Coco Chanel once advised that before leaving the house you should remove one thing. The point being that less is more and an overabundance of accessories can spoil an underlying aesthetic. In cinematic terms Don’t Knock Twice takes a simple creepy premise and drenches it in weird plot twists and the two solid central performances are overshadowed by an amateurish supporting cast.
Don’t Knock Twice follows two plot strands; one surrounding teen Chloe (Lucy Boynton) who knocks twice on a door that will apparently summon a witch if knocked on twice and the inevitable fallout from that decision, and a second following Chloe as she tries to reconnect with her estranged mother Jess (Katee Sackhoff). The two storylines intertwine and their relationship is tested by a battle against supernatural forces but the two strands don’t play off each other nicely. This isn’t The Babadook where the monster is a manifestation of the familial issues in the rest of the film.
Sackhoff and Boynton give the film’s only two convincing performances as two damaged souls hesitantly reunited while all hell breaks loose. There’s an decent movie hidden in here somewhere but they are hugely let down by their fellow actors who are in turn given little to work with. One character in particular was often being laughed at by the audience as a result of the bizarre behaviour she was forced to portray. In a horror you need to be able to put yourself into the character’s position and that’s hard when people aren’t behaving like any human you’ve ever met.
That’s not to say that Don’t Knock Twice isn’t effective at the scares though. The witch itself is fantastically realised and there were moments of real terror in the film. One fellow audience member embarrassed himself with the height at which he jumped from his seat, and for once that man wasn’t me. Sadly, as I’ve mentioned, by the end of the film those scares have been diluted by other less successful elements, and a final act that was needlessly complicated and inserted a twist where none was needed.
If Coco Chanel were here I’m sure she would advise taking off the unnecessary twist and the bulk of the weaker supporting players to reveal the well fitted, emotionally fulfilling and delightfully scary horror film about mother-daughter relationships underneath.
Won’t watch twice.
After last week’s thoroughly mediocre releases of Starred Up and Labor Day I decided to have a look at new British sci-fi The Machine. A lot of the reviews I’ve seen on the smaller sites are very positive, I was supposed to review it weeks ago, and I have a hankering to give something above three stars. Three stars are not fun. Three star films are not bad enough to rant about nor good enough to gush about. Three star films are only of mild concern; nothing to write home about and tricky to blog about.
Sadly (spoiler alert) The Machine is very much a three star film.
Set in a near future version of Britain The Machine focusses on artificial intelligence developed by the Ministry of Defence as a scientist played by an angsty Toby Stephens builds humanoid robot killing machines for the good of mankind. Initially working on human-robot hybrids the troubled doctor eventually builds a robot with the digital personality, and shapely form, of his fellow scientist played by Caity Lotz.
It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that creating robotic killing machines to protect mankind ends up not quite going to plan.
In many ways that is the film’s major flaw; the sheer lack of surprise from start to finish. With the burgeoning success of HeKniSciFi we have collectively moved on from the days when robotics were looked at as a fearful development and everyone stopped worrying so much about the machines rising against us. This isn’t the era of RoboCop and Terminator any more… Except it is as both of these once nostalgic franchises rumble on into the 21st century. Regardless, the idea of mankind playing God and finding themselves in trouble is not new and The Machine has little new to offer to the familiar storyline.
Weirdly The Machine actually felt like a film made back in the heyday of its thematic predecessors. The soundtrack has a definite feel of 80s sci-fi to it and the general visual style is impressive but somehow fails to hide the low budget nature of the film. The overall effect was not that of a film released in 2014 but of a classic piece of sci-fi made a few decades ago. Maybe this is to the film’s credit, maybe I should actually embrace the traditional feel of the film and enjoy it for what it is; a solid example of a sci-fi thriller made on a tiny budget.
Sadly the film failed to connect and left me with nothing to gush about and no real rant either beyond my own personal bugbears. Three stars it is then.
The Machine – in Cinemas / VoD 21 March and DVD/Blu-ray 31 March www.themachinemovie.com