right? I guess evil isn’t the right word here. It really brings out that idea that how we view something changes and takes a 180 flip with just one little change in variable. Something beautiful became creepy just by the unknown.  The build-up and the atmosphere was also extremely well done, especially when paired up with the sounds and background music going on.  Honestly, it all blended so well together that I didn’t even notice it. Plus, the premise here is really good. I’m always a fan of how when you mess with nature it comes back to bite you in the ass.  Thats generally what I felt was the idea of the story here of the natural world versus the human world when humans try to poke their noses where it doesn’t belong. In this case, we result in The Hallow who trespasses your home when you trespass theirs.

The Hallow

As I review horror movies more, I’m starting to realize certain aspects that I used to overlook.  Lets just admit this: You and I both know that I’ll get scared.  I get scared at everything.  That’s just me, I’m a chicken when it comes to these things.  So, I no longer determine whether I was scared.  Because if thats the case, every horror movie would be a winner.  Except, its how scared? How far will I suspend my beliefs or just purely believe in whatever is on the big screen.  How intense the atmosphere gets that I cringe in fear even when I know what to expect.

The Hallow was an unknown creature that builds up to its final reveal.  Let me try to explain this better, The Hallow (like many horror movies) can be split into 3 parts.  The first builds our characters and the scenario and the atmosphere.  The second part was intense as the unknown Hallow gave chase.  We saw parts of it here and there and just how gruesome and invasive and dangerous this creature is.  As we step into the final scenes and that twist that we knew would happen, things start to fall apart.  The Hallow isn’t quite as scary once the story takes a weird turn into multiple directions and we finally get a full glimpse of these beings.  Was it trying to be dramatic or was there something more it wanted to say? I really don’t know.  I just know that the ending didn’t exactly do it for me.  Be it that it was the creatures once revealed didn’t have the effect to creep me out or that the characters just went down this questionable path that I didn’t quite understand, it just felt like it fell apart for something that started and even built to so much potential.

The Hallow

Before you start thinking that I’m discrediting the movie, I’m not.  I had a lot of fun with this one.  The potential was there and a good 75% of the movie was great.  Sure, there was some questionable life choices the characters made that made me really frustrated and snicker sarcastic comments under my breath and the ending really didn’t do much for me but there’s something here.  Its not The Descent (as the description of it on the screen before the movie stated) and no, The Descent creatures will not be scared of these creatures because you can’t compare apples to oranges.  Its a different atmosphere and environment entirely from closed space to open space just to state that.  So I’m not doing that comparison.  The Hallow works for the most part and you will cringe and not even know that intensity has built up incredibly high.  I mean, I didn’t realize I was gripping my blazer tightly until the scene had a down moment to let us breathe. The atmosphere, the setting and even the shots are framed really well.  The pacing is fine. The script just needed to have a better end goal, somewhere that would work better (for me at least).  The scares are there and even if they are predictable I totally fell for it each time and even had a few startled moments. The Hallow isn’t perfect but not many horror movies are. There’s something worth seeing here and maybe you’ll appreciate the ending more than I did.  Its definitely worth your time. 🙂

Have you seen The Hallow? What did you think of it? Anyone know anything about Irish lore/legends and is The Hallow derived from an actual belief?