Che Gilson

About Che Gilson

Che Gilson is a long time horror fan having been converted early by the Hammer vampire films that used to air on local TV stations after Saturday morning cartoons ended. Fed on a regular diet of horror novels she still loves a good scare. She is the author of several comic books, the urban fantasy novella "Carmine Rojas: Dog Fight" and the upcoming "Tea Times Three". While she can't seem to actually write a horror novel she still watches copious amounts of horror movies. She blogs on TV and writing at https://chegilson.wordpress.com/ Twitter: @CheGilson

Valley of The Sasquatch (2015) Review

votsValley of the Sasquatch (2015)

Director: John Portanova

Starring: Bill Oberst Jr., Jason Vail, Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, David Saucedo, D’Angelo Midili

“So Sergio freaked out and shot a bush? Who hasn’t?”

Dysfunctional father and son duo Roger and Michael Crew (Jason Vail and Miles Joris-Peyrafitte) are forced to move to a not-quite-fit for human habitation cabin in the middle of the woods. Dad Roger immediately invites his drinking buddy Sergio (David Saucedo) and brother-in-law Will (D’Angelo Midili) up for the weekend. Primarily as an excuse to drink and do drugs with Sergio and go shoot woodland animals. What they didn’t expect was a family of Sasquatch trying to defend their territory against loggers? Presumably. It’s not terribly well explained but doesn’t really matter.

And who really expects Sasquatches anyway? The hapless group find their numbers whittled down and at last make a stand back at the cabin with fellow hapless Squatch survivor Bauman (Bill Oberst Jr.). Though they face more danger from their fellow man than a gang of kidnapping Sasquatch.

vots1Valley (it’s actually a mountain) of the Sasquatch is pretty good. Though the majority of the film is spent on the saga of Roger and Michael as they bicker and Roger lets his horrible friend Sergio constantly insult his son Michael. Slowly the circumstances of Rog and Mike’s dire straits are revealed during a hunting trip gone wrong. The Sasquatches of which there are supposedly three–but there is only one Squatch playing all three– arrive an hour into the film. When they do show up it’s, well, spectacular is overstating it, but it’s darn fun. The Squatch himself is a tall actor in a fur suit with an unfortunately immobile mask on. The fact that all the Squatches look alike is confusing, but ultimately doesn’t matter. They attack and our hapless heroes have to make a run for it.

The motivation for the Squatches is chalked up to loggers. Though why they kidnap some people and murder others is never brought up or explained. They also seem to be gentle creatures at heart, despite the violence they display they seem to just be repaying getting shot at a lot.

Across the board he acting is great with only one exception. Vail does a great job of being surly functional alcoholic dad. Joris-Peyrafritte stands out as the vulnerable and put upon son Michael. Saucedo is good at being horrible. Sergio is loathsome to the core, a cowardly bully who talks to Michael in a way no one should even talk to a dog. Midili as uncle Will is good, but some of his lines come out with a weird delivery. Still, uncle Will is one of only two likeable characters in the entire movie. Bill Oberst Jr. has a few good scenes but isn’t in it as much as could be hoped for. He opens the film then comes back toward the end to take part in the climax.

vots2The cinematography warrants special mention. The scenery is beautiful. Full of green trees, meadows of flowers and towering pines. The shots get trickier inside the dismal cabin, for starters it’s ugly. It’s also hard to get an idea of the layout of the cabin and the rooms are tiny, making for one of the worst knife fights in the history of cinema. The director also chose to shoot the scenes at night which made the forest a pressing wall of trees from which anything might emerge at any time. Much preferable to shooting day-for-night. The darkness also hides the Squatch’s face which was a good choice given that the actor couldn’t emote through the rubber mask.

Recommended to Sasquatch aficionados who like a side helping of family drama and anyone who likes pretty scenery.

Kudos for: An arm for an arm.

Lesson learned: Camping sucks.

5/10

Jonah Lives (2012) Review

Jonah Live PosterJonah Lives (2012)

Director: Luis Carvalho

Starring: Jocelyn Padilla, Ryan Boudreau, Nicole Lasala, James Barrett, Rob Roy, Aaron Peaslee, Cesar Pereira.

“It’s raining it’s boring.”

Six teens use a Ouija board to summon a spirit back from the grave. Jonah rises from the dead and makes his way to their house for revenge? Jonah’s motivations are entirely unclear, but boy is he grumpy.

Jonah Lives is, kindly put, not good. Lucky then that it’s so bad it’s good. Unintentionally hilarious in fact. There are more than a few laugh-out-loud moments. The dialogue is set on repeat, there are numerous awkward silences, cheesy special effects, bad acting by actors too old to play teens and weighty discussions of world religions spouted by characters who don’t seem smart enough to be passing remedial English. It all goes in to create a film that must be seen to be believed as no description is going to do it justice.

There is no real rhyme or reason to anything that happens in Jonah Lives except that it was scripted that way. The six bored teenagers are hanging out in Francis’ (Boudreau) basement playing poker for nickels while upstairs their parent are having a wilder party than the teens, seriously, their parents are having a drugged out key party.

Jonah Live 1There is a vague subplot about one of the parents not finding a sitter for her daughter, and the hapless pre-teen is roofied by her mother so she’ll sleep through the party, an aside which goes nowhere. Meanwhile in the basement the teens raise the dead over the vocal objections of one boy who has enough theological knowledge to teach a class and refuses to have anything to do with the devil’s work. There is also maybe a Christian message?

There is no consistency to the characters either. Of the two girls one whines her way through to the end and the other has a massive existential meltdown that comes out of nowhere. Francis, who insisted on using the Ouija in the first place has an adorable interaction with the pre-teen girl from the party who is hanging out in his bedroom. He tells her to read the Bible instead of watching TV and that all she needs to know is in the Good Book. He then takes his Ouija board downstairs and raises the dead!?

Another glaring weak point is Jonah’s motivation. Attending the adult party upstairs is his grotesque widow. I spent the entire movie waiting for Jonah to leave the basement, bust into the upstairs party and take his bloody revenge. But no. That doesn’t happen. Maybe the film makers didn’t have the budget, maybe they just lack imagination. Either way events unfold in the most typical of horror movie ways with no real reason. Or at least very thin reason, in that Jonah decides to target the teens who raised him rather than his ex-wife. Which, without getting into spoilers seems backwards.

Jonah Lives 2Now for the good. Jonah looks great. the make-up is excellent. A little stiff in the face perhaps, but he doesn’t really need to emote much aside from the odd grunt and growl. Again I have to reiterate that Jonah Lives is so bad its good. Get your friends together, watch it, and riff to your heart’s content.

Kudos for: The 80s Synth tracks.

Lesson learned: Francis knows all and sees all.

4/10

Devil Makes Work (2014) Short Film Review

dmw1Devil Makes Work (2014)

Director: Guy Soulsby

Starring: Shaun Dooley, Duncan Meadows, Sebastian Canciglia, Michael English, Georgina Morrell, Wreh-Asha Walton

Running time: 7 minutes

“They say we all have a story.”

A scruffy devil(?) sits on a throne of used tires and tells us there are winners and losers, power and demons, and asks what the viewer is willing to sacrifice to gain everything they want.

There are lots of beautiful shots. In fact the short is nothing but beautiful shots strung together. Slow motion crucifixes falling, burning Bibles, Sisyphus pushing his boulder up a burning hill in Hell, slow motion blood (which I swear is either acrylic or tempera paint), roses, Jesus carrying his cross, the list goes on. It’s all very lovely to look at and Soulsby’s background directing commercials shows. The imagery has a lot of punch packed into a very short span. He knows how to grab an audience in the first seconds and pull their attention along.

dmw2But as for an actually story arc… well, there isn’t one. It’s just really, really pretty. A sort of gothic visual poem. The production value is high, as in ‘more movies should look like this’ kind of high. The special effects are beautiful. Every shot is heavy with mood and threatening ambiance. It’s no wonder that poking around the Facebook page, the film has won numerous awards from film fests. At the same time though it would have been nice if there was more meat on such attractive bones.

Kudos for: So pretty. So, so pretty.

Lesson learned: Find a better throne than one made of tires.

6/10

Website – www.devilmakeswork.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/devilmakeswork

Twitter – https://twitter.com/guysoulsby

Selfie (2015) Review

selfie posterSelfie (2015)

Director: Geoff Harmer

Starring: Stacy Hart

Running time: 7 minutes

“I might be a girl but I can mess you up.”

I can’t give any better a synopsis than the one from the website, so to quote “A woman is haunted by a mysterious figure in her selfie photos.” And that figure is right out of a J-Horror, with black hair hanging over her face and a tattered nightgown on. But there is a reason those sort of ghosts work so well, they are implacable and undefined. The imagination can imprint far more menace on them than any make-up job.

Selfie is a great mood piece with dark stairs and a creeping figure that grows closer with every snap the unnamed protagonist takes. Photography and horror have gone hand in hand since the technology was created and the idea of the camera seeing more than we can is an intriguing one that never seems to grow old.

The film begins with most mundane of set-ups, and quickly takes a turn for the creepy. A woman at home watching TV and texting with her boyfriend. The texts appear as little pop up bubbles on screen so the viewer can read them. She sends her boyfriend a few selfies and he keeps complaining she’s not alone. My one small quibble is with the boyfriend who texts her that he’s worried she’s seeing someone else when he sees the figure behind her. Which is ridiculous? Who is she is supposed to cheating on him with? The Grudge?

selfie prod shotStacy Hart does an admirable job of carrying the short all on her own. As the only actor she had to make it work. While there is nothing wholly original about Selfie, it is great fun to watch. Show it to any J-Horror fans you know.

Kudos For: The Ring homage (intentional or not).

Final lesson: Stop taking selfies!

6/10

Stephen King’s A Good Marriage (2014) Review

agm1Stephen King’s A Good Marriage (2014)

Director: Peter Askin

Starring: Joan Allen, Anthony LaPaglia, Stephen Lang, Cara Buono.

Based on a short story by Stephen King.

UK DVD Release 20th April 2015 from Spirit Entertainment

“She knew nothing.”

Darcy Anderson (Allen) discovers her husband Bob (LaPaglia) has a dark secret that shakes her to the core, bringing into question twenty five years of marriage that from the outside looks blissful. This is the most synopsis that can be given without getting into spoilers. Most of which can be guessed at by the movie poster. However it’s not the “what” that is important, but the “what next”. A Good Marriage begins with what would normally be the climax and builds the tension off the character’s emotions.

A Good Marriage is also a closer relation to King’s more literary and dramatic works, like Dolores Claiborne. In fact it’s almost a sister film to that movie, giving the characters impossible choices and delving into their psyches.

Joan Allen, is, as always, impeccable. Her performance is nuanced, her character Darcy sympathetic and fraying as her life and marriage crumble around her. Anthony LaPaglia’s perky Bob runs counterpoint to his wife, creating a perverse satire of happy domesticity.

agm2Despite all the high points, and they are many and high, A Good Marriage misses the mark by mere inches. It’s very much a domestic drama a la Stephen King, but it’s territory that has been covered many a time before. Gore hounds are also advised to look elsewhere, this simply isn’t that kind of film. Stephen Lang’s character Holt is completely wasted, coming in at the very end for no real reason other than to enact one final scene with Joan Allen. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great scene. But had Holt been IN the movie that last scene would have had amazing emotional resonance.

After getting off to a bang A Good Marriage slows during a long middle, the best portion of which is Darcy trying to decide what to do without losing her mind. But It’s still a long slow burn to the ending of which there are three. Just when it should be over, it keeps going. Then just as the penultimate scene ends there is yet more. And each of the three are oddly rushed. The movie also feels small. It feels like a really good movie-of-the-week and it’s no wonder it didn’t really get wide release.

This is also a good thriller that you can recommend to your parents without shame. Whether that’s good or bad depends on you and your parents. As a character study though there is a lot to love and King completionists should enjoy it.

agm3Kudos for: Joan Allen, because Joan Allen.

Final lesson: Don’t leave passive aggressive notes in your wife’s candy stash.

7/10

Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette – #1 Act of Vengeance (1974)

Join Che as she plays Netflix Roulette and watches a randomly selected horror film. Will it be awesome? Will it be torture? What horrors await?? Find out every month with Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette!

Act of Vengeance posterTitle: Act of Vengeance (aka The Violator, Rape Squad)

Year: 1974

Director: Bob Kelljchian

Netflix Rating: 2.8

Seen it before: No

Starring: Jo Ann Harris, Peter Brown, Jennifer Lee, Lisa Moore, Connie Strickland, Patricia Estrin

First Impressions: WTF? Is this even horror? It’s some kind of exploitation film for sure! I can tell that much by the poster. And the year. And the plot. And the era. Le sigh. Oh well, here we go…

The verdict: Ugh! Just ugh! Arg! Goddammit movie! Goddamn 70s! *Flails with rage*

Eh hrm. OK. I’m fine now. No I’m not. I lied.

First off the subtitle of this film should basically be Trigger Warning. So trigger warning.

Act of Vengeance is about five victims of a serial rapist who band together to fight abusive men and get revenge on their rapist after the police prove less than helpful. They deal with sexism, incompetent police, a stalker, a pimp, and a total lack of bras.

Act of Vengeance 2On one hand it’s a pretty basic 1970s revenge flick/exploitation film made to cash in on the popularity of the gritty vigilante craze. It’s certainly not one of the better ones though. The acting is mediocre to laughably bad with occasional bursts of competence. The music is cheesy saxophone style stuff that reaches levels of offensive as “sexy” tracks play over rape scenes. The directing is functional. It’s not confusing, the plot is simple enough that no one could mess it up.

But here’s the thing. First off the sexism is painful to watch. Made all the worse by the fact that it still exists and at those levels, making Act of Vengeance painfully relevant when in a better world it wouldn’t be. The police are terrible, but according to some of the Netflix reviews accurate to the time period. When Linda (Harris) goes to the police station to give her report, immediately after being assaulted, she is given no privacy, has to give her details to a male detective, gets ogled, and victim blamed. The police even bring the women in for a bullshit line-up and complain how hard their job is and how hard rape convictions are. And they still are. And the victims are still blamed. And this movie should feel more antiquated than it does. And the rape scenes are horrible 1970s rape for titillation made creepier by the sound track. A cheap and inexcusable excuse for showing breasts while trying to be serious? I don’t know. But it’s the 70s, so, boobs.

BUT, for all its sins Act of Vengeance is a silly grindhouse flick that makes some cogent arguments about victim’s rights and the empowerment of women. The women defend other women. Taking matters into their own hands, setting up a crisis hotline, taking karate lessons, and confronting men about their bad behavior.

Act of Vengeance 3The Netflix reviews are also very polarized. Some people love it, some hate it. Most of the hate is directed at the technical flaws like the acting, which I wasn’t expecting much from. The dialogue swings between ridiculous to serious, dropping a few f*bombs along the way. And Rapist Jack even gets to narrate his own life. No really. He goes around with a tape recorder planning his rapes and talking about himself in the third person. I couldn’t help but wish this were an episode of Criminal Minds, I just know there’s a diagnosis for Jack. Oh, and he has single-handedly ruined Jingle Bells forever.

If you like 1970s exploitation flicks there are far, far better ones to watch. Anything from Death Wish to Cleopatra Jones (one of my personal favorites) will serve you better.

Rating: 2/10

Blood Ransom (2014) Review

bloodramson1Blood Ransom 2014

Director: Francis dela Torre

Starring: Anne Curtis, Alexander Dreymon, Jamie Harris, Dion Basco, Caleb Hunt

Running Time  – 101 Minutes

“You kill us in the throat.”

Crystal (Curtis) is a goth stripper on the verge of turning into a vampire. She has seven days to kill a human with a special dagger or, if she changes her mind, have someone kill her with the same dagger. Then she’s kidnapped but rescued by the driver Jeremiah (Dreymon) who she has feelings for. A hitman, a super freaking cool hit man named Bill (Harris) is dispatched by vampire Roman (Hunt) to kill them? Not kill them? Kill the kidnappers? Let’s just say a lot of disjointed stuff happens. All the while the whole movie is being voiced over by Jeremiah’s childhood friend and police officer Oliver (Basco). Painfully, ponderously, voiced over. Oh and Blood Ransom is set in West Covina, which it will remind you of often.

First the good. The film is well acted, well shot and well directed. It was lovely to look at and the casting was diverse. With only one or two outstanding exceptions all the actors were excellent. There are interesting costumes, like Crystal’s goth stripper get-up. The special effects are minimal but look great. The vampires go all black-veins when hungry and the filmmakers used it well. Fun characters abound, from delightfully strange hitman Bill to the Tom Hiddleston look-a-like vampire Roman and Oliver’s cowboy partner played by Clifton Powell. Plus the movie introduces a really unique vampire mythos all its own. And of course VAMPIRES. I love vampires. And I wanted, desperately, to love Blood Ransom.

Blood Ransom 2But what actually happened when watching of Blood Ransom was this:

Phase 1) This is going to be terrible. It’s always dubious when a movie opens with scrolling text explaining the entire plot in advance.

Phase 2) This is going to be awesome! A pretty vampire, a kidnapping gone wrong, and the best hitman since, well OK he’s not John Wick, but dammit, Bill is great and needed to be in his own movie.

Phase 3) When will this be over?

After the first twenty minutes the pacing goes off the rails and slows to an imperceptible crawl as Crystal and Jeremiah go on the run. Oliver’s voiceover continually breaks in for long and morose monologues about his father’s encounter with vampires and the nature of life/fate/God. Roman is barely in it. Oliver adds nothing to the movie. He is supposed to be investigating a murder in a bar and hides the fact that the victims are acquaintances of his. He is covering for Jeremiah all the while trying to find him. But Oliver doesn’t. He’s five steps behind the plot at all times and his voiceover drones on continually.

After a certain point everything stops making sense. Events get sloppy, transitions are sudden, it feels like things happen just to get characters to particular locations. The film also suffers a major identity crisis. It starts off as a supernatural crime drama, wanders off into romance, then ponders the major philosophical issues of our day before wandering back into action movie territory.

Blood-Ransom 1I would ALMOST recommend Blood Ransom to die-hard vampire fans. They might be able to struggle through. The problem is I AM a die-hard vampire fan and I barely made it. Someone out there is bound to like it though. So give at least the first half hour a shot if you really, really, really, like vampires. And did I mention hitman Bill?

Kudos for: The existentialist dread and hit man Bill.

Final lesson: Under the right circumstances you can bring a knife to gun fight.

4/10

Blood Ransom is currently being handled by Devilworks and you can get more info on Blood Ransom by visiting their website here – http://devilworks.eu/projects/blood-ransom-101-min/

Misogynist (2013) Review

misog1Misogynist (2013)

Director: Michael Matteo Rossi

Starring: Jonathon Bennett, Jon Briddell, Danielle Lozeau, Tracey E. Bregman, Alia Raelynn, Eve Mauro

Out Now on VOD

“You better keep your voice close to your vest…”

Trevor (Biddell), male chauvinist and the films titular misogynist, finds stray puppy Harrison (Bennett) on the sidewalk one day. Trevor promises that if Harrison follows him home he will teach Harrison how to never get taken advantage of by women again. Three years later Harrison is Trevor’s golden boy, helping conduct Trevor’s dubious “seminars”, which involve a lot of unwarranted fisticuffs for no discernible reason (the script needed tension?). Harrison, on the verge of his greatest conquest, marrying the virginal April (Lozeau), is beginning to wonder what sort of man he really wants to be.

The movie doesn’t really live up to the film poster. The bar set by the synopsis and even the tagline are pretty high. It looks like an early 90’s sexual thriller in the vein of Basic Instinct. Instead it’s a low budget thriller without the thrills. Or boobs. Judging by the film poster I was fully expecting nudity. And BDSM. None of which were present. There are a couple of sex scenes sans nudity, one of which is kind of rapey, and some dirty talk. But that’s all.

misog2But that doesn’t mean the film is terrible. What it accomplishes is a small scale fairly decent character study of Trevor and Harrison. Trevor is unrepentant and repellant. Biddell oozes gross charm and gleeful hate. In fact all the actors in Misogynist are giving 110%. A few scenes cross the border into melodrama, but with a better script those scenes would have worked. April has one of the most dramatic scenes in the movie and Lozeau handles it with skill and vulnerability.

The main problem is one of pacing. A long, long, long time is spent in one of Trevor’s “seminars”- is it really a seminar with only three people? We get it, Trevor is an asshole. Trevor hates women. Give Trevor thirty days and you too can learn to use and abuse women. The entire seminar complete with multiple punches takes an eternity. An eternity that could have been better used developing Harrison, his fiancé April, and April’s mother. The pacing together with a weak script the movie feels smaller than it could have.

There are long conversations which obviously serve only to set up the climax. The end comes suddenly and the twist has already been telegraphed. Then there’s a text wrap-up and brief call back to the seminar that occupies almost the first third of the film. And the final shocker at the end could have, and should have been a real shocker but the movie ends with no warning and no time for the characters to absorb the impact of what just happened.

misog3Misogynist’s budget, or lack thereof, shows again and again like an unzipped fly. From having to film only inside people’s apartments and houses because someone couldn’t afford the permits to film on the streets of LA(I’m guessing). Though I will say they accomplished a very nice wedding without actually showing it, so props. A few obvious money saving shots and awkward transitions bring down the overall production value and feels plain cheap.

Kudos for: Fuck yeah April!

Final lesson: Fuck yeah April!

5/10

For more information and to watch Misogynist then please visit – http://midnightreleasing.com/misogynist

Afterimages (2014) Review

PrintAfterimages (2014)

Director: Tony Kern

Starring: Jeremy Meyer, Caren Utino, Sheena Chan, Daniel Jenkins, Kevin Legrange, Michael Kwah

European Distribution from Devilworks .

“Creepy, but confused by the end.”

A group of film students burn paper effigy cameras and receive films from the dead in the format of the camera they burned. Which is a great premise the film doesn’t quite live up to.

It begins when one of them burns a still camera and finds photographs in the ashes the next day. After that they try out various movie cameras and receive the films that make up the anthology of ghost stories which comprise Afterimages. They decide to turn in the films they get from the afterlife as their home work assignments. But of course you can’t have ghosts do your homework for you and not pay a price.

The first of the four films the students pull from the ashes is “Ghost Pool (Pull) Leg” based on the legend of ghosts pulling the legs of night time swimmers in order to drown them. In “Xiao Boa Boa” a woman witnesses a suicide and must uncover why the ghost has latched onto her. “Skin Deep” is a tale of vanity acted out in an elevator. Last and best is “Rekindling” which has veteran actor Vincent Tee. His experience really shows and carries the short.

On the plus side the setting of Singapore and the ghosts based around Chinese and Malaysian mythologies is great. There is some nice cinematography including computer overlays in “Xiao Boa Boa” which enhance the creepiness and mood. The diversity of the cast is better than anything Hollywood can muster up. The cast is truly international and makes Singapore- as seen in the film, a true cultural crossroads.

Afterimages-03024For those who don’t like reading, fear not, there are no subtitles, it’s filmed in English. It’s sort of creepy? There isn’t anything shocking and it’s nothing a horror buff hasn’t seen before in other, better movies, but it’s an okay introduction to South East Asian horror films.

Unfortunately the negatives outweigh Afterimages few strengths. The acting is very uneven. A few of the actors do a great job, but their performances are hampered by the majority of mediocre to poor performances. The special effects are, well, bad. The film feels significantly longer than its 93 min. runtime and the film quality was grainy and dark, making the darker shots hard to read. Though with the poor special effects that might be a bonus. In some scenes there is a disconnect between the ghost and the action taking place, as if the ghost isn’t even present in the scene. A lot of jumpy cuts at major scare points don’t help and it undermines the supernatural occurrences in a few places.

Worst of all were the characters of the film students. They had no real reason to be in the movie but someone decided there should be a framing device. Derrick, the American(?) student was horrible and possibly racist-he calls one of his Singaporean friends a ‘fortune cookie’. The film students story progresses from “This is cool” to “Let’s make a crowd funded movie and call if Afterimages” (yes there is a commercial for the film midway through the movie), to “This getting scary”.

10689 -Afterimages-1There is also some vague plot about the house they’re staying in which comes in at the very end for no good reason. Afterimages did not need the framing device of the film students and it only serves to pad out the runtime. The actual story of the house and the students might have made a compelling film all by itself but it feels sandwiched in.

Kudos for: The bicycle bell of doom and oscillating fan cam.

Final Lesson: VHS tapes are not that old!

4/10

Trailer

Judas Ghost (2013) Review

JudasGhost-DVD-2DJudas Ghost (2013)

Director: Simon Pearce

Starring: Martin Delaney, Lucy Cudden, Simon Merrells, Alexander Perkins

Judas Ghost is released in the UK from Bulldog Films on April 20th

We don’t take any shit from the hereafter.”

Five Ghost Finders from the Carnacki Institute have been sent to a village hall to investigate a suspected haunting and film a training video for the Institute at the same time. They’ve been told it’s just a typical haunting, people getting the willies and children making creepy drawings. The group is lead by brash and overconfident Jerry Mackay (Delaney) the team sets up in the empty village hall and goes to work.

All is not what it seems, psychic Anna Gilmore (Cudden) can’t detect anything in the hall, not even traces of the living which it should be rife with. They guess that something very powerful is masking itself but of course all thoughts of leaving are shot down by Mackay who constantly (and in the face of evidence to the contrary) insists that it’s just a typical haunting and everything will be fine. But of course far more is going on than anyone on the team suspected and the Carnacki Institute leaves it’s investigators to their fate. Supposedly the Institute is watching it all go down from somewhere safe and cozy with ample popcorn.

jg3Judas Ghost is a locked room mystery and in an interview with Simon R. Green, author of The Ghost Finders series and scriptwriter of Judas Ghost, he explained that they had a much larger movie in mind. However the film they wanted to make cost too much so he had to go back to the drawing board. He devised Judas Ghost as a stage play. The film has one setting (aside from a few brief flashbacks) and five actors. In such circumstances, and on such a limited budget, a lot rests on the performances. Luckily everyone is up to the task. The acting is topnotch and the film makes good use of the few special effects it can afford and while not particularly scary, there is a sense of mystery and suspense maintained throughout.

The flaws of the film double as its strengths. It’s not really scary and it looks like a cheaper episode of Supernatural. It feels like a television pilot and at one point when the screen went black I fully expected a commercial break. It takes a long time for anything more than a few haunted house standards to happen (a piano plays by itself). Also Jerry Mackay (Delaney) is incredibly irritating, his dialogue consists mostly of varying iterations of “We can handle this”, although he does finally lose it at one point which turns out to be pretty satisfying.

Another minor irritant is cameraman Mark Vega (played by Simon Merrells). He alone seems to know what is happening, or at least a close approximation as he has run into something similar before. He dribbles information only when the plot demands it and it comes off as withholding important information. The ghost of the title doesn’t show up until well toward the end and he is a little anti-climactic. Gloating like a cartoon villain.

jg2Flaws aside it’s a great lesson for film makers on how make good use of a small budget. Show to aspiring filmmakers, older children, and fans of Supernatural. For curious book lovers there are a series of Ghost Finder novels, and if you know any Simon R. Green fans this one is for them.

Kudos for: The Exorcist gag and Shakespeare quote.

Final lesson: Always bring a towel.

6/10

Available April 20 from Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Judas-Ghost-DVD-Martin-Delaney/dp/B00U2MTL60/