kidnapping goes gruesomely awry in House on Willow Street. It will be released in select theaters and on VOD on March 23 via IFC Midnight. We have a cool looking poster above, plus a trailer below.
Produced in South Africa, the horror film is directed by Alastair Orr and stars Sharni Vinson (You’re Next), Carlyn Burchell, Steven John Ward, Zino Ventura, and Gustav Gerdener.
So I just got out of watching Kingsman: The Secret Service and I was reminded of a problem in Hollywood that I’ve had for a long time and I’m going to say it now:
Action films fucking SUCK.
Remember the days of like Transporter? Where the name “Jason Statham” could get you in theaters just like that (imagine I just snapped my fingers)? Nowadays, you see that Statham has a new film and you sort of roll your eyes because Parker looks so incredibly…average.
The Hollywood scene has saturated the action film market and action films along the veins of Transporter that would have ordinarily bombarded the market, just wind up going straight to DVD or on Netflix. SERIOUSLY, go to the action section in Netflix and you will see a TON of action films released in the past 5 years that you’ve NEVER heard of before with famous actors.
So when filmmakers or actors/actresses receive critical appraise or wide positive response, it’s usually because they’re pushing not just the boundaries of Hollywood filmmaking of shitty shakycam and editing, but also the boundaries of choreography.
This is a list of examples of people who have excelled the traditional Hollywood style action scenes. Mind you, this is not a list about action heroes or heroines but only those who have really showcased some crazy innovative work. We’re also keeping this to Hollywood productions as opposed to international hits like The Raid. Since there’s a lot of examples I’ll try to keep descriptions brief (unless I’m super passionate about a particular example).
1. Antje Traue as Faora Ul in Man of Steel (2013)
Many people have mixed feelings towards Man of Steel. But regardless of whatever side of the coin they’re on, everyone walked out of that theater talking about the scene where Faora took on the military soldiers. It’s perhaps the most talked about scene in the film, and a lot of Superman fans or comic book fans in general talk about how this was the scene where they FINALLY nailed not just Kryptonian/Superman’s powers, but the problem with super strength and speed in general (the problem being, how do you make a fight entertaining when someone can move really fast and beat everyone with one punch). The answer? Faora’s fight scene. Yes, in a film about Superman, neither he nor the main villain is attributed to having the coolest scene. She’s evil, wants to kill all humans–but man it’s hard to not like her in that sequence. And it’s quite tragic that her scenes are better CGI than the very obviously fake Superman and Zodd.
2. Emily Blunt as Rita Vrataski in Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
You’ve probably seen Edge of Tomorrow aka Live Die Repeat aka All You Need Is Kill on every “2014’s most underrated movies” list. And you best believe those lists are right because aside from the film being a truly awesome piece of sci-fi action (I call it the Starcraft film we always wanted), Emily Blunt shines as the war hero Rita Vrataski. During the extended montage sequence of the looping battles she endures, there are quite some incredible action sequences, specifically one of her lunging at an alien with her giant sword. Though the focus is Tom Cruise’s character and his evolution, he just goes around shooting things while she LUNGES AT ALIENS WITH A SWORD.
3. Sharni Vinson as Erin in You’re Next (2011/2013)
I feel like I’m getting more obscure but things will pick up, I promise. But this is a very crucial addition to the list as Sharni Vinson stars in You’re Next, a horror thriller film that’s not really a horror thriller film. DO NOT READ FURTHER, PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD.
Instead, the film takes the typical “home invasion” thriller genre and turns it on its head. Instead of a woman scared and constantly cowering in fear, Erin surprisingly, and very easily fights off and kills the many intruders. The innovation is not so much in the choreography here but in the execution of the idea. There are a few horror films where they have the protagonists “fight back” but never this way.
4. Zoe Saldana in Literally Everything
This one is interesting, because Zoe has not exactly starred in any innovative choreography, or innovative storytelling for action. In fact, Zoe’s fight scenes tend to be “very Hollywood” and the plot of her films range from “stale” to “alright this is entertaining enough” and yet she’s on this list because she’s probably the only lady doing this. The action film genre has long been a boy’s club and while some women have done a few action films, Zoe Saldana is probably the only woman who is a genuine action star known for her action fight work, and is very famous for it. Colombiana didn’t do much to help her career since the film itself was not a cult or critical hit. It just sort of came and went. But with the massive success of Guardians of the Galaxy (despite having few action scenes even though she’s one of the most dangerous assassins) hopefully this will pave the path for more Saldana-led action films.
5. Most of the main cast in Sucker Punch (2011)
First off, this film was absolutely terrible. The ratings for it skirt around 20 ~ 30% and rightfully so. Sucker Punch was a terrible film but it was visually stunning and the action choreography was out of this world cool.
In fact, this film was directed by Zack Snyder, who also directed Man of Steel, which means he was responsible for that awesome Faora fight mentioned earlier. So Sucker Punch is a terrible film, so why is it here? Because it’s probably got some of the best action sequences I’ve seen in cinema to date. My favorite is the train robot scene. If you watch closely, there is not a single cut. Obviously, filmmakers cheat thanks to CGI, but from a narrative and viewer standpoint, there is not a single cut, making this a long one shot, which is PRETTY god damn cool. The entire film is like this, with cool innovative, non-Hollwood esque choreography, and a lot of stylized work. Honestly, it was probably just one long sizzle reel to get Man of Steel.
6. Chloe Grace Moretz as Hit Girl in Kick-Ass (2010)
You, or someone you knew, did not shut up about this fucking film when it first came out. Rightfully so. Director Matthew Vaughn’s work in Kick-Ass was amazing, making even Nicolas Cage seem really cool again even though he was wearing a knock-off Batman mask. But it’s star? Hit Girl. The foul mouthed little child concept, and the unbelievable speed, precision and hyper violent brutality of her fighting style…this character made this film a rousing success and by itself launched Chloe Grace Moretz’s career. The action choreography in this film has still been unmatched until very recently…
7. Keanu Reeves as John Wick in John Wick (2014)
Keanu hasn’t really had a big hit since the Matrix films. That was until John Wick came along. Now I’m not saying it launched him back into that same A-List celebrity status, but he had produced a lot of flops since the Matrix, 47 Ronin being a notable recent failure, but John Wick was accepted and beloved by many. Why? The action.
John Wick pushed the innovation on action to a whole new level: Precision, tight, and clean. People lost their minds watching this film because of its use of gun-fu/gunkata, a form of gunplay that is so artfully and masterfully used that it is compared to that kungfu or japanese swordsmanship. The shots were unbelievably clean, no shakycam, and you knew what the hell was going on. It ditched the Hollywood premise of a massive shootout and instead, nearly 99% of all shots fired by John hit or killed his target. Up until now if you haven’t yet understood what I mean by “innovative action sequences” watch the infamous“nightclub scene” that sums up the brutality and precision of his skills throughout the entire film and how it separates itself from “Hollywood shootouts”. By the way? KEANU REEVES IS FUCKING FIFTY. AND HE DID A MAJORITY OF THAT PHYSICAL STUNT WORK HIMSELF.
8. Colin Firth as Galahad in Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)
Church scene. That is all. (*Fun fact: They did the entire scene in ONE take. No camera or CGI tricks.)
9. Sofia Boutella as Gazelle in Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)
I’ll be brief about Kingsman since the film is incredibly fresh and new and I want people to actually go and experience this at the cinemas: Gazelle is the “right hand”/“lieutenant” character of the main villain of the film (Samuel L Jackson). Similar to Faora, Gazelle left a big impression on viewers as she is a killer with two prosthetic (metal I think?) legs that also can bring out a long sharp thing that pretty much turns her legs into dual swords. And she is fucking GRACEFUL with her murder. Because her weapon of choice involves her feet, there’s a lot of fancy footwork and gymnast/ballet like movement to her fight choreography. Of course, Matthew Vaughn from Kick-Ass was also behind this film and is responsible for her and Colin Firth’s Galahad’s amazing fight sequences. I really want to talk more about her but she is absolutely amazing and if you ever want to see a woman kick some real ass, this film is right on the money.
10. Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in All Marvel Films She’s In
Since her appearance in Iron Man 2, Scarlett Johansson has been wow'ing us as Black Widow with her acrobatics, truly assassin like take downs. Marvel has always pushed the envelope on its action sequences, and Winter Soldier definitely stepped it up for Cap and Widow. Though she had considerably less fight scenes since it is CAP’s film. But anyone who’s seen her fight will tell you, she definitely brings something new and fresh to the table when it comes to hand to hand combat and she could really pave the way for studios to entrust more women with high octane action films, as opposed to just young adult dystopian future action films like The Hunger Games. If only Marvel would consider doing that solo or Hawkeye teamup film…
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So what was the point of this whole list? Well, honestly, you have to watch all these films and these scenes (in the context of the films) to truly appreciate and understand what I’m trying to get at. These actors, directors and unnamed stunt coordinators are doing something truly different with the genre of the action film and I think we really need to be pursuing this route as filmmakers.
I really think those who managed to get through this long ass post should truly go check out Kingsman: The Secret Service as it is not just an homage to fun spy films but also a great look into what could be the very next step in high octane action fight scenes.
This Gusty was one of the first Sharni obtained for her collection. Around the 3rd or 4th Generation 1 and probably around 20ish overall. She still has a remarkably white body and her hair is still so soft!