The Strangers (DVD Review)

15 – 85mins – 2008


 

DOLL-FACED KILLERS

With the belated and long-teased sequel Prey At Night just opening Stateside (it was originally announced for a 2009 release date before entering development hell for the best part of a decade), I thought it was high-time I got my act together and finally watched the first Strangers film. Now TEN years old, the DVD has been lingering on my to-watch pile for far too long.

… Keep Scuttling!

In Bruges (Netflix Review)

18 – 106mins – 2008


 

NOOKS AND CRANNIES

“How can a fucking fairy-tale NOT be someone’s cup of tea?!”

Rejoice, CR@B fans, for I am back! Did you miss me?

What do you mean you didn’t even know I had gone?! Well, as my none-too-subtle choice of film illuminates, I have just got back from a glorious mini-break in the medieval, alcove-ridden Belgium market town of Bruges (or Brugge to the locals). Of course I ate my body weight at the numerous chocolatiers and drank the local brewery dry, but I also climbed the 300+ steps to the apex of the clock tower, which features prominently in writer/director Martin McDonagh’s blackly-comic BAFTA-winning crime drama, which recently made its Netflix debut (what timing!).

… Keep Scuttling!

Phoebe in Wonderland (DVD Review)

12 – 96mins – 2008


 

DANGEROUS OR LIBERATING?

“I don’t want to do those things, or say those things, but I have to!”

Akin to the heart-breaking coming-of-age weepie Bridge to Terabithia, Elle Fanning’s 2008 debut feature was sorrowfully mis-promoted upon its belated 2014 UK home release as a magical fantasy (just look at that florid and whimsical DVD cover!!). Despite indiscreetly trading off its connections to Lewis Carroll’s surreal children’s classic, Phoebe in Wonderland is actually an unconventional indie drama which deals with how mental health issues can hamper and disrupt the ‘normal’ experiences of a child growing up. Hardly delightful, kid-friendly fare.

… Keep Scuttling!

The X-Files: I Want to Believe (DVD Review)

15 – 100mins – 2008


 

BILLY’S GOT TALENT

Growing up in a household without Sky television, my only exposure to Chris Carter’s phenomenally successful supernatural serial was when BBC One belatedly started showing it pre-Match of the Day on a Saturday night. A few choice episodes stand out from this truncated terrestrial transmission, but I’d never go so far as to call myself an avid X-phile.

This might go some way to explain why it has taken me the best part of EIGHT years to catch up with this second theatrical release, which came a decade after 1998’s Fight the Future, six years after the show’s largely Duchovny-less ninth season and six years before January’s “event” mini-series revival (which I plan to binge-watch on blu-ray come its June home video release).

Years after they have left the FBI, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) is a fugitive from the organisation, while Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) is a doctor at a Catholic hospital. Despite protestations that they “can’t look into the darkness again,” the old team are lured back into paranormal investigation when Father Joe (Billy Connolly), a former priest with a dangerous past, claims to be having psychic visions which could lead to the safe rescue of a kidnapped agent – and the apprehension of some twisted backstreet surgeons. But does Father Joe really have a super-human talent for tapping into the voice of God, or is he elaborating a fiction to atone for his diabolical sins?

Beyond its horrendous tagline of a subtitle, the main issue I had with I Want to Believe is its scale. It’s a competent enough drama (if lacking the prepossessing kick of the show’s extra-terrestrial edge), but it feels small, reserved and as unhurried as the film’s near-persistent softly falling snow. Carter and co-writer Frank Spotnitz give over a lot of time to moping, sighing and consternation from their philosophical characters. As evidenced:

“I’m lying here cursing God for all his cruelties.”

Even the strangeness of a Frankenstein-alluding climax can’t disguise this sequel’s calmer, more meditative tone, making it feel more like a water-treading mid-season double-bill than a cinema-worthy game-changer – and even less like a spectacular finale to a long-running franchise (which it effectively was until season 10).

In this regard it also serves a double fault of largely eschewing the mytharc of Mulder’s missing sister (which formed the backbone of the series when a monster of the week didn’t show up), while simultaneously assuming a fan’s level of franchise knowledge (Skinner’s cameo, references to previous case files, Mulder and Scully’s sleeping arrangement). Yet it fails as both a worthy wrap-up and a purposeful stand alone adventure, existing solely to eek a few more dollars from the parched pockets of a thirsty fanbase – now that’s a talent!

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars

The Echo (DVD Review)

Image result for the echo 2008

15 – 2008 – 92mins


IF WALLS COULD TALK

With DVD cover-art dominated by the names of more popular horror films the crew had the most minimal association with, and peppered with commendable quotes from unheard of online critics (“Unleash the Flying Monkeys”, anyone?), Metrodome’s publicity gurus clearly hoped to elevate The Echo above the forgettable flock of straight-to-DVD genre flicks using every marketing trick in the book – except giving anyone a clear idea of what the film is actually about.

… Keep Scuttling!