Friday Night Flix: Deathwatch

Deathwatch1Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.

I’m one of those people who love love LOVES to seem smart. When someone mentions something about which I have even the tiniest shred of information, I am powerless to stop myself from butting in and blurting it out. Even if they probably would have gotten to my point eventually. Especially then. So it’s fittingly ironic that I am, in fact, horrifically ignorant about most things that matter. I know exactly as much about current events as someone who obtains all their information by reading newspapers over other peoples’ shoulders. If it’s not in the headline, odds are it escaped me. Geography? I’m not confident I could name all the states that border Pennsylvania and I spent the first two thirds of my life there. And history, holy fuck am I ignorant. I’m super competitive at Trivial Pursuit (Genus III is the definitive Genus. END OF DISCUSSION.) but I become strangely quiet during questions about events pre-1980. So maybe it’s not surprising that I made it through the entirety of Deathwatch (Netflix, Hulu), which is set in 1917, thinking it was a movie about World War II. Sickeningly offensive to the memories of the men who served in both wars, but not surprising.

Deathwatch2For some reason the box art for this movie made me think the troops were about to do battle with Nazi zombies. That is not the case. I won’t tell you what they’re up against because I’m not totally sure. As is all too often the case with U.K. supernatural horror, it’s never really fleshed out. There seems to be some corrupting force influencing the men’s psyches, but mostly it takes the form of ghostly barbed wire attacks. And it’s not like the terror is enhanced by a shroud of inconsistent vagaries. It feels more like establishing a coherent modus operandi would somehow be undignified. I know I’m being unfair because this is obviously a film that barely scraped together the budget to build out its period set pieces. Then again, it sports a fairly pricey cast of up-and-comers and sorta-knowns including the alway arresting Andy Serkis, Jamie Bell (in a decidedly uninspiring developmental phase), and a gruff character actor I like named Hugo Speer. I  would have sworn the gay butler from Downton Abbey was in there too but I don’t argue with IMDB. Last time we got in a fight I ended up in traction.

Deathwatch3Added bonus:  Deathwatch was directed by Michael J. Bassett, who four years later in 2006 would direct Wilderness. Apparently all his movies need to have one-word titles of exactly ten letters. Am I the only one who thinks the name Michael J. should only ever be followed by Fox? Either switch to Mike or get your own middle initial. That one’s taken.

Friday Night Flix: Wilderness

Wilderness1Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Every week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.

I’ve decided to embrace my unintentional foreign film streak. I pledge that from now on, I will recommend nothing BUT foreign films…until such time as I get bored or it becomes even slightly inconvenient to do so.

This week we have a nifty little survival slasher suspense dealie from the UK called Wilderness (free on Netflix, 2.99 on Amazon), which sends a bunch of juvenile delinquents on a surprisingly dangerous camping trip. Am I alone in thinking even the thuggiest of thugs seem jaunty and refined when they speak with a British accent? Like at any moment they might take a break from beating the shit out of each other to have a nice cup of tea.

Wilderness2Wilderness walks a well-traveled path but manages to toss in enough novel ideas to keep things interesting. It’s almost like the filmmakers heard about the survival horror sub-genre and thought it might be fun to try, but did no further research. The result is a mixed bag. On one hand you have to put up with generic twists that savvy audiences will smell out miles in advance. (Gee, I wonder which of our gangland boy scouts has a secret.) But you also get deviations from industry standard plot progression that might not have occurred to horror aficionados.  I found it particularly refreshing when both the killer and his motive were revealed relatively early on. It allows the audience to focus on the fear of being hunted without wasting energy on the typical who/why guessing game on which most slasher type films rely.

Wilderness3Added bonus: You don’t know who Toby Kebbell is by name and before I looked him up, neither did I. But the moment the character Callum showed up in Wilderness, I definitely recognized him from his outstanding turn in 2008’s RocknRolla as junkie rocker Johnny Quid. Rocknrolla is easily as entertaining as Snatch and Lock, Stock and Kebbell is nothing short of amazing. I truly, truly hope that whoever owns the rights realizes this before Kebbell gets too old to anchor a proper sequel.