THE DEAD DON’T DIE

Cert 15 105mins Stars 3

This offbeat black comedy zombie apocalypse shuffles to the unique, intriguing and pessimistic rhythm tapped out by writer, director and all-round indie maestro, Jim Jarmusch.

A man-made eco-disaster has enabled the dead to rise and feast on the intestines of the living, kickstarting a very bad day for small town cops, Bill Murray and Adam Driver.

Seemingly engaged in a private competition as to whom can deliver their lines in the most deadpan and downbeat way, they’re among several Jarmusch regulars who appear, such as singer Tom Waits as a gravel voiced narrator, and Tilda Swinton’s samurai sword wielding Scottish undertaker.

Full of nods, winks and direct references to other movies, the self-aware script and knowing performances play on the audiences’ familiarity with the actors and situations, confounding expectations and adding layers of meaning to the most deliberately banal dialogue.

A lament for cinema as well as humanity, it suggests we’re all dead men walking and it’s what we deserve.

ANNABELLE COMES HOME

Cert 15 105mins Stars 2

Even the most eager seekers of supernatural scares will struggle to find anything to get their teeth into with this seventh instalment in the Conjuring horror franchise.

Designed as a standalone film so you don’t have to seen any of the others, the haunted Annabelle doll is safely locked up in the suburban basement of the Warrens, the married self-styled consultants of demonology and witchcraft.

When the paranormal investigators leave their young daughter in the care of her high school babysitter and her impetuous best friend, Annabelle unleashes various demonic spirits such as a hellhound, a haunted wedding dress and a samurai warrior, who stagger about infirm of purpose.

Time drags in this severe case of consequence-free paranormal inactivity, and nearly all the action is limited to the house, with its early 1970s styling being the creepier than the ghouls

It all feels like an episode of Ben Stiller’s Night At The Museum films, but without the scares, or the laughs.

BREAKING DAWN PART 2

Stars 3

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson return as vampires Bella and Edward for one last bite of the cherry in the final chapter of the Twilight saga which doesn’t hold back on the tooth and claw.

Until now the franchise has been an anaemic exercise that was all teeth and no trousers but this time the gothic horror runs red with passion, anger and blood.

Bella and Edward’s daughter has been wrongly accused of being an immortal child by the Volturi, the royal family of vampires, and so as a threat to them they have decided she must die.

To protect her child, the now rampant Bella must gather help from a motley crew of vampires and werewolves in order to face down the Volturi in a final confrontation.

Stewart is full of furious, motherly anger and rips into her role with gusto, putting Pattinson firmly in her shadow.

Taylor Lautner as Jacob the love-sick werewolf is more petulant than ever and still afraid to put his shirt on, despite the heavy snow on the ground.

Michael Sheen is a great actor and as Aro, the leader of the Volturi, he is a prowling, preening, power hungry vampire who has the best fun delivering the film’s lines.

The film is beautiful to look at, not just for the actors but the stunning Canadian landscape is majestic in its wild, snow-covered glory.

There is again lots of running through forests and jumping from treetops but when the film kicks off in the second half there is some excellent fight choreography and the final confrontation is terrifically and excitingly staged.

I haven’t read the books and I’ve no idea if this is a faithful adaptation or not but I do know this is a handsome and exciting finale to a consistent and successful franchise.

If you’re not a fan of the film series this probably won’t make you change your mind, but if you are then you won’t be disappointed.

DEAD NIGHT

Cert 18 Stars 3

No good deed goes unpunished in this brisk and blood-soaked supernatural slasher horror which sees a family on a trip to remote cabin, ironically for the good of their health.

En route they offer shelter to a woman they find passed out in the snow,  but their act of is one they come to regret.

It’s reasonably stylish with more some decent atmosphere and fulfils its modest ambition of offering some unfussy old school chills. Plus it’s always great to see veteran screamstress, Barbara Crampton, of 1980’s horror flicks such as Re-Animator, back on the screen.

 

THE LITTLE VAMPIRE

Cert U 82mins Stars 2

This bloodless animation offers thin pickings for all but the most undemanding cinema-goers.

It’s a cross-cultural bromance between two 13 year old boys, a Transylvanian vampire with punk hair, and a fresh-faced US holidaymaker on a creepy castle tour of Europe with his family.

They team up to rescue the vampire’s clan from a pair of inept villains. The head baddie is voiced by Jim Carter, best known as Downton Abbey’s butler, Carson. 

The only other recognisable names the budget stretches to are Miriam Margolyes and Tim Pigott-Smith, with not much left over for the animation, and even less for the script.

Mixes magic spells with some mechanical contraptions such as the Infra-dead vampire locating device, and I could have done with much more of the weaponised vampire-cow poo,

It’s so insubstantial it won’t cast a shadow in your memory, but it’s harmless and doesn’t totally suck. Though it’s probably best saved for the rainiest day of half term.

TRUTH OR DARE

Cert 15 100mins Stars 2

There’s not much to be scared of in this supernatural horror based on the teen party game.

It manages to play safe and break its own rules, making for a dull and confused experience.

Fresh from TV’s Pretty Little Liars, Lucy Hale leads a group of hot young students are inadvertently involved in a deadly game of truth or dare, masterminded by a malevolent Mexican spirit. 

If they lie, fail a date or refuse to play, they will die. Despite this rock solid premise, the script foolishly messes with the formula.

Despite the high premium on looks during casting, this is an oddly sexless affair, while the bad guy’s lack of a physical presence makes him anonymous.

Plus it’s wildly derivative of movies such as Final Destination, Saw and many more, while failing to be as entertaining as any of them.

Increasingly silly without ever being scary, grisly of funny enough, it’s a lesson in selfishness for narcissistic millennials.

 

MONSTER FAMILY

Cert PG  93mins Stars 1

An early contender for the worst family film of 2018, only the naughtiest kids should be exposed to this monstrously poor animated horror show.

A lovelorn Count Dracula orders a witch to magically transform a married mother of two  into a vampire so he can woo her.

Unfortunately her stupid bickering family are also changed into various legendary creatures such as Frankenstein’s monster, and they’re no best pleased.

Pratfalls and fart jokes pad out the script of this repetitive, joyless and charmless mind-numbing drivel.

It’s brought to zombified life by feasting on the creative blood of far superior films such as Pixar’s Incredibles and Adam Sandler’s Hotel Transylvania films, which have sequels out this summer.

Horrifyingly, this is even worse than Tom Cruise’s recent version of the Mummy. 

Emily Watson, Nick Frost, Celia Imrie, Jason Isaacs and Catherine Tate are the British voice talent putting a stake through the heart of their credibility for an easy payday.