Sinister 2

“Whatever happened to the Oswalts is going to happen again,” warns James Ransone’s private investigator, at a key scene in Sinister 2. “It’s only a question of where and when”.

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Much like the unstoppable power of supernatural forces, there’s a grim inevitability to this horror sequel. Scott Derrickson’s 2012 original, a brooding haunted house mystery, hardly demanded a follow-up. But when an original movie earns a box-office gross twenty-five times its budget, a sequel is going to happen – it’s only a question of where and when.

Ciaran Foy’s franchise continuation hits the key beats of the first film efficiently and effectively enough, shifting the focus to a young boy haunted by nightmares, and a private investigator (Ransone, reprising his earlier role) attempting to break the chain of the boogeyman Bughuul (think Saw’s Jigsaw crossed with the lead guitarist from Slipknot).

Tormented by a cluster of creepy ghost children, the boy is coaxed down to the basement of his creaking poorly-lit farmhouse (where else?), night after night. There, the creepy ghost child leader – adorned in a spiffy sweater-vest-and-tie combo, the preferred uniform of all creepy ghost children – implores him to watch old home movies on a vintage projector.

These home movies all initially depict the quintessence of the nuclear family: a fishing trip, a new home, a Christmas morning. Invariably, these wholesome harmonies are abruptly and brutally shattered by elaborate scenes of mass murder – crucifixion, arson, electrocution – orchestrated by Bughuul’s omnipresent influence.

Though not exactly the first to harness grainy old-school film as a tool of horror, there is undeniably something profoundly disturbing about these sequences. The flicker of the projector, the wobbly homemade camerawork, the unheard screams: it all makes for a visceral, unsettling experience.

But overall, the film seems to be in thrall to scares, not characters. Its predecessor delved into themes of obsession, mystery, and common parental anxieties – themes retrodden ever so lightly here.

Too often, it resorts to tactics as cheap and as predictable as a travelling fairground ghost train. While the first Sinister was B-movie horror with A-movie aspirations, this seems fairly happy to wear its B-movie stripes firmly on its sleeve. Workmanlike without ever threatening to be remarkable, it really was only a question of where and when.

Absolutely Anything

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When it was announced, Absolutely Anything was touted as a unique opportunity to see a proper reunion of the surviving Monty Python members – the old troupe, back on the big screen, for maybe the last time.

Terry Jones, director of The Holy Grail, Life of Brian, and many more, was getting the gang back together. Could this be the movie Python fans have clamoured for?

Put bluntly: no. No, it could not. Despite Jones at the helm, and Cleese, Palin, Idle and Gilliam on board, Python’s irresistible mix of surrealism and silliness now seems like a very distant memory.

This film has a tone so broad you could see it from space. And for a film that is, in fact, partly set in space, it has a depressingly unambitious streak, of the kind you see in studio Britcoms chasing that lucrative US export. There’s none of the bold inventive sparkle or intellectual immaturity that was once a Python hallmark.

The Pythons themselves, meanwhile, are almost literally phoning it in – their roles equate to voicing some CGI aliens, probably dashed off in an afternoon. None of them seem especially enthused to be there. John Cleese just sounds a bit tired.

The focus instead falls on Simon Pegg’s secondary school teacher Neil, an unassuming nobody who suddenly finds himself gifted with unlimited powers by said aliens, while they ponder whether to destroy the Earth.

If you were thinking this high-concept pitch – Ordinary Joe becomes God – sounds rather a lot like ​Bruce Almighty, well, yes, you’re not far off. But unlike Jim Carrey’s brush with omnipotence, Neil is remarkably unimaginative in the use of his powers.

He gives himself a generously-endowed body, self-dressing clothes, and a talking dog; but he’s too witless to conjure up anything more dazzling than that. (A more accurate title might be Absolutely Anything That The Special Effects Budget Will Allow For.)

Still, at least the powers allow for some mildly entertaining diversions. It’s when Neil pursues the girl-next-door (Kate Beckinsale) that the film takes a sharp turn into Mediocreville.

Beckinsale’s absurdly glamorous Hollywood looks are wildly out of place in her drab office job; her gaudy-best-mate-tropes are found in only the bleakest romantic comedies, and her whole tawdry subplot offers literally nothing of value to the film at large.

A real disappointment, Absolutely Anything brims with talent and potential, but squanders it on a parade of safe, unfunny, paint-by-numbers clichés. Forgive the obvious wordplay… but truly, you’ll wish you were watching absolutely anything else.

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