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 GutiĆ©rrez, 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]