His House: Netflix Film Review

His House

Prepare to be scared by Netflix’s His House, a haunted house story like you’ve never seen before.

The horror stars Sope Dirisu and Wunmi Mosaku as Bol and Rial, a young refugee couple who make a harrowing escape from war-torn South Sudan and seek asylum in England. After spending time in a detention centre, they are allocated a house in a non-descript town and given a demanding set of rules to live by. Bol and Rial are thrilled to be able to start a new life and have a new home – until they realise it’s not quite the idyllic dream they were hoping for as it is haunted by ghosts from their past.

I love that writer/director Remi Weekes has used a haunted house horror story as a way to tell a story about these young immigrants, how they are treated in their new town, and the super restrictive rules they must follow when given accommodation. I had no idea about these details or how the process worked so I found the film very enlightening for that reason.

It is also scary too. I’m pretty easily spooked when it comes to haunted house films – a door opening by itself will do it for me – so this was very effective. I basically grew tense every time night rolled around in the film because I knew the ghosts were going to come out again! Some of them are pretty terrifying visually.

The revelation towards the end was very powerful and changes the game regarding your understanding of the movie and the characters, so I was a big fan of that, but there were some scenes as it neared the finale that were a bit more surreal and I didn’t fully understand them so it lost me a bit.

The lead actors are terrific, particularly Dirisu, as he has the most emotionally and physically demanding role. He really gets put through the wringer! Mosaku, who I’ve recently been watching in Lovecraft Country, seems more calm and collected, but really comes into her own towards the end. Matt Smith also pops up and puts on his best common accent as their caseworker.

Despite the little niggle about the ending, His House is a chilling original haunted house horror that provides powerful insight into the world of asylum seekers.

Available on Netflix from Friday 30th October

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Over the Moon: Netflix Film Review

Over the Moon

There has been a distinct lack of animations so far this year, but they now seem to be coming out at the same time, with Wolfwalkers, Soul, and Over the Moon being released within weeks of each other. Will Over the Moon stand out from the crowd? Read on to find out. 

Over the Moon, featuring an all-Asian voice cast, tells the story of Fei Fei (Cathy Ang), a young girl who is still grieving for her mum, who died four years before the main events of the film. She refuses to believe her dad (John Cho) has moved on with Mrs Zhong (Sandra Oh) and that she now has a stepbrother, Chin (Robert G Chui). Fei Fei has always been obsessed with the Chinese moon goddess Chang’e (Phillipa Soo) and decides to build a rocket ship to the moon to meet her, with Chin secretly coming along for the ride. 

Although the inclusion of Chinese mythology gives Over the Moon a new angle, many aspects of it felt borrowed, or at least inspired, by other animations. For example, the main character has a dead parent, both lead children have funny animal companions – a frog and a rabbit (which is a great source of humour), there’s an unwanted sidekick (in Chin), a disco-pop musical number which reminded me of Zootroplis, and Fei Fei’s new moon friend Gobi (Ken Jeong) was very Olaf-like. It’s like Glen Keane and his team were trying to tick the boxes of what makes Disney/Pixar movies so successful. I understand why they’d want to stick with the tried and tested formula, but it just results in a film that feels rather derivative. 

Also, you can guess the message – or the lesson Fei Fei learns from her journey – just from reading the summary above, so it’s obvious and predictable, but it’s still a worthy message and its heart is in the right place. And on another critical note, I didn’t love how the moon inhabitants (not including Chang’e and another rabbit) were realised visually. They seemed to be colourful blobs without a proper outline. All the Earth-based scenes and people are animated like you’d expect and look great so the moon-based imagery looks cheaper and more garish by comparison. 

But, despite all these criticisms, I still really enjoyed it. Fei Fei is lovely, I think kids will really like her, there are some moments that made me properly laugh out loud (I even rewound one to watch it again), and some of the musical numbers are a lot of fun, particularly Chang’e’s introductory number, an electro-pop banger that wouldn’t seem out of place at Eurovision. Chang’e is given gorgeous costumes and she has a beautiful singing voice, which is no surprise considering Soo is from Hamilton. Although not all the songs made an impact, I loved that there was a mix of styles, so there’s the usual musical theatre ones, the generic pop numbers, and even a rap one. 

Over the Moon has quite a few flaws but at the end of the day, the only question that truly matters is – will children enjoy it? And the answer is a big fat yes. If your kids like Disney, they will like Over the Moon, because you probably can’t tell the difference. It is a much-needed slice of entertaining escapism.

In selected cinemas now and on Netflix from Friday 23rd October 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Rebecca: Netflix Film Review

Rebecca

Daphne du Maurier‘s famed 1938 Gothic novel Rebecca has been adapted for the screen many times, most notably by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940, and now Ben Wheatley tries to put his own spin on the well-known story in this latest adaptation for Netflix.

The film begins in Monte Carlo, with the unnamed narrator (played by Lily James) serving as a companion/assistant to the rich Mrs. Van Hopper (Ann Dowd). Van Hopper fancies the wealthy widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer) and sees herself as the next lady of Manderley, his sprawling estate on the English coast, but he falls for her companion instead. After a brief courtship, the duo gets married and head home. The new Mrs. de Winter realises that Manderley is haunted by the memory of his first wife Rebecca, who died a year before, and the sinister housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas) likes to make sure she never escapes Rebecca’s shadow.

I was really surprised when Wheatley signed up for this. He has directed a novel adaptation before (with High-Rise) but that was still quite oddball, quirky and indie, so I wouldn’t have expected a new version of Rebecca – a Gothic romance thriller which is incredibly well-known – would have appealed to him as there is little room to put his own stamp on it. And there isn’t much sign of him here at all – Rebecca (adapted here by Jane Goldman) is classic, inoffensive, mainstream, and very loyal to the novel. It’s miles away from Free Fire, that’s for sure. And I LOVED Free Fire.

Wheatley has reunited with his Free Fire co-star Hammer for Rebecca and I was very impressed with his convincing British accent. He has such a distinct voice I just assumed it wouldn’t be good or consistent or it would have felt put-on, but no, it was a decent, natural-sounding British accent. He fits the bill as Maxim, as does James as the lead. She does well going from naive and timid in the beginning to strong and assertive nearer the end, but this isn’t one of her more impressive performances. The star of the show is, of course, Scott Thomas as the cold and calculating Mrs. Danvers, who had been devoted to Rebecca since she was a child and cannot stand this new replacement. She was perfectly cast in the role. There is also great support from Sam Riley as Rebecca’s cousin Jack Favell, Keeley Hawes as Maxim’s sister, and Tom Goodman-Hill as his estate manager Frank.

I’m assuming this is designed to entertain a new generation that is less familiar with du Maurier’s work, as I’m damn sure that knowing the ending will remove any sense of intrigue or excitement watching this. I must admit that I have neither read the novel nor watched an adaptation, so I cannot say if it brings anything fresh to the table compared with its predecessors, but I can give a newcomer’s perspective. Some revelations seemed obvious to me, while others – particularly about Rebecca’s past – took me by surprise. I was interested watching the twists and turns play out but I wouldn’t go as far to say I was gripped or hooked. I started to get into it more towards the end and then it was all over!

Rebecca is a beautiful film to look at, with stunning European locations, English coastline landscapes and costumes, but it didn’t make me feel very much.

In selected cinemas from Friday 16th October and on Netflix from 21st October

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Forty-Year-Old Version: Netflix Film Review

THE FORTY-YEAR-OLD VERSION

Netflix is really churning out the original film content at the moment – and this week, it’s Radha Blank‘s The Forty-Year-Old Version.

Blank plays Radha, a playwright in New York who hasn’t experienced success for a while and has turned to teaching. She hasn’t given up hope of writing a popular play, but she feels stifled by the theatre industry, the lack of resources and funding in small venues run by her acquaintances, and how she has to compromise her vision if she turns to a white producer. To express herself on her own terms, Radha begins to explore a rap career under the name RadhaMUSPrime.

Blank wrote and directed this film based off own experiences as a playwright and it is candid, funny, well-observed, and feels very personal. It’s no surprise it won the U.S Dramatic Competition Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

I’m concerned hardly any Netflix viewers are going to click on this movie or perhaps be put off by its black and white 35mm appearance but I’m here to say it’s well worth a watch. Blank has written a smart movie about learning to find your voice and sometimes having to compromise to get what you want. It might be slightly too long and could have been chopped here and there but the rapping scenes are excellent, as is the finale.

Blank is a refreshing new voice and I’m excited to see what she does next.

Streaming on Netflix now

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Boys in the Band: Netflix Film Review

The Boys in the Band

Mart Crowley‘s play The Boys in the Band was groundbreaking when it premiered in 1968 as it was one of the first to focus on the lives of gay men, but did it need another film remake now that gay stories are frequently being told? Read on to find out.

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The Devil All the Time: Netflix Film Review

The Devil All the Time

With an incredible A-list line-up including Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland, and Sebastian Stan, I couldn’t resist checking out Antonio Campos‘ The Devil All the Time. I had seen a lot of mixed reviews online but I really liked it.

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Cuties: Netflix Film Review

Cuties

You’ll have probably heard about Cuties due to the marketing controversy Netflix ended up in over the poster, which many argued sexualised 11-year-olds, but the Sundance award-winning French film is now streaming and you can decide for yourself whether it deserves all the fuss.

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Enola Holmes: Netflix Film Review

Enola Holmes

Forget Sherlock Holmes, Netflix’s latest original film shines the spotlight on his younger sister, Enola Holmes, as she becomes a sleuth in her own right.

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Project Power: Netflix Film Review

Project Power

With high-profile names like Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt attached, I had extremely high hopes for Project Power and while it didn’t entirely deliver, it was still an entertaining ride.

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The Old Guard: Netflix Film Review

The Old Guard

Netflix is entering into the comic book-inspired action movie market with The Old Guard and I think we’ve found ourselves an interesting new franchise.

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