Friday, 30 June 2017

Hell House LLC

"Hell House LLC" (2016, Stephen Cognetti, Cognetti Films) is a found footage mock-umentary film set in a Halloween haunt.

The film circulates around a film crew trying to unravel the mystery of a tragedy which struck a haunted house in an abandoned hotel. Although authorities reported a 'malfunction' as the cause of the panic, survivor footage and accounts have made it seem like something more sinister happened. When someone steps forward as a witness who was involved in the tragedy, along with a lot of new, unseen footage, the crew think they might be on the verge of a breakthrough. We follow the story of the group of haunters setting up shop in the small town just outside of New York city and see first hand the events as they unfolded.

I'm not the biggest fan of found footage as a rule. The jumpy camera style gives me motion sickness and often the acting is unnatural and distracting. But, "Hell House LLC" manages to be dark, entertaining and filled with effective jump scares. The camera motions are very typical of a found-footage flick, but the effective screen cutting, styling and overall storytelling keep the viewer engaged and stop it from becoming boring.

The characters are well evolved and a good sense of camaraderie (and even arguments) is built up effectively. The jump scares are pretty by-the-book, but are well paced and nicely shot.

The film delivers an effective scare fest that creates a great Halloween party atmosphere. And while the plot isn't exactly breaking any new ground, it does inject the jump-scare, found footage genre with a fun, atmospheric entry.

[Image: Cognetti Films]

Friday, 23 June 2017

Silently Within Your Shadow

"Silently Within Your Shadow" (2015, Scott Lyus, Crossroad Pictures) is a short horror from the creator/director of "The Order of the Ram" (2013). Having picked up a couple of awards and completing many festivals, it is currently available to view on Amazon.

Lucette (Sophie Tergeist) is a budding ventriloquist. Her boyfriend, Jace (Byron Fernandes), is jealous of Lucette's close relationship (see "obsession") with her dummy, Hugo (voiced by Bill Moseley). He feels that they're trapped in a strange love triangle where the dummy is always present. His protests are not heard, however, as Lucette says simply that Hugo does not like to be alone....

As things progress, more than Jace and Lucette's relationship becomes strained. And Hugo begins to make his presence known.

A fun short of around 15 minutes run time. Whilst the premise isn't hugely innovative, the film really earns credit due to some smooth editing and by not overusing the puppet prop too much. He's utilised just enough to make him creepy and Bill Moseley gives him an excellent chilling edge.

The story is built up in a good, timely manner with enough dialogue to understand the characters and plot without going overboard and becoming too bogged down in monologue scenes. The stage scenes are particularly well shot considering the budget.

A very 'indie' style film, but with some nice character to it and some fun, bloody pay off within also.

[Image: Crossroad Pictures]

Monday, 12 June 2017

Dig Two Graves

"Dig Two Graves" (2017, Hunter Adams) is a tale of loss of innocence and revenge.

Jake (Samantha Isler) is obsessed with the death of her elder brother. One day she is offered a chance to bring him back, but at a terrible cost. Her grandfather, Sheriff Waterhouse (Ted Levine), tries to make up for his own terrible choices, but can he help Jake in time or will she make her own way?

An intriguing premise with some interesting characters and substantial core acting, but a slow, meandering plot that didn't keep my interest. Some of the cinematography is striking and the themes of the loss of childhood innocence and the dangers of obsession and revenge are strong. Although the film explores some dark themes, including power, rape and murder, the styling of the film and its pace rob it of some of its more shocking strength.

All in all, not a terrible film by any stretch, but the artistic choices make it seem like nothing of note really happens and everything seemed a bit muddy.


Monday, 5 June 2017


"Vampira" (aka "Old Dracula", 1974, Clive Donner, Columbia-Warner, American International Pictures) is a horror comedy about everyone's favourite vampire Count.

Count Dracula (David Niven) is getting old. In order to survive, he has began hosting tours of his castle where he can feast on curious tourists. When a group of beautiful, young Playboy girls stay at the castle, Dracula sees an opportunity to attempt to revive his lover, Vampira. One of the Playmates was a black lady (Minah Bird) and so, naturally, the Countess comes back as the beautiful Teresa Graves. While the Count hunts down more blood for the Countess with the help of a photographer called Marc (Nicky Henson), the Countess goes out on the town, enjoying the sights and sounds of the 70s.

A rather silly flick in both plot and acting. It's certainly not one of David Niven's best films by a long shot, but he brings the Count to life in his usual gleeful, gentlemanly style. Teresa Graves plays the proper Countess letting loose with her new persona and her new modern time in a fun and flamboyant way.

The premise is a little controversial, and the film is full of awkward comments, but on the whole the film is pretty innocent and mildly entertaining. From the comedy vampire bites to the vampire disco it's very of-its-time.

[Image: Columbia-Warner, et al]