V/H/S (2012) - B
Series of horror vignettes are ripe with good material, but notably short of anything particularly great. Each of the shorts are at least watchable, linked by a thin overarching burglary plot, which predictably goes south for the thieves. The highlight is a haunting shot entirely through video-chat with a mean twist, otherwise it's competently executed genre fodder from a bunch of young film-makers who display moderate promise. Reasonably fun, but hardly as memorable as handheld classics like "The Blair Witch Project".
Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) - A
Incredibly rich and harrowing study of abuse and the significant mental side affects it can incur. As a woman fleeing a dubious cult, Elizabeth Olsen is fantastic, bringing an ethereal uncertainly and deep sense of confusion and sickness to her work. Paranoia runs rampant, the film-maker preferring to use long takes, eerie silence and jarring sound effects to instill the feature with an unsettling aesthetic. Draws the audience in and slowly holds them for the entirety of its disturbing duration. Sensationally understated fare.
House at the End of the Street (2012) - D
A pair of decent genre performances by Jennifer Lawrence and Elizabeth Shue can't redeem this hopelessly directed mystery. Mark Tonderai sets the tone with a spastic opening segment that cribs feebly from "Halloween", using some of the most intrusive MTV style film-making known to man. The hyper edits and silly jump cuts continue as the thriller slowly (and I mean slowly) builds purpose, forcing its capable cast to grapple with rote characterization. A few of the numerous boo scares find their mark, but for the most part its generic execution robs "House at the End of the Street" of even guilty pleasure status. I'm not sure if the final shot is a direct homage to "Psycho" or just a clumsy coincidence. Either way, it doesn't do this watered down offering any favours.
Zero Dark Thirty (2012) - B+
Compelling recount of the attempt to nab Osama Bin Laden, directed with energy and ferocity by Bigelow. As the woman spearheading the effort to capture the perp, Jessica Chastain is superb, the film thusly finding a nice balance between human struggle, political roadblocks and tense action. Very impressive, with a great musical score and probing screenplay to boot.
Gripping film that splices traditional documentary technique with impressively rendered cinematic reenactments. The focus of the piece is so absurd that the less you know going in, the better the experience is going to be. Strongly executed, surpassing its made for TV edits with tactical reveals and intelligently placed shocks. Not one you're likely to forget promptly.
Reviews by Daniel Kelly, 2013