Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

"Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse" (2015, Christopher Landon, Broken Road Productions, Brucks Entertainment, Oops Doughnuts Productions) is a zombie horror comedy.

A small group of scouts (Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller and Joey Morgan) head out on their last camp, with full intentions of ditching the overnight and heading to a much cooler "seniors secret party" happening in town. A zombie outbreak puts a stop to their plans and they have to take down as many zombies as possible with the help of an ass-kicking barmaid from the local strip club (Sarah Dumont).

A pretty predictable horror comedy gross-out with a really promising and engaging set up which quickly becomes very samey and joins the other primordial soup of 'zombie comedy horrors' already out there.

The acting is good, the characters are even pretty likeable and funny, but sadly there's only so much that cheesy one-liners, zombie kitties (and tits) and buckets of gore can do in a genre so overdone as the zombie comedy horror genre.

[Image: Broken Road Productions, et al]

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Let's Scare Jessica to Death

"Let's Scare Jessica to Death" (1971, John D. Hancock, Paramount Pictures, The Jessica Company) is a film about an emotionally fragile woman who is experiencing strange visions and nightmares.

Jessica (Zohra Lampert) is recovering from a meltdown. She and her husband, Duncan (Barton Hayman), and their friend, Woody (Kevin O'Connor), have all given up their jobs and moved out to a farm in Connecticut known to the locals as 'The Ol' Bishop Place'.

Upon arriving there, they discover a squatter called Emily (Mariclare Costello) living in the house. Being 70s free spirits, they decide to let Emily stay because she can play guitar and stuff... Oh, and Woody fancies her.

Jessica is scared to tell the others, in case they think she's going crazy again, but she's begun to hear voices, see a mysterious blonde girl in a white dress and has been grabbed by pale, grasping hands under the water when swimming. When she's told an eerie tale by a local, she begins to see things fall in to place... or is it all just in her mind?

A slow chiller with a twisty and slightly confusing plot. This film is very much of its time, but still manages to have a few nice chilling scenes. On the whole, however, the title promises things that the end product does not deliver. And the story is definitely not what I was anticipating!

[Images: Paramount Pictures]

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Don't Open 'til Christmas

"Don't Open 'til Christmas" (1984, Edmund Purdom, Spectacular Trading International, 21st Century Film Corporation) is an English holiday slasher.

It's Christmas time and someone wearing a translucent mask is going around killing anyone dressed as Santa. One of the Santas is killed in front of his daughter, Kate (Belinda Mayne) who is then determined to find out who's behind it. Chief Inspector Ian Harris (Edmund Purdom) is also on the case, but something familiar is getting in his way to solving the mystery...

A cheesy B-Movie directed by and starred by Edmund Purdom (whom I know from my favourite B-movie gorefest, "Pieces"). It's wooden, silly and, as usual, a little transfixed with the porn and sleaze side of the city. The predictable scenes are humorous to watch due to their sheer ridiculousness. If you enjoy watching random guys dressed as Santa getting killed by an unconvincing machete, or having their members cut off in the men's bathroom, this film is for you!

A silly plot, with an equally silly motive, this fairly woeful film is definitely in the so-bad-but-can't-look-away pile.

[Image: Spectacular Trading International]

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Goodnight, Mommy

"Ich Seh, Ich Seh" aka "Goodnight, Mommy" (2015, Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala, Ulrich Seidl Film Produktion GmbH) is a slow burning horror from Austria.

Lukas (Lukas Schwarz) and Elias (Elias Schwarz) are twin boys who have come to live with their mother in her ultra-modern, secluded house. Their mother (Susanne Wuest) has undergone some serious facial surgery and the boys begin to suspect that the person under the bandages is not actually her.

A really quite disquieting film with a horrifying and engaging plot. The boys and Wuest give a really excellent performance as the dysfunctional family. The viewer is intrigued as the strange scene becomes more and more disturbing until the boys are forced to find answers.

Nicely simple effects, slight variations on horror tropes and a secluded setting give this film a quiet and suspenseful, arthouse-y feel.

I really enjoyed this film and it left me with a slightly ghostly feeling which was hard to shake,

[Image: Ulrich Seidl Film Produktion GmbH]

Tuesday, 1 December 2015


"Eraserhead" (1977, David Lynch, American Film Institute, Libra Films International) is a surrealist, body horror film from the mind of David Lynch during his studies.

Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) lives in a run-down, industrial city in a small apartment. He has strange dreams about the Lady in the Radiator (Laurel Near) and the Man in the Planet (Jack Fisk). He is informed by the Beautiful Girl From Across the Hall (Judith Anna Roberts) that his girlfriend, Mary X (Charlotte Stewart), has invited him for dinner with her family. He goes to her strange little home and meets her strange parents; her overly familiar mother (Jeanne Bates) and talkative father (Allen Joseph). They don't get to eat any dinner because when they try to carve the 'bird', it begins to twitch and bleed. Mary's mother informs Henry that Mary has had a child and that it is his.

Soon, Henry and Mary are in his little apartment caring for their child; a swaddled, crying creature with an inhuman appearance. When the child won't quieten down, Mary goes back to her parents' leaving Henry alone.

After further strange dreams, Henry cuts open the child's swaddling to reveal its true form.

A strange film, it manages to be both grotesque and beautiful. The dreamlike quality of the styling and the black and white colouring create a strange and surreal dreamscape in which the film is set. Everything is slightly unfamiliar and odd. It's a real study in human strangeness and in the urban decay in which many of us surround ourselves. A strange, uncomfortable film, it is a classic within its own right and spawned much of the outlandish scenes present in films since.

[image: American Film Institute]

Monday, 16 November 2015

The Hallow

"The Hallow" aka "The Woods" (2015, Corin Hardy, Fantastic Films, Occupant Entertainment, Entertainment One) is an Irish-British film set in Ireland.

Adam (Joseph Mawle) and Claire (Bojana Novakovic) Hitchens have just moved into a remote, woodland house in Ireland with their newborn baby. Adam, a conservationist, finds a horrific mould nearby and brings a sample home. Big mistake. His family's very presence has enraged something living in the woods and now he's invited it into his home...

A film of several parts: a relationship drama about moving home, changing career and getting used to parenthood; a dark fantasy with unnatural forces; a body horror; and a home invasion. Overall the film has some really striking imagery, a fabulous, muted setting, a lot of atmosphere, pretty effective make up and effects and the jarring use of sound is also effective. However, it suffers from a slow plot which doesn't knit completely together.

Essentially, this film has a lot of really amazing components, but as a stand alone feature it's not as effective as it could be. It bodes extremely well for Hardy, however.

[Image: Fantastic Films, et al]

Monday, 9 November 2015

The House of Him

"The House of Him" (Robert Florence, 2014, Bold Yin) is a film about a masked killer who lures women to his house before killing them at his leisure.

Set in present day Glasgow, a masked man (Richard Rankin) is pursuing Anna (Louise Stewart) around his boarded up house as he attempts to kill her. As he chases her, he is troubled by the presence and judgements of his previous victims whom he has buried within his home.

"The House of Him" is a low budget film, having been made for only £1,000. The setting is very simple and the premise appears simple from the outset. It turns out to be more than a slasher, however, with an underlying comment about domestic abuse and misogyny. It can be an uncomfortable watch as our menacing, hateful, woman-hating killer talks with Anna, making his thoughts on her, and of women in general, clear.

The film has a good score provided by Iain Cook of the band Chvrches, but is otherwise very quiet. This sometimes lends itself well to creating a raw and uncomfortable atmosphere, but often makes the scenes feel long.

The climax of the film is not what I was expecting at all, and I also didn't expect a low budget film to have such a deep message about not only victimisation and blame, but about how the real monsters in this world are supposedly normal people whom we interact with everyday. Powerful stuff.

Not everyone's cup of tea, for sure. But, with a fair few legitimate Glaswegian accents. I appreciated this film's deviation from the norm.

[Image: Bold Yin]

Friday, 6 November 2015

Crimson Peak

"Crimson Peak" (2015, Guillermo del Toro, Legendary Pictures, DDY, Universal Pictures) is a gothic romance film set in the late 1800s.

Edith Cushing knows that ghosts exist She knows this because when her mother died when she was a child she came back to cryptically warn Edith to "beware of Crimson Peak".

Years later, Edith (Mia Wasikowska) is a young, aspiring author struggling to have anyone take her seriously because she is a woman and writes ghost stories instead of love stories.She meets a dashing young inventor called Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and falls in love with him, but her father, Carter (Jim Beaver), intervenes, suspecting that Sharpe has dark, ulterior motives.

When tragedy strikes Edith's life again, she and Sir Thomas marry and she moves to England to live in his rundown stately home with he and his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Edith slowly begins to notice that things are not as they appear and sees several disturbing spectres. She begins to dig into the Sharpe family history, and doesn't like what she finds...

Meanwhile, Edith's childhood friend and family physician, Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) seeks Edith out...

This film is beautiful. Its colours, setting, costumes and styling are done with class and elegance. The ghosts are all menacing and eerily beautiful as well. And the fight scenes are violent and satisfying.
The plot had a lot going on and I wasn't overly engaged in it, but on the whole the beauty of the production made up for it. This film is not scary by any means and comes across as form over function.

Visually pleasing but not ground-breaking.

[Image: Legendary Pictures]
I LOVE this poster. It feels like an old Fulci poster. Stunning!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Repo! The Genetic Opera

"Repo! The Genetic Opera" (2008, Darren Lynn Bousman, Twisted Pictures, Lionsgate) is a rock opera horror comedy about a dystopian future. It's based on a stage play of the same name.

It's the late 21st century and mass organ failures have caused the huge rise of a Megacorporation called GeneCo who provide extreme surgeries, organ transplants and addictive painkillers to the masses. Their payment plans are also extreme, with people who fall behind on their payments being hunted down by the mysterious RepoMan and having their transplanted organs repossessed... violently.

We follow the stories of the various intriguing characters as we uncover all of their interlocking backstories, each rock opera-ing their hearts out (sometimes literally...).

I liked the style of the film. The scenery, gothic setting, illustrated, comic style scene introductions and outlandish characters are all in good fun. I also appreciated the splattery surgery-gore, humorous, futuristic body modifications and just everything about Anthony Stewart Head.

I've never been particularly fond of Paris Hilton but I actually enjoyed her part in this film. In fact all the actors look like they're having a great time hamming up their parts to create this enjoyably outlandish film.

The songs are all a bit discordant and gimmicky and, like most musicals, don't lend themselves well to anything outside of the film, but are effective as narrative and are performed by the cast with a zeal that makes up for the shortfalls.

"Repo! The Genetic Opera" is a campy bit of fun which has deservedly gained cult status. It's a bit gimmicky, but is otherwise enjoyable if you're not looking to take it too seriously.

[Image: Lionsgate]

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Tales of Halloween

"Tales of Halloween" (2015, Neil Marshall, Darren Lynn Bousman, Axelle Carolyn, Lucky McKee, Andrew Kasch, Paul Solet, John Skipp, Adam Gierasch, Jace Anderson, Mike Mendez, Ryan Schifrin, Dave Parker, Epic Pictures, Film Entertainment Services) is a horror anthology of ten short films which are all interlocked.

With cameos from John Landis, Joe Dante, Barry Bostwick and Adrienne Barbeau (to name but a few), this horror anthology is a good bit of gory fun. 

Although the shorts are indeed.... short... they are entertaining. More often leaning to horror comedy than true horror, each story is a fun gem of cheesy, self awareness that's bound to please, with a few surprising twists which keep you keyed in on the action. I'll admit that some are of course, better than others (to my taste), but there's something in here for everyone. 

A great film for Halloween night.

[Image: Epic Pictures]

Wednesday, 28 October 2015


"Devil" (2010, John Erick Dowdle, Media Rights Capital, The Night Chronicles, Blinding Edge Pictures, Universal Pictures) is a horror set in an elevator.

Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) is a recovering alcoholic who lost his wife and child in a hit and run several years beforehand. He's assigned to a suicide case where a man has jumped from a tall building in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, five strangers all become trapped in an elevator within the same building from which the man jumped.

The elevator lights go out, and to the dismay of the trapped people and the security guards watching the monitors, when they come back on one of the elevator's occupants is dead. Suspecting that someone inside the elevator is responsible, Detective Bowden becomes involved.

As the day goes on, more and more mysterious deaths happen inside the elevator. Everyone becomes more suspicious and tensions run high. Each character quickly reveals the darker sides of their personalities, and each trapped person has a dark secret. It soon becomes apparent that darker forces are at work here than just a murderer in their midst, as they begin to suspect that something evil is in the elevator with them, or maybe within one of them...

The film has a relatively slow build up after the initial shocking falling scene, but creates a good sense of tension throughout which I enjoyed. It's not a gory film, but enjoys some quick, jumpy scenes and a mystery vibe that kept me engaged as a viewer. As our trapped characters become more panicked and more paranoid, they reveal more about themselves. This film acts as a good character study and a morality message.

Whilst the general premise is simple, it's intriguing.

[Image: Universal Pictures, et al]

Tuesday, 27 October 2015


"Cube" (1997, Vincenzo Natali, Odeon Films, Viacom Canada, Ontario Film Development Corporation) is a Canadian sci-fi horror about a bunch of strangers finding themselves inexplicably locked in a cubic, booby trapped prison.

The only way to escape is to work together, but can everyone hold it together long enough to survive?

Cube is a low budget film, and if you're looking for flaws you'll find them; the sets are all the same with different lighting, the traps are relatively simple and the premise and plot don't develop much. However, it doesn't stop me from loving this film. It's a clever film. While the premise and setting are both simple, the characters develop, creating intrigue as each reveals more and more of their increasingly flawed personalities. Each new room has a sense of threat and builds excellent and claustrophobic tension as we travel through the deadly maze.

"Cube" plays out as an interesting character study with a sci-fi setting and manages to remain engaging despite its limited setting.

[Image: Odeon Films, et al]

Monday, 26 October 2015

Night of the Creeps

"Night of the Creeps" (1986, Fred Dekker, TriStar Pictures) is a horror comedy about crawly alien parasites which turn their human hosts into zombies.

Chris (Jason Lively) and his friend, J.C. (Steve Marshall), are two nerdy guys in their freshman year at college. Chris spots a good looking girl called Cynthia (Jill Whitlow) and decides to join a fraternity in order to impress her. Before being allowed to join said fraternity, the boys are challenged with stealing a cadaver from the campus morgue in the medical school. The boys find a cryogenically frozen body, but freak out and run away when it makes a grab for them. The body escapes and releases alien slug creatures which infect the campus, turning any humans they come into contact with into zombies.

It's a campy, satirical horror made in the 80s. You have to know what you're going into before you make any judgement. The effects are cheesy, the characters are cheesy and the 50s flashbacks are, you guessed it; cheesy. And I love it. Not only does this film deliver the cheese in abundance, making an excellent homage to the 50s age of horror B-movies, it also manages to remain very watchable and entertaining.

[Image: TriStar Pictures]

Sunday, 25 October 2015

The Final Girls

"The Final Girls" (2015, Todd Strauss-Schulson, Groundswell Productions, Studio Solutions, Ulterior Productions, Stage 6 Films, Vertical Entertainment) is a satirical slasher horror comedy.

Max (Taissa Farmiga) is the daughter of a B-movie scream queen called Amanda (Malin Åkerman) who has been typecast since her role as shy-girl Nancy in cult 80s B-movie "Camp Bloodbath" (a clear homage to "Friday the 13th"). On their way home from one of Amanda's auditions they are involved in an awful car accident, leaving Max as the sole survivor.

Three years later, on the anniversary of her mother's death, Max is convinced by her best friend's horror-obsessed stepbrother, Duncan (Thomas Middleditch), to attend a screening of "Camp Bloodbath" at the local cinema. Her best friend, Gertie (Alia Shawkat), and her crush, Chris (Alexander Ludwig) both agree to come with her. During the show a horrific fire breaks out and Max, Duncan, Chris, Gertie and Chris' possessive ex, Vicki (Nina Dobrev), all escape by tearing a hole in the cinema screen. When they get through they realise, however, that they have somehow found themselves inside the film and are unable to escape!

The gang have to join the film's cast of clichéd 80s horror characters in the film's plot and attempt not to get killed by the machete wielding, masked murderer, Billy (Dan B. Morris). However, thanks to Duncan, they are all too aware of the horror 'rules' and Max also has to get used to seeing her mother again in the flesh as an unwitting, teen camp counsellor.

An interesting premise which sounds a lot hoakier than it is. This film was really entertaining. The cast, as well as being recognisable, are really great. The characters are a great blend of purposefully twee and actually likeable. The plot is silly, but the film enjoys some really nice camera work and good comedic writing. Whilst it's not an entirely original idea to explore the horror 'rules', "The Final Girls" also enjoys a surprising level of emotion and stands out as a fun example of satirical horror.

[Image: Groundswell Productions, et al]

Thursday, 22 October 2015


"Psycho" (1960, Alfred Hitchcock, Paramount Pictures) is a famous psychological thriller based on a novel by Robert Bloch. It's probably one of the most iconic in the horror film genre.

We follow Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a desperate secretary who decides to skip town with a large sum of money belonging to her employer. She sells her car, buys some new wheels and checks into the roadside "Bates Motel", ran by the peculiar and awkward owner-manager, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). Norman makes polite, on-edge conversation with Marion and offers to make her something to eat.

While he's off making sandwiches, Marion overhears him having an argument with his mother from the house. Later, he and Marion eat in the office where Marion accidentally touches a nerve that sends the unassuming Norman into a shocking fury. Marion excuses herself and retires to her room, where she is later attacked by someone wearing elderly woman's clothing with a knife, in what is easily one of the most recognisable scenes in cinema.

A truly stunning film to watch, "Psycho" remains a firm favourite. From its careful scripting, excellent acting, murderous scenes and shocking reveal, "Psycho" truly changed the face of horror cinema for the better and paved the way for a new generation of violent and shocking films.

Norman Bates is such an interesting character and portrayed so excellently by Anthony Perkins that the viewer cannot help but be enthralled. His explosive temper and unnerving performance truly draws you in.

Janet Leigh portrays a strong female lead who, despite her untimely demise, cut a determined and striking figure which was (and still largely is) absent from the horror genre.

A classy film which provides chills and screams without becoming gross, "Psycho" was not only a game changer, but remains chilling to this day.

[Image: Paramount Pictures]

Monday, 19 October 2015


"Robert" or "Robert The Doll" (2015, North Bank Entertainment, 4Digital Media, Independent Moving Pictures) is a British film about the real life doll who's story inspired the "Child's Play" series. The real doll is located in the Key West area of Florida in the USA, and I would probably say looking at an inanimate 'haunted' doll is going to be about 50 times more scary than watching this movie.

An annoying woman called Jenny (Suzie Frances Garton), who is more interested in painting than paying attention to her reclusive son, Gene (Flynn Allen), fires her aging housekeeper, Agatha (Judith Haley), because she is getting old. The disgruntled Agatha retorts by giving Gene a creepy looking doll called Robert and warning Gene that Robert will be his friend, as long as Gene doesn't upset him.

The doll then proceeds to go about making messes, spoiling Jenny's paintings and such until Jenny and her 'workaholic' husband, Paul (Lee Bane), are forced to pay attention. Jenny then seeks out Agatha's previous employers only to learn that Robert had also terrorised their household prior to them sacking Agatha.

So, it doesn't sound too bad, does it? But it is.The acting is as wooden as the doll itself. The problem I find with low budget British productions is they always wind up sounding like a badly made BBC show from the early 90s. Most of these were cheesy and charming. "Robert" is cheesy, but lacks any kind of charm. Our leading lady is so aggravating and whiney that I wanted the doll to just kill her and be done with it. And the on-screen relationship between Paul and Jenny was so disjointed and unbelievable. No wonder that kid was so reclusive! To be fair to Flynn Allen, he carries this whole film.

The doll used is creepy but also so closely resembles the Annabelle films that it makes the film look like a knock-off, which it isn't. The actual doll from the 'true' story is actually a lot creepier than the prop used on-screen.

The film is pretty low budget, so I wasn't expecting top-notch effects, but it is 2015 afterall. It could have been very effective to barely show the doll moving. Lots of films manage to make slight, simple, practical effects make a huge impact. This film, unfortunately, is not one of them. When the doll does move on-screen it is evident that it is being manoeuvred by hand (not in itself a bad thing), giving it a Muppet-like quality. When they do bother to show the doll in action, they show too much.

I have a high tolerance for bad horror, I even enjoy bad horror, but this tame effort surpasses the realms of bad-good. So, points for having a creepy prop and a good idea, but the finished product just doesn't deliver.

[Image: North Bank Entertainment]

Sunday, 18 October 2015

The Green Inferno

"The Green Inferno" (2015, Eli Roth, Worldview Entertainment, Dragonfly Entertainment, Sobras International Pictures) is a cannibal movie based in the Amazon jungle.

Justine (Lorenza Izza) is a young, fresh faced student at university in New York. She becomes obsessed with a group of campus activists spearheaded by a handsome, driven, older student called Alejandro (Ariel Levy). Her friend, Jonah (Aaron Burns), is already a member of the group and talks her into getting involved in their latest challenge: the plight of an indigenous tribe in the Amazon, who's land is being usurped by a logging company. The group plan to travel out there, sneak onto the logging site and film the company with their phones to raise awareness online. Unbeknownst to Justine, her new 'friends' also plan to use her father's links to the UN for their cause.

The group achieve what they set out to do, but during their plane trip out of the jungle things go wrong and the surviving group members wind up stranded and injured in the middle of nowhere at the mercy of the tribe of cannibals; the very people who they naively set out to save.

It holds true to Roth's usual impressive visual gore and shock value. However, aside from our protagonist, Justine, 'good guy' antagonist, Alejandro, and our 'friend-zoned' pal, Jonah, the other characters are largely annoying and disposable. Watching them die didn't stir any emotion outside of shock and disgust as, to the film's credit, the effects and gory scenes are truly excellent.

Eli Roth has reportedly said how he didn't want to remake "Cannibal Holocaust", and wanted to be as original as possible. He has certainly tried, but I think it is impossible not to end up with a film which mirrors it due to setting, content, plot and 'social message'. Really, the reality is that you can't help but compare "The Green Inferno" to "Cannibal Holocaust".

Like all cannibal films, it's not really scary or tense, just a gross out. And like "Cannibal Holocaust", "The Green Inferno" attempts to make a social commentary that just doesn't hit home as effectively as I'm sure Roth hoped. Our group of vain social warriors may be there to 'save the tribe', but they're also there to show everyone what wonderful people they all are, get laid and get lots of social media attention. And they don't really know what they're doing, anyway.

On a whole, the film is well put together and successfully made me look away for a few seconds, but I rarely felt much sympathy for our social justice warriors and also felt that the tribesmen were painted a little too menacingly. Cannibals, of course are a terrifying concept and reality, but unlike "Cannibal Holocaust" which painted the tribe as just going about their everyday culinary/religious rites, the tribe in "Green Inferno" felt more calculated and sadistic. The clan leaders seemed to be relishing in the plight of their victims more than killing and eating people because that's just what they do. Although, admittedly there was several 'food prep' scenes which demonstrated the tribe's true team ethic; taking the whole lot of them to skin, cook and prepare their first kill. After that, however, they just seem to be killing for sport, barely eating anyone else.

The post-credit scene also left a bad taste in my mouth, it felt desperate and smacked of bad, rushed story telling. Not every film needs another section after the credits.

On the whole, "Inferno" makes a good cannibal movie. It hits all the marks on the gross-meter (it's like a gauss meter for gore) and shock value and also has a go at the types of people who get involved in that kind of activism for all the wrong reasons. It doesn't really break any new ground, however, and was perhaps over-hyped.

 [Image: Worldview Entertainment, et al]

Monday, 12 October 2015

All Hallow's Eve

"All Hallow's Eve" (2013, Damien Leone, Ruthless Pictures) is a supernatural slasher about a killer clown and a VHS tape. With Halloween just around the corner, I thought I'd start looking at some films I haven't seen before.

Sarah (Katie Maquire) is babysitting Tia (Sydney Freihofer) and her brother Timmy (Cole Mathewson) on Halloween night. We all know that's a bad idea for a start. Timmy opens his trick or treat loot to find that some strange neighbour has put a VHS tape in instead of sweets. Sarah is obviously keen to check the tape's contents before letting the kids watch it. Personally, I would have just put that creepy shit in the bin, but whatever.

The tape turns out to be an anthology of murders which all feature Art the Creepy Clown (Mike Giannelli) in some way or other. Thinking it's just a somewhat disturbing movie, Sarah gives in and lets the kids watch some of it before putting them to bed. But Art the clown makes a special guest appearance later that night, with some unhappy results...

Art the clown was first invented for a short film called "The 9th Circle" in 2008 and was again seen in another short called "Terrifier" in 2011. He's a pretty creepy character, but the film doesn't do him justice as it's just not scary enough to make the most of him.

The film itself isn't awful by any means, but there are long boring stretches and the lack of dialogue in large segments of film, while mostly effective, result in a loss of interest from the viewer after a while. The subject matter is violent and gory with most of the action centering on the depraved clown who just seems to hate lone women and want to hurt them.

There are some really disturbing scenes and some good practical effects, considering the film's low budget. I particularly appreciated the beginning to the end of the wraparound plot, which is by far the best part of the film. Unfortunately, some other effects and costumes are much less effective (I'm sure I could get a more convincing alien costume in 'Poundland') and lose some of the viewer's engagement.

The whole VHS tape thing is becoming a trope of its own and I couldn't review this film without obviously comparing it to "The Ring" series and "V/H/S", which both enjoy much more scares than this one does, but also bigger budgets. One thing that "All Hallow's Eve" did do quite well was slowly make the babysitter's environment more menacing as the film went on.

They've tried to give the film a gritty, video tape vibe with some muting of colours etc. Each segment has a different post-production hue, which I liked.

So, it's not a masterpiece. I'm not a huge fan of torture-porn films and the low budget hindered some of the film's effectiveness. The overall linkage of the shorts is pretty sketchy, the actual shorts themselves are not great and some of the action is more funny or just gross than scary. But it shows a lot of potential from Damien Leone as his full length debut and Art the clown is truly very creepy.

[Image: Ruthless Pictures]


Thursday, 8 October 2015

Insidious: Chapter 3

"Insidious: Chapter 3" (2015, Leigh Whannell, Focus Features, Gramercy Pictures, Stage 6 Films) is a prequel to Insidious 1 and is also the directorial début of Leigh Whannell, who not only played ghost-hunter Specs in all 3 Insidious films, but also wrote Insidious 2 and several other James Wan films.

Paranormal expert, Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye), hasn't met the Lambert family yet, but she has just met a young actress called Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott), who has been trying to contact her dead mother. Elise tells Quinn that what she has been contacting is not her mother, and asks her to leave the spirit alone as it may be dangerous. Too bad for Quinn, the spirit has heard her cries and is now fixated upon her, and it is definitely dangerous.

A very jumpy film which is technically sound but with an aimless, meandering plot which lost my interest quickly. I found myself only paying close attention when I sensed a spooky bit coming on. The jumps are effectively created, with some unsettling images and some nicely realised effects. The scares are also not too few and are evenly spread. The main issue was that things took a while to get started and, although spooky bits were happening, the plot itself didn't seem to be going anywhere until the last quarter of the film.

A good sleepover film bound to make you jump at least once, but no lingering freaky feeling and by no means the best in the "Insidious" series.

[Image: Gramercy Films]

Sunday, 4 October 2015

The Pyramid

"The Pyramid" (2014, Grégory Levasseur, Silvatar Media, Fox International Productions, 20th Century Fox) is a found footage film set in Egypt.

The film is set in 2013 during the time of the Eqyptian protests against the then Egyptian president, Morsi. A father-daughter team of archaeologists, Dr. Miles Holden (Denis O'Hare) and Dr. Nora Holden (Ashley Hinshaw), have discovered a lost, submerged, pyramid, near the Great Pyramid. They assemble a team to film the discovery and plan to investigate it further. Upon opening the entrance, however, a noxious gas emits killing one of the workers.

With this news and with the impending uprising in Giza, the team are ordered to leave their discovery and return home. An instruction that they obviously ignore. Instead, they send in their rover robot secretly, which is quickly destroyed by whatever is lurking in the tomb...

Naturally, they decide to go in anyway to retrieve what remains of the expensive rover kit, quickly get hopelessly lost and are soon faced with the perils of the labrynthine tomb and its murderous inhabitants.

Fristly, I'll mention that this film has not been loved by the critics and I can see why: its dialogue isn't the best; it is unclear whether it's a found footage film or not - jumping from the cameraman's on-screen camera to normal film view all too often; the characters are annoying and fatally flawed; and we are shown way too much of the big bad.

But, to the film's credit, it's got a few nice jumps and at least they had the guts to try making an Egyptian themed horror not about a rampaging mummy! If only they had shown a little more restraint in how much of the baddy was shown, I think that this little plot nuance could have made a more successful film.

For me, it was too similar to some much better 'lost in an ancient place' movies that I've seen recently ("The Descent" and "As above, so below" spring to mind), which were just more successful in creating their atmosphere. It also smacked a little much of a bad "Indiana Jones" wannabe film.

However, yes, it's corny but it delivers the goods to a point, and is definitely not the worst film I've seen recently. So, while it's not a masterpiece, it shouldn't be completely ignored.

[Image: 20th Century Fox]

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Visit

"The Visit" (2015, M. Night Shyamalan, Blinding Edge Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, Universal Picture) is a thrilling found footage film. And believe me, you don't hear me say that often. I usually detest found footage, but this one really hit the right notes for me!

Budding documentary maker, Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge), and her little, rap-loving brother, Tyler (Ed Oxenbould), are going to stay with their estranged grandparents for a week. Their mother, Paula (Kathryn Hahn) has not seen her parents since she left home to run away with her much older lover, against her parents' will. Her parents have found Paula and her family via the internet and are trying to at least patch ties with their grandchildren.

Rebecca and Tyler set off together as Paula heads on a cruise with her new boyfriend, Miguel. Their grandparents, John (Peter McRobbie) and Doris (Deanna Dunegan) meet them both at the train station and appear to be perfectly normal grandparents.

Everything seems fine except for two rules: do not leave your bedroom after 'bedtime' (9.30pm) and do not go into the basement. Ignoring the first rule, Rebecca leaves her room on the first night after curfew and finds her grandmother behaving very strangely. Over the next few days, the behaviour of both grandparents becomes more suspicious until finally the kids realise that they have to leave... Something is very, very wrong!

A great jump fest with some tropes, but so well executed that they were actually effective. I believe mostly the reason I enjoyed this film, despite its found footage styling, was down to the stellar performances from the cast. Both DeJonge and Oxenbould portrayed a realistic sibling relationship with humorous quirks and banter. Both are normal, somewhat annoying, kids who think they are smarter than they are but are adorable in their own way. I also really appreciated the chilling performances of both McRobbie and Dunegan, however, Deanna Dunegan remains the overall winner of the shit-your-pants-scary award. The switch from doddery old sweetheart to terrifying nightmare creature was truly awe-inspiring.

The film flows really well, with a great setting, enough happening to keep you interested and some excellently unsettling scenes. Definitely one to watch with the lights off.

[Image: Blinding Edge Pictures]

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

We are still here

"We are still here" (2015, Ted Geoghegan, Snowfort Pictures, Dark Sky Films) is an American haunted house film which was inspired by the works of Lucio Fulci, and has a certain Lovecraftian atmosphere about it.

It's 1979 and Paul (Andrew Sensenig) and Anne (Barbara Crampton) have moved to a new, remote house away from their busy city home after the untimely death of their son, Bobby, in a car accident. Anne feels that Bobby's spirit is still with them and she's becoming unsettled by this. In an attempt to settle themselves, they invite their friends, May (Lisa Marie) and Jacob (Larry Fessenden), who are self professed psychics, over to the house to contact Bobby. As things unwind further and more and more spooky occurrences take place, it becomes evident that there is a lot more to this house than previously imagined...

A fantastic film which keeps a steady, haunting pace and lets you in on the plot nicely as it thickens. The effects are fantastic in their gore and their surprise factor, with some very effective jump scares which are not too tropey. The scares are genuine and the characters are likeable, three dimensional and captivating. You begin to care about what's going on. And finally, an on-screen possession outside of an episode of "Supernatural" which felt scary!

My hat's off for this film, I genuinely loved it.

[Image: Snowfort Pictures]

Monday, 28 September 2015


"Cooties" (2015, Cary Murnion, SpectreVision, Glacier Films, Liongate Premiere) is a zombie kid horror comedy set in an elementary school.

The school is located in an area called F.t. Chicken, Illinois, where a young girl is seen to eat a tainted chicken nugget (which we were lucky enough to see the entire process of in the first scene). This girl then goes on to infect other children in the school.

Clint Hadson (Elijah Wood) is a struggling writer who is subbing as an elementary teacher to pay the  bills. He has the lucky task of dealing with a bunch of badly behaved 4th graders, made only better by the outbreak of the maddening, bloodthirsty disease.

This film is a little weird. All of the teachers are ridiculously quirky and odd and the disease only appears to infect children, meaning that the film unfolds into an entertaining, zombified Children of the Corn scenario. The characters are possibly too caricature-ish to care too much about, but on the whole the film is gross, silly and entertaining. There were also very self-aware jabs at Elijah Wood (who owns SpectreVision, coincidentally) throughout.

Whilst it's a bit of a one-trick pony, "Cooties" delivers some light-hearted, gory fun.

[Image: SpectreVision]

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Sleepaway Camp

"Sleepaway Camp" (1983, Robert Hiltzik, American Eagle Films, United Film Distribution Company) is a slasher set at an American summer camp.

Since the summer is drawing to a close, I thought I'd see it out with an old favourite. Angela (Felissa Rose) was very young when her brother and father were killed in a motorboat accident on the lake. She now lives with her eccentric aunt and her cousin, Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten). Angela is very quiet and introverted and doesn't speak much. This makes her a target for bullying when she and her cousin arrive at summer camp.

As soon as camp begins mysterious deaths and accidents begin to happen, all linked in some way to Angela and anyone who is bothering her. This film covers some quite shocking subjects including a paedophile chef, rape, camp bullies, bad camp staff and gender identity. All while also delivering some truly campy gore. Pardon the pun.

By far the most memorable part of this film is its infamous twist ending which still holds some punch to this day, despite its confusing sub-plot. While the film is tropey and definitely sits on the exploitation movie shelf, it covers some unsettling ground.

[Image: American Eagle Films]

Monday, 14 September 2015

Bloodsucking Bastards

"Bloodsucking Bastards" (2015, Fortress Features, MTY Productions, Brian James O'Connell) is a vampire comedy romp set in a failing office environment.

Evan (Fran Kranz) is acting sales manager. He's trying hard, but his team are unmotivated wasters who don't really want to do any work. He's even more demoralised when he's completely overlooked for a promotion and his girlfriend, Amanda (Emma Fitzpatrick), dumps him when he fails to say "I love you" back.

These may be the least of Evan's worries, however, when he begins to notice certain changes around the office... With Frank, the kickass security guard who drinks too much red bull (Marshall Givens), and his lazy best pal, Tim (Joey Kern), can Evan stop the horrors in the office, win back his lady and save the day?

My crush on Fran Kranz aside, this film was great. It's funny, it's self-aware, it rates high on the gore score, it's engaging, it boasts entertaining characters and is well put together... Essentially this is one of those films you see at a horror festival and think 'yes, this is what I came here to discover'.

[Image: Fortress Features, et al]

Saturday, 12 September 2015


"976-EVIL" (1988, Robert Englund, New Line Cinema) is a film about two cousins who call a mysterious 'horror-scope' number which is actually operated by the devil to trick mortals into turning to the dark side.

Spike (Patrick O'Bryan) is a rebellious teen who likes to strut about in leather jackets, ride his motorcycle, date rocker chicks and play a lot of poker... badly. His little cousin, Hoax (Stephen Geoffreys, best known as Evil Ed from "Fright Night"), is little more nerdy, rides a scooter, wishes he was tougher and lives with his overbearing, fundamentalist Christian mother, Lucy (Sandy Dennis); who wears way too many wigs. Lucy lets her nephew live in a granny flat on her property, but she disapproves of his lifestyle while she also holds his inheritance money hostage.

Both Spike and Hoax come across the phone number and call it. Spike thinks it's all a big joke, and stops calling, but Hoax begins to work out what's going on and seizes the opportunity to pay back his bullies and get a girlfriend at the measly cost of his soul.

This film is in the 'just-bad' category. The scenes are long and drawn out and the action is extremely slow. There's just not enough horror in his horror film. The premise is promising, but there just wan't enough delivered to make it a good 'bad' film. Robert Englund directed this and one other film, "Killer Pad" in 2008. There's definitely a reason for this.

It's cheesy and 80s and has Stephen Geoffreys in it, usually that would check all the boxes for me, but this film is just not one I'd watch again.

[Image: New Line Cinema]

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Chopping Mall

"Chopping Mall" aka "Killbots" (1986, Jim Wynorski, Concorde Pictures) is a cheesy 80s B-movie horror about some teens who get locked inside a shopping mall and are being hunted by the mall's futuristic, robotic security guards.

Like Robocop's demented half cousins who failed the police academy entrance exam one too many times, these 'state of the art' security robots had trouble written all over them. From the lasers (why, even?) to their menacing look, these polite little guys were clearly going to rampage. I don't think they even needed lightening to help them go nuts!

The music is so 80s it actually hurts and the teens are suitably annoying enough to be robot fodder. The plot is simple and functional and the action is hilarious. We have head explosions, death by fire, laser beams, shoot outs and panic attacks. It's really just a perfect example of how so-bad-it's-good B-movies should be done.


[Image: Concorde Pictures]

Monday, 7 September 2015

The Asylum

 "The Asylum" aka "Exeter" and "Backmask"  (2015, Marcus Nispel, Studio Canal releasing) is one of the films I missed by not attending Glasgow Fright Fest earlier this year. And I have to say, I must be missing something because I didn't think it was really anything special, but I seem to be in the minority here!

We open to a woman committing suicide before we are introduced to the "Exeter School for the feeble minded", an asylum which has been abandoned for some time. The place is about to be renovated by Father Conway (Stephen Lang), but his young friend, Patrick (Kelly Blatz), puts a stopper in the works by being unable to convince his pals not to have a big ol' party in the place. Knowing Exeter School has a dark past, the gang of course decide to play some vinyl backwards and play "light as a feather, stiff as a board", while also drinking, shagging and taking some drugs.... And this brings some demons to the surface who then go all "Evil Dead" on their asses by possessing them one after another.

Now let's get this straight, there are some good things going on in this film. It's a good setting, the kill scenes are admirably gory, very realistic and creative, the demonic effects are effective and the acting is good enough. My main problem with this film was that I was bored and felt like I was watching a remake of several other possession movies merged together.

Whilst it's nigh on impossible to make a possession movie without paying coincidental (or completely on purpose) homage to "The Exorcist", this film felt like they'd also lifted chunks of scene from "Evil Dead", "Night of the Demons" and many other possessed-teen films. It was way too tropey to fully appreciate and played out as a remake, despite not actually being one...

All in all, it's a perfectly serviceable horror film and there's nothing at all wrong with it, it's just not anything new or special. The fact that people are raving about it online kind of indicates to me more that we've had a serious lack of new and original horror recently!

[Image: Studio Canal Releasing]

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Body Bags

"Body Bags" (1993, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, 187 Corp., Showtime Networks) is a made for TV horror anthology set in a morgue. The film was initially meant to become a weekly show similar to "Tales from the Crypt" but was axed, and so the completed pieces were pieced together into an anthology.

A creepy coroner (John Carpenter) sets us up for each segment, inspired by the bodies he uncovers from the bags. There are three tales all-in:

The Gas Station
Anne (Alex Datcher) is a student starting her new part time job as the overnight petrol station attendant. As if that job is not just creepy enough, she has to deal with knowing that a dangerous lunatic has escaped the asylum (she was kindly warned by her new colleague, Bill (Robert Carradine)). Soon all of her customers appear to be a little strange and Anne is frantic, not knowing who could be the killer! Horror hero cameos include Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, David Naughton, George Buck Flower and Molly Cheek).

The short is a bit of a lark with so many horror favourites gracing the screen with their nutty characters and a fair bit of bludgeoning. While it's your typical 'lone woman being stalked by a serial killer' plot, it's fun in its familiarity and really kicks off the film.

Richard (Stacy Keach) is hitting middle age. His girlfriend, Megan (Sheena Easton), is getting exasperated by Richard's obsession with his looks and his quickly thinning locks. In his desperation, Richard signs up for a hair transplant operation which appears successful. Maybe a little too successful...

A bit of a laugh with some effects that aged a little, but add to the charm of the film. I thought I knew where this one was going but after a point it changes tack slightly which pleased me. Yes, it's hardly 'scary' but I don't watch old anthologies for scare factor, they're purely for comedy. Cameos include Debbie Harry and David Warner as the mad doctor and his nurse.

Brent Matthews (Mark Hamill) is a baseball player. He is involved in a car accident where his eye is gouged out. Brent opts for some experimental surgery that is not considered so sci-fi these days, and receives an eye transplant in the hopes that he can return to his beloved game. But, similarly to the later 2002 and 2008 Singaporean and American blockbusters both called "The Eye", he begins to see things that are not there through the new eye: horrible things. Brent becomes suspicious that his new eye belonged to a killer and goes back to the doctor to investigate. Brent realises that there is only one way to end this problem... Cameos include Twiggy and Roger Corman.

A few gruesome bits make this one entertaining but it was admittedly my least favourite short of the three. In retrospect this one seems very tropey, but it's not its fault; it came first afterall!

We end back in the morgue where our creepy coroner reveals he is more than at first appears.

The film comes off as surprisingly low budget, but this may just be a sign of ageing SFX. While it's nothing new in terms of plot or set up, it's a playful horror anthology and is funny, self aware and even a little gruesome at times. Team this one with Creepshow 1 and you're onto a bloody good night in!

[Image: 187 Corp.]

Wednesday, 26 August 2015


"Wishmaster" (1997, Robert Kurtzman, Wes Craven, Live Entertainment) is a movie about a djinn (genie) who grants wishes in return for your soul, only, like all genie tales, the wishes never turn out how you imagined them.

We are first introduced to this djinn (Andrew Divoff) creature in 1127 Iran where a Persian emperor has set it free and it is causing all kinds of massacre on his people. This is where we are told the rule: the one who sets a djinn free is granted 3 wishes, but their third wish will free the djinn and all his friends to destroy the earth.

Snap to modern day and the art collector, Beaumont (Robert Englund) is having an ancient statue delivered to his collection. Only, the crane operator is drunk and accidentally drops the statue, killing Beaumont's assistant and releasing the red ruby containing the djinn. The gem is pawned by one of the workers and eventually comes into the hands of Alex (Tammy Lauren) who accidentally awakens the djinn. The djinn goes off on its merry way, torturing any whom it can trick into saying 'I wish' and claiming their souls, which, through her links to the djinn as its 'master', Alex can see as visions. The creature eventually takes the form of a deceased man and goes around town by the name Nathaniel Demerest.

Eventually, Alex and the djinn confront each other. Can Alex trick the djinn, as he has tricked people for centuries, with her final wish?

A cheesy 90s gore movie with a hell of a lot of genre-cameos (Robert Englund, Kane Hodder, Tony Todd, Ted Raimi, Ricco Ross... to name a few). The action is funny and over the top, the acting is sometimes dubious but suits the film, the plot is a little thin (probably hence all the gore) and it is far from actually scary, but I enjoy "Wishmaster". Kurtzman was a makeup and effects artist, so he was keen to make use of as many practical effects as he could which I appreciate, even if some did not date very well. All in all, this is very much a friends and pizza kind of cheesy movie rather than a smart nail biter. If you're looking for chills, tension or intelligent writing, this is probably not the film for you.

[Image: Live Entertainment]


Friday, 21 August 2015

The Sentinel (1977)

"The Sentinel" (1977, Michael Winner, Universal Pictures) is a haunted house movie set in the Brooklyn area of New York city.

Alison (Cristina Raines) is a fashion model who feels that things are moving too fast with her successful, lawyer boyfriend, Michael (Chris Sarandon). So she decides to move out of his posh apartment and find her own digs whilst she contemplates his marriage proposal. She finds a quirky flat in Brooklyn that is actually a grand old house split into different flats. Unfortunately, her new neighbours are all complete weirdos who keep her up at night. Only, when she complains to her realtor (Ava Gardner), she finds that she doesn't actually have any neighbours except for an old, blind, reclusive priest (John Carradine) who lives on the top floor and just sits quietly, staring out of the window....

As well as the freaky neighbours, Alison also begins seeing flashbacks to her not-so-nice father and her own attempted suicides. And she learns that there is more to this building than just its undead inhabitants, and more to the priest than just being old!

A fun 70s horror that gets its share of flack, with a great cast and some really creepy scenes. The film also features Christopher Walken as the young detective and Jeff Goldblum as Jack the photographer as well as Beverly D'Angelo as a sex-crazed mute (her first movie role). The effects are good for a 70s horror (but then again, this was quite a big budget film) and lend well to the setting and the unsettling weirdness of Alison's neighbours is aptly captured and revealed. Other plus points include a birthday party for a cat and a good amount of splurted gore.

There are some issues with the film, such as its overbearing, random score which, unlike the purposefully overbearing soundtracks of films such as Argento's "Suspiria", does not seem to have been done to great effect and is more jarring than atmospheric with too many changes in style and genre.

The film was also heavily lambasted for using people with deformities as plot props at the end in what is a very random climax. The worst part about the choice of casting for this scene was that it is simply using the actors' appearances for shock value and holds no particular relevance to the plot. It's a 'sploitation movie, but by today's standards, it's not cool.

The plot is often too random and is basically just one of many demonic-inspired films which had come back into fashion in the 70s so doesn't feel the need to explain itself too much. But the ending is somewhat chilling and rounds off the movie nicely

Not a terrible film, but it does have some obvious faults and Winner made a few bad calls during its production. Its creepy scenes and good, if predictable, ending make up for some of the flaws, however, it's just admittedly not everyone's cup of tea.

[Image: Universal Pictures]

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Da Possessed

"Da Possessed" (2014, Joyce Bernal, Star Cinema, Regal Entertainment, Regal Films) is a Filipino horror comedy and is actually a remake of an Indian movie called "Muni 2: Kanchana".

Ramon (Vhong Navarro) is a big scaredy cat. He lives at home with his over-protective mother, brother, sister-in-law and their children. He sleeps at night in the same bed as his mother because he is so scared of everything.

When his mother's house is in danger of being repossessed because she cannot keep up with the payments, Ramon gets a job as a landscape artist for a rich tycoon. Ramon's shift boss is the tycoon's beautiful daughter, Anna (Solenn Heussaff) - who's main skills are looking sultry, doing bad cartwheels and flashing her knickers -, who takes a shine to Ramon.

In his attempts to impress Anna, Ramon unwittingly digs up the graves of three people who were killed unfairly and he and his family are then haunted by the unrestful spirits. The spirits take turns possessing Ramon's body as they try to avenge their killer, with mischevious consequences.

A strange film that is pretty standard plot fayre, and yet has some quirky characters and ridiculous situations. For me, it was something a little different due to my unfamiliarity with Filipino films in general, but at its core it's a pretty standard, if oddly charming, horror comedy.

I did enjoy the end scenes, however, which appealed to my sense of humour.

A little ridiculous, but not the strangest film I've seen! It could have done with being a little shorter, however...
[Image: Star Cinema & Regal Films]

Sunday, 2 August 2015


"Zombeavers" (2014, Jordan Rubin, Epic Pictures Group, Armory Films, Benderspink, Hypotenuse Pictures) is a horror comedy about zombie beavers.

A group of college girls go out to a riverside cabin to forget about their man troubles only to be shortly joined by said men. Sadly for all involved, the river is home to a band of ravenous and bloodthirsty zombie beavers...

A campy film which, in the style of Sharkando, knows it and thrills in it's stupidity. While it's not the best nature fights back horror comedy out there, I enjoyed it. There's bucketloads of blood, a host of ridiculous action (the beavers cut the phone lines.... The BEAVERS cut the phone lines....), puns, and a few tongue-in-cheek nods to 'Jaws'. It's a good brainless summer romp.

All the characters are worth your contempt. Not a single one of them has any redeeming properties. However, this is perfect for this kind of movie. I don't want to see them succeed; I want to see them being eaten by ridiculously unrealistic zombie beaver handpuppets!

It's not big, it's not clever and it's proud of the fact. Perfect crappy movie for a night in with friends and a pizza.

[Image: Epic Pictures Group, et al]

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Shark Night

"Shark Night 3D" (2011, David R. Ellis, Relativity Media) is about an idyllic lake side cabin which is infested with man-eating sharks. Oh, and beautiful people in swimwear. Lots of swimwear. And hillbillies. Also a few hillbillies.

Sara (Sara Paxton) and her friends are staying at her parents' holiday home in Louisiana for a frivolous weekend of sunshine, beer pong, highspeed speedboat chases and water-skiing. Within minutes of arriving they've all practically stripped off and are frolicking in the water. Essentially in doing so they attract the attention of not one, but several hungry sharks. They are then fighting for their lives as they try to avoid being eaten by sharks or killed by angry, jilted hillbilly exes.

This film is dumb. It's dumb and it's completely unapologetic about that fact. From the purposefully bad characters to the completely ludicrous plots and ridiculous shark scenes this film is awful and it knows it. Whilst I'm a fan of so-bad-it's-good as a horror genre, I do draw a line somewhere, and Shark Night sits right on that line.

In some ways it's a perfectly serviceable party movie. It's definitely the kind of film that lends itself to drinking games and I would be happy to have it play along in the background over a few drinks with friends. However, it's not engaging enough to be quotable or interesting enough to have anyone want to actually stop their conversations and watch it. The kills are funny in their unlikeliness but there's no meat to this movie. It's not even shitty enough to be ironic, it's just bad.

[Image: Relativity Media]

Tuesday, 28 July 2015


"Shutter" (2008, Masayuki Ochiai, Regency Enterprises, New Recency, Vertigo Entertainment, 20th Century Fox) is an American ghost horror based in Tokyo about a haunted camera.... Kind of. It is a remake of the 2004 Thai horror film with the same name.

Ben (Joshua Jackson) and Jane (Rachael Taylor) seem  like a perfect couple at first. We see them at their wedding, smiling away. We see them coming home together - still smiling. We see them set off to live in Tokyo where Ben, a photographer, has gotten a job with some friends he used to work with in Japan before. On their travels, Jane accidentally hits a young girl in a white dress who was standing in the middle of a dark road. They wreck their car and Jane frantically hunts for the girl, but to no avail; she is gone, along with any trace of her.

With their new exciting life in Japan already off to a less than idyllic start, Jane is further disillusioned once she reaches their destination. Although their apartment is huge, Ben is working all the time. She also doesn't speak any Japanese and feels like an outsider as she wanders aimlessly around the city and when she gets home she is surrounded by beautiful models and fashion entourage who make her feel even more like an outsider. Ben doesn't really notice any of this as he gets stuck back in with his friends and colleagues, getting to shoot fancy magazine pieces.

Jane is so happy when their wedding photos arrive and is dismayed to find that there is a white, ghostly mark through most of them. Confused she asks Ben, who convinces her that there was something faulty with the development and that it will be OK. But Jane is unconvinced as she goes through their honeymoon photos and even her own city snaps to find the same mark is present on all of them - and they were all taken with different cameras in different mediums...

Ben is not convinced, but Jane is adamant that the girl she struck on the road had died and is haunting them. She sets herself to uncover the mystery, but as she delves deeper she begins to regret it as things begin to make sense...

A really good jump scare horror with a dark and twisted plot and some creepy imagery. It has all of the edge and creep of a good J-horror movie, but also a few hollywood horror tropes. The girl haunting them, Megumi (Megumi Tanaka), is your average onryō vengeful spirit with a sad tale to tell, but she is perfectly realised and does not just lift all of the hallmarks from other famous J-horror ghosts. She is sadder. It is like she doesn't want to kill them, but she is compelled to. All of the cast are pretty good in their roles and the sliding of the perfect relationship into this hellish nightmare is captured well.

While it's nothing novel the film is effective in a Saturday night movie kind of way and has a couple of scary moments that I appreciated. I really want to see the Thai version now as it is bound to be much, much scarier!

[Image: 20th Century Fox, et al[

Monday, 27 July 2015

Dolly Dearest

"Dolly Dearest" (1992, Maria Lease, Patriot Pictures, Channeler Enterprises, Trimark Pictures, Image Organization) is a killer doll movie.

The Wade family move to Mexico because of father, Elliot (Sam Bottoms)'s new job as the operations manager of the Dolly Dearest Factory. Unbeknownst to them, a cult's burial ground has recently been unearthed and an evil spirit has escaped, finding refuge inside the bodies of abandoned dolls within the factory's stockroom. When Elliot's daughter, Jessica (Candace Hutson), finds the dolls she is allowed to keep one. Soon, Jessie and her new little friend are running amok, taking down anyone in their way and behaving altogether very strangely.

A weird film that is partly Child's Play and partly the Omen. Both the doll and the little girl are supremely creepy and while Chucky was decidedly more animated, Dolly enjoys some effective shots and prehensile, plastic fingers. I didn't dislike this movie. It is a little slow moving, but on the whole it delivers an average amount of action. Whilst it's decidedly not scary, and is very predictable, it's a good crappy horror film.

[Image: Trimark Pictures, et al]

Sunday, 26 July 2015

The Haunting (1999)

"The Haunting" (1999, Jan de Bont, DreamWorks Pictures) is the remake of the 1963 movie of the same name and, like the original, is based on the book, "The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson.

Eleanor "Nell" (Lili Taylor) has just found her freedom. Her mother, whom she cared for, has just passed away and her sister has just evicted her from her home. She's invited to apply to be a part of an insomnia study by Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson). The study involves staying in the secluded mansion called Hill House with two other volunteers as well as the doctor and his associates.

Hill House is an unusual building full of creepy cherub carvings, gothic architecture and strange theme rooms including a glass, animated ballroom (very reminiscent of the one in the Labrynth) and a submerged hallway with books instead of stepping stones.

Nell is shown to her room by the housekeeper, Mrs. Dudley (Marian Seldes) who explains in very clear language that both she and her caretaker husband (Bruce Dern) do not stay after dark in the house. Nell is later joined by a bouncy insomniac called Luke (Owen Wilson) and a rich, bisexual lady called Theo (Catherine Zeta-Jones) as well as the doctor and his entourage. Unbeknownst to the participants, the study is really about fear and the good doctor intends to terrify his volunteers in order to study the impacts of fear. Therefore, during the first night, Dr. Marrow tells the story of the house that Crain built; Hill House.

The legend has it that Mr. Crain (Charles Gunning), a rich tycoon, built the house for he and his wife, intending to have a huge family. Alas, all his children died whilst very young. The story is very provocative and the volunteers become intrigued, letting their imaginations run away with them. However, Nell, above all the others is most affected. The house seems to be calling out to her; she can hear the ghostly screams and cries of children, see things out of the corner of her eye.... Eventually she comes to find that the true story of Hill House has a much darker level to it, a level that may involve her personally....

A fun film which manages to maintain the plot and nuances of the original tale, whilst updating the context and characters, although it is nowhere near as effective. The effects are pretty dated by today's standards, but there are some genuinely creepy, if cheesy, scenes (it's more the small movements of things at the start of the film that make the biggest impact. By the end of the film there is just too much going on).

The film does play as a cheesy spook story though, and relies overly on the effects, where the older 60s film used a build of dread to spook us. This has dated it very much, minimising any scare factor that it had.

For me, it was a bit of 90s nostalgia from when I was first discovering 'modern' horror films as a pre-teen. Good times.

[Image: DreamWorks Productions]

Saturday, 25 July 2015


"Housebound" (2014, Gerard Johnstone, Semi-Professional Pictures) is a horror comedy from New Zealand.

Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O'Reilly) is a troubled young woman with a sharp tongue who turns herself to petty crime with a hapless accomplice. Their actions result in her getting caught and being sentenced to house arrest in her mother's home with an electronic ankle tag. Kylie would apparently have preferred actual prison because her nutty mum, Miriam (Rima Te Viata), and her mother's equally strange boyfriend, Graeme (Ross Harper) are boring her to death.

Her mother is also convinced that the house is haunted, and embarrasses Kylie non-stop by talking about it on radio call-in talk shows. Kylie becomes suspicious that what her mother is experiencing is actually a hidden intruder after she feels a hand grab her from under the stairs in the basement. But she soon begins to share her mother's paranormal suspicions after finding the same creepy, electronic teddy bear cropping up all over the place going through the unnerving death throes of a dying talking toy... The scenes with the bear are just the best!

She makes reluctant friends with the security guy called Amos (Glen-Paul Waru) who is supposed to be monitoring her ankle tag, but he instead becomes roped into the investigation - with his own ghost hunting equipment. Together they begin to uncover what is really going on in her mother's house.

A fun comedy horror with some unnerving bits and one or two nice reveals, "Housebound" was great for four reasons:

  • Our lead actress is funny, strong and fairly unflappable as well as unafraid to utter some colourful language
  • When it gets gory... it gets GORY
  • There are some genuine scares and a good level of suspense built up, despite the tension-breaking humour
  • It's relatively unpredictable and the plot is engaging
So if you're sick of tired out zombie comedies or looking for something refreshing to watch that packs a punch but with a smile, then I highly recommend giving this one a try.

[Image: Semi-Professional Pictures]

Monday, 6 July 2015

Cannibal Holocaust

"Cannibal Holocaust" (1980, Ruggero Deodato, United Artists) is an Italian cannibal exploitation movie about a group of young people, lead by Alan Yates (Gabriel Yorke), who go into the Amazon Rainforest to film a documentary about cannibal tribes and fail to return.

We follow Prof. Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman) who has been tasked with going into the rainforest to search for the missing film makers. He is helped by the military who take a young indigenous tribesman hostage to help them bargain with the tribes.

During their journey they come across some horrific scenes of cannibalism and butchery of wildlife. After randomly bathing naked, Monroe and his team are taken to the cannibals' place of worship where they have to join in the feast in exchange for getting the remaining film cannisters back from the first group, who they have learned by now are dead and eaten.

Monroe takes the surviving film back to New York where he learns from watching it that Yates and his team were far from nice people and possibly deserving of their horrific fates...

Essentially this film is gross. Gross beyond gross. The number of real animals slaughtered live on camera is just sickening and, considering that is just for the film's benefit, kind of marrs any comment the film was making about documentaries creating situations for effect... One particularly graphic scene involving a monkey's face and a knife I'll never unsee. There is also a lot of torture of women and sexual violence, the iconic skewered woman scene and the slicing of body parts for food. I'm not afraid of gore. I enjoy gore, even. But I like my gore fun and fake.

Really the film is more than just a gross out movie about cannibals, but the style of it was more car crash than intrigue: I couldn't look away but I wasn't enjoying what I was seeing. It's a social commentary about journalistic practice, integrity and ethics. But it's also a shock-film made to make you squirm, and while it is highly successful in doing that, I wouldn't say that I enjoyed it or would put myself through watching it again.

Image: United Artists

Sunday, 5 July 2015

The House that Dripped Blood

"The House that Dripped Blood" (1971, Peter Duffell, Amicus Productions) is a British horror anthology about a cursed house which sees the strange and unusual deaths of its inhabitants. I actually watched it as part of my personal homage to the life and works of Christopher Lee upon his recent passing. But, in true Hani style, I didn't actually get around to writing up the blog post until now!

We follow Inspector Holloway (John Bennett) as he is summoned to solve the disappearance of someone in the house. He goes to the local police station where he is told several tales of the house's strange past and we are taken along for the ride.

Each short is about the house's previous inhabitants. There are 4 shorts in all.

"Method for Murder" starring Denholm Elliot, Joanna Dunham and Tom Adams is about a horror writer who begins to see his new creation stalking him. It's a nicely realised piece with some quite disturbing stealth stalking and an ending very typical of British horror shorts. But in a good way.

"Waxworks" stars the legendary Peter Cushing and Joss Ackland who are both friends who become obsessed with a local waxwork museum's prime attraction: a beautiful murderess who looks like someone they once knew. It was a little slow in the uptake, but had a lovely proper feel to it that made up for that. And who doesn't love a good severed head on a plate?

"Sweets to the sweet" stars the wonderful Christopher Lee as a widower with a young daughter (Chloe Franks) whom he treats very strictly, not even allowing her to play with dolls. The daughter's new home-school teacher (Nyree Dawn Porter) thinks that he is being very unfair and buys the girl a doll.... Big mistake. My favourite of the collection because it went a way I wasn't completely expecting. The young Chloe Franks also did a fantastic job as the creepy child.

"The Cloak" is the final short and stars Jon Pertwee as a horror movie actor/diva, who has moved into the house whilst shooting a vampire film. He sources a strange black cloak from a local antiques and oddities shop ran by Geoffrey Bayldon, only to find that the cloak has special powers. His co-star is the fabulous Ingrid Pitt.

The pieces aren't ground breaking storytelling, but they are all well made, star studded and engaging. The film holds together well as an anthology and keeps the viewer interested.

Images: Amicus Productions


Wednesday, 10 June 2015

It Follows

"It Follows" (2015, David Robert Mitchell, Animal Kingdom, Northern Lights Films, Two Flints) is a smart horror that teaches us a lesson about having sex with people we barely know...

We open with a pretty brutal scene and it is just perfect and really grabs viewer attention.

The hue of the film and the way that scenes are lit is very 70s and early 80s horror retro, the styling and camera work are captivating and the score is an awesome concoction of Halloween-style nostalgia mixed with suspense. Stylistically this film is really attention grabbing and I enjoyed watching it, not due to plot, but for the experience. It was like finding an old film reel in your attic and watching it alone.

The plot is pretty simple. Jay (Maika Monroe) is a college student in Michigan. She enjoys paddling in her outdoor pool and hanging out with her sister and her friends. She's seeing a new guy called Hugh and she doesn't know much, if anything, about him. Jay, of course, doesn't care about that and the two wind up going at it like bunnies in his car on a very strange date.

As it happens, 'Hugh', has actually just given Jay a spooky sexually transmitted disease and now the creepy thing that always follows him is now following her. It's slow moving, can look like anyone and it just wants to kill her. And, in an almost Ring like fashion, the only way to get rid of it is to pass it on to someone else... via sexy, naked fun.

The film is well made and spooky as hell. While there is some quality gore now and again, the main fear comes from the haunting itself, and the feeling of dread is perfectly captured and built upon through the 'demon' as it unhaltingly stalks its prey. It's also a nod to the old horror trope: have sex, get dead.

My only flaw with this film is that the last act takes a while to come to a head. I suppose that this is done purposefully, but I did feel like a lot of running in circles was going on.

But, I have to take my hat off for this film, it is truly a work of horror art and has certainly made its mark in the genre!

[Image: Animal Kingdom, et al]