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]