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A beautifully-made and compact story with a lot of hidden depth.
This strong, atmospheric, and beautifully-made little film did not disappoint based on reviews that either put it in the trash for "gratuitous violence" or gave it a firm pat on the head for a good attempt.
I see the value in the latter assessment - working on a budget, this film does a lot with what it has, providing hauntingly beautiful vistas of an ancient Ireland and making its story stretch beyond its small shooting framework. The actors, too, make so much of the script they've been given, with great performances throughout. Although this does lead me onto the main drawback of the film: the characters are largely undeveloped, especially that of Diarmuid - who is the protagonist no less - and his Brothers. We can see that he cares about them a lot - after all, "the monastery is all he's ever known" - but more development would have been crucial to making me really care about whether they lived or died, failed or succeeded. The most interesting characters for me were Geraldus and the Mute, "grey" characters whose backstories are hinted at if never fully disclosed, and with sublime subtlety in the case of Bernthal's character. The characters we do get to truly see are rewarding, albeit darkly, and were one of the film's greatest triumphs - it just would have been great to see the same treatment given to the lead protagonist and primary villain.
In the other camp, I don't think the story could have worked without the levels of violence, savagery, and loss that we see, which the viewer must witness with the same unblinking acceptance that the characters do. In this, there is a hidden depth to Pilgrimage, a story about Ireland, the land where "there was never peace". One review focused around the particular Irishness of the film rang true in some places - that the colour shown here is multiple shades of grey, and little green - if not in others. This is not a deconstruction of the "Irish" mythos, but it does touch, tenderly and reverentially, upon the idea of an unattainable relic: to know peace, both within and without, a dream not limited to this country but echoed in Jerusalem and beyond. Though it does not present its findings in a wholly satisfying parcel, the film did provoke thought about where that quest for peace could lead us next - to what bloody ends or watery graves? To what loss and to what triumphs?
"Where to now?"
Beautiful Creatures (2013)
Coming from someone who hasn't read the book
The story has an original premise in that's it has a fairly familiar ideas (witches and magic - one of the oldest subjects for stories - strange kid moves into town and changes everything, secrets about the town are unveiled etc.) but the focus is on how the caster girl's powers affect her and her feelings of being outcast all her life, and the story revolves around a teen romance with a twist.
I went to see the film expecting to follow Lena, the caster girl who is struggling with the powers of light and dark inside her, but was (pleasantly) surprised to see the story was generally told from the point of view of her love interest Ethan, the 'normal' boy who falls for the outsider when everyone else shuns her. He's a very likable character, clearly passionate and compassionate, and has a good sense of humour that provides fresh light on the sometimes dark story matter.
It was also a bit creepier than I expected. There is conflict between the light and dark casters, as well as these elements within the characters, fighting for supremacy - danger and fear run through the film, and you will be surprised more than once.
Personally I found this film really entertaining, though I understand many fans are unhappy with the adaptation and I'm considering reading the books myself. I thought it offered everything, humour, action, fear, a sweet romance, a healthy dose of magic - and it's fresh! This is a solid, quality young adult movie.
Demons Never Die (2011)
Demons Never Die, but suicidal teenagers do.
I went to see this film mainly on the premise that Robert Sheehan was in it, this being his first film release since he left Misfits, as I wanted to see what he's moved onto since he departed from a TV show as good as that. After watching Demons Never Die, I'm not convinced he changed his career path for the better.
The film's strengths lie in the cinematography, which at times is effectively dynamic and incorporates some good use of night-vision camera into its teen horror flick appeal. However the performances of the actors, some of which don't even get enough screen time to be judged by, are generally either flat, or downright annoying in the case of Jennie Jacques (who plays beyond-helping suicidal "goth girl" Jasmine) and, yes, Jason Maza, who put across one of the best performances generally, but had a script way too punctured by repetitive f-bombs and jabs at the other characters that after a while left his speech completely deflated. Ashley Walters on the other hand led the story with some very nice narrative work as one of the policemen following the teen murder/suicide outbreak. Robert Sheehan's somber, gentle portrayal of a somewhat lost soul rediscovering himself through sudden and inevitable romance is also passable. Enough.
The stronger actors, however, couldn't pull the film through its sloppy storyline. It is there, under the surface, but structured artlessly and not explored enough to make this an engaging film to sit through. While some characters are over-embellished (visually at least) others are neglected, only to appear fruitlessly and then disperse into the background again. None of the characters, however, have histories delved into with half the detail and care that was needed to make them work. You cannot have a film that deals solely with teens bent on committing suicide without a sole reason for them to go so far as to form a pact to see who can top themselves first. There are HINTS, again, but if they are dealt with at all they're not done so sensitively or interestingly. This adds to the whole downsider that the movie lacks both depth and meaning. Teen horror flicks need it too, especially when they deal with teens.
Not even the masked killer ends up having any real reason to kill so many teenagers. The twist to the story is clearly meant to land with a bang, but fails to do so because of the directorial slips. The very, very end to the film though, and how it suddenly makes clear the title, is the one thing about this film that has a true, if small, impression (small only because it takes a full hour and a bit to arrive at the station).
Overall a fruitless disappointment, which may have worked better from a black comedy angle, rather than trying to be something it just didn't work out to be.