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Ranking the Fast & Furious Franchise

A ranking of The Fast and Furious films, a franchise that has grown organically – from street racing to cyber warfare, family is above all.



There are few properties that seem to have grown as organically as the Fast & Furious franchise. From its humble beginnings as a Point Break clone with street racing to taking down a submarine with vehicular warfare, there’s also no franchise that has grown so increasingly over-the-top without losing its core values. Every movie in the mainline series feels like it belongs (though some less than others) and comes with either a new character to root for or a change in the dynamic of Toretto’s “family.” That said, let’s go through all the movies and see how those changes and additions have fared for each in ranking this almost two-decade long franchise.

9. 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

2 Fast 2 Furious

As an introduction to Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej Parker (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges), 2 Fast 2 Furious offers very little substantive narrative for the series. It’s notable for being the worst film in the franchise, as well as for lacking an appearance by Vin Diesel. Dominc Toretto himself opted out of doing this sequel due to the quality of the screenplay, and instead did The Chronicles of Riddick. The bright spot of all this is that Roman and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) are established as having plenty of history, which leads to subsequent sequels not having to rely on recent moments for characters to reflect back on. 

It’s not all bad as far as movies go, but John Singleton clearly wanted a slice of Miami culture, and he tries his hardest to get it. There’s a lot to cringe at, and the film definitely hasn’t aged well, but despite its cash-grab appearance of rushing into a sequel without the lead, 2 Fast 2 Furious still has a moment or two worth remembering. The film also features a couple of stunts that feel at home in the franchise, including driving a car onto a yacht, and a ‘scramble’ sequence that has the police chasing two cars amidst an abundance of other street racers. It will be interesting to see if a character like Monica (Eva Mendes) ever makes a future appearance, because this series is all about mining its past.

8. Fast & Furious (2009)

Let me begin by saying that the Justin Lin-directed movies in this franchise are incredible pieces of blockbuster cinema. We wouldn’t even be at the point we are today if Lin and Chris Morgan didn’t start setting the series on its way with Fast & Furious. This entry brings together Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and Brian (Walker), as well as the rest of the crew, with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Mia (Jordana Brewster). Along with characters that would later appear in Fast Five, including Shea Wigham and John Ortiz’s characters, the most important addition would be Gisele (Gal Gadot). She isn’t given a lot to do, but at least we have that little bit of establishing for the future movies to utilize.

Unfortunately, save for the early gas truck scene, Fast & Furious is underwhelming. John Ortiz is always fun, but as a villain he’s as by-the-book as they come as he forces Toretto and Brian into a generic sting operation. The movie has the unenviable task of trying to bring together the two leads after the events that transpired in the first film, reminding audiences of the chemistry they had while still maintaining distance between them due to their past conflict. It’s not an easy tightrope to walk, and it is unsurprising that the finished product is as boilerplate as they get.

7. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

While officially a Fast & Furious entry, this spinoff is not part of the main canon, and offers a sillier, less enjoyable deviation from the series. Starring Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the film dials further into the silliness than I think even Fast & Furious fans can abide by. It amplifies the cybernetic future that movies like Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious have used as integral plot points, but the way it’s all handled feels so unearned. Two burly men think they’re the greatest at what they do and are never really taken down a peg when they face Brixton (Idris Elba), who also thinks he’s the greatest at what he does.

There are some good setpieces throughout, with Statham and Johnson having a lot of fun, but it’s just one of those movies that feels so removed from the franchise it spun off from that it feels kind of absurd to lure fans of the main series into seeing this. As our review suggested, this is a movie that might entertain those unfamiliar with the series, but it isn’t going to win over those already invested.

6. The Fate of the Furious (2017)

After the death of Paul Walker and the sincere goodbye that Furious 7 provided, the series needed to pull out all the stops. If anything, this is the most Fast & Furious entry. The melodrama is here in spades, and it also pits Toretto against his crew in order to save the one thing that matters most to him: family. Unfortunately, it also means turning his back on his original family, who are left in the dark as to why he’s gone rogue. This also means that the franchise is forced to do some shakeups in order to spread out the lead acting responsibility that was previously given to Diesel and Walker.

Due to behind-the-scenes fighting between Dwayne Johnson and Diesel, the two do not share scenes. Though Hobbs and Shaw get their great prison fight together, Hobbs and Toretto have no words for one another. Still, this movie is slightly entertaining, but only because of the main conceit that the crew has to go against Toretto and Cipher (Charlize Theron). Letty ends up with a good chunk of screen time, but her character simply can’t carry the load that Toretto can. Also, someone gave Roman more lines of dialogue (which is an absolute no-no, as he has had the perfect amount in prior films) and Scott Eastwood will never replace Paul Walker, as much as the series might try. But the set pieces in this are almost all great, so there’s that.

5. Furious 7 (2015)

It’s funny going back to this knowing that the series has essentially forgotten the fact that Deckard Shaw killed beloved drifter, Han (Sung Kang). Furious 7 opens strong, with Shaw out for revenge after his brother’s defeat in Furious 6. It continues strong with the addition of Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), as well as fantastic set piece after fantastic set piece. The absurdity of God’s Eye (a piece of technology that allows whoever has it to see anyone, anywhere, at any time), the free reign that Toretto and crew have to stop Shaw and get God’s Eye, and every incredible action moment is what makes Furious 7 a really strong film. It’s also the first one since the second film that didn’t have Justin Lin directing, instead opting for one of the modern horror greats, James Wan.

If anything, the problem with Furious 7 is that it’s too much at times. The final car chase where they’re trying to stop God’s Eye remotely is only fun because of the banter — and it’s a stupid fun, for sure. Nevertheless, Furious 7 will always be enjoyed for dropping cars from the sky, pitting Toretto against Shaw for a final showdown (“The street always wins”), and the emotional sendoff of Brian’s character.

4. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

If the first movie gave us a glimpse into the world of street racing, and the second highlighted tuner culture, then Tokyo Drift is the glimpse into the drifting world of Japan. From the first race where speed is all that matters for Sean Boswell (Lucas Black), to the second race where he is utterly destroyed by DK (Brian Tee), this is not your average Fast & Furious movie. There are no characters already known, what we’ve learned of racing is thrown out the window, and we’re not even in America anymore. And yet, unlike Hobbs and Shaw, this still feels like a Fast & Furious film. 

The third entry in the series marks Justin Lin and Chris Morgan’s first of many collaborations, as they fine tune the series to what it eventually becomes. Instead of the weight of an entire legacy of characters, they get to start small and keep things in their own bubble with a standalone sequel that maintains the melodrama of the franchise while diversifying the world of street racing. Tokyo Drift also introduces a new character for future iterations to love, Han Lue (Kang). The only complaint is about Lucas Black’s performance, which is unbearably annoying and sucks all the air out of a romantic subplot.

3. Furious 6 (2013)

Furious 6 fits well with Furious 7 due to its action-heavy plot, a companion piece that pits Toretto and crew against another team of highly specialized street racers. In enters Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), and the already complicated narrative of the Fast & Furious franchise expands from this point onward. Letty is back with amnesia after being presumed dead from the events for the fourth film, forcing the crew out of early retirement. Recruited by Hobbs to take down Shaw’s crew, the film turns into a distillation of Toretto’s “I don’t have friends, I’ve got family” mantra.

The set pieces are huge and tension-filled, showcasing tanks, cars with ramps built onto them, and the infamous absurdly long airplane runway. Furious 6 also features one of the few fight scenes that doesn’t involve cars, as Joe Taslim (known best for The Raid and The Night Comes for Us) takes on both Tyrese and Sung Kang’s characters, while Gina Carano fights Michelle Rodriguez’s character. There are double crosses and deaths, in addition to the post-credits scene that sees Deckard avenging his brother by killing Han — a moment that retconned Tokyo Drift’s events into taking place after all of the films before the sixth.

2. The Fast and the Furious (2001)

It all started here, and in a fairly different way than we know the series to be today. Brian is an eager young guy who just wants to be recognized by the street racing community, while Toretto runs a small cafe with his sister, Mia, that makes bad tuna sandwiches. It’s a time capsule in both its aesthetic and its plot (I mean, DVD players are being stolen, and this is a big deal in the world of this film), but the reason this film is so entertaining is that sweet, sweet bromance.

As Toretto and O’Conner become friends throughout the first thirty or so minutes, audiences soon realize that this isn’t just a movie about street racing — it’s a Point Break knock-off, and a damn good one at that. The way Brian struggles to keep both his passion for street racing and his passion for locking up bad guys is so adorable, especially when it all comes to a head in the film’s climactic set piece (which feels like the first truly Fast & Furious moment in the series). The way Toretto looks at Brian when he realizes that their friendship was a sham is heartbreaking for the characters, and might be Vin Diesel’s greatest piece of acting.

1. Fast Five (2011)

Home to one of the best set pieces in action cinema and setting the template for all future sequels, Fast Five is Justin Lin’s magnum opus. Centered around a heist against a very wealthy, corrupt man, the team is all here and they are firing on all cylinders. The film does a great job of understanding everyone’s role in the heist, as well as their roles in future films, and the camaraderie between everyone is both palpable and drives home the “family” component of the series that really gets fleshed out in this entry. The major introduction is Hobbs, who basically is the team’s gateway into working for the government, even though they spend this movie running from the police. But Morgan and Lin quickly establish corruption within the police force, which gives permission to a group of criminals like Toretto and crew to move between worlds relatively easily (it’s better to trust a criminal who says they’re a criminal than a criminal who calls himself a cop).

The action is always in service of the plot (which can’t be said about some of the other films, where it feels like the set pieces were created before the narrative). In Fast Five, we’re all building up to the big heist — and what a heist it is! Yes, the vault being dragged through a city doesn’t make a lot of sense, but what makes the sequence so incredible is watching each character fulfill their role in a very high-stakes action moment. There’s a base knowledge of physics that is barely applied to the vault being dragged by two cars, allowing for destruction that follows its own sense of logic, but regardless, Fast Five is the cream-of-the-crop for vehicular mayhem. It never loses itself in the action, because the action is merely a means to an end. Which is when this family excels.

Chris is a graduate of Communications from Simon Fraser University and resides in Toronto, Ontario. His favorite films include The Big Lebowski, The Raid 2, Alien, and The Thing. You will often find him with a drink in his hand yelling about movies.

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Fantasia Film Festival

‘Ready or Not‘ Derives a Fair Amount of Mileage out of its Simple Premise

A rich family hunt the bride in a very bloody game of Hide And Seek



Making its World Premiere at the Montreal genre festival, Ready or Not is a blood-spattered, tongue-in-cheek horror comedy that features plenty of gore and a sense of humour as dark as the terror on display.

Anyone who has seen the trailer is already familiar with the simple premise. What is best described as a cross between The Most Dangerous Game and Clue, Ready or Not stars Samara Weaving as Grace, a young bride who marries into the wealthy but strange Le Domas family that made their fortune in the board game industry. When it comes time to consummate the union, the bride is told that the marriage won’t be complete until she participates in an unusual family ritual: before the strike of midnight, the newlywed bride must draw a card from a mysterious box which will dictate which game they play into the night. Grace pulls the one-and-only cursed card that reads “Hide and Seek.” But this isn’t the traditional children’s game we are familiar with; in this deadly version, she is hunted by her soon-to-be-revealed psychotic in-laws wielding heavy weaponry like crossbows and shotguns.

A surreal cat-and-mouse chase ensues, with Alex ostensibly trying to help his bride survive while the rest of the La Domas clan remains dead-set on sacrificing her through the mysterious ritual. Their motive is simple: the La Domas believe that they must kill her before dawn as part of a satanic pact agreed upon years ago, otherwise they will have to repay their debt with their own lives. As to whether or not there actually is a satanic pact is unknown; as far as Grace is concerned, these rich folks are batshit crazy and out of their goddamned minds.

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, who are collectively credited as Radio Silence (V/H/S, Southbound), Ready or Not has a lot to offer in wit, style, and entertainment. It feels tailor-made for a midnight audience, as the bloodthirsty relatives arm themselves to the teeth in a wedding night filled with crossbows, shotguns, decapitations, a car chase, and a level of gore I didn’t expect given the marketing. The climax is especially memorable — an all-out gore extravaganza that left the audience laughing hysterically.

There’s a lot to like here, from the score by composer Brian Tyler to the cinematography by Brett Jutkiewicz, but the reason this film works so well is because of the talented cast they’ve assembled, most notably Alex’s alcoholic brother, Daniel (Adam Brody), who serves as the family’s moral core. And of course there’s also Samara Weaving, (Mayhem, The Babysitter) who pretty much sacrifices her body in blood-soaked scenes of action and terror. The actress is fully dedicated in her role, turning into her own version of Ripley while tearing apart the upper-class society, their ridiculous traditions, and their silly superstitions.

I don’t want to oversell Ready or Not; it’s a great B-movie (albeit a big studio B-Movie, but a B-movie nonetheless). The quick pace, simple concept, and terrific performances are what carry it through the 95-minute run time. Ready or Not is simply put, a lot of fun — a horror-comedy that offers a ton of laughs, delivers the action, and cements the star power of Samara Weaving. The best compliment I can give is that I’m ready to see it again. It’s the perfect movie to watch with a group of friends on a stormy night, and a late-summer surprise for genre fans everywhere.

  • Ricky D

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on July 25, 2019, as part of our coverage of the  Fantasia Film Festival.


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‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette’ Celebrates the Ambitious

‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette’ explores what happens when the creative can’t create, and delivers an incredible performance from Cate Blanchett.



Where'd You Go, Bernadette

From The Before Trilogy to Boyhood to Dazed and Confused, Richard Linklater is about as prolific of a filmmaker as they come. In one year he could release an experimental indie film, and the next he’s doing School of Rock. Then there are those films in between that feel like personal stories that Linklater just needs to put his mark on. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is just that type of movie, and falls somewhere between his more Hollywood comedies and something like 2017’s Last Flag Flying. Much in that same vein, Linklater tells a story of creative people driven from their passions for one reason or another, and in the process of doing so brings to life another fantastic performance from Cate Blanchett as a character both lost and unaware that she is lost.

Bernadette Fox (Blanchett) spends her days hiding away from people in her big, always-under-construction house, with her only form of contact being between her, her family, the occasional wealthy parent, and her digital assistant that orders things for her from Amazon at a rapid rate. One might look at her life and see things in shambles, as she always seems anxious, stressed, or simply at the end of her wits. Her husband, Elgie (Billy Crudup), works at Microsoft, and spends more time at work than he does with his family. Meanwhile, their daughter, Bee (Emma Nelson), is preparing to go off to boarding school of her own volition, but wants to go on a trip to Antarctica with her family while they have some time together. No one objects, including Bernadette — a shock to her husband and daughter alike.

What ultimately follows is a deeper exploration of Bernadette’s character, as she tries to wrestle with her anxieties and worries about going on a trip of this magnitude, while also making sure that she doesn’t let her daughter down. Where’d You Go, Bernadette has one large hurdle that audiences will likely have to get over, and that is its affluent main characters. Elgie is a tech wiz, Bernadette is a retired architect, and Bee is going to private school, and somehow the entire family can justify going on a trip to Antarctica with only five weeks notice; they’re the kind of rich that’s absurd, and if this movie was about anything other than creativity and creative types, it would buckle under the knowledge that most problems could be solved by money. In fact, even when a disaster occurs that damages someone’s property, Bernadette throws money at it as a solution. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a movie about rich people that are surrounded by rich people who have normalized being rich people.

Where'd You Go Bernadette

Yet once again, even with its characters being who they are, Linklater still mines Maria Semple’s book-of-the-same-name for themes and ideas that can hit hard to the right type of person. As the title (and marketing) suggest, there is a mystery component to Where’d You Go, Bernadette that has other characters exploring Bernadette’s life and why she just up-and-disappears. Surprisingly, however, the movie’s title does not just emphasize a physical disappearance, but also a mental one. Where is the Bernadette that would move the world to create something she so passionately wanted? That question is where Linklater finds something personal to latch on to, and why other creative people will want to explore the quirks of the titular character to find out why she has stopped creating.

Though saccharine to a high degree, the cast and Linklater’s knack for writing engaging conversations and beautiful moments tends to help audiences take in all the sweetness without gagging. It’s a very cute, whimsical film that really leans into it by the time it ends. That tone is mostly what gives the movie its momentum, however, along with some of the neat directorial decisions that help paint a fuller portrait of Bernadette’s family without slowing things to a crawl and sacrificing that momentum. Blanchett provides the right blend of motherly love and manic obsessiveness to carry the entire film on her shoulders, but fortunately Crudup and Nelson give plenty of support, as do some of the briefer appearances from the likes of Judy Greer, Kristen Wiig, and Laurence Fishburne. Moments that are kind of silly sometimes clash with attempts of being more serious in the scene, but it feels like that’s kind of the point to a certain extent. If Crudup feels like he’s playing the scene more seriously, it’s because his character is attempting to be the serious one in an outlandish scenario.

Those scenes that take the absurdity to new heights or suddenly fall into melodramatic territory are also the most memorable moments, because they often have their tone dictated by the perspective. If the perspective is Bernadette’s, it might lean more on the anxious, tense side of things, where it’s unknown how the scene will end or what a character will do. With Bee it’s often a sweet, loving moment. Almost anything involving Elgie tends to involve a sense of urgency, and takes things far more seriously than the others. Where’d You Go, Bernadette holds a lot of power in the way it presents a side of a story, and walks a very fine line on who is right and who is wrong in any given scenario. 

As with any Linklater movie that isn’t experimental in its narrative, there will be those who can’t get behind the sweet, caring portrait of a character often at odds with the rest of the world. He’s proven he can do those characters with films like School of Rock and Bernie, but he’s perhaps best known for capturing a feeling or a time and place. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is fairly straightforward, and won’t surprise many going in (it’s unapologetically heartwarming) but provides an illustration of someone who has a lot to offer the world, and the ways we may inadvertently — and unknown to them — stifle their ambitions.

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Fantasia Film Festival

Beautiful ‘Shadow’ Stands Out



As a sort of somber Shakespearean political melodrama, Zhang Yimou’s Shadow sometimes feels a bit too overplotted, with enough self restraint and looks of longing to make it feel claustrophobic, and so many schemes and betrayals that the script almost gets dazed among them. However, as a fantastical period piece — decked out in luscious trappings and painterly compositions, and bolstered by passionate performances and balletic battles with umbrellas made of blades — the experience fares better, resulting in a look at ancient intrigue that always manages to entertain one way or another.

A brief bit of opening text sets the stage for a precarious peace between two lands — the kingdom of Pei, and the kingdom of Yang, the latter of which currently occupies the city of Jing, much to Pei’s dismay. When the renowned Commander of Pei strikes a deal with Yang’s unbeatable warrior king to compete in a one-on-one duel for the fate of the city, he is rebuked by his own ruler, and stripped of his title, demoted to a mere commoner. However, it is secretly revealed that the man acting as the Commander is actually a lookalike named Jingzhou, captured in his youth and bound to serve as ‘shadow’ to the true Commander — who is still recovering from near-mortal wounds from a previous encounter — in case of threats to his life.

This sickly Commander confines himself to an underground cavern beneath the city, and relentlessly trains Jingzhou in order to uphold the subterfuge, even going so far as to give him similar scars. All the while, he plots to retake Jing and assume Pei’s throne, promising to free Jingzhou from his duty upon victory. Of course, this being a royal court, there are any number of Machiavellian conspirators, each setting wheels in motions that surely will collide. This includes a weaselly king, a fiery princess, a sniveling courtier, and the Commander’s wife, Xiao Ai, who plays along with her husband’s maneuvers, but may be falling for his more honorable ‘shadow.’

Those who casually wander into this inter-kingdom squabble will no doubt soon become as lost as these ancient civilizations themselves, but despite the gravity with which the various players detail their plans, the importance of what they’re saying is mostly smoke and mirrors; sure, the duplicity stacked upon duplicity is mildly diverting, but it’s also shallow and devoid of meaningful motivation; so do the myriad of machinations in Shadow really matter? Not when there are plenty of other things to hold one’s interest.

Chiefly among those elements is the sumptuous look of every frame. Working with a relatively small canvas, director Zhang Yimou has carefully composed grandiose images filled with nuanced staging, deliberate movement, and indelibly rich texture. His choices give otherwise modest engagements an epic feel, and not just in moments where swords are flashed. Conversations become mini-wars in themselves, as he zeroes his camera in on the meticulous exchanges between the main players of his power game, their precisely worded responses and subtle facial expressions acting out aggressive thrusts and parries in word form, often cutting just as deep as any knife. 

One need not understand the spoken particulars to get the general idea, and Shadow actually communicates better through the clarity of its visuals. Each guarded step or confident tilt of the head feels deliberately choreographed, as if part of deadly dance. And instead of overloading the screen with period detail, sets are clean, populated only with objects of significance. This laser focus allows for minute aspects that otherwise may have been overlooked in clutter to factor prominently, especially when Zhang Yimou holds his shots so patiently.

And it must have easy for him to do so with a cast as magnetic as this. Deng Chao does double duty as the Commander and Jingzhou, but creates characters so disparate that you’d be forgiven for thinking they bear no resemblance whatsoever. He manages bitter and reptilian just as easy as dutiful and courageous, showing how life has affected these two men, tied together by a facade, in vastly different ways. Sun Li as Xiao Ai nobly hides her torn affections behind expressive eyes that should reveal more than they do; everyone is playing the game. Zheng Kai and Guan Xiaotong round things out nicely as the deceitful king and his more straightforward, honest sister, who challenges any threats to honor.

Shadow 2019 Film Review

They are eminently watchable, completely up to the task of holding down the fort even when besieged by layers of backstabbing that would require a more talented contortionist than the script is capable of. That’s Shadow itself; from one-on-one political maneuvers to an entertainingly inventive battle involving hundreds, there is almost always something splendid to soak in, even if it makes your head spin.

Editor’s Note: This review was originally published on July 25th as part of our Fantasia Film Festival coverage. Shadow is now available in Canada on Digital, DVD, and Blu-ray.

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‘Incident In A Ghostland ‘— Pascal Laugier Revisits the Genre that Made Him Famous

‘Martyrs’ director Pascal Laugier takes another stab at the horror genre.



Writer-director Pascal Laugier is well-known for his heady 2008 breakout French thriller Martyrs which is regarded by many as one of the most disturbing horror films ever made and took the torture porn genre to untold levels of nastiness. While not his best film (that honor goes to Brotherhood of the Wolf), Martyrs stands as an extreme example of just how twisted French new wave horror films can be.

In 2012 he directed his first English-language feature, The Tall Man, a slow atmospheric thriller about a dying mining town where children begin vanishing without a trace. Despite the star power of Jessica Biel, The Tall Man was both a critical and commercial bomb, and not necessarily what fans of Laugier’s first film were expecting. His latest (and second English-language offering) revisits the grisly torture-porn genre that made him famous but the question going in was, is it any good?

Following in the footsteps of French auteurs Alexandre Aja (High Tension) and Alexandre Bustillo (Inside), Incident In A Ghostland begins as your typical home-invasion thriller and follows single mother Pauline Keller (French Canadian pop star Mylene Farmer) and her two teenage daughters Beth (Emilia Jones) and Vera (Taylor Hickson) who relocate to their new home. En route, the trio is briefly terrorized by a speeding ice cream truck before noticing a local headline about a series of brutal crimes sweeping the area. The Kellers haven’t even had a chance to settle in yet and already things aren’t looking too good. Anyone who’s seen at least one horror movie knows what happens next. What follows is a no-holds-barred assault that will leave the audience emotionally and psychologically scarred.

What makes Incident In A Ghostland different than the countless other home invasion thrillers that came before, is that the raid on their house takes up only the first twenty minutes of the film. After managing to survive the attack, we fast forward some years and discover a grown-up Beth (Crystal Reed) has written a memoir of her family’s traumatic experience that has made her a famous horror novelist. Her sister Vera (Anastasia Phillips) on the other hand, isn’t doing so well; suffering from PTSD and reliving that horrible night over and over. It’s here that my plot summary must end in order to avoid spoiling the film’s many twists and turns— but to sum it up, the remainder of the running time jumps between past and present, dream and reality, nightmares and hallucinations and dreams within dreams all while keeping the audience guessing as to what is real and what is in Beth’s imagination.

Like the director’s gory debut, Incident In A Ghostland is light on plot (and even lighter on character development) but extremely heavy on the torture inflicted on the young women who are subjected to unspeakable acts of physical, sexual and mental abuse, both real and imaginary. Like Martyrs, Ghostland dwells on the terror our protagonists experience with the camera constantly closing in on tight shots of their wounds, bruises, and screams as they are kicked, punched, choked, chained and dragged around the house. Needless to say, it’s rather painful to sit through, with each scene stretched out for maximum discomfort. Incident In A Ghostland is the sort of movie in which roughly half the running time consists of women screaming in pain while the other half will have you scratching your head trying to make sense of it all. It’s especially unsettling as Laugier subjects Beth and Vera to acts of pedophilic sadism, and later learning that the then-19-year-old actress Taylor Hickson reportedly sued the production company for injuries suffered on the set. Meanwhile, fans of Farmer may be appalled to watch the French-Canadian idol beaten to a bloody pulp while stabbed repeatedly— and if you have a fear of dolls, I recommend you stay as far away from Ghostland as it features an abundance of creepy doll imagery.

While Pascal Laugier’s most recent offering isn’t as depraved as Martyrs, it’s still an intentionally unpleasant nightmare to watch unfold and while I admire the craft that went into making it, I can’t say I enjoyed my time spent watching it. But it is a well-made film featuring stunning cinematography from Danny Nowak (who provides the movie with a sheen polish) and great set design by Gordon Wilding and his collaborators who do a marvelous job in bringing the house to life (so to speak) and making it, as creepy as the villains played by Kevin Power and Rob Archer.

I’ve noticed a few critics online comparing Incident In A Ghostland to the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre which in my opinion, is heresy. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remains to this day a motion picture of raw, uncompromising intensity, a punishing assault on the senses via some of the most extended scenes of absolute sustained frenzy ever captured on celluloid. Incident In A Ghostland brings nothing new to the genre and is just another example of a movie that relies on plot twists and extreme violence to get a rise out of the audience. Whereas Marilyn Burns’ doomed screams will forever be etched in your memory, the hundreds and hundreds of screams heard in Ghostland will soon be forgotten. Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre undoubtedly ranks as the best horror film of all time and also boasts one of the most unforgettable abrupt endings ever. I’ve already forgotten how Ghostland ends.

Incident In A Ghostland is a Shudder exclusive. For more info, visit their website.

  • Ricky D
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‘Nekrotronic’ Sells its Soul to Monica Bellucci



Some movies are just so hard to grasp that trying to do so would be futile. In some instances, that can be used to a film’s advantage, such as Kiah Roache-Turner’s 2014 debut, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, in which explanations didn’t really matter. Understanding what was happening in that film wasn’t the point; it was just about accepting the ride. That’s the same strategy employed in the director’s 2018 follow-up, Nekrotronic, a supernatural social media haunt that opts for the same deprivation of logic for the sake of a fun B-movie romp.

Co-written with his brother, Tristan, the script takes a kitchen-sink approach to the insane story of demons possessing humans through social media. As the eternal fight between Nekromancers and demons rages on, they’ve become locked in a new type of cyber warfare. An app being designed by a soulless corporation of human husks is overseen by the Queen of the Underworld herself (played by the always incredible Monica Bellucci), and acts a lot like Pokemon Go — but as users find ghosts instead of Pokemon, they unknowingly give their souls to the underworld. And so,  the fate of all mankind now rests on the shoulders of a sanitation worker (Ben O’Toole) and his best friend (Epine Bob Savea).

Nekrotronic is about kicking ass and filling the screen with as much gore and high-tech weaponry as possible.

This Ozploitation film tries really hard to give explanations to virtually everything it introduces, and that’s an admirable effort in a story that very clearly doesn’t care that much. It’s Ghostbusters with a little bit of They Live, and an aesthetic that feels like the video game Doom more than any movie in recent memory. There are 3D-printing demon souls and giant lasers, wraiths, and ghosts that travel through the internet like it’s a series of tubes, and a refusal to stop introducing new conceits. That Nekrotronic has logic presented at all is like if the Alien movies tried to give motivation for the xenomorph attacking its prey — endearing to attempt, but so very unnecessary.


That is the major issue that plagues Nekrotronic. The Roache-Turner brothers want to do everything, but by doing everything it’s easy to lose focus on the central conceit — which is hard to pinpoint, because there are so many small emotional beats that are all treated like huge deals at various times. There’s not even really much in the form of a social commentary on our reliance with social media and technology; Nekromancers once put demon souls into the internet as a form of containment, and then didn’t realize that the Queen of Hell would discover a way to use the internet to release the demons. That’s a neat genre explanation that could be mined for more of a critique on apps that data mine and do more harm than we really realize, but unfortunately, the movie only passively mentions this point, then walks away from it immediately.

Instead, Nekrotronic is about kicking ass and filling the screen with as much gore and high-tech weaponry as possible. The cyber-horror aesthetic lends itself really well to the narrative; while it very much looks like a B-movie, it looks like a B-movie with a budget. The visuals are also very vibrant and filled with more colour than Wyrmwood, which is justification for a more riotous feeling — and the really bad jokes support that spirit.


But the ultimate reason to sit through this very boring, exhaustive assault on the senses is for Monica Bellucci. She chews scenery, whether it’s for the benefit of comedy or horror; no one else comes close. If Nekrotronic did anything really right, it was casting Bellucci as a demon from Hell that says phrases like “No more Mrs. Nice Guy” as she tries to come off motherly, seductive, and terrifying at the same time. If there’s one thing to take away from this film, it’s that the Roache-Turner brothers are hellbent on telling entertaining stories — they just missed the bar with this demonic affair.

Editor’s note: This review was originally published on September 8, 2018 as part of our coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival. 

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