Written by Josh Brewer, March 19, 2016, at 8:00 p.m. Tweet to: @theJWBrewer
Title: And Then There Were None
Director: Craig Vivieros
Writer: Sarah Phelps (Screenplay), Agatha Christie (Novel)
Release Date: Uk: December 26th-28th, 2015; USA: March 13th-14th, 2016
Cast: Maeve Dermody, Charles Dance, Aidan Turner, Burn Gorman, Toby Stephens, Sam Neill
Note: This is a review of the US cut. There’s also a UK cut out there that runs a little longer.
And Then There Were None Cliff’s Notes
Invited to an island by someone they think they know, a group of strangers are accused of murder. And then they start to die.
Any slasher historian knows the importance of And Then There Were None. It’s the trial run, the first go round for the killer/final girl set up. Everything, from Psycho to Scream and beyond, comes back to this vicious little tale of 10 strangers on an island. What’s more, And Then There Were None has a not-so-great track record when it comes to adaptations. Rene Clair’s 1945 version is the best, though it seems more than a touch dated now. The only other adaptation of note is the Russian Desyat Negrityat that retains the ending, and the tone, of the novel. Otherwise, the rest of the film adaptations vary from bad to worse to literally awful. So imagine my joy when the BBC produces and releases a brand spanking new ATTWN featuring an all-star cast. And thank the horror gods they did!
Most of this puppy works just fine. Everything here is done at the highest level and the finished product looks like a million bucks. The style is smooth, the pacing tight, and the murderous goings on are explored in all of their glory. The grade A cast is fantastic and they really do a ton of work. Scenes that are already strong are made better, and the bits that are flatter are covered up by a few fantastic performances. Lastly, the style, dread, and viciousness that make up the second and third act of this puppy are wonderful and really bring the action to the forefront.
Any negatives? Yeah, there are a few. This puppy is in desperate need of a little lightness in tone, especially as the story progresses. I’m not looking for out and out laughs here, but there’s a reason milk goes so well with heavy chocolate cake. It allows you dive back in for more of the devious goodness. This is a story that needs a touch of something lighter to even it out and Aiden Turner’s quips aren’t doing it enough. Also, every once in a while, we have some really aggressive, unnecessary character moves that don’t seem to aid the story. Everyone’s dying and I need to be on my game? Great, let’s do some cocaine… Yeah…
The actors in this murder house are fantastic! The supporting cast is wonderful and really carries the story when it could all fall apart. Furthermore, the heavy hitting trio of Dermody, Dance, and Turner are excellent. Turner specifically is great, adding a lighter touch to an often overbearing tone. As the story progresses, he’s easily the most relatable character and really keeps the story grounded. But the stand out here is Sam Neill. His authentic, heart-felt performance is a joy and he really ups the emotional impact of what’s going on.
Viveros is solid, though needs a little help evening out the tone. His camera work varies from acceptable to occasionally amazing – I’m really digging those aerial shots – and he gets fantastic performances out of his actors. Unfortunately, the heaviness eventually becomes overbearing and pulls focus from the rest of the work. What few lighter moments there are come either from Turner or from a misguided sequence late in the second part. Alas.
Again, tone. There’s a lot here to like; the dialogue is solid and the fluid use of time is really nice. But the end of this puppy goes too serious and gets weaker because of it. There are also a few moments that, once the mystery is solved, seem to be unaddressed. Not that they’re plot holes exactly, but you can hear the strain under the roller coaster on a few of these. Also, because it will come up, the changes from the original novel seem justified and well done. I’ve heard some complaints, but most of the variations create a more cinematic feel to the proceedings. There’s a difference between novels and film- this flick is aware of it- and doesn’t get stuck in between them.
And Then There Were None doesn’t hold back on the red stuff! Gunshots, axe wounds, smashed faces, and stabbings! Oh my! It helps that most of the gore effects are practical, which makes a world of difference. When the CGI shows up, it’s well done and adds a fantastic air to the proceedings.
While one of them shows up a little too often, I really grooved to the murder flashbacks. The fantastic use of style really lifts the story out of its trapped setting and provides a wider, more varied flick.
Beyond the tone, I do have to nitpick the occasionally overbearing use of rich vs. poor. I’m sure that’s a major part of the world of this story, but by the time the fourth body hits the floor, I’d be hard pressed to keep up appearances. Especially because the characters that are least like to hold onto this pretense last much longer than their counterparts. Come on!
We finally have an acceptable version of the grandfather of the slasher flick. Sure, it’s not perfect, but this puppy is a fine way to slay a couple of hours.