Mercy (dir. Chris Sparling, 2016) – Four estranged brothers return home to visit their dying mother, but are thrust into a fight for survival of their own.
Bungled execution takes the spark out of an ambitious film, where potential sadly peters out.
Netflix original Mercy is a risk-taker. Lavish with twist and turns, the film leaves conventions at the door and provides little clue as to where the plot is heading. Such unpredictability can often make a mystery gripping. Frustratingly, unwieldy execution leaves us with nothing but a thoroughly perplexing enigma.
Things start off slow in the familial affair, where four brothers convene in their old home. Their mother Grace is dying. A visitor shows up with a mysterious bag, urging the family to end her suffering. Speculations lead to an ensuing moral dilemma of euthanasia. But that theory comes to naught as masked men intrude and threaten a restless night ahead.
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Let’s Be Evil (dir. Martin Owen, 2016) – Three chaperones are hired to supervise some gifted children, who live and learn through augmented reality glasses in an underground controlled facility.
An inventive concept starts off strong but ultimately proves embryonic, delivering neither satire nor thrills.
It is not difficult to believe the future that Let’s Be Evil envisions. After all, the new generation already spends most days wired up to their devices, preferring the screen glare to the sun. Then, it is not difficult to imagine either, the power that big tech corporations wield over youths. It is a scary thought. Google was even once impelled to assure us of their corporate morals in their motto, Don’t Be Evil.
A play on that very slogan, Let’s Be Evil sees these fears realised, as technology is used to cultivate youths into obedient learning machines. In what is known as the Posterity Program, gifted children are raised in a high-tech facility, where their worldview is controlled through artificial intelligence and augmented reality. Automation fully manages their strict regime of study, sleep, repeat.
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Slasher (dir. Craig David Wallace, 2016) – Sarah Bennett returns to small town Waterbury where her parents were killed, only to find the past re-emerging as a new series of murders begins.
A trope-embracing genre tribute by horror fans, for horror fans. Slasher dishes up a bloody good time, all in the name of fun.
Moving back to the town where your parents were murdered, is a bad idea. Just ask Laurie Strode. But Sarah Bennett (Katie McGrath) clearly hasn’t seen enough horror movies to stay away. The youngest victim left alive by The Executioner chooses to move into that very crime scene in Waterbury, Canada, with the support of her loving husband Dylan (Brandon Jay McLaren).
There, Sarah reveals her true intent – to visit Tom Winston (Patrick Garrow), the now-imprisoned killer who orphaned her on Halloween 30 years ago. But closure becomes the least of her worries, when a new Executioner begins enacting copycat murders with a biblical twist. Seven deadly sins guarantee a growing body count. And in this small town where secrets breed and resentment boils, everyone is a suspect.
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Residue (dir. Alex-Garcia Lopez, 2015) – After a massive explosion in the city centre, photographer Jennifer Preston uncovers a government conspiracy and more unsettlingly, the paranormal.
Don’t expect a fast-paced thriller with a perfect resolution. Residue is a slow-burning albeit promising pilot, made to build anticipation for what is to come.
Make no mistake. Residue is excessively drawn out, and maddeningly inconclusive. That doesn’t mean it is not worth a watch. Set in a dystopian near-future, the aspiring Black Mirror episode is a plodding yet assured pilot that promises things can only get better from here.
Intrigue lies in the compelling premise of this sci-fi/horror mystery thriller, where a massive explosion on New Year’s Eve leaves the city centre in quarantine. The measure is ostensibly in place due to contamination from a bio-weapon facility. But any X-Files aficionado will be loath to take the official word for it.
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A Cure for Wellness (dir. Gore Verbinski, 2016) – Lockhart is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from a wellness centre in the Swiss Alps, but he soon suspects that the treatments may not be what they seem.
A moody nightmare dreams up lasting hellish visions, but suffers the absence of a meaningful conclusion.
Success is no easy pursuit. Up its perpetual ladder, the climb affords no vacation and decidedly comes at a cost. For young executive Lockhart (Dane Dehaan), the price of avarice is heavy. His company sees his vulturistic ambitions and threatens to pin their corporate crimes on him. That is unless he retrieves their CEO Pembroke (Harry Groener) from a Swiss wellness centre – in time for the company merger.
The task sounds simple enough. But at the far-flung retreat, Lockhart finds Pembroke in a fugue state and unwilling to leave. A car accident complicates Lockhart’s exit and lands him back in the care of the remote centre. Cut off from the outside world, he grows wary of the mysterious treatments and Hannah (Mia Goth), a girl living among the geriatric population.
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Under The Shadow (dir. Babak Anvari, 2016) – In post-revolution Tehran, Shideh struggles to cope with the terrors of war and a mysterious evil in her home.
Under The Shadow presents an unnerving haunting beyond the supernatural, in which demons manifest in myth, war and personal trials.
It is the 1980s in Tehran. The Iran–Iraq War has left its citizens living in constant fear. Where there is anxiety, the wind blows and the Djinn follows. With her misgivings of the war at large and her personal struggles at hand, Shideh (Narges Rashidi) has left her door for the demon wide open.
It is easy to understand why. She had been on the way to becoming a doctor, when marriage and childbirth halted her dreams. Her husband Iraj (Bobby Naderi) meanwhile casts doubt on her career ambitions, encouraging her full commitment to motherhood to her quiet dismay.
When the time finally comes for her to get back on track, things unexpectedly go south. The Cultural Revolution happens, cutting short Shideh’s education and conscripting Iraj to war.
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