Craig Huntley

About Craig Huntley

Craig became a film fan at a young age, with memories of being told to leave the room by his dad when watching Alien and the chest explosion scene (but still secretly watching through a crack in the door). His favourite horror movies are The Thing, The Strangers and Halloween, favourite horror novel is Slugs by Shaun Hutson. Craig is an executive producer of LouCypher Productions short film 'Squeal' and upcoming documentary 'Horror in the South West' directed by Louis Du Toit.

KillerSaurus (2015) Review

killersaurus1KillerSaurus (2015)

Directed by Steve Lawson

Starring Julian Boote, Adam Collins, Helen Crevel and Steven Dolton

Out on UK DVD from 88 Films

When a scientist runs short of funding for his life-saving medical Bio – Printing research, he accepts an offer of investment from a shadowy military organisation. In return, he is forced to use his technology to create the ultimate battlefield weapon – a full size Tyrannosaurus Rex. After an horrific accident in which the dinosaur massacres his research team, the scientist shuts down the project. However his investors demand results and it can only be a matter of time before the deadly T-Rex is unleashed upon the world.

Back in 1993 one of my most vivid memories was visiting my local (independent) cinema, the Monaco in Rhiwbina, Cardiff to watch the majestic Jurassic Park. Although not my favourite Spielberg movie, take a bow ET, I was engrossed by the film from the opening shot to the last. I was swept up in the rush of dinosaur enthusiasm, learning about each and ever dinosaur and hunting for amber in the local emporiums. Although my dinosaur enthusiasm has waned over the years, my love of dinosaur films has certainly not.

killersaurus2This leads me to 2015’s Killer/Saurus, an ambitious film, a film with no shortness of ambition. Almost immediately I was struck how well the film looked. I watched this on a HD stream and the film looked clean, with sharp contrast and a good use of colour and composition. Looking at the cast and crew I can see that the director was also the cinematographer, no small feat. From the small number of independent B-movies I have reviewed this fact certainly stood out, so I immediately engaged with the movie from the start.

The score is ominous and works. It sounds big and cinematic, and is appropriate to the film. Sometimes I look at purchasing such scores and find it difficult to source, for example this soundtrack is nowhere to be found on places such as iTunes.

The script is perfunctory and simple, very perfunctory in fact. In a film like this, on a budget of this size, although claiming to be a ‘creature feature’ its very much ala a bottle episode of a well made TV show. You know the episodes, mid season, budget saving, 2 or 3 people in a room all shouting at each other. In this instance, the script has to work, otherwise the viewer is instantly bored and loses interest. In this instance I was very much bored. I’m not one to have see action every other scene, but a script has to keep me engaged, and this one didn’t. Lines such as “Never underestimate the power of instinct” and stolen from the ultimate creature feature, Jaws, “smile you sonofabitch!” don’t ring true and comes across as false and, indeed, lazy.

killersaurus3The budget, although small, has been used well. Notably one scene comes to mind where a character is decapitated and thrown across a room. So as to cut down on costs, the head has a gas mask on it, so no need to show gore or blood on it. Kind of ingenious if I’m honest.

In conclusion, with an above average look with cinematography and an engaging score I was initially engaged with Killer/Saurus, and thought I would enjoy it from beginning to end. Unfortunately it did not engage me for very long. The actual T-Rex of the movie is barely in it which is frustrating.

5/10

Navy Seals vs Zombies (2015) DVD Review

navysealsNavy S.E.A.L.S Vs Zombies (2015)

Directed by Stanton Barrett

Starring Michael Dudikoff, Ed Quinn and Rick Fox

UK DVD Release Feb 15th 2016 from Icon Entertainment

A team of highly skilled Navy SEALS find themselves in the battle of their lives when they come face-to-face with the marauding undead armies. After a deadly outbreak occurs in New Orleans, the rugged band of SEALS must fight for their lives, their friends, the city they love against an unending army of zombies.

I like a good Vs.movie, believe it or not there are a lot of films with Vs in the title. Most are not worth your time, a lot are sold under alternative titles so you can end up watching a film you have ‘never seen’ and then realise, yes you actually have seen it. Luckily Navy S.E.A.L.S vs Zombie is in a category that is at least worth a watch. The characters are all knuckleheads, you know the types, the ‘big I am’ type of people you meet in every day life, who think the world is going to end. But you know what, I’d want them protecting me if the world was overcome with zombie overlords.

navyseals1In any horror film that involves zombies, there are a number of things that I simply have to buy into the enjoy a film. One, the acting, now it doesn’t have to be Pacino at RADA quoting the Baird but it does have to be emotional and believable. Two, the look and sound, if either look or sound cheap, I immediately disconnect from the film and lastly especially in a genre film such as this, the effects, such as the gore have to be top quality. Low quality effects can also take me out of the film. Luckily, all of my fears going into the film were quashed. Now don’t get me wrong this isn’t a multiplex billion dollar box office film by any stretch but it is worth a watch.

Michael Dudikoff, hero of the bargain bin 80’s movie headlines the film is believable and workable as Commander Sheer. A scary look here, a disgruntled grimace there, it works and he works giving the film at least somebody to connect with. The supporting cast are also workable, knowing what type of movie they are in and what is needed from their performance.

At no point during the film was I actually scared, if anything I laughed. Not a bad laugh as in ‘this is so bad, its good’. No its not that bad, I laughed at some of the effects in the film, looking almost Photoshopped, look out for a glaring fire effect. Is it bad to say a horror didn’t scare me? I don’t know but I honestly think that when a viewer watches a horror film, their own fears come out. So for example, I’m scared of the dark and what lies in it. Show me a film like 2005’s The Strangers and I am behind the sofa in no time. So this film may scare you if zombies put a shiver in your spine.

navyseals2When I was watching the film with my wife we were greatly surprised at the quality of the film. Like I say above its no masterpiece, it works within its budget and knows what type of audience it is playing for. If I was to give a comparison to anything, it would be to the TV 24. It plays like an episode of that quality wise. Stuck for something to watch on a Saturday night? Stick this on and bathe in it….

5/10

Hellraiser Trilogy Blu-Ray from Arrow Video (2016) Review

Hellraiser Trilogy Blu-Ray from Arrow Video (2016) Review

hellraiserarrow3

UK Release January 25th 2016 from Arrow Video

Hellraiser (1987)

Directed by Clive Barker

Starring Doug Bradley, Ashley Laurence and Claire Higgins

The Film

By this point in time nearly everyone in the modern world has seen at least one Hellraiser film and if not, knows the character of Pinhead at least. He has become woven into modern culture and has spawned sub cultures and numerous sequels. The film where it all began, Clive Barkers’ Hellraiser, is a stone cold classic. The musical theme that opens the film is recognisable but not hummable ala a John Williams or John Carpenter. The film is infused with set pieces, that although aged, are a sight to see, from Frank rising from the floorboards in Harryhausen stop motion to Skinless Frank staring into the moonlight (a favourite shot of mine). There is subtext if you dig deeper, the horrors that lie upstairs and the domestic middle class bliss of a dinner party downstairs. Unlike most horror films today the script is tight, scenes are there for a reason, not just to lengthen the running time. The film is a classic, seek it out.

The Presentation

Arrow Video released the Hellraiser trilogy in a ‘Scarlet Box’ limited edition set only a short amount of months ago. I couldn’t find this for love nor money in local shops or supermarkets which was a shame as it was an excellent collection. Now Arrow have seen fit to release a boxset of the trilogy. Hellraiser has also been remastered in 2K, approved by the DOP Robin Vidgeon. I watched the film on a 40” Samsung Full HD TV and unfortunately the disc did not hold up. The grain over the film in certain scenes makes the film worse than VHS and I expected better.

The Extras

Arrow Video are renowned for presenting films with generous extras, you can almost call them the UK version of Criterion. Each individual film comes with a plethora of extra which I have summarised below:

Audio Commentaries

1) Clive Barker – a well spoken thoughtful track with the director alone in the booth. Some stories are supplemented in other areas but the track is highly enjoyable. The track is only dated by him mentioning the track is being recorded days before Hellraiser – Bloodline comes out. This would date it around 1995/96.
2) Clive Barker, Ashey Laurence and Moderator – another lively track, helped in parts by the moderator. Clive Barker seems a lot more energised by having other people with him. Again an enjoyable track. Well worth a listen.

Making Of – Leviathan

A feature length documentary behind the first Hellraiser, missing only Clive Barker. Most of the interviews are modern and represent a good portion of the cast that are not present on the commentaries. The only downside is a wholly unnecessary ‘trailer man’ voice over which spoils it some what.

Being Frank – Sean Chapman on Hellraiser

The actor who plays Frank is given time to speak about the role and how it came about

Soundtrack Hell

A well known historical fact is that the music of Hellraiser could have been so much different. An industrial 80’s band called Coil were supposed to score the film before a more ‘Hollywood’ composer cam onboard. This featurette interviews a former member about the scoring and the removal of the band from the film. We also get to hear some themes played over the opening to the film which is a nice touch.

Vintage Featurette – Resurrection

An of its time featurette with interviews including an on set Clive barker looking scarily like Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame.

Trailers and TV Spots

Interesting trailers including the original voice of Skinless Frank (it was dubbed with an American accent in the final film)

Overall

Overall the package from Arrow is sumptuous and will take any horror fans days to get through. Although the picture quality of this first outing isn’t the strongest which is a disappointment for this HD outing I highly recommend it.

 

hellraiserarrow1Hellbound – Hellraiser II

Directed by Tony Randel

Starring Doug Bradley, Ashley Laurence and Kenneth Cranham

With most sequels the saying goes, make it bigger, better and darker. Hellbound – Hellraiser II certainly ticks each of those boxes. Rather than try and remake the original again, the creative team behind the mega hit Hellraiser decide to go further and look further into the world of the Cenobites, where they come from and their origins.

I’ve seen Hellbound a handful of times and I have mostly watched it while its on in the background. This time was different. I watched it with no distractions and, rather than feel it was characters running down endless corridors, I got a lot more from it. It’s a worthy sequel. Most, if not all, of the creative team are back, from the writer to the make up and effects team. Scenes with skinless characters are excellent and hold up in the this début 2K HD product, unlike the original Hellraiser which looked awful in parts. Special consideration should be to Kenneth Cranham and his character of Dr. Channard, his death howl still gives me shivers to this day. An enjoyable and well made continuation of the Hellraiser saga.

Again, like before, Arrow have released a disc bursting with extras. My notes are below:

Commentaries

1) Director Tony Randel and Writer Peter Atkins – a enjoyable commentary especially when talk turns to when they start talking about the late great ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper. Also of note, they do say Laserdisc at one point which must mean this commentary is from a long long time ago.
2) Director Tony Randel, Writer Peter Atkins and Star Ashley Laurence – bringing a different dynamic to the group, star Ashley Laurence joins the conversation and talks of her time on set

Leviathan: The Story of Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Made by the same team from the Hellraiser disc, another well made, in depth discussion of the sequel and the series as a whole. The same annoying voice over is present though, it is unneeded.

Being Frank: Sean Chapman on Hellbound
Actor Sean Chapman talk about reprising the role of Frank Cotton in this film.

Surgeon Scene – the holy grail of deleted scenes. In the Under The Skin featurette, Doug Bradley says “we did not film the scene”. Sorry Douglas, yes you did! Here it is in all its glory, but it is terrible, doesn’t work and is rightfully been hidden away all these years.

Lost In The Labyrinth – Vintage Featurette – what is says on the tin, looks like it was filmed through a film of Vaseline though, oh how we loved VHS quality.

Under The Skin – Doug Bradley on Hellraiser II – discussion from the main man on why he returned to the role and its legacy.

On Set Interviews – Clive Barker/Cast and Crew – Clive Barker still looks like Trent Reznor and is very articulate/Cast and Crew are excited about the sequel and the new blood coming in.

hellraiserarrow2

Hellraiser III – Hell On Earth

Directed by Anthony Hickox

Starring Doug Bradley and Terri Farrell

Each of the original trilogy films are of their time Hellraiser and Hellbound are almost one continuous film as the British creative team were kept on but with Hell On Earth the location was changed to sunnier climes of LA. It sounds like the move overseas shouldn’t work but, for me, it does. In fact, I would go as far as saying this film is the most accessible and fun. The first two films have no humour or brevity in it, and are serious as hell, but Hell On Earth does and it works.

Doug Bradley returns again as Pinhead but this time he is mostly confined to a pillar with his head stuck in it. It weirdly works. The film again is of its time, when grunge and heavy metal were popular. Seeing the fashions and music infused into the film is a good call back to a time of fun and excitement in America, before we all became too self aware and afraid to go out our front door.

The inclusion of different Cenobites is a good addition and takes the pressure off Pinhead. Scenes set within a nightclub are gory and well done. A scene where Pinhead sheds a victims skin right off her body is a gross moment but fun at the same time.

Hell On Earth is a different beast from the first two films. Some may not like the location and tone shift but if you ride the wave, its an enjoyable ride. Also, the late great Lemmy sings a song called ‘Hellraiser’ over the end credits, its a great song. I’ve been singing it to myself since I finished the film.

Extras

Commentaries

1) Writer Pete Atkins – a solo discussion from the Liverpudlian Atkins and how he was kept on from Hellbound.

2)Director Anthony Hickox and Star Doug Bradley – a deep discussions about the behind the scenes filming

Alternate Unrated Cut of Hell On Earth – a longer cut of the film. Doesn’t really add anything of note.

Hell On Earth – The Story of Hellraiser III – a shorter, sharper look at the behind the scenes making of the film.

Terri’s Tales – an up to date interview with actress Paula Marshall

Under The Skin – Doug Bradley on Hellraiser III – Hell On Earth – further discussion with the legendary actor under the make up of Pinhead.

Raising Hell On Earth – archival interview with the director Anthony Hickox

On Set interviews with Barker and Bradley – what is say on the tin.

Rare Dailies – a fun look at the raw materials that made up the film.

Top Ten Films of 2015 by Craig Huntley

Top 10 of 2015 – Craig Huntley

My 2015 was all about one film. Star Wars – The Force Awakens. Anything else was extra. I was pleasantly surprised though that some films that I had no expectation of, made my Top 10. A large proportion of well known reviews/podcasters always downplay how much of a bad year each and every year is, I like to stay positive and look at the good and great rather than the bad. Every film in my eyes has a positive, here are my Top 10 of 2015. Its in no way a definitive list, this is my list, film is subjective, there are no wrong answers. Enjoy.

maggiebluTen

MAGGIE

I didn’t know much going into this apart from it starring Arnie and Abigail Breslin and it involved zombies. We all know that Arnie although highly charismatic cant act his way out of a paper bag. It doesn’t matter what character he plays, he is essentially playing himself to a certain degree. For the first time that I can remember Arnie strips all artifice and ego aside and shows his emotional side. He plays Wade Vogel, father to daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) who has slowly started to succumb to a viral outbreak that has decimated the world. Most Arnie films you expect to go in knowing there are going to be one liners galore and lots of comedy. This is the polar opposite of that, Maggie is slow, character based, scrip heavy and is all the better for it. A big big surprise for me and one in which I hope Arnie does more of in the twilight of his career.

Nine

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION

Apart from the abysmal M:I 2, the Mission: Impossible series has always entertained me. From De Palma’s initial offering to JJ Abrams third instalment to the previous instalment Ghost Protocol, they have all had me itching to see when the release date rolls around. Crusie is still at the top of his game even at 50 something. What mad stunt he decides to pull off next is anyone’s guess. Rogue Nation is again, on point, Its an entertaining romp through various set pieces with nothing feeling tired or rehashed. I’ve heard it from other reviews and fully agree, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is the best Bond film of 2016.

ff7Eight

FAST AND FURIOUS 7

A little back story if you will. The first F+F film came out way back in 2001 when this reviewer was a fledgling usher at my local multiplex. Nobody and I mean NOBODY saw this film coming. Everybody was talking about it in the weeks after, and although far from the roots of the 1st film F+F 7 is a fantastic action film tinged with sadness. Vin Diesel in his press interviews goes on about the cast and fans being ‘family’, now I’m not saying in anyway that I feel that more than anyone but it feels good to know that I have followed this series from the 1st instalment up till this 7th outing and have seen the characters grow and develop together. With the death of Paul Walker in 2013 the series looked to be coming to an stop, but this films moves forward, honouring Paul Walker and his character and moving to the future. I am cautious about an eighth instalment but will still be there on day one.

SEVEN

IT FOLLOWS

Nowadays in horror most plots or stories have been done to death, literally. It Follows feels like a breath of fresh air. A cast of unknowns and a little known director this film came out of nowhere to scare the viewer to once again hide behind the sofa or look through the fingers on your hand. I didn’t watch this film until long after it had come out so I went into it knowing a lot about how people had perceived it. I loved this film and the way it was filmed on a minimal budget using the viewers own perceived nightmares to heighten the mood. Highly recommended.

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STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON

I know little to nothing in terms of hip hop/rap and the 80’s/90’s scene. I’m more of a metal head through and through. Give me Metallica over N.W.A any day. BUT what I would say is I LOVE music history. Elvis, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan music bores me to tears, but if I read a book or see a documentary about why they wrote a song or when they wrote a song and the story behind it and I am hooked. Same goes for NWA and the 80s hip hop explosion. I loved diving into a world of gang culture, drugs and black expression. A film like this can live or die n the performances. Each and everyone of the cast excels and I was engaged with the film for the lengthy 2 ½ hours runtime.

FIVE

THE MARTIAN

Ridley Scott is easily in the top 5 of my directors, the guy is in his mid 70’s and is a machine. Churning out big films ever couple of years, each and every one I am excited for. The Martian was no exception. It truly was an engaging and captivating experience. Matt Damon holds the screen well, making you interested in his plight and caring for him as he tries to get rescued. This film is the only film where I have watched it in 2D and at the end thought “I should have watched this in 3D”. There is a scene towards the end which must have looked amazing in the cinema.

antmanFOUR

ANT – MAN

I love the ever widening Marvel Cinematic Universe or MCU. The characters are always interesting and though the naysayers are correct in saying they follow a formula, what a formula it is. With Ant – Man I knew little to nothing of the character but loved the creative team around it, especially Edgar Wright and Paul Rudd. When Edgar Wright left at short notice I thought to myself that this might be the start of the end for the MCU. Clearly it wasn’t, Ant – Man is a breath of fresh air in the MCU. Using state of the art effects, Paul Rudds propensity for comedy and Michael Douglas back to his best, Ant – Man is a fantastic summer movie blockbuster.

THREE

STAR WARS – THE FORCE AWAKENS

I am a massive Star Wars fan. Have been since I can remember. When it was announced that the Star Wars universe was coming back, I could have cried. With JJ Abrams at the helm and the original trio back, I was so excited to get back into the story of these characters. The film di 4dnot disappoint. It has high highs and low lows, for fear of spoiling anything, just go and see it. Why is isn’t it no.1 for me in 2015? Because it wasn’t my favourite film of the year which I was surprised at, but also OK with. Take the time out to watch this and then watch it again and again….

TWO

JURASSIC WORLD

Who would have thought that Jurassic Park 4 would make over (at least at this articles writing date) $650 million worldwide. Audiences hadn’t been in this universe for over 14 years at the time of Jurassic Worlds release. With the ‘hot right now’ casting of Chris Pratt and an up and coming director in Colin Treverrow, anticipations where high. The film pulls out all of the stops and gives you things you never knew you wanted. Its a film I have watched multiple times since its HD release and one I will be coming back to time and time again.

mmfrONE

MAD MAX – FURY ROAD

The Mad Max Trilogy. A staple diet of my teenager years. I was first introduced to Mad Max by my dad who had the trilogy on VHS. Ever since I got the film watching bug, every year that I could remember, I would hear rumours about a new Mad Max film. Then set pictures were released in 2012 showing it being filmed, then the film was completed and everything went quiet. The film became an urban myth, was it going to be released at all? Was it any good? I can say that it is and it delivers action in spades. This film is the epitome of the London Calling album by The Clash. By that I mean that this is an album infused with a punk attitude. A devil may care attitude to storyline, to script, to anything genre, and all being filmed by George Miller who is 71 in 2016. Most 71 year old’s I know have long lost their fire and anger, George Miller delivers this through this film and that’s why I name this film my number 1 of 2015.

PS… I may have already seen my no.1 of 2016….watch this space.

Scary Little Fuckers: A Christmas Movie (2015) Short Film Review

slfrev1Scary Little Fuckers: A Christmas Movie (2015)

Director – Nathan Suher

Starring Anna Rizzo, Josh Fontaine and Rich Tretheway

Runtime – 23 mins

It’s Christmas eve. An inebriated dad brings home to his adolescent son a gift he hopes will mend their faltering relationship, a Fookah, a devilish and disgusting creature that in turns wrecks havoc on their lives.

When watching short films you live and die (pun intended) on the story. In the small amount amount of time your film plays you have to get across your story, build your characters and resolve the point you are trying to make. With a short running time of 23 minutes Scary Little Fuckers has a good go on all points.

Being a massive fan of horror and 80’s horror in general, I immediately zoned in the opening scenes homage to Gremlins. A father goes to a dilapidated shop run by an inebriated owner dressed up as Santa to find his son a last minute Christmas present. Finding a Fookah, he takes it home. The scene also played like a scene from the BBC show ‘The League of Gentleman’, the local shop. They even have a rule – Never put them in the same cage together.

When films, or shorts in this case, try to straddle more than one genre, it can become confusing. Scary Little Fuckers has this, it comes across part comedy, part horror, it does take a moment to get used to, but works for the most part.

slfrev3The characters are likeable and self serving from the drunk father, the irritating immature son and the horny girlfriend (who has an attraction to the father for no reason). Another homage comes in the Fookahs themselves. Looking like a possessed Furby the effect surprisingly works as long as you accept what the filmmakers are going for and the budget they have to work with.

In conclusion, I commend the filmmakers for working within the restraints they have and for keeping my attention for the short running time. If they had just taken a bit more to stick to a genre the short would have felt a lot more whole.

6/10

Links

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

Website – http://www.scarylittlemovie.com

Twitter – https://twitter.com/IM_Filmworks

The Falling (2014) DVD Review

falling1The Falling (2014)

102 mins

Directed by Carol Morley

Starring Maisie Williams, Maxine Peake and Florence Pugh

UK DVD & Blu-Ray release 24th August 2015 from Metrodome

1969. Somewhere in the English countryside a group of girls have a lot of growing up to do in the confines of a strict and structured all Girls School. Charismatic and intense Abbie (newcomer Florence Pugh) along with troubled Lydia (Maisie Williams, TV’s Game of Thrones) are the closest of friends. After a tragedy strikes, a mysterious fainting epidemic breaks out threatening the school and the girls friendship.

Director Carol Morley’s last effort, the dreary documentary ‘Dreams Of A Life’ left me cold. With documentaries I can pretty much engage with any topic however weird and wonderful, but Dreams Of A Life (a story of a young women dying in her flat and not being noticed as missing for many years) had me hooked, but the film left me bored. Going into The Falling I was optimistic maybe that director Morley could work better magic with a script and narrative structure rather than talking heads.

Opening shots remind me of the opening shots of (the far superior) Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris, where the shot looks like a famous painting. Colourful trees weep into crystal clears rivers with no ripples in sight, with river and trees merging into one. If I could take a screenshot and hang it on my wall, I would certainly do that. Morley goes for the same aesthetic choice and it works well, sucking you into the autumnal nooks and crannies of the girls school.

falling2Whether its 1969 or 2015 people go through the same problems, none more so than the teenager. We have all been one and can understand the problems most go through on film. Having never been a teenage girl I found it a little difficult getting to know the characters. What they were going through as girls I have never been through. The periods and the bodily changes kept me at a distance but not so much where I disengaged completely.

The overall tone of the film is very ethereal, stagy and poetic. The way the script reads (sample line – “Millions of people have babies, and its life and life only”) stagy and the cadence the girls speak in is very play based, with clipped English tones and enunciation. The film almost comes across in parts like a Kate Bush music video with weird body movements and songs.

Over the last few weeks I’ve watched a fair few movies and one thing my ear always picks up on is the soundtrack, whether it be the score or the original songs within a film. The Falling has original music and songs performed by Tracy Thorn, (who hit it big with the 90’s band Everything But The Girl) The songs fit in with the overall tone of the film with the girls even singing some of the songs within the films on instruments such as the xylophone, which is different to see in films.

One thing portrayed that we don’t necessarily all go through is a death in our youth. If you have been lucky enough not to have a loved one or friend pass away when you are young maybe you will feel this film is less resonant, but maybe revisiting this film in the distant future you may get more out of it then rather than now.

falling3I’m happy to say I liked The Falling, thankfully a lot more than director Morley’s last film, Dreams Of A Life, catch it on Amazon Instant/Netflix, which is where I saw it. The running time is sufficient, not feeling too short (which can befall low budget films) or overly long. The acting is strong especially from Maisie Williams, as you would expect after being in an HBO series for 5 seasons. I look forward to what comes from Carol Morley next especially if it is a narrative film rather than a documentary.

6/10

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.

London Film and Comic Con 2015 Preview

loncomicconLondon Film and Comic Con 2015 Preview

lonc3To let you in on a little secret, I got into my love of all things cinema from a late 90’s TV show called Dawson’s Creek. The main character of Dawson was obsessed with one director in particular, the one and only Steven Spielberg. I connected with the character and his love of film. Once the series finished and I had broadened my scope of films I started to collect memorabilia, posters, film cells etc and I ended up working in a cinema. I never in my wildest dreams had I ever thought I would meet any of the people saw on the big screen in my cinema. One day looking through that particular months Empire magazine I saw an article for Comic Con event being held in London. It piqued my interests what it was all about and I decided to have a deeper look.

lonc1One of my all time favourite films is E.T – The Extra Terrestrial from 1982. When I was small I used to watch the film and when ET leaves at the end I would cry myself to sleep, this happened for years. One day I stopped, I just couldn’t take the upset anymore. A few years later I revisited the material, around my Dawson’s Creek days and although I didn’t cry at the end the material resonated with me even more. Between my last viewing and my re-evaluating of the film I had gone through a lot, I ended up as a child of divorce. Looking at the film with more mature eyes, it resonated with me so much more. Now you may be reading this thinking “what the hell does this have to do with Comic Con?” Well in the summer of 2013 I got to meet some of the cast. I got to meet Dee Wallace Stone who played Mary ,Elliott’s mom in the film (Wallace Stone was also in The Howling, Critters and Cujo to name a few horror films) and also Robert McNaughton who played Michael, Elliott’s brother. When I met them I told them my ET story and how the material deeply moved me. It took all my will power to hold myself together. I was hugging and hand shaking members of the ET cast, I couldn’t quite believe it! So whenever anyone turns their nose up at my hobby I tell them this story to give them a better understanding of why I do this.

lonc2This years London Comic Con is the biggest ever. I have been going since 2009 and every year bigger and better guests have been announced. With this being the 30th anniversary of the first film, there is a massive Back To The Future cast reunion including Michael J. Fox. Now to meet the guy himself, this would set you back a mere £445, but if this guy is your ET cast, you wont mind paying!

Other guests announced are Sigourney Weaver, Bill Paxton, Micheal Gambon, all first time attendees to a London event, these guests will surely bring in the crowds as last years guest of honour did, that being Stan Lee. As an attendee last year I can say Showmasters were not prepared for the amount of walk up punters on the Saturday. After a bit of miscalculation on my part I queued from 10.45am until 16.15 before I got in. This year is a lot better prepared. For one, attendance tickets have been capped and as of the writing of this article, Saturday and Sunday tickets are now sold out. I am attending only Friday so am hopeful that I will miss most of the queues.

lonc4I will be writing further articles on my travels over the Comic – Con weekend, I hope you’ll join me on my travels!

Buy Fridays tickets from the Showmasters Eventbrite website http://www.eventbrite.com/e/film-and-comic-con-london-tickets-15664017498

London Film and Comic Con is held on July 17 – 19 at London Olympia

Knock Knock (2015) Review

knockknock1Knock Knock (2015)

Directed by Eli Roth

Starring Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo, Ana de Armas

Evan (Reeves) seems like the perfect guy and the perfect husband. He’s an architect, lives in a beautiful California home, has two kids and a lovely talented wife. One afternoon, his wife and kids go to the beach but Evan has to stay behind and work. It’s raining hard, he’s alone, listening to music, when late at night there’s a knock at the door. Two beautiful young girls are standing, shivering in in the cold. They’re drenched, lost and just want to come in to dry off and use the phone.

So begins Eli Roth’s latest film, a break of 8 years since his last directorial feature, missing out the unreleased The Green Inferno, 2007’s Hostel II. Ever since Cabin Fever came out back in 2002 I have been watching Roth’s filmography very closely, whether he is directing, producing or even starring in films (he holds his own in Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds). I went into this film thinking this was a film Roth took just to get back into the directing game, but I was happy to see that not only did he direct but also co-wrote (with Guillermo Amoedo, writer of Aftershock, produced by Roth and The Green Inferno). With that in mind it gave me good a good sense that Roth wasn’t just taking this film for a quick buck ala Kevin Smith and Cop Out.

knockknock2The film’s look and style is well thought out. The camera taking us through Evans home giving us a good sense of family background and how loved Evan is to his family and vice versa. The camera stalks the corridors of his very architecturally ‘now’ home, from the floor to ceiling glass and modern décor. Giving the viewer an understanding of the layout of his home and as watchers almost being voyeurs looking in on an almost perfect family set-up.

Once the family are split up and Evan is left alone, we get to see a grown man relax and enjoy this rare freedom. Loud music and reefers abound. Whether you are a child or fully grown adult, I think there is nothing scarier than not knowing what’s the other side of the glass of your windows, in your yard, watching your every move. With rain lashing the windows there is a knock at the door. Now you ask yourself, what would you do? Its 1am, raining heavy and you are home alone. Whether you are Male or Female, you have a decision to make.

Through a set of circumstances, Evan’s basic family instincts kick in and he lets in the two barely dressed young girls in with the best intentions, to get dry, dressed and on their way. With the two girls over the threshold and tightening their grip on his basic needs, the games are afoot. The two girls, Bel and Genesis, played by Ana De Armas (in Reeves new film Daughter of God) and Lorenza Izzo (Kylie in Roths produced Aftershock) play well off each other, using their feminine charms to good effect to lure and entice Evan into doing things he really shouldn’t be doing as a husband.

knockknock3Once Evan steps over the line, there’s no going back and the situation quickly spirals out of control. Other than a lull in proceeding the film ramps up and up and up, until Reeves’ character cant take it no more and snaps. At this point, the first cracks appear. Ever since he appeared on the scene, Reeves has always been mocked for his acting. You cant deny the guy has charisma and can hold the screen well. There is a scene with a tied up Evan, where he has to scream and shout, and this is where his acting falls flat, he isn’t able to emote and convey what needs to be conveyed. Its a startling scene and one which may have needed a few more takes.

Overall though I loved Knock Knock, it’s a tightly scripted, well made film and I for one am glad to see Roth directing again.

9/10

Army of Frankensteins (2013) Review

aof1Army of Frankensteins (2013)

Directed by Ryan Bellgardt

Starring Jordan Farris, Christian Bellgardt, John Ferguson and Rett Terrell

UK DVD release September 14th 2015 from High Fliers Films

In the aftermath of a savage beating by a street gang, Alan Jones ends up at the lab of a mad scientist, Dr. Tanner Finski, and his sidekick and all round child genius sidekick Igor. Within the lab Jones discovers that he is the key to an experiment that involves Frankenstein’s monster. After the experiment invariably goes wrong, Finski sends Igor back in time to the American Civil War where an inter dimensional portal has allowed a gang of monsters to converge.

In any new take on classic monsters the question will always remain, what can be done differently? How do we get a modern audience to engage with age old material that has been filmed until there’s no more life left in the material (pun intended). In Ryan Bellgardt’s (director of 2011’s Two Movie Guys’ Intergalactic Holiday Showdown) Army of Frankensteins, the director tries to a bit of everything from setting some of the scenes in modern day America to sending characters back to the past, in a time of war, when the USA was fighting itself. Rather than have one Frankenstein’s Monster, have a whole army. This works well and the make up effects hold up.

Bellgardt pays homage through the film to other genre directors and it doesn’t feel disingenuous. Take for example, the shot of Igor, shot from within a car boot, looking up ala any of Tarantinos films especially Reservoir Dogs. These little touches help the film along, feeling like a nod rather than a blatant rip off.

Another nice touch are the scenes with Frankenstein’s vision, I for one cannot remember the last time I saw a film with Frankenstein’s monster vision, think The Terminator without the digital displays. Also the film had some well made effects on the budget that was given ($65,000). Clearly they aren’t blockbuster quality but they have a certain charm.

aof2The film also tries to take on the discrimination between white and black soldiers with one character decrying that the Frankenstein monsters are merely understood and discriminated against because they look different. Its an odd take on the character but a different and well played out take on the age old monster.

With the film set in the American Civil War, as other films have done recently, they brought in the most famous of Presidents, Abraham Lincoln. It was a nice touch to see how they bring the character into the plot and how they pay it off. I wont spoil anything in this here review but , the question is asked, would you change history if you could? What would happen if you could save someone who dies, how would this affect the rest of history? It’s an interesting question and very entertaining.

As the film closes the end titles appear and they are startling up turn in quality, where a low budget film of this nature may stump up for simple black on white, these titles are an explosion of cartoon almost Sin City style look.

I would applaud Bellgardt on his films ambition and his vision for someone so young, the scope of the film is grand with many locations, some with big sets and epic lighting. It is great fun with nice characters  (Igor looks like a steam punk style genius) but this is where the film starts to lose its way a little. As the film becomes more epic in scope we lose the sense of storytelling and it turns into a genre mashup that the effects, cast and direction cant quite cope with. From pantomime style acting and almost joke-like false moustaches, the film does stumble and you feel it almost immediately.

aof3Army of Frankensteins is an award winning film winning Best Special Effects at Action on Film International Film Festival 2014 and Best Fantasy Feature at Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival 2014.

6/10