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…

The Babadook
Director Jennifer Kent succeeds in making a monster movie far more psychological than usual in The Babadook, one of most tense and terrifying movies in years. The film follows a single mother and her troubled child as they try to lead normal lives following the death of her husband. Her son’s issues make him extremely grating and difficult, and one of the film’s greatest achievements is getting the viewer to sympathize with both the mother and the son at different points in the film while taking turns disliking the two characters as well. The Babadook is best watched without knowing much beforehand, but I can say this much without spoiling. When the son finds a creepy pop-up book on his shelf, he and his mother soon find themselves tormented by a fairy tale monster that seemingly has come to life. But is the monster real? Or is it all in their heads? The balancing act that The Babadook pulls off is terrific, and I can’t wait to see Jennifer Kent apply her touch to more movies in the future. The film’s conclusion is also fresh and unusual. If you want to watch a truly scary movie, then The Babadook is for you, but be warned: if you are susceptible to nightmares, you may want to skip this movie or invest in a nightlight.
4 out of 5

Pumpkinhead is a real slice of 80’s monster movie cheese, and serves mainly as a showcase for Stan Winston’s awesome creature effects. The titular Pumpkinhead monster has a great design, but the movie built around it is not great shakes. Lance Henriksen stars as a small town storekeeper whose son is killed in a motorcycle accident. Determined to get his revenge, he summons a demonic creature called Pumpkinhead to wreak vengeance on his behalf. And that’s about it. Beyond the main monster, there’s barely anything to this movie, save for a scene with a witch who sports some fantastic makeup. If you’re looking for something to throw on in the background of a Halloween party, Pumpkinhead is a great choice, but if you’re looking for depth, meaning, or even a few laughs, you might as well skip it.
2 out of 5

John Wick
One of 2014’s greatest surprises is John Wick, Keanu Reeves’ return to the action/martial arts/gunplay style of filmmaking. The plot is barebones simple: John Wick is a retired hit man, and when some hapless Russian mobsters (lead by Theon Greyjoy himself – Alfie Allen) steal his car and kill his puppy, he decides to come out of retirement to kick some ass. And that’s it. What follows is nearly two solid hours of pure, well-directed, well-shot action. John Wick was directed by stunts coordinator Chad Stahelski, who clearly knows how to film action in a way that’s exciting and dynamic without feeling too frenetic or confusing. Gone is the shakey camera work made popular by the Bourne films! You see every brutal hit, and action movie fans will be overjoyed by it. In between crazy action setpieces, John Wick also establishes an interesting world as a backdrop to all the carnage, where there are entire hotels just for assassins and a worldwide network of hitmen operating right under our noses. These details are never explored in much depth – nor do they need to be – but they show great potential for a sequel. All in all, John Wick is an action fan’s dream come true. It’s not complex, but it doesn’t need to be, and it shows that Keanu Reeves can still be a solid leading man.
3.5 out of 5

See you next Sunday for more thrilling short reviews!

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