Ratter (Branden Kramer, 2015)

With Levan Gabriadze’s Unfriended and Nacho Vigalondo’s Open Windows, tech-bound terror has become an increasingly popular source of inspiration for directors looking to thrill, while also keeping an eye firmly on the more problematic elements of society’s ever-developing relationship with the Internet. Joining this small but growing genre is writer-director Branden Kramer’s feature debut, Ratter

Full review for VODzilla.co

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Branden Kramer talks ‘Ratter’, hackers and the FBI

After last year’s Unfriended offered a vision of tech terror told entirely through Skype on a laptop screen, Ratter, the feature debut of writer-director Branden Kramer, ups the unsettling factor by placing viewers in the shoes of a stalker capturing someone’s life via elaborate hacking; a tale entirely visualised through the recording equipment within laptops, smartphones, and other web-connected devices.

Ashley Benson (Spring Breakers, Pretty Little Liars) is excellent as the unseen stalker’s target, whom we witness, to an uncomfortably intimate degree, going about her everyday life, none the wiser that she is perpetually being watched, until events escalate to a point where the threat is very much pronounced.

With the film now available on VOD in the UK, we sit down with Branden Kramer to discuss the creation of this unique thriller, as well as his own run-ins with hackers and, amusingly, the FBI…

Full interview for VODzilla.co

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Zack Snyder, 2016)

Of the numerous problems with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, one of them is quite succinctly illustrated by one scene in the film’s back half. It sees Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, aka Batfleck) browsing some top secret files, many of which concern the mysterious Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) who’s been popping up throughout the film, mostly being all cipher-like because her solo movie isn’t out until next year. This scene includes what may be a cinematic first: a character in a film literally looking at a promo still for a real film that’s yet to come out, in this case a picture of Gadot’s Wonder Woman in her forthcoming film’s 1918 period setting, posing with various recognisable faces (Chris Pine, Ewen Bremner) that will presumably make up her posse – not just a picture of her, but a glance at the supporting cast.

The need to shoehorn any and all set-up references to future entries in the DC ‘extended universe’ that this movie is properly kicking off – Man of Steel didn’t seem like a primer for anything but another solo Superman tale – isn’t the only major issue with the film (and it’s not like Disney’s Marvel efforts are any less guilty of it), but it ties in well with another complaint: Dawn of Justice is a needlessly byzantine mess. A lot of stuff happens, and very loudly at that, but so little of it ultimately coheres. It’s overstuffed to the point that Superman (Henry Cavill, asked to stick to scowling this time) is practically relegated to the status of glorified supporting role…

Full review for The Skinny

Scott Graham on ‘Iona’

After earning raves and a BAFTA nomination for his debut feature Shell, writer-director Scott Graham returns with Iona, another Scottish film set far off the beaten track. As Graham himself explains, his new film “is about a young woman [Iona, played by Ruth Negga] who goes back to the island of her birth [the isle of Iona] with her teenage son [newcomer Ben Gallagher] to hide from a crime they’ve committed. The film opens in a kitchen in Glasgow. There’s an act of violence that they run from, and the rest of the film takes place on the island. And really the story is about the impact that going back to the island has on her and her son, and also on the family that she left behind when she was a teenager….

Full interview for The Skinny

Zootropolis (Byron Howard/Rich Moore/Jared Bush, 2016)

Fair play to Walt Disney Animation Studios of late for not always venturing down the most obvious, tried and true path. Peppered in between their recent revivals of their musical formula (Tangled, Frozen) and recognizable properties (Winnie the Pooh), there’s been a full-blown foray into video game culture (Wreck-It-Ralph) and a superhero adaptation heavy on meshing together Asian and American cultures (Big Hero 6). And now, with Zootopia (or Zootropolis, as some of Europe is getting it), we have a police procedural/neo-noir that actually interrogates themes of racial stereotyping and classism, while satirizing matters like the War on Drugs. But, you know, with bunnies and buffalos…

Full review for The Film Stage

Green Room (Jeremy Saulnier, 2015)

Green Room, Jeremy Saulnier’s follow-up to Blue Ruin, trades the latter’s revenge thriller territory for the mode of siege movie – albeit one with a twist along the lines of Blue Ruin’s architect of revenge being an inept, hangdog vagrant. Here the besieged party is a young punk band trapped in the green room of a backwoods club they’ve begrudgingly agreed to play. The party keeping them from leaving? The club’s very far-right staff, including proprietor Darcy (Stewart, in a wonderful piece of stunt casting), after the band witnesses a crime the neo-Nazi group’s extremely keen to cover up…

Full review for The Skinny

High-Rise (Ben Wheatley, 2015)

It’s the near future, though it (deliberately) seems to be the near future as imagined in the 1970s. Dr Robert Laing (Hiddleston) has set up home in a lavish high-rise designed by a grand architect (Irons). Presiding on the 25th floor, he develops trysts with the higher classes and friendships with those relegated below, including a documentarian (Evans) keen to provoke the dangerous social situation between levels. Violence and disarray are but a ticking time bomb away…

Full review for The Skinny

Writing by Josh Slater-Williams