Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Black Mountain Side (Canada 2014: Dir Nick Szostakiwskyj)

The creepy and beguiling Black Mountain Side has now officially achieved movie 'sleeper status'; it was made back in 2014, spent most of 2015 doing the US festival circuit, only finally getting a UK home release in the second part of 2016 (no theatrical run sadly), with the distributors mysteriously dropping 'Side' from the DVD issue, which I'm choosing to ignore. If a director as talented as the early twenty-something Nick Szostakiwskyj (who also wrote and co-produced the film) thinks Black Mountain Side's ok for a title, that's good enough for me.

This intense snowbound psychological brain bender has been described as a love letter to John Carpenter's 1982 movie The Thing, which is fair; as well as sharing a wintry backdrop - Canada's British Colombia - the film also features an all male cast of archaeologists who are driven collectively crazy following the discovery of an ancient shrine in the mountains. But there are other valid comparisons - the steadicam gliding over the snow, tracking the characters as their screws start to loosen, recalls the menacing camera sweeps of 1980's The Shining, and there's a touch of Sam Raimi's 1981 splatterfest The Evil Dead in the claustrophobic wood cabin environments shared by the men.

The cast of Black Mountain Side uttering a collective "WTF?"
Black Mountain Side takes a while to set up its horror and body count. The introduction of an expert on ancient structures, brought in to the group to help solve the mystery of the shrine, is the point at which the story takes off. But as much as we do get a rather Lovecraftian explanation involving ancient bacteria and a cult of self-mutilation, we remain as confused as the rest of the team about what is real and what is hallucination, particularly when the focal point of the force - a strange elk-like creature
who may or may not have a glowing nose - is finally revealed.

Strange stuff indeed and as well as some pin-sharp acting performances the film's sound design is crucial here - there's no score, just the endless silence of deep snowfall and the ticks and creaks of the cabins, so when the sharp bursts of violence occur among the men it's all the more shocking. The director has described the shoot as very intense. He hired some out of season holiday cabins deep in the forest - undoubtedly charming in summer but bleak and inhospitable in the depths of winter - with the cast sleeping where they were filming, helping to create a hugely oppressive atmosphere. That the film refuses to deliver a happy ending is probably a given - that it manages to create a mounting sense of tension despite the increasingly unusual events on screen makes me recommend it to you wholeheartedly. A film to watch more than once, certainly.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Under the Shadow (Iran/Jordan/Quatar/UK 2016: Dir Babak Anvari)

Iranian born director Babak Anvari has dug deep into his own life story for the setting of his first directorial feature, Under the Shadow. He was born in the middle of the Iran/Iraq war, and his doctor father would regularly be posted to different locations, leaving the anxious Anvari and his brother alone in the house with their mother for long stretches of time.

This scenario forms the basis for a tense and genuinely frightening movie about isolation, the ever present threat of conflict (the film is set in Tehran) and the supernatural. The story introduces us to Shideh, who is mother to a sweet little girl called Dorsa. As the film opens Shideh's request to return to medical school has just been turned down because of her previous record of political activity. Her disappointment at this decision is compounded by her husband Iraj, a qualified doctor, who is dismissive of her aspirations, wanting her to devote more time to being a mother. Tensions in the family, already strained because of money issues, escalate when Iraj is given a military posting to a high-conflict area. Left alone in their flat, Dorsa forms a friendship with a strange orphan boy living in another apartment, and as a result starts talking about the djinn, an evil spirit who may be coming to hurt them. As a progressive woman Shideh is dismissive of this, but events in the flat quickly and terrifyingly escalate, focusing on the now fever-ridden Dorsa, gradually leading her to accept the truth about a demonic presence.

Narges Rashidi as Shideh
Under the Shadow is a film of two halves, which resist accusations of 'oil and water' storytelling as both elements are equally frightening in different ways. In the first section we are exposed not only to the unfairness of Shideh's thwarted ambition, but also the cloud of secrecy she must live under to enjoy a life with some respite from Iranian strictures. It may be unfair for western audiences to pronounce judgement on the ways of 1980s Iran without fully understanding its culture, but its effects on an intelligent woman trying to hold her life together are plain to see. We witness Sideh working out to a Jane Fonda tape, a ritual that is clearly something she holds dear (later once the tape has gone missing she will exercise in front of a blank TV screen, in order to preserve some sense of sanity in her world), played on a VCR that she hides when strangers visit the flat. We also see her trying to keep the household together after Iraj leaves, despite pleas from friends and family to flee the city as the conflict draws nearer to Tehran. Even after an unexploded bomb lands on the flat above, causing a massive crack to appear in her ceiling, she remains.

So when then the supernatural elements start to creep in, just over half way through the film, tension is already at breaking point. The frightening events of the second half of the film are made worse by a creeping realisation that the demonic presence - which reveals itself to Dorsa first in an attempt to drive a wedge between mother and daughter - is possibly here as punishment for Sideh's cultural transgression. Anvari cleverly bases his demon on Iranian belief; as one of the characters says, the djinn, a supernatural creature with roots in Arabic and middle eastern mythology, is frequently mentioned in the Quran. One could argue that this is an attempt to rise above the standard fright flick monster. But fear not, he's quite capable of delivering good old fashioned scares, including a 'jump' moment that caused one person in my screening to scream, a rare event in hardened critic circles.

Avin Manshadi as Dorsa
There is some incredibly impressive acting on display here from the three leads: Bobby Naderi as the stoic and rigid Iraj, a very believable Avin Manshadi in her first role as Dorsa, and Narges Rashidi, already an accomplished actor, who is absolutely first rate as Shideh, balancing frustration and determination as she struggles to keep things together.

A number of people have suggested that Under the Shadow borrows from The Babadook simply because the film features a mother and child's relationship with a creature of darkness, a comparison  I reject as rather lazy. While it's true that the setup is not in itself original (although the context definitely is), I'm far more intrigued by the more subtle genre references at work; the initial smaller disturbances affecting the family, like Dorsa's doll and Sideh's exercise tape going missing, suggests the haunting-by-stealth of the the earlier Paranormal Activity entries; the gradual deterioration of Sideh's nerves and the condition of her flat, in particular the hole in the ceiling which she rather pathetically tries to mend with masking tape (and which will be the location for one of the film's more frightening scares) reminded me of Roman Polanski's 1965 film Repulsion. And finally, and without giving too much away, the film contains the creepiest use of a bedsheet since, and possibly influenced by Jonathan Miller's 1968 BBC TV adaptation of the MR James story Whistle and I'll Come to You.

In interviews Babak Anvari has mentioned that he's not a fan of horror films per se, and audiences shouldn't expect his next film to be Under the Shadow 2 or even a film within the same genre. I think that's probably wise, because it would hard to top this as one of the tensest scariest films I've seen for quite some time. But whatever it is, his next film will be eagerly anticipated.

Monday, 22 August 2016

The Shallows (US 2016: Dir Jaume Collet-Serra)

I'm not ashamed to mention that I've enjoyed all of Jaume Collet-Serra's movies, from the gloopy fun of House of Wax (2005) via the audacious but extremely watchable Orphan (2009) to the pensioner action antics of Liam Neeson in Non Stop (2014) and Run All Night (2015). So yep, I'm a fan. His latest stripped down essay in tension featuring one woman and a shark is a thoroughly diverting not quite hour and a half, slicker than it has the right to be, and quite the thrill ride when it gets going.

Medical student Nancy visits an out-of-the-way beach which holds sentimental value for her as one of her late mother's favourite places. Brought up surfing on the lakes of Texas (!) our heroine soon proves that she's more than a match for the massive ocean waves, impressing fellow surfers who warn her about the sharp corals - so we know they'll come into the equation later on. What they don't tip her off about, largely because they're unaware of its existence (rather odd for seasoned water jockeys), is the presence of a great white shark, in whose feeding ground Nancy is blithely surfing. Trapped on a rock after the shark bites her leg and with only a plucky seagull for company, she must work out a way to get back to the beach before her attacker closes in for the kill.
Blake Lively - going through it for our entertainment
The Shallows delights in putting its heroine through the wringer for most of the film's running time, with a full-on physical performance by Gossip Girl's Blake Lively (apart from the bits where her head is dodgily grafted onto the body of a real surfer via CGI), and in administering some nasty wounds (shark and coral) when it looks like she may just be winning her woman v. beast battle. That Lively has to survive dressed only in a bikini and sometime wet-suit is I suppose a given, although Collet-Serra is gentleman enough to minimise the lascivious body tracking shots you'd expect in a good old exploitation movie.

But how much is this an exploitation movie? The film's rather over-processed look makes the whole thing appear strangely comic book in execution - I think we're in PG-13 territory again. Sure it's tense, but it steers away from the reality of say Chris Kentis's Open Water (2003) or even Andrew Traucki's 2010 The Reef (filmed, like The Shallows, in Australia) to present a danger-lite version of the shark threat movie where even the obligatory self-surgery carried out by Nancy on her leg bite is diminished by virtue of the fact that as a trained nurse she knows what she's doing.

The shark itself is quite an impressive bit of CGI and Collet-Serra's decision to use it sparingly is decidedly in its favour (I surely don't need to mention another shark movie that didn't learn this lesson). It's a testament to Blake Lively's performance that about the only non human she physically gets to work with (ie that wasn't created in post production) is the seagull, appropriately named Steven, whose comic timing is, wait for it, impeccable.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Hank Boyd is Dead (US 2015: Dir Sean Melia) plus short interview with the director

One of my favourite films of the year so far, Sean Melia’s whip-smart acidly funny 2015 comedy about a dysfunctional family of killers seems to have sprung out of nowhere but definitely deserves your attention.

Sarah is a newbie catering assistant on her first job, serving up the food and drinks at a wake for Hank Boyd. The dead guy’s not so popular, what with being a convicted killer and everything, and so the guests at the wake are mainly family. But what a family! Hank’s brother David, a policeman with some, shall we say, control issues, presides over the proceedings. Then there’s grandma, the seemingly-in-shock Beverly, and wackiest of all is David’s sister Aubrey, who seems to have stepped straight out of Jack Hill’s 1964 demented family saga Spider Baby. Sarah starts to smell a rat when she realises that she had gone to school with Hank and is pretty convinced he isn’t, or wasn’t killer material. An overheard conversation between David and his cop partner Ray leads her to think that the wrong person may have been convicted of murder, but before she can do anything about it, she’s imprisoned in the basement while the whole family show their true colours.

Sean Melia’s short films – including the excellent 2008 movie You Don’t Know Me – suggested the producer, writer and director was capable of a decent feature length movie, but he’s surpassed expectations with HBID. Comedy thrillers can be really problematic, but Melia has his cast – Stephanie Frame as waspish but feisty Sarah, David Christopher Wells as on and over the edge cop David, and the brilliant Carole Monferdini and Liv Rooth as, respectively, Beverly and Aubrey – downplay their roles even when things on screen are ratcheted up to 11, which works so effectively. The script is also a winner, all sotto voce comments and hilarious back chat.

Stephanie Frame as caterer in danger Sarah in HBID
This is small budget stuff, but it doesn’t matter – the events in the house are interspersed with old Super 8mm family footage and interviews, which opens the film out and prevents it feeling too claustrophobic (most of the action happens in one location).  A great film that I can’t recommend highly enough. I can’t wait to see more from Sean Melia.

(This review was written for www.bloody-flicks.co.uk - Hank Boyd is Dead is on UK's Amazon Prime now).

I managed to snatch a few words with Sean Melia, director of Hank Boyd is Dead, via the magic of the internet:

DEoL: Where did the idea for HBID come from?

SM: I grew up loving all things horror and wanted to do something that was within the genre but also poked fun a bit at classic tropes like the psycho family, last girl standing, monster in the attic, that sort of thing.  I fell in love with the idea of a bickering clan of sociopaths with the same dysfunctions as a typical American family and how that could play against the horror of what was happening, sort of an Arrested Development meets the Sawyers or the Firefly brood.  Thankfully my cast got the joke and was able to stride the line between farce and terror.

DeoL: Tell me a little about the shoot – budget, locations etc.
Sean Melia

SM:  This is my first feature, self-financed by me with some help from family and friends.  Total budget was just under $50K, but everyone got paid for their work and it was a fun shoot.  I wrote the script with the idea of making a movie in a week since that was all the time I could afford to take off and we shot it in just under eight days. The location is my home town of Edison, New Jersey and the house is the house I grew up in. The cast is largely made up of actor friends that worked with me on my short films, but it wasn't just a matter of convenience, I thought they were all really great at what they did and would add tremendous production value to the project.  I'm looking forward to working with them again. 

DEoL: This was your first feature. Your previous short films (What Goes Bump in the Night?, The Administrator, You Don’t Know Me) have all dealt with seemingly innocent looking people showing a capacity for or being exposed to violence, and HBID builds on this. What attracts you to this theme?

SM: I think the key to all great horror or suspense movies is abnormal happenings in a seemingly normal day.  You Don't Know Me turns the tables on a prank, The Administrator is along similar comic lines of HBID where a hit man is asked to make a slasher styled snuff film starring an unsuspecting "client". My feature scripts all seem to deal with horrible versions of the American Family that I destroy in the most entertaining ways possible.  I'm a very empathetic person with a overdeveloped sense of right and wrong to the point where I feel guilty about dropping a gum wrapper on the ground. I guess I like to explore whatever is the opposite of that. 

DEoL: You seem to do a lot in your movies – writing, producing – even music. Do you have a preference?

SM: I enjoy all of it, although I'm looking forward to collaborating more on future projects and just sticking to the writing / directing gig.  Editing, producing, sound design, composing, web design, artwork and the like were all done by me out of necessity more than anything else. 

DEoL: What’s next – any future projects? 

SM: I have two other low budget scripts that I'd love to make in the near future, both of which were written before HBID but were a little too expensive to produce on our own.  One is a more serious thriller called I See A Darkness that deals with a family man who's contacted by an old roommate from a decade earlier who tells him that the house they used to live in is about to be torn down and he needs help moving the body buried in the basement. Welcome To The Johnsons is very much like HBID in tone and tells the story of a family of siblings and their significant others who gather at a lake house to stage an intervention, only to have the interventionist be replaced by a serial killer who specializes in writing first person obituaries.  If I can scrape up about $100K to do either of those I'm ready to go. In the meantime I'm writing a dark comedy about a yard sale gone wrong that I think is also going to be a lot of fun.  

DEoL: Sean, thanks a lot - we'll look out for them!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Lights Out (US 2016: Dir David F. Sandberg)

Lights Out conforms to the now established tenets of PG-13 horror film making: ensure that your lead characters are of audience-identifiable age, and give the adults no more than a third of screen time; explain everything to the viewer - they can't have too much information; make sure the scares are largely detached from any violence; avoid swearing where possible, and no sexual swear words; and go for a redemptive ending, as although you want to make sure your audience go on a journey, they need to feel good about themselves afterwards.

Added to to the pressures of these constraints, Swedish director David F. Sandberg has an extra problem; how do you extend to feature length your extremely effective short film of the same name, which pretty much delivered all of the scares of your full length movie in just under three minutes?

Faced with the above it's amazing that Sandberg has been able to offer up anything worth your time, but for the most part Lights Out is a competently made, well-acted, if totally formulaic and unadventurous fright flick.

Young Martin lives with his mother Sophie, and is witness to her increasingly erratic behaviour - she's often found talking to a presence who Martin can't see. His step sister Rebecca takes Martin away from the family home for his own good; Rebecca has experienced the same maternal behaviour when she was a little girl, and doesn't want Martin exposed to it. Rebecca and her boyfriend Bret discover that there is a dark malevolent presence hanging around Sophie, called Diana. Sophie and Diana have a shared history within a mental institution going back to when they were both teenagers, although the records show that Diana died within the facility. So who's talking to Sophie now and what does Diana want with the family?

For those not in the know (both of you) the movie's title refers to the fact that Diana can only be seen in darkness. Once the lights are on, she vanishes. This angle is established right from the first scene, where Rebecca and Martin's father is despatched by the creature in an effective pre-credits sequence. After this, the 'kids' in the movie catch on pretty quick to the best way to keep the demon at bay, and there is, as you can imagine, a lot of fun to be had with failing flashlights and empty basements.

While the 'now-you-see-her-now-you-don't' jump scares become very predictable very quickly, the editing is tight and there's a great sound design which emphasises Diana's scratchy movements effectively. This is, however, all very reminiscent of The Babadook (2014) and Sandberg also borrows heavily from Ringu (1998) and its sequel. But the film has the depth of neither of these films (by choice probably) - the mood isn't helped by some very strained dialogue.

There's also a lot of soap-style back story in Lights Out, fulfilling one of the key PG-13 tenets - tell the audience everything. The problem with the approach of leaving nothing unexplained in a fright flick is that, the more you explain the more unexplained and frankly illogical detail is exposed to the audience. This is perhaps most problematic in the history of Sophie and her dark companion; this part of the story is told through the unravelling of facts by Rebecca, leaving the mother's pivotal role in events diminished and pushed to the background. This may have been done to help the audience identify more with the younger cast member, but leaves many other facts about the relationship between Sophie and the thing of the dark up in the air.

Perhaps the most unsettling thing in the film is the treatment of mental illness. bearing in mind the movie's target audience and a lot of work currently being done to highlight issues of depression among young people. The plot of Lights Out makes Sophie's condition frightening simply for dramatic effect, and her final solution for dealing with Diana, which I won't spoil, left a nasty taste in my mouth, if not her children's.

But maybe I'm being oversensitive. After all, I'm clearly not the right target audience for this film. The guy sitting to my left at the screening I attended clearly was - he spent most of the movie with his fingers in front of his eyes, shouting "Don't go in there!" every time they got near a half open door. Ah, youth.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Made (UK 1972: Dir John Mackenzie)

What's this doing here then? Surely DEoL only reviews modern films, you enquire? Well look at the strapline people: "...plus anything else that fits the bill." And John (The Long Good Friday) Mackenzie's urban nightmare Made certainly does that.

Filmed entirely on location in a very grimy south London (Woolwich and Charlton) and Brighton (only marginally more cheerful), Made started off life as a play by Howard Barker, called None Were Saved. As such it's a lesser known later addition to the genre of 'kitchen sink' UK drama films, which often comprised cinematic adaptations of social realist plays, beginning with John Osborne's Look Back in Anger - filmed in 1959 by Tony Richardson. By the end of the next decade the genre had largely fizzled out, notable exceptions being Barney-Platts-Mills' original work, 1969's Bronco Bullfrog, Peter Hammond's 1970 adaptation of Bill Naughton's 1959 play Spring and Port Wine, and Gerry O'Hara's All the Right Noises (1971).

Made's cast includes the then popular UK folk singer Roy Harper, a casting decision which also puts Mackenzie's 1972 film into that small sub-genre of movies starring popular musicians of the day, often cast in downbeat parts that suited their more 'natural' (i.e. untrained) acting style: films like 1970's Ned Kelly, with Mick Jagger as the eponymous outlaw, and also Nic Roeg's Performance - same year, same actor; Jamaican singer Jimmy Cliff in Perry Henzell's The Harder They Come (1972); David Essex in 1973's That'll Be the Day and the even more downbeat Stardust a year later: and the entire band Slade in Richard Loncraine's underrated and decidedly grim Flame (1975).

Valerie (Carol White) at home  
Made stars Carol White, an actor who had made her name in 1966 appearing in Ken Loach's harrowing BBC drama about homelessness, Cathy Come Home (which pricked the UK's social consciousness and pretty much started this country's housing association movement) and Poor Cow a year later by the same director.

White is an obvious choice then for Valerie Marshall, a single mother stuck in a dead-end switchboard operator job, who as well as looking after a young baby also cares for her mother, bedridden with Multiple Sclerosis; her only friend seems to be happy-go-lucky fellow worker June. Valerie's love life is split between three people: telephony company boss Mahdav Gupta, a lonely soul who she feels sorry for but never close to; Father Dyson, a friendly man of the cloth whose attentiveness to Valerie comes with its own stifling moral agenda; and singer Mike Preston (Harper), who she meets while on a day out in Brighton with Father Dyson and a group of children from his youth club.

Valerie and Mike Preston (Roy Harper)
In Preston Valerie sees someone that espouses the things she aspires to - freedom and an escape from being labelled a 'single parent.' Preston's hatred of religion (which predictably ends up in a face off between him and Dyson) and non-committal air provides a short term respite from Valerie's cares, but his 'hello, I must be going' approach to life is found wanting when her son is tragically killed after being trampled in a football crowd, while out with June. Troubles increase when her mother dies while Valerie's attention is diverted to her relationship with the singer, which disappoints Father Dyson, compounding her guilt.  Meanwhile Preston moves on for a US tour, and Valerie's misery is complete when she hears his new song on the radio, 'Valerie's Song,' whose subject matter depicts her predicament in some detail - he's made money from her social situation and poor luck.  

Mackenzie, who died in 2011, has gone on record saying that Made was "a bit of a mess" but I think he was being too hard on himself. Sure, its Loachisms are apparent, and the relentless south London dullness also recalls Mike Leigh's 1971 film Bleak Moments - but despite some unevenness in the performances it remains a fascinating period piece. The choice of Harper to play Preston is interesting, blending the character with the real life singer in a way that one is never sure which is which (and made even more confusing by the casting of Harper's real life manager Pete Jenner as his MD in the film). Harper rarely raises his spoken voice above a mumble, but when he sings he achieves a clarity that captivates Valerie with a beauty rarely experienced in her life. Valerie is also a complex character, both her own worst enemy and someone with whom the audience can identify as she tries to escape being seen as 'property' by the men in her life. Her final scene with Gupta, faking pleasure as they couple in his squalid bachelor rooms, dirty plates in the sink and underwear on the radiator, is made worse by seeing her eyes taking in the surroundings. She may simply want love, but the following scene where she spits the words 'black bastard' at him as he tries to convince her that he loves her, hints at the self loathing within.

When the film was originally released in 1972, Made's X certificate was quite justified, with its scenes of sex out of wedlock, the death of the very young and very old, and the celebration of an amoral hedonistic culture. Although subsequently reduced to a 15 rating for video release the film has not lost its power to shock. A recommended watch then, if not a happy one.

Made is released by Network Distributing Ltd in both DVD and Blu Ray formats on Monday 22 August.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Unspoken (Canada 2015: Dir Sheldon Wilson)

It makes a refreshing change to see a low budget spook movie that isn't the output of a director working on his (or her) first film. Indeed Unspoken's Sheldon Wilson has a reasonable CV of small scale horror quickies under his belt, albeit mostly shot for TV.

Unspoken was made in 2014 under the original and far more descriptive title The Haunting of Briar House. By the time it played at the UK's FrightFest Halloween all dayer last year the title had been changed to The Unspoken. For the 2016 DVD release the definite article has been dropped and it's just Unspoken. Huh?

Unspoken focuses on a house in the woods that, in an effective and quite frightening prologue, is shown to be the scene of a mass murder and a family abduction by unknown forces - afterwards the place gets a reputation as 'the Briar House' which no-one will go near. Seventeen years later a young woman, Ruby, and her strange mute son Adrian move into the house, knowing nothing about its history and seeking a secluded country retreat to help get over the death of Adrian's father.

Local teenager Angela, who works in a children's nursery, learns of Ruby's need for someone to help with Adrian and offers her services - she is motherless and the extra cash will come in handy as her father is unemployed. Adrian is a strange and haunted little boy (well played by Sunny Suljic, all furrowed brow and pinched face) and it's not long before Angela experiences weird things in the house; rattling doors and marbles moving of their own accord. Angela's friend Pandy, who seems more than just a friend to our childminder, also runs with the local tearaways, who give her a tough time about her sexual leanings. They rope her in to breaking into the Briar House to take back the stash of drugs and 'other things' they've stored there while the house was empty, using its reputation as a safe hideaway. The break-in unleashes a force within the house which threatens anyone in it - starting with Angela's friend - and when Pandey's wrong-side-of-the-tracks cohorts, realising that she has gone missing, follow her in to recover their booty, the house takes its revenge.

Spooky Adrian (played by Sunny Suljic)
Unspoken seems to throw pretty much everything into the mix in the hope of creating an effective haunted house movie. There's a creepy handyman, strange visions, flying objects and a million jump scares. It also delivers a final reel twist that left me almost speechless - which anyone who knows me will understand is a rare phenomenon. I'll give nothing away except to mention that if you saw, and thought the denouement of Alistair Legrand's The Diabolical hard to swallow (a film which offers an equally off the wall explanation for a haunting), you won't know where to start with this one. It's that odd.

More positively I really liked the first half of this film. It's a pleasing slow burner with a promising atmospheric prologue. The camera creeps around uneasily and the cast are genuinely backwoods in look and behaviour. Things go off the rails with some random gore, which upsets the tone and remains unexplained. After which, and before that payoff, Unspoken turns into a spook movie farce, with various characters running in and out of the seemingly endless numbers of cabin doors. Thankfully trousers stay up.

Wilson's CV shows that he's not about making Oscar nominated movies, which is fine by me. However quite how this one will be remembered when the Canadian director's work is reviewed in the future I'm not so sure. A step forward from his twin 2011 disaster-movies-on-a-dollar offerings Killer Mountain and Snowmageddon? Or a step back from his 2004 movie Shallow Ground which at least made sense, and secured enough interest to manage a UK and US theatrical release, a fate unlikely to befall Unspoken.