85 posts categorized "Suspense"

June 26, 2016


Shallows2Here is a good old-fashioned suspense thriller about a strong-willed young woman and a big mean shark. Blake Lively shows off her acting chops in this genre picture that belongs all to her. It's a popcorn movie make for gigantic drive-in movie screens.

Feeding on a whale carcass gets old after a few days for a mammoth shark, especially when there’s tasty human flesh around to supplement the entree.

Jaume Collet-Serra’s workmanlike direction is adequate. He still needs to learn a few lessons from Hitchcock and Friedkin, but the raw suspense he creates works well enough. Everything is a little low-fidelity in a gaudy exploitation way. The musical score is no bueno. What can you do?

There’s no point mentioning plot details of screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski’s lean, and implausible, script. Some of the CGI is lacking, and sure I could nitpick about a giant unrealistic looking prop, but the shark is plenty convincing when you’re staring down its gullet on the big screen.

The film is paced like a Swiss watch, and Lively’s gutty performance as Nancy, a surfer and med school student, makes it tic. A wounded seagull friend that accompanies Nancy during her tiny-island waiting game with the shark, is a nice poetic touch if not much else. It’s still not as cheesy as the cell phone conversation Nancy has with her dad about her future. Such is the sentimental white bread that bookends the action.


Yes, there is one moment that will shock you out of your chair regardless of how many scary movies you’ve seen. If that’s not good enough to send you after a cheap thrill at the movies, I don’t know what is.


Rated PG-13. 87 mins. (B) (Three stars — out of five / no halves)

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August 06, 2015


Gift Triple-threat (writer, director, and actor) Joel Edgerton delivers a tight no-frills suspense thriller that comes complete with a noteworthy twist ending that will have audiences buzzing. Featuring an exquisite cast that includes Allison Tolman (of television’s “Fargo” fame), the back-loaded narrative finds everyman Simon (Jason Bateman) moving into an architecturally pleasing house with his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall).

That their vista-complete home sits mere miles away from where Simon grew up proves to be more a stumbling block for the couple’s plans of having a baby and living a normal life. Gordo (played by Edgerton) went to middle school with Simon, but his memories of their juvenile days together aren’t so fond. A chance meeting in a housewares store puts the socially awkward Gordo in touch with Simon and Robyn. They take down Gordo’s number, but the polite interaction gives “Gordo-the-weirdo” cause to drop off a doorstep gift that leads to a series of unsolicited presents and unannounced visits. Gordo gets in the habit of stopping by to hang out with Robyn during the day when Simon is away at his well-paid day job.

The Gift
Edgerton flips audience expectations as the creepy Gordo’s reasons for being the messed up individual he is become painfully clear. Aside from a few gratuitously heavy-handed shocks, “The Gift” is an original thriller tied up with a thematic bow about how everyone reaps what he or she sows. Karma is everywhere you look.

Rated R. 108 mins. (B+) (Three Stars - out of five/no halves)


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June 04, 2014


SpoorloosGeorge Sluizer’s spellbinding adaptation of Tim Krabbé’s horror novella “The Golden Egg” is such an expertly layered suspense thriller than it serves as a textbook archetype of the genre. It is that rare movie that successfully breaks an essential rule of dramaturgy — in this case that “good must always triumph” — in the interest of being true to a story with only one inevitable end. It’s the kind of movie that no grandmother wants to see, and they shouldn’t.

In scenes as measured as anything Hitchcock committed at his height of form, George Sluizer introduces Rex Hofman and Saskia Wagter, a pair of young Dutch lovers vacationing in France during the Tour de France. Johanna ter Steege’s freckled faced strawberry-blonde Saskia comes to represent the absent object of Rex’s stifled affection, but not before winning the audience’s heart too. Saskia is terrified of the dark. She suffers from recurring nightmares about being trapped in a golden egg in which she floats alone in space forever. If it sounds like a premonition; it is.

With bicycles attached to the car’s roof, the couple runs out of gas on a dark road at night. They argue. Rex abandons Saskia. He pays a price of profound dread before he gratefully sees Saskia waiting in a bright patch of road at the end of a long tunnel the next morning. Sadly, the couple’s encouraging reunion is brief. A stopover at a gas station for cold drinks is all it takes for Saskia to vanish from Rex’s life forever, thanks to the handiwork of a madman.


Sluizer introduces us to the self-admitted sociopath, chemistry teacher Raymond Lemorne, in an elliptical sub-plot movement that explains the backstory of Saskia’s methodical kidnapper in seamlessly woven flashbacks. The filmmaker works with an optic image system of passages to confine the viewer within Raymond’s claustrophobic mindset. Raymond is so afraid of being confined that he has a special permit that allows him to drive without wearing a seatbelt. The audience is covertly manipulated to empathize with Raymond’s family man antagonist as we watch him interacting with his wife and children. Sequences of Raymond practicing his skills to kidnap a woman at various locations ramps up the sense of dread.

When we are reconnected with Rex, three years have passed. He looks older, haggard. He has a new girlfriend who acknowledges Rex’s obsession with discovering the truth of what happened to the love of his life. Still, she’s at her rope’s end. Rex still puts up posters with Saskia’s picture, asking for information. He goes on a television news program to challenge the kidnapper to come forward without fear of being punished, for the sole purpose of satisfying Rex’s romantically fanned curiosity.

The adage, “Be careful what you wish for,” couldn’t be more apt in this situation. Rex does indeed meet his lover’s kidnapper. The enemies go on a dark journey to discover Saskia’s fate. The romantic connection between Rex and Saskia enables the film to achieve its catharsis, through an entropy of both choice and fate.

Not Rated. 107 mins. (A+) (Five Stars - out of five/no halves)

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