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Personal Shopper (2016)
This years most misleading trailer award goes to......
If you're expecting to see a thoughtful addition to modern slow burning haunted house films such as The Others or Paranormal Activity, then look somewhere else. In fact, go and watch those two, they're great films, that reward their audiences with exactly what they were expecting. Sadly, the same can't be said for Personal Shopper. A film that not only gives away a major plot point in the trailer, but also has it contain about 80% of the scares. Seriously. Watch the trailer, nearly every "scary" moment is in there. Sadly, you won't realise this until you've watched the film right up to the abysmal anti climatic end.
I've read other reviewers say they wanted to walk out at the 30 minute mark. I can genuinely see why. I have no problem with films taking their time. In fact, it's nice to just sit back and let a director flaunt their craft. THIS IS NOT ONE OF THOSE TIMES!!!! Everything is so dragged out. But it doesn't get us anywhere. We're subjected to a 20 minute back and forth text conversation, that does nothing, except make you want to check your own phone. It's a tedium that's not resolved either. We're left wondering who's on the other end of the conversation? In fact, I'm still not sure why it's even in there. It serves absolutely no purpose to the plot. If they'd left it out, you wouldn't have missed it. It's that irrelevant. There's also a brutal murder of a major character (but, if you've seen the trailer, you know who it is, and where it happens), but it's wrapped up inside 10 minutes, and not mentioned again.
So that's the film, what about tween idol Kristen Stewart? Well that's where there is a slight ray of hope (albeit an emo friendly black one). Granted, she does do what people have come to expect, which is essentially look sullen and pout. However, that actually works here, as her character is dealing with a very recent death of a twin, who died from a condition she has, and may kill her in the same spontaneous manner. So as far as casting is concerned, she's a clever choice. It's hard to comment on the rest of the cast, as they fleet in and out so quickly, you'll struggle to remember them. Think Daniel Radcliffe in the Woman in Black, only instead of Kristen Stewart being surround by creepy toys with renaissance eyes, she's surrounded by real people who serve no purpose, and aren't given long enough to have one.
As far as the supernatural element goes, it feels tacked on. The trailer lead me to believe that there's either a malevolent spirit chasing Bella Swan, and like Paranormal Activity, it'll get stronger the more attention she gives it, or that she's a medium who doesn't know it, and her day to day life is invaded by her unknown powers. This is not the case for either. Every time something spooky happens, it's treated as the norm, and nobody is overly phased by the fact that this girl is seeing full entities. Even she takes it in her stride. The whole thing ends up feeling like somebody filmed Kristen Stewart, then at the last minute thought "I like ghosts".
If you want to see a decent haunted house chiller, this isn't for you. If you want to see a decent murder mystery, this isn't for you. If you want to see the girl from Twilight in nothing but little black pants, give it a go. For me though, this is a disappointment that rivals The Girl on the Train.
The Shallows (2016)
Brilliant idea ruined by over the top Hollywood ending.
I won't lie, I had high hopes for this film. Blake Lively openly stated that hubby Ryan Reynolds largely ignored thriller Buried was her motivation for doing The Shallows. That coupled with the promise of an Open Water / Jaws "less is more" atmosphere was enough to sucker me in.
And for the first half, it delivers. Everything in the first 30 minutes of this film seems plausible to a non surfer like myself. Granted it's the worst case scenario, but none the less it all seems very possible. Shark attacks are rarely fatal (sharks do not EAT people), high and low tides can change the geography of the sea on an hourly basis, and people DO get stranded at sea.
Fine. So far so good.
Then it all goes a bit........... Matrix-esque, as Blake Lively suddenly seems to be able to bend nature against its will. She also manages to go from being at deaths door from dehydration, shock, and insetting gangrene, to being able to out swim, outsmart, and generally outdo a great white shark, all while being immune to jellyfish stings, blood loss, sunstroke and um.....drowning. She also seems to have perfect vision underwater. But this is not a one sided battle, Mrs Van Wilder is equally matched by natures perfect killing machine, Agent Shark. Who it seems can also bend the rules of nature, as well as shark-kind (thankfully though we're spared any jaws sequel style "roaring", or Deep Blue Sea backwards swimming, which even I know is impossible).
It really is a shame, because this could have been a great psychological thriller, amping up the tension from a slow circling predator that's simply biding it's time waiting for its prey to run out of options and just take a leap of faith. Sort of a Blair Sea Witch. That's not to say it doesn't have its moments. The shot of the sharks silhouette behind the surfed wave is genuinely unnerving and exciting. As are the overhead shots of it circling Mrs Deadpool. Even the jump scare Go Pro opening is well done. But it's all for nothing due to the infuriating second half, where we simply see way to much of the shark way too early. For a film that's well under 90 minutes, the shark gets a surprising amount of broad daylight screen time. And that's what really robs this film of its integrity. That and the ridiculous "disposal" of Agent Shark, who suffers a death so preposterous you'll be shocked for a few seconds (due to some pretty well placed timing by the editor), and then find yourself laughing at the sheer absurdity of it.
All in all this had the chance to be a major contender, it really does start well, and even tags a moment of truth in its last scene by inferring that surfers who are attacked by sharks do go back in the water. Sadly though coming back to reality for the last two minutes can't excuse the over the top second half, poor CGI backgrounds (that stand out a mile on Blu Ray, let alone 4K), and a general waste of a very good idea.