Two Eyes Staring
Dutch horror film in which a young girl experiences some creepy goings-on when her parents move into a house inherited from her estranged grandmother.
Two Eyes Staring (Zwart Water, original title fans!) is a Dutch chiller that's desperate to acquire the tag-line "The scariest film since The Orphanage". Sadly, despite certain similarities, it is nowhere near as scary as The Orphanage. The plot centres on 9 year-old Lisa (Isabelle Stokkel), who has a loving father (Barry Atsma as Paul) and a fascination with her mother, Christine (Hadewych Minis) that she doesn't really understand. When the family inherit a creepy house in the Belgian countryside from Christine's estranged mother, Christine reluctantly agrees to sell their old place and move in, ostensibly because it will free her up to pursue her dream job. Shortly after moving in, Lisa finds one of her mother's old diaries that she wrote as a child, a diary that seems to hint at the fact that her mother had a sister that neither Lisa nor Paul have ever heard of. Things get worse when Lisa befriends Karen (Charlotte Arnoldy), a ghostly girl she finds in the cellar, but is her new friend all in her head or is something sinister going on? Two Eyes Staring starts brilliantly, generating a creepy atmosphere and teasing out the details along the way. It's also beautifully shot throughout and has superb performances, especially from young Stokkel. However, the plot loses its way around the 60 minute mark and starts introducing elements that either come to nothing (Paul's weird co-worker) or only exist to provide a quick shock (a couple of scary scenes involving Christine) and are quickly brushed over instead of explored. Having spent all that time and effort on the build-up, the film then completely fails to deliver a satisfying climax, which is a shame, as there's a lot here to like and a better script could have made this something special. Warning: contains potentially upsetting scenes involving a rabbit. Three stars.
The Last Rites of Ransom Pride
Western starring Lizzy Caplan as a female outlaw attempting to buy back the corpse of her deceased lover.
This is just about one of the worst films I've ever seen at Edinburgh. Badly written, poorly directed, atrociously edited and featuring some truly dreadful performances, it's essentially a western in which gunslinger Juliette Flowers attempts to buy back the body of her deceased lover Ransom Pride (Scott Speedman) with the unwitting live body of his younger brother, Champ (Jon Foster). Along the way, Juliette and Tramp clash with a series of bounty hunters and ne'er-do-wells and the lead begins to fly, though the scenes are so badly shot and edited that it's impossible to tell who's shooting at who. The film is also unforgivably boring and dull throughout and the only good bits come from a sorely underused Peter Dinklage as...well, to be honest, I was never entirely sure who he was supposed to be. Oh, I tell a lie - the film did have another plus point, namely that Lizzy Caplan (most recently seen in Hot Tub Time Machine) looks utterly gorgeous throughout. I'd happily watch her play the same character in a different movie, but Ransom Pride is just plain rancid and there's no pride in that. One star.
Offbeat road movie starring Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able as a pair of travellers in South American who have to negotiate their way through territory inhabited by giant squid-like aliens.
Written and directed by Gareth Edwards, Monsters stars Scoot McNairy (In Search Of A Midnight Kiss) and Whitney Able (who looks like a hotter version of Hannah Spearitt) as an aspiring photographer and the engaged daughter of his billionaire publisher boss, who find themselves on an unplanned road trip through an area of South America that's infested with giant squid-like aliens. The film is unusual, beautifully shot and has great performances from McNairy and Whitney, but it also bangs you over the head with its multiple METAPHORS (and, worse, has the characters vocalise comments that would have been better left to the audience) and I felt it could have done a lot more with its premise. That's not to say there aren't a handful of lovely moments along the way, such as a chilling scene involving a swamp or the strangely beautiful finale. There are also lots of fascinating details, such as the ubiquitous gas masks (suggesting that the Americans are actually wreaking more havoc than the aliens with their incessant bombing), murals (see photo), protest signs and cartoons featuring the monsters on TV. A solid three stars, even if it leaves several tantalising avenues unexplored.
Son of Babylon
Road movie about a grandmother and her grandsin searching for the boy's father in post-war Iraq, three weeks after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Directed by Mohamed Al-Daradji, Son of Babylon is a story about a grandmother and her young grandson, Ahmed, taking a road trip to try and find the boy's father, three weeks after the fall of Saddam. The father disappeared almost twelve years previously and the grandmother suspects he was being held in a prison at Nasiriyah so they travel to Nasiriyah hoping for news of the prisoners' release. Along the way they encounter a series of fellow travellers, including: an outspoken man who first attempts to rip them off but is later won over by their courage and strength of character; a young boy who befriends Ahmed and helps out with a stubborn bus driver; and Musa, a kindly middle-aged man whose confession shocks and disgusts the grandmother, causing Ahmed to plead for forgiveness on his behalf. I enjoyed the first half of this enormously, but, for whatever reason, it failed to hold my interest towards the end. That said, it's worth seeing just for the euphemism "I'm going to call Saddam" for when you're going for a piss. Strong performance from the child actor, too. Three stars. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to call Saddam.