Monday, April 22, 2024

Film Review: Bull (2021)


Paul Andrew Williams, the director of Bull, takes very little to move from an ordinary-looking British drama-thriller to something very bloody and disturbing. The plot, which begins with a man called Bull, played masterfly like always by Neil Maskell, returning to his old criminal crew. After ten years, he's simply seeking his son, but the method of his search mainly involves bladed weapons and murder.

In no time at all, the film descends into a mundane version of Crow, where a man is apparently back from the grave and ready to do almost anything to complete his self-assigned objective. Here, the film shines in the form of a strange crime thriller, where the main character is a somewhat melancholic psychotic murderer from hell.

Through a series of flashbacks, we see how Bull came to his predicament and what actually took place a decade before. The past is just as violent and detached as the present, apart from the fact that everyone agrees that Bull cannot be really alive. Here, the cast of Bull 2021 manages to do a lot with not that much, being that the film's locations are as exciting as a regular UK kitchen sink drama from the 1990s. Below all of that, we also witness Bull’s true and undying (literally) love for his son.

But, to watch Bull 2021 is, at least somewhat, to descend into a dark and unscrupulous place mixing crime and family in equal measure. The very end of the film introduces a weak horror twist which was completely unnecessary, but fortunately it doesn't manage to spoil the whole experience. Vengeance, no matter how desirable by the wronged individual, is pointless and brutal, says Bull 2021, but redemption can come nonetheless. Yet, it will not come from a blade or a gun, but from saving someone.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Film Review: Smile (2022)


The photography of the opening of Smile is anything but horror-like, which is why it has this instant appeal for anyone who is both into and not into the same genre. Instead of dark, brooding, and partially lit spaces, Smile offers strong colors and crisp, airy environments, reminiscent of an IKEA showroom. If, that is to say, IKEA furnished mental institutions for potentially dangerous patients.

Here, not long after that, the first suicide takes place. With that, along with strong visuals and with too much meandering, the first-time feature film director Parker Finn and the movie itself establish an atmosphere of almost nightmare-like reality for its main character.

That setting is the basis of one of the more interesting horror releases in recent years. As the plot follows a psychiatrist who witnessed a violent death and becomes infected by the potential for a similar fate, the director focuses more on the feel of the movie and less on its internal logic or its progression.

That formula works marvelously well most of the time, especially in tying into concepts like personal trauma. A decade before, films like The Babadook did something similar but with a more conservative budget. In the case of Smile, money was there and some of it did go to elements that we regularly see in horror films. But, for me, it made no difference that the plot used a lot of time-is-running-out tropes present in films like The Ring or The Final Destination. It also helps that throughout the film both Sosie Bacon and Kyle Gallner do a great and convincing job as the lead roles.

The world of cinema learned time and time again that for works that embrace a genre strongly, the level of manifested originality is often irrelevant. But, it also has to be said that Smile somewhat struggles at the very end, where a simple script modification would have allowed for a much more satisfying and logical finale. However, we also have to forgive that to Parker Finn, knowing that there is a squeal in the works. After all, what is more appropriate for the horror genre than the idea of turning a single film into a series?