Friday, 21 April 2017

The Institute

"The Institute" (2017, James Franco, Pamela Romanowsky, Jeff Rice Films, Redwire Pictures, Campbell Grobman Films, Dark Rabbit Productions) is a period horror set in The Rosewood Institute; a real life place in Baltimore which was closed in the 90s.

A grief stricken well-to-do girl called Isobel (Allie Galerani) checks herself into the institute in order to get over her parents' death. She is subjected to torturous "treatments" at the hands of Dr. Cairn (James Franco) and his staff.

A dull and arduous movie that takes a long time to get going and then doesn't deliver anything worthwhile. The acting is tedious and the plot is over-trodden tropes that have been done better elsewhere. The story waivers between wanting to be psychological and wanting to be supernatural and the draw for our leading lady to wish to stay at the institute is very weak.The horror elements fall straight into the sexploitation category and don't manage to make much more of it than re-tread ground already done rather effectively in the 60s and 70s.

All in all the only thing I enjoyed about this film was the slide at the end of the credits where I learned that Rosewood was a real place and that led me down a short rabbit hole about the place's history. And guess what, it was nowhere near as interesting as the film hinted at.

[Image: Dark Rabbit Productions, et al]


Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Bye Bye Man

"The Bye Bye Man" (2017, Stacy Title, Huayi Brothers Pictures, Intrepid Pictures, Log Angeles Media Fund, STX Entertainment) is a supernatural horror set in a house rented by some American college students.

The film enjoys an exciting and brutal opening where a man toting a shotgun goes around slaughtering his neighbours whilst repeating "Don't think it. Don't say it" and demanding to know if his victims have said "his name". We then shift to present day where three students, Elliot (Douglas Smith), John (Lucien Laviscount) and Sasha (Cressida Bonas), are moving into the house where most of the murders took place 40-odd years ago. The group find all the furniture in the basement (this scene felt like it was going to take a "Cabin in the Woods" turn) including a bedside table with writing scratched into it saying "Bye Bye Man". The table also keeps producing weird old coins.

The group have a party which results in a seance where they basically blurt out the boogeyman's name, releasing him upon themselves. We then spend the rest of the movie watching the group try not to murder each other, while being pursued by the dark, mysterious figure.

There's a whole lot of hate in internet-land for this movie, and I don't feel it deserves it completely. The acting is fine, the characters are developed enough and the setting is spot on.

There's a somewhat weak cop plot line involving Carrie-Anne Moss which could have been more effective, but all in all the movie is just your average, unimaginative teen horror fodder. And that's OK! Movies age, and as an ex-teen horror fiend myself, having more up to date teen horror movies helped introduce me to the genre and then the classics (where I learned that there is much more to horror than a Scream mask). The genre needs these light, silly horrors as much as it needs challenging, mind bending ground-breakers. And, in comparison to some other horrors I've sat through recently, "The Bye Bye Man" is far from the worst. There are a few effective scenes with tiny doors, shadows and dressing gowns (although that last one gets seriously overused). I'd say the effects are familiar and tropey, but have a kind of safe, fun jump-scare charm. Like a horror film with training wheels.

Now, that's not to say it's not got some glaringly obvious flaws. The first, of course, is the title. It's awful. I'm sure they were going for "nursery rhyme horror chic", but what we ended up with is just a crap title for a bad guy. Which leads me on to the Bye Bye Man himself; this character is portrayed by the great Doug Jones. Jones is someone you'll recognise from Hellboy, Buffy, Pan's Labyrinth, Hocus Pocus (to name but a few) and he's a talented, respected character and creature actor. The real tragedy is that he was not utilised nearly enough in "The Bye Bye Man". The character design is dull and tropey and we barely get to see Jones actually do anything in this film. So many missed opportunities!

All in all, this movie does not deserve the ribbing it's getting. It's a bit of a cheesy, throwaway modern horror film that will end up in the 'sleepover horror' box, but it's certainly not the worst attempt I've seen even this year.

[Image: Intrepid Pictures, et al]

Monday, 17 April 2017

The Eyes of my Mother

"The Eyes of my Mother" (2016, Nicolas Pesce, Borderline Presents, Tandem Pictures, Magnet Releasing) is a black and white horror drama about trauma.

Francisca's mother (Diana Agostini), an ex-surgeon from Portugal, teaches the young girl (Olivia Bond) about anatomy. One day, a creepy stranger (Will Brill) asks to use the family's bathroom. Against her instincts, Francisca's mother lets the man into the house, where he brutally murders her. Francisca's father (Paul Nazak) comes home and beats the murderer bloody before dumping him in the barn - An event that the murderous intruder will live to deeply regret. Francisca (Kika Magalhães) grows into a disturbed young woman, with an unusual fascination with death...

A slow burning film punctuated with disturbing scenes of suggested  mutilation and gruesome ideas. Francisca is a lonely girl, who's young experiences with horror have left her broken and unfeeling. There's a lot of unsettling content in this film.

Despite this and despite Magalhães' engaging performance as the main role, the film does suffer from being so slow and quiet, however, its bat-shit, mental content makes up for this in abundance. A truly awful vision.

[Image: Magnet Releasing, et al}

Monday, 10 April 2017

The Void (2016)

"The Void" (2016, Steven Kostanski, Jeremy Gillespie, Cave Painting Pictures, Astron-6) is a Canadian monster movie set in a small town's hospital at night.

We open to an exciting and horrific scene where a man called James (Evan Stern) flees a house while two other men, Vincent (Daniel Fathers) and Simon (Mik Byskov), kill a screaming woman. James is later found by local Deputy, Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole), who takes him to the nearby hospital.

James turns hysterical upon entering the hospital and is sedated by Dr. Powell (Kenneth Welsh). Soon Vincent and Simon appear hunting James. They are closely followed by a Marshall (Art Hindle) and a group of strangely garbed cultists brandishing knives. Aside from being surrounded by creepy, hooded figures, the group are terrified to find that some of them are becoming less than human...

I really wanted to like this movie. The marketing had made it look like an updated answer to Carpenter's "The Thing", but unfortunately, the reality was nowhere near as comprehensive.

The initial build up is excellent: dark, atmospheric and brutal. There's enough going on to get you involved as a viewer, and the characters have just enough screen time to establish their personalities before the real horror begins. The effects are really fun and the action moves... Until it doesn't.

Around the third-way mark we move away from Carpenter and into Clive Barker terrirtory where the plot takes a sudden "Hellraiser"-esque turn and things become bogged down in trying to be artistic and weird instead of scary and weird. Although there is an enveloping theme established, it felt like there had been two concepts and the directors decided to try merging both with disjointed results.

While I commend the technical aspects of the film and the creatures, the story-telling really let it down and we ended up with a muddy, bloody mess that isn't sure if it wants to be a Lovecraftian epic or a gritty, 80s gorefest. With a bit more of a decisive direction, however, the Astron-6 guys will undoubtedly bring us some really great stuff.

[Image: Cave Painting Pictures]

Sunday, 9 April 2017

House IV

"House IV" (1992, Lewis Abernathy, New Line Cinema) is the third sequel to 1986's "House"... Kind of. Although it sees the return of lead character, Roger Cobb (William Katt), to the houseit has very little to do with any of the original films, not even the humorously irreverent "House 2". And I know, I know, "House III" is not really a true sequel à la "Halloween 3: Season of the Witch".

Roger Cobb has a new family now. He, his wife, Kelly (Terri Treas), and their daughter, Laurel (Melissa Clayton), have moved into the Cobb house. You know, the house that attacked Roger in the first film?! Genius move, Roger.

Roger's half brother, Burke (Scott Burkholder), is keen to take the house off of Roger's hands in order to sell it to some gangsters for storing toxic waste, but Roger won't sell. It seems that things will change when Roger and his family suffer a horrific car accident. But Burke will have Kelly to deal with, not to mention the spooky inhabitants of the house itself who are unlikely to like Burke's plan.

A straight-to-VHS film that really feels it. Hokey, silly, and chalk-full of tropes (*cough* bathrooms!). The film is neither funny like the second entry, or scary like the first and the plot just keeps hammering the same things (lone mother being haunted/hounded by evil brother-in-law) over and over again until we reach the finale.

Really a bit of a disappointing end to the series.

[Image: New Line Cinema]
Kelly did not order anchovies on her pizza!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

A Cure for Wellness

"A Cure for Wellness" (2016, Gore Verbinski, Regency Enterprises, Blind Wink Productions, New Regency Productions, 20th Century Fox) is a psychological horror set in a luxury spa in the Swiss Alps.

An NYC financial firm sends a keen, young executive called Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) to a secluded spa to retrieve the firm's CEO, Pembroke (Harry Groener), in order to coordinate a merger. They also have some dodgy dealings to pin on someone, and if Pembroke won't be the man to go down, Lockhart will do.

Lockhart arrives at the spa to find that the staff will not let him see Pembroke. During his return to the village to decide what to do, his taxi has a horrific accident and he awakes to find that he has broken his leg and is 'recovering' at the spa himself. As he familiarises himself with his surroundings he becomes suspicious that there is something much more sinister going on than just outlandish treatments. He also meets a young girl called Hannah (Mia Goth), who has lived at the spa all of her life. Lockhart decides to dig deeper, but how long can he resist before he becomes just another of the sinister Dr. Volmer's (Jason Isaacs) patients?

A creepy, slow moving film with some action and a lot of unsettling scenes involving slimy eels. It's a sly plot with some plot-holes which dislodge the viewer slightly, but on the whole an intriguing and gruesomely distasteful concept.

The setting and styling have a familiar, old-fashioned vibe; "The Phantom of the Opera" meets "Dracula" but with a few elements of "Saw" chucked in there. The film is beautifully shot and the more disturbing scenes are truly imaginative and uncomfortable. However, the film felt overall too long, and the dreamlike quality of the storytelling made it feel longer still. There was certainly an element of style over substance, and the ending didn't fit with the rest of the build up and felt hokey and out of place.

Despite its shortcomings, the film is successfully interesting.

[Image: 20th Century Fox, et al]

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Masque of the Red Death

"Masque of the Red Death" (1964, Roger Corman, Alta Vista Productions) is the film version of Edgar Allan Poe's story of the same name.

Prince Prospero (Vincent Price) terrorises a plague-ridden, medieval Italian village whilst holding lavish parties in his castle home with the local, desperate but disillusioned gentry and a young, red-headed village maiden named Francesca (Jane Asher) whom he is holding captive.

The film boasts a macabre, spiteful and gleefully malicious prince in the form of Vincent Price, but we are also treated to a devious, dwarf court entertainer named Hop-Toad (Skip Martin) who likes his revenge served searing hot, a surprisingly strong female lead and two heroes, Francesca's lover, Gino (David Weston), and her father, Ludovico (Nigel Green). Ever present also, is The Red Death (John Westbrook), for you see death comes in all colours!

The Masque was to be one of Corman's most faithful Poe adaptations, and gladly so as the story is so outlandish and fun that there was little need to change it. The sets, costumes and colours are fabulous and lavish; well suited to the tale.

The gothic surroundings, debauched party atmosphere and the final lesson: that death does not discriminate, come together as a fun and characteristically cheesy horror tale.

[Image: Alta Vista Productions]

Daughter of Dr Jekyll

"Daughter of Dr Jekyll" (1957, Edgar G. Ulmer, Film Venturers, Allied Artists) is a low-budget, black and white horror.

Janet (Gloria Talbott) returns to her childhood home with her fiancé, George Hastings (John Agar), to celebrate her 21st birthday and to inform her friend and father figure, Dr. Lomas (Arthur Shields), of she and George's engagement. Upon returning, Janet learns that she is actually the daughter of the infamous Dr. Jekyll and she becomes concerned that she may also suffer from her father's monstrous affliction. However, all may not be as it seems!

A slow moving film which takes it's time to get to the point, but once there is quite entertaining. The setting is a big mansion in the woods surrounded by a small town of superstitious people who are quick to start an angry mob; it feels like most other horror films from the era. And although the scripting is a little clunky in places and the fight and transformation scenes do not compare to other, larger budget films of the era, I did enjoy the overall plot-line.

A film about a young girl's struggle for identity, masquerading as a cheesy monster movie. It's the kind of late night cheese-fest that hits the spot on a dark and stormy night.

[Image: Allied Artists]


Friday, 31 March 2017

Split (2016)

"Split" (2016, M. Night Shyamalan, Blinding Edge Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, Universal Pictures) is a psychological horror. Not to be confused with either the bowling movie, or the short horror film from 2014 of the same name.

Three teenage girls are kidnapped by a man called Kevin (James McAvoy) who has been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, or split personalities. He has 23 personalities in total. Whilst only some of his personalities actively want to harm the girls, none of them are inclined to help them, fearing rebuke from Dennis; the dominant personality and head kidnapper.

McAvoy delivers such a wealth of talent in this film. Although he is not given opportunity to show all 23 personalities, the ones he does portray on-screen are expertly delivered, very different and so very sinister. It's enough on its own simply to watch him switch between characters and costumes with ease.

The acting from all characters is pretty solid, the main failing for me of this film was the story telling itself. M. Night Shyamalan films can be hit or miss for me. In the main his ideas are excellent concepts, but his twists and turns often feel a little forced and last minute. For me, Split also suffered from this aspect. An excellently quiet, sinister build up suddenly spiralled into a bit of a mess in the pursuit of a twist.

However, overall the film was intriguing enough to engage my attention and the superb acting from McAvoy really keeps you guessing.

[Image: Blumhouse Productions, et al]

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Kong: Skull Island

"Kong: Skull Island" (2017, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, Legendary Pictures, Tencent Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures) is a monster movie about the infamous giant ape, King Kong. It is a reboot of the legendary King Kong franchise. However, this time the story is not a carbon copy of the original, instead re-imagining Kong's origin tale.

A group of scientists and Vietnam war soldiers travel to an uncharted island to face the legendary beast and a host of other gigantic killing machines. Can they make it back off of the island alive?

A glossy blockbuster with lots of explosions, murderous CGI beasties and angry humans. Although the film is undeniably entertaining, it lacks some of the class of the old-time monster movies. There's a subtle hint to Kong's affection for kind-hearted female humans, but without the dramatic, heartbreaking familiar storyline, most of our drama is human-centric. In the main, the action is relatively repetitive and the real hero, Kong himself, actually sees very little screentime.

A blockbuster with a B-movie vibe that should be great, but feels misplaced. However, the success of the creature design bodes well for the impending face-off between Kong and Godzilla.

[Image: Legendary Pictures]

Friday, 17 March 2017

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again" (2016, Kenny Ortega, Fox 21 Television Studios, Ode Sound & Visuals, The Jackal Group) is the tribute to Richard O'Brien's 1975 cult masterpiece homage to sci-fi cinema, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The bulk of the movie is a scene for scene remake of the original but there's additional wrap-around scenes involving a cinema full of Rocky Horror movie-goers and we get some screen time from The Usherette (Ivy Levan) who was present only in the stage production of the original and not present in the 1975 film. She's a good addition, looking pretty awesome in her kick ass outfit, and keeping the rabble of cinema goers in check... Kind of. The wrap-around plot also brings in some of the traditional audience participation aspects which surround live viewings and stage productions of the cult classic.

We follow Brad Majors (Ryan McCartan) and his new fiancé, Janet Weiss (Victoria Justice), on a road trip which leads them to the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Laverne Cox) when their car breaks down. Upon admission to the castle by the handyman, Riff Raff (Reeve Carney), they discover that the inhabitants of this home are not normal. From Magenta the maid (Christina Milian) to Columbia the groupie (Annaleigh Ashford), everyone is a touch insane and Frank is not keen to let the couple leave. But when they do leave, will they ever feel the same?

As well as the audience wrap-around, which I appreciated, the film does have some good points. Victoria Justice's rendition of Janet is very close to Susan Sarandon's original film version. Her singing style is absolutely pitch perfect. Reeve Carney's rendition of Riff Raff is also very similar to Richard O'Brien's vision - except for that wig! Adam Lambert also does a really good job of playing Eddie, and although his part is short, it was a good few scenes. Ben Vereen also updates the character of Dr. Everett von Scott.

Our title character, Rocky (Staz Nair), looks amazing in his little gold boxers, and Laverne Cox gives an excellent portrayal of Frank-N-Furter with a sexual flare that is both very different to Tim Curry's iconic rendition and also similar in its power. My only main bicker with this character is that I feel that not having stockings and suspenders on kind of takes away from Frank's style.

Having Tim Curry himself play the narrator was also very moving.

Now to the flaws; Mr. Director, Ortega, is from High School Musical fame and you can tell. This feels like a shiny penny of a production and it kind of robs some of the soul away that the original and the stage productions enjoy. It's overly produced and the costumes look like costumes, not what the characters happen to be wearing. Magenta's outfit in particular looked way too pristine. However, I liked her hair!

Having all the songs the same is, of course, a must for Rocky. It's all about the music! But I feel like updating the story to modern day might have been a good twist making this remake seem a little more worthwhile.

All in all, it's not a terrible movie, but it feels like a shiny TV homage more than an update of the classic. I doubt there will be many die hard fans of this version in years to come and it might slink into obscurity.

[Image: Fox Television Studios, et al]

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

What ever happened to Baby Jane?

"What ever happened to Baby Jane?" (1962, Robert Aldrich, Seven Arts Productions, Warner Bros. Pictures) is a psychological horror film about two ageing actress sisters. The film is based on a 1960 novel of the same name by Henry Farrell and stars the famously feuding Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

To be honest my sudden compulsion to re-watch this famous flick was inspired by the first part of the episodic docudrama "Feud: Bette and Joan" (2017) starring Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange, which is very entertaining and definitely worth watching!

"Baby" Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) is an ex-child star who, after casting a shadow over her sister's childhood due to her booming stage career, later found that her own adult acting career was then overshadowed by her elder sister, Blanche (Joan Crawford). Having turned to drink to drown her sorrows, Jane is suspected to have caused the car accident which paralysed Blanche.

Years later, it is evident that Jane's mental state is not good, and as sole carer for Blanche she has the power to hold her captive, away from the world. All attempts from outsiders to intervene are halted by an angry and devious Jane and eventually drive her to becoming more and more erratic and dangerous in her attempts to live out her delusional plan of becoming America's sweetheart once again.

A fascinating study on the feelings that lost popularity and fame can have, and on the breakdown in the mind of someone who cannot move on with their lives. Jane's father drove her to stardom, but didn't provide her with any sense of longevity; her career would always end when she grew older. Her jealousy of Blanche is the exact reflection of Blanche's own feelings of jealousy and resentment which she had as the 'unfamous' child.

Both sisters are fabulously portrayed with relish by Davis and Crawford, helped along by their own off-screen dislike for one another. Jane's spiralling mental state and heart-breaking delusion are almost difficult to watch. A particularly chilling scene where she is singing in the mirror and then catches a glimpse of her aged face is really aweing. Blanche's quiet desperation and helplessness builds the sense of dread to match the madness of her sister.

The film enjoys a tense and exciting ending with some revelations and last pieces of both character puzzles falling into place. A genuine classic that will continue to be discovered by new audiences as time goes on.

[Image: Warner Bros. Pictures]

Sunday, 12 March 2017

The Night Watchmen

"The Night Watchmen" (2017, Mitchell Altieri, Contender Films, Indie Entertainment, Studio BOH) is about a vampire outbreak in an office block all started by the miss-delivered corpse of a famous clown....

Ken (Ken Arnold), Jiggetts (Kevin Jiggetts) and Luca (Dan DeLuca) are night security guards for a large office block. They are joined by a new rookie (Max Gray Wilbur) for his first day on the job.

Aside from oogling Karen (Kara Luiz) on the monitors and consistently forgetting to acknowledge Penny (Diona Reasonover), the guys' job seems to pretty much consist of playing cards and eating. That is, until they receive the unusual delivery of a coffin by mistake containing a deceased, famous clown. Unfortunately, the dead clown doesn't stay that way for long and swiftly fills the building with a horde of ferocious vampires!

An epic battle ensues, but can our unlikely heroes actually save the day?

A fun film with a so-bad-it's-good vibe that really hits the mark. The banter between the characters, who were surprisingly well-rounded considering the genre, is entertaining and the action is gory, silly and well paced. The film is a perfect party movie, not overstaying its welcome and containing angry, zombie-esque vampire clowns.

Definitely worth a shot.

[Image: Contender Films, et al]

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Ghost Ship (2002)

"Ghost Ship" (2002, Steve Beck, Dark Castle Entertainment, Village Roadshow Pictures, Warner Bros.) is a film about a haunted cruise liner.

The opening scene to this film is a really fun bit of carnage. I had seen a short clip of it on You Tube that essentially drove me to hunt down this film. The scene might be a little against the laws of physics, but it's fun regardless.

We follow a salvage crew (Gabriel Byrne, Julianna Marguilles, Isaiah Washington, Ron Eldard, Karl Urban and Alex Dimitriades) on their tug boat as they hunt down a bounty that was brought to their attention by a stranger in a bar (Desmond Harrington). When they come across the abandoned cruise liner in international waters they think their dreams have been answered, especially when they go aboard and find everything left as it was. By maritime law that would mean that it is rightfully theirs. However, they are unnerved to find that there are no traces of people left on board. They find out that the cruise liner disappeared in the 60's and there were no survivors.... Deciding it might be best to leave, the team attempt to escape, but a presence on the ship has other plans for them,,,

A very early 2000s film with a soundtrack seemingly composed entirely of Mudvayne (not a complaint but it felt very odd with the setting). The action is hokey with all the usual haunted house tropes and, aside from the initial scene, the film doesn't offer anything new to the genre. It's difficult to set a period horror in a ballroom without accidentally ripping off The Shining. And Ghost Ship also doesn't manage to avoid this, with several overly reminiscent scenes. But it's not awful. It's silly and a bit predictable, but the characters are more rounded than I anticipated and sometimes a bit of the familiar isn't a negative.

Frankly, I've seen much worse films. At least this one had a few fun scenes and a plot that kept moving. It's not a groundbreaking piece of cinema, but it's definitely a film I would have added to my high school horror collection back in the day.

[Image: Dark Castle Entertainment]

Monday, 20 February 2017

Shut In

"Shut In" (2016, Farren Blackburn, Transfilm International, Lava Bear Films, Canal+, Ocs, Cine+, Europa Corp) is a psychological thriller.

Mary (Naomi Watts) is a widowed child psychologist who lives and works in her secluded home with her 18 year old stepson, Stephen (Charlie Heaton), who has been left catatonic after the road accident that killed his father. During a snowstorm that renders them trapped in their home, Mary becomes concerned that she's either losing her mind, or that her home is haunted.

A slow burning film. The plot is pretty simple with a couple of twists and turns to try and flesh it out. The setting is effective, but the characters are a little rough and not entirely realistic, with the exception of our protagonist, Mary. Although, I find it difficult to believe a psychologist would miss some of the things that Mary misses...

On the whole, the film is pretty slow to get going and the premise is a little too 'out there' to give the slow build-up much of a payoff. Naomi Watts gives an excellent performance, essentially carrying the movie along, but the film has a hollow feeling that makes it feel a little... off.

[Image: Lava Bear Films, et al]


Sunday, 19 February 2017


"Rings" (2017, F. Javier Gutiérrez, Parkes/MacDonald, BenderSpink, Marci/Edelstein, Vertigo Entertainment, Waddieish Claretrap, Paramount Pictures) is the third movie in the American "The Ring" franchise.

Since the happenings of the first two films, Samara (Bonnie Morgan) has taken her haunting ways from the VHS world into the digital world with the help of Gabriel Brown (Johnny Galecki) and his AV club.

This is unfortunate for Julia (Matilda Lutz), who's boyfriend, Holt (Alex Roe), is in the AV Club. In her bid to save him from Samara's gruesome curse, she jumps down the rabbit hole of Samara's past, finding more than she anticipated...

A pretty typical horror sequel with some pretty typical horror sequel pitfalls:

Firstly, retreading old ground - why does every Ring movie have to focus on Samara's origin story? We've established that she will stop at nothing, why can't we just enjoy her brutal, endless pursuit of the curious without having to find her motivation?

Secondly, our ghoulish villainess sees so little screen time. One of the best things about "The Ring" is Samara, just as the best thing about the original Japanese version is Sadako. The unsettling movements she makes, the way she pursues her prey... Her overall aesthetic.... the hair. Both antagonists are the stuff of nightmares, and "Rings" barely makes use of her. Sometimes less is more, but it felt like Samara was barely chasing anyone after the first 30 minutes.

There are good points, too, however. There is one good entrance through a face-down TV, however, that I enjoyed. I like Johnny Galecki's morally questionable lecturer character, and the both Julia and Holt were actually pretty likeable.

Not a terrible film, just a little pointless.

[Image: Vertigo Entertainment, et al]


Friday, 17 February 2017

Twins of Evil

"Twins of Evil" (1971, John Hough, Rank Organisation, Universal Pictures, Hammer Film Productions) is actually the second sequel to "The Vampire Lovers" (1970) and the third film in the Karnstein trilogy, based loosely on "Carmilla" by J. Sheridan Le Fanu.

Identical twins, Maria and Frieda (former Playboy playmates, Mary and Madeleine Collinson respectively) arrive in Karnstein from Venice to live with their uncle, Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing), after the death of their parents. They are surprised to find that their uncle is a puritan witch hunter who leads a cult of fanatical witch finders who prey on the town's women, burning them in the name of god. Frieda in particular takes a severe dislike to Gustav and becomes fascinated by Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), who enjoys a risque reputation.

Things become complicated, however, when Frieda becomes more entrenched into the darker side of Count Karnstein, much to her sister's horror.

 A schlocky film from Hammer with some well trodden, but no less fun. tropes and some opportunities for the leading ladies to show flaunt around in pretty period outfits. Although cheesy, the film is quite original and the plot spotlights evil from two different angles; the judgemental puritans, burning innocent people to sate their holy bloodlust and the unclean vampires with their own, more literal blood lust.

Peter Cushing plays the villain with a scary coldness that brings some ominous presence to the film. And Damien Thomas' villainous vampire is devious and horny, a scary mix.

Definitely a worthwhile entry from Hammer's latter films, and while flawed, a good bit of fun.

[Image: Hammer Film Productions]

Monday, 13 February 2017

The Brides of Dracula

"The Brides of Dracula" (1960, Terence Fisher, Hammer Film Productions, Universal-International) is a Hammer Horror sequel to "Dracula" (1958) although it does not feature the prince of darkness himself.

Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur) is a young, French teacher on her way through the Transylvanian countryside to take up a job. She is abandoned by her coach driver and is invited to take refuge for the night at a large, impressive castle by an elderly noblewoman called Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt). Of course, the Baroness has devious plans for young Marianne...

At the castle Marianne happens across the Baroness' handsome son, the Baron (David Peel), whom she sees is chained up. The Baroness and her servant, Greta (Freda Jackson), inform her to take no heed of the young Baron; he is insane. Having taken pity on the Baron, however, Marianne frees him of his shackles before fleeing. Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) arrives, having been called due to the suspicious death of a young lady on the first night of the Baron's freedom. But can he stop the villainous vampire before he claims every fair maiden in the village in his quest to create an army of sultry, vampire vixens!

A very typical Hammer Horror production with wonderful sets, some cheesiness and beautiful 60s colour cinematography. While we lack Christopher Lee's ominous presence as Dracula, Peter Cushing brings a touch of class to the production with his effortless style and presence. The vampires enjoy some extra skills that Dracula himself did not get to enjoy and we get to see some lady vampires rise from their graves.

[Image: Hammer Film Productions]

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Don't Knock Twice

"Don't Knock Twice" (2017, Caradog W. James, Red & Black Films) is a haunted house / urban legend movie.

Chloe (Lucy Boynton) is a teenager who is grudgingly giving her estranged, recovering addict, mother, Jess (Katee Sackhoff), a second chance. She is also fool enough to have knocked twice on the door of a house rumoured to be haunted by a vengeful ghost. And now she's scared.

This film doesn't deliver much in the way of anything new. The jump scares are hokey and a little silly and the build up between scenes is somewhat tedious with the friction between the two main characters feeling forced. The resulting film feels a bit stale as we visit old ground, with not very much to differentiate itself from others in the genre.

[Image: Red & Black Films]

Monday, 6 February 2017

The Love Witch

"The Love Witch" (2016, Anna Biller, Oscilloscope Laboratories) is an homage to the 60s technicolor era.

Elaine (Samantha Robinson) is a beautiful young witch turned femme fatale, who uses witchcraft in her bid to find a lover. Unfortunately, her charms and potions never quite strike the balance leaving a trail of lovesick corpses in her wake...

A beautifully crafted film that merges the style, fashions and feel of the 60s era films with a more modern setting. The film also enjoys the randomness of 60s horror with a ridiculous plot and set of characters. The colour palette is very pleasing to the eye. Stylistically this film is outstanding.

Elaine is used as a metaphor for womanhood and man's fear of the powerful woman, but conversely, Elaine is also a weak character; completely narcissistic, self involved and obsessed with finding someone to fawn over her. Her sudden disinterest in any man she wins over and her ongoing thirst for more affection  drives her to enchant and enslave more and more men. But it's a thirst that may never be sated...

Although the plot veers a little too into the obscure style of technicolor/pulp era with a large diversion to a medieval fayre and with a run-time of 120 minutes the shlockiness and purposefully stilted acting do begin to outstay their welcome. However, the style and humour make up for any short comings, and the film overall creates a very memorable impact.

Definitely something different to try this Valentine's Day.

[Image: Oscilloscope Laboratories]

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Bone Tomahawk

"Bone Tomahawk" (2015, S. Craig Zahler, Caliber Media Company, RLJ Entertainment) is an American horror Western movie featuring two actors I admire greatly; Kurt Russell and Sid Haig.

Set in the 1890s, we follow a group of men, lead by Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell), as they attempt to save two of their townsfolk who have been kidnapped by a brutal, cannibal troglodyte clan.

A gritty hybrid horror which begins as a pretty traditional seeming Western film but eventually delves into some truly disturbing and creative horror gruesomeness. The cast give a stellar performance making each character rounded. The dialogue is good and the film keeps an excellent pace.

Despite the outlandishness of the story and its almost supernatural villains, the film plays out so confidently that it all seems perfectly reasonable and realistic at the time. Kurt Russell cuts a fine image as a strong sheriff with some great facial hair, In fact the whole cast is perfectly suited to their roles.

A genre blending piece which is both entertaining and shocking, "Bone Tomahawk" is a really excellent piece of cinema.

[Image: RLJ Entertainment, et al]


Friday, 27 January 2017

Most Likely To Die

"Most Likely To Die" (2015, Anthony DiBlasi, Snowfall Films, Marvista Entertainment) is a slasher movie about a high school reunion gone wrong.

A group of friends arrange a party the night before their 10-year high school reunion. They soon realise that they're being picked off one by one by a slasher-killer wearing a graduation outfit. Each of them meets their fate in a way related to what they were voted "most likely to..." in their high school year book. The friends begin to suspect that the killer may be a guy who they played a terrible prank on in senior year, resulting in ruining his life... But, how could it be, when they were sure he was dead?

The film has a very 90s feel to it, despite being made in 2015. However, its predictable nature and style wears a bit thin after a while and it become less charming and more formulaic. The characters are very disposable and 2-dimensional, so there's very little emotion invested in their untimely deaths.

All in all, it has a made-for-tv quality that puts it firmly into the teenage-sleepover-party movie box.

[Image: Snowfall Films, Marvista Entertainment]

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Sadako vs Kayako

"Sadako vs Kayako" (2016, Kōji Shiraishi, Kadokawa Daiei, NBC Universal Entertainment Japan) is a crossover of the Ring and Ju-On series. The film actually began life as an April Fools' Joke, but was actually turned into a real feature length film after having a good reception.

When college students, Yuri (Mizuki Yamamoto) and Natsumi (Aimi Satsukawa), come across the cursed video tape they had learned about in class they unwittingly watch it, releasing the curse of the forever creepy and forever vengeful Sadako (Elly Nanami).

In another part of town high school student, Suzuka (Tina Tamashiro), moves in next door to the infamous Saeki house and begins to notice creepy things. After unwittingly following some young trespassers into the house she becomes 'grudged' by the ghosts of Kayako (Runa Endo) and Toshio (Rintaro Shibamoto).

The girls' seek to rid themselves of their respective curses, with the help of psychic, Keizō (Masanobu Ando) and his associate; brutally honest, blind, psychic girl, Tamao (Mai Kikuchi). The psychic team decide to try to pit the ghouls against one another in a bid to end both curses forever!

While the film is a little cheesy, busy and definitely favours Sadako's screentime over her rival, Kayako, it works well as a crossover due to its fun characters and humorous fight scenes. There are still some eerie scenes reminiscent of both franchises' roots, but also some comedy in there that oddly works with the offbeat, and somewhat ridiculous plot. I also enjoyed Keizō and Tamao's extremely random repartee.

The film is oddly charming and, like all crossovers, has a strange fanfiction-like atmosphere.

[Image: Kadokawa Daiei)

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Train to Busan

"Train to Busan" (2016, Yeon Sang-ho, Next Entertainment World, RedPeter Film) is a South Korean zombie apocalypse film set on a busy train from Seoul bound for Busan.

Seok-Woo (Gong Yoo) is a divorced business man who lives in Seoul with his lonely daughter, Su-an (Kim Su-an) and his mother. For Su-an's birthday all she wants is to visit her mother in Busan. A wish that workaholic Seok-Woo decides to grant. He boards a train with his daughter bound for Busan, planning to drop her off and return to work as soon as possible. However, when an infected woman also boards the busy train and becomes a zombie, quickly infecting most of the passengers, the journey becomes a desperate trial to survive and reach Busan in one piece.

Together with fellow passengers; Sang-hwa (Ma Dong-seok) and his pregnant wife, Seong-kyeong (Jung Yu-mi), a high school baseball team, two elderly sisters, an arrogant rich man called Yon-suk (Kim Eui-sung), an elderly homeless man (Choi Gwi-hwa) and the train driver, they attempt to reach safety whilst battling with a fast moving army of seemingly impenetrable zombies.

A fast paced, action packed horror with very little over-the-top gore (for a zombie film), but lots of fun stunts and zombie battles to keep you occupied. The story isn't clever, nor is it trying to be. It's a simple, zombie adventure and a lesson in not being a selfish asshat. The plot delivers some tender moments followed by thrilling zombie chase scenes and exciting action. A truly good movie for the genre and something that a lot of modern Western zombie movies are failing to deliver: scary zombies.

[Image: Next Entertainment World]


Tuesday, 10 January 2017


"Flatliners" (1990, Joel Schumacher, Columbia Pictures, Stonebridge Entertainment) is a sci-fi horror about the dangers of fooling around with the afterlife.

Medical student, Nelson (Kiefer Sutherland), has a theory he wants to prove: he wants to die and then brought back under controlled conditions to prove that there is something beyond death. He convinces fellow students; Rachel (Julia Roberts), Dave (Kevin Bacon), Joe (William Baldwin) and Randy (Oliver Platt) to help him achieve this experiment. When the experiment turns out to be successful, each of Nelson's associates are keen to have their own turn to see beyond the veil. However, Nelson has withheld some disturbing information about the aftereffects of his discovery: he did not come back from the netherworld alone...

A really excellent film that enjoys an amazing cast and a really striking style which has been mimicked by many films since. Abstract, inventive and entertaining this film enjoys a deserved cult status and it's cast went on to achieve great things in their own right. The only negative plot point would be the repetitiveness of the story. We do eventually go through the motions after the first couple of characters flatline.

A fun bit of sci-fi that has aged well.

[Image: Stonebridge Entertainment]


Sunday, 8 January 2017

Shock 'em Dead

"Shock 'em Dead" aka "Rock 'em Dead" (1991, Mark Freed, Noma, Academy Entertainment) is a direct-to-VHS horror film about rock 'n' roll and voodoo.

Martin (Stephen Quadros) is a loser who can't play guitar no matter how hard he practices. He's working in a pizza shop, but aspires to join a local up-and-coming rock band. After quitting his job and having a disastrously bad audition, Martin sells his soul to the local voodoo lady in order to become a successful rock legend.

Martin transforms into Angel; a guitar god with a mansion, hot tub and sexy groupies. Unfortunately, however, losing his soul comes with a new hunger that needs to be satisfied and he needs to feed....

Can he make it in the world of rock? Can he win the heart of Lindsay (Traci Lords), the band's sexy manager? Can he get rid of that terrible lead singer? It's so exciting...

I put this film in the so-bad-it's-good category: it's hammy as hell, there's a lot of gratuitous boob flashing and the 'music' is terrible. Angel appears to develop unworldly guitar skills that just add to the ridiculous appeal of this daft bit of B-movie cinema.

So, the main lesson to be learned from this film is that soulless Martin is just as big an idiot as nerdy Martin. If you're given godly guitar powers and an almighty makeover, and essentially the world of awesome at your fingertips.... don't waste it by setting your sights so low. Numpty.

[Image: Noma, et al]


Thursday, 5 January 2017

Manhattan Baby

"Manhattan Baby" aka "L'Occhio del male" (1982, Lucio Fulci, Fulvia Film) is an Italian giallo horror film from 'godfather of gore', Lucio Fulci. That makes it sound good. Don't get your hopes up too much...

The film serves as one of Fulci's weakest in my book, and certainly a far cry from his masterpiece, and a personal favourite of mine; "The House by the Cemetery".

We follow young Susie (Brigitta Boccoli) who, whilst in Egypt with her parents, Professor George Hacker (Christopher Connelly) and Emily Hacker (Laura Lenzi), is given a mysterious amulet by a strange, blind woman. Upon Susie receiving this unusual treasure, her father is struck blind whilst in an unexplored tomb and the family have to return immediately home to New York city.

While her parents fret over George's temporary blindness, Susie shows her new shiny thing to her younger brother, Tommy (Giovanni Frezza), and both siblings begin to fall under the amulet's power. This includes the ability to pop off on adventures to Egypt whenever they like, bring back poisonous creatures, ship off people who annoy them to the desert and summon the shambling undead.... Kids stuff, really.

As well as suffering from being very slow and somewhat dull, the plot jumps randomly from scene to scene making everything hard to follow and becoming a chore to watch. The characters also don't behave quite human enough: no one seems to notice all the missing people for starters!

One thing I did enjoy was watching George walk around with his glasses on over his massive eye bandages. Truly weird.

The film just lacks atmosphere and coherence and not even a zombie bird attack scene can save it from that!

I do love the DVD cover art, though
[Image: Fulvia Film]

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Julia's Eyes

"Julia's Eyes" aka "Los ojos de Julia" (2010, Guillem Morales, Rodar y Rodar Cine y Televisión, Double Dare You, Universal Pictures) is a Spanish thriller about blindness. 

Julia (Belén Rueda) is a twin, whose sister, Sara, has committed suicide shortly after becoming blind. Sara's blindness was caused by a hereditary condition from which Julia is also suffering, and she and her husband, Isaac (Lluís Homar), are already preparing for her own inevitable fate. 

Julia becomes convinced that Sara's death was not a straightforward suicide, and she begins to investigate herself, as her own sight begins to slowly diminish. Alas, time is running out and she is assigned a care worker, Iván (Pablo Delqui). Can she avoid the fate of her sister?

A fun thriller with some good effects and some chilling scenes dotted throughout what is otherwise a slow-burning mystery, more than a horror. Julia’s slow, but steady march towards blindness is effectively portrayed through lighting and skilfully keeping other characters just out of sight.

An effective thriller that packs possibly too many twists, but delivers with a fun, but straight-faced style that makes our heroine’s sense of loss and hopelessness palpable.