Meewella | Critic

According to P

Tag: Christopher Young

QuickView: Sinister (2012)

Sinister poster

“Ellison, we didn’t move in a few houses down from a crime scene again. did we?”


Sinister delivers an atmospheric horror experience by starting out more like an detective thriller as true crime writer Ellison investigates a grizzly murder, with the supernatural only encroaching later. This provides a novel take on the “found footage” concept as he pieces together murders from a box of old Super-8 reels containing amateur snuff films. Although the plot draws together derivative elements from other films, like The Shining‘s struggling author who has dragged his family across the country, it remains compelling until cast adrift by the rote supernatural elements. Ethan Hawke is Sinister‘s lynch pin, unravelling believably as Ellison, his desperate desire for another hit novel clashing with his duties to his family, while his alcohol use renders the viewer’s perspective unreliable. Sinister manages to maintain its tense atmosphere and is routinely unsettling, though it still falls back on predictable jump scares and diminishing returns in repeated sequences of Ellison watching old footage in a darkened room.


QuickView: Hellraiser (1987)

Hellraiser 30th anniversary poster

“I thought I’d gone to the limits. I hadn’t. The Cenobites gave me an experience beyond limits. Pain and pleasure, indivisible.”


Although Clive Barker’s Hellraiser received a relatively poor critical reception on release, it has maintained a deserved cult following in large part for the the Cenobites, its varied group of travelling torture demons summoned through a puzzle box. The film’s strengths lie in its disquieting ideas and Barker’s vivid imagination for organic body horror. The story, with hastily sketched characters and largely constrained to a single nondescript house, is so thin as to be inconsequential next to the concepts and encroaching hell world it evokes. Thirty years on, around half of the make-up special effects still hold up remarkably well which is either surprisingly impressive or woefully inadequate depending on your perspective. There are definitely moments that break the immersion entirely ⁠— stretching skin looks comically bad ⁠— but the level of make-up creativity on such a constrained budget is to be commended. Provided you are able to look beyond those limitations and immerse yourself in the atmosphere, there is much to enjoy.


QuickView: Swordfish (2001)

Swordfish quad poster

“No, I’m talking about the lack of realism. Realism; not a pervasive element in today’s modern American cinematic vision.”


A technothriller from an era when people used descriptions like “technothriller”, Swordfish is a mashup of the worst traits of convoluted hi-tech thrillers and rote action movies that considers itself very smart in its nihilistic outlook. Opening with a monologue deriding Hollywood’s lack of realism is a bold move for a film that has scant interest in reality: the verisimilitude of its hacking portrayal is clear from an early scene in which Hugh Jackman is forced at gunpoint to break into the US Department of Defense on an unfamiliar laptop within 60 seconds, whilst being fellated. Hackers may have used equally absurd graphical representations of technology but it achieved cult status because it captured the zeitgeist of mid-90s geek culture. If anything, Swordfish captures the collapse of a style of overindulgent Hollywood filmmaking that had been in decline since the 80s. Gratuitous ill-use of Halle Berry (the only woman with notable screen time) suggests an underlying misogyny which is merely confused rather than redeemed by the ending. The entire story is a messy contradiction of shifting allegiances but, when your plot is all misdirection, there is no substance left when the credits roll, just an unpleasant residue.


"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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