Movie reviews: Superior horror 'It Follows', 'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel', The Boy Next Door', and 'White God'
Paul Whitington has the lowdown on this week's big releases - excellent horror It Follows, pensioners in India in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, JLo in the abysmal The Boy Next Door, and eccentric Hungarian film White God.
Rarely has a date gone so spectacularly wrong as it does for Maika Monroe in It Follows (5*, 16, 100mins). She plays Jay, a dreamy 19-year-old girl who goes for dinner with a character called Hugh and ends up getting chloroformed and tied to a chair. Hugh then explains that the sex they've just had has passed on a supernatural curse, and that she's now being pursued by a shape-shifting entity that will keep on coming until it catches and consumes her. Her only hope is to pass the hex on before it's too late.
This alarmingly simple premise drives David Robert Mitchell's ingenious thriller along for 100 glorious minutes: it's the best horror film I've seen in a long time, and is full of witty nods to the glory days of 1970s chillers. Mitchell builds his atmosphere slowly but surely, and a moody synth soundtrack and masterful compositions makes this one of those films that sticks in your head. The creature in It Follows takes the form of passers-by and friends, and advances slowly, never running, which makes it seem all the more determined, and remorseless.
In the 2012 film Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a group of tottering superannuated Britons decided to start a new life at an idyllic-sounding northern Indian retirement hotel, which turned out to be a bit of a kip run by Sonny (Dev Patel), an excitable idiot. But they all ended up getting on like a house of fire in a film that cost just $10million to make but made almost $140million. Ergo this breezy sequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (3*, PG, 123mins), in which everyone bar Tom Wilkinson, whose character died in the first one, returns for more frothy septuagenarian fun.
Dev spreads himself too thin by undertaking ambitious plans for a second hotel on the eve of his wedding to his sweetheart Sunaina (Tena Desae). And as an inspector from a giant American hotel chain arrives to check the operation out, things take a disastrous turn and Dev needs help from his wily guests Evelyn (Judi Dench), Muriel (Maggie Smith), Madge (Celia Imrie) and Douglas (Bill Nighy).
It's easy to sneer at these films, which are at bottom sentimental, feel-good fantasies, but in fairness the Marigold films do tackle issues like ageing and death that rarely get an airing in Hollywood. And while Marigold 2's script is a little thin on jokes, the sure touch of Dench, Smith, Nighy and special guest Richard Gere make it more than watchable.
The Boy Next Door (1*, 16, 90mins), on the other hand, is genuinely hilarious at times, but unfortunately it's not a comedy. Jennifer Lopez, at her most brittle and tinny, is Claire Peterson, a handsome and recently separated suburban mother. She's licking her wounds and tending to her shy teenage son, Kevin when a dashing young man called Noah (Ryan Guzman) moves in next door.
A remedial 20-year-old with a flair for fixing cars, Noah enrols in Kevin's class and develops a bit of a thing for Claire. One damp night she succumbs to his charms, but bitterly regrets it when she realises he's an obsessive maniac. Boy Next Door might have been made in the 1980s and ushered directly to video, but instead it turns up now, in cinemas, with not a single thing to recommend it except its unintentional comedy.
And finally, a word about White God (4*, no cert, 121mins), a wonderfully eccentric Hungarian film that starts out like a dark family drama and turns into a full-blown horror film. Lili (Zsofia Psotta) is devastated when her harried father kicks out her beloved dog, Hagen, and wanders the city in search of him. The poor animal, meanwhile, is captured by a dog fighter, who turns him into a vicious killer. White God is really nicely made, and the scenes where packs of abandoned dogs charge pell-mell through the streets of Budapest are remarkable.
Chappie (Sharlto Copley, Hugh Jackman); Still Alice (Julianne Moore); Kill the Messenger (Jeremy Renner), Appropriate Behavior (Desiree Akhavan)