Category Archives: thriller

Brimstone – Martin Koolhoven (2016)

In the days the Dutch have just settled America we find a young midwife who has a child-birth go wrong. Everybody seems to think she is a witch and especially the newly arrived pastor (a great Guy Pierce) seems ominous.

Liz and the pastor appear to have a past which is further elaborated in the second part of the film. An unexpected plot-line unfolds which is explained more in the third part. This is wonderfully done.

“Brimstone” shows early American settlers of the extremely religious type and well shows the pressure this religion brought, or at least, how it was used. The story-line of Liz and the pastor makes a gloomy red thread through the film which culminates in a fourth part which wraps up the story.

Taking two-and-a-half hours the Dutch director tells his horrible story in a great, international way, giving both an idea of these days, its religion and telling a story of tension.

A Dark Song – Liam Gavin (2016)

A young woman has a wish and to fulfill it, she turns to Solomonic magic. It was not entirely clear to me what her aim was (she says something different a few times), but I do wonder how an inexperienced person would come up with a months-long (!!) ritual spending tens of thousands of dollars for a need. Would most people not just get one of these ‘magic in five minutes’ type books? Well, her son was killed by black magic, perhaps that is why.

We first see Sophia looking for a proper place which became a massive and remote mansion. Then she has to find an experienced magician who she finds in Joseph Solomon. The film soon plunges into the ritual itself.

What is not too common is that the magic is shown pretty much without prejudice, highlighting some of the concepts and ways of working and showing the amount of work and preparation needed. Then again, when the magic is supposed to be based on the magical books ascribed to Solomon and/or Abramelin then why not just use the imaginary that can be found in hundreds of freely available books and on the internet? Joseph’s books look like something wholly different and he even paints Chinese characters on Sophia’s body. Furthermore, Solomonic rituals can be extensive, but six to eight months and covering several rooms plus preparations?

That said, we follow Sophia and Joseph trying to work their way through their massive ritual which is built of smaller rituals and purifications. They argue and fight like a couple and the viewer is mostly left out of the magic. Towards the end the film does work towards that angle, but then it is fairly corny horror.

“A Dark Song” is to some extent interesting when we follow the two people preparing, performing and discussing the ritual. These parts are a bit too thin and other elements are just not good enough. The 6.1 on is not far off in my opinion. I would bring the average a bit down with my….:

Zero Dark Thirty – Kathryn Bigelow (2012)

This film shows the years long hunt for Osama Bin Laden. It opens with 911 calls from the Twin Towers and then quickly moves a few years ahead showing scenes of unpleasant interrogation techniques of the Americans.

We mostly follow the determined Maya, a young woman convinced that she is going to find Bin Laden. We all know eventually this succeeds, but “Zero Dark Thirty” shows to what lengths especially the CIA had to go for that. We see secret prisons, extreme interrogations, Afghan and Pakistan life and terrorists doing their thing.

The film is quite intense and especially the last scenes are quite tense. Not a pleasant watch, but an apparently good take on a famous part of recent history.

Argo – Ben Affleck (2012)

When the Iranian people get rid off a despot American puppet president, the country is going in an opposite direction. Where the last president steered the country in a Western direction, Ayatollah Khomeini brings extremely conservative Islam to the country. When the previous president gets asylum in the USA, the mood gets fiercely anti-American with massive demonstrations.

During one such demonstration the American embassy is sacked. Almost 60 people are taken hostage for months. Six people manage to escape and hide in the city. The film shows the elaborate plan to get the six out of the country, the other 60 are hardly spoken about.

“Argo” is a dense thriller that shows the extreme circumstances in the new Iran well. Naturally a cat-and-mouse game unfolds which can only lead to an American patriotic outcome, but the film makes a watch-worthy two hours.

The Guest – Adam Wingard (2014)

Did I want to see this film so badly that I put him on my watch-list in spite the fact that I could only get a French DVD? The French subtitles could not even be turned off!

“The Guest” is pretty boring. A family gets a visit from a young man who says he was with their deceased son in the army. Talking well, “David” manages to stay with the family for a while. From the first second it is clear what is going to happen and indeed, “David” goes from being a friendly get, a being a menace to the family.

The only positive about the film is a slightly ‘1980’ies vibe’ which even includes music by DAF.

Kingdom Hospital (series) – Stephen King (2004)

For a long time I have known about this Stephen King version of Lars von Trier’s wonderful series “Riget” (a.k.a. “Kingdom”). In doubt if a remake would add anything to the original series, for a long time the idea of watching “Kingdom Hospital” remained slumbering in the back of my head. A while ago I ran into the box so cheaply that I decided that it was time to watch it after all.

“Kingdom Hospital” can be best regarded a series with references to “Riget” instead of being a remake. From the first episode it is clear that Stephen King does not follow Von Trier’s story. He added elements and left things out. Some characters return, but usually the names have been changed. Sigrid Drusse became Sally Druse; Jørgen Krogshøj, Dr. Hook; Stig Helmer, Dr. Stegman; Mona Jensen, Mona Klingerman. This immediately says something about the story-lines that found their way into King’s story. The weirdest things have been left out though!

Again the hospital is built on a place where a catastrophe took place in swampy conditions. The dead of these days still haunt the hospital, in King’s version causing earthquakes. Druse finds the little girl Mary and tries to help her in her typical spiritualistic way and her annoying personality, forcing her son to help her. King turned the story more in a fight between good and evil which brings a larger role to some elements, but also introduces new characters. Most notably “Antubis”, a boy trying to run amok and an artist patient who is chosen to save the hospital. Other notable elements are left out, such as Lillebror (the baby) and Age Krüger (perhaps he has been exchanged for the boy). Other things have been changed, such as the secret society of doctors, the sleep research facility and . Other amusing elements have been added, such as King’s own part as Johnny B. Goode.

You may get the point, “Kingdom Hospital” should be approached with no expectations of what is to come. It is an entirely new story with elements and characters known to people who know “Riget”. I think the series are more amusing when you indeed know “Riget”, especially because a few things make more sense. There is no need to know “Riget” to enjoy “Kingdom Hospital” though. The series make a slightly weird horror soap (more horror than “Riget” I might add) which has been worked more into a coherent story than “Riget”. What is too bad is that the “finale” is pretty weak and the end pretty horrible… That may be a reference to “Riget”s sudden end?

All in all amusing series which are probably even more amusing when you know the series made by Lars von Trier who produced Stephen King’s version.

Green Room – Jeremy Saulnier (2015)

A punk group has a concert gone wrong, almost nobody showed up. The organiser sets up another concert, so the band drives to the other location. This appears to be a remote location with a different audience, more skinheads. The band brilliantly opens with the Dead Kennedy’s song against a certain kind of punks. The audience likes the rest of the set better.

After the show one of the members sees something that he had better not, so the band is directed back to the dressing room waiting for the police. The people of the venue have other ideas with the band than they hoped though.

“Green Room” has an alright story, but overall is a not too strong thriller that tries to lean towards horror.

Liberty Stands Still – Kari Skogland (2002)

Wesley Snipes is a sniper whose daughter was shot dead by a schoolmate. He decides to make a stand by taking an influential young woman from the arms industry hostage and making a media spectacle of that.

The film opens with fast montage and good music, but when “Joe”‘s plan starts to unfold, slows down and becomes a “stand still” film with the woman chained to a place and Joe performing his scheme from another. Most of the film takes place in two places in the city.

The atmosphere of the film is fairly good, the message crystal clear: the rights of the Americans have gone too far where they concern the right to bear arms.

The Watcher – Joe Charbanic (2000)

A descent serial-killer-thriller in which Keanu Reeves is the bad guy playing his sick game with FBI agent Campbell (James Spader).

The story may not be too surprising, but it is worked out well and the predictability adds to the tension in some scenes. The film contains some tense scenes and some action. The acting is good, the ending perhaps a bit too sudden.

Spartan – David Mamet (2004)

Here we have a fairly standard, but descent, action thriller. The opening is a bit confusing. Is Scott (Val Kilmer) some elite soldier, does he work for a secret service or both? We find him (helping) recruiting people and immediately after he is recruited himself for a job in which the daughter of a candidate for presidency is kidnapped.

From then on, “Spartan” is more straightforward. Scott and his team set out to investigate the kidnapping. It soon appears that some women’s trafficking group took a blonde not knowing who she is and the circle for investigation becomes wider and wider and people’s purposes become vaguer (or not).

The film has nicely built up tension, descent action, a good parts of Ed O’Neill and William H. Macy (both I know for very different roles).

Not a must-see, but not a waste of time either.