Short Sharp Shock #18 The Sleepover (2012)

Short Sharp Shock banner no boltWelcome to UK Horror Scene’s Short Sharp Shock. This is where we will feature a short film each week for your viewing pleasure. Short films are the foundation of Horror, it is where many of the established directors cut their teeth . The amount of quality short films out there is incredible and it is our pleasure to choose you a new one each week that we think will blow you away. So every Friday we will give you ‘Something for the Weekend’ and issue your weekly Short,Sharp,Shock! Enjoy!

The Sleepover (2012)

Director – Chris Cullari

Writers – Chris Cullari & Jennifer Raite

Starring – Josh Feldman, Gus Kamp, Carolyn Jania

Runtime – 6 Minutes

The town of Derry has a secret, but no one told the new kid. It’s gonna be a long night.

Mommy (2014) DVD Review

mommyMOMMY (Canada, 2014)

Dir. Xavier Dolan

Starring. Anne Dorval, Suzanne Clemént, Antoine Olivier Pilon

Out now on UK DVD from Metrodome Distribution

Plot.
A straight talking, single mother is reunited with her hyperactive, criminal son after an act of vandalism sees him expelled from a youth correctional facility. Their relationship is pushed to the limits, until a shy, lonely neighbour walks into their lives and the three of them form an unconventional, makeshift family unit.

It’s hard to talk about the career of French-Canadian actor/writer/director/producer Xavier Dolan without mentioning age. An output of 5 films in 5 years-collecting major prizes at the Toronto, Venice and Cannes Film Festivals- would a remarkable feat for any filmmaker, let alone one that, at the time of writing has only recently turned 26. The fact that he is currently rolling cameras on his 6th feature with an ensemble that includes Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassell and Lea Seydoux really tells the tale of how far Dolan has come on since the raw promise of his début I KILLED MY MOTHER.

You don’t recruit such a cast unless you’ve earned the right to do so.

mommy1A measure of Dolan’s meteoric rise, was evident in the fact that his fifth feature MOMMY took the Jury Prize at Cannes 2014 -shared with a certain Jean Luc Godard in one of the Croisette’s all time great ‘full circle’ moments. A token gesture this was not, and was a testament to Dolan’s achievement that MOMMY was a genuine contender for the Palm D’Or.

Here, Dolan returns to the Mother and Son dynamic of his début, the difference being here, that there is a tonal conviction and stylistic confidence, both visually and narratively. Where I KILLED MY MOTHER was written very much from the perspective of the son, it is the vividly complex personalities of both Dorval’s Diane and Clement’s Kyla that seem to be more of interest to Dolan here. Both actresses shine in challenging roles. Widowed, free spirit Diane and emotionally starved former-schoolteacher Kyla form a totally believable nuclear family with the unpredictable Steve. Even at its most brash and hysterical, MOMMY is first and foremost an actors film and you would be hard pressed to find a better ensemble. Their chemistry is pivotal to preventing the story from falling into soap opera territory, something which, despite running close, thankfully stays on the right track.

Not to say that MOMMY isn’t without flaws. There are a few exchanges between Diane and Steve that border on contrivance, namely the violent exchange during the middle act (featured on the poster), and it’s a personal cinematic bugbear when popular songs seem shoehorned into a film soundtrack. The ‘Wonderwall’ sequence was a bit too 90’s teen movie for my taste. As was the use of Lana Del Rey’s ‘Born To Die’ in the final reel.

mommy2That being said, the film is visually very self assured. There are minor Bressonian touches (overly intimate close ups) that really show the confidence that Dolan is directing with. The way he toys with the screen’s aspect ratio, beginning with a claustrophobically narrow, almost portrait/mobile phone framing to Steve pushing the frame wide, exuding freedom, is an audacious stylistic choice for even the most veteran of directors. There’s brilliant tension to the pacing of the film, shown in the stand out scene in the blue neon lit karaoke bar, as Steve’s melancholic performance is brilliantly edited to show him losing his cool, under pressure from hecklers and his mother’s distraction to his sadness. One of the year’s best musical sequences.

MOMMY is hands down one of the year’s best family dramas and you get the feeling that this is merely the tip of the iceberg for one of world cinema’s most talented young filmmakers.

9/10

Contamination (1980) Blu-Ray Review

contam1Contamination (ITA/US, 1980)

Dir. Luigi Cozzi

Starring. Ian McCulloch, Louise Marleau

Out on Dual Format DVD/Blu-Ray now from Arrow Video

Plot.
When an unmanned freighter drifts into the New York harbour carrying hundreds of crates filled with mysterious alien eggs and a dead crew, the attending police officer and a hardened Army Colonel enlist the help of a disgraced former astronaut to find the source of the cargo. Their investigation leads them to a tropical coffee plantation and a confrontation with a familiar enemy whose motivation is stranger and more deadly than they could’ve imagined.

It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to presume that if you asked the average film fan what their memory of Ridley Scott’s SciFi/Horror masterpiece ALIEN was, chances are they will probably be refer to any one of alien eggs, exploding chests or slimy ‘one eyed’ creatures.

On this basis, you can’t accuse Luigi Cozzi’s Sci-Fi caper CONTAMINATION of being poorly researched, given that it was produced with the sole purpose of capitalising on its predecessors’ record-breaking box office return.

It would be hard to imagine something like this being made today without tongue firmly planted in cheek. But back in the late 70s/early 80s the Italian commercial film industry turned a profit on these knock offs of Hollywood blockbusters. Nothing was sacred- Cozzi’s “STAR WARS” rip-off STARCRASH, released in 1979 has to be seen to be believed. CONTAMINATION plays like a greatest hits package of genre film tropes.

contam2Producer Claudio Mancini (a noted collaborator of Sergio Leone, with an ethos that prioritised capital gains over any pretensions of artistry) compiled a shopping list of elements, from espionage & romance to an abundance of ‘midnight movie’ friendly gore, designed specifically to milk the film for every cent, from a minimum production cost.

The plot is more or less a straight up spy thriller, complete with the dubious gender politics you’d expect from a BOND film. Cozzi admirably manages to maintain a glimmer of intrigue throughout and truth be told it’s set pieces are well constructed, given the clear budgetary restraints and a script peppered with clichés and eye wateringly unsubtle exposition. It’s worth mentioning Luciano & Massimo Anzelotti’s brilliant foley work, specifically the eerie, low moan of the eggs. And unbelievably, CONTAMINATION was cut by Italian cinema’s greatest editor Nino Baragli (regular collaborator with Corbucci,Pasolini & Leone), whose understated, rhythmic nous provides an essential, solid foundation.

There are a few sequences of note, namely the night time exploration of the abandoned ship (riffing on ALIEN/NOSFERATU) and the final confrontation with the otherworldly mastermind responsible for all the gory mayhem. Both are atmospherically lit, with suitably timed shocks, ably assisted by a pounding synth score from regular Argento collaborators Goblin. The performances are suitably OTT, with a famously hysterical turn from British TV legend Ian McCulloch (Survivors, Zombie Flesh Eaters).

contam4The film’s signature gonzo visual effects (assumedly created on a three figure budget) range from the gloriously evocative to the ridiculous, with another ALIEN-esque sequence featuring a stunning matte painting of a cavernous interior, only to be followed by a scale miniature ‘birthing chamber’ using what seem to be frozen peas as substitute eggs.

While there are moments during CONTAMINATION that are so daft, they will have you reassessing PIRANHA 2’s Oscar credentials, there is enough entertainment value to make it an interesting artefact of pre-VHS/Video Nasty excess, an era long passed.

THE EXTRAS.

This is what Arrow Video do better than anyone else in the home video market, with hours of illuminating special features.

Highlights include an insightful, entertaining commentary by Fangoria editor Chris Alexander, and interviews with director, star and composer.

contam3The jewel in this crown has to be a fantastic documentary charting the rise of Commercial Italian genre cinema and its relationship with the Hollywood blockbuster.

A lovingly crafted package, essential for cult horror fans.

Film – 6/10

Extras- 9/10

Nottingham’s Mayhem Film Festival Announces It’s First Two Films

mayhemMayhem Film Festival announce first guest and closing film

Mayhem Film Festival are thrilled to announce Steve Oram’s Aaaaaaaah! and Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation as the first two films from this year’s line-up.

Taking place on 15-18 October, Mayhem Film Festival will close its 11th edition with Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation. Hailed as Kusama’s strongest work by Variety, The Invitation is a deeply disturbing, slow burn horror thriller from the director of Jennifer’s Body.

This year, the festival will also welcome back Steve Oram (Sightseers) with his directorial debut Aaaaaaaah! produced by Andrew Starke and executive produced by Ben Wheatley (Rook Films). The film, which contains no traditional dialogue, is an insane and hilarious collision of Romeo and Juliet and The Planet of the Apes in suburbia. Steve Oram will make the trip to present the film and take part in a post-screening Q&A.

Aaaaaaah“We’re really pleased to be screening both Aaaaaaaah! and The Invitation – two great films which really reflect the diversity of our programme, ranging from surreal dark comedy to atmospheric, unsettling tension, explains Mayhem’s Co-Director’s Steven Sheil. We’re also really excited to be welcoming Steve Oram back to Mayhem, after Sightseers – his collaboration with Ben Wheatley and Alice Lowe – proved such a hit with our audience in 2012.”

Mayhem Film Festival will take place at Broadway, Nottingham on 15-18 October. Early Bird Passes for the festival are available at the discounted price of £55. For more information and to book your passes, please visit http://www.broadway.org.uk/mayhem

Film4 FrightFest 2015 announces largest ever Short Film programme. Full line-up here

They're Closing In-WEB1Film4 FrightFest 2015 announces largest ever Short Film programme, including All 4’s A Moment of Horror series

They’re Closing In

Film4 FrightFest 2015 has expanded its Short Film Showcase event, with three strands and over thirty shorts from around the world, including eleven World Premières and seven European Premières. With films from thirteen countries, this is the most diverse and exciting shorts event yet programmed.

Highlights include the London première of actress Karen Gillan’s intense directorial debut COWARD, and the UK première of SHEVENGE, a darkly funny tale of revenge, directed by BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER alum Amber Benson. Local FrightFest alumni will also be returning: screenwriter and director James Moran is back with screams and laughter in GHOSTING, and Dan Auty brings us nostalgia and magic children in his new short PARTY 85. We will also be featuring the World première of SURGERY, the frightening new short by The Clemens Bros, sons of legendary UK screenwriter Brian Clemens, as well as the world premières of THE ALPHA INVENTION, a chilling sci-fi short starring Billy Boyd and DARK.NET starring Johnny Vegas. Additional highlights include Mike Williamson (IN THE WALL) returning to FrightFest with the World Première of his new short DEATHLY, featuring a score by composer Clint Mansell (MOON/REQUIEM FOR A DREAM) and THE LAKE directed by 14 year old Nathan Ambrosioni, who also has his feature HOSTILE playing in our Discovery Strand.

.Spain features prominently with five shorts in the selection, including multi-award-winning TUNING OSCAR, a twisted romantic comedy by Mikel Alvariño, the experimental dance-horror YOU WILL FALL AGAIN, and DISCO INFERNO, the Giallo-inspired fever dream by Alice Waddington.

This year’s selection also features a record nine shorts directed by women, including the hilarious VINTAGE BLOOD by Abigail Blackmore (starring Indira Varma), the disturbing SEND IN THE CLOWNS by Kate Shenton, the side-splitting A FAVOUR by Izzy Lee, and the creepy thriller TWO MISSING by Claire Fowler.

PLUS!

For the first time ever, this year Film4 FrightFest will premiere six horror –themed short films from the brand new All4, which replaces 4OD.

The series, entitled A Moment of Horror, consists of six individual episodes and will premiere throughout the festival. All films will then be available exclusively on All 4 at www.all4.com/shorts.

The creepy encounters in the series include the tale of a young mother who discovers she feeds something much more sinister than her own baby; a janitor who notices the doors he closes on his nightshift never remain shut; and an anxiety sufferer whose troubles take a physical form during a bath-time black out. A Moment of Horror will disturb your perception of the mundane, and plant images in your head that will make you think twice before turning off the light at night…

FrightFest Short Film Programmer Shelagh Rowan-Legg said today “We are thrilled with the short films programmed this year, with 31 titles from Europe, North America and the Middle East. These films show the incredible diversity of fantastic genre cinema, from gory horror to creepy thrillers to chilling science fiction to moody experimental, with films that are both live action featuring amazing actors, and stunning stop-motion animation.
FrightFest audiences have the opportunity to see emerging talents as well as regular favourites.”

FF 2015 - poster artwork-notext

Full line-up:

SATURDAY AUG 29 – DISCOVERY AT THE PRINCE CHARLES CINEMA

from 11:15

INVADERS (UK Première)
Director: Jason Kupfer. Cast: Ricky Wayne, Jordan Woods-Robinson. USA 2014. 6 mins.

It’s Thanksgiving, and two would-be robbers are planning a quick heist. But they might get more than they bargained for.

A FAVOUR (European Première)
Director: Izzy Lee. Cast: Shaun Callaghan, Diana Porter, Jose Gons Alves. USA 2015. 10 mins.

Jackson just wants to watch the big game, but his best friend Liz needs help … again …

THEY’RE CLOSING IN (World Première)
Director: Jarret Blinkhorn. Cast: Michael A. LoCicero, Susan T. Travers. USA 2015. 6 mins.

The monsters are closing in, and a husband and wife argue about how to fight back. But fighting back might not be the answer.

DARK_NET (World Première)
Director: Tom Marshall. Cast: Johnny Vegas, Perry Fitzpatrick. UK 2015.12 mins.

Alan’s girlfriend has dumped him, but he has a plan to get back at her and her new beau, with the help of dark_net.

THE ALPHA INVENTION (World Première)
Director: Mark Towers. Cast: Billy Boyd, William Hope. UK 2014. 15 mins.

A computer programmer has developed a method for creating artificial intelligence, and a potential buyer wants in. But who is the mysterious buyer, and who is the programmer?

YOU WILL FALL AGAIN (UK Première)
Director: Alex Pachón. Cast: Joan Català. Spain/Hong Kong 2015. 6 mins.

A locked room. A man in a wheelchair. A crack in the ceiling. An escape attempt comes at a damaging price.

SHEVENGE (UK Première)
Director; Amber Benson. Cast: Emma Rylan, Jessica Sherif, Megan Lee Joy. USA 2015. 11 mins.

Three women are a little frustrated with their boyfriends, and imagine ways to exact their vengeance.

STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT (World Première)
Director: Conor McMahon. Cast: Michael Hough, Niamh Algar, Nora Relihan. Ireland 2015. 12 mins.

Poor grandma: a banshee has come to take to the next world. Can she count on her grandson’s charms to distract the monster?

OSCILLATION (World Première)
Director: Dídac Gimeno. Cast: Vekí G. Vellila, Igor Luna, Helena Puig, Jorge Lora. Spain 2015. 8 mins.

A young woman works in a lighting store, where a projector transports her to a strange world of dangers and desires.

BAD GUY #2 (London Première)
Director: Chris McInroy. Cast: Kirk Johnson. USA 2014.10 mins.

He’s working hard and climbing up the criminal underworld ladder; but does he have the skills to be the best bad guy?

TUNING OSCAR (UK Première)
Director: Mikel Alvariño. Cast: Julián Lópz, Bárbara Goenaga, Bárbara Santa-Cruz. Spain 2014. 22 mins.

Oscar meets Ana, a beautiful woman who wants him. But his promise to another woman means he must delay, or dire consequences await him.

SUNDAY AUG 30 – PHOENIX ARTIST CLUB SCREEN from 16:15

SEND IN THE CLOWNS (World Première)
Director: Kate Shenton. Cast: David Wayman, Niahm Walsh. UK 2014.11 mins.

David has a dream: to be the scariest clown in the world. But it’s not easy on a budget.

VINTAGE BLOOD (World Première)
Director: Abigail Blackmore. Cast: Indira Varma, Sophie Thompson, Michael Rosen, Tracy Whitwell. UK 2015 14 mins.

At a quirky vintage shop, owner Izzy must cope with a curse  that threatens her boyfriend’s life.

CROW HAND!! (UK Première)
Director: Brian Lonano. Cast: Jason Vail, Caitlin McPhail. USA 2014. 3 mins.

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No it’s a bird! Maybe???

IN THE TALL GRASS (UK Première)
Director: Alexii Multoof. Cast: Alexii Multoff, Nadia Dubijansky, Federico Lusthaus. Israel 2014. 8 mins.

Joseph keeps to himself in his flat, haunted by images of unfocused and unknown violence that torture his mind.

DEATHLY (World Première)
Director: Mike Williamson. Cast: Alan Ruck. Kathleen Wilhoite. USA 2015.13 mins.

A man has lost his wife under seemingly accidental circumstances; but the truth might come back to haunt him.

UMBRA (European Première)
Director: Bryn Tilly. Cast: Fraser Gray, Charlotte Antonievich, Melissa Snater. Australia/New Zealand 2014. 5 mins.

A mortal woman is seduced and transformed into a vampire, which sets off a surreal and deadly nightmare.

DOMESTIC AFFAIRS (UK Première)
Director: Alexia Muiñós Ruiz. Cast: Helena Miquel, Alex Brull. Spain 2015. 14 mins.

A chance meeting leads to a sexual encounter that will hold more than a few surprises.

SURGERY (World Première)
Directors: The Clemens Bros. Cast: Nicholas Ball, Jamie Lee, Laura Lemon, Sam Clemens. UK 2015.11 mins.

A man is rescued after being tortured by a psychopath. But the cure might be worse than the disease.

EL GIGANTE (UK Première)
Director: Gigi Saul Guerrero. Cast: Edwin Perez, David Forts, Mathias Retamal, Nisreen Slim. Canada/Mexico 2014.14 mins.

Searching for a better life, Armando instead finds himself at the mercy of a sadistic family, where he must fight for his life against a monster.

MONDAY AUG 31 – DISCOVERY AT THE PRINCE CHARLES CINEMA

from 17:50

BABYSITTING STORY (UK Première)
Director: Vincent Smitz. Cast: Sophie Breyer, Pauline Brisy, Julie Dacquin, Pierre Nisse, Bernard Eylenbosch. Belgium, 2014. 20 mins.

Two teenagers take a last-minute babysitting job; one has an interesting story to tell, one perhaps too strange to be fiction.

TWO MISSING (London Première)
Director: Claire Fowler. Cast: Sophie Kennedy Clark, Morfydd Clark, Ben Dilloway. UK 2014. 16 mins.

Two young women must ask for help from a stranger when their car breaks down in a lonely wood.

GHOSTING (World Première)
Director: James Moran. Cast: Francesca Fowler. UK 2015. 8 mins.

Just a routine check of a haunted house that will likely be a waste of time. Except for the evil spirit.

THE SHUTTERBUG MAN (UK Première)
Director: Chris Walsh. Cast: Barbara Steele. Canada 2014. 5 mins.

A strange man takes even stranger photographers in this stop-motion horror short narrated by Barbara Steele.

COWARD (London Première)
Director: Karen Gillan. Cast: Rose McIver, Catherine Telford, James Ransone. USA 2014. 11 mins.

Sparkle, a young actress suffering from insomnia, has a late-night conversation with a former soldier about murder.

DISCO INFERNO (European Première)
Director: Alice Waddington. Cast: Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Ana Rujas. Spain 2015. 12 mins.

A strange coven, a mysterious leader, a girl for sacrifice, and a masked intruder: all come together in an isolated house of danger and lust.

NIGHT OF THE SLASHER (Preview)
Director: Shant Hamassian. Cast: Lily Berlina, Scott Javore, Adam Lesar. USA 2015. 11 mins.

Every slasher has rules for selecting his prey. But tonight’s prey might have the upper hand.

THE LAKE (World Première)
Director: Nathan Ambrosioni. Cast: Ines Duhard, Rémy Jobert, Jason Koubi, Luna Belan. France 2015. 11 mins.

Two couples go for a walk in the woods, but a mysterious stranger might threaten their tranquillity.

L’ERRORE (European Première)
Director: Brando De Sica. Cast: Catrinel Marlon. Italy 2015. 9 mins.

A mysterious woman comes to an isolated restaurant in the countryside, where the destitute owners might do more than serve her a meal.

IRIS (European Première)
Director: Richard Karpala. Cast: Luke Sorge. USA/UK 2015.12 mins.

Dean has a dirty job to do, but his companion, Iris, might spoil his plans before nightfall.

PARTY 85 (World Première)
Director: Dan Auty. Cast: Annemarie Cancienne, Chris Huebner, Michael McVey. UK 2015. 5 mins.

A young boy and his baby sister are put to bed so their parents can have a crazy summer party. But the children just won’t go to sleep.

A Moment of Horror-WEB1A MOMENT OF HORROR LINE-UP

NIGHT FEED by Christian James

A young mum is woken in the middle of the night by her hungry, crying baby. In the dark and half conscious, she autopilots her way through the nightly routine… but tonight, something else is waiting.

Christian James’ budget zombie comedy, “Stalled”, premiered at Film4 FrightFest 2013 and won the Melies de Argent at LIFF before its 2014 worldwide release. “Night Feed” unites Christian with “Stalled” writer, Dan Palmer.

BATH TIME by Rose Glass

Every night before she goes to bed, Evy listens to a self-help tape that aims to tackle her crippling anxiety disorder. But while having a bath, her anxieties take on a horribly physical form…

Rose Glass graduated from the NFTS with her film “Room 55” which was nominated for the Grand Jury Award at SXSW 2015. She recently directed a short film for Giorgio Armani, as part of the prestigious international project “Films of City Frames”.

THE DOORKEEPER by Weronika Tofilska

A janitor walks through a long, dark corridor at night, closing a number of doors on his way.  But the job is not as easy as it seems, since someone… or something is intent on keeping them open.

Weronika Tofilska is a London based writer / director and a graduate of the NFTS. In 2014 she won FrightFest’s ‘666 Short Cuts to Hell’ competition with her film “Pink & Blue”.

BEHIND YOU by Lee Lennox

A little girl’s favourite bed-time read is a creepy 19th century spectral illusions book, which hides a nasty surprise for the girl’s babysitter.

Lee Lennox is an animator and established director of music videos and commercials. As one half of the Lennox Brothers, Lee co-wrote and co-directed his début feature “AmStarDam”.

WHAT THE DOG SAW by Andrew Brand

All Linda wants to do is sleep but her dog Max won’t stop barking. If only she knew what the dog saw…

Andrew has made six short films including the award-winning “Where There’s Smoke”, “Things We Leave Behind”, and “Something for Nothing” which was selected for the BFI London Film Festival. Andrew is also a Co-Director of 3D animation company Bad Studio.

KILLING TIME by Michelle Fox

A rebellious intern wastes time at work on her mobile phone and discovers a vengeful boss is a force to be reckoned with.

Michelle is a writer / director based in Newcastle upon Tyne and has directed numerous short films, including “Zominic”, which was broadcast on Channel 4 Random Acts and premiered at Film4 FrightFest 2013.

Day passes and single tickets are now on sale at: http://www.frightfest.co.uk/tickets.html

Festival passes, Saturday & Sunday Day passes are sold out

Screens 5, 6 & 7 will house the main event while the Discovery strands will play in Screens 3 & 8.  The Discovery at The Prince Charles cinema strand will be in Screen 1.

For full programme details go to:  www.frightfest.co.uk

Cottage Country (2013) Review

cottagec1Cottage Country (2013) Review

Running Time: 91 minutes

Director: Peter Wellington

Cast: Malin Akerman, Tyler Labine, Lucy Punch, Daniel Petronijevic, Benjamin Ayres

UK DVD Release 10th August 2015 from Bulldog Films

Todd’s not having a great weekend. He planned to propose to his girlfriend, but now his brother’s got an axe in his neck and things are only going to get worse.

A well edited, well-paced trailer lures us in inch by inch, peaking our curiosity and raising our hopes. Despite the bland title, Cottage Country looked like a slick and entertaining black comedy, but did it hit the mark?

The premise of the film is pretty standard comedy territory; cringe worthy couple Cammie (Akerman) and Todd (Labine) set off to the lake for the weekend, where Todd has planned to propose. Before they leave, Cammie finds the ring, but feigns ignorance so as not to spoil the romantic plan. (We realise later she’s pretty big on plans being followed through). As soon as the couple arrive at the cottage and start to get a little friendly in the front room, Todd’s obnoxious slacker brother, Sal (Petronijevic) arrives with his equally irritating girlfriend Masha (Lucy Punch, with a rather odd, vague European accent). Being odious house guests who can’t keep their hands off one another, Todd and Cammie’s weekend seems doomed.

cottagec2This set-up happens quickly, giving us little time to ingratiate ourselves with the characters and, in particular, connect with Todd and Cammie. They’re a fairly clichéd film couple; cute, desperate to be married girl, alongside hard working, push over boyfriend. It works, it’s just not wildly gripping. The same can be said of Sal and Masha, there is amusement in their arrival, but it never really hits its stride. Still, things barrel along, so when Todd hopelessly demands his brother leave, the film promises to take off.

What starts as a scrappy sibling fight escalates outlandishly and results in Todd embedding an axe in his brother’s neck. Ouch. It’s a great moment and Todd’s reaction is perfect, gagging whilst trying to lever his brothers head back in to place. This is what we’ve been waiting for and the scene delivers, leaving you greedy for more. After hiding the body and telling Cammie what has happened, she discourages him from turning himself in, so the pair set about getting rid of Masha and erasing any evidence of her and Sal’s visit. Naturally. What else would they do?

So begins the killing spree, as the two start to cover their tracks. There is a nice montage scene of them disposing of the bodies in a bloody, matter of fact, middle class way, but the film never really breaks away from its generic straight comedy roots. This is the main issue with Cottage Country, whilst it is a well-produced film and ticks the required boxes; it feels too mainstream in order to make the outlandish and darkly comic story work. We get promising moments, such as Sal’s dead, decomposing body coming back to taunt Todd (immediately bringing to mind comparisons to the fabulous American Werewolf in London), but they are short lived. Marsha’s corpse also makes a seductive appearance but again, it’s over before it really starts.

cottagec3On the whole, it’s the secondary characters that prove the most enjoyable and the least one dimensional. After disposing of the bodies, Todd and Cammie return to the cottage to find a party in full swing, organised by Sal (before his demise naturally). Here we meet Dov, (Benjamin Ayres) an Orthodox Jew on the path to enlightenment via any route he can find. Asking where Sal is, he plays off Cammie brilliantly, questioning her every answer. He’s a great addition, but it is inevitable that he doesn’t last too long. Todd’s parents too, are a welcome introduction in the latter part of the film, displaying their bickering, unhealthy marriage. However, these characters flit past and we head back to more formulaic territory.

As Cottage Country steams towards its climax, director Peter Wellington throws all he’s got at the screen, so it’s a shame that you’re left feeling a little underwhelmed. Ultimately the killings work well and the dead taunting bodies are a nice touch, but it’s just all a little too middle of the road, with not enough quirk.

5 out of 10

Maggie (2015) Review

maggie1MAGGIE (2015)

Director: Henry Hobson

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson, Aiden Flowers, Carsen Flowers, Jodie Moore, Douglas M Griffin, J.D. Evermore, Bryce Romero, Raeden Greer

UK cinema release: 24th July from Vertigo

UK DVD/Blu-Ray release: 23rd November from Universal

The world has fallen prey to a deadly disease that turns sufferers into ravenous undead. There is no cure. However, unlike the bafflingly speedy infections of other zombie movies, in this film the disease takes an average of six to eight weeks to claim victims. The authorities are in control of the situation but the number of infected is placing a huge demand on resources. As such, individuals with the disease are processed into horrific quarantine pens.

Maggie (Abigail Breslin) is a teenager who has contracted the virus. The film opens with her father, Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger), walking into a quarantine unit to collect her after the family doctor has pulled some strings to allow Maggie home to spend time with her family before the end.

maggie2Upon getting back to the house we see her half-brother and half-sister bid her a sad farewell before they head off to live with their aunt. Quite understandably, Maggie’s step-mother Caroline (Joely Richardson) is concerned for their well-being but still wants to be there for her husband and the girl she has raised as her own in the tough times ahead.

Caroline isn’t the only one to have her reservations, as local lawmen Ray (Douglas M Griffin) and Holt (J.D. Evermore) aren’t pleased at having a walking biological hazard in the community either.

What follows is an in depth look at the physical and emotional trials Maggie faces as she draws closer to what scientists call The Turn. But what will Wade do when his little girl is lost to him forever? Will he endanger his life and those of the people around him through his undying father’s love?

When you imagine a zombie movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger you can’t help but picture a campy, high-octane, blood, brains ‘n’ bullets action romp.

Maggie is not that film.

maggie3This is first and foremost, a character study. It is barely a zombie film if the truth be told. A couple of heart-stopping encounters aside, there is very little in the way of brain-chewing undead. Much like the film’s ‘Necroambulist’ (see what they did there?) virus, this is a story prepared to move at a slower pace than a lot of zombie horror movies. Gorehounds should perhaps look elsewhere.

It could be seen as something of a gamble casting Arnie (who hasn’t exactly set the box office on fire since his full-time return to acting) in such a serious role, but a couple of clunky line deliveries aside, he is mostly up to the task of portraying the terrible turmoil his character is feeling.

The rest of the cast are uniformly superb, but special praise must go to the excellent Moore as Dr Vern and Oscar-nominee Breslin. She should already be familiar to genre fans for her roles in Zombieland, Haunter and TV’s Scream Queens, and for good reason – she is a revelation. Her chemistry with the Austrian Oak is astonishing and her subtle performance portrays complex emotions with ease. She really is the star of this film.

This is Henry Hobson’s first feature directing gig and it is an impressive début. The film has a washed out look, echoing the deathly pallor of the title character and tells its tragic story in a way that grips the viewer as it inexorably leads to the gut-wrenching climax. There are interesting sub-plots along the way, especially that of Maggie’s ex boyfriend and fellow infected Trent (Bryce Romero), but at its heart this is a story about a father and his daughter.

maggie4Saying this is a sad film might be an understatement. A warning to parents: this hits hard. I’ve never seen a cinema as morosely silent at the end of a film as I did when Maggie’s credits started to roll. It is not a date movie, but it is incredibly powerful, intelligent and moving — you NEED to see it.

I never imagined that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s tears could possibly entertain as much as his muscles, but Maggie proves that I was wrong.

9/10

London Film and Comic Con 17th July 2015 – Report

cclogoLondon Film and Comic Con 17th July 2015  –  Report

I awoke on Friday the 17th July after a hot sweaty restless sleep (who knew London could be so humid!) like my 12 year old self in 1994 waiting for me to be let downstairs to see my presents on Christmas Day. I was excited, the day was finally here that I had been waiting for for months. I had sold three quarters of my movie collection (I’m only collecting Blu – ray Steelbooks and collectors items now, everything else can go digital) and saved every penny for this day. I was off to London Film and Comic Con to see stars of the big screen and small screen. People like Neve Campbell of Scream fame and Tom Savini, horror make up extraordinare and ‘Sex Machine’ from Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn). The event didn’t start till 1pm but after last years Saturday debacle (I waited outside for 5 ½ hours when I crucially timed my arrival wrong) I wasn’t going to walk up close to opening time, I was going to be early! I checked on Twitter as I left and people were already posting saying the queue was half way around the London Olympia. My heart sank a little, not again, not this time, I was so excited and although I can queue like any great British person, I couldn’t hack another 5 hour wait. Me and my wife got to the venue about 1030 and could see right from the offset, although the queue was a little long, it was well managed and this year a barrier system was in place, where last year at Earls Court they had none.

cc5One of the highlights of these types of events is seeing fellow con goers in cosplay and feeding off the energy of fellow fans who are just as, if not more, excited as me. Part of this is felt in the queue, I had Selina Kyle from TV’s Gotham behind me and Marty McFly, hoverboard and all, in front of me. The crowd were all jovial and we all moved in time, with nobody trying to queue jump or getting too close. We got in with no trouble after 15 minutes of opening and we were onto our first guest.

Now before I reveal who I saw first, I just want to point out how these events work. You pay an entry fee, now depending on what you want to do and for how many days, this can set you back about £40 for all three days. Now as much as I love these events, Saturday last year nearly killed me, so I like to go on the quieter days and fit everything in in as short a period as possible, so I paid £12 each for me and my wife for the Friday ‘preview day’. Once you are in, you can meet the guests (and get a ‘virtual ticket’, kind of like you get at a fish market where you take a numbered ticket and wait to be called) and depending on the popularity and ‘rarity’ of a guest you can pay anything from £10 to £95. A few years ago Mike Tyson was there and his autograph was an eye watering £150. Sigourney Weaver (who, to my knowledge, has only ever done one other event of this kind in an Aliens cast reunion in Toronto last year was charging £95 this year).

cc1Now my first guest I wanted to meet was Neve Campbell, who was a European convention exclusive guest, we found her table but there was only an empty seat, Neve was at her first photo shoot. I got myself two VT stubs, a low number thankfully of 51/52 and decided to find my next guest, that being Tom Savini. With Tom having been around the block a bit and having been to so many of these events, I had heard a lot of bad fan experiences where Mr. Savini had been rude and very cold to fans. So when I got in line to meet him I was a bit nervous. What do I say? How do I act? I had taken along the lid to my blu-ray collectors edition of From Dusk Till Dawn, the ‘Titty Twister Edition’. Meeting Tom was short and sweet but, I’m pleased to say he was nice and pleasant. His wife was with him and she mentioned that she had not seen many of the box lids given to be signed, which was nice. Tom didn’t say much, but I went away happy, which is the main thing. I ventured over to Neve again, she still wasn’t back.

I had seen at other conventions a booth sponsored by the SyFy channel called the SyFy Cam. Imagine, if you will, the camera set up from The Matrix when Neo bends backwards and dodges the bullets. This was the same kind of think. To pass some time, me and my wife got in line (it was short) and had a go of it. It was amazing, we had lightsabers and the result was fantastic. I am leaping backwards and my wife is slashing me with the lightsaber. I look like I am floating in mid air, good times!

cc2We went back to Neve Campbell around 14.30 and she was finally back. We gave our tickets in and waited. Now me and my wife love coming to these events but most of the guests are guests I want to see. There are a few guests we have met that we both like and Neve was one of them. Sidney Prescott was standing in front of us, I got a bit nervous, I picked my picture to sign and asked how her flight over was and if she had finished filming Season 4 of House of Cards (she has for any fans of the show out there). A couple of days previous I had noticed that a flight attendant had posted on Instagram a picture of Neve and her on a plane. I mentioned this to her and she smiled, awkward but I didn’t have anything prepared to say so went with it.

Two of the main film casts pushed this year was Back To The Future (celebrating its 30th Anniversary) and Aliens. Most of the cast of both films were there. I’ve actually made it a ‘thing’ for me to meet and collect the autographs of the Aliens cast as it is one of my favourite films. Bill Paxton and Sigourney Weaver were present at the convention but were out of my price range, so I opted to meet Carrie Henn who played Newt. Carrie has never acted in a film since and is currently a school teacher. She was extremely busy at the convention, but we managed to get an autograph and had a quick chat about nothing in particular.

cc3Next to Carrie was James Tolkan. Now you may not know the name but you will certainly remember his face. He played Principal Strikland in BTTF Trilogy, Stinger in Top Gun and Detective Lubic in the fantastically 80’s movie Masters Of The Universe. He was a great guest, allowed an over the table photo, and I said I loved him in MoTU. The guy is 82 years old and still doing conventions, what a legend.

There were a lot of other guests there on the day but after a long look around the stalls and a long go on the retro consoles on the upper floors our Comic Con was over for another year.

Area Q (2011) Review

areaqArea Q (2011)

Director: Gerson Sanginitto

Starring: Isaiah Washington,  Ricardo Conti, Tania Khalill, Murilo Rosa

UK DVD Release October 5th 2015 from High Fliers Films

This is how the most unbelievable story I have ever covered begins.”

First impressions; That’s the font from Sliders. OMG Isaiah Washington! This will be good. Boy this is cheap. Wow, this is long.

Yikes. I’m afraid my interest in Brazil got the better of me and I volunteered to review Area Q.

Thomas Mathews (Isaiah Washington), an investigative journalist mourning the disappearance of his son, is sent on assignment to Brazil. There are stories of close encounters with UFOs and miraculous healings in a place called Area Q. Named after the plethora of towns with names that begin with “Q”. Many of the abducted describe a bright white light with an orange tinge that seem to happen around a certain rocky “mountain” in the area. Most of the time is spent wandering around Area Q talking to witnesses, investigating dirt circles that are hotter than the surrounding dirt, and the occasional flashback. So, so many flashbacks.

As good as Isaiah Washington normally is, it seemed like he was sleep walking through most of the movie (imagine my horror when I saw he had a producer credit at the end of the film! I guessed he agreed to star in this for a free trip to Brazil…). Or maybe he just didn’t want to outshine his co-stars and held back. Or maybe it was just a bad movie and even he couldn’t save it.

Area Q 2The good parts: Area Q is filmed in Brazil. It’s actually a Brazil/U.S. production and filmed on location. It’s kind of good looking. The film quality is kind of cheap, but the scenery makes up for it. The Brazilian actors seem to be talented amateurs. They aren’t horrible. A few are better than others but no one was painful to watch. The effects are also cheap, but thankfully minimal. And, umm…Isaiah Washington? Sort of?

The not so good: The sound! Arg! The dialogue is barely audible. Which is worse when dealing with thick accents. The Portuguese was subtitled but probably the only way to catch everything would either be superhuman hearing or captions. But, how important is the dialogue really when the plot is a plot everyone has seen before? Benevolent aliens have come to save us from ourselves.

They are kidnapping folks, aging them backwards, and then having them reborn once their programming is complete. The end result? In the words of the film, imagine ten thousand Gandhis (is that the plural of Gandhi?) running around making the world a better place. (OK, maybe those weren’t the exact words). At a run time only minutes shy of two hours Area Q is a long haul. And what was the time spent on? I watched the whole thing (admittedly it took two days and the occasional break for Facebook games to make it through) and I’m still not sure.

Area Q 3The bottom line is Area Q is boring. If it had been forty minutes shorter I would recommend it as a bland but decent Close Encounters knock-off with an exotic locale and Isaiah Washington. But as it stands, no, not recommended.

Kudos for: Brazil

Lesson learned: So that’s how reincarnation works…aliens…

4/10

Dead Rising: Watchtower UK release July 27th + exclusive clips & interviews

Content Media is set to release the highly anticipated *Dead Rising: Watchtower *internationally, presented by Legendary Digital, available to rent or own on all major digital platforms on selected dates worldwide across Europe, Asia, Australasia, South America and Africa from July 1st 2015. The international release follows its US release through Sony’s Crackle streaming service in March.

Legendary Digital presents *Dead Rising: Watchtower*, a Dead Rising/Contradiction Films Production- directed by Zach Lipovsky *(Leprechaun: Origins)*, written and produced by Tim Carter (Mortal Kombat: Legacy), and executive produced by Tomas Harlan (Mortal Kombat: Legacy) and Lorenzo di Bonaventura (the Transformers franchise). Based on the widely popular Capcom videogame franchise Dead Rising, Dead Rising: Watchtower features an all-star cast including Jesse Metcalfe (Dallas, John Tucker Must Die), Meghan Ory (Once Upon a Time, Intelligence), Virginia Madsen (Sideways, Candyman), Dennis Haysbert (24; Men, Women & Children) and Rob Riggle (22 Jump Street, The Hangover).

Dead Rising: Watchtower follows Chase Carter (Jesse Metcalfe), a reporter trying to make it big – but the pursuit of his career-defining story leads him into the heart of a zombie-infested warzone. East Mission, Oregon is locked down after police find the bodies of what appear to be victims of a zombie attack. Zombies are not a new phenomenon, but outbreaks are uncommon. Past incidents were only just contained in time and the country is nervous. When two ambitious Net 2.0 reporters, Chase and his colleague Jordan, get inside the quarantine zone to report on a large group of civilians trapped in an inner city dome stadium, they realise they’re waiting for a rescue that isn’t coming.

Many of those abandoned inside are survivors of past outbreaks who carry the zombie virus in their blood. They only survive by taking the antidote once every 24 hours — a drug called Zombrex. When the local drug supply mysteriously fails, a small crisis explodes into mass panic and catastrophe.

The story unfolds from two perspectives: survivors inside the city and officials and the media on the outside. Unlike virtually all other zombie narratives, the world hasn’t ended. The outbreak is a large-scale natural
disaster that the rest of the world watches on TV. After Jordan manages to escape the quarantine zone, she sets out to unravel the conspiracy behind the failed Zombrex, while Chase is trapped inside with a few others like tough loner with a secret Crystal (Meghan Ory) and grief-stricken mother Maggie (Virginia Madsen), battling to survive. Their perilous, action-packed journey to escape simultaneously forces them to question what they’re willing to do to survive and, ultimately, their own sense of humanity.