Blu-ray review: Replicas (2019)

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Replicas (2019)
Lionsgate, certificate 12 (out 29 April)
Originally written for Dark Side magazine

Actors have occasionally been accused of ‘phoning a performance in; with this largely lamebrained excuse for a science fiction thriller, Keanu Reeves (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the Matrix trilogy) goes one step further and texts most of his. “We are going straight to Hell,” says fellow scientist Ed as the pair start playing Frankenstein with the newly-deceased remains of Reeves’ wife and children; the rest of us are already there.

At a secret lab on a remote Latin American isle (presumably chosen for that Jurassic Park vibe), Will Foster (Reeves) is using a holographic display cribbed from Tony Stark to implant memories into android brains. After a traffic tragedy wipes out his family, he and Ed (Thomas Middleditch, The Final Girls) clone new bodies to create a fresh off-the-peg domestic unit. So far, so crazy, because a shortfall in the number of amniotic pods Ed could rustle up has already forced Will (or Bill: the film can’t decide, which is typical of Chad St John’s confused screenplay) to jetison his younger daughter.

Reeves demonstrates how deeply this is affecting him by delivering every line like he hasn’t slept for a fortnight (if he’s suffering from insomnia, perhaps he should try watching this film). Meanwhile, his resurrected wife Mona (Alice Eve, Star Trek: Into Darkness and Men in Black 3) is proving memories can’t be buried like last week’s trash, forcing Will into a conversation which is one of the few unexpected moments in this $30M b-movie. Enter the lab’s administrator (John Ortiz, Kong: Skull Island), who forces Reeves to channel his inner John Wick and take the action up a gear to protect his faux family.

Unfortunately, the film’s closing 30 minutes are still hobbled by the lethargy and gormless technobabble of the opening 75, leaving us with a fractured and deeply unfocussed narrative. Its moral perspective is further skewed by the finale, in which the allegedly deleted daughter rematerialises and an android version of Reeves begins offering the resurrection tech to any elderly millionaire with a yen – and sufficient spare yen, or dollars, or rubles – to reboot.

Reeves is reportedly back with Alex Winter right now, shooting a third Bill & Ted. Let’s hope his time-travelling includes telling Replicas director Jeffrey Nachmanoff to order a few critical rewrites and maybe get himself a more convincing lead actor (seriously, Jeffrey, your faith in Reeve’s “dramatic chops” is deeply misplaced).

Extras: commentary by Nachmanoff and executive producer James Dodson; “making of” documentary, including interviews with Reeves and his production partner Stephen Hamel, who came up with the initial story; deleted scenes.

Manchester Memories [4]

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I’ve just seen a copy of the first progress report for this year’s Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester. It includes a report on last year’s event, and there’s me in the middle photograph, interviewing the delightful Jenny Hanley on stage. The resulting article appeared in February’s issue of The Dark Side.

Nappy Days

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Had a highly entertaining conversation with actor/director Dominic Brunt on Thursday, followed up two days later by a short chat with his wife and regular collaborator Joanne Mitchell. The topic was their movie Attack of the Adult Babies, which gets its DVD and Blu-ray release from Nucleus Films on 11 June. Touch wood, my feature will appear in Dark Side shortly afterwards.

Photo (c) Ginger Nuts of Horror

Photo Album: Ann Robinson, 1995

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Ann Robinson has the distinction of having appeared in three separate iterations of Wells’ The War of the Worlds: the classic 1953 movie, the 1980s tv spin-off (recreating her role as Sylvia Van Buren) and the 2005 remake (in an unrelated cameo alongside her 1953 co-star, Gene Barry). We met at the 1995 Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester, which I was covering for The Dark Side.

Who’s Next

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Currently working on my inaugural feature for Infinity, sister magazine to The Dark Side. It’s a profile of Myth Makers, the long-running series of video interviews with key personnel in the Doctor Who universe. I’m currently liaising with founder and producer Keith Barnfather, as well as a number of writers and actors who’ve been involved in both the show and this series of fantastic archive conversations. More details soon.

Most Haunted

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If all goes according to plan, the next issue of The Dark Side — due out on 29 March — will include a lengthy feature I’ve put together on the new drama-documentary Borley Rectory, directed by Ashley Thorpe and starring Jonathan Rigby as the notorious ghost hunter Harry Price. I interviewed them both for this piece, and there are also quotes from co-star Reece Shearsmith.

Unfortunately, work on this article coincided with my friend Chrissie and myself having to make several stressful trips to the local veterinary surgery with her elderly dog, Fred. Hours after I e-mailed the text to my editor, we walked Fred to see the vet one final time.