Monday, 16 July 2018

Garbage Pail Kids

"Garbage Pail Kids" (1987, Rod Amateau, Atlantic Entertainment Group, Topps Chewing Gum, Atlantic Releasing Corporation) is the live action movie based on the popular 80s parody trading cards.

A spaceship shaped like a metal trashcan somehow ends up under the protection of an antiques shop owner, Captain Manzini (Anthony Newley). It's never really explained how this comes to be. Manzini befriends a local kid called Dodger (Mackenzie Astin) who is getting relentlessly bullied by a group of older teens who look old enough to have mortgages. Dodger accidentally sets the garbage pail kids free during a scuffle with the bullies in the store, introducing us to seven of the kids: Greaser Greg (Phil Fondacaro & Jim Cummings). Valerie Vomit (Debbie Lee Carrington), Ali Gator (Kevin Thompson), Foul Phil (Robert Bell & Chloe Amateau), Nat Nerd (Larry Green & Jim Cummings), Windy Winston (Arturo Gil) and Messy Tessie (Sue Rossitto & Teri Benaron).

Together, Dodger and the gruesome kids attempt to help the girlfriend of one of Dodger's bullies on whom he has a crush. But Dodger is soon to learn that ugliness is not always on the outside...

A cheesy film full of disturbing puppets and toilet humour. It boasts a pretty flimsy plot and a sing-song that goes on way too long. I'm not sure what kind of bet Newley lost to be in this film, but I have to say that it kind of gives me a different kind of respect for him, really.

A film so bad that you just have to shake your head and wonder who the target audience really was. On one hand it is definitely not the kind of film most parents would want their kids to watch and on the other its humour does not really appeal to most adults. A really strange concept by all standards.

[Image: Atlantic Entertainment, et al]

Monday, 9 July 2018


"Calibre" (2018, Matt Palmer, Wellington Films, Netflix) is a thriller set in the Scottish Highlands.

Marcus (Martin McCann) takes his friend Vaughn (Jack Lowden) hunting in the highlands to celebrate Vaughn's recent good news. Vaughn has never hunted before and is not exactly keen to kill an animal, but Marcus thinks it will be good for him. When they reach the small village in which they are staying they enjoy a heavy night of drinking and manage to make some impressions on the locals; some good impressions, but not all...

The next day both men are faced with a life changing tragedy. Their attempts to carry on as normal are thwarted and eventually they are forced to face up to the consequences of their actions.

A really superbly made film that is not only atmospheric, but dark, daring and engaging. Our protagonists are well rounded characters with flaws and plans and personality. Our villagers are not just two dimensional characters either, with an almost "American Werewolf in London" meets "The Wickerman" vibe that sets you on edge. Of particular interest is the character of Logan (Tony Curran) who shows the city boys understanding, but is not to be taken lightly.

The film provides some shocking action that will leave you feeling a little empty and haunted afterwards. Much like the other recent genre great, "Hereditary", this film makes you think. With scenes that are expertly crafted with the use of silence being as important as good scripting and skilled use of the highlands setting which can be as ominous as it is breathtaking.

None of the characters are 'the baddies'. Everyone has shades of grey and a very human mix of good and bad intentions. The outcome of the tragedies in this film are neither justice nor injustice and none of the characters give the impression of getting to move on comfortably with their lives.

An excellent piece that is definitely worthy of your time and will question your own morals and sense of selfishness.

Thanks for the recommendation, Stephen King!

[Image: Wellington Films]

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Truth or Dare

"Truth or Dare" (2018, Jeff Wadlow, Blumhouse Productions) is a fairly solid college horror.

After a shocking opening scene we are introduced to Olivia (Lucy Hale), Lucas (Tyler Posey), Markie (Violett Beane), Brad (Hayden Szeto), Tyson (Nolan Gerard Funk) and Penelope (Sophia Taylor Ali) who are a group of college kids heading out on their final Spring Break holiday together. The group travel to Mexico where we are treated to their drunken Instagram story montage before we join them in a bar/nightclub. By this point we have established the characters' personalities be they goody-two-shoes like Olivia, or a bit of a knob like Tyson.

Feeling a little jealous of her friends' romantic lives, Olivia starts chatting to a guy at the bar (Landon Liboiron) after he intervenes when a college acquaintance named Ronnie (Sam Lerner), won't take no for an answer. Upon introducing himself as Carter the guy invites Olivia and her friends to a secluded building for an after party. Desperate to prove herself to be fun, Olivia persuades her friends and, somehow also Ronnie, to go. The group begin to play a game of Truth or Dare which suddenly escalates when Carter announces that he has tricked them all to begin playing as his own dare. He warns them that they cannot break the rules and leaves the confused and stunned group.

After returning home, Olivia and the others begin to experience strange occurrences and it soon becomes evident that Carter was not lying and they really are caught in a life or death game that won't end...

A pretty grim, if simple, premise that manages to be intriguing and entertaining. The characters are mostly unlikeable, but in that charming horror film way that we're all accustomed to. As the game progresses we get to learn a little more about each person's secrets as well as how far they are willing to go in order to remain alive.

The effects and death scenes are excellently portrayed with the odd 'snapchat filter' face of those possessed by the game managing to be both creepy and oddly subtle. Each death has a quality of creativity similar to the "Final Destination" films, and there were times I even found myself wincing.

For a film I'd anticipated to be one of the common disposable college horror films, it actually delivered a pretty solid and even somewhat thoughtful piece which evaluated the selfishness of the characters as well as entertained me with some good ol' gruesome antics. Of course the story behind the game felt a little cheesy, but what's a horror film without some cheese?

[Image: Blumhouse Productions]

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Ghost Stories

"Ghost Stories" (2017, Andy Nyman, Jeremy Dyson, Altitude Film Entertainment, Warp Films, Catalyst Global Media, Screen Yorkshire, Lionsgate Films) is an anthology film based on a stage play.

Philip Goodman (Andy Nyman) is a Professor who debunks fraudster psychics and other paranormal healers on his TV show. He explains at the beginning of the film that his disdain for such beliefs arose out of his own experiences where his strict, religious father disowned Philip's sister for dating someone whom he did not approve of.

Philip is thrilled to be asked by his hero, Charles Cameron, whom he had thought deceased, to investigate some cases that he had been unable to resolve himself. Cameron tells Philip that he no longer believes that there are no ghosts. Philip pursues the three cases, keen to prove the old man wrong.

Philip visits first a night watchman (Paul Whitehouse) who believes that he was haunted by the spirit of a dead girl. However, he also has guilt over not visiting his own daughter who is ill and Philip believes that the watchman is simply haunted by his own guilt. This segment was perhaps the slowest, and I did find myself a little bored. Although, I do like Paul Whitehouse.

Philip is then introduced to a strange young man (Alex Lawther) who believes that he ran the devil over when joy riding in his father's car. However, Philip observes that the boy is obsessed with the occult and has a dysfunctional relationship with his parents and so surmises that the boy has simply imagined it. This segment did not go the way I was expecting, but I can't help but think that more creep factor could have been made from the parents.

Finally, Philip meets a Financier (Martin Freeman), who explains that he was haunted by a Poltergeist during the birth of his child. His wife died during the ordeal and the child, it is intimated, is abnormal; but in what way it is not revealed. This segment was my favourite of the film and featured a shocking scene that was delivered with such calm sobriety from Freeman that it made it all the more chilling.

Returning to Cameron, Philip begins to experience strange happenings of his own and the film takes a bizarre and unnerving twist that somewhat saved it from being yet another anthology horror.

The film was somewhat slow burning and some scenes were extremely dark, however, I enjoyed the various reveals throughout and the cold, cold ending.

[Image: Altitude Film Entertainment, et al]

Friday, 6 July 2018


"Winchester" aka "Winchester: The House that Ghosts Build" (2018, The Spierig Brothers, Bullitt Entertainment, Diamond Pictures, Imagination Design Works) tells the curious tale of Sarah Winchester, based-on-real-events.

Sarah Winchester (Dame Helen Mirren) is the heiress to the Winchester repeating firearms company. After the death of her husband and child she became more and more reclusive, believing herself to be haunted by the spirits of people killed by her company's products. She employs construction crews around the clock constantly changing and developing her house into a mysterious manor full of twists and turns and doors which lead to nowhere. A house which was later to be referred to as the Winchester Mystery House.

Eric Price (Jason Clarke) is a doctor whom the management of the Winchester company employ to declare Winchester unfit to own controlling shares in the organisation. While Price is suffering from him own troubles, and a penchant for laudanum, he decides to give Winchester a fair assessment, staying with her for a week and letting her tell her story.

The film delivers one or two effective jump scares, and a bounty of beautiful set designs. It boasts a talented cast, who deliver a perfectly acceptable performance, and it tells the tale of one of the most intriguing buildings in existence. However, it seems that this film has been universally panned. Could it be that primarily American audiences are too immature to appreciate a film that is at its core (and not exactly subtly) anti-gun? Or is it something else? I'd like to believe that there is more to horror viewers than their personal politics, so I'm going to focus on areas where I felt the film was lacking.

Despite the intricate scenery of the film (including some shots of the actual house) and a few well executed jump scares there was very few scary moments after the halfway mark. After the big reveal of the nature of the more deadly of spirits lurking around the house, the film began to be a little too liberal about showing us all. A little more mystery in the Mystery House may have kept viewers more on-side.

Price's backstory added a somewhat unnecessary link into the plot which I felt was more heavily focused on than our main story. Unlike the "Annabelle" side plot of "The Conjuring" which acted as a thrilling sidebar to develop the characters, Price's story becomes more involved than Winchester's. Although I did enjoy his story and his period drug abuse to an extent, it felt almost as if our titular character's story was of lesser concern.

All in all, the film suffered from being both slow and showing too much to the point where all tension was lost.

[Image: Bullitt Entertainment]

Saturday, 9 June 2018


"Hereditary" (2018, Ari Aster, PalmStar Media, Finch Entertainment, Windy Hill Pictures) is a supernatural horror centred around a very unusual family.

When her mother, Ellen, dies, artist Annie (Toni Collette), feels guilty that she is not sad. Her mother had been a very difficult person to love, after all. Her husband, Steve (Gabriel Byrne), is supportive and her teenaged son, Peter (Alex Wolff), is fairly indifferent. But her young daughter, Charlie (Milly Shapiro), who was closest to her grandmother, is inconsolable.

Annie and her family are a strange bunch at the best of times, but little Charlie is an unusual child with a somewhat morose interest in death. Throughout the film we begin to learn or catch glimpses of just how strange the family's lives have been. When tragedy strikes the family again they begin to understand that there is something darker at play here, and it may all stem from Ellen...

A really enthralling film that kept me captivated throughout. Although the plot doesn't deliver constant pulse-pounding terror, the characters are just odd enough and the plot just emotional enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. I left the cinema with a haunted sense of melancholy that didn't shift for a few days. I felt essentially haunted by this film! It's a feeling I don't get often, but it's definitely something I'd consider to be a good sign.

Annie is a study in dysfunctionality, perfectly and movingly performed by Collette who keeps the tension and emotion dialled up to 11 with a believable and oddly sympathetic effect despite some of the character's actions.

Shaprio gives a very memorable and haunting performance as the disturbing young Charlie, and Wolff really brings the events affecting Peter to a level that surpasses typical horror movie levels. Byrne's father character is against all odds, trying to keep the family going. The film is superiorly acted on all counts.

Although the final scenes may seem to go to sudden and extreme lengths in quick succession, as a 70s horror fan, I felt that it really paid an excellent but modernised homage to the genre.

Definitely worth catching in the cinema, it may not terrify you, but it will certainly stay with you for a while...

[Image: PalmStar Media, et al]


"Satanic" (2016, Jeffrey G. Hunt, MarVista Entertainment) is a supernatural horror.

A group of college kids (Sarah Hyland, Steven Krueger, Justin Chon and Clara Mamet) take a detour on their spring break trip to Coachella to check out some Satanic Panic sites in LA. On the way, they make some dubious decisions, meet some creepy characters and accidentally find themselves involved in the mysterious and deadly workings of a cult of devil worshippers.

A fairly slow film that has some good points, but all in all did not contain enough gore or brains to make it anything ground-breaking.

The good: the film boasts a few seemingly practical effects. It also manages to give most of the main characters fairly equal screen time and not pick a particular favourite until nearer the end. The locations are all also very effective and create some nice scenes, and the film has a fun little twist that didn't come out of nowhere, but gave the end a nice kick.    

The bad: most of the action happens at the tail end of the film resulting in a fair bit of build up that loses steam a little over halfway before picking up again. Our group of protagonists are also fairly unlikeable losing some of my viewer sympathy. Liking the characters isn't always a 'must-have' in horror, but sometimes it's a plus.

Our protagonists are also a bit dim (again not uncommon in horror films) and make some terrible, terrible life choices which kind of lead them from bad situation to bad situation. Whilst, as plots go, this is fairly fool-proof, it did make the situation of the group of wannabe true-crime extraordinaires seem less tragic when things started to go wrong for them.

While not bringing anything new to the B-movie genre and suffering a little from the pacing, "Satanic" delivered a watchable piece suitable to a slow Netflix night.

[Image: MarVista Entertainment]