I KILL GIANTS ****
Directed by Anders Walter. Starring Madison Wolfe, Imogen Poots, Zoe Saldana, Sydney Wade, Rory Jackson, Noel Clarke, Jennifer Ehle. USA / UK / Belgium 2017 102 mins Certificate: 12
Out now on DVD from Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment
“A giant is hate…A giant takes everything from you, and when it’s done, it’s like everything that ever made your life good was never even there…”
Joe Kelly transfers his own seven-issue Image comic book series (2008-2009) to the big screen for the feature directorial debut of Anders Walter. Against a permanently overcast coastal backdrop (atmospherically captured by cinematographer Rasmus Heise, who gave TV’s THE RAIN its handsomely bleak look), imaginative but lonely adolescent Madison Wolfe is alienated from her videogame-obsessed brothers and an easy target for school bullies, while – substituting for their mother – older sister Imogen Poots works hard to keep everything going. The Dungeons & Dragons-loving Wolfe meets an intelligent young Leeds girl (Sydney Wade) on the beach and introduces her to her self-created “sanctuary”. Wolfe believes the world is host to a variety of giants, and, in this alternate reality, carries around the finest Warhammer, capable of dropping the mightiest of their kind. She considers the giants’ activities to be frequently dismissed by humans as earthquakes and tornadoes and the like, “omens” casually ignored by the masses. Away from the often traumatic banality of her everyday life, in her own words she exists for three reasons:
“I find giants. I hunt giants. I kill giants”.
Wolfe, a credible child actor from TV’s TRUE DETECTIVE and mainstream horrors DEVIL’S DUE and THE CONJURING 2, provides an authentic, sometimes bravely unsympathetic portrait of an ostracised young girl finding refuge in a fantastical world over which she has considerable power and influence. Walter makes judicious use of visual effects to allow the audience to experience the world that, for Wolfe, represents a “reality” ignored by everyone else, and crafts a poignant parable of bullying and loneliness. Poots is touchingly sincere as the older sibling who has sacrificed her own existence to give her family the best possible life under strained circumstances. There is a rare intimacy between Wolfe and young Wade in their scenes together, and familiar faces (Zoe Saldana as a shrink, a fleetingly appearing Noel Clarke as her husband and Jennifer Ehle as Wolfe’s mother) fill out supporting roles.
Modern American horror has frequently used the overtly monstrous to operate as metaphors for mundane daily torments, and this film offers a quite unique spin on the typical post-CARRIE narrative of the victimised teenager who harnesses extraordinary powers in the pursuit of vengeance: here, the protagonist believes she is able to sacrifice her chief aggressor to appease the most powerful giants and thus evade potentially apocalyptic events. Tonally and thematically, the film errs closer to A MONSTER CALLS (2016), itself adapted from a much admired children’s’ book and also featuring a youthful character confronted with the complex range of emotions resulting from a terminal illness in her family.
Although we could have done without a few MOR soundtrack choices straight from the “Sit back, we’ll tell you how to feel” catalogue, Martin’s film doesn’t sentimentalise the heroine’s plight and manages to be absorbing, heartfelt and moving without sliding into melodrama or mawkishness. Never condescending to its intended (younger) audience, it becomes a reminder of just how fantasy is so important to us all, particularly in our darkest moments.
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