Monday, 14 August 2017

Death Spa

"Death Spa" aka "Witch Bitch"  (1989, Michael Fischa) is a campy 80s film about a haunted gym.

It's the late 80s and everyone is into lycra and leg warmers. We open onto the parking lot of the Starbody Health Spa. It's a stormy night, and the neon sign suddenly falters, losing the letters s,t,a,r,b,o,y,h and l. Cunningly leaving our movie title lit up in the rain. And that, my friends, is where all the cunning behind this picture ends.

"Death Spa" is a ridiculous romp through a haunted health club, chalk full of sweaty beautiful people in colourful workout outfits, gratuitous nude scenes, extremely 80s dance workouts and terrible dialogue. Oh, and it's set at Halloween. It's great and also a bit crap at the same time!

Michael Evans (William Bumiller) owns and operates the Starbody Health Spa. A recent widower after his wife committed suicide, Michael is back on the dating game. When some of his clients, including his new squeeze, are suddenly (and often fatally) attacked by his gym equipment, Michael begins to suspect that his late wife is haunting his gym!

Although slow in places and suffering from serious pacing issues, the film benefits from some fun, low budget effects and hilarious gore. It really is a great candidate for a so-bad-so-good cheesy movie night and definitely one for the low budget horror aficionados out there looking for something a little different to your usual haunted house flick! Just don't go in with any high expectations.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Knock Knock

"Knock Knock" (2015, Eli Roth, Camp Grey, Dragonfly Entertainment, Sobras International Pictures) is a home invasion thriller.

Evan (Keanu Reeves) and Karen (Ignacia Allamand) are happily married with kids, a dog and an idyllic home. When Karen and the kids go away for the weekend, Evan stays at home to work but his night is interrupted when two young women (Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas) come to the door in the pouring rain looking for a house party. Evan tries to call them a taxi but the girls proceed to make themselves comfortable before the cab gets there... and what started as him helping them out becomes a potentially life ruining game of seduction and violence...

An interesting premise that became a little repetitive as the film went on. It is essentially one big cautionary tale: On one hand, that women can be predatory too and that it's pretty easy to ruin your life in one easy step.

The characters aren't developed in Roth's usual style, although the film differs vastly in style and genre from Roth's previous films so much that it's not really worth comparing. Reeve's misguided and somewhat naive character is set up from the start with a few scenes portraying his loving family man side and his sexually frustrated side. It's disappointing, but not surprising when he gives in to the two promiscuous ladies cavorting around his home. The devious vixens themselves are not as well rounded as characters and go from victims to cackling, comic villains pretty quickly with not as much build up as I anticipated.

There are one or two fun scenes, but the more torture-orientated scenes seemed satirical and the film in general would have benefited greatly from either delving more deeply into the implications brought up or by maintaining the satiric humour throughout.

A lot of people have expressed disappointment in the end of this film, but I thought this was probably the scariest part of the movie. All in all, the film had some weak points, but overall it was an interesting 99 minutes.

[Image: Camp Grey, et al]

Monday, 7 August 2017

Wish Upon

"Wish Upon" (2017, John R. Leonetti, Busted Shark Productions) is about the danger of getting what you wish for.

Clare (Joey King) was scarred as a child, finding her mother's body shortly after her suicide. As a teen she has become an outcast, with only a few close friends. When her father (Ryan Phillippe) presents her with a Chinese music box, which he found whilst dumpster diving, Clare is able to recognise one part of the inscription on the side which states "Seven Wishes". As a joke, she wishes for something awful to happen to her school bully and when the event transpires Clare begins to run with it, wishing willy nilly for everything she desires. If only she could work out the rest of the enscription, she might not be so keen...

An overdone premise that could have been a lot of fun, but failed to be either scary nor campy enough to salvage the film. From the trailers I had went in open minded, and hoping for some "Scream"-style teen horror fun mixed with "Wishmaster" and "Bad Girls from Valley High". But unfortunately the delivered material was pretty tame and not too clever. Most of the supporting characters were underutilised and, although King gives a good performance, her protagonist doesn't garner much viewer sympathy because of her actions.

All in all, it is an adequate starter movie for budding young horror fans to cut their teeth on, but it's certainly not the best example of a teen horror out there.

[Image: Busted Shark Productions]

Sunday, 16 July 2017


"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]

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]

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]

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]