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Nightwatch:
Demons Are Forever
(Nattevagten –
Dæmoner Går i Arv)

Director – Ole Bornedal – 2023 – Denmark – 110m

****1/2

A law student’s daughter takes on his old morgue nightwatchman’s job to find out about the killer who traumatised her parents – out on Shudder UK from Friday, May 17th

WARNING: don’t watch this sequel until you’ve seen the original Nightwatch (1994). That’s easy enough to do, since both films are currently on Shudder.

SPOILER ALERT: if you’ve not (yet) seen the original, watch that before reading this review.

Almost thirty years on, Bornedal’s sequel is almost a retread of his original film. Almost, but not quite. Martin (Nikolaj Coster Waldau) has never totally got over his wife Kalinka’s suicide, caused by the fear of arrested killer Peter Wörmer. Several times a week, in scenes described but never shown, Martin visits the summerhouse where she hanged herself and talks to her. Martin’s friend Jens has long since disappeared to Thailand, while his girlfriend Lotte (played by a different actress, Vibeke Hastrup) still works as a vicar. Martin hasn’t heard from either of them in years.

Mental patient Bent (Casper Kjær Jensen) is a likewise incarcerated killer, a copycat. Later on, both he and Wörmer will escape their hospitals.

Martin lives with his med student daughter Emma (Fanny Leander Bornedal, the director’s daughter who is terrific here) who wants to find out exactly what happened to her parents.… Read the rest

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Mr. Vampire IV
aka
Mr. Vampire
Saga IV
(Geung See
Suk Suk,
靈幻先生)

Director – Ricky Lau – 1988 – Hong Kong – Cert. 12 – 96m

***1/2

A feud between Taoist and Buddhist neighbours, and a tentative romance between their boy and girl apprentices, are interrupted by the arrival of a coffin, from which a hopping corpse escapes – out on Blu-ray in the UK on Monday, May 22nd as part of Eureka! Video’s Hopping Mad: The Mr. Vampire Sequels

The fourth and final ‘official’ Mr. Vampire film (i.e. to be made by Sammo Hung / Leonard Ho’s Bo Ho Films company).

This once again shakes up the formula to deliver something different from its predecessors. Where the third film replaced the franchise’s jiangshi (hopping corpses) with flying ghosts, this fourth entry brings jiangshi back again and yet, curiously, they only come into play in about half of the film. The other half concerns two next door neighbours who don’t get on with one another. As with the previous films, the knockabout comedy sensibility holds the whole thing together.

The second major change is the conspicuous absence of star Lam Ching-ying who previously played the jiangshi-fighting, Taoist priest. According to the Blu-ray booklet’s helpful essay on these films by James Oliver, this appears to be down to the fact that Lam simply wasn’t available, a theory backed up by the fact that he subsequently worked again with most of those involved in the franchise.… Read the rest

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Mr. Vampire III
(Ling Wan
Sin Sang,
靈幻先生)

Director – Ricky Lau – 1987 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 88m
***1/2
Stunt-filled action comedy in which a travelling con-artist in cahoots with ghosts helps a Taoist priest fight a gang of horse thieves led by an evil sorceress – out on Blu-ray in the UK on Monday, May 22nd as part of Eureka! Video’s Hopping Mad: The Mr. Vampire Sequels

The third ‘official’ Mr. Vampire film (i.e. to be made by Sammo Hung / Leonard Ho’s Bo Ho Films company).

Set in the early twentieth century of the original Mr. Vampire, this once again takes the constituent parts of the original and shakes everything up a bit to come up with something at once different yet recognisably the same.

Taoist priest Ming (Richard Ng) is not terribly good at the job, so is getting by as a con artist going from village to village banishing ghosts for anyone who’ll pay him, the con element being that he has two ghost assistants, the adult Big Pao (David Lui Fong) and the small boy Small Pao (Hoh Kin-wai from Mr. Vampire II) who act out the part of being banished. Real ghosts with a nasty habit of appearing and messing things up force him to move on.… Read the rest

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Mr. Vampire II
(Geung See
Ga Zuk,
殭屍家族)

Director – Ricky Lau – 1986 – Hong Kong – Cert. 12 – 89m

*****

After a professor unearths a family of undead corpses, the child befriends a little girl and the parents go looking for it – out on Blu-ray in the UK on Monday, May 22nd as part of Eureka! Video’s Hopping Mad: The Mr. Vampire Sequels

The second ‘official’ Mr. Vampire film (i.e. to be made by Sammo Hung / Leonard Ho’s Bo Ho Films company).

A professor (Fat Chung) leads his two hapless assistants Chicken (Billy Lau) and Sashimi (Lau Chau-sang) on an archaeological dig, sending them into a cave where they find a family of corpses (father, mother, small boy played by Cheung Wing-cheung, Pauline Wong and Hoh Kin-wai respectively) immobilised by talismans on their foreheads, and take them back to the professor’s workshop. As the professor and Sashimi are driving the child corpse, the talisman comes off, and it comes to life, later escaping to a house where it is found and befriended by a little girl Chia-Chia (Hon Kin-yu), who keeps it hidden in her room from her widowed father Mr. Hu (Woo Fung). She introduces it to her brother (Choi Man-kam) and later to four of their friends.… Read the rest

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Scream VI

Directors – Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett – 2022 – US – Cert. 18 – 123m

**1/2

The sixth entry in the Scream franchise relocates from Woodsboro to New York City as the masked killer continues to stalk and kill his victims – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 10th

The phone rings. Someone picks up. If it’s the first time he’s called, the caller (voice: Roger L. Jackson) engages them in conversation, often about whether they like movies, in particular scary movies. This often leads to the recipient of the call being bloodily murdered shortly after. But not always. Some of the characters in the Scream movies stay alive via a judicious knowledge of the rules of horror films. The previous five films, of which the fifth film is somewhat confusingly called Scream exactly the same as the first, are set in the town of Woodsboro, California with a cast of repeating characters among the ongoing survivors.

This sixth film is set in the very different urban milieu of New York City. Which, along with a smart graphic whereby the last three quarters of the letter ‘M’ are coloured red to turn into the Roman numeral VI, may entice back viewers who had long since given up on the franchise (the ideas got tired after the first couple of films).… Read the rest

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The Wandering Earth II
(Liulang Diqiu 2,
流浪地球 2)

Director – Frant Gwo – 2023 – China – Cert. 12a – 173m

***

Sequel – or rather prequel – wants to explain how it was that the Earth became the Wandering Earth, but instead throws convoluted plot, big budget effects and action set-pieces at us while not really explaining anything – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 27th

Gwo’s mega-expensive, blockbuster franchise is back for a second instalment, this time at three rather than two hours in length. Surprisingly, II isn’t so much a sequel to The Wandering Earth as a prequel which attempts to explain its predecessor by exploring many of the events which take place leading up to it, including the attempt by the United Earth Government (UEG) to launch the Wandering Earth Project, the complex system of jet engines constructed around the Equator like a belt round a large man’s belly to enable the ecologically-damaged Planet Earth to be piloted through space in an attempt to find a new home for the human race.

As if aware that three hours of interpersonal drama and action sequences based around this might prove too much for even the franchise’s most ardent fans, Gwo and his screenwriters build in a second plot involving Tu Yuheng (Chinese megastar Andy Lau) whose wife and small daughter are killed in a road accident.… Read the rest

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Tremors 2
Aftershocks

Director – S.S. Wilson – 1996 – US – Cert. 12 – 92m

Video rental release

Tremors’ Fred Ward and Michael Gross (the survivalist Burt Gummer) joined by self‑styled “new guy” Christopher Gartin are again beset by underground beasties who, as before, outsmart the humans – here mutating into CGI bipeds created by top Jurassic Park effects man Phil Tippett. Highly inventive sequel – recommended.

Capsule review from Manga Mania, 1996, republished here on the death of actor Fred Ward, May 2022.

Trailer:

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The Matrix:
Resurrections

Director – Lana Wachowski – 2021 – US – Cert. 15 – 148m

**

One of the original directors returns for a fourth film in the popular franchise – available to own on Digital Download from Monday, March 14th

Helmed by one of the directing duo behind The Matrix (1999), this is the fourth feature film in the popular franchise. Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is now the designer of the popular computer game The Matrix and being asked by owners Warner Bros. to make a fourth game, something he’s always decided he wouldn’t do. But under pressure from his boss, he capitulates. Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss) frequents his local coffee shop, but they don’t know each other. The hero of his game Neo is loosely modelled on himself while Tiffany reminds him of its heroine Trinity.

With these two stars of the original film and its sequels returning, this fourth film starts off like a rerun of the original with different or substitute characters: the feisty Bugs (Jessica Henwick) as a Trinity substitute fleeing a series of suits in dark glasses, running into a man claiming to be Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who states, “I have to find Neo”.

And this is where The Matrix: Resurrections’ problems start to occur.… Read the rest

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The Battle
At Lake Changjin II
aka
Water Gate Bridge
(Zhang Jin Hu,
长津湖之水门桥)

Director – Tsui Hark – 2022 – China – Cert. 15 – 153m

**

Ill-considered sequel to box office barnstorming, Chinese war movie fails to match the emotional engagement and excitement of the original – out in cinemas on Friday, February 11th

After the exciting and energetic original, this sequel is a disappointment. It has the same expertise of CG special effects as its predecessor. However the cast is cut down, many of the memorable characters having died heroically in the first film, and there’s no attempt to replace them. Similarly, the spectacular locations are fewer in number because there’s no journey from home through different regions, so this has a smaller geographical palette to play with.

The cast of characters issue would be easy enough to fix within the war genre: members of a military unit die, others come to the fore to replace them in the vacuum created. But no, here all we get are People’s Volunteer Army (PVA) 7th Company commander Wu Qianli (Wu Jing from The Wandering Earth, Frant Gwo, 2019, and sequels) and his younger brother Wu Wanli (Jackson Lee) and no real attempt to further develop their relationship under fire. The two characters are just there, and the audience is expected to carry over their emotional investment from the first film without the second one providing any reason for doing so.… Read the rest

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Ghostbusters Afterlife

Director – Jason Reitman – 2021 – US – Cert. 12a – 124m

*****

A single parent mum and her two teenage kids relocate to a small American town to find strange, paranormal goings-on – currently streaming in Ultra HD and from Monday, January 31st on BD and DVD in the UK

Hollywood loves sequels to or reboots of successful films. The original Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984), in which three parapsychologists set up as a team to capture the many ghosts that have inexplicably begun appearing in New York City, was unlike anything that had gone before with its mixture of comedy, action and the paranormal. Deservedly a huge hit, it spawned the inevitable sequel Ghostbusters II (Ivan Reitman, 1989) which didn’t have a strong enough plot to maintain interest beyond the first 20 minutes or so. The reboot Ghostbusters (Paul Feig, 2016), recasting the parapsychologists as women, worked well enough.

Ghostbusters Afterlife, however, is another attempt at a sequel. A very brave attempt it is too, because sequels are often expected to basically rerun the original film in an attempt to serve the audience a second helping of what they enjoyed before. After seeing it, you might argue that Afterlife does that, but going in, you might wonder what on Earth is going on.… Read the rest