Friday, 23 June 2017

Silently Within Your Shadow

"Silently Within Your Shadow" (2015, Scott Lyus, Crossroad Pictures) is a short horror from the creator/director of "The Order of the Ram" (2013). Having picked up a couple of awards and completing many festivals, it is currently available to view on Amazon.

Lucette (Sophie Tergeist) is a budding ventriloquist. Her boyfriend, Jace (Byron Fernandes), is jealous of Lucette's close relationship (see "obsession") with her dummy, Hugo (voiced by Bill Moseley). He feels that they're trapped in a strange love triangle where the dummy is always present. His protests are not heard, however, as Lucette says simply that Hugo does not like to be alone....

As things progress, more than Jace and Lucette's relationship becomes strained. And Hugo begins to make his presence known.

A fun short of around 15 minutes run time. Whilst the premise isn't hugely innovative, the film really earns credit due to some smooth editing and by not overusing the puppet prop too much. He's utilised just enough to make him creepy and Bill Moseley gives him an excellent chilling edge.

The story is built up in a good, timely manner with enough dialogue to understand the characters and plot without going overboard and becoming too bogged down in monologue scenes. The stage scenes are particularly well shot considering the budget.

A very 'indie' style film, but with some nice character to it and some fun, bloody pay off within also.

[Image: Crossroad Pictures]

Monday, 12 June 2017

Dig Two Graves

"Dig Two Graves" (2017, Hunter Adams) is a tale of loss of innocence and revenge.

Jake (Samantha Isler) is obsessed with the death of her elder brother. One day she is offered a chance to bring him back, but at a terrible cost. Her grandfather, Sheriff Waterhouse (Ted Levine), tries to make up for his own terrible choices, but can he help Jake in time or will she make her own way?

An intriguing premise with some interesting characters and substantial core acting, but a slow, meandering plot that didn't keep my interest. Some of the cinematography is striking and the themes of the loss of childhood innocence and the dangers of obsession and revenge are strong. Although the film explores some dark themes, including power, rape and murder, the styling of the film and its pace rob it of some of its more shocking strength.

All in all, not a terrible film by any stretch, but the artistic choices make it seem like nothing of note really happens and everything seemed a bit muddy.


Monday, 5 June 2017


"Vampira" (aka "Old Dracula", 1974, Clive Donner, Columbia-Warner, American International Pictures) is a horror comedy about everyone's favourite vampire Count.

Count Dracula (David Niven) is getting old. In order to survive, he has began hosting tours of his castle where he can feast on curious tourists. When a group of beautiful, young Playboy girls stay at the castle, Dracula sees an opportunity to attempt to revive his lover, Vampira. One of the Playmates was a black lady (Minah Bird) and so, naturally, the Countess comes back as the beautiful Teresa Graves. While the Count hunts down more blood for the Countess with the help of a photographer called Marc (Nicky Henson), the Countess goes out on the town, enjoying the sights and sounds of the 70s.

A rather silly flick in both plot and acting. It's certainly not one of David Niven's best films by a long shot, but he brings the Count to life in his usual gleeful, gentlemanly style. Teresa Graves plays the proper Countess letting loose with her new persona and her new modern time in a fun and flamboyant way.

The premise is a little controversial, and the film is full of awkward comments, but on the whole the film is pretty innocent and mildly entertaining. From the comedy vampire bites to the vampire disco it's very of-its-time.

[Image: Columbia-Warner, et al]

Monday, 22 May 2017

The Last Witch Hunter

"The Last Witch Hunter" (2015, Breck Eisner, Atmosphere Productions, One Race Films, Goldmann Pictures, Summit Entertainment) is a horror-fantasy action thriller set in New York City.

Kaulder (Vin Diesel) vanquished the Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht) over 800 years ago when her Black Plague took his family, friends and countrymen. Before her demise, however, the creepy queen bestowed upon Kaulder the curse of eternal life.

In modern day we find Kaulder is still hunting and stopping witches from causing havoc under the orders of the Axe and Cross organisation. Often, however, he does not kill the witches, finding that they are sometimes young and unable to control their powers. In some instances, however, offending witch criminals are arrested or executed at his hand. He is helped in his task by a priest known as "Dolan". His current Dolan is number 36 (Michael Caine), although a new, younger Dolan is prepped ready to take over as number 37 (Elijah Wood).

When Dolan the 36th is harmed, Kaulder goes on the hunt for the perpetrator with the help of a young witch called Chloe (Rose Leslie). However, the deeper Kaulder gets in on the mystery, the more he fears that the dark, forgotten powers of the Queen are rising...

A silly, hokey, dark action fantasy film that plays through almost like a film version of someone's D&D campaign read-through. Whilst it's entertaining enough, it does suffer from some slow scenes and a few side plots that don't add much to the overall story. The effects are fun, though, and our Witch Queen is a much better realised character than, but somewhat similar to the concept of Enchantress from "Suicide Squad".


Monday, 15 May 2017

A Dark Song

"A Dark Song" (2016, Liam Gavin, IFC Midnight) is an indy horror from Ireland centred around the Occult.

Sophia (Catherine Walker) is a grieving mother who goes to an isolated house in the Welsh countryside with occultist, Joseph (Steve Oram), in order to perform a series of rituals to summon her guardian angel and speak with her deceased, 7-year old child. However, any slip can lead to the ritual going awry, with possible deadly results.

A slow, quiet movie with a really effective soundtrack and a stylistic storytelling method that doesn't particularly grab you by the shoulders, but does build up ominously. The black magic rituals have an element of realism to them that make the scenes effective. The magic is hard, and dirty and gross. The pretty stuff is simple and limited and the things on the other side are not friendly.

The gritty realism of the occult elements really play well with the disharmonious relationship between the determined, desperate woman and her reluctant, angry, world-weary spiritual guide. Sophie's inexperience and desperate resolution goes up against Joseph's seen-it-all-and-sick-of-it attitude, and his brash rudeness towards her drives her to fight against him, making the already gruelling process worse.

The quiet, desolate story telling style is effective, but it does make the experience of the film quite slow-going. While there were parts where I was on the edge of my seat, there were certainly sparse areas where I was just waiting on something moving the plot forward.

An altogether gloomy piece with a haunting impact. Innovative, if a little slow to get started.

[Image: IFC Midnight]

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Belko Experiment

"The Belko Experiment" (2016, Greg McLean, Metro Goldwyn-Mayer, The Safran Company, Troll Court Entertainment, Orion Pictures, BH Tilt) is a horror movie along the lines of "Battle Royale".

Mike (John Gallagher Jr.) works at Belko Industries; a non-profit of no explained purpose based in Columbia. He and his colleagues (including girlfriend, Leandra (Adria Arjona) and boss, Barry (Tony Goldwyn)) come in to work to find new, heightened security. This isn't the only strange thing to happen that day... With shifty security, a limited, non-local skeleton staff only being allowed entry and a strange voice over the loudspeaker giving terrifying orders, it looks like things might get violent. And, spoiler alert: they do. Really violent.

An intense, savage romp that remains entertaining, but doesn't cover any new ground. The story is not the most innovative, but the action keeps moving and the characters remain three dimensional. The casting is good; especially Wendell (John C. McGinley) who makes an excellent creep and an equally effective office-politics Goebbels.

While I think the creators intended the film to have some deep meaning about office life, human survival and faceless corporations it kind of gets lost in the gory, gory, gorefest that is most of this film. A slimy, bloody, B-movie massacre, but not as cerebral as I had anticipated.

[Image: Metro Goldwyn-Mayer, et al]


Sunday, 30 April 2017

Get Out

"Get Out" (2017, Jordan Peele, Blumhouse Productions, QC Entertainment, Monkeypaw Productions, Universal Pictures) is a horror that explores themes of racism through the context of an interracial couple hitting the 'meet the parents' milestone of their relationship.

Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) head out to Rose's family home to introduce Chris to her parents. Chris is apprehensive about meeting Rose's parents because she has told him he is her first African-American boyfriend and he's not sure how her Caucasian family will react to him. Rose assures him that her folks are not racist and that they'll just be glad to meet him.

Upon arriving this does seem to be the case, although as the day goes on her parents make some awkward 'well intended' remarks that begin to make Chris uncomfortable. However, it is the black people he encounters that strike him as 'wrong' somehow, but he can't quite place why. As the visit becomes overlong, the couple are dragged into an odd family gathering and Rose's mother also offers to cure Chris' smoking addiction with hypnosis...

Things become slowly more and more unsettling and Chris becomes aware that this friendly, suburban setting may not be as safe as it first appeared...

A fantastically paced film that balances its social statement with good scripting, humour and character development. The acting is spot on with a strong lead from Kauuya who's both confused, but strong and an excellent antagonist in Rose's father (Bradley Whitford). The unsettling build up really makes the twists and turns effective and keep them from being hokey or too obvious. The film isn't just about blatant racism; it explores that smiling-cat, quasi-jealous, self-congratulatory kind of racism that is prevalent all over.

A really striking film that's definitely worth a try. The horror elements are more tailored to a chilling thriller than a straight up fright fest, but the true horror is in the message being portrayed.

[Image: Universal Pictures, et al]