Sunday, 16 July 2017

Heidi

"Heidi" (2014, Daniel Ray, Neon Mirage, Wild Eye Releasing) is a found footage film about a haunted doll.

Two teenage YouTube pranksters find a doll in an old lady's attic and are then plagued by creepy happenings.

A found footage film which draws upon some elements of Chucky and other killer doll horrors. The idea is pretty good but the execution is mixed. But it's a low budget film, so I am inclined to be more forgiving. The build up, for instance, is pretty long winded and some of the supporting characters are not as well rounded as others, however, the main characters are pretty relatable and some of the scenes with the doll moving are pretty fun. The dolls scenes are made more effective by what they don't show. The film overall benefits from doing more with less.

At only 90 minutes the film isn't overly long, however there are scenes which felt a little drawn out. The main character also doesn't seem to get really freaked out until quite late on in the film resulting in a lot of late gore scenes. The film also goes over the same ground a few times with the doll coming back after being destroyed or disposed of over and over again. This did eventually become a little tedious.

"Heidi" has some good points, but overall loses its way and becomes a little unfocused towards the end.

[Image: Neon Mirage, et al]
Hani

Thursday, 13 July 2017

The Mummy (2017)

"The Mummy" (2017,  Alex Kurtzman, Universal Pictures, Perfect World Pictures, K/O Paper Products, Sean Daniel Company) is the modern take on the infamous Egyptian-themed monster movie.

"The Mummy" 2017 is also what happens when mainstream Hollywood does "horror". Even with the historical links of Universal Pictures and horror, this movie fails to deliver either a fun, campy monster movie or any kind of scares. It sits in a chasm, lost in its confusing plot and satisfies neither the horror aficionado nor the intrigued, average cinema goer.

Nick (Tom Cruise) is a soldier serving in Iraq. He and his pal, Chris (Jake Johnson), happen across a buried Egyptian tomb. With the help of archaeologist, Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) and their other army friends, they accidentally set free the vengeful mummified corpse of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). Nick finds himself cursed by the Princess who is determined to reclaim her throne under the blessing of the God Set (Javier Botet). Oh, and for some reason Russell Crowe is Dr. Henry Jekyll because... reasons.

The movie's aesthetics are great. Boutella's mummy is beautiful and ambitious. The effects on her eyes are particularly cool and she gives a good performance. Unfortunately, the character is neither scary nor gross so her antagonist loses some effect.

Tom Cruise's character is pretty generic but I enjoyed his overall performance as a roguish asshole. However, the ridiculous plot robs Nick of any relatability and things quickly dissolve into action flick madness with little substance.

For me the best character was probably Chris who plays a small homage, in part, to Jack from "An American Werewolf in London" and gets in most of the best lines in the film.

All in all there was just so much going on which gave the film an overall feeling of being directionless. The inclusion of other franchise's characters *cough* Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde seem tacked on and pointless and the film lacked the gruesome qualities of the Brendan Fraser era Mummy films or the classic eeriness of the Boris Karloff Universal movies. The plot seemed stuck in a limbo where we weren't sure what kind of movie this was trying to be.

All in all too much of a weak mish-mash to consider a successful remake. But some of it was pretty to look at.

[Image: Universal Pictures, et al]
Hani

Friday, 30 June 2017

Hell House LLC

"Hell House LLC" (2016, Stephen Cognetti, Cognetti Films) is a found footage mock-umentary film set in a Halloween haunt.

The film circulates around a film crew trying to unravel the mystery of a tragedy which struck a haunted house in an abandoned hotel. Although authorities reported a 'malfunction' as the cause of the panic, survivor footage and accounts have made it seem like something more sinister happened. When someone steps forward as a witness who was involved in the tragedy, along with a lot of new, unseen footage, the crew think they might be on the verge of a breakthrough. We follow the story of the group of haunters setting up shop in the small town just outside of New York city and see first hand the events as they unfolded.

I'm not the biggest fan of found footage as a rule. The jumpy camera style gives me motion sickness and often the acting is unnatural and distracting. But, "Hell House LLC" manages to be dark, entertaining and filled with effective jump scares. The camera motions are very typical of a found-footage flick, but the effective screen cutting, styling and overall storytelling keep the viewer engaged and stop it from becoming boring.

The characters are well evolved and a good sense of camaraderie (and even arguments) is built up effectively. The jump scares are pretty by-the-book, but are well paced and nicely shot.

The film delivers an effective scare fest that creates a great Halloween party atmosphere. And while the plot isn't exactly breaking any new ground, it does inject the jump-scare, found footage genre with a fun, atmospheric entry.

[Image: Cognetti Films]
Hani

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]
Hani

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.

Hani

Monday, 5 June 2017

Vampira

"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]
Hani

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".

Hani