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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Mystery > Action > British > Don’t Look Back + Exam + The Possession Of David O’Reilly (2009/IFC/MPI DVDs)

Don’t Look Back + Exam + The Possession Of David O’Reilly (2009/IFC/MPI DVDs)


Picture: C+/C+/C     Sound: B-/C+/C+     Extras: C-     Films: C+/C/C-



Three new thrillers from IFC try to take clever high concept ideas and turn them into intelligent thrillers.  That is better than most of the bad thrillers we have seen lately, though the results are mixed.


Marina De Van’s Don’t Look Back has a novelist (Sophie Marceau) seeming to have a happy family, but she is not happy and starts to feel uncomfortable.  This slowly slides into other problems and then shock as she sees another woman (Monica Bellucci) in her place as mother, wife, friend and writer.  However, she also seems to belong there, so is this a replacement for her, a delusion or an alternative version of her?  Will she be replaced permanently?


This has some good moments, but the attempt to do a challenging thriller like Hitchcock or Clouzot has a script that barely could fill a half-hour Twilight Zone episode.  It is not up there with De Palma’s Sisters either and never adds up, but it has some good performances and ambition.


Stuart Hazeldine’s Exam is another “stuckina” film, a thriller where everybody is in one room or one space, this time to get a job with a big corporation.  They have to follow some simple rules and if any deviate, they have to leave, but the longer they are there the more they start to get unnerved.  At least it is not a torture porn film.


However, it is still a slick, gimmick film that does not work.  These people are two-dimensional and after about 20 minutes, this stops being believable and expects the audience to be sucked into the situation, but that also means it expects the audience to leave their brain at the door.  The cast is good, but Hazeldine too flunks suspense 101 and the ending does not work here either.


That leaves Andrew Cull & Stephen Isles co-directed The Possession Of David O’Reilly, which wants to ask the audience if the supernatural events are really happening or are the participants just imagining it.  It lands up being like a poor Exorcism Of Emily Rose, then has a silly ending that ends a project that should have been better if the British-originated cast and crew tried to aspire to better British cinema and not current bad, slick U.S. trends.


Giles Anderson is the title character, staying at the home of a couple he knows after his girlfriend gets rid of him.  Suddenly, he sees (or think he sees) a creature coming after him and now, he and the couple he is staying with are in jeopardy, or is he just losing his mind?  The acting is not bad, but acting upset and panicking is not storytelling, as Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity and other cynical sellout exploitation projects have proved.  This started as good, could have been better, but ultimately wants to be as bad and that is a self-fulfilling prophecy scarier than anything in the picture.  Francesca Fowler, Nicholas Shaw and Zoë Richards also star.



The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on each film has a few good shots, but all are overall a little weak in the detail and depth department, sometimes out of the style chosen.  David suffers the most from being a problematic digital shoot, but all are watchable otherwise.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on Look has the best soundfield, while the others seem more restrictive and are too much towards the front channels, but at least they are recorded professionally enough.  The only extra on each are a trailer.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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