Monday, 30 September 2013

28 Weeks Later

"28 Weeks Later" (2007, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Fox Atomic, DNA Films, UK Film Council) is the sequel to the British zombie blockbuster, "28 Days Later".

Following the usual 'zombie' outbreak sequel formula we have a much bigger story and a lot more to deal with after the outbreak is now supposedly under control. This time we follow a small family, that is becoming increasingly smaller as the plot develops...

Sadly for the family, and also for the rest of the 'safe zone', the mother and son have some mutated genes which make them carriers of the Rage virus so... yeah... things escalate... quickly.

Much gorier and faster than the previous film it also has a level of grim that manages to be innovative in the bloated market of traumatic zombie horrors. The main issue is that it lacks its specifically British identity and becomes just another action zombie film.

However, the acting is great, there are a few good jump scares and the plot is nicely paced. I also enjoyed the presence of Robert Carlyle and Jeremy Renner.

[Image: UK Film Council]

Tales From the Crypt: Ritual

"Tales From the Crypt: Ritual" (2002, Avi Nesher, RKO Pictures, Silver Pictures, Dimension Films) is actually the third full length film based on the fondly remembered series, “Tales From the Crypt”. Sadly, due to some executive decisions relating to popularity of these films (or lack thereof), there is no sign or mention of the Crypt Keeper himself.

We meet Dr. Alice Dodgson (Jennifer Grey) who has had her medical licence revoked for using medication which has not been approved by the medical board and killing a patient. She had some noble reasons though, so we’re supposed to forgive her malpractice without question...

Anyway, long story short she secures herself a position in Jamaica treating one patient, rich boy Wesley Claybourne (Daniel Lapaine), who believes he is under a Voodoo curse.

She makes friends with a feisty young woman with loose morals, Caro (Kristen Wilson, and makes friendly acquaintances with resident vet and filthy older man, Matthew (Tim Curry) and driver J.B. (Gabriel Casseus).

More of a mystery film than a horror, I’d hasten to add that the only action is all in our characters’ heads in the form of hallucination and even then the plot and action are slow until the end when a delightful “Crypt” twist is added. All that was missing was The Keepers gleeful laughter there.

The redeeming qualities are, of course, the presence of Tim Curry, who is grossly underutilised in the script, and Dirty Dancing’s Jennifer Grey,  as well as harking back to the voodoo zombie classics of old (“I Walked With a Zombie” and “White Zombie” for example), however, the execution is not up to scratch resulting in a shoddy knock-off rather than a clever homage.

Not one I’d willingly sit through again.

[Image: Dimension Films]

Thursday, 26 September 2013

The Horror Express

"The Horror Express" aka "Pánico en el Transiberiano" or "Panic on the Trans-Siberian Express" (1972, Gene Martín, Scotia International Productions, Scotia Barber Distributions, Ltd.) is a Spanish and British horror about the panic caused on a train when an anthropologist's scientific discovery, an ape-like man, comes back to life and wreaks unnatural havoc.

I picked this film up at Comic-Con thinking it would be cheesy and fun and I wasn't disappointed!

Christopher Lee gives an intense performance as the anthropologist responsible for the discovery and Peter Cushing plays his mild-mannered rival wonderfully.

The action is daft, if slightly over explained, and helps recreate the fun Hammer-esque feel. An ape man with super powers, which allow him to drink the essence of and then become anyone, is running around loose on an old fashioned train and then a group of Cossacks, lead by Kojak himself, Telly Savalas turn up to join the party.

It's like a budget version of "The Thing" but on a train and with some of the best horror icons hamming it up with glee. What is not to like?

[Image: Scotia Barber Distributions, Ltd]

Saturday, 21 September 2013


"Waxwork" (1988, Anthony Hickox, Vestron Pictures) is a horror comedy about a waxwork museum which appears out of nowhere and who's morbid exhibits come to life to claim any visitors as new additions to the museum.

A group of unsuspecting teens are invited to the museum and find out the truth too late. Or is it?

Entertainingly low budget and very 80s, "Waxwork" takes inspiration from 1933s "Mystery of the Wax Museum" and 1953s "House of Wax", but with a more supernatural twist.

The cheesy charm of this film and the fact that it has both Patrick Macnee (Steed from "The Avengers") and Zach Galligan (of "Gremlins" fame) in it pleases me.

While it's not very creative and has its dull moments, the hilarious action scenes keep any B-movie fans engaged. Such examples include death by champagne bottle, a terribly English beheading and a battle between the monsters, their voodoo priest and man. All supplied with gloriously low budget gore and effects.

It's silly and fun, but nothing particularly special.

[Image: Vestron Pictures]

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Insidious Chapter 2

"Insidious Chapter 2" (2013, James Wan, IM Global, Entertainment One, Blumhouse Productions, Film Disctrict, Stage 6 Films) is the sequel to Insidious (2011).

We continue the Lambert family's story, both after and prior to the first film's events with Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson and Barbara Hershey reprising their roles.

It would seem that the Lamberts all share some tenuous links to the ghostly realm, given the events of this film. 

A completely unnecessary sequel to a film that, I felt, lost its way in the last hour. Insidious 2 seems more inadvertently funny than scary. Acting more as a filler to the missing information from the first film, the plot seems cobbled together and disjointed. It almost feels as if someone had written a Fanfic of Insidious and then they decided to turn that into the sequel.

That's not to say that it's not entertaining. The opening sequence is great fun, the retro credits and legend are excellent! The effects are good and the acting is good. There's even a couple of effective jump scares.

The main problem is the jumpy-ass plot and the lack of good scares. In fact the only tense scene for me involved the baby and the best scene was the 'little girl' ghost who has an excellent parting line to our ghost hunting comedy duo, Specs and Tucker.

The explanation of the history of the ghost was convoluted and didn't add much to the plot, and aside from some entertaining nudge-nudge-wink-wink link ups between the first film and internal scenes, it all played out a little flat.

Not to mention the Scooby Doo ending which was worthy of the 'Ghostfacers' from Supernatural!

Fun but not in the horror way. If you want to enjoy some fresh work from James Wan watch "The Conjuring" instead.

[Image: Blumhouse Productions, Film Disctrict, Stage 6 Films]

Saturday, 14 September 2013


"Dysmorphia" (2012, Andy Stewart, Stay Curious Productions, Koozlick Media) is an award winning horror short from the talented Scottish horror journalist and director, Andy Stewart, which both satisfies the viewer with a horror thrill and theatrically explores some mental health themes.

Our main character (Gordon Holliday) narrates his thoughts as he sits at a table with a bag. We slowly come to realise his horrific intentions (if you haven't guessed from the name of the film) as he reveals his thoughts and also the contents of the bag. Tools, towels, something to bite on...

Dark and artistic, but not in that annoying art student way, this film is clever. While we enjoy some  gore and some very smart cut away scenes which let your imagination go wild and we hear a lot of deliciously sickening sounds, we're never given reason to begin thinking on what the props and effects are. This is the sign of a good film for me. If I start to imagine how they put it together while I'm watching it, it usually means I'm bored of the scene. It all seemed very real and very methodical.

The tension is high and the viewer is with the character through the whole ordeal. While feeling  nauseous, the film keeps your attention rapt. I could barely look away from the screen while also wishing he would just do it quickly.

The acting is intense and very effective, conveying a lot of depth in such a short run time.

The effects are fantastic and have been recognised as such.

The film has a very dark kick of an ending too!

Excellently executed and a fantastic and simple plot. You might want to leave your lunch until later before watching it, though!

If you haven't had a chance to see it yet, you can watch it here:You Tube Video

I'm now looking forward to Andy's newest film, "Split".

[Image: Stay Curious Productions]

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Blair Witch Project

"The Blair Witch Project" (1999, Eduardo Sánchez, Daniel Myrick, Haxan Films, Artisan Entertainment) is one of the first Found Footage horror films I'd ever heard of.

As a teen I thought this film was scary. As an adult I'd say it was more atmospheric and some very good, realistic acting. The dialogue seems genuine and so doesn't have the forced feeling that some modern attempts have achieved.

Three students go missing in the woods while filming a documentary about local legend, The Blair Witch. All that was found was their footage.

The filming is very handycam, but not as purposefully shaky as some of the more modern attempts. The characters are surprisingly well rounded too, considering that we only really know them from their banter amongst themselves.

When the scary stuff starts it's not as graphic or as scary as we're used to, but the build up is actually quite impressive, propelled by Heather Donahue's tearful performance as she breaks down.

The main issue, despite the lack of actual physical scares, is that we are watching hand-filmed footage and so do not see much straight, head on action. While this can be used to affect (See "Rec"), it can be disorientating. Mainly I found it distracting. I'm not a huge fan of found footage.

However, the creep factor is definitely there and although it won't have you chewing the cushions, if you turn the lights out it will definitely please the casual horror film viewer.

I just laugh to think of all the hype at school about how it was all 'real'.

[Image: Haxan Films]

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Silent Hill Revelation

"Silent Hill Revelation" (2012, Michael J. Bassett, Open Road Films, Lionsgate, Universal Pictures) is the sequel to "Silent Hill" (2006) also based on the famous horror game franchise from Konami. This time taking plot from the third game. It was also made for 3D, so be prepared for some obvious jump attempts aimed 'through' the camera...

Heather Mason (Adelaide Clemens) discovers that she is actually Sharon, the little girl from the first film, on her 18th birthday. She also discovers that she and her dad (Sean Bean) are not actually on the run from the police, but from agents from Silent Hill. 

Her discovery, turning of age and just general unluckiness cause her to be dragged back into the nightmare realm where Silent Hill is located, where she must face off against not only the many monstrous creatures of the darkness, and the backwards townsfolk lead by Claudia Wolf (Carrie-Anne Moss, yes Trinity from The Matrix), but also her darker half (and kind of real mother), Alessa (Erin Pitt).

A visually entertaining film we are introduced to some new as well as reintroduced to old favourite monsters. The props, SFX and sets are good, despite a slightly more meagre budget than the original film. I particularly enjoyed the creepy spider mannequin thing.

Clemens delivers a strong but somewhat dull female lead, not helped by a monumentally weak plot. Basically, Silent Hill stood strong enough on its own, there was no need for a sequel! 

The action is good but not scary and no sense of tension is recaptured from the first film. The scene with my favourite monsters, creepy-blind-ballet-nurses-of-death,  was a bit of a disappointment after the first film where they creeped me out well and good.

All in all, it wasn't a great film and played out more like an afterthought or like a dull fanfic.

[Image: Open Road Films]


Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Bride of Frankenstein

"The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935, Universal Pictures, James Whale) is the first sequel to Universal's famous horror classic, "Frankenstein" (1931).

Following on from the first film's events, this sequel ties in well with the original, adds to the original plot and also includes an introduction from our author, Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester), who is telling the story to Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon) and Percy Byssche Shelley (Douglas Walton).

The monster, as in the first film, is memorably portrayed by the wonderful Boris Karloff, who has become more monstrous since the events of the first film and is adding to his body count (and also his vocabulary).

Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) is approached by the strange Doctor Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger), a man with many strange experiments of his own to his credit, to continue in his experiments and create a female creature to be the mate of the monster. With some convincing and blackmailing, Frankenstein agrees.

A classic film with the ever iconic Bride having huge cult status to this day (despite her very small actual on-screen time!), "The Bride of Frankenstein" remains as a favourite.

The acting is excellent, especially that of Karloff who still manages to create a sad and pitiful creature who is full of uncertainty, hatred and loathing but also with a yearning for acceptance and love. The scenes with the old blind man in the woods are touching to this day!

Other characters are also surprisingly well-rounded for a 30's film. A favourite has to be Minnie (Una O'Connor), the housekeeper and maid to Frankenstein and Elizabeth, who provides some wonderful comic moments.

A real Hollywood silver-screen classic which continues to charm audiences today with dramatic sound, scenery and storytelling. A fabulous piece of cinema history.

[Image: Universal Pictures]


Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Tattooist

"The Tattooist" (2007, Peter Burger, Buena Vista International) is a supernatural horror about a tattoo artist.

Jake (Jason Behr) is a trendy tattoo artist who likes to explore tribal designs in his work. After witnessing a strange, ritualistic Samoan tattoo being performed at a convention, he feels compelled to steal the ritual tool and begin to explore the designs and traditions himself.

Unfortunately, he's taken more than he intended and soon finds that he is being haunted by a murderous force which can spread through his tattoo designs from the tool...

A film with an adventurous storyline and some potential, but to be honest, it's not compelling enough. A little stilted, and some parts are just all explanation of the traditions so that the audience can understand, which kind of loses something for the pace.

The special effects are surprisingly good for the budget, but they are ludicrous! There's also a little kid who can speak to spirits... but only when the music is loud and obnoxious in a speeding car... Of course! 

The characters are our usual forgettable horror fodder, the spirit is quite creepy but it seemed like he'd been added in as an afterthought rather than as an organic baddy, and our protagonist is dull and two dimensional...

Interesting concept but, on the whole, not a good film and not a good horror film.

[Image: Buena Vista International]