THE DEVIL FISH (FILM REVIEW)

Urban legends have a way of getting under our skin, primarily because they draw their horror from the familiar. Shared over lunch or gone viral on social media, these modern lore stay in limbo – suspended between reality and the supernatural, as people debate their authenticity. Like the popular Tag-Along franchise, The Devil Fish is…

INTIMATE STRANGERS (FILM REVIEW)

The smartphone changed our lives forever. And as a character remarks in Intimate Strangers, it’s like a black box of its owner, full of messages, emails and media they’ve collected. So is it any surprise that the content within might shock some of our closest friends or loved ones? An adaptation from the 2016 Italian…

THE ROPE CURSE (FILM REVIEW)

A suicide is tragic enough, but there’s something extra about the image of a hanging body that never fails to chill one to the bone. So it’s not surprising that in parts of Fujian and Taiwan, that a ritual has been created to combat the horror of a person hanging by choice. It is given…

THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE (REVIEW)

Let’s get this out of the way. The hype for this film lies not in any revolutionary scares or monsters, but a gripping, masterful storytelling that brings forth the worst kind of haunting – that from within oneself. In essence, this is really horror in lyrical prose – an oeuvre to loss and the terrifying…

HELLO, MRS. MONEY (FILM REVIEW)

It’s got the twisted mishaps of Hangover, the misdemeanor of Ted, and just a touch of that Crazy Rich Asian OTT display – except all wrapped up and tied with a Mainland Chinese bow on top. Hello, Mrs Money is a non-stop madcap riot, milking each unfortunate scenario made by bad decisions. And given how…

HELL FEST (FILM REVIEW)

The film gets one thing right – the sets. Otherwise, Hell Fest is really Halloween (including a very Michael Myers killer) without the gumption, impact or style. Horror films are not known for character development. But Hell Fest tests the boundaries of how much they can take with a crew of horror-film cliches. There’s the…

DOWN A DARK HALL (FILM REVIEW)

The movie establishes itself quickly. Angsty female lead. Gothic mansion. The classic “that area is out of bounds” line. 20 minutes in, you’ll find that Down A Dark Hall has a familiar tone to it. The way it introduces the characters, their relationships, some snappy cliches, and a painfully coerced romantic storyline – you have…

ALONG WITH THE GODS: THE LAST 49 DAYS (FILM REVIEW)

By now, you would have probably heard of this unexpected hit of a South-Korean title. Yes, it already had all the makings of a blockbuster, but it exceeded even projections by pundits. Surpassing 10 million viewers in only 15 days, Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds tripled returns of the US$36 million investment on…

SHOPLIFTERS (FILM REVIEW)

If ever there was an ensemble movie where everyone pulled their weight, this would be it. Shoplifters is a rare example combining flawless cast chemistry with expert role distribution. And between them, a moving story unfolds. Director, writer and editor Hirokazu Kore-eda steals the heart of audiences stealthily, with vignettes drifting lazily along offering slice-of-life…

DANUR 2: MADDAH (FILM REVIEW)

Horror films. We walk in knowing what to expect. Jump scares, horrifying ghouls, the occasional blood or gore, creepy sets, all shrouded in dim lighting and anticipatory soundtrack. And Danur 2: Maddah checks these boxes, if almost a little too hastily. Amidst all the frantic action in the film, it seems that Director Awi Suryadi…

BURNING (FILM REVIEW)

In this world, there is Little Hunger and Great Hunger. Little Hunger is when someone is physically hungry. And Great Hunger is when a person yearns for the bigger answers, like the meaning of life, shares Haemi (Jun Jong-Seo), the female protagonist of Burning. Director Lee Chang-dong is renowned for tackling the Great Hunger in…

I KILL GIANTS (FILM REVIEW)

“I find Giants. I hunt Giants. I. Kill. Giants.” And there summises the objective of our little heroine, Barbara Thorson (Madison Wolfe). The girl is a little of an outcast at school, visually represented by a headband with bunny ears (to better connect with her spirit animal) and behaviorally with her sharp retorts and solo…

UNSANE (FILM REVIEW)

An expert at the human condition, Steven Soderbergh launches a new psychological thriller Unsane – shot in secret in 2017 – and surprises with a gritty, experimental tale that challenges the mental faculties of both characters and audience alike. Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) is the company’s new data analyst. New to the city, she digs…

THE THIRD EYE / MATA BATIN (FILM REVIEW)

While 2017 was a fast crop year for Indonesian horror, one can expect duds as well as hits in the buffet mix from our southern neighbour. The Third Eye sits somewhere in between. It’s a project with ambitious goals – as one can certainly tell from its inspiration from western horror classics, but that is…

THE PRINCESS AND THE MATCHMAKER (FILM REVIEW)

A cursed princess holds the key to reversing a drought situation for her country in the Joseon era. Or so the royal diviner says. Using the Korean art of forecasting from the “4 pillars” created by a person’s birthdate – not unlike the Chinese bazi – introducing a marriage will alter the elements and return…

NET I DIE (FILM REVIEW)

In Net I Die, directors Preedee Veeratum and Nuttachai Jiraanont wanted to highlight the ills of social media fame, by creating a revenge tale emerging after the death of a “net idol” – an online influencer. What comes out instead, is a cardboard cliche of a story, filled with simple-minded characters and desperate post-production efforts….

THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT (FILM REVIEW)

The Strangers in 2008 created a new angle in home invasion horror, creating killers that not only toyed with their victims, but also seemingly for no apparent reason. Mimicking the “mindless” massacre of psychopaths such as Charles Manson, the un-scrubbable trauma was made real and available to the masses with Bryan Bertino’s creepy franchise. It…

KEYS TO THE HEART (FILM REVIEW)

Lee Byung-Hun has carved a name for himself inhabiting steely characters with tortured pasts. In Keys to the Heart, he reprises this formula as a down-and-out boxer, who rediscovers family relations with his estranged mum and autistic brother. South Korea’s heartwarming version of Rain Man takes the same cues from the iconic classic, featuring tropes…

SURVIVAL FAMILY (FILM REVIEW)

Yoshiyuki Suzuki (Fumiyo Kohinata) returns home after a day’s work at the office. His wife Mitsue (Eri Fukatsu) struggles to fillet a fish, while teenage daughter Yui (Wakan Aoi) princesses about the “gross” produce from her grandfather Shigeomi Sasaki (Akira Emoto). His son Kenji (Yuki Izumisawa) returns home and heads straight to the room, ignoring…

RED SPARROW (FILM REVIEW)

Ah, Jennifer “I’ve-got-range” Lawrence. Hers is the name that launches a thousand roles, but maybe that brand is starting to slip with over-exposure. Forbes’ highest paid actress in 2015 and 2016 lost her place last year to Emma Stone – a sign that maybe the starlet’s reign is over? So Red Sparrow would be like…

MARROWBONE (FILM REVIEW)

In a crumbling old house, at the top of the stairs, a mother (Nicola Harrison) draws a line in the dusty floor and announces, “our story starts here”. As her four children step over the boundary, the audience also gets pulled into a narrative that’s inventive and original, but also bewildering and occasionally frustrating. Former…

A BEAUTIFUL MOMENT (FILM REVIEW)

For those who don’t know, he sui (festive) films are celebratory movies which pop up during the lunar new year period. They have become a precursor staple to augur the holidays, much like the clanging songs, red packets and mountains of tangerines, but have noticeably waned over the years in popularity. In a way, these…

WINCHESTER (FILM REVIEW)

This show is proof that no actor is infallible, no matter how great their acting chops might be. Winchester is the story of why the eccentric Sarah Winchester built one of the America’s most famous houses. Helen Mirren plays the grieving widow and purported mentally-unsound heiress to the Winchester firearm empire. Eager to unseat her…

I, TONYA (FILM REVIEW)

It’s true. Our society is hardly forgiving towards those who makes mistakes. And quick to condemn at that. Tonya Harding was an Olympic figure skater, who in a 1991 competition, did a triple axel on the ice. Not was she the first American to ever do so, even after a quarter of a century, only…

YOUTH (FILM REVIEW)

By placing Youth in the timeline of the Cultural Revolution, it’s inevitable some pundits will expect a form of commentary or advocacy from the film, especially when it’s from a Mainland Chinese director. From the cushy seat of a critic, one should think nothing of asking a native director to turn entertainment into mouthpiece against…

ALONG WITH THE GODS: THE TWO WORLDS

This movie will make you want to be a better person. And entertain you while it’s at it. Most religious tenets include one of judgment in the afterlife. Along with the Gods brings a noble firefighter Kim Ja-hong (Cha Tae-hyun) into Korean purgatory, having died on duty while saving a girl. For having led an…

SATAN’S SLAVES (FILM REVIEW)

The 70s and 80s is having a great run in entertainment these days. From Stranger Things and Dark, to Ouija and It, the period serves itself well in the horror genre, most notably because there’s no mobile phones to the rescue. Satan’s Slave is a remake of Sisworo Gautama Putra’s 1980 film of the same…

LEGEND OF THE DEMON CAT (FILM REVIEW)

When you have the venerable Chen Kaige at the helm, you can expect lush visuals that are hard to ignore. Colours, textures, movement, all come together in an airy dance that is pure foreplay to the eyes. CGI fever has overtaken many modern films in China, no doubt due to the rising younger audience who…

PITCH PERFECT 3 (FILM REVIEW)

Last call Pitches. This reviewer says: we can hope. In the latest installment, the girls may have left their textbooks, but the scriptwriters seemed to have returned to theirs. Pitch Perfect 3 sees the harmonising group Bella take on the biggest stage ever – real life. Things after college is note-acibly not as glamorous, and…

THE THOUSAND FACES OF DUNJIA (FILM REVIEW)

There are a few stalwarts in the Hong Kong movie industry, and two of them are in this film. Tsui Hark’s hand in creating commercial cinema during the “Golden Age” is legendary. Both entertaining and original, his classics such as A Better Tomorrow, A Chinese Ghost Story and Green Snake have all been milestones of…