New on download/streaming/DVD: The Assistant, Ghosts of War, Cursed, In The Long Run and Absentia
:: The Assistant (Cert 15, 87 mins, Vertigo Releasing, Drama, available now on Amazon Prime Video/BFI Player/Curzon Home Cinema/Google Play/iTunes/Microsoft Store/Sky Store/Virgin Media and other download and streaming services, available from July 20 on DVD £19.99)
Starring: Julia Garner, Jon Orsini, Noah Robbins, Kristine Froseth, Matthew Macfadyen, Alexander Chaplin, Dagmara Dominczyk, Mackenzie Leigh.
PERSONAL assistant Jane (Julia Garner) arrives bleary-eyed before dawn at a New York film production company to manage the diary of her omnipotent boss, who is heard but never seen.
Two nameless male assistants (Jon Orsini, Noah Robbins) operate in the other half of the office and silently survey Jane's actions.
When a young woman named Sienna (Kristine Froseth) from Boise, Idaho, arrives unannounced for a non-existent assistant's role, Jane spirits her away to a nearby hotel.
Soon after, production executives Max (Alexander Chaplin) and Donna (Dagmara Dominczyk) joke that the boss is probably at the hotel too.
Jane hurries to speak to human resources manager Wilcock (Matthew Macfadyen) to voice her concerns but his response stuns her into uneasy silence.
The Assistant is a discomfiting study of psychological warfare and harassment in the modern workplace.
Writer-director Kitty Green's impressive narrative feature debut hints at unspeakable horrors within the framework of a mundane working day.
Collusion between characters is conveyed in terrified glances.
A lean script relies on minimal dialogue to expose the sickening imbalance of power such as when Garner's lackey leaves the office as her boss conducts a late-night casting session with an actress (Mackenzie Leigh) and a female executive in the lift offers these meagre words of comfort: "Don't worry, she'll get more out if it than he will."
Garner delivers a riveting and quietly devastating performance as the mentally and physically exhausted title character.
Our sympathy is firmly tethered to her, wrestling with her culpability as a silent witness when speaking out would invariably end her dreams.
:: Ghosts Of War (Cert 18, 94 mins, Vertigo Releasing, War/Thriller/Horror, available from July 17 on Amazon Prime Video/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services)
Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Theo Rossi, Skylar Astin, Kyle Gallner, Alan Ritchson, Billy Zane.
CHRIS (Brenton Thwaites) leads a five-strong team of US soldiers from the Airborne division through Nazi-occupied France towards the end of the Second World War.
He has been ordered to relieve soldiers stationed at a grand chateau and hold the position with brothers in arms Butchie (Alan Ritchson), Eugene (Skylar Astin), Kirk (Theo Rossi) and Tappert (Kyle Gallner) to prevent the Germans from regaining the strategic stronghold.
During the first night in the house, Chris, Butchie, Eugene, Kirk and Tappert experience strange events, which convince them that the house might be haunted by ghosts of the home-owners, who were murdered by the Nazis.
As the spectral visitations intensity, persistent tapping on pipes reveals a chilling message in Morse code: "If you leave you die".
Written and directed by Eric Bress, who penned the opening chapter of the Final Destination series, Ghosts Of War is a mildly unsettling supernatural horror, which recycles genre tropes.
Doors open of their own accord, shadowy figures manifest in darkened corridors and gouged fingernail marks streak down wooden floorboards.
Bress deviates abruptly from his well-trodden path for a final act narrative detour that teeters precariously on the cusp of the ridiculous.
Jump scares are accomplished with assurance – and plenty of advanced warning – accompanied by copious blood spatter courtesy of the make-up department.
Thwaites is a likeable hero in the midst of unearthly madness while Billy Zane enjoys a throwaway supporting role as a German Major, which only makes sense once the end credits roll.
:: Cursed (10 episodes, streaming from July 17 exclusively on Netflix, Fantasy/Action/Adventure)
BASED on the book of the same title written by Thomas Wheeler and illustrated by Frank Miller, Cursed is a 10-part reimagining of Arthurian legend, which places a teenage heroine at the centre of the otherworldly action.
Nimue (Katherine Langford) is an outcast in her Druid village, feared because of her rumoured ties to the same dark magic that casts a long shadow over the kingdom ruled by corrupt King Uther.
The monarch's merciless army of Red Paladins charges into Nimue's village and slaughters men, women and children.
Nimue escapes the bloodbath with an ancient sword, which her mother Lenore (Catherine Walker) entrusts her to deliver to legendary sorcerer Merlin (Gustaf Skarsgard).
As Nimue treks across England, relying on folk like herself to survive, she encounters dashing mercenary Arthur (Devon Terrell), who promises to help her on the epic quest.
:: In The Long Run – Series 3 (6 episodes, starts streaming from July 22 exclusively on NOW TV, Comedy/Drama/Romance)
NOSTALGIC comedy drama In The Long Run, which is loosely based on the childhood of Golden Globe-winning actor Idris Elba, returns to Sky One this week and streams exclusively on NOW TV.
Once again, we step back in time to the 1980s in the company of Walter Easmon (Idris Elba) and wife Agnes (Madeline Appiah), who live on an east London housing estate with their young son Kobna (Sammy Kamara).
This series, Walter's mother (Ellen Thomas) arrives from Sierra Leone and he is keen to impress her.
Meanwhile, younger brother Valentine (Jimmy Akingbola) is lucky in love and best mate Bagpipes (Bill Bailey) has a sobering near-death experience.
Also, Agnes becomes deeply suspicious about sustained interest from property developers in the estate and she fears the potential repercussions for her brood.
:: Absentia – Season 3 (10 episodes, streaming from July 17 exclusively on Amazon Prime Video, Thriller/Romance)
STANA Katic reprises her role as tormented FBI Agent Emily Byrne in 10 episodes of the intriguing crime drama created by Gaia Violo and Matt Cirulnick.
This series, Emily is determined to be the best mother possible to young son Flynn (Patrick McAuley) as she serves out the final days of her suspension from the agency.
She is drawn back into the fold earlier than anticipated when the fate of her ex-husband, Special Agent Nick Durand (Patrick Heusinger), hangs in the balance during an international criminal case.
Emily's superiors are reluctant to intervene so she takes matters into her own hands, aided by her former FBI instructor, Rowena Kincade (Josette Simon).
Special Agent Cal Isaac (Matthew Le Nevez) is dispatched to neutralise Emily's unwelcome interference before she uncovers a larger conspiracy with tentacles that stretch into the upper echelons of power.