Darke Reviews | The Mummy (2017)

All please forgive me if you don’t get a full review tonight I am not in the right frame of mind. I am dealing with the loss of a fur-baby; so TL;DR only today.

Longer review pending – probably with spoilers – as I want to rip this movie apart. So people who enjoy me verbally (textually?) eviscerating movies you have something to look forward to.

The movie is bad. They made Tom Cruise not charming. The effects are “ok”. They have no idea on tone. Its edited badly.

It rips off of LifeForce AND American Werewolf in London simultaneously and not in good ways.

Do not see this.

See Wonder Woman again and again – or see the Brendan Frazier one.

Darke Reviews | Life (2017)

If you are not new to my site you know that I love good sci fi. If you are new to my site, you now know I love good Sci-Fi. If you want to make it horror sci-fi then you better hold to your science while telling me your fiction. I think this belief of mine comes from most horror sci-fi being relatively close in period to our own and with our own rules of science, biology, chemistry, and physics. If you want to violate these rules you need to establish you are acting outside of them early on or you risk losing me to wondering how within the confines of known science you are operating.

It’s why I buy phasers, lightsabers, xenomorphs, and flux capacitors. You laid forth rules. You have not violated them within your own fiction. We’re good. Tell me your rules, your world and I will board the suspension of disbelief train and ride it to the end. If you present me my world, my rules (as I understand them) you have established the protocols by which your science will be held standard. Violate them at your own risk or at least the risk of me ripping your movie apart.

So does Life need to find a way or is it worth exploring?

Written by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, LIFE is the story of scientists aboard the I.S.S. in a “near future” time that is otherwise undisclosed. During a mission in which samples are being brought back from Mars for study, they find proof of life. Maybe they wish they hadn’t.

Rheese and Wernick who worked on Zombieland and Deadpool together  would seem an odd choice for this movie as their comedy/action and comedy/horror don’t lend themselves to a tension based sci-fi thriller when you first think of them. Yet – somehow they did it. In the vein of Alien nearly 40 years ago they  did a well paced, no forced humor thriller.  The science is good, the fiction is good,  the thrills are solid enough; but within that something is missing. The characters themselves. You don’t get to know them as much so when the movie begins traditional Ten Little Indian’s as it needs to, you don’t feel it as deeply as you could.

Swedish director, Daniel Espinosa (Safehouse), shoots the movie rather well and he apparently knows how to deal with the limited space provided and uses that to add to the innate claustrophobia of having no where to run. Though, much like I feel about the script I don’t think he teases enough out of his actors to elevate the characters and really get their motivations – beyond the one who gets a bit of a monologue. It’s clear though he had a vision along with the writers and I feel that they executed the vision well enough but didn’t quite elevate it. More on that in the TL;DR.

From an acting perspective everyone is absolutely passable. Ryan Reynolds was well Ryan Reynolds in space, but he dialed himself back from an 11 to a 5 and the restraint was to his benefit. Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai, The Wolverine, 47 Ronin) may not be able to turn out a bad performance if he tried. Russian actress Olga Dihovichnaya makes a good mission commander despite this being her first American produced film. Ariyon Bakare, mostly a TV character actor, satisfies as our biologist. Rebecca Ferguson (Ilsa Faust from Mission Impossible Rogue Nation) plays my favorite character, the CDC specialist; leaving us with Jake Gyllenhaal who is the only one who just has a weird read. Each of the others despite having limited dimension still come off as normal people, Jake’s character just comes off …odd. I don’t know if it is a specific affectation he was directed to do or choose to do but he just was…odd to me.

From an FX standpoint they are 90% solid. The creature is interesting in its design and it’s movements. The overall space scenes and movement through the zero-g environment is beginning to be mastered after films such as Gravity nailed it as well as they did. The best effect though is a subtle one involving one of the characters. While it was an attempt to give one of them more depth (it kinda failed) it did succeed in making you believe the visual trickery before your eyes without looking overt. I would guess it was a mixture of practical and CG and that is often a winning combination.


Life is good. The movie that is. Maybe the cereal too. I think what frustrates me about it is it could have been more and I think it wanted to be. I just don’t think the director or the script knew how to take it up just one more notch from something good to something great. There’s half-hearted attempts to ask the deeper questions that could come from this, but it’s just that half-hearted. Effort was definitely put into the production; but the net result was a “Good”. I honestly believe this movie could have been great, but it just didn’t know how to get there.

One other thing in it’s favor – the trailer did it’s job and was cut very specifically and rather well.

Should you see it?

It’s not bad sci-fi. So if you enjoy a lil in the Sci-Fi Horror genre give it a go. I’ll be curious to what you think.

Would you see it again?

Matinee maybe? If someone else paid.

How about buying it?

…the magic 8 ball says undecided.

Last thoughts?

Life is a good movie in its genre, well above average but not quite making a mark. Effort was there and it shows and that alone gets merit. I don’t hate it, I don’t love it and if nothing else someone tried and succeeded at a good sci fi horror. There is a lot worse coming this year (*stares at Geostorm*) and I do believe it deserves to make a profit just so we keep getting good pictures in this genre. It just could have been better.

Darke Reviews | Blair Witch (2016)

Little known, not so secret. I have never watched The Blair Witch Project. It didn’t interest me enough when it came out, despite being filmed not too terribly far from my old stomping grounds in Maryland. Ok that isn’t saying much. If you make the wrong turn or get lost in Maryland you end up in another state. It isn’t that hard. I have however watched the more Hollywood style sequel that came out a few years later Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. It was…*sigh* maybe I will review it. But I do recommend GoodBadFlicks review of it to understand why it is the way it is. If you’ve read my other reviews, you know I am not a fan of the shaky cam so I really do not know what I was thinking going into the theatre tonight.

Was it the curse of the witch that drew me in or a masochism streak the size of the Chesapeake Bay?

Written by Simon Barrett, after successes of segments of the V/H/S movies and more notably You’re Next. I have to say I can see some of his stylings from those films here as well. His protagonists are prepared, they are smart, and react well to the strange.  It’s important to note that yes the characters here ARE smart. What happens to them in the film is only rarely due to raw stupidity. I am also not talking Final Girl Trope smart. They go hiking in the woods with batteries, cameras, GPS, a solid first aid kit, and most importantly a plan. That said the premise itself is straight-forward and enough to get it going but with mild stupidity required. A video surfaces with the protagonist , James, sister in it who went missing when he was 4 in the Black Hills Forest just outside of Burkittsville Maryland. He wants to find out what happened to her and brings his best friend, his not girlfriend, and best friends girl to help him. The reason for the camera work is of course one of them wants to film a documentary. Of course things do go wrong…

I appreciate the logic this time of the documentary portion as you have multiple events that have happened here. There is a passing reference to the original mythology, the original movie, and even a single line acknowledging the second. Some of the credit has to go to Barrett’s collaborator and the director Adam Wingard. These two work well together and I hope to see more from them in the future. Wingard has a gift here and brings real tension with a few well placed jump scares that didn’t annoy. Unlike Don’t Breathe a few weeks ago I did feel the tension build as I knew *something* was coming but not sure what. How he decided to have them shoot the woods, the house in the trailer, it’s done rather well – especially as the movie builds. My only technical peeve with it is voices don’t echo in the woods like that and the animal howls used were coyotes…I know because I am listening to them outside my window and down the street right now. They found a meal.

All the actors do a fine job. James Allen McCune (Shameless) as James is the boy with the lost sister and while the concept requires his IQ to drop significantly to execute, he lets it show the rest of the time with otherwise good decisions and solid reactions to the terror of the hills. Callie Hernandez (Alien Covenant) plays our filmmaker, Lisa. Again tech savvy, well planned, well done. Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson, and Valorie Curry (Detroit: Become Human) all deliver equally well and are believable in their roles.

Technically, I’ve discussed some of my issues with the sound and irritation at that. Other sound is fantastic, as is the distinct lack of soundtrack. Lighting, such as it is, performs it’s task equally well and helps add to the claustrophobia of the woods. Think about that sentence for a minute, but it works. The jump scares only are annoying once or twice as I found a few of them just a bit much and others…they work. They did know how to use steady cam hiding it in the other technical details of the camera, but there is of course shaky cam and built in static as the movie goes through. It isn’t bad, but could be for some people. It does make me sad they didn’t film in Maryland again, while they may not have been able to film in Burkittsville, there’s a lot of Maryland that looks like what they needed. Yes, I could tell they weren’t there.


I rather enjoyed the movie. I did feel the tension in the places I was meant to. I was oddly invested in the story and overall didn’t find myself annoyed with the main characters. I noticed a lot of little details that should make you question what you see and what you believe. The movie succeeds intelligently in creating a haunted wood and you are left to decide what happened, what didn’t, what you saw, what you didn’t at the end. I like that question. I like the answers I received and the questions I had.

Should you see it?

If you are a fan of the series? Yes. A fan of horror yes. You don’t need XD or anything special. It also may be better to see it in a a near empty theatre as the sound works and excess background noise can detract.

Will you buy it Jess?

The magic 8 ball says uncertain and ask again later.

What’s next?

Magnificent Seven and Miss Peregrine!

Darke Reviews | Don’t Breathe (2016)

I don’t see as many horror movies as I once used to, I just don’t find the concepts that riveting. I don’t see how many Paranormal Activities, Purges, or Haunting of , Exorcism of before it’s the same thing over and over with different casts, or even sometimes the same cast. How and why folks find some of these enjoyable in repetition I do not fully understand but I commend them. Then again I am the girl who watches all of the Underworld films so…who am I to judge?

So tonight I took the opportunity to watch Don’t Breathe. Should I have held my breath and waited for different movie?

Directed by Fede Alvarez, best known for his critical and financially successful remake of the Evil Dead; it tells the story of a group of Detroit street kids who dream of a better life for themselves and see home invasion and robbery as the only way to achieve that dream. They go looking for one big score and decide to pick the house of a blind man as their prey. Of course it wouldn’t be a horror movie if the tables didn’t turn on them.

The script was penned by Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, who worked on Evil Dead as well. I am going to tell you the story concept is interesting. The idea of dealing with a blind target who then uses the dark as a weapon is an interesting one. It just is never fully realized. On paper this should have worked as the tension building for Act I and Act II delivers nicely, if not getting a bit repetitive at times. Act III takes you to a place where Fede y Royo control the horizontal and the vertical and left me going “is that really where you are going with it?” Then it continues to drag on….and on.

Steven Lang (Avatar) services well with his physique and physicality as The Blind Man, and does feel like a threat through the movie. Jane Levy (Evil Dead, Suburgatory) turns in decent performance as Rocky, one of the would be robbers; as does Dylan Minnette (Let Me In, Goosebumps). Their characters are pretty typical and about as thin as typical horror fare. The performances are fine, but everything you’ve seen before.

From a production standpoint, the editing is ok, but the use of sound is near perfect. It’s clearly shot on a tight budget and very little is wasted. There’s some fetishistic aspects that are clearly coming from Alvarez that I have to wonder about, but don’t particularly take away from the film. That being said the blocking and character movement makes me think at least someone can Bamf from place to place. Then there’s the final act which not only did I think it, I quite literally said “Seriously?”. Then it just…would …not….end. For no reason I could find. It didn’t add tension because at that point I didn’t care.


The movie started out with promise and then the first jump scare annoyed me. The movie did recover, but then entirely lost me with the final beats. It is a satisfactory movie in that it is at least original, but giving us no one to really root for (The Robbers or the Deranged?) left you not caring. The final climax of the film and I once again asked “why do I care?”.

The opening shot also takes a deal of tension from the move because you spend the rest of the time waiting for it to happen, since you know it has to.

Should you watch it?

If you are drunk and have an extra 10 bucks and have nothing better to do with 90 minutes of your time. You might get something out of it.

Will you buy it though?

No. No I will not.

Anything else?

There were like 7 trailers in front of it? I guess to pad the theatre time. It’s also not good when you have a 90 minute movie and the last 20 feel like 30 or more.



I go out of my way to avoid other reviews prior to writing my own. Since I wrote this a few hours ago, I happened to see some comments online. This is currently trending at 89% on RT with 87% audience likes. I am reviewing some of these comments and what I am taking as eye rollingly painful others are enjoying. I didn’t feel the suspense. I don’t feel that the imagery is *that claustrophobic* nor particularly tension building. I may not be cut out for movies like this…or they aren’t cut out for me.

Darke Reviews | The Shallows (2016)

Yes, this week is another three-fer. I was mildly interested in this movie when the trailer came out. Blake Lively rarely disappoints even if the movie she is in does (*stares at Green Lantern*). I also, if you know me, have a thing about the water. I love it. It’s one of the few things that bring me peace in this world. So without anything else to do tonight, I decided to go to the movies again and check this out. You know you go to a theatre a lot when one of the ushers asks “What show tonight?” then asks for a review after…

So should you avoid the Shallows?

This review is going to pose a challenge. How do I write in depth about a very basic premise with a limited cast, limited shooting locations, and also avoid spoilers on something that is intended to drive tension? Well, lets try talking about the behind the scenes as usual. Written by Anthony Jaswinski, who is behind the  very under rated The Vanishing on 7th street and Kristy (which I am watching as I write) – in other words he is a horror writer. The director is Jaume Collet-Sera, who directed 2005’s House of Wax and 2009’s Orphan, both of which were actually not that bad. Sadly, he also directed the Liam Neeson plane ‘thriller’ Non-Stop, which was not very good.

The story here is a simple one. Girl goes to a secluded beach in Mexico. Girl gets attacked by Shark. Girl must survive and either beat the shark, make it to shore, or die in the process of either. That’s it. The trailer told the story and told it accurately. No surprises there, but what was a surprise is how well the movie built tension. I may have jumped a few times, and yes it relied on a jump scare or two but they were functional and I don’t begrudge the movie for it. I really found myself wondering what would happen next and how they would let it play out. This is a welcome surprise for a reviewer who spends a lot of time in the theatre or otherwise in front of a screen watching movies. Horror within the past decade has taught us that even the protagonist isn’t safe, so while many would discount it going “they won’t kill Blake”…I am not so sure anymore. I rather enjoy the uncertainty. It played on that and I was not disappointed as the movie built and ramped the tension.

From a technical aspect, I notice that the Horror genre is one of the few to try to integrate social media and technology into the narrative. While it is only in the first act, they do a pretty good job of integrating how she uses her phone to look at pictures and a video call with her sister.  Rather than turning the camera away from the actor they keep on her and use overlays to give a display of the screen. This keeps you in the moment with her and holds to a more cohesive narrative rather than cutting away to show whatever is on screen. It’s an introduction from moment one that they use throughout the film to help show the passage of time via her watch and well…the sky. Had they not showed the initial media in this way it would have been more jarring later on. Additionally they use music and make up to progress the story. Marco Beltrami, composer of way too many things, does a good job integrating the music to help build tension appropriately. The make-up department did a knock out job with their work. They had to do a shark bite that looked real-ish, but also to gradually show Lively suffering from sun exposure, dehydration, and side effects from the bite.

The shark is a bit…meh. That said, I have really yet to see a Shark that doesn’t look meh on film. I *love* Jaws (which apparently I need to review?), but Bruce doesn’t look that hot. He did when people didn’t know what sharks looked like, enough so that people did horrible things out of fear of sharks. Now, not so much. Of course he was all practical. Since then we have never really been graced with good sharks. We know more about them in how they hunt, attack, anatomy; hell we have another Shark week coming,  but we still can’t make a shark really look good on film. We know that sharks not only breach, but do so more often than we realized, yet when Hollywood does it…yeah. I am looking a a list of “Movies about sharks” on wiki right now and it’s generally overloaded by SyFy films and their dubious quality. The shark here isn’t *that* bad and it is one of the better ones, but I just feel that we’re still not trying as much as we could to make them look better.


The Shallows is actually one of the best shark attack/survival movies out there. I rather enjoyed the tension and spent a moment talking to the couple next to me after the movie who agreed this is up there in the genre. It doesn’t try to deviate too much from it’s simple premise and that is a strength of the movie. Blake Lively, who I didn’t talk about in the main body is good and has the chops to carry the movie and make it a bit more and work within the confines of the limited location and story. It has a tight running time and is wise to hold to it.

Should you watch it?

If you like the genre – yes. It is a solid ‘natural’ horror/survival film that does it’s job well and entertains.

Will Jess buy it?

Probably. The visuals are good. Sound is good. It’s worth it for that alone. It does have rewatch value.




Darke Reviews – The VVitch (2016)

I won’t lie, I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. The trailer captured my interest and had my attention in it’s two minutes and thirty one seconds.  That was in August of last year. half a year later the movie gets a wide release and we finally get it in Tucson. Of course the review is SPOILER FREE!!!

My original Facebook post said this:

Trailers in the Darke – The Witch (2016)

Solid cast. Good atmosphere. A few jump scares. Looks to have good tension.

I am on board.


Now….was I right? Did it live up to my expectations?

Written and directed by Robert Eggers in his first theatrical full feature film appearance. Eggers has worked across the behind the camera in Art Direction, Costume Design, Production Design, and Art departments prior. This explains much of how he was able to capture and evoke something very disturbingly primal in the film. He admits that much of the dialogue and plot come from journals, folk tales, and myths of early colonial New England. It felt it. I heard dialogue choices that felt appropriate, I heard people talking like people…but from another era.  I find myself hard pressed to think of another film in this genre and era that felt right…and oh so wrong at the same time. His script pulls no real punches and should it be found accurate, I would say this made me believe an aspect, a dark one at that, of Puritan colonial life could have looked like this. That a story such as this could inspire black emotions and torment, even if it was for private gain alone.

That I think is what struck me most in the plot and script. I can see all of the beats of a movie, but at the same time, I see a spark. I see that he touches on emotions and beliefs in the microcosm of this family that if explored wider could lead to a Salem, or worse Auto-da-fe. It was bizarrely natural and unnatural at the same time. The time is inferred, the place you only know as “The commonwealth”, leaving much to the imagination but also with acknowledgement that it’s irrelevant for the story. I was reminded of a conversation earlier this week where I mentioned I hated the Scarlet Letter in school, not just because I was forced to read it, but because I hated that Hester conformed to societal norms. This movie feels like the story I wanted to read. What happens when you take a devout family from their home, not once but twice, and force them apart from society? It was a fascinating, if not predictable, study.

Three of the main characters must carry the brunt of the work of the film. Ralph Ineson (a character actor from Game of Thrones, and many other films in sci fi and fantasy) and Kate Dickie (Lysa Arryn from Game of Thrones) are the parents who must ride a certain balance between fanaticism, family, and despair. They do so quite well and strike the balance better than most “significant” actors would. I find their performance more passioned, more honest, and in times more raw than many critical actors performances in similar roles. As the eldest daughter, Anya Taylor-Joy gets the brunt of the work and watching her performance as her character grows through the film kept me in my seat. I would like to see more of what she can offer Hollywood based on the performance here.

From a technical perspective, the movie is as near as I could tell 100% practical. The house, the farm, everything was practical. This goes a long long way when doing a supernatural suspense and horror film to give you the right feelings and evoke the proper tension as it’s all in camera for you. That of course leads to one of the few downfalls of the movie – it is the living definition of slow burn. The burn pays off, but watching the build up, watching the tension keep getting ratcheted higher took effort, and sadly a lot of the time. The music was a little too much sometimes reminding me a touch of Dark Knight with the strained violins.  The camera work on the other hand is on point with great usage of frames for the scenes telling you what you need to know rather than dialogue.


I find myself surprised. Not at the quality, but that the film was mostly American made. It feels more like a project I would see come out of Spain, Paris, or German cinema. It’s a tight film and feels like Eggers worked for it and simultaneously had clear vision of what he wanted and was passionate about it. I am really happy with this movie. I found myself liking this movie more as I wrote the review. That’s rare!

Do I consider it scary though? No. Suspenseful – yes! It’s also not scary in the traditional sense we’re used to. The jump scares, the gore, that kind of horror? It’s not the only kind. This is a more real and all too relatable kind of horror. It is unsettling at times.

Do I think it worthy of the critical acclaim? Absolutely.

Is Jess going to buy it? YES!

Should you see it?

 If you need something in this supernatural suspense genre, you should watch it. Consider this a superior counter offering to another Conjuring or Insidious. We all complain about not enough original coming out of Hollywood, well here you go. It’s original. It’s not based on a book, a remake, real events, etc etc etc… this is new. Celebrate it.

If this is your genre – please go see this and tell Hollywood we want more! I might go see it again just for that alone.



Darke Reviews | Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

2nd review of the year. Only took a few weeks for the cinematic ball to get rolling to things I want to see. Per the usual rules, I have not read the book here – either of them. Either being Jane Austens original Pride and Prejudice or Seth Grahame-Smith’s zombie “cover” of her material. Now SGS is known to us thanks to the train wreck that was Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, and I was thankful to not see his name in the writing or directors credit. He may write a good novel, but not so much on the film material. Unsurprisingly my tastes do not go for the period or romantic dramatic style film, so Austen and her body of work is and shall remain a mystery to me for some time. I did, however, watch Pride and Prejudice (2005 Kiera Knightley/Matthew Macfadyen) a few weeks ago when a friend was over and put it on while I was playing Fallout. I admit. I enjoyed it far more than I ever anticipated. It was shot so remarkably well, music, acting, everything top notch. I have absolutely no idea how that director gave us last years Pan.

So how was this movie?

Well, we’ve covered who wrote the book, who added zombies to the book, and who shouldn’t touch it as a movie. The man who did is named Burr Steers, as both screenplay credit and director. Not familiar with the name? Don’t expect you to be with two Zac Efron movies, no one I know of saw to his credit, 17 again and Charlie St. Cloud. Having watched the 2005 film adaptation made me judge what I saw far less harshly than I would. The dialogue was stilted, the actors stiff as a corpse, and the pacing was beyond awkward. Just like the source material. Honestly, the ability to match parallels between the last adaptation of the real source material and this one really allowed me to acknowledge the designs in this movie which would be painful otherwise were purely intentional. Changes must be made to incorporate zombies into the structure and with that a new world history which is glossed over nicely; but all in all the film does a remarkable job of being in step with the materials previously published. A feat that must be given credit to Seth Grahame-Smith and Steers himself.

From an actors point of view, Lily James shines. I thought she was a saving grace in Cinderella and I can tell now the critique there squarely falls on the production. The movie lives and breathes around her performance; she is as capable of the romance, the language, and action simultaneously. She does quite a bit with her eyes, which is a requirement for the role of Elizabeth Bennet. She was absolutely believable for both her battle prowess and will. I really want her to have a long and distinguished career in good movies; though her next film has Jai Courtney so I worry there. Sam Riley, Diaval from Maleficent, whom I loved there and love here. What is it with the leads in this film being the standouts in previous Disney live-action adaptations?  His Mister…sorry Colonel Darcy, is engaging despite the required stiffness. He too does a lot with subtle expressions that are all too intentional and very well delivered. Two other roles are also handled well by Douglas Booth (Jupiter Ascending) as Mr. Bingley and Jack Huston (George Wickham); both of whom I could deal with more of.

Rounding out the cast in supporting roles are some true heavies who have minor, but important roles, such as The Doctor (Matt Smith) as Parson Collins, and two Game of Thrones alumni in Charles Dance and Lena Headey. Dance gets to be nice this time as Mister Bennet, while Heady continues to be one of the scariest people on screen as Lady Catherine deBourgh. All three castings were absolutely perfect and all three easily let you know THEY were on screen in just the right ways.

Costuming was solid, a little too much emphasis on being sexy a couple of times, but overall beautiful as the weapons being carried. Sets were good, but I could tell when the budget was thin as some shots that were supposed to be different looked the same just from another angle; but I could be wrong. The fight choreography was good and gave us a scene that in my mind rivals the Zorro fight between Banderas and Zeta-Jones. A little more steady cam would have been nice. Some more creativity in the shots would have been nice beyond the opening sequence. Transitions were handled really well. The make up effects were also top notch. There’s a lot of trainees in the credits, but the film really was one of the better looking zombie films I’ve seen.


For a movie that has been in production hell and switched directors multiple times; this is actually pretty good. The more I talk about it the more I find myself liking it and overlooking its flaws – which are there. It isn’t risky. It isn’t particularly daring with a PG-13 rating, but despite that…it’s watchable.

That said, this is a Zombie movie for fans of Pride and Prejudice. This is not necessarily a zombie movie for someone who hates P&P or otherwise can’t stand a more british drama style pacing. If you DO like Downton Abbey or other British drama’s and also like Zombies this may be right up your alley.

It wasn’t particularly scary or funny, but it was entertaining. I enjoyed myself and really isn’t that what you are supposed to do at the movies?