Starring Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki, Aksel Hennie, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris O’Dowd, John Ortiz, David Oyelowo, Zhang Ziyi
Written by Oren Uziel
Directed by Julius Onah
After delays, conspiracy theories, and mysteries aplenty, Netflix pulled a shocker of a move by not only announcing during this year’s Super Bowl that they would be releasing The Cloverfield Paradox, the third entry in the Cloverfield universe, on their streaming service but also that it would be available to watch immediately following the end of the game. True to their word, the moment it was announced that the Philly Eagles had won the game, the film became available to stream.
As I assume many others did, I immediately turned off the lights, cranked the volume, and hit “Play” to enter what I hoped would be another fascinating sci-fi horror/thriller. While the first two acts were magnificent, the third act unfortunately suffered, leaving this film a good, but not great, release.
Set in the near future, Earth is in an energy crisis with countries at critical levels of tension with one another as their populations suffer, starve, and die. Enter Hamilton (Mbatha-Raw), a scientist who, at the behest of her husband, travels to a space station that holds a potential answer to returning power to the planet and its inhabitants. Originally a mission designed to take a few months, the opening credits reveal that the events of the film take place nearly two years after the mission’s onset. After a successful launch of the Shepherd Particle Accelerator, the crew then find themselves lost in space and begin to experience strange, unexplainable phenomena, all of which was portended by a conspiracy author.
Drawing heavily from films like Event Horizon, Sunshine, and Alien, Onah brings us into the lives of the crew of the “Cloverfield” space station. That being said, we aren’t allowed to spend as much time with them as I would’ve liked, making each character feel more like a cardboard stereotypical cutout than a fleshed out person. Hamilton’s husband down on Earth is the only real connection this crew seems to have with the planet below. Meanwhile, the rest of them wax poetically about wanting to help save the 8 billion people who live amongst the energy crisis; yet, none of them speak of their own families or loved ones. It is this same lack of relationship to the people they’re trying to save that makes it impossible to relate to them, which, as a result, removes any chance of us, the viewers, caring when they die one-by-one.
The first and second acts make use of the surreal nature of the premise to wonderful degrees. The uncertainty and oddity of the situation that the crew find themselves in make for some truly fascinating moments, such as Chris O’Dowd and his disappearing/reappearing arm, the case of mysterious crew member Jensen, or the strange location of the ship’s gyroscope. However, for as exciting and engaging as moments like these are, they go unexplained or, perhaps even worse, end up getting such a generic, “sci-fi buzzword” explanation that it feels like it would’ve been better had nothing been offered.
The third act sees the film stumble dramatically. The first two acts had scenes that quite literally had me sitting on the edge of my seat, but the third saw me slumped back in my couch twiddling my thumbs. A tight story began unraveling as the script desperately tried to weave together some sort of interesting narrative that ultimately came across as desperate, unoriginal, and, worst of all, bland. It all culminates in an ending that had me roll my eyes, despite the awesome premise that it held.
Perhaps the biggest issue with The Cloverfield Paradox is how obviously shoehorned it was into the Cloverfield universe. While the ending of 10 Cloverfield Lane felt like a bit of a stretch, the attempt to connect The Cloverfield Paradox into that cinematic universe is downright embarassing. Just use CGI to change the name of the space station, add in a TV segment where they use the word “Cloverfield” several times, and BOOM! You’ve got yourself a connected film. But while 10 Cloverfield Lane aimed a microscopic lens at the way an alien invasion could impact a small group of people, The Cloverfield Paradox simply aimed too high and could not match its stratospheric aspirations.
The Cloverfield Paradox could’ve been something really incredible. Alas, it ended up being a desperately obvious shoehorned addition to the Cloverfield universe, one that started off incredibly strong and petered out to a predictable and dull ending. Not great, not awful, it’s certainly a disappointment.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 152 – Cloverfield Paradox & The Ritual
Last week Netflix shocked the world by not only releasing a new trailer for Cloverfield Paradox during the Superbowl, but announcing the film would be available to stream right after the game. In a move no one saw coming, Netflix shook the film industry to it’s very core. A few days later, Netflix quietly released horror festival darling: The Ritual.
Hold on to your Higgs Boson, because this week we’ve got a double header for ya, and we’re not talking about that “world’s largest gummy worm” in your mom’s nightstand. Why was one film marketed during the biggest sporting event of the year, and why was one quietly snuck in like a pinky in your pooper? Tune in a find out!
Meet me at the waterfront after the social for the Who Goes There Podcast episode 152!
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The Housemaid Review – Love Makes the Ghost Grow Stronger
Written and directed by Derek Nguyen
Vietnamese horror films are something of a rarity due largely to pressure from the country’s law enforcement agencies that have warned filmmakers to steer clear of the genre in recent years. The country’s exposure to the industry is limited, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a handful of filmmakers out there that are passionate and determined to get their art out into the world. IFC Midnight has stepped up to the plate to shepherd writer/director Derek Nguyen’s period ghost thriller The Housemaid in hopes of getting it in front of American horror fans.
Aside from a few moments that delve into soap opera territory, Nguyen’s film is full of well-crafted scares and some surprisingly memorable scenes that sneak up at just the right times. For history buffs there’s also a lot of material to sink your teeth into dealing with French Colonial rule and mistreatment of the Vietnamese during the 1950’s. Abuse that, if you’re not careful, could lead to a vengeful spirit seeking atonement.
Desperate and exhausted after walking for miles, an orphaned woman named Linh (Kate) seeks refuge and employment as a housemaid at a large rubber plantation in 1953 French Indochina. Once hired, she learns of the dark history surrounding the property and how her mere presence has awakened an accursed spirit that wanders the surrounding woods and dark corners of the estate. Injured in battle, French officer Sebastien Laurent (Richaud) returns to preside over the manor and, unexpectedly, begins a dangerous love affair with Linh that stirs up an even darker evil.
Told in flashbacks, the abuse of workers reveals a long history of mistreatment that enshrouds the surrounding land in darkness and despair, providing ripe ground for a sinister spirit that continues to grow stronger. Once it’s revealed that the ghost has a long history with Laurent before her death, the reasons she begins to kill become more and more obvious as the death toll piles up. Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle among Laurent, Linh, and the specter of Laurent’s dead wife.
Powered by desire to avenge tortured workers of the past and the anger fueled by seeing her husband in the embrace of a peasant girl, the apparition is frightening and eerily beautiful as she stalks her victims. One scene in particular showing her wielding an axe is the most indelible image to take away from the film, and other moments like it are what make The Housemaid a standout. The twisted sense of romance found in a suffering spirit scorned in death is the heart of the story even if the romance between the two living lovers winds up having more screen time.
The melodrama and underwhelming love scenes between Linh and Laurent are the least effective part of The Housemaid, revealing some of Nguyen’s limitations in providing dialogue and character moments that make us connect with these two characters as much as we do when the ghost is lurking around the frame. What does help to save the story is a well kept secret revealing a connection with the housemaid and the apparition.
Honestly, if this was an American genre film, the limitations seen in The Housemaid might cause more criticism, but seeing an emerging artist and his team out of Vietnam turn out a solid product like this leads me to highlight the good and champion the effort in hopes of encouraging more filmmakers to carry the flag. Ironically, the film is set for a U.S. remake in the near future.
The Housemaid hits select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms TODAY, February 16th.
Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle.
Scorched Earth Review – Gina Carano Making Motherf**kers Pay In The Apocalypse
Starring Gina Carano, John Hannah, Ryan Robbins
Written by Bobby Mort and Kevin Leeson
Directed by Peter Howitt
Let me preface this review by stating right off the bat that I’m a huge Gina Carano fan, and will pretty much accept her in any role that she’s put in (are you going to tell her no), regardless of the structure and plausibility behind it, and while that might make me a tad-bit biased in my opinions, just accept it as that and nothing more. Now that I’ve professed my cinematic devotion to the woman, let’s dive headlong into her latest film, Scorched Earth.
Directed by Peter Howitt, the backdrop is an apocalyptic world brought on by the imminent disaster known as global warming, and the air has become toxic to intake, generally leaving inhabitants yacking up blood and other viscous liquids after a prolonged exposure, unless you’re one of the privileged that possesses a filter lined with powdered silver. Filters of water and the precious metal are in high demand, and only true offenders in this world still drive automobiles, effectively speeding up the destruction of what’s left of the planet. Carano plays Atticus Gage, a seriously stoic and tough-as-nails bounty hunter who is responsible for taking these “criminals” down, and her travels lead her to a compound jam-packed with bounties that will have her collecting riches until the end of time…but aren’t we at the end of time already? Anyway, Gage’s main opponent here is a man by the name of Thomas Jackson (Robbins) – acting as the leader of sorts to these futuristic baddies, the situation of Gage just stepping in and taking him out becomes a bit complicated when…oh, I’m not going to pork this one up for you all – you’ve got to invest the time into it just as I did, and trust me when I tell you that the film is pretty entertaining to peep.
While Carano’s acting still needs some refining, let there be no ever-loving mistake that this woman knows how to beat the shit out of people, and for all intents and purposes this will be the thing that carries her through many a picture. There are much larger roles in the future for Gina, and she’ll more than likely take over as a very big player in the industry – hey, I’m a gambling man, and I’ve done pretty well with my powers of prognostication. With that being said, the thing that does hold this picture back is the plot itself- it’s a bit stale and not overly showy, and when I look for a villain to oppose the hero, I’m wanting someone with at least a shred of a magnetic iota, and I just couldn’t latch onto anything with Robbins’ performance – his character desperately needed an injection of “bad-assness” and it hurt in that particular instance.
In the end of it all, I’d recommend Scorched Earth to fans of directionless, slam-bang wasteland pics with a touch of unrestrained violence…plus, Gina Carano is in it, so you can’t go wrong. If you’re not a fan of any of the above, feel free to skate on along to another piece of barren territory.
Looking to get your butt kicked in the apocalypse with extreme prejudice? Drive on up, and allow me to introduce you to someone who’ll be more than happy to oblige.
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