Netflix Triple Bill

Like many around the country, over-indulgence at Christmas has left me unable to move far from the couch without breaking out in meat-sweats. Luckily, the TV remote was within reach so I was able to maintain some film-viewing courtesy of Netflix. Here's three of them.

I wasn't intending to review Bandersnatch (David Slade, 2018), but something (or someone?) compelled me to. Part of the problem in reviewing this is that the film I watched might not be the one you do, because this is one of those new-fangled* interactive films where the viewer has some degree of control over the events that occur onscreen. As such, I played a part in determining the story of young programmer Stefan (Fionn Whitehead) who is grappling with turning epic choose-your-own-adventure book Bandersnatch into a computer game. Set during the 1980s, there's some retro nostalgia to be had and it will no doubt strike a chord with those who enjoyed the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks back in the day. Plus it's a Black Mirror production, so writer Charlie Brooker reliably incorporates some thought-provoking ideas and concepts into the plot(s), especially when Stefan begins to suspect someone is controlling his actions. It's clever stuff, but it's a game more than a film, and not one I'd have any major compulsion to play again, unless someone makes me. In fact, I think I'd rather dig out my old copy of Deathtrap Dungeon instead. Here's a handy chart for anyone wishing to see how all the choices play out. Contains spoilers, obviously.

* actually not that new-fangled at all - read a brief history here

Cargo (Yolanda Ramke & Ben Howling, 2018) is an Australian zombie movie, so I could barely wait to rush to my computer to describe it as 'G'day of the Dead, mate!' (pauses for acclaim of crowd). But that's a bit unfairly flippant about a movie that is a quietly tidy little entry in the genre, based on the directors' original short film of the same name. Eschewing gore for the most part, it has a more poignant, character-driven focus as we follow Andy (Martin Freeman) trekking through the outback with his baby daughter in a race against time to find someone to care for her before he succumbs to zombification himself from an infected bite (he even wears a quite literal FitBit to guide us in the countdown). There's also an ecological subtext running throughout and anyone with a passing knowledge of the white man's impact on Aboriginal culture will find plenty of pointed allegory here. However, it's the parent-child axis which lends it a genuine emotional core, helped by Freeman's touching performance, so don't be surprised if this causes tears instead of fears. Worth a nibble on.

By contrast, Apostle (Gareth Evans, 2018) is anything but quiet and gore-free, as we see Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens) travel to a remote Welsh island in the early 1900s to investigate a strange cult who apparently kidnapped his sister. Although it starts in slow-burn fashion, things escalate into full-on folk-horror, complete with gruesome imagery, violence and an unhinged Michael Sheen, which might make it all sound better than it is. It has a few stylistic flourishes and wince-inducing moments of brutality, as you might expect from the director of The Raid films, but it's just a bit too chaotic and overblown for its own good. Not one to view on a full stomach and I would suggest 'Blood on the Wicker Man's Claw' would have been a superior title. A little folk-horror movie humour there, folks.

Now that's done, I must really get up and do some exercise. (Tries to rise, fails, gives up, slumps back a broken man). Tell you what, I'll start that exercise regime next Monday. Now where's that remote and my bowl of Sugar Puffs? Or should I choose Frosties....?

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