The Screen Critic: Quality horror, a stunning look into the future and a documentary on corporate madness

Oct 06, 2023
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We don’t tend to expect too much from the 10th film in a 20-year-old horror franchise, yet Saw X manages to deliver a surprising amount of invention in a twist-laden offering that serves up a lot of ingenuity along with the mandatory lashing of gore.

The opening 30 minutes feel nothing like any other film in the series as we are drawn into the private life of John Kramer (Tobin Bell). He’s better known as Jigsaw, the killer who specialises in subjecting his carefully selected victims to cleverly designed do-or-die games where death is sometimes the better option.

Now an old man, Kramer is facing his own mortality and is in dire need of medical help as his hopes begin to fade. Fortunately, a service presents itself that offers him a new lease on life.

There are some fabulous twists and turns here as Kramer’s understanding of human nature is severely tested as the film defies convention, serving up an exercise in horror that is as unpredictable as it is engrossing.

And no, you don’t need to have seen any of the previous installments to get a huge buzz out of Saw X. Just brace yourself for the violence, which is particularly graphic this time around.

And, of course, Billy the tricycle-riding puppet is a central part of the fun.

Though not quite in the same league, The Exorcist: Believer clocks in as another quality horror offering primed for the Halloween season (Will we ever stop thanking The Simpsons for bringing this tradition to Australia?)

With echoes of the original 1973 horror classic (including an appearance by Ellen Burstyn), the film sees the souls of two teenage high school girls being possessed by Satan, requiring friends and family to participate in a double exorcism.

Though it’s not all that scary, there are enough jolts to keep you on edge, plus plenty of creepy atmosphere and strong performances from Lidya Jewett and Olivia O’Neill as the school friends who play host to the Devil’s attention.

With the visually jaw-dropping sci-fi epic The Creator we have yet another big-budget Hollywood adventure film that is great to look at but not so great to listen to.

Set in the Year 2065, humankind finds itself at war with robots (as usual). Originally designed to help cleaning the house and do menial work, the droids are being blamed for setting off a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles, leading to a policy of global extermination.

Ex Special Agent Joshua Taylor (John David Washington) is sent with a team to “New Asia” to locate and destroy an android with super- destructive powers.

As luck would have it, the robot is in the form of a cute child (Madeleine Yuna Voyles) with whom Taylor, whose wife died while pregnant, naturally forms a bond.

Though director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla; Rogue One) struggles to get the emotional story to work, the film’s marvellous design and splendid visual effects are staggering, often beautiful.

The photo-realism and detail of this near-future world is highlighted by a giant, graceful spaceship that slowly glides above the landscape, sending down precision bombs to rid the world of unwanted androids.

It is a marvel to behold. If only the same attention had gone into constructing a story as impressive.

Just in case you ever needed more proof about how crazy the finance world can be, the very amusing, somewhat terrifying three-part Netflix docu-series Eat the Rich: The GameStop Saga presents a very strong case study

In a stark illustration of how the value of a company can be driven by emotion rather than common sense, the show details how the influence of online punditry wreaked havoc upon the US stock market.

In a deliberate and bold move to upend conventional business logic, a community of young, often naive online investors got behind GameStop, a failing computer game company.

Although it was winding down, the stream of buy orders sent the stock price into the stratosphere, meaning that people who were planning on making billions out of GameStop’s collapse would instead lose billions.

Crammed full of fascinating interviews with investors big and small from both sides of the event, the series, which runs about two hours in total, is a terrific and entertaining primer to the upcoming feature film Dumb Money, a very good comedy-drama about the GameStop story.

Now, here’s a review that doubles as a public health warning: the alleged Australian comedy mini-series Caught – or C*A*U*G*H*T as it is in all the ads – is absolutely terrible.

The six-part “satire” tells of four Australian soldiers captured by rebels in a fictional island nation who form an alliance with their captors, sending fake hostage videos to the media.

It’s a witless, pointless, often stupid yarn with extraordinarily bad performances, excruciating dialogue, sloppy storytelling and regular dives into vulgarity, including a truly repulsive scene set in a latrine.

The cast includes Sean Penn (also an executive producer), Bryan Brown, John C. McGinley and Susan Sarandon, and one can only wonder why such luminaries got involved. It’s so awful there should be a senate inquiry into how such crud got made.

The mess is on Stan and take it as gospel that only devotees of really bad TV will persist beyond the first off-putting episode. For everyone else, don’t waste your time. You’ll never get those three hours back.

For more visit and @jimschembri on X for updates.

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