Monday, 1 June 2020

Exit (UK 2020: Dir Michael Fausti) NEW WAVE OF THE BRITISH HORROR FILM 2020

If anyone tells you that it's impossible to make a gripping low budget movie, just ask them to watch Michael Fausti's debut feature. If anyone tells you that it's impossible to make a low budget movie that remains simple while also functioning on a number of levels, well repeat the instruction. The director has previously impressed with his intelligently realised short films, including The Ingress Tapes (2017) and Dead Celebrities (2018), but Exit is something else altogether.

Essex couple Michelle (Leonarda Sahani) and Steve (Billy James Machin) arrive in London to rent a flat on occasion of their third anniversary. Sleazy letting agent Russell Bone (Tony Denham) shows them round, but their idyllic holiday stalls when they find out that the rental has been double booked: a French couple, Adrienne (Charlotte Gould) and Christophe (Christophe Delesques), have also turned up. Accident or design? Bone suggests that, as it's a two bedroom apartment, the four should stay the night, and accommodation will be sorted for one of the couples the day after. But we know that the whole thing has been pre-arranged by the 'Man on the Phone' (Fausti) who bides his time until the action begins, reading Euro stroke mags and commenting "Typical continentals - she's a nymphomanic and he can't keep his hands to himself."

Slowly the two couples get to know each other. Adrienne and Christophe are witty and sophisticated. They speak a number of languages and they know their wines. Michelle is won over by the couple, but Steve remains unconvinced, feeling threatened by their 'otherness' and annoyed that Michelle doesn't side with him. But as the evening progresses, the conversation turns to sex, Christophe suggesting to Steve that they should couple swap. He's not keen - to put it mildly - but a carefully applied Mickey Finn changes that. The morning after, Steve realises what's happened to both him and his girlfriend, and things turn ugly very quickly.

Michelle (Leonarda Sahani) in Exit
Based on this description, one might argue that Exit is just another thriller. Couple seduce another couple, violence ensues, credits roll. But it's how this story is told, and what we are shown, that elevates Mathew Bayliss's story from interesting to unmissable. For Fausti manages to give us a movie which is not only exciting, seductive and horrific: it's also a statement of the times in which we live and an elliptical time travel story with hints of the supernatural; which isn't bad for what is effectively a four hander. Christophe and Adrienne represent everything that the 'leave' contingent fear; they're - and it's a word that crops up a lot in this film - 'cosmopolitan.' They're all about the sex, the fine drinking, and the worldy wiseness. As Steve, Machin has the unenviable job of being a kind of 'Leave' everyman. When offered wine he responds that he's happy with beer and when offered a glass for the beer replies that he's happy with the can. He gets angry when Michelle observes the difference between her new friends and her boyfriend, sensing that their very sophistication exists merely to show up his lack of it. Historical elements, both characters and art on the apartment walls, suggest a further subtext of history repeating itself, and the flat becomes more constrained and claustrophobic as the drama progresses.

But then 'the foreigners' play to type and become the kind of dangerous predators dreamed up in the worst of Farrage's monologues. But are they like this because they're foreign? Or are they just crazy? But in case you might be thinking that Fausti's film serves to endorse these views, Exit is shot in the varied styles of Euro cinema: Argento's colour schemes and giallo stylings (Michelle's face glimpsed through a full wine glass is a startling shot), and Noe's editing are all possible reference points, as is a subtle supernatural end coda - and did I see a nod to Baise-Moi (2000) in there as well? With some rather startling historical flashback sequences, imaginative photography and Nick Burns' stunning score (how is this his first soundtrack?) Exit is a precocious and important calling card from a director to watch.

I also got to ask director Michael Fausti a few questions about the film.

DEoL: The inspiration for the film was fairly obvious and the film clearly taps in to the 'referendum' madness. Do you see the 'Steve' character an 'everyman' for 'leave' voters, or is he more complex than that?

 In all the films that I make, I always look to create characters and a world that is ambiguous in its morality. People and their motivations are complex. Whilst Steve’s character can be viewed as something of an Everyman figure, I’ve always seen him as being more representative of social class and a type of masculinity. His masculinity is threatened by the house, which has a strong feminine energy about it. With Exit I never wanted to come down on one side or the other of the Brexit debate. The insular nature of the house in Exit is a space that accelerates all of the characters' insecurities, their anger and weaknesses, as well as their desires.
Michael Fausti (left) and Nick Burns scoring Exit

DEoL: Cinematic Influences abound in the film. But can you tell me about the stories behind the art choices on the apartment walls?

MF: There is significance to the paintings in the apartment and I personally framed every one of those pictures and decided where they should be hung on set! Within the mis-en-scene of Exit there are signifiers to potential readings or interpretations of the film. I’ve always enjoyed the art direction and set dressing aspect of filmmaking. However, I want audiences to draw their own conclusions around meaning and connotations within Exit. Once explained, things tend to lose their mystery...

DEoL: The historic flashbacks were very unusual. Can you tell me something about the decision to include them and what you were trying to achieve there (not suggesting you didn't achieve it, I'm just interested).

MF: I’ve always enjoyed films where a character’s seemingly irrelevant story or anecdote anticipates future narrative events. The character of Napoleon makes several appearances throughout the film if you look really closely, and not just in the flashbacks. There is a cyclical aspect to Exit, a sense that characters have been through this before. The house is also a space in which the characters find themselves in each other’s reveries, memories and fantasies. The poisoning of Napoleon does have significance but again I’ll let the audience arrive at their own conclusions.

DEoL: There are many things to love about this film, and Nick Burns' score is up there. How did you find him and what was the scoring process like?

MF: I’ve known Nick for a number of years and he’s helped with sound on some of my earlier short films. Nick is a highly accomplished musician and producer. When I approached him about scoring Exit, he was really excited about the project. He was also on set, overseeing audio during filming. So from early on Nick knew the kind of tone and atmosphere I was aiming for. I wanted to convey a sense of the house having a past and being reactive to the characters. Nick and I had many discussions around the kind of sound design and music that would best achieve this. I think the score is incredible but so too is the sound design. It’s so layered and there are some real subtleties in there, designed to slowly build atmosphere and unsettle the audience. We literally sat side by side each other in his studio, going through every aspect of the audio. Nick just got straight away what I wanted to achieve and made it happen.

DEoL: How did you cast your movie? The casting is spot on and the actors absolutely believable.

The narrative of Exit is largely character driven and we really took our time to get the casting right. We planned for a seven day shoot. So we were looking for actors who’d be able to rise to the challenge of a tough shooting schedule. We posted ads on a casting platform for the characters and got a huge response. We then held auditions in North London. When casting actors, I always look to cast as a group, rather than simply for each role. I’m also looking for actors to take ownership of their characters. The relationship between director and actor should be a collaborative one. When casting you are essentially looking for people who will bring their own degree of creativity to a part. When we secured Tony Denham for the role of Russell Bone, I was confident that we had exactly the right cast to make it happen. I was familiar with Tony’s work in The Football Factory (2004) and In the Name of the Father (1994) and knew that he’d bring some authentic London grit to the role. All of our actors really went above and beyond on set with their performances and I’m really pleased with what they achieved.

DEoL: How pleased are you with the end result? 

Given the inevitable restraints of time and money, I’m really happy with Exit. I never intended to make a simplistic horror genre piece but rather looked to push the boundaries of genre and linear narrative. I wanted to explore dream logic and ideas around desire, culture, history and entrapment. I feel that we achieved this with Exit, in no small part down to the incredible cast and crew that we assembled for the project.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Don't Speak aka Silent Place (UK 2020: Dir Scott Jeffrey) NEW WAVE OF THE BRITISH HORROR FILM 2020

Scott Jeffrey is emerging as one of the more interesting independent horror directors working in the UK at the moment. So far this year three of his films have been or will be released, and I'll cover the other two in future posts.

Let's get the problematic stuff out of the way first. Don't Speak falls into the category of films which are recognisably British both in location and other visual clues (UK license plates, 13 amp sockets etc) but have their cast speak in - largely unconvincing - US accents. Sometimes the director can get away with it: at other times it's consistently irritating, which is the case here. The second, and perhaps more forgivable thing - as movie makers have been doing it pretty much since the trade began - is that the premise of the movie is a direct steal from 2018's A Quiet Place (both titles of the film pretty much seal the deal on that one).

The reason for mentioning those issues first is that Don't Speak is actually a really good film. It's tense, impressively gory, and makes you care for its characters, even if they are only thinly fleshed out.

Parents Rita (Stephanie Lodge) and Alan (Ryan Davies) drive to see Rita's mother Mary (Nicola Wright), after her father was hospitalised with heart problems. But we've already seen Rita's mum's neighbours attacked by a gloopy humanoid 'something', and while Rita and Alan are en route in their Jeep and caravan attachment, complete with son Ben (Jake Watkins), younger sister Charlie (Georgina Jane, from 2019's Pet Graveyard) and her boyfriend Tyler (Will Stanton), the creature has moved on to Mary's house. When the family arrive, passing a sign on a closed gate which ominously reads 'Caution - testing in progress' (which will be important) Mary is nowhere to be seen. They drive back to the nearest village, which also seems to be deserted, as is the local pub. Alan is looking round when he's confronted with a badly injured man man in army fatigues, covered in blood who, as he dies, exclaims: "They made something in the lab. It got out."

And so the stage is set for a tense stand off between the artificially created being, which is blind and senses its victims via sonar (hence the need to be quiet, although plot wise this element is a little patchily applied), and the family. In its way, this is good old fashioned British science fiction film stuff (which is, I suppose, why I was disappointed by the deployment of the American accents - the film is better than that), with the terrified family trying to stay alive against a backdrop of the familiar - the country cottage, the pub and the family's caravan, which becomes a claustrophobic setting for much of the action.

Performance wise the standout here is Georgina Jane as Charlie. We learn early on in the film that she's pregnant, and there's always the possibility that this fertility might feature rather nastily in the plot: and it does, but not in the way you might expect. Jane's fear is thoroughly plausible; indeed the whole cast play fright and panic well, and while one or two plot points go nowhere, and at times the editing is a little uneven, this is a solid film which, apart from the aforementioned influence, also reminded me of 1982's Xtro. Gruelling and pretty good all round.

Monday, 25 May 2020

Dark Eyes Retrovision #22 - Snowpiercer (South Korea/Czech Republic 2013: Dir Bong Hoon Jo)

Is seven years enough to make a film 'retro'? Well it's certainly taken a long time for Bong Hoon Jo's fifth feature to reach Blu Ray and DVD, after its initial rapturous reception both in South Korea and France, the home of the source material. For Snowpiercer started off life as a series of graphic novels, 'Le Transperceniege,' which emerged in 1982 courtesy of writer Jacques Lob - who sadly died in 2002 - and artist Jean-Marc Rochette. The novels had faded from public attention in the intervening years, although French actor/writer director Robert Hossein had expressed an interest in making a film version in the early 1980s.

But unbeknownst to the artist, 'Le Transperceniege' had found its way to the bookshops of South Korea in the early years of the 21st Century, initially as pirated material, and came to the attention of Bong Joon Ho. The director made contact with Rochette and negotiations began for the rights of the film, which eventually started shooting in 2011.

After its initial reception, things went more than a little quiet, however. And the reason? We*nst*in. Apparently the jailed movie mogul's company had acquired the film’s distribution rights for North America, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa on initial release, and he had reportedly wanted to trim the movie by 20 minutes, and "a few other things." Bong refused and the rest is history, albeit a tawdry one.

So now Snowpiercer is finally getting a UK release, and, for those who haven't seen it yet, what a mighty film it is. Its story is deceptively simple. In 2031, the entire planet is frozen following a reaction to a chemical response intended to tackle global warming. The last of the world’s only survivors live aboard the Snowpiercer: a train that’s been hurtling around the globe for the past seventeen years. Within the carriages the remnants of the human race have formed their own divisive economic and class system - or it's been formed for them. But revolution is afoot. Curtis (Chris Evans) is the group appointed leader of the underclasses, who unsurprisingly occupy the massive train's rear compartments, with - it is assumed - life improving the nearer one is to the front of the train. Kept in check by armed guards, and reduced to eating energy bars (the ingredients of which turn out to be very disturbing), Curtis's aim is to lead a band of renegades through the train, eventually taking control of the engine and restoring equality and redistribution of resources across all compartments. But as the revolution begins, Curtis's team find out that not everything is as expected. To put it mildly.

Tilda Swinton as Mason in the brilliant Snowpiercer
The creators of the original 'Le Transperceniege' have admitted that their storytelling was an idealised left wing vision. But as Bong has proved in last year's Parasite, class, and the telling of stories about the impact of divisions, is close to his heart. The cleverness of Snowpiercer is its deployment of blockbuster sci fi moves and then gently deconstructing them. This is far closer to the works of Luc Besson and Terry Gilliam (the late John Hurt's character is even named 'Gilliam') in its collection of awkward, idiosyncratic characters mixed up with square jawed action hero Evans, particularly Tilda Swinton whose factotum Mason is equal parts Tory Shire MP and a The League of Gentlemen character. Of course in the seven years that this has been in We*nst*in hell, many of the cast have become much bigger names than they were here: Evans has proved himself in any number of Marvel adaptations, and Octavia Spencer's career (she plays Tanya, a mum estranged from her child) has rocketed.

Snowpiercer looks incredible, is full of enough little ticks and tricks to make you want to rush to see it again; it's violent, darkly humorous, and has an underlying message that is even more necessary to convey today than in the 1980s when the graphic novel first appeared. I so want to see this on the big screen (sigh). But in the meantime we can finally savour its delights in the home environment. OK this isn't a retro film: it's a tomorrow film.

Snowpiercer is available on Blu Ray and DVD from 25th May.

Blu-ray special features:

• Transperceniege: From the Blank Page to the Blank Screen
• Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton on Snowpiercer
• The Birth of Snowpiercer
• The End of the World, and the New Beginning (animated prologue)
• Characters

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Only the Animals aka Seules les bêtes (France/Germany 2019: Dir Dominik Moll)

German director Moll deploys an oft utilised narrative trick here, telling an endlessly circling story from five different perspectives and temporal shifts. We've seen this used before in films ranging from Rashomon (1950) to 1996's L'Appartement, Babel (2006) and 2007's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead.

Adapted from the 2017 novel 'Seules les bêtes' by Colin Neil, the movie opens with an extraordinary shot: a young man driving into a town with a goat piggy backing him. The location is Abidjan on the Ivory Coast, and the rider is Armand (Guy Roger 'Bibisse' N'Drin). Briefly glimpsed, Armand returns to the story later. Most of the movie is located in Causse Mejean, a hillside town in southern France. Alice Farange (Laura Calamy), who deals in insurance but sort of co-runs a farm with her husband Michel (Denis Ménochet), ventures out to see a client, taciturn Joseph (Damien Bonnard), whom she loves; but despite them having sex the feeling isn't reciprocated. On her way back from Joseph's, in the midst of a blizzard, she passes an abandoned car which, it transpires, is owned by a woman who has gone missing, Evelyne (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi).

It's pretty hard to describe the rest of the film without divulging many of the plot points, which, in the nature of a film like this, are delivered as 'twists' for the viewer. Suffice to reveal that we learn a lot about Evelyne, and much of what happens results from a combination of misunderstandings and subterfuge. Around two thirds through we are returned to Abidjan and the story of Armand, broke and resorting to internet scamming for money. And his crime, perpetrated from nearly 600 miles away, feeds the heart of the movie.

And 'heart' is an interesting word here; while the film is never heartless, it's often cold and sometimes very calculating. These are lonely, isolated characters, reflected in the chopped up way in which their interconnected stories are revealed. Naming the film's five chapters after each of the movie's key characters emphasises this: Alice; Joseph; Marion (who becomes involved with Evelyne); Armand; and finally Michel, whose section is shortest (and also sadly the most improbable).

When a film is assembled in this way, it's only at the end that you get the opportunity to ask yourself whether the story justified the method (see also the told in reverse narratives of Memento (2000) and 2002's Irreversible). "Chance is greater than you," says one character, and while that's a fair summary of the movie, it's also a study in causality. You might argue - again can't give details - that the characters in the film act foolishly or recklessly, but what Only the Animals seems to be telling us is that it's difficult for us to 'do different' - the cast don't make choices, they pursue their instincts, and chance does the rest. The movie is beautifully shot - the snowy vistas of the French plateau contrast stunningly with the noise and colour of the Ivory Coast, and the jigsaw pieces of the film fit together satisfyingly. There is an inevitability to the finale of the movie but I could still have done without it, because the rest of Only the Animals is much more subtle than that. But it's a small grumble about a very good film.

Only the Animals streams exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema from 29th May.

Friday, 22 May 2020

The Final Wish (USA 2018: Dir Timothy Woodward Jr)

The hoary old story of 'The Monkey's Paw' gets resuscitated for each cinematic generation, it would seem. One would have thought the last word on the subject would have been delivered courtesy of the four films in the Wishmaster series (1997 - 2002) but no: in the 2010s we had a straightforward re-telling of the story in The Monkey's Paw (2013). 2017's Wish Upon changed the paw of the tale to a haunted music box which grants the owner seven wishes, and Woodward Jr's movie - made back in 2018 - pretty much re-runs that film, complete with Final Destination movie touches and even, in the final shot, a yard sale scene which suggests a sequel - could this be the start of a 'Monkey's Paw' universe?

Anyway back to the beginning. Newly qualified lawyer Aaron Hammond (Michael Welch) returns to his Ohio home town following the death of antique shop owning dad, to settle the estate. His mum Kate (Lin Shaye, marvellous as always), caught up in grief, is dismissive of his return after an extended period of time away from home. Aaron has singularly failed to gain employment since he qualified, and feels he's being passed over for opportunities because he's too working class. Re-aquainting with his old friends, it's clear that Aaron has tried to better himself and escape his small town roots, which doesn't sit well with the people still living there, particularly bad boy turned nasty cop (Kiwai Lyman, mean as a snake) who's hooked up with Aaron's former sweetheart Lisa (Melissa Bolona) in his extended absence.

But Aaron's not perfect. In debt because of unemployment - he needs $3000 to avoid being evicted from his apartment - he organises a yard sale to flog some of his father's stuff, without telling Kate, and when that fails tries the auction site route. But salvation is about to come his way via one of his father's many possessions, an ugly urn, which contains a wish granting djinn. Aaron merely needs to preface any request with the words "I wish..." for it to be fulfilled. Aaron is initially unaware of the connection between the urn and his sudden change of luck - a scratch card win, his mum suddenly perking up when he wished she could be happy - but when he's accidentally run over by his friend Ty (Jean Elie) and undergoes facial reconstruction surgery as a result, he has cause to remember his wish to be more handsome (the 'surgery' seems to be no more sophisticated than giving Welch a new hair cut and some subtle eye liner).

The back story to the urn and its occupant - a spirit trapped by ancient, pre Mesopotamian mystics - is delivered by Colin the Librarian (Tony Todd in has gazillionth genre walk on role) who stresses that the wishee is limited to seven goes and then has to forfeit their soul. And Aaron can't remember how many wishes he'd asked for.

This is all pretty silly stuff, but well delivered, and it's good to see a slightly older cast than the usual PG tryouts normally fronting up this kind of thing. The themes running through the story - class, loss, the bond between mother and son - are deeper than you'd normally expect in a movie about a wish giving spirit (Jeffrey Riddick, creator of the Final Destination franchise, wrote the script, which would probably explain some of the FAisms in the movie - no bad thing). Lin Shaye is her usual excellent self - dancing in the moonlight with her worm infested dead husband (yep another wish that didn't quite pan out) is a standout spooky scene - and Michael Welch transforms cleverly from geeky guy to adonis. The Final Wish is perfect Saturday night beer and popcorn entertainment.

The Final Wish is released by Signature Entertainment on Digital HD from 25th May.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

The Devil's Familiar (UK 2019: Dir Kieran Edwards)

Like his fellow Kidderminster area dweller, Tom Lee Rutter (who has a role in this film), Kieran Edwards is a West Midlands filmmaker whose love for his local vicinity, and its rich history of myths and mysteries, informs his movie.

The Devil's Familiar is also a found footage film that is clever enough to lever in bits of narrative sleight of hand so that it largely doesn't feel like one. Which is all to the good.

Opening in a police station, where footage has been recovered and is to be played to a group of coppers, as the tape rolls we meet our protagonists. Elliott Mooney (Uriel Davies) and Jake McIntryre (Edwards himself, who largely does the filming and thus hides from the camera - he equally lurks at the end of the credits, the bashful chap) are two final year students on a film and video production degree course. For their last project Elliott, who seems to be the one who calls the shots, decides to put together an investigative documentary covering a murder which took place back in 2006. The victim, Bob Nuegent, was found dead in his car, the victim of terrible wounds, commensurate with the claw marks of a wild beast. Passing dogwalker Edd Greuben found the body, but he also came across the very much alive but bloody figure of Sally Edwards, raving about the huge figure of a wild beast that had carried out the killing; a third person, Paul Webster, was missing from the scene. The tide of public opinion and the law favoured Sally as the killer, and despite protesting her innocence during the court case, she was found guilty, and ended up in a secure psychiatric unit.

Elliott and Jake set out to uncover the truth about the case in that there were some things that didn't add up. They first interview the journalist who covered the whole thing, Reeve Rider (Rutter), then expand their net to a series of experts, Sally herself (Sarah Page) whose marbles have clearly played their last game, and finally Paul's brother Rex (Ross Mooney) who had managed to photograph a dark shape which he believes is the beast that murdered his sibling. With the addition of an expert from the local game park, Logan DeEmmony (David Clarke) - and yes they did check whether any of the animals had escaped that evening - they venture into the location of the murder, Ribbesford Woods, to try and get to the truth.

Making great use of nearby locations - Ribbesford Woods (a real place), West Midland Safari Park (complete with shots of giraffes and other beasts for authenticity), and Kidderminster hospital and police station - Edwards' film benefits from being grounded in a believable world. His cast are good, but not great, which actually helps build authenticity. Elliott in particular descends from self assurance to a quivering mess by the end of the movie, and the supports are made up of West Midlands indie horror regulars.

The beast - and spoiler alert, there is one - is only fleetingly glimpsed, but only at the point where a real sense of atmosphere has been established; it's basically a riff on the 'Black Shuck' myth but a lot more deadly - warning; there are severed limbs in this film.

But the real joy of The Devil's Familiar is the 'onion skin' of the story layers being peeled back, full of unreliable narrators and contradictory accounts. At 56 minutes the movie packs it all in - including some great Kill List business - or maybe The Devil's Business business - and I loved all 56 of them. Well done everybody and I can't wait to see more from 'The Kidderminster House of Horror.'

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Proximity (USA 2020: Dir Eric Demeusy)

Eric Demeusy has a variety of technical credits, including digital artist on 2016's Stranger Things, animator on Tron: Legacy (2010) and writer of a 2015 Star Wars short called The New Republic Anthology. Themes from all these projects - and many others - inform the style and content of his feature debut, the disjointed YA sci-fi yarn Proximity.

In a 1979 prologue, a lumberjack, Carl (played as his younger self by David Baumgardner and as an older version of the same character by Don Scribner) has a close encounter with a huge flying saucer, which abducts him.

Flash forward in time to 'the present day' (in reality a kind of hybrid of the contemporary and the 1980s, with the fashion and music of the latter but the tech of the former) and we meet Isaac (Ryan Masson, looking at little like a young Stephen Geoffreys or even, for older readers, Bud Cort) a young maths geek who is a computer modeller working on a space programme (!). On the advice of his counsellor to help him deal with the death of his father, he begins to film himself - on a clunky old school movie camera, no less, but which bafflingly seems to shoot on Hi-8 - and its on one of these reflective video jaunts that he too encounters a UFO and its Whitley Strieber 'Communion' style aliens - you know, tall, skinny, rapidly blinking eyes - and is abducted. But unlike Carl he films the whole thing, and uploads the footage on the internet.

Predictably the crowd goes wild, and he becomes a computer sensation until the doubters find their voice, claiming the film is "shiny homemade CGI." Isaac reaches out to the conspiracy theory/abduction crowd, and meets Sara (Highdee Kuan), who is initially reticent about sharing her story. But Isaac's publicity, all done in the name of being taken seriously, attracts the attentions of a group of 'men in black' characters who kidnap both he and Sara, taking them to the agents' hideout in Costa Rica; they're intent on discovering a connection between the pair and Carl, who has been missing for the last 40 years, and they also may be interested in Isaac's new found super powers, which in truth are less super than plain confusing. Escaping the facility Sara and Isaac, who have hooked up with tech wizard Zed (Christian Prentice), realise they have to connect with Carl by travelling to his home in Canada if they're to stand any chance of staying alive.

Proximity veers woozily from one style to another; it starts off as sci fi abductee thriller, then becomes a chase movie with robots and underground bunkers, then changes pace again with The Matrix style hardware, a dash of the 1997 film Contact and a quasi religious ending (the visiting aliens basically want to know who Jesus was, claiming him to be the "link to the origin of everything," perhaps ignoring the fact that there's more than one religion in the world). The bad guys utter phrases like "Calling all agents and androids!" and talk about achieving their aims by "any force necessary." And if you couldn't work out that lurve is gradually forming between Isaac and Sara, towards the end there's schmaltzy music every time they share the screen.

On the plus side some of the effects do look very impressive and the locations - including Costa Rica and Canada - are stunning. And there was one meta laugh out loud moment where Isaac, filming himself on his enormous 80s camera (remember the movie is set in the present day) is challenged as to why anyone would want to record themselves?

But this is basically an extended episode of The X Files for kids. Look, if I saw this aged 10, I'd probably love it, but it's neither charming nor exciting enough to sustain interest in the 58 year old version of myself. Sorry.

Proximity is available via Signature Entertainment on Digital HD from May 18th.