Sunday Short Reviews

Every Sunday, Gill delves into his archive of over 800 movie reviews and randomly selects three for your enjoyment! Here are this week’s…

Hercules (2014)
As of 2014, Dwayne Johnson is the action star who most evokes the old school, muscle-bound yet charismatic action stars of the 1980’s. He’s a solid actor, genuinely charming, and built like a brick wall. So you’d think it would be a natural fit that he should play Hercules, and while I suppose he does fairly well in the part, the movie that surrounds him is utter garbage. The story goes that Hercules wasn’t actually a demi-god, but was in fact just a normal beefcake mercenary with really good PR. All of Hercules’ legendary trials were fabrications, and so when he’s hired to eliminate an evil army of zombies and centaurs, he thinks it’s all going to be business as usual. He fights some battles, and then in the end the guy who hired him turns against him for another epic fight. Hercules brings absolutely nothing new to the table, and the conceit that this is a more “realistic” Hercules movie without any magic or anything means that there’s a serious lack of cool monsters. Maybe this was fun in 3D, but since I saw it in 2D, I got absolutely nothing out of Hercules. Not even the Rock could save it. This is just another example of why you should avoid everything Brett Ratner does.
2 out of 5

Given that Oculus is produced by WWE Studios, you’d expect it to be utter garbage, but in fact this is a taught, creative little supernatural thriller that will delight horror fans. The film centres on two siblings who lock themselves in their childhood home with a supposedly cursed mirror in an effort to prove that they did not murder their parents. Oculus tells its story in a time-hopping narrative that jumps back and forth between when they were children and the present day, and the way this format evolves to actually become a plot point later in the film is an especially creative touch. The way the movie is based around the location of the house reminded me of the classic 70’s and 80’s horror movies that used similar restrictions to keep the budget down. I didn’t find Oculus to be as tense and scary as other modern horror films (e.g. Sinister, Insidious, The Conjuring), but it makes up for a lack of scares with a smart scripts, good performances, and a couple of especially clever twists.
3.5 out of 5

The Guest
The Guest is a film that does not attempt to break any new ground, but rather wants to present a new movie in a specific, now mostly extinct genre, and do it incredibly well. In this case, the genre The Guest is trying to evoke is the late 1970’s or early 1980’s thriller, complete with a synthesizer score, colour and font choices, and plot points like “the upcoming school Halloween dance,” which you really never see anymore. You could easily imagine someone like John Carpenter directing this movie, and the way the plot unfolds is a real joy for fans of this kind of thing. The Guest is easily my favourite thriller of 2014, and has a final line so good that it may be one of my all-time favourites.
4 out of 5

See you next Sunday for more thrilling short reviews!

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