ABC Film Challenge – Horror – M – The Monkey’s Paw (2013)

Director: Brett Simmons

Writer: Macon Blair (Screenplay) W.W. Jacobs, Adam Meyer, Justin Smith (Story)

Starring: C.J. Thomason, Stephen Lang, Michelle Pierce, Corbin Bleu, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Charles S Dutton


Plot: Jake is given a Monkey’s Paw that grants 3 wishes. After the first 2 wishes leave his friend Cobb undead, Cobb pushes Jake to make a final wish.

Tagline – One Wish. A Thousand Regrets.

Runtime: 1 Hour 31 Minutes


There may be spoilers in the rest of the review


Verdict: Not What We Wished For


Story: The Monkey’s Paw starts when a group of mechanics Jake (Thomason), Cobb (Lang) and Catfish (Bleu) are dealing with the firing of one of their co-workers with a few drinks, Jake ends up receiving a monkey paw which will grant him three wishes, like any young person, his first wish is for a car, while after an accident he must use the second wish to bring Cobb back to life.

When Cobb does come back to life, he starts going on a killing spree, wanting to get the monkey paw off Jake to have his own final wish, while Jake needs to find a way to end the bloodshed.


Thoughts on The Monkey’s Paw


Characters – Jake Tilton is a mechanic that has seen his life become mundane, he supports his co-workers with one getting fired, he is having an affair with his boss’s wife and when he is given a monkey paw, he only asks for a car. This is just the beginning of his life-changing experiences, first his best friend is killed and after wishing he would return from the dead, he must stop him before it is too late for his loved ones. Tony Cobb is the best friend of Jake, he works with him and has done for years now, the two enjoy a drink or two, which sees him dying, he comes back from the dead to put his own life back together which along with a darker side which will see him kill anybody that gets in his way. Olivia is the woman Jake that is having an affair with, which after her husband disappears, makes him a suspect, she does love him though and is planning to leave her husband. Catfish is the fellow co-worker that tries to push Jake into lighter view on life.

PerformancesC.J. Thomason in the leading role as the everyday man struggling with the guilt a monkey paw’s consequences could have on his life does well enough, we see him slowly breakdown while being nervous in life early on. Stephen Lang is the highlight of the fil, with his performance as the psychotic figure being a joy to watch, carrying the film through the extremes his character goes through. Michelle Pierce leads the supporting cast that struggle to get any impact on the story.

StoryThe story here follows a man that is given a monkey paw which is meant to give them three wishes and soon he is left in a difficult position when it comes to what to do with the final wish to be after bringing his friend back from the dead. When it comes to film where we give a person a chance to wish for anything, we usually get moral dilemmas which this story does have moments where we should have them only to gloss over them not giving any thought to what is going on. We have a psychotic figure going on a killing spree which only confuses things more because he is acting like he has no soul, though his motivation is a human reason. In the end the story doesn’t give us enough time to process the wish making process, has dramatic character twists that don’t fit the tone of the film.

HorrorThe horror comes from the moments Cobb is terrorising people, we do get the blood level, but never the scary factor.

SettingsThe film is set in a small Florida town which sees everybody know each other, making the killing spree have an impact on the people of the town.

Special EffectsThe effects in the film are solid when it comes to gore effects, with one standout moment being shocking, while the rest is often hidden off camera.

Scene of the Movie –
Don’t split up.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Not going through the consequences discussion.

Final ThoughtsThis is a wishes can go bad if you don’t think movie, with the deadly consequences showing us just how dangerous not thinking can be.


Overall: Long old slug.




Isolation (2015)

Director: Shane Dax Taylor

Writer: Shane Dax Taylor, Chad Law (Screenplay)

Starring: Dominic Purcell, Luke Mably, Marie Avgeropoulos, Stephen Lang, Claudia Church, Chelsea Edmundson, Tricia Helfer


Plot: Inspired by the true events of a couple vacationing on a remote island in the Bahamas who are hunted by a group of modern-day pirates, after their identities and their lives.


Runtime: 1 Hour 26 Minutes


There may be spoilers in the rest of the review


Verdict: Perfect Getaway Rip Off


Story: Isolation starts with a holidaying couple Max (Purcell) and Nina (Avgeropoulous) who get chased away by a local in William (Lang). We move onto follow another couple Creighton (Malby) and Lydia (Helfer) who are trying to put their marriage back together after his mistake, he takes her to a remote island to relax and enjoy.

Creighton and Lydia get welcomed by William and his wife Mary (Church) who invite them over for dinner, but during the dinner their apartment gets robbed and they find themselves with nothing, needing to search for help to survive.


Thoughts on Isolation


Characters – Creighton is the successful businessman that has made a terrible error in his marriage, he is trying to in his wife’s heart back and her trust, he takes on her the holiday on the remote, he is doing everything he can, he knows how much he messed up and will need to prove this in the fight to survive here. Lydia is the wife that has seen her marriage destroyed by her husband, she is willing to give him one more try though which is what we see her going through on the holiday. Max is one of the neighbours on the island, first chased off, but soon welcoming the couple with his partner Nina. William along with his wife Mary also live on the island and have chased people off before, but he welcomes Creighton and Lydia as he enjoys the life in paradise. We are left to guess which couple is the pirates here, which is interesting even if the outcome is more confusing.

PerformancesThe performances are mixed here because you have some big named talent which the film is advertised on, with Stephen Lang and Dominic Purcell, they are both fine in what is supporting roles. it is Luke Malby and Tricia Helfer that are the main leads and never get out of the blocks because while they have an interesting problem, they still are forced into silly decisions.

StoryThe story here follows a couple trying to fix their marriage on a remote island, only to find themselves needing to fight to survive against pirates who want to steal their identities. The problems mount up early in this film, first the opening scene only confuses, the second comes from their only being 3 couples and one needs to be the pirates, much like ‘A Perfect Getaway’ this movie falls into the position of just trying to keep you guessing on one couple, only to pull the rug out, only this one doesn’t even give you the rug, it points directly at one couple then decides to go, nah, it’s the other one. there is way too much talk and bonding moments between the couple’s which doesn’t need to be here. The only interesting side of the story comes from Creighton and Lydia trying to fix their marriage, only this gets forgotten in the film too.

ActionThe action is most chases and fights that are badly edited to make them feel like if you blink you might miss something big.

SettingsThe film does use the settings to its advantage, by having it set on a remote island with no phone signal, creating the isolation needed.

Scene of the Movie –

That Moment That Annoyed Me The running.

Final ThoughtsThis is a weak rip off, of A Perfect Getaway that did this story so much better, in a shocking way too, it has bland characters and story that doesn’t seem to go anywhere.


Overall: Disappointing, dull and boring.



The Nut Job (2014)

nutDirector: Peter Lepeniotis

Writer: Peter Lepeniotis, Lorne Cameron, (Screenplay) Daniel Woo (Story)

Starring: (Voice Talents) Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl, Stephen Lang, Maya Rudolph, Jeff Dunham, Gabrial Iglesias, Sarah Gadon


Plot: An incorrigibly self-serving exiled squirrel finds himself helping his former park brethren raid a nut store to survive, that is also the front for a human gang’s bank robbery.


There may be spoilers the rest of the review


Verdict: Bland Animated Film


Story: The Nut Job starts as we meet selfish squirrel Surly who lives in the park only ever looking after himself against the rest of the park run by Racoon. When the park animals work on trying to get food together for winter clash with Surly he finds himself exiled from the park while the rest of the animals have to find food for the winter. This is basically going to be A Bug’s Life I am guessing.

When Surly locates a nut shop he is ready for the winter but plucky squirrel Andie is assigned to help feed the park having to team up with ‘heroic’ squirrel Grayson. When the two different side meet they arrange to work together to save the park and see Surly redeem himself and move back into the park.

The Nut Job is a heist movie mixed together to feel like a poor attempt of copying A Bug’s Life where one disgraced member of a group that gets a chance to prove his worth to the rest by helping them get enough food for winter. This is really just lazy story telling that doesn’t have anything original and just has poor slapstick attempts at humour throughout. The voice talents are wasted and in the end this is something I don’t think even children should watch.


Overall: Just plain bad reaching the levels of awful.




Don’t Breathe (2016)

dontDirector: Fede Alvarez

Writer: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues (Screenplay)

Starring: Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, Emma Bercovici, Franiska Torocsik


Plot: Hoping to walk away with a massive cash, a trio of thieves break into the house of a sick man who isn’t as helpless as he seems.


There may be spoilers the rest of the review


Verdict: Brilliant Suspense Driven Film


Story: Don’t Breathe starts as we meet three thieves Rocky (Levy) who dreams of leaving the Michigan, Alex (Minnette) who has the codes to break into the houses and Money (Zovatto) who is their connection to the boss who takes part of their cut. When the three get information about a Blind Man (Lang) who has six figures inside his house they see this as an easy score to change their lives forever.

When night comes the thieves enter the house finding the house isn’t as simple as first thought and things only get worse when the blind man wakes up and proves to be deadlier than they could ever imagine.

Don’t Breathe is a suspense driven horror that plays against the sense, first with a character that can’t see before turning the tables on the thieves by taking away their sight in the dark. While I found the suspense brilliant throughout this film I couldn’t question a single side of it. Where I do question and I understand the film did this for a reason is that we have morale incorrect characters in what is meant to be the protagonist roles because why should we root for thieves? The only one of the three that seems like he cares about who they are doing these crimes to because the support character to a final girl figure that has her own agenda but is driven by greed. The so called villain of this piece is a blind man who has lost his only daughter to dangerous driver and just wants to be left in peace. I personal loved the concept but didn’t truly understand which side of the fence I was meant to be rooting for which is both praise and a criticism of this film because too often we find ourselves cut and dry on who to root for.


Overall: Stunning addition to the suspense horror genre.




Pioneer (2013)

pioneerDirector: Erik Skjoldbjaerg

Writer: Erik Skjoldbjaerg, Nikolaj Frobenius, Hans Gunnarsson, Cathinka Nicolaysen, Kathrine Valen Zeiner (Screenplay)

Starring: Aksel Hennie, Wes Bentley, Stephen Lang, Stephanie Sigman, Jonathan LaPaglia, Ane Dahl Torp


Plot: A thriller set at the beginning of the 1980’s Norwegian Oil Boom and cantered on a diver whose obsession with reaching the bottom of the Norwegian Sea leads to tragedy.


There may be spoilers the rest of the review


Verdict: Tense Conspiracy Thriller


Story: Pioneer starts by showing the Norwegian working with the Americans to simulate the achievement of diving 500 metres under water with Petter (Hennie), Knut (Eriksen) Jorgen (Jorgensen) and American Mike (Bentley) are the subjects which achieves the world record.

The next challenge is to take this into the field to help finish constructing under water gas pipes of the coast of Norway. The captain of the ship John Ferris (Lang) sends the Norwegian team in first. When an accident happens on their mission Knut ends up dying and Petter tries to get to the bottom of what really happened. Petter believes the Americans have more information and finds himself wondering just who to trust in his quest for truth.

Pioneer brings us a thriller that is wrapped up in a conspiracy follow the events between two nations who are trying to work together to complete an oil pipeline underwater. We follow one man who wants to know what happened and who was really responsible for his brother’s death. This does work well but sadly we don’t see enough from what finally did happen with most of this being sold as paranoia.


Actor Review


Aksel Hennie: Petter is the Norwegian diver who loses his brother on one of the mission, he wants to know what really happened and who is to blame, this leads him into a maze of cover ups that put his very life at risk. Aksel is great in this role out shinning the rest of the cast in the leading role.petter

Wes Bentley: Mike is the arrogant American who believes he is better than the Norwegians, he sees himself more physically fit to do the dive and does whatever it takes to be the first choice for any dives. Wes is an actor I will try to always praise but he doesn’t seem to give one of his better performance but must be praised for stepping into a foreign language film.

Stephen Lang: John Ferris is the lead in the experiment from the American side of the experiments. He knows there is evidence that could cause harm on his side of the situation thanks to how Petter’s brother dies. Stephen is good in this villainous role even if we only see him a couple of times in the film.

Stephanie Sigman: Maria is the wife of Petter’s brother that is against him continuing diving and blames Petter for his death to start with until he finds out the truth hasn’t fully been uncovered. Stephanie doesn’t get enough screen time to make the impact her character needs too.

Support Cast: Pioneer has a supporting cast that are mostly involved with covering up the truth or offering news about the truth.

Director Review: Erik SkjoldbjaergErik gives us a nice thriller that’s lead does carry the film.


Thriller: Pioneer keeps us wondering as to what actually happened.

Settings: Pioneer creates the settings to match the time period with the underwater scenes all coming off smoothly.
Special Effects
: Pioneer uses good effects when it comes to creating the underwater scenes making them feel as intense as they need to be.

Suggestion: Pioneer is one to try, it is an interesting story but difficult to keep on top off (Try It)


Best Part: Final shot of the oil rig being shipped out.

Worst Part: Norwegian and English gets confusing to onto off throughout.


Believability: Based on the real events.

Chances of Tears: No

Chances of Sequel: No

Post Credits Scene: No


Oscar Chances: No

Runtime: 1 Hour 51 Minutes

Tagline: When your ultimate adventure becomes your ultimate nightmare

Trivia: The accident, where Aksel Hennie rolls his Jeep isn’t staged, but a real not planned rollover without a stunt man. Hennie was to drive off the road, and make a Sharp turn, but the Jeep wasn’t able to perform such a turn at that speed, without rolling over.


Overall: Thriller that lacks the punches it needs to fully pull the audience in.