Tag: eileen davies


FirstBorn (2016)
★ / ★★★★

“FirstBorn,” based on the screenplay by Sean Hogan and Nirpal Bhogal, lacks the depth necessary to create a horror picture with a fascinating mythos involving a little girl born with a special ability. Instead, it concerns itself with the usual, expected, exhausted tricks in the book. For instance, there are far too many occasions in which it attempts to make the viewers jump by belting out sudden, loud noises. It is a horror film that feels saddled by movies that came before instead of one that dares to forge its own path.

Most fascinating about the story, about halfway through, is when the little girl named Thea (Thea Petrie) is sent to an occultist (Eileen Davies) so that she can be trained to manage her gift of seeing those from the world of evil. These scenes provide an eerie feeling because there is something about Davis’ interpretation of her character that one feels shouldn’t be trusted. And yet later scenes show that the training does help Thea in putting the monsters at bay, protecting her parents from being attacked by invisible creatures. Clearly, Davis is the picture’s secret weapon because she infuses subtlety in a screenplay that lacks such a critical element.

I found it strange that the filmmakers are afraid to show the creatures without the need to employ quick cuts and extreme closeups. From the glimpses presented, the special and visual effects team, as well as the makeup artists, do a solid job in creating spooky, menacing villains. The lack of willingness to keep the camera still when the monsters make an appearance communicate an absence of confidence in the images. In horror movies like this film, the creature begs to be seen. After all, numerous scenes are shown using the child’s perspective. It doesn’t make sense that we do not see what she sees; what terrifies her should also terrify us.

There is an angle worth pursuing but the writers neglect to provide enough dimension to the characters involved since they are too busy embracing clichés. From time to time, Charlie (Antonia Thomas) and James (Luke Norris), young parents of a six-year-old, are shown as being completely exhausted from having to take care of a child with special needs. Aside from the first few scenes, once Thea is born we no longer see them living a life of their own, together as a couple or apart. Focus is on one confronting occurrence after another. Charlie talks about abandoning her child so she can have her life back. While an interesting admission, the material brings it up and just as quickly pushes the revelation under the rug as if it never happened.

Directed by Nirpal Bhogal, “FirstBorn” is wildly uneven but most egregious is a lack of resolution. It just ends—invoking a feeling that it had run out of ideas. Obviously inspired by classic horror-thrillers involving children potentially being possessed or are evil attempting to possess children, the filmmakers needed to have looked further into what made those pictures work in terms of their mythologies as opposed to providing cheap, easy, forgettable jolts. Here is a work with some good ideas but one that limits its own potential.


Sightseers (2012)
★ / ★★★★

Tina (Alice Lowe) and her boyfriend, Chris (Steve Oram), are on their way out for a one-week road trip across England, but Carol (Eileen Davies), Tina’s mother, is not very happy about it. Carol worries her daughter does not know Chris well enough for them to spend time alone for such an extended period of time. Plus, Carol is convinced Chris is a murderer—even though he insists a prior incident was all a terrible accident.

“Sightseers,” directed by Ben Wheatley, has got the case of trying too hard to be a dark comedy. It possesses neither the edge nor the danger to pass as one. Halfway through, I found myself feeling bored and frustrated that it fails to move beyond a series of sketches where the set-up involves the couple crossing paths with strangers and the payoff is that bad things begin to happen. Though the sub-genre is unexplored for the most part, the film does not seem to have any sort of inspiration to make the experience of watching it enjoyable.

Lowe and Oram’s talents fit a more comedic niche. They pull off a few one-liners because they are not afraid to contort their faces to the point of silliness or not move them to make an impression that their characters are not the sharpest tools in the shed. I liked them as performers but the screenplay—written by them with additional material from Amy Jump—is not pointed enough as a satire of toxic relationships. The punchline is always someone getting hurt physically and it gets dull fast.

Tina and Chris are boring apart. Perhaps that is the point—some people, unfortunately, are convinced that they are not bright enough to captivate another person, let alone an entire room, or that they do not have anything special to offer. But it is no excuse for the characters to be boring together. Their sex life is supposed to be wonderful but we do not feel it. They are supposed to have a lot of things in common but we do not see them. Neither of them seem to have interior lives. So, aside from their sudden shifts in behavior, what makes them interesting?

The funny thing about dark comedies is that the filmmakers must understand how human psychology works. When they do not, it shows—and it is insulting. The film then becomes an exercise of hassling us for laughs instead of really earning them. In a way, the best dark comedies are also educational in that they give us insight into what may not necessarily be obvious to the viewer.

I tried not to reveal the so-called twist even though I am convinced it is not all that surprising. “Sightseers” is a toothless black comedy that consists of violent trivialities. Even the bloody affairs are executed with flatness and lifelessness.