Tuesday, 9 January 2018

The Shape of Water

"The Shape of Water" (2017, Guillermo del Toro, Double Dare You Productions, Fox Searchlight Pictures) is a dark fantasy about love.... and vivisection.

Elisa (Sally Hawkins) has been mute since infancy and speaks in sign language. She works as a cleaner at a large research facility with her friend, Zelda (Octavia Spencer), -who chats enough for both of them- and spends her free time with her friend and neighbour, an artist called Giles (Richard Jenkins).

During her time cleaning up the suspiciously bloody messes at the facility, Elisa comes to know one of the research specimens; a humanoid aquatic creature (Doug Jones) with whom she shares a bond of boiled eggs, sign language lessons and music. Unfortunately, the scientists and military personnel at the facility, particularly the fairly unstable Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon), do not have nice plans for the amphibious man and Elisa becomes determined to save her unusual friend.

An unusual love story between a creature worthy of the Black Lagoon and an imaginative and adorable, but lonely woman. The film begins fairly slow-burning and took its time to introduce the set up and characters, but enjoys some more outlandish scenes within the imagination of Elisa. The film explores the nature of the loneliness of being different and touches on some prevalent topics from '60s America, including race and sexuality and the lingering distrust from various global tensions (most notably, of course, the Cold War). Hey, guess not much has changed, really.

The effects are, as ever with the works of del Toro and with the characters of Doug Jones, exceptional and both very realistic and fantastic in their strangeness.

A film that manages to be peculiar, haunting and, at times, humorous, as well as delivering a thoughtful and entertaining piece of cinema. And a nice, cerebral (and oh, so weird) link to the Hellboy universe. It deserves all the awards it can hoover up, in my view.

[Image: Double Dare You Productions, et al]

Monday, 1 January 2018

Bloody New Year

"Bloody New Year" aka "Timewarp Terror" (1987, Norman J. Warren, Lazer Entertainment, Target International) is a British New Year themed, supernatural horror movie.

A group of unruly friends find their way onto a strange island which is trapped in a time-loop where it is always New Year's Eve 1959.

A fun premise that suffers from just too much going on. Is it about evil science experiments? Is it about ghosts? Is it about zombies? Is it about a British version of The Shining? The answer? Apparently all of the above.

Our group of pals are pretty unlikable and our ghostly hotel could have done with a bit more build up but all in all the film is entertaining for its 50s party atmosphere. The film is pretty silly and suffers from some directionless story-telling, but if you're looking a cheesy late-night New Year's romp, then look no further.

[Image: Lazer Entertainment, et al]

New Year's Evil

"New Year's Evil" (1980, Emmett Alston, Golan-Globus Productions, Cannon Film Distributors) is a slasher film set at New Year's Eve.

Diane, also known as Blaze, (Roz Kelly) is a new wave punk rock icon who is hosting a New Year's Eve countdown, concert and telethon in Hollywood. Her show is televised and linked to other New Year events being hosted around the US across its slightly varying timezones. During her telethon, Blaze receives a call from someone using a voice changer who boasts that he will kill a 'naughty girl' as the clocks strike midnight in each timezone and that one of the victims will be her. Worried, Blaze asks for more security, but will it be enough to save her from this midnight murderer?

There are not that many New Year's Eve/Hogmanay horror films out there as far as I'm aware. So I was pleased to find that this film offered all the cheese that I wanted. From the make up and fashion, to the tunes, to our 'master of disguise' killer and the concert crowd itself.... There's no way to say that this wasn't entertaining. Even if it was also not particularly great.

It's not big, it's not clever and, despite trying, the twists and turns don't really add much mystique to the plot. As far as slasher movies go, it's pretty standard fare and it's not really anything to get excited over. But for a theme film in a pretty niche area, it's entertaining enough.

[Image: Golan-Globus Productions]

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Minutes Past Midnight

"Minutes Past Midnight" (2016, Robert Boocheck, Lee Cronin, Francisco Sonic Kim, Ryan Lightbourn, Marc Martínez Jordán, Kevin McTurk, James Moran, Christian Rivers, Sid Zanforlin, Rue Morgue Magazine, Indiecan Entertainment, Unstable Ground Productions) is a horror anthology built up of selected shorts.

There are nine shorts in total comprising of (but not in the order of): Horrific; Ghost Train; Awake; Roid Rage; Timothy; The Mill at Calder's End; Crazy for You; Feeder; and Never Tear Us Apart.

The shorts each enjoy a different flavour of story telling and medium with some going for a more gory style and others entertaining a more ominous dread. The shorts each have their own merits, however, for me the "Ghost Train" stood out as a firm favourite both due to its intriguing plot and really nice setting.

Due to the diversity in the story telling, the film as a whole benefits from a varied and fresh feel, despite not really having a wraparound story to bring everything together.

I would definitely recommend giving it a try if you're looking for something snappy and interesting to watch.

[Image: Rue Morgue Magazine, et al]


Friday, 29 December 2017

The Vault

"The Vault" (2017, Dan Bush, Redwire Pictures, Content Media Culmination Productions, Casadelic Pictures, Jeff Rice Films, LB Entertainment, Imprint Entertainment, Psychopia Pictures) is a film about a bank heist gone wrong.

A group of well-organised, and yet rather incompetent, bank robbers find themselves in trouble when they encounter some paranormal activity within the old vault at an inter-city bank. Having taken hostages and attracted police attention, the robbers begin to panic, but as they open the vault, spooky happenings begin that they cannot understand. And there are hostages within their numbers that they cannot account for....

A fun, spooky romp with a host of interesting, yet fairly disposable characters and a somewhat made-for-TV feel.

Although it doesn't break any new ground, it was a fairly entertaining 91 minutes.

[Image: Redwire Pictures]


Thursday, 28 December 2017

Creep 2

"Creep 2" (2017, Patrick Brice, Blumhouse Productions, The Orchard) is the sequel to 2014's "Creep".

Following on from the previous film, our murderous weirdo (Mark Duplass) is now going by the name Aaron (which is the name of his victim in the original film). He seeks the desperate help of aspiring (and failing) YouTuber, Sara (Desiree Akhavan), having lost his thrill for the kill during his most recent stalking of a guy called Dave (Karan Soni).

Sara's experience with seeking out weirdos online to film for her YouTube show make her a stalling subject for Aaron, as she is more than willing to take his weirdness face-on and doesn't seem phased by his antics whatsoever.

The two spend some time trying to scare one-another before Aaron unleashes his full weirdness upon Sara in an attempt to 'end' his film.

Although it lacks some of the mystery that the original thrived on, I enjoyed Sara's character not falling into a 'damsel' role and maintaining a strong, if flawed, protagonist character. She puts herself into a terrible situation and does not escape when it's smart to in her desperation to succeed in making her video. But she handles Aaron's behaviour and comes across as an equally weird, yet determined character.

Duplass maintains his usual wackiness as the titular creep and, although the film is fairly meandering and awkward, it keeps its strange charm that makes you want to stick with it to the end and see where it's going.

[Image: Blumhouse Productions]

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

A Christmas Horror Story

"A Christmas Horror Story" (2015, Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, Brett Sullivan, Copperheart Entertainment, Image Entertainment, RLJ Entertainment) is a Christmas anthology horror from Canada.

We follow four plot lines, which are interwoven throughout the run-time by the overarching plot following radio DJ, Dangerous Dan (William Shatner), who is pulling an all-nighter on Christmas eve.

One story follows a group of teens who have broken into a school to make a documentary about two murders which had previously happened there, only to find that there were more than memories left behind.

Another story follows one of the teens from the first story who is unable to go on the adventure because she is taken on a family outing to visit her rich, elderly aunt and accidentally becomes acquainted with Krampus.

A third story follows a young family who venture into private land to illegally chop down a Christmas tree and lose their child. When they find the little boy and take him home, he begins to act strangely and the parents become suspicious that he is not, in fact, their little boy afterall!

The fourth tale follows Santa himself, a burly man (George Buza) who finds that one of his elves has contracted a zombie virus and begins to infect his other helpers.... Going on a rampage through his own workshop, Santa eventually has to face a harsh reality...

An entertaining festive romp that covers all the bases (gore, violence, festive themes) without trying to be too clever. While it doesn't cover any specifically new ground, "A Christmas Horror Story" enjoys some nice plot twists and a good, fast pace that is engaging and intriguing.

[Image: Copperheart Entertainment]