Don’t Knock Twice (2016)

One from the to watch pile…
Don’t Knock Twice (2016)

Film: After I watched this, but before I started the review I mentioned to a friend it was like all post-millennial ghost stories and wasn’t much chop, to which he pointed out two films, Sinister and We Are Still Here. I had to agree there have been exceptions, but in general, a good proportion of ghost stories at the cinema at the moment either riff in what we one called j-horror or borrow liberally, ie steal massively, from films like Insidious or The Conjuring… two series’ of films I have very little time for.

The best thing I can say about them is at least they aren’t Paranormal Activity films.

So why don’t I like these types of films? It’s quite simple: I don’t believe in ghosts, therefore the films hold no aspect of fear for me. Sure, there are scares I might flinch at, or at my wife’s scream when I watch them with her (which is why I see so many of them: she loves them), but outside of cinematic trickery, I just don’t find them scary!

This film also borrows a bit from the mythos of Freddy Krueger, with the concept of being taken to another reality where evil awaits. In this though the ‘other realm’ is on the other side of a door that has been ‘knocked twice’ upon, instead of Freddy’s distorted dream dimension, though both seem to be able to be manipulated by the ghost/ witch/ demon/ supernatural thingy.

I do have to give this film, Don’t Knock Twice, a little bit of credit in this department. At least director Caradog James has attempted something different with the script provided by Howl’s Nick Ostler and Mark Huckerby. It really does attempt for a different spin on the post-millennial ghost story, but unfortunately the trappings and tropes of those tales are so ingrained, and there is such apparent necessary visual and audio language now that it’s hard to avoid and still make the punter get what he’s seeing.

You know, because us fans of cinema are dumdums.

It also borrows quite heavily from the ideas behind Candyman and Urban Legend 3, you know, the ‘Beetlejuice’ effect: you do something a particular amount of times and it will bring about a haunting from a person, so whatever you do don’t say ‘whatever’ three times, or in this case, whatever you do… Don’t Knock Twice…

Recovering addict and scultptor Jess (Kate Sackhoff) is attempting to get her life and family back on track, which includes being reunited with her estranged daughter Chloe (Lucy Boynton) after she was put in foster care several years ago, but the reunion comes at a cost.

You see, Chloe and her boyfriend pissed off the spirit of a woman who was accused of being a child murderer by the local children, but did she do it, and how can our heroines undo the curse that has been done?

There is some elements of the ‘family drama’ aspect of this, and Sackhoff and Boynton are really good in their roles. In actual fact, Sackhoff proves herself to be somewhat of an amazing actress in this role of dubious mother figure, and her and teenage daughter Boynton’s relationship rings as true. Actually if this had have been a family drama about a mother/ daughter relationship and NOT a horror film it would have been cast perfectly, but it is a horror film, and the generic ghost aspects and tropes of the post-millennial ghost story are so apparent you could play bingo with it.

Urban myth: tick. J-horror look to the ‘ghost’: tick. Mysterious face at the window: tick.


To it’s credit the script does make attempts to twist the tale a couple of times, but the payoff of each twist doesn’t really work, and is telegraphed far too early and then fizzle out.

It’s well directed too and this is where the problem lies in reviewing such a film: well directed, well acted, but generic. I have to applaud the filmmaking and the performances but if what they are conveying as a story is very good, well why bother?

That, unfortunately, is where it stands: don’t bother.

Score: **

Format: This movie was reviewed on the Australian region B release BD, which runs for approximately 93 minutes. It being a modern film in a modern format, as one would expect, both the 2.40:1 image and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track are fantastic. The blue tone given to much of the film almost makes it cold to watch. 

Score: *****

Extras: No extras for YOU!

Score: 0

WISIA: I can honestly say I will never watch this film again.

Howl (2015) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Howl (2015)

Film: Unfortunately for werewolf movies, something happened in 1981 that spoilt it for every one before, and every one after. The definitive werewolf film, the one that every werewolf film from then on would be judged, and it’s a film you may have heard of…

An American Werewolf in London.

Practical effects that were nothing short of magical, a likeable cast and a clever, funny script with all sorts of odd characters and bad dreams make American Werewolf an unbeatable opponent, but that doesn’t stop me from seeing lots of werewolf films as they are my second favourite supernatural creature, (my first are flesh golems like Dr. Frankenstein’s creation) and if I were to pick a creature to become, it would definitely be one of them… I mean, I like meat and my back is already hairy enough!

This is one of those times that I have decided to give another werewolf film a go: director Paul Hyett previously directed The Seasoning House, and is also known for his make-up work on films like The Descent and Doomsday. In an interesting twist, the film is written by Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler, both mainly know for work on children’s shows like Danger Mouse and Thomas the Tank Engine.

Interesting credentials for writers of a werewolf movie!

Joe (Ed Spleers), is a loveable loser/ train conductor forced to do overtime by his new jerk boss on a night time run it something awful happens, well, even more awful than having the job of being a train conductor on a train full of jerks.

The train stops suddenly from hitting a deer on the tracks and when the train driver (Sean Pertwee) goes to investigate, he disappears.

So it’s left to Joe, to assist a hostile group of train passengers, to safety, but it’s hard to lead them to any sort of sanctuary when they are being pursued by something in the woods… Something horrible and dangerous…

Ok, my introduction and the name of the film suggest the issue these people have: it’s werewolves.

The film is shot quite well, even occasionally having a Hammer look to it, and all the action scenes are tense and violent, and once the creature is revealed, it’s got this weirdly cool manitou vibe to it. My best attempt to describe it would be a mid transformation David from American Werewolf and Rawhead Rex.

There is one major problem with this film though, and it’s a core element of effective horror movies.

The characters.

It’s hard to have any sort of emotional investment in a bunch of jerks, and a milksop leading man, and even though I appreciated their performances, I just didn’t give a stuff if any of them died or not… In actual fact, I wanted them all TO die as quick as possible! Even after the usual section of potential victims revealing their vulnerabilities and secrets to each other, I just didn’t care enough about them for their deaths to even matter in the slightest.

The packaging of the film also does an unforgivable sin: I second bills a cast member whose name has some cache, even though they are barely in the film for ten minutes.

The film isn’t bad, not by any means, it just doesn’t stand out, unfortunately, as I pointed out, due to the fact there is already the perfect werewolf movie made. It does have some good elements, but I couldn’t get past the fact that the characters were all such horrible people.

Score: **

Format: The reviewed copy of Howl is the Australian region B bluray release and is presented in a crisp and clear 2.40:1 image with a DTS Master HD 5.1. Unfortunately this does reveal some of the CGI to be a little subpar.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with a few trailers: October Gale, How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town, Electric Slide and Glassland. If that’s not enough extras for you than.. Well, tough, because that’s all there is!

Score: *

WISIA: Watch either American Werewolf in London or The Howling again, would be my suggestion!