Play Dead (2023)
Known for his fantastic remake of My Bloody Valentine in 2009, director Patrick Lussier and his cast and crew fail to cross the finish with his latest effort: Play Dead. That isn’t the fault of any of the principles. As the leads, Bailee Madison (Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin and Good Witch) and in a surprise appearance of veteran actor Jerry O’Connell carry the weight of this film on their shoulders and deliver the goods. It isn’t their fault that the script has plot holes that you can drive a fleet of Sherman tanks through.
Chloe (Bailee Madison) is criminology student who is trying to keep her family together after her father’s suicide. Her brother, (Anthony Turpel as T.J.) isn’t helping matters by getting into trouble with the law. T.J.’s latest blunder forces Chloe to fake her death in order to break into a morgue so that she can snatch an incriminating cell phone which could potentially send T.J. to jail.
Let’s stop right there. There are so many things wrong from the very start with Play Dead. Why does Chloe have to go the extreme of faking her own death? There are plenty of other ways to break into or fake her way into the morgue and if you really scrutinize her scheme it leaves a lot to pure happenstance and blind luck, not to mention we have seen the eventual organ harvesting plot a million times before. Like a house of cards , the plot holes weaken the entire stack which falls apart quite quickly. O’Connell is really creepy as the cold-blooded Coroner and Madison brings a lot of conviction, empathy and energy to her role. Unfortunately, none of that is enough to revive this DOA plot.
Watch on: VOD, streaming.
Snow Falls (2023)
Like an ice cube left on your kitchen counter there isn’t much to Snow Falls after 80 minutes as the filmmakers have failed to capitalize on a very intriguing premise. Mirroring the Torrance family in The Shining, five friends find themselves stranded in a cabin when a blizzard knocks the power out and blocks any way back home for the time being. As someone who lives in the snow globe that is Canada I can say without any doubt that much of their situation is exaggerated, doesn’t make much logical sense. Slowly but surely though our heroes start to lose their grip on reality and wonder if the snowfall itself is preying on them and what, if anything, could be lurking outside. Beyond the brief appearance of a Jack Frost-like snowman and one of the friends vomiting snow, there is absolutely nothing else worth noting about Snow Falls. It is tedious and dull. The idea of an elemental evil has thrived in other films but not here.
Watch on: VOD, streaming.
There’s Something Wrong With The Children (2023)
I have never been a fan of films featuring killer figurines or scary kids, except maybe those death dolls in The Puppet Master series and the Zuni doll in the classic Trilogy of Terror. I would just punt both kids and dolls into orbit like the South Park kids used to do to Ike Broflovski. In the Blumhouse film There’s Something Wrong With The Children, the children in question take things to an entirely different level turning friend against friend as their terror is more psychological than physical.
Two couples (Amanda Crew as Ellie and Carlos Santos as Thomas, Zach Gilford as Ben and Alisha Wainwright as Margaret) are on a weekend getaway in the country. Thomas and Ellie have brought along their two kids with the idea that Ben and Margaret can look after the kids, give them some alone time to work on some recent issues in their relationship. While on a hike they stumble upon the ruins of an old building and from there the fun really begins. The kids, Briella Guiza as Lucy and David Mattle as Spencer, begin to do bizarre things, act in bizarre ways targeting mostly Ben and his history of psychological issues. Bit by bit, the damage is done as both couples are pushed over the edge.
The best thing about the film are the performances of everyone involved. The two couples themselves not only really sell this story but also their characters as real people with flaws, emotion and depth. You are pulled into their lives and their turbulent circumstances. When the shit hits the fan you are invested in them and their individual fates. The kids too are delightfully creepy.
Without those performances There’s Something Wrong With The Children wouldn’t be as highly rated as it is because the story itself takes far too long to get to the “good stuff”. That’s because There’s Something Wrong With The Children would have been better off as part of an anthology like many other Blumhouse films, which are mostly flimsy in their plots or showcase recycled material like M3GAN which was done better before in other films. There just isn’t enough here to justify its 92 minute running time. If you haven’t seen it yet and want something more substantial check out director Roxanne Benjamin’s first film, 2019’s Body at Brighton Rock. It is a brilliant film.
Watch on: VOD, digital.