Thursday, 28 January 2016

Freaks of Nature

"Freaks of Nature" (2015, Robbie Pickering, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures) is a horror comedy set in a town called Dillford where humans, vampires and zombies co-exist together in harmony.... until some aliens show up, that is.

Dillford is famous for riblets... and for having a multicultural society comprised of vampires, humans and zombies. There has never been any issues with each group all cohabiting the town and attending the local high school without issue. It seems that vampire and zombie teens have all the same issues as human teens do (bullying, peer pressure, popularity...etc...).

Suddenly, a horde of aliens appear from outer space and the humans blame the vampires, who blame the humans, and the zombies... well, they're just being zombies... but they're sick of this shit regardless. Brains. Whatever.

The start of the film was surprisingly un-engaging. It set up like any other teen high school film, except with added zombies. The film takes the proverbial out of all the typical classic and modern horror tropes. However, once the aliens show up things do become more interesting and the main 3 characters become more than two dimensional.

I have to hand it to Josh Fadem who gave a pretty awesome performance as whizz kid-turned zombie. His background antics in pretty much every scene he was in was really superb.

Whilst it is very tropey and takes a while to get started, the film plays out quite well with a fair amount of gore and comedy value and co-stars a few fun recognisable faces. It's cheesy but I warmed to it as it unfolded. I had worried that it would end up too messy with all the monster mashing (get it?!) but actually it worked out OK. It's a cheesy horror comedy set in a high school. It does exactly what it says on the tin!

[Image: Sony Pictures]

Monday, 4 January 2016


"Creep" (2014, Patrick Brice, Blumhouse Productions, The Orchard) is a found footage film.

Cameraman for hire, Aaron (Patrick Brice), takes a mysterious job with a guy called Josef (Mark Duplass) for $1,000 for a full day's work. He drives up to a cabin in the woods and meets Josef there. Josef is a strange, uncomfortably overly-familiar man who explains that he is dying from a brain tumour and would like Aaron to help him film a video for his unborn child. Josef is weird, but he seems sincere, and $1,000 is a lot of money for just a little bit of weirdness, so Aaron takes the job.

Josef asks Aaron to film him doing some pretty nutty stuff, but nothing so serious that Aaron runs off. Then Josef insists that Aaron come in for a drink before setting off, you know since they're besties now. Aaron unwillingly agrees and soon finds that Josef is even stranger than he first envisaged. He cannot shake his new friend, the police will not take him seriously and it seems like Josef is getting more and more intense.... But is he truly dangerous? Or just slightly unhinged?

Although slow burning, this found footage film manages to be engaging and uncomfortable to watch. Duplass gives a stellar and unsettling performance as the creepy, compulsive liar and I found myself really feeling for the confused and frightened Aaron. I'm not really a fan of found footage films, but this one does well as it maintains a linear viewpoint and perspective: we don't go jumping from medium to medium.

A surprisingly effective amount of tension is successfully built through the film as Josef becomes more and more creepy. And, despite not being a gory film, it manages to have a chilling and memorable quality.

I also appreciated that this film was centred around masculine characters instead of the old damsel in distress chestnut. I think it really made for a different kind of film than I went in expecting.

[Image: Blumhouse Productions, et al]

Sunday, 3 January 2016


"Unfriended" (2014, Leo Gabriadze, Bazelevs Company, Blumhouse Productions, Universal Pictures) is a modern horror featured around the dangers of the internet and how being an asshole can have a price tag. Or something.

It's been a year since high school student, Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman) committed suicide after being publicly humiliated by a drunken video online. Her friends Blaire (Shelley Hennig), Mitch (Moses Jacob), Adam (Will Peltz), Jess (Renee Olstead), Ken (Jacob Wysocki) and Val (Courtney Halverson) are meeting online for a group Skype conversation when they notice that a random has joined in. Confused, they try to shake them, but it seems like this creeper can't be gotten rid of so easily.

Soon, they begin to each receive random and threatening messages and notice that Laura's Facebook has been hacked and is posting private messages, videos and other weird things. They decide to give up when the random, who they find is using Laura's old Instagram account, chimes in warning them that if they do, one of them will die. Some of their own profiles begin to do strange things too, and a fight is sparked when Jess appears to be sharing humiliating pictures of Val at a party.

One by one, each person is forced to reveal horrific secrets they've been keeping that make my "rebellious" teenage years look really, really tame. As the friendships die, so do some of the friends in apparent suicides.... But why?

It's a good premise and it's executed as well as it can be. There's a lot of reading involved and it must have been a damned cheap film to make. The scares will really only suffice for a younger generation and computer literate audience. Essentially, we're just sat watching over someone's shoulder (Blaire's) looking at her screen while the events unfold. We're also talking the usual pretty laggy Skype video quality we all know and love...

So, whilst I commend it for being about a pretty tricky subject (cyber bullying) and for having a good, modern gimmick, it does suffer for being a touch too gimmicky. We could have done with less friends to watch die for a start, since the death scenes have such little payout. Really the film could have been a bit shorter and still packed a punch. However, I enjoyed the mystery of it all and watching it all unfold. And it's always funny to watch people argue and get called out for lies and bad behaviour. There's also a lesson in here for being a nice person... and not posting mortifying videos of your mates at their worst.

Really, these guys were just the worst kind of people. Wow.

Some of the deaths are pretty impressively captured, despite the medium used. It's not the kind of film you can watch again and again, but I have to say it surpassed my expectations quite well.

[Image: Universal Pictures, et al]