Tag Archives: Psychological Thrillers

Seven Days

Surgeon Bruno Hamel (Claude Legault) is living a seemingly idyllic life until his young daughter is raped and murdered. Obsessed with vengeance, Bruno concocts a plot to kidnap, torture and execute the man responsible for the crime. Once his plan comes to fruition, he’ll turn himself in. Director Daniel Grou makes his feature-film debut with this thriller based on a novel by Patrick Senécal. Rémy Girard and Fanny Mallette co-star.

Rating: 6 out of 10
Warning: some minor spoilers!

If you think, based on the description above, that this is another Hostel it most definitely isn’t. The grief of loss is presented in a very real and palpable way that drew me in. The husband and wife (played brilliantly by Claude Legault and Fanny Mallette) are real people dealing with the most horrific thing that can happen to a human being, the loss of a child. It’s that sense of reality that drew me into the story. Who wouldn’t want revenge for the rape and murder of their child? Who wouldn’t want to make their attacker suffer unimaginably? Who hasn’t questioned whether imprisonment is “enough” for a crime of this magnitude?

So, for a film raising all of these interesting questions, why is it a lowly 6? I feel the story takes a lot of turns that made it too ridiculous that it started to lose me. For one, there’s a point where the father kidnaps the mother of a previous victim of the same killer who murdered his daughter. Why? He saw her in a TV interview talking about how she has forgotten about the killer. He finds it so offensive that he chloroforms her and takes her to the hidden cottage where the killer is being tortured so she can face him. All of this is done while there’s a massive manhunt for him going on. It really never needed to get that ridiculous. The more basic the story became, the better it was. Why take the doctor away from the confrontations with the murderer as well as his own demons? That also reminds me of another weakness of the story. The writer decided to have zero dialogue interaction between the father and the killer. I can understand the idea that he wouldn’t even want to speak with him but why deprive the audience of what could have been several interesting exchanges to further flesh out the characters?

On a positive note, newcomer director Daniel Grou has a terrific sense of pacing and his use of silence in the film is excellent. I love when filmmakers take the time to show us a story visually without music or dialogue to paint a story.

I must also note that the film is horribly violent and contains scenes of extended torture. It’s certainly not for the squeamish. In fact, I would bet most of you will not like or enjoy it. I don’t think that was the ever the intention. I took from it that if you were given a chance to make the punishment fit the crime, would you lose your soul in the process?

Top 5 Movies Shawn Was Right About


I tease my cousin Shawn about his taste in movies a little more than I probably should.

Shawn loves classic, critically-acclaimed cinema as much as I do, but he also loves shoot-em-ups, science-fiction, and action movies I would never even consider watching. He loves the, and I quote, “‘splosions,” and “pew pew.” He said he enjoyed “The A-Team” more than “Black Swan,” and said “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” was good.

He can be sentimental, too, for movies like “Shrek Forever After.” He loves TV, which I don’t. But he does a superb job on our sister blog, TV-Tastic.

I ran him through the ringer for his review of “The A-Team” and I figured since I beat him up all the time, I should do a Top 5 list of movies Shawn was right about.

5. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: In this case, I thought this installment of the Star Trek film franchise was silly and far too wide a sidestep from the franchise. Shawn, a giant Trekker of the most massive scale, explained to me that I shouldn’t over think it. This is the Star Trek comedy. I hadn’t watched it in a long time and went back for a second viewing. Shawn was right. This is a lighthearted, fun Star Trek adventure that is very accessible and I enjoyed far more the second go around.

4. X-Men: Before going to see this  in the theater with Shawn, I really thought it wasn’t going to work. With a massive cast and so many characters to develop in the huge X-Men Universe, I didn’t think they could pull it off. I really wasn’t amped about seeing it, but Shawn really wanted to go. And he was right. It was a blast. The Wolverine performance by Hugh Jackman remains among the best ever in comic book films. I was wrong, yet again.

3. Mr. Brooks: This was a movie I totally would have overlooked. Kevin Costner has passed his peak, and I don’t really seek out his films anymore. But Shawn reviewed this film for us, and based on his recommendation, I checked it out. Very solid little psycho-drama, mystery movie with a really good performance by Costner. Good choice, Shawn.

2. The Other Guys: This was another one of those movies I would have passed over. I like Will Ferrell, and all, but another buddy police comedy? Like that hasn’t been done? Well, this happens to be one of the best ones. We laughed often and hard in the theater when we went to see it. We had a blast, and I’m glad he got me to go.

1. The Matrix: Man oh man oh man, was I wrong about this one. Because Keanu Reeves was in this, I instantly wrote it off as a crap-fest of epic proportions and literally scoffed at Shawn when he glowed about it to me over coffee. When I finally got around to seeing this on video — God, was I late to the party — I was hooked on “The Matrix.” This is one of the best action/sci-fi films of all time. While the sequels may have left a bad taste in our collective mouths, the original remains a modern classic.

Shawn 5, Matt 0.


While on a job in Iraq, civilian contractor Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) is attacked and kidnapped, then awakens to find himself buried alive in the middle of the desert with nothing but a lighter, a candle, a cell phone and a knife. Does Paul have the instincts he’ll need to save himself? Director Rodrigo Cortés crafts a tense psychological thriller with sociopolitical undertones that doubles as an exercise in claustrophobic terror.

Rating: 8 out of 10

This is an exceptionally gripping, frustrating, terrorizing film to watch. It’s also outstanding.

Cortés paints a sad and maddening film with an outstanding performance by Reynolds, who carries the film as the only actor on screen. The film is completely minimalist, shot only from the coffin the truck driver wakes up in until the very end of the picture. There is only one major flaw, and that is a big wagging finger scene at the big corporations who are contractors in Iraq. I won’t spoil the scene, but you’ll know it when you see it. It’s the only very weak moment of the film. It sits there like a bee on your picnic salad.

Aside from that, it’s 90 minutes in a coffin with a man who is frantically trying to get out with a few items provided to him by the terrorists who put him there. There is dialogue with himself, but the cell phone was brilliant because he makes calls to the FBI, trying to get them to help. He’s put on hold, bounced from person to person, and you find yourself exasperated. This film is not for everyone. It disturbed my wife because it’s very dark. She had nightmares. The film, itself, is a nightmare.


Dejected by the futility of his tedious life, bitter small-town resident Bill (Brendan Fletcher) takes matters into his own hands by constructing a bulletproof outfit, picking up his semi-automatic weapons and attempting the largest killing spree ever seen. Written and directed by controversial filmmaker Uwe Boll, this ultra-violent action movie features jarring handheld camerawork and original dialogue largely improvised by the cast.

Rating: 0 out of 10

Welcome to the Rampage review. I’d like to share some adjectives to describe the film and its director. Uwe Boll is a talentless, worthless, brain dead, passionless, soulless, blind, and creatively DOA director. His script is disgusting, stupid, pointless, and probably written in crayon. And the film itself is offensive, irresponsible, ugly, and flat out horrendous.

It would be impossible for me to truly clarify my hatred of this movie. You want to know the plot? A college age kid puts on a Kevlar armor body suit and murders innocent men, women, and children by the dozens. Why? It’s not really explained nor does it need to be. This film is so bad, the only thing that offended me more than the senseless violence was the senseless script or lack thereof. How in the hell does this classify as entertainment? I am not offended by violence when it is relevant to a story. ” Taxi Driver,” “Fight Club,” and “The Passion of the Christ” all had extreme violence that served a purpose. This film seems to think murder is somehow entertaining. Now, how is it different than your typical slasher films? That’s easy. There’s no suspense, no buildup, no justice, and no fighting back from any protagonist. We, as an audience, basically sit and watch the main character slaughter people. Thanks Uwe Boll. You just reminded me why you made our “top 5 worst directors working today” list. Stay the hell away from the movie business. I say with no hesitation, “Rampage” is one of the worst movies I have ever seen.

Sucker Punch

In this mind-warping action thriller, Baby Doll (Emily Browning), a girl slated for lobotomy in a 1950s-era asylum, leads a group of young female inmates in an attempt to escape both their mental fantasy worlds and the actual institution where they are prisoners. To accomplish her plan, Baby Doll must steal five objects — but is the man who’s trying to stop her real, or a figment of her imagination? Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300) directs.

Rating: 4 out of 10

I had a ton of faith going into this movie. My wife and I were looking forward to seeing what Zach Snyder’s latest flick would be like. I’m a huge fan of “Watchmen,” which I think is one of the best comic book movies ever made.

This film follows his typical epic fight scenes — full of CG on the most massive scale and slick movement without being dizzying. But I found myself wishing this movie would end about half way through.

It starts out with a strong story of a troubled girl who loses her mother, accidentally kills her sister while trying to defend her from her monster of a step-father and gets institutionalized. After that, it takes very strange turns. It’s a film that follows the fantasies within fantasies of a girl’s mind — almost like the dreams within dreams in”Inception.” However, this film concentrates more on action than plot and character development. Through the first hour of the movie, there couldn’t have been more than 25 lines of dialogue, and that’s being generous. We’re given characters we don’t care about because they haven’t been developed, and we’re given so many epic fight scenes that they lose the effect they could have. The whole movie was flat. Strangely, my wife really liked it. She loved the girl power theme. But it’s hard to imagine women being empowered by scantily-clad, barely legal girls who wield loads of guns and bombs.

Dial M For Murder

Director Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece of double-cross and intrigue stars Ray Milland as former tennis champ Tony Wendice, who concocts a plan to kill his rich but unfaithful wife (Grace Kelly), who’s embroiled in a liaison with a writer (Robert Cummings). When Tony’s plans go awry, he improvises a second act of deceit, but the entire bloody affair turns out to be far messier than he expected. John Williams plays a sly Scotland Yard inspector.

Rating: 9 out of 10

During my all too brief stint at NYU film school, our professor had us choose from four directors to do an essay on. Kurosawa, Ford, Kubrick and Hitchcock. I choose Hitchcock and I got a B+. Not too shabby for a dumb kid from the Bronx. I will be cliche for a moment and say that they don’t make films like this anymore.

Dial M was released in 1954 and it was, obviously, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It stars the classy and refined Ray Milland, the beautiful Grace Kelly and Robert Cummings as an American crime fiction author. The setting is England and we are witness to Milland and Kelly as a married couple. But something is askew here. Kelly is cheating on her hubby with Cummings. Milland knows what is going on and with an elaborate scheme in mind plans her demise. He first enlists an old college friend of his and concocts a way to blackmail him into doing the deed. While doing all of this, Milland is smooth, aloof and a bit scary. Kelly does an admirable job at playing the mousy and deceiving wife who has a bit of moral integrity as she does feel guilty about her affair.

Without giving away this brilliant plot it is safe to say that Milland’s crazy scheme to off his wife goes completely and utterly wrong. He underestimates his wife and in turn is thrust into a complex web of deception and close calls. This is what Hitch does best. The suspense here is killer as we watch Milland slowly and deliberately try to spin the blame away from him. Milland is amazing to watch. At some point we almost want him to get away with it but Hitch establishes that Milland is smarmy, snakey and charming with absolutely no redeeming qualities to speak off. Kelly and Cummings come to a realization that something is amiss and try to put all the pieces together. Milland, though, for the most part stays cool and collected until the very end when everything unravels accordingly.

Most of the on screen action takes place in the large, nicely decorated, living room where Kelly and Milland live. Here in this set up, Hitchcock shines and his camera work is involving and meticulous. As a Scotland Yard inspector comes on board, everyone stays cold and aloof while everything plays out. Only Cummings expresses that overly anxious American fervor as he tries to get to the bottom of the mystery. As pointed out by my pal, Shawn, we audience members make the same mistakes as the perp Milland does. Brilliant observation if I must say. This film is punctual in it’s outcome and very, very smart. Even if you are not a huge fan of Hitchcock, you may still want to see this elaborate thriller and see just how they don’t make them like this anymore.

Black Swan

In director Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller, ambitious New York City ballet dancer Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) lands the lead role in “Swan Lake” but soon thinks her dreams of stardom are threatened by a rival ballerina (Mila Kunis). As opening night approaches and the pressure to be perfect builds, Nina’s obsession descends into paranoia and delusion. The film earned Golden Globe nods for Portman, Kunis, Aronofsky and Best Picture.

Rating: 10 out of 10

Since “Inception” hit theaters, I’ve been waiting for the movie that will beat it for best picture. We all know the Academy would never give a science fiction film best picture, and this is the one to do it. But I don’t hold a grudge. It’s a better film, and the best movie I’ve seen this year.

It’s the classic self verse self conflict story line, but what Aronofsky lays before us is a gripping story that keeps us just confused enough to be engaged in the story — even if we know the ending before we walk into the theater. This is simply a phenomenal piece of work, and Portman gives the best performance of her career and she simply must win best actress at the Oscars.

Portman gives great depth to her character, a young, naive woman who is obsessed with being the perfect dancer while blocking out all emotion and pleasure in her life — whether it’s the love of her mother, emitting passion in her dance, or being sexual. This film felt like I was watching a Stanley Kubrick masterpiece, and I loved every minute of it. Bravo!