Django Unchained (2012)

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Self indulgence is something well known to Quentin Tarantino and is evidently displayed heartily and unashamedly coursing throughout his directorial back catalogue. It’s hardly a surprise though that the Weinsteins give him free reign since he almost single-handedly saved Miramax from going under in the 90s with Reservoir Dogs and, most notably, Pulp Fiction. The problem now is that he doesn’t have anyone to actually produce his films properly, say no to him or edit the fluff in the cutting room, in fact Tarantino has only one film in his canon that follows a recognisable narrative structure and holds the interest for its full run time, Jackie Brown.

It seems that Tarantino’s onanism reached something of a nadir following the eye-gougingly boring Deathproof and the sloppy Inglorious Basterds as with Django Unchained he returns to the Jackie Brown template of telling an actual story in a comprehensive manner. Maybe he listened to the negative press regarding his recent output and noticed that general interest in his work was cooling with only his fan base showing the levels of appreciation that have plummeted since his mid 90s heyday or maybe he just wanted to show that he can still be considered a cutting edge director with his finger on the filmmaking pulse.

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Django Unchained follows QT’s latest muse Christoph Waltz as bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz and an ice cool Jamie Foxx as the titular hero around the American south in search of the latter’s German born girlfriend Broomhilda. Along the way they meet a variety of Tarantino-esque villains and curiosities, as usual all filled by aging and past it stars ripe for the QT resurrection, Bruce Dern makes a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo and Don Johnson shines as a caricature of Colonel Sanders. The ace-in-the-hole though is when our mismatched heroes reach the Candyland cotton plantation where Broomhilda is being kept and we’re introduced to Leonardo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie and his house slave Stephen as played by Samuel L Jackson.

It’s here that the story jumps into fifth gear, helped no end by the performances of the principal cast with DiCaprio and Jackson in arguably their best character roles. Leo, complete with tobacco stained teeth and dark bags under his eyes, plays Candie with an unsettling megalomaniacal tension that bubbles just under his pristinely dressed surface and viciously erupts when lessons need teaching, which we see when he has one of his Mandingo slaves torn apart by dogs, and when he discovers the duplicitous nature behind Waltz and Foxx’s reason for visiting his property which leads him to threaten the life of Broomhilda in the film’s best scene.

Jackson gives Stephen a limp and a cat like sneer to prove that this isn’t as grey as a black men versus white men battle of good against evil as it turns out that Stephen could just be the baddest of the bad with constant back-stabbing of and snitching on our protagonists even wishing a slow and painful death against Django after he could walk away a free man. Waltz is a joy as ever but does basically play a benevolent version of exactly the same character he was in Inglorious Basterds and Foxx plays it the straightest out of all the leads.

There’s been a lot said about the amount of negative cultural language used in the film and its depiction of racial inequality but this is a film about a time and a place in America where this behaviour wasn’t just rife it was the norm. It’s painful to see how humans without white skin were treated then and some of the punishments bestowed on them like the hot box are particularly disgusting but these things happened, it’s understandable that some people don’t want to be reminded of it but we do need to look back to move forward and when we’re faced with the reality of mistakes from our past then we’re more likely not to repeat them.

Because of the grotesquely vibrant characters and the ridiculous situations they find themselves in I can understand why the racial issues can be misunderstood, since at times, it verges on the cartoony, but that would be missing the point of the film, it’s just a story that takes place when this other stuff took place, nothing is glorified or gratuitously overplayed and there are good and bad people from all races. In fact the two main sympathetic characters, one black and one white (Waltz and Foxx), need and rely upon each other to fulfil their individual tasks.

The film is about half an hour too long displaying lingering remnants of Tarantino’s vanity but fortunately it’s not overly detrimental to the final product and the more familiar structure helps the pacing not to sag or dwell just when it seems it might. The stellar acting, cracking screenplay, beautiful costumes and typically booming soundtrack make Django Unchained an entertaining, gloriously violent trudge through a beautiful part of America in a time when the people were anything but.

– Greg Foster

Django Unchained on IMDB
Buy Django Unchained (DVD + UV Copy) [2013]

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Eating Raoul (1982)

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Directed by: Paul Bartel

Frigging Peter Biskind, I was reading his second book, the one about Sundance and the Weinsteins and early on he rattles off a few indie titles that surpassed all expectations and made a profit at the box office. I’ve scribbled down a list, a few films that I’m curious to watch based on title alone, and I plan to watch them all, beginning with ‘Eating Raoul’.

The meaning behind ‘Eating Raoul’ is given away in the opening sequence. Set in Hollywood, the relationship between sex and hunger is reflected in everyday life; from vice on the streets to provocative advertising, the barrier between sex and food has dissolved. People’s minds have become warped; they are sexual predators soliciting sex wherever they go. We are told this is the story of Hollywood today.

We meet the Bland’s, a couple called Paul (Paul Bartel) and Mary (Mary Woronov). Paul is a wine expert, who gets the boot from his off license job for daring to have taste. He dresses like a Harvard intellectual and appears very stuffy, living up to his surname. Mary, his beautiful wife is a nurse who toils away at the local hospital. The couple live a sex free life existence, and sleep in separate beds. They are frequently disturbed by the Swingers parties that take place in their apartment complex and long to escape their sordid surroundings by opening up their own restaurant.

Money trouble forces them to act in desperate ways and when a live action version of Quagmire from ‘Family Guy’ comes around and tries to force himself upon Mary, Paul smacks him over the head with a frying pan and kills him. After showing a miniscule amount of concern they sift through the man’s wallet and discover he’s got a lot of dosh. After disposing of the body the couple decide that the only way they can quickly earn money is to lure Swingers to their apartment and bump them off. They seek advice from a single Mother who by night goes under the alias Doris the Dominatrix, she educates them about the Swingers lifestyle.

Paul and Mary have great success murdering Swingers who have fantasies that veer from the Oedipal to something involving a Nazi officer and a milkmaid. The situation is complicated when a Chicano red blooded locksmith named Raoul who discovers what they are up to and wants a slice of the lucrative pie. The couple work alongside Raoul after he saves Mary from getting raped by a randy Hippie played by Ed Begley Jr.

‘Eating Raoul’ is a true indie success story, as Bartel scraped together all the cash to finance the movie, shooting it whenever he had enough money to do so. All in all the whole thing took a couple of years to film. Despite this, each scene flows quite nicely, there is a good sense of continuity. Bartel is able to present the awkward relationship between middle class old fashioned American values and the sexually free hedonistic Hollywood lifestyle. The Bland’s don’t fit in with their environment, and this causes tension, a tension which grows from their own repressions, and leads to them committing acts of murder without being overly concerned with the consequences.

The murder is cartoonish, beginning with a gang member who gets shot in the off licence by Paul’s boss to the Hippie who gets strangled by his own love beads by Raoul. The film tries to show how Hollywood has made light of murder on screen, with people getting bumped off without any feeling, but it does so in a way akin to ‘The Ladykillers’ or more recently Tim Burton’s ‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’. The uneasy, hard to swallow parts of the film tend to involve Mary, as men with uncontrollable sexual urges force themselves upon her in alarmingly regular ‘Carry On’ meets Benny Hill fashion. The word ‘rape’ is casually thrown around during these moments, and I think the director was deliberately highlighting this point – In Hollywood women are still treated like meat.

‘Eating Raoul’ is a dark comedy with a little bit of charm, it is similar to a John Waters flick, with quirky extreme personalities who jar with Mr and Mrs Normal. It is a subversive satire that lacks strong performances. The characters like everything else in the film are deliberately presented in a way that causes us not to be take them seriously, because they are too two dimensional. The sexually frustrated banker, the creepy Hippie, the uptight suburban couple; it is really only Mary who has any depth to her character, but even she conforms to the bored housewife stereotype who jumps on the first hunk who shows her a hint of interest.

– RJW
5/10

Eating Raoul at IMDB
Buy Eating Raoul [1982] [DVD]

My Dinner with Andre (1981)

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Directed by: Louis Malle

‘My Dinner with Andre’ contains the perfect one hundred and ten minute conversation. Well, it’s probably closer to one hundred minutes but let’s not nit-pick; it is the kind of conversation we all one day dream of having, a perfect connection between two individuals, free of distraction and dead air. Wallace (Wally) Shawn and Andre Gregory sit down over dinner and indulge in this fascinating talk that touches upon all manner of deep intellectual topics. In truth it is a conversation that we’re never likely to have. There will never be such congruence and that perhaps is saddening. What’s amazing is that this was captured on film in the first place. It’s bold, something that would’ve ordinarily existed as an imitation Beckett play on some small theatre run. What’s amazing is that the film, despite its intimacy, is so thoroughly engaging.

My only exposure to the work of Wallace Shawn was his acting on the 90’s high school ditzy comedy ‘Clueless’ and its subsequent TV spin off. I perceived him to be one of those character actors who appear in a ton of films, does a solid enough job but never shines. Shawn is fantastic here, playing himself. Does he deserve credit for doing this? I’m not sure. Actually, I’m going to correct myself here because I don’t know if he was playing himself – because a screenplay was written, scenes were cut. This isn’t a warts and all shoot where the camera kept rolling. Shawn and Gregory were simply playing roles, and not themselves. It is our performing of certain roles in our lives that forms an important part of their conversation.

During Shawn’s journey to a restaurant across NYC he is self-deprecating and conscious of his struggles as a playwright. He bemoans the fact that he is not earning enough, that his partner Debbie has had to take a job as a waitress to pay the bills. He fell in love with the arts as a kid and wanted to devote his life to the arts but instead he is stuck in the capitalist wheel, feeling the pinch. “Now I’m 36, and all I think about is money”.
He’s a little anxious about meeting Andre Gregory. After a period of success in the world of theatre Gregory disappeared off the map, he stopped working on plays and went travelling. This appeared to be a spiritual journey for Gregory, where he attempted to seek meaning and find out who he was. He wanted to get in touch with his true self.

The pair meet up in a swanky restaurant. The camera shoots from the next table, gazing across at Shawn and Gregory as they talk through a three course meal. Waiters come and go, serving the pair, occasionally checking in that everything is ok. By the end of the meal Shawn and Gregory are the only people left in the restaurant.

Shawn doesn’t impose himself in the conversation, to an extent he is in awe of Gregory, and because of this they don’t talk as equals. Perhaps this is because Shawn is a tad neurotic, and hasn’t had as much success; he’s not quite sure where he stands, whereas Gregory is worldly, confident and decidedly sure of himself. Shawn therefore asks a lot of questions because questions relax him and he enjoys finding out about people. His line of questioning is unobtrusive, and he is completely engaged in what Gregory has to say.

Though Gregory travelled to far-flung places like Tibet and India, he didn’t always make have life affirming experiences. “I’ve been to India and I just felt like a tourist. I found nothing”. It was an experience of being buried alive on Long Island that was most profound for him. As the camera focusses on Gregory’s face you can see the fear in his eyes as he talks about the soil falling over his casket.

There are some humorous moments. When their quail dish is served Shawn exclaims “I didn’t know they were so small”. Shawn’s endearing ignorance about posh restaurant etiquette immediately puts us on his side. He is our doubting voice, the voice that feels at times like telling Gregory to stop being so damned pretentious. The trouble is Gregory’s storytelling is spellbinding, he hooks you by the top lip, and you want to listen to his spiel. You can’t get mad at him.

The film, intentionally or otherwise encourages the viewer to question themselves. There is a significant part of the conversation, which I shall attempt to paraphrase, it explains that when you think about it we are habitual, “going around like unconscious machines” and the anxiety builds within us because we perform our roles, like actors. We don’t act naturally, we don’t feel. That is why we see therapists or counsellors, we read self-help books. We look at others and we think they are getting on, content in their lives, but we can’t understand or relate because we live in ignorance of each other.

Wally: Suppose you’re going through some kind of hell in your own life, well you would love to know if friends have experience similar things. But we just don’t dare to ask each other.
Andre: No, It would be like asking your friend to drop his role.

Towards the end of the film Shawn talks about the simple things in life, such as drinking coffee and reading the paper, he asks Gregory why is it necessary to have more? Or even want more? Shawn is actually happy with his lot and I think by the end of the film, after the conversation, he realizes this. He gets a taxi home and says he’ll tell his partner Debbie everything about his dinner with Andre.

– RJW
8/10

My Dinner with Andre on IMDB
Read the Screenplay
Buy My Dinner With Andre [DVD] [1981]

Flight (2012)

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After 12 years roaming the CGI wilderness Robert Zemeckis makes a welcome return to the world of live action movie making with Flight, a film about maverick aeroplane pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) who’s ingenuity saves countless lives on a charter cross-country flight after a technical malfunction kills the craft’s engine power and forces him to make an against-all-odds crash landing.

I generally approach Denzel Washington vehicles with caution but the lure of Zemeckis in the director’s seat overruled any preconceptions of another snooze-worthy by-the-numbers turn from every footballer and casual cinema-goer’s favourite actor and put Flight high up my anticipation list for 2013. In fact, one of Zemeckis’s strengths is his actor play and he coerces an incredibly watchable performance from the Oscar winner and his subtleties with the camera allow Washington to quickly grow into the role and carry the film.

After the crash Whitaker’s heroism is the subject of intense media scrutiny eventually leading to intrusions into his personal life which unearths the inevitable discovery of darkness inside the man. It’s not that Whitaker has created a fake holier-than-thou persona a la Lance Armstrong, he doesn’t thrive on attention of any sort in fact he despises it, he knows he has dependencies and lack of control over his vices but at the same time he knows he’s good at his job discounting any moral issues that arise from mixing the two. Upon discovery, thanks to two empty mini vodka bottles found in the cockpit bin, he tries to lay the blame with a colleague who perished in the crash thus absolving him of any wrong-doing in the eyes of the public and, more importantly, a few years in the county pen.

The secondary storyline revolves around a romantic subplot with Nicole (Kelly Reilly), an equally fractured soul who is supposed to give us access to Whitaker’s everyday actions but doesn’t quite achieve any further understanding of him or develop any character progression. It carries more a tinge of the manufactured, even becoming superfluous to the point that every scene with Reilly in is clock-watchingly boring and when the plot is finally alleviated of her presence her whole participation does feel quite like wasted time. It also doesn’t help that she bears a passing resemblance to Meep from Jim Henson’s Muppets.

Fleshing out the support cast are Don Cheadle as the lawyer who makes light work of finding flaws in the system to get Whitaker out of trouble relatively scott free, Bruce Greenwood as Kip’s old pilot pal and John Goodman as Kip’s old party pal. Cheadle brings a calculated, educated nous to his role and performs without a hitch and Greenwood is as straight laced as you’d expect a secondary flight captain without a developed character to be while Goodman channels The Big Lebowski’s Walter Sobchak and seems like an odd fit to the overly serious and dour tone. He doesn’t overplay it and is obviously supposed to provide comic relief but at times his character comes across as a little too overcooked, yes he and Kip went to parties and took drugs together but does he really need to elaborate on this in every scene he appears? We get it.

The technical side of Flight belongs to the stunning crash scene at the beginning of the film, an awe inspiring sequence of gravity defying proportions is given added tension by Zemeckis’s wily camera placement. Either keeping us in suspense with the passengers or mopping our brow with the cabin crew, he gives Washington just enough rope that we’re the proverbial child clinging to his leg knowing that this is the safest place to be. Unfortunately this early point is also the peak and the descent albeit a slow, smooth one is still a descent nonetheless and, as hard as Washington tries, he can’t carry the filler parts of the film on his already overburdened shoulders.

Flight isn’t a bad film it’s just not a great film, it has enough to make it a passable character study into the addictive side of man but does ramble and stutter in places and can do with a character dropped and some run time shaved off its final cut. However, it is an absolute joy to welcome Robert Zemeckis back into the real-life fold and no matter how rusty he seems with this comeback after his 12 year sabbatical he shows enough of his best strengths are still there so it’s just a simple matter of tweaking the other things. Welcome back Bob.

– Greg Foster

Flight on IMDB
Buy Flight [Blu-ray] [Region Free]

Killing Them Softly (2012)

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Ever wondered what comes after capitalism fails, after the greedy have taken advantage of the system so much that it haemorrhages until it can no longer sustain all of its parts? You could do worse than check out this statement on such an unfortunate event. This is the beginning of the end of an empire, a look underneath the surface and between the cracks. They say it rolls downhill but what happens when it can’t roll any further, what happens at the bottom when the well runs dry? When the going gets tough men have to get tougher or they’ll be chewed up and spat out.

A forcibly unapologetic statement on the effects and short-sightedness of greed, Killing Them Softly is the third film by Australian auteur Andrew Dominik and the second pairing between him and Brad Pitt following the poetic The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. It’s very clear that these two work well together and Pitt certainly enjoys himself as the cool hitman and central ‘take responsibility for your actions’ metaphor Jackie Cogan.

The third adaptation for Dominik, this time based on the 1974 George V. Higgins novel Cogan’s Trade. The setting is shifted from Boston to post-Katrina New Orleans against the backdrop of the 2008 presidential election with plenty of Obama austerity speeches dotted throughout and served up on a sledgehammer such is the nature of the point being made.

Nice guy Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta) hosts tables for mob card games but soon becomes the fall guy and public example when his night is hit by two small time crooks. Pitt’s Cogan is subsequently called in to investigate and resolve with necessary retribution by the un-named mob spokesman (Richard Jenkins) who seems keener to stress frugality over results.

Dominik again proves how adept he is at the helm by creating a stunningly beautiful picture that highlights the murky underworld of crime under the rapidly approaching cover of poverty. There are two stand out assassination scenes both totally different in execution, one dances with the elegance of a ballet in a hail of slow-mo bullets and exit wounds and one rolls around in the muck like a filthy crippled pig, but both are equally effective in highlighting his technical and artistic ability.

He also persuades human performances from his all-star cast to breathe cigarette smoke life into grotesque and desperate characters. James Gandolfini in particular with a stand out turn as washed up, hooker-addicted New York hitman Mickey who Cogan soon realises is not up to the task at hand so devises an adhoc counter scheme to remove him from the job.

Instead of following the usual 1st-2nd-3rd act formula we’re dropped into a point in time and then removed a few days later after this particular situation is over. We feel as if life goes on for those involved and achingly so, in fact we’re glad we’re not them and we don’t have to experience what they do any longer. This film doesn’t make gangsters look pretty and it doesn’t make their line of work fashionable, after all they have to tighten their belts like the rest of us in times of recession.

You would be forgiven for thinking of Scorsese when hearing the fast, wise-guy dialogue and there are shades of Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis in its setup but this is all Dominik in voice and execution. Effectively this is less a story and more an allegorical talkie piece with generally two or 3 main characters on screen at any one time constantly spitting dialogue and driving home the point the film sets out to make. Finely capped by a cynical, brilliant speech Dominik achieves simply by telling the truth and without the need to labour it. When the gloves are off each man has to take responsibility and survive however he can even if he has to drop his morals to do so. America is a business after all.

– Greg Foster

Killing Them Softly on IMDB
Buy Killing Them Softly [DVD]

Metal Tornado (2011)

This would have been exciting if it it had been in the film

This would have been exciting if it it had been in the film

Can the SyFy Channel keep making original movies faster than I can review them? The answer seems to be yes, and they’ve got a few years head start on me anyway. The title of this told me, again, exactly what to expect, so I settled down for some metal tornado-based fun.

Lou Diamond Philips must just really like to work, because he’s too big a star even now to be working in films like this, whereas Greg Evigan seems to have transitioned fairly gracefully from the sitcom star of years gone by to the name in films like this, “Megaconda” and “Invasion Roswell” (reviewed elsewhere on this site). The gist of it all is, Evigan is the boss of Helios World, a company that’s got the technology to harness the power of solar flares via satellites and beam it down to earth, creating clean electricity for ever.

How does this create a metal tornado? Well, a disgruntled former employee has discovered a flaw in the system and tries to call Evigan before the system goes online to warn him. Does he listen to the warning? If you’re seriously debating that question, you may be too stupid to carry on reading these reviews. Anyway, science blah blah blah, some energy from space escapes and creates a magnetic tornado, picking up every bit of metal in its path…apart from all that stuff that the makers of this film forgot was metal, like the zips on peoples’ clothing and the reinforced centres of concrete building supports and money and door handles and computers and…you get the point.

Lou is a scientist at Helios World and realises there’s a problem but can’t stop it in time; so along with his girlfriend (Nicole De Boer, aka the 2nd Dax from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”), his son and…his brother in law? Uncle?…they try and figure out a way to stop it. Evigan, on the other hand, is denying there’s any problem, and certainly not one caused by his company, and is planning to go ahead with another test of their equipment, this time at their base in Paris.

If you’ve seen one of these films, you’ve seen them all. People run around, the pencil-pushers try and stop our heroes from saving the day, sacrifices must be made and ultimately disaster is averted, just about. There was a point when I became convinced that the film was initially about something else, and they added in the metal tornado at the last minute, because no-one seems to really pay much attention to a giant tornado filled with metal moving across the landscape. Just for kicks, go and bash a piece of metal into another piece of metal. Pretty loud, eh? Now, imagine that happening hundreds of times a minute at really high speed, and just ponder how loud that would be. Guess how loud the metal tornado in the film is? If you guessed “virtually silent”, then you win a shiny No Prize.

Again, like “Ghost Storm”, the survivors are far too jolly about surviving, considering the enormous amount of carnage (goodbye, Eiffel Tower…actually, goodbye all of Paris) their company is responsible for. Our heroes are watching TV at the end in a well-lit home, despite acknowledging seconds previously that every electrical circuit in the state would be fried, and the newsreader calls it “one of the worst man made disasters in years”. Seriously, what other man made disasters are happening in the world of “Metal Tornado” that the destruction of one of the world’s great cities and vast swathes of Pennsylvania isn’t no.1?

For a SyFy Channel effort, it’s…not too bad, I suppose. I fear my standards are dropping irrevocably. When I start praising one of their films to the skies, please call the authorities. At least there was no estranged couple being reunited thanks to the metal tornado in this one.

Bye, Paris! Sorry about that easily avoidable catastrophe!

Bye, Paris! Sorry about that easily avoidable catastrophe!

Rating: 4 out of 10

Evening Movie News Roundup

Yeah, I know it’s not all news, we also provide you with some links to interesting movie articles currently floating around the web, but it’s a roundup nonetheless. We shall try and post our roundup on a bi-weekly basis.

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Charles Band talks FullMoonStreaming.com. Perhaps this is the future model for indie horror film houses?

bleacher report

Bleacher Report rank the 18 Best Bad Guys from Sports Movies

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Bloody Disgusting has yet another promo for the next chapter of the controversial I Spit On Your Grave film franchise

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UPROXX reveal that Robin Williams once tried to buy a dildo at a sex shop in character as Mrs. Doubtfire

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In his latest Vice column James Franco asks “Can a writer go to Hollywood and not become Pat Hobby or Barton Fink?”

Ghost Storm (2011)

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It’s another in our glorious long line of “films that can be entirely described by their title”. I would lay good money on the mental image you have right now being about 75% correct, but if you have a bad imagination, read on.

Teenagers in a graveyard! (actually, I think that should be a SyFy Channel original movie title, or the name of a bad band) They witness their little island’s main memorial, to the people who died in 1912 due to a cult suicide, split by a lightning strike. The golden medallion falls off the front, and the GHOST STORM emerges, sucking the soul right out of a horny male teenager.

SyFy Channel original movies are a fascinating and varied bunch. They range from pretty bad to really bad, and the cast is all the way from C-list to Z-list. Not recognising a single name on the opening credits made me worried, but there are two faces in this film who this site’s readers will welcome – Sheriff Hal Miller is played by Carlos Bernard, who you may remember from “24” as third banana Tony Almeida; and “paranormal expert” Greg Goropolis is played bv Aaron Douglas, who was also the Chief on “Battlestar Galactica” (the new, good version). Both of them seem to be in a competition to see who can act the least, as well.

We’re also introduced to the latest in a new trend that seems to be sweeping low budget cinema – the estranged couple, raising a teenager, who are definitely going to get back together by the end (because women are just prizes for men who behave heroically, am I right?) “Sharknado” had them, and there are numerous other examples dotted throughout the “Mega X v. Giant Y” films. It’s just a cheap way of generating a central plot, and the kid in danger allows the parents a chance to bond (and the father to be a hero).

It turns out the “Ghost Storm”, which is more a large version of the smoke monster from “Lost” than it is a storm, is the collected souls of that 1912 tragedy, and the medallion was keeping them trapped in the earth. As it sucks up the souls of the townspeople in its path, turning their bodies to dust, it seems to gain power, but luckily there’s an innocent soul in there and innocent souls emit a different radio frequency than evil ones, which gives them a plan to rescue the town.

I was about to mention the other groups of people in the town – the Vicar with a spooky past, the grieving father, the amazing extra in the church scene who wildly overemotes to everything that goes on around her – but the death rate is so spectacularly high in this film that I don’t need to bother. What I do want to mention is the way that when you die, you apparently get to change your contact photo in the smartphones of your friends. If you’re fully a baddie, your contact photo will be all ugly with a demonic background, but if you’re someone’s boyfriend, your photo will be changed to you looking peaceful in front of rolling clouds. This is a bizarre and brilliant bit of the film.

Without revealing the ending, I will say that considering the staggering loss of life in the town, the survivors are far too jolly at the end. “Well, everyone we’ve ever known or loved is dead. Time for some kissing and laughing!” But, the film itself is definitely in the top tier of SyFy Channel originals. It looks pretty high budget, to the extent they may have borrowed the sets from some other production (perhaps SyFy’s “Haven”, as it’s set in a similar sort of town). No-one’s a really terrible actor, and it’s occasionally set outside, in the daylight, almost unheard of for one of these movies. It held my wife’s interest to the point she asked me to pause it while she was making herself a drink – again, almost unheard of.

I was going to make a joke about the way they pick the titles for these films, but when I saw “Metal Tornado” (the subject of my next review) it made me realise my joke is probably really close to the truth. Two buckets. One with the names of cool stuff in it – shark, ghost, metal; one with the names of natural disasters – earthquake, storm, tornado. Draw one word from each and boom! If you can make a cool compound word like “Sharknado” or “Arachnoquake” out of your words, do so, if not then just put them together and make a movie. I would bet £20, for real, that there’s at least one SyFy Channel movie that had a title picked that way.

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Rating: 3 demon ghosts out of 10

Ghost Storm on IMDB
Buy Ghost Storm [DVD] [2011] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]