The Suicide Squad and A Classic Horror Story
The Suicide Squad:
Anyone who went to see 2016’s Suicide Squad will have painful memories of its release. The problems were numerous; erratic pacing, inappropriate humour, Will Smith turning up and being Will Smith, and worst of all, that Jared Leto portrayal of the Joker which still stands as the worst incarnation of the villain bar none. The fact that man is still allowed anywhere near a film set is staggering and needs to stop! In short, Suicide Squad was a steaming pile of merde! This is largely due to Warner Bros. ordering a last-minute recutting upon noticing the critical reaction to Deadpool, and I suspect the criticism pointed towards the heavily dark tone of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Plenty of the core elements sucked the big one too, so the blame cannot lie solely at the studio’s feet.
Fortunately James Gunn, director of Guardians of the Galaxy has delivered this much-needed reboot of the titular villain team. Upon seeing the trailers, I’ll admit I was quite sceptical. Perhaps this is due to the fact that many superhero film trailers in the past have promised gold and then delivered coal. Recently, Gunn made some comments about the superhero genre needing to adapt as a whole in order for it to remain popular. This is true as far as the cinematic releases are concerned, particularly when one looks at the staleness (amongst other thing) of WW84 and the more recent Black Widow. Superheroes on television and streaming services (excluding all the ghastly dross on CW) are leading the charge of boundary-pushing storytelling and character exploration. If one had to choose between the aforementioned films or The Boys, Invincible, or any Disney + Marvel series, it would be a no-brainier. Thankfully, The Suicide Squad demonstrates that Gunn is practicing what he preaches.
The Suicide Squad is the film we were all hoping for back in 2016. A witty, action-packed, delightfully immature, and subtly intelligent film that is Gunn’s answer to the staleness of the cinematic superhero. Taking a hammer to the formula he helped create with Marvel. Gunn’s DC villains led largely by Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, Idris Elba’s Bloodsport, and John Cena’s Peacemaker, all have wonderful chemistry and ample screen time. Gunn is wise enough to bring back the few good elements from the 2016 film, including Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flagg, Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller, and Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang. Even the new characters, particularly the Stallone-voiced King Shark are brilliant. Peter Capaldi shows up too, to give us a welcome dose of Malcolm Tucker profanity.
Team superhero films have a tendency to sideline one or more core characters, but Gunn’s direction is on point here, giving us unexpected narrative turns, playful cinematography, and the bone-crunching high-stakes action everyone expects from a decent superhero flick.
The shadow of Prime’s The Boys looms heavily over this, as does those of films like The Dirty Dozen and Where Eagles Dare. The film knowingly plays with the ticking-clock third act by using a non-linear approach, and often challenges established superhero team tropes in an on-the-nose but satisfying fashion. Unlike many a Marvel film too, there are long-lasting consequences here.
I hope that more superhero films take this approach, as it was nice to leave the cinema with a big smile on my face and a yearning for more. Something the genre hasn’t delivered on the big screen for some time.
A Classic Horror Story:
A new Netflix horror flick from Italy sees a group of carpooling individuals (including some dude from Bristol) getting lost in the country, and waking up in their camper van outside a red-coloured cabin, surrounded by a seemingly infinite forest. Sounds like everything you’ve seen before? Well, do not fear as this is kind of the point as you may have guessed from the film’s title.
The film has some unsettling imagery and moments of wince-inducing gore, and although the plot doesn’t quite add up when you look back and consider the narrative events, it’s well-executed enough that you buy into the story as it unfolds. The film deliberately leads its audience down several paths before the actual explanation is revealed towards the end. It’s safe to say the revelation whilst not entirely original is at least unexpected. Throughout, the film messes around with ’70s and ’80s horror conventions, largely those of the slasher genre, although it does evoke the memory of The Wicker Man and other country-themed horror films. It does become however, a victim of its own premise. Whilst it knowingly recreates plot elements and shots from other films, it does feel a little derivative at times, particularly the last quarter of the film.
Whilst the ending is nothing new if you’re an avid consumer of horror cinema, it does make a chilling commentary about the latest generation’s need for more extreme content and the inevitable disconnection from reality that results from modern technology.
Not the best horror movie to come out in recent years, but you could do a lot worse, and it does hold its audience throughout the well-paced 90 minutes, working its way towards an intelligent commentary on the desperate need to produce new content for an apathetic and desensitised generation.