What Not To Watch During Lockdown


Everyone’s telling you about the streamers you should catch up with in lockdown, but what about the heavily hyped ones you should avoid? No, don’t thank me, I’m happy to share the three claustrophobic experiences below…

How many times have you asked yourself, ‘I wonder what Alien would be like if it was remade underwater by really stupid people?’ Now you have a chance to find out, because Underwater is a B-movie that cost $80 million to show you how to get it totally wrong. Kristen Stewart plays a Ripley-esque character with absolutely no personality traits. Instead she acts with a haircut and skimpy underwear. She’s a *looks up notes, can’t find any* ologist on a space, er, underwater station in the Mariana Trench, which is the only undersea trench anyone can remember the name of, and there’s a sort of alien thing in the water. The plot (that thing is the last sentence) has been removed like an infected tonsil.

Stewart and the other kids are researching to, oh, drill for oil or peas or or something, but the station is entirely populated by teenagers pretending to be scientists. The only adult is poor Vincent Cassell, who must feel like he’s an instructor at some kind of Gen X sea camp. Thirty seconds in things go bang, water comes in, people say ‘the breakers need realigning’ and a big jellyfish with teeth turns up. Variety points out that the visuals are so murky it’s like looking through raw sewage, but the raw sewage is the script. There is not a single line of dialogue that feels real or original. The director’s name is Eubank, which used to be a brand of carpet sweeper. No amount of sweeping up will remove this turd from the sticky carpet of Hollywood’s lowest movie tier. I can’t help wondering how many ventilators it would have bought.

Vivarium must have looked good on paper. An Irish production with Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg, it’s a parable about a childless couple who get lost in a fantasy colour-coded suburbia and raise a cuckoo child in days, only to realise they’re in a parable about how awful life is, and how you get nothing from your children and you just die in order to let them start the process all over again.

The problem with parables is they make good Polish short films, but when dragged out to 90 minutes they’re cumbersome and obvious. The director’s decision to make everything look unreal (including the sky) destroys any tension or interest in the couple’s fate because we know we’re being fed a manipulative fable. Norwegian director Jens Lien’s ‘The Bothersome Man’ treads the same ground brilliantly and gets under the skin.

Vivarium’s worldview – that heteronormative child-rearing is a miserable soul-sucking trap – fails to take into account the pleasures of parenting and the joy that can be found in even restricted lives. Perhaps it will strike a darker chord with the young who can see their futures darkening day by day. But as the couple drive endlessly around their pristine suburb you’ll find yourself shouting, ‘For God’s sake just turn right!’

Here’s a film you shouldn’t watch, not because it’s terrible but because it’s too near the knuckle right now. The Occupant feels deeply uncomfortable during lockdown, which is changing our attitude to many films (Eon Productions, you might want to rethink the upcoming Bond title ‘No Time To Die’).

The Occupant concerns a middle-aged ad executive who loses his job and his beautiful apartment as the next bright young family steps into his shoes for their turn of living the dream. Rather than downsize with grace and let his losses go, the awkwardly short Javier Gutiérrez goes full stalker, keeps his old door keys (don’t you change the locks when you move into a new place?) and insinuates himself into the blameless family’s lives to ruin them out of sheer spite.

There’s a supremely painful scene in which he shows his portfolio to a pair of younger employers, who regard his campaigns with a glow of nostalgia before politely asking if he has anything recent to show them, but with such an unsympathetic lead who is the audience meant to cheer? As such it would make a good double bill with the superior ‘Sleep Tight’, but for now it’s in the wrong place at the wrong time.

For better genre enjoyment I can recommend ‘The Invisible Man’, ‘Little Joe’ and ‘The Hunt’.

23 comments on “What Not To Watch During Lockdown”

  1. Brian says:

    So, you’re looking to restart the Kristen Stewart dust-up yet again in these pages?

    Anyway, warnings of what not to watch are most welcome. I have seen so many recommendations for what I should watch that the plague should persist for another 12 months just to let me have a crack at them.

  2. Richard says:

    Going to try Tales from the Loop tonight. I loved the art the series is based on, so I’m hoping it’s more than a different take on Stranger Things. Purposefully haven’t read any reviews in advance.

  3. admin says:

    Yes, I was thinking about trying ‘Loop’.

    There’s no way of knowing if Stewart is good or bad in ‘Underwater’ as she had nothing to do except run about in her knickers.

  4. Jan says:

    Tell you what I recommend NOT to watch during Lockdown
    News at10p.m. On either station
    GMTV with Piers Morgan being hysterical
    Stay completely away from 24 hour news channels especially those shows dealing with tomorrow’s newspapers
    The tea time Covid 19 update show
    A quick glimpse of BBC Breakfast is just about passable.
    Channel 4news @7p.m.

    Brexit was bad enough that series lasted for months and months and lasted most of everyday starting with a very stripey but less hysterical piers Morgan on GMTV and lasted practically all day with a few other programmes thrown in. This is even worse.
    I recommend radio Classic F.M. Is a good choice, You’ve been Framed, Classic Coronation Street (my personal favourite) Gardeners World, and Star Trek. I thank you!
    P.S. Let’s hope the Covid 19 show although practically at saturation coverage does not last nearly as long!

  5. Jan says:

    Not stripey STROPPY this spellchecker is doing my head in!!

  6. Jo W says:

    Goodness me, Chris, Kristen Stewart running about in her knickers?
    They must be enormous………

  7. Richard says:

    Right, Tales from the Loop, episode 1. Not bad at all really, and it isn’t another Stranger Things. Much more thoughtful. Some of the bits about the underground facility can’t escape American SF tropes, but the rest of it looks, well, Swedish. My wife found it too unfriendly, but I enjoyed it enough to keep watching. Recommended.

  8. Ian Luck says:

    ‘Covid-19’ is this year’s ‘Brexit’ – something that is going to take ages to sort out, and of which nobody is sure of the correct solution. It’s also a term that people are already bored shitless with. I look every five days or so, at the W.H.O. website. That’s it. No newsfeeds, no panicking chatshow people, definitely no newspapers. There’s nothing that can be done about it, so I just live as normal, and enjoy the lockdown.
    You’re right about the title of the new Bond movie. If they’re taking notes, here’s mine:
    ‘A Dearth Of Ideas’, or appropriating a title of a movie I enjoyed a few years ago:
    ‘Bond Dies At The End’.
    Now off out into the garden, to photograph the moon.

  9. snowy says:

    While digging around for “Massively Inappropriate Film Club”, [still cannot find my copy of ‘The Andromeda Strain’], I turned up another quite unsuitable item. It begins with a voice-over by Malcolm McDowell:

    Like so many epidemics before, the loss of so many lives began with a single microscopic organism.

    It’s human nature to seek even the smallest comfort in reason or logic for events as catastrophic as these. But a virus doesn’t choose a time or place. It doesn’t hate or even care. It just happens.

    The Reaper virus spread among the population of Glasgow like a common cold, there was no stopping it, there was no cure, no vaccine. It claimed the lives of thousands in the first week. In an attempt to quell the outbreak martial law was implemented, roadblocks set up, curfews enforced, the airports, ports and borders were closed. Scotland was placed under quarantine, the people were ordered to stay in their homes, to avoid travel, to avoid contact, to sit it out, and wait for help that did not come.

    The first third is a bit ‘as you would expect’, lots of character establishment, laying out of plot, before it suddenly goes ‘Wait! What! They didn’t just… No! Oooh-icky’.

    Solid supporting performances from Bob Hoskins and Sean Pertwee, [Spoiler: doesn’t end well for his character], lots of very dark humour, tons of splatter, in-frame gags and dozens of references to other films, [something the Director is very open about, he picked bits from his own favourite films and some character names are nods to other Directors].

    For the people that enjoyed ‘Dog Soldiers’ and haven’t seen ‘Doomsday’ it might be worth a look. It’ll be somewhere down the bottom of the EPG.

  10. Jan says:

    I just don’t get it why on earth have all these films like “Contagion” become ever so popular. Like why?

    “Outbreak” “Andromeda Strain” “28 Days later” are all having a moment. I must admit I always really liked “I am Legend” with Will Smith well I liked the first half of it anyroad with him on his Tod mooching round New York thought that was excellent. Then it sort of set off in a different direction and turned into this zombie picture which was crap basically.

    On a fb group I belong to everyone was going on about watching this “Contagion” which from what I could gather was a documentary about some highly infectious disease…well tbh whilst they were all filling their boots with that I was watching “The Muppet Movie” on BBC 2. Mind you by mistake I tuned into beeb 1 one for a few minutes and caught Michael Gove on the Corona virus show. Took me a short time to realise I wasn’t watching a real Muppet.

  11. Rachel Green says:

    I’ve really enjoyed “28 days Later,” “28 weeks late,” and an absolute, to-the-knuckle fortelling of Covid-19, the 1970’s series “Survivor.” Brilliant foretelling, though the acting is stilted.

    On the other hand, I quite liked ‘Vivarium.’ Loop was okay to good, but the best film I’ve seen in ages was ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire.”

  12. Peter Dixon says:

    I recently re-read ‘The Andromeda Strain’ which turns out to be a virus that turns blood solid.
    If I’d written it it would have been called ‘The Black Pudding Strain’

  13. Ford says:

    The Horror Channel were showing the mini series version of The Andromeda Strain last weekend!

    The Repair Shop is worth watching, as long as they’re not getting too syrupy about the back story.

  14. John Williams says:

    Regarding films, it’s probably best to visit here first?

    Just started watching this, and it looks good, providing one doesn’t dislike subtitles. Capernaum.

  15. admin says:

    I loved Capernaum – saw it in a cinema (remember them?) which worked best. Virtually all my favourite films are world cinema, with only a couple from Hollywood.

  16. John Williams says:

    It’s very difficult to find world cinema films these days? They are often based around true life experiences, whereas modern films tend to be shoot ’em ups and based around cliche. Do you know of any good sources?

  17. Brooke says:

    Admin: world cinema. Did you see LBR invitation to view independent films? See LBR YouTube also blog.

  18. admin says:

    Hi Brooke, yes – my problem at this time of the year is that I’ve seen pretty much everything I want to see because we get indie & world screeners early for the following year’s first quarter. The academy obviously isn’t holding screenings right now but they’re putting them on a portal instead.

    Ian – I can’t see them running with Bond Dies At The End but good call.

    Rachel – I somehow overlooked ‘Portrait’ – might give it a bash tonight.

    John – oddly, some surprising world cinema can be found on Amazon and Netflix but it’s pretty well hidden at the arse-end of the EPG.

  19. Wayne Mook says:

    also avoid listening to the Smiths, especially the likes of Every Day is Like Sunday.

    Color Out of Space, nasty thing from space infects a place, not really the best time to watch. I enjoyed it though, Nicolas Cage horror, quite barking and fairly faithful to Lovecraft.

    Jan according to the BBC Outbreak and Moonstruck are 2 really popular films of the moment. ” quite different films.

    The recent John Blackburn novel I read has a deadly disease, a number of his books do, so avoid. It did point out Spanish flu was a hybrid of normal flu and swine flu, plus then it gave the death rate at over 20 million, some time late in the 2000’s I think they re-estimated it at over 50 million. So we can tell what killed people then better than the doctors who were treating people.

    I would recommend spirited Away, aimed at kids but really splendid.


  20. Wayne Mook says:

    Eight Perfect Murders (2020) by Peter Swanson (UK title Rules for Perfect Murders.) on the Pretty Sinister Books website this is given as a book to avoid, a serial killer uses murders from books, and in the process not only gives the method of death and motivations but also the killers. it covers books from The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne to The Secret History by Donna Tartt. There is a Christie, a Highsmith, a Levin and does Double Indemnity count as a perfect murder? Also there is a bookseller who doesn’t read books.

    Here is a quote from the website

    “Not only does he spoil these books once – he does so repeatedly. I got the feeling I was reading a old time serial there was so much repetition. The only thing missing was “Previously on…” or “In our last episode…” He tells us the plot of Malice Aforethought about three separate times. He mentions the ending of The Drowner by John D. MacDonald just as many.”

    I will avoid this unless someone here can convince me otherwise.


  21. Ian Luck says:

    I like ‘Spirited Away’ but much prefer ‘Steamboy’ – it’s a simply incredible piece of cinema. The English dub, featuring Sir Patrick Stewart, is a thing of wonder in itself. It’s a Japanese Anime, of course, but made by people who have done a lot of research. There are even nods to ‘Coronation Street’ hidden in the lush detail. It is possibly THE most authentically ‘Steampunk’ movie ever made. It’s well worth a couple of hours of your time. Other things I have enjoyed this weekend were Mark Gatiss’ programme on Aubrey Beardsley, and a documentary on The Bauhaus (not the band, even though I’m a big fan), but the art school. Fascinating stuff. In a lighter vein, I re-watched the first series of ‘Torchwood’, and still enjoyed it immensely.

  22. admin says:

    I LOVED Steamboy and have owned a copy of it for years. I feel a feature on Japanimation upcoming shortly!

  23. Wayne Mook says:

    Bauhaus are splendid Ian, but I can’t help but think of Bill Bailey’s cockney ‘Bella Lugosi’s Dead.’

    I enjoyed Paprika and Metropolis (the German silent is good) as well. The little one has a number of Studio Ghibli, Kiki’s Delivery Service was the last one, and a non Ghibli Wolf Children. We also watched Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang, the child catcher is still on of the scariest creations ever.

    I think I may have seen Steamboy, it does ring a bell.


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