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Three Thrillers from eOne Films

The Cry of the Owl (June 11/11)

Based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, The Cry of the Owl follows peeping tom Robert Forrester (Paddy Considine) as he develops an unusual bond with the very woman (Julia Stiles' Jenny) that he's been spying on - with the movie subsequently detailing the impact that Robert and Jenny's relationship has on several periphery characters (including Caroline Dhavernas' Nickie and James Gilbert's Greg). The Cry of the Owl, much like Highsmith's virtually unreadable book, is saddled with an absolutely ludicrous premise that proves an immediate detriment to one's enjoyment of the film, with the efforts of a uniformly strong cast subsequently rendered moot by writer/director Jamie Thraves' strict adherence to the source material. Far more problematic, however, is Thraves' decision to employ as deliberate a pace as one could possibly envision, with the almost unreasonably sluggish atmosphere effectively highlighting the more illogical elements within the storyline (eg Robert inexplicably spurns Jenny's romantic advances). And although the film grows increasingly (and impressively) grim as it unfolds, The Cry of the Owl is ultimately felled by the one-two punch of its wholly inauthentic setup and aggressively glacial pace.

out of

Fall Down Dead (June 11/11)

A complete and utter mess, Fall Down Dead follows Dominique Swain's Christie Wallace as she inadvertently crosses paths with a vicious psychopath (Udo Kier's Picasso Killer) during a city-wide blackout and is subsequently forced to take refuge in an office building - where a variety of periphery characters are inevitably stalked and killed by Kier's razor-wielding villain. There's little doubt that Fall Down Dead begins with a fair amount of promise, as filmmaker Jon Keeyes kicks off the proceedings with a reasonably effective kill sequence that's clearly been designed to resemble an old-school giallo - although, as becomes obvious soon enough, the scene is in no way indicative of what follows. Problems ensue as scripter Roy Sallows offers up an inexplicably slow-moving midsection that falls hopelessly (and consistently) flat, with the pervasive lack of compelling (or even plausible) characters only heightening the film's almost astonishingly dull atmosphere. There's virtually nothing here that works; everything from the visuals to the performances to the dialogue boasts a glaze of incompetence that's nothing short of infuriating, with Kier's decision to underplay his role certainly standing out as the movie's most disappointing attribute (ie the last thing one wants or expects from Udo Kier is subtlety) - which effectively cements Fall Down Dead's place as an aggressively underwhelming slasher flick that's sure to alienate even the most ardent of horror fans.

out of

Stranded (June 12/11)

Set in 1960, Stranded follows several French paratroopers as they're sent deep into the heart of the Algerian desert after a military plane crashes - with their seemingly simple mission requiring them to retrieve an important (yet mysterious) metal briefcase. After they're attacked by a well-armed band of Algerian rebels, however, the team is forced to take refuge in a nearby village - where both the French and Algerian soldiers are slowly-but-surely driven mad by a group of creatures known as the Djinn. It's clear right from the outset that Standed's most pronounced deficiency is its lack of compelling characters, as filmmakers Hugues Martin and Sandra Martin offer up a hopelessly bland assortment of protagonists that are, for the most part, completely interchangeable - which effectively ensures that the viewer has absolutely nothing invested in their success/survival. (This is despite the presence of a few admittedly strong performers within the film's cast, including Saïd Taghmaoui and District 13's Cyril Raffaelli.) The film's problems are exacerbated by a lack of momentum that only grows more disastrous as time progresses, and although the Martins offer up one or two admittedly tense sequences (eg the Algerians are interrogated by a trigger-happy soldier), Stranded primarily comes off as a dark, dank, and thoroughly unpleasant horror effort that's nothing less than a chore to sit through - with the baffling twist ending only confirming its place as a fairly worthless piece of work.

out of

About the DVDs: All three films arrive on DVD courtesy of eOne Films, armed with anamorphically-enhanced transfers and a smattering of bonus features.
© David Nusair