Saturday, 24 February 2018


"Splatter" (2009, Joe Dante, Roger Corman, Netflix) is a short web series from the earlier days of the concept of TV streaming.

Johnny Splatter (Corey Feldman) was a troubled rock star who filmed himself graphically committing suicide. A small group of family, friends and colleagues are invited to his home for a will reading. Each, suspecting that they're about to be handed a massive payout, turn up, despite revealing that they didn't exactly like Johnny much.

Suddenly, the TV springs to life, revealing that Splatter filmed his will prior to his untimely demise... Or, is he back to take vengeance on his unappreciative acquaintances? As the episodes progressed, viewers were asked to vote for who would meet their death next.

The series suffers from its overtly corny style that comes across as a little too sincere, but overall I found the layout, practical effects and over the top characters to be tongue-in-cheek and a bit of fun.  There were, apparently, more episodes but only the initial run of three are available to view easily on Netflix. It is undeniably a disappointing effort from Dante and Corman, but this is likely down to the confines of the schedule and the gimmick.

Horror films have a great and long history of using gimmicks, and this early example of a Netflix original is no different. Feldman's vengeful zombie delivers a demanding "Who's next?" at the end of every episode and, at the time, the audience were given the chance to vote. It's cheesy, but that's what I was there for. I've also just always liked Corey Feldman.

We have the usual tropes and a small cast of characters including the ever awesome Tony Todd bringing us the only seemingly sane character in the bunch. While the short series is hammy and manages not to be particularly innovative, despite its natty gimmick, it delivers its resolution quickly and was certainly part of Netflix's foray into changing viewer's habits and a step towards the innovation and horror series being created today.

[Image: Netflix]

Monday, 19 February 2018


"Radius" (2017, Caroline Labrèche, Steeve Léonard, EMA Films, Peripatetic Pictures, Title Media, Filmoption International) is a supernatural thriller.

Liam (Diego Klattenhoff) awakes to find himself suffering from amnesia after a car crash. He flags down a car looking for a lift only to find, to his dismay, a corpse within. Spooked, he walks on to a roadside diner to find everyone within also dead. Convinced that there is some airborne virus, he makes his way to his home (known to him because of his driving licence) to wait out the epidemic. Soon, however he finds that it is his own close proximity, and not a virus, that is the cause of the mysterious and sudden deaths. Things become even more confusing when a woman (Charlotte Sullivan) finds Liam who not only also has amnesia, but whose own close proximity to Liam stops his deathly curse. As the pair are hunted by the authorities, who are following up on the mass deaths, they begin to uncover more and more about their lives and how their stories are intertwined.

A really excellent yarn that was engaging, twisted and kind of beautiful. The film plays out the mystery at a good pace and we uncover the clues along with the characters. Despite their amnesia, we develop a link with Liam and "Jane" that makes the twists and turns of their journey that much more hard-hitting.

The deaths of the unfortunate humans and animals who encounter Liam's deadly radius are quick but chilling and the bloodless white-blue eyes were a haunting and stylish touch.

A film definitely worth checking out, "Radius" delivers its intrigue and its thrills in a steady balance and manages a couple of pulse-pounding scenes where our protagonists must fight to stick together or else doom those around them.

[Image: EMA Films, et al]

Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Ritual

"The Ritual" (2017, David Bruckner, Entertainment One, Imaginarium Productions) is the film adaptation of the novel by Adam Nevill.

A group of friends go on a hiking trip in the Swedish Wilderness to honour the tragic death of their friend. However, the trip goes from melancholy to menacing when they become lost and begin to realise that they are being chased by a dark and powerful presence in the forest.

"The Ritual" is good for a number of reasons and I'm going to try and get these down with as few spoilers as possible. But, as ever, if you'd rather not know any details before watching I recommend you click away now because there's lots of things I want to say about this film.

Firstly, the film (and I also assume the book, but I'm yet to read it, having only learned of its existence through researching this film) explores a lot of deep stuff. Our main protagonist is Luke (Rafe Spall) who witnessed the murder of his friend, Robert (Paul Reid), first hand and was spared a similar fate only by hiding. Throughout the film we see that Luke is haunted even before the forest with his deep guilt over not doing more to save Robert. He's a broken man who hasn't yet started to deal with what's happened. We also get to learn, as the group's friendships unravel in the stress of survival, that he's not alone in blaming himself for Robert's demise. The main journey of the film becomes not just survival of the forest, but of being a survivor ultimately and pushing past guilt to move forward in life. It's a strong message and "The Ritual" handles it well and with care. Luke is no hero. He's not even a particularly charming or likeable character. He's just a guy trying to live with what's happening. And I found that to be very effective and kind of refreshing.

Our other college buddies consist of; charismatic leader, Hutch (Robert James-Collier); quiet but funny Phil (Arsher Ali) and; the guy who doesn't really want to be there at all, Dom (Sam Troughton). The group dynamic is good and the team come across as genuine old college pals all moving on in their lives. We get a hint of everyone's fears in the movie and the characters are rounded enough to care about. Although personally I feel Phil was a bit short changed in the end.

Now to tackle what I really liked about the film; The scares. It's not a huge dialogue driven piece and the strong visuals make this a good thing. There's been a lot of 'thoughtful' 'quiet' horror recently that's more boring than artfully chilling, but "The Ritual" delivers its scares with style. The setting (actually Romania) goes from beautiful and picturesque to menacing and dark very nicely. We have some horror tropes in the form of spooky signs and abandoned cabins that don't feel overdone and are plot-relevant. We even have a skilful build up of our main antagonist from glimpses through the trees to a full on reveal that is both still scary and wonderfully designed. There are jumps and gore, freaky dream sequences, perilous situations and mythology.

The plot moves along at a good pace and the story actually develops as we go without just repeating the same style of scares over and over again. There are, of course, weaker points but they're all pretty arbitrary. Really, in my view, this film deserves lots of praise.

[Image: Entertainment One, Netflix, et al]

Thursday, 15 February 2018


"Nails" (2017, Dennis Bartok, Dark Sky Films)

Dana (Shauna Macdonald) finds herself  paralysed in a run-down, Irish hospital after a gruesome hit and run. Unable to speak, she desperately tries to communicate to staff and her family that she is being haunted by a malevolent spirit, bent on killing her.

Pretty standard horror fare, that doesn't efficiently make use of the more psychological scares at its disposal. The film opens well and enjoys some fun supernatural scenes and a strong, but innocent lead from Macdonald, however, it suffers from a slow pace, lots of plot holes and an overly familiar, over saturated plot. Ross Noble plays an orderly called Trevor, who's role seems to be a bit more involved than most.

Formulaic and a little dull, it doesn't stand out as anything exciting and, like a lot of films, suffers from a busy, messy end.

[Image: Dark Sky Films]


Monday, 12 February 2018

Hellraiser: Judgment

"Hellraiser: Judgment" (2018, Gary J. Tunnicliffe, Dimension Films, Lionsgate Films) is the tenth film in the Hellraiser series.

We follow three detectives; Sean Carter (Damon Carney), his brother David Carter (Randy Wayne) and Christine Egerton (Alexandra Harris), as they work on a serial killer case. However, as the case progresses, they begin to find themselves involved into something a lot more hellish...

First off the bat, I went into this film with an open mind and I left fairly satisfied. "Hellraiser: Judgment" is innovative but fits into the Universe of Hellraiser well. While it is not devoid of flaws, it is an engaging film and one I will certainly watch again as I do the first 3 Hellraiser movies.

The opening of the film is very strong, with an introduction not only to the familiar, but different face of Pinhead (Paul T. Taylor), but also to an intriguing collection of new characters belonging, not to the Order of the Gash, but to the Stygian Inquisition; The charismatic Auditor (played by Tunnicliffe himself), the gruesomely gluttonous Assessor (John Gulager), a group of ageing naked ladies called The Cleaners and three young naked ladies with flayed faces called the Jury. Together, these loathsome creatures are in charge of assessing and condemning souls to hell. We also enjoy the brief presence of Cenobite Chatterer (Mike Jay Regan) and of Heather Langenkamp (of "Nightmare on Elm Street" fame).

The film doesn't precisely tie in to any of the other films, but enjoys a lot of nods to the previous films including, but not limited to, lament configuration/Lemarchand's boxes, the house at 55 Ludovico Place, a soldier past, the pillar from Hellraiser III and a few deliciously nostalgic lines of dialogue.

The new characters feel totally at home in the universe and the overarching murder mystery plot lines ties up nicely into the plot.

Where the film feels weakest are simply its fairly slow pace and a strange deviation near the end that felt a little out of place but was saved by a fun ending sequence. Pinhead is noticeably different, due mostly to simply being portrayed by a different actor. I hope that, given further opportunities, Taylor is allowed some more screen time in which to get his menace on.

The gore is good and in a pretty good abundance and there's enough twists and turns to keep you engaged. It feels a little like "Se7en" mixed in with "Hellraiser". And it was a refreshing change to the same old, same old concepts of the last few Hellraiser sequels.

[image: Dimension Films]


Friday, 9 February 2018

The Cloverfield Paradox

"The Cloverfield Paradox" (2018, Julius Onah, Paramount Pictures, Bad Robot Productions, Netflix) is a loose sequel in the Cloverfield franchise.

Paradox is a good enough sci-fi romp hindered by trying to force it into the confines of a sequel. Most of the action takes place in space following a crew trying to find a solution to Earth's increasing energy crisis. We follow protagonist and space station engineer, Ava (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). In all, the other crew mate characters are mostly thin in characterisation, with the exception of the charismatic Mundy (Chris O'Dowd) who seems to be able to steal scenes in almost everything he's in anyway.

There's some fairly decent space horror scenes which reflect genre greats including Alien and Event Horizon and a nice amount of jumpy bits as well as some humour.

However, the film suffers from some jolting scene jumps with the story bouncing from Earth to the space station and some of the Cloverfield nods and mentions felt a bit tacked on as if they were intended for a separate movie.

I didn't hate it as much as some, but I felt like it was given somewhat of a disservice and would have benefited as a standalone film.

[Image: Paramount Pictures, et al]

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Victor Crowley

"Victor Crowley" (2017, Adam Green, ArieScope Pictures) follows the plot 10 years on from the events of "Hatchet III" (2013).

A group of people making a horror movie about the events of the previous film and a TV crew accompanied by sole survivor, Andrew (Parry Shen), doing an on-site anniversary talk show all wind up facing off against a newly resurrected Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) who is hellbent on ending them all.

The Hatchet movies are pretty decent. They strike a good balance of gore, humour and action. They don't take themselves too seriously, and so far Victor Crowley has never tried to rap or launched himself into space.

This latest film manages to continue along the same themes and deliver a solid comedy horror with cheesy banter and plenty of interesting but disposable characters. Released on the sly, it manages to do the impossible; be a decent sequel in a line of already pretty decent sequels.

Campy action worthy of your time!

[Image: ArieScope Pictures]