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Elliott Maguire

About Elliott Maguire

When I was younger, I was that creepy Stephen King kid, there was one in every school. Now I write scripts, shoot shorts, and watch way too many horror films. Manchester born and bred, and all Red. Like David Fincher once said: I'm not interested in movies that entertain, I want movies that scar...http://www.imdb.com/name/nm6350289/ @emsonline12

The Covenant (2017) Review

rsz_cov1THE COVENANT (2017)

Starring Monica Engesser, Maria Olsen and Owen Conway

Directed by Robert Conway

Written by Robert Conway, Owen Conway and Christopher R. Smith

“After the tragic deaths of her husband and daughter, Sarah Doyle moves back to her childhood home with her estranged brother, Richard. It’s not long before Sarah begins to experience supernatural phenomena of a violent and hostile nature. Bewildered and desperate, Richard enlists the help of a paranormal investigator who confirms Sarah has become possessed by a powerful demon. Together, the three men battle to save Sarah’s soul”.

A while ago I reviewed filmmaker Robert Conway’s Krampus: The Reckoning, and felt that, while the film was very flawed and had possibly the worst CGI I’ve seen on film, Conway’s heart was in the right place and there was a director whose love of the genre would push him forward.

So Conway is back with The Covenant, again co-written by Owen Conway, and the rise in filmmaking skill and confidence is actually quite striking since that Yuletide shocker.

rsz_cov2When Sarah’s (Monica Engesser) daughter drowns in the bath in mysterious circumstances, her husband blames her and shoots himself. To cope with her losses, Sarah moves to her childhood home with brother Richard. But it isn’t long before Sarah is being taunted by something strange, and begins to fear she is losing her sanity.

For a film that is clearly no-to-micro-budget, The Covenant is incredibly deft visually, with great compositions and some sweeping camerawork. The editing is tight and controlled and the pace is much more even than some of Conway’s earlier stuff. The grading is a little harsh, but that’s par for the course, and the sound has a few hiccups. But overall on a technical level, Conway is improving.

Engesser has also improved since we last saw her in Krampus, and Owen Conway grows into his role well. But both are helped by a script that is just as interested in characters and conflict as it is scare’s, and while it doesn’t hit the nail on the head with either, it’s a valiant effort. Maria Olsen, still prolific as always, pops up in fine support.

rsz_cov3While the film is never actually scary, it does go to some very unsettling places, dealing with some disturbing taboos that set it apart from the usual possession flick formula.

Look, this ain’t perfect, but for a bargain basement budget, you can do much, much worse. I’m enjoying seeing the confidence grow in these actors and filmmakers, and look forward to what they cook up next.

6/10

Transhuman (2016) Review

rsz_transhuman1TRANSHUMAN (2016)

Starring Natasha James, Steven Berkoff and Michael McKell

Written & Directed by Nicholas Winter

Transhuman will be released on DVD by 88 Films on October 9th 2017

“Transhuman follows a young journalist into the underbelly of a transhumanist cult, spanning generations back to the nazis and World War Two”.

“Transhumanism (abbreviated as H+ or h+) is an international and intellectual movement that aims to transform the human condition by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities”.

Thank god for Wikipedia because otherwise I would not have a clue what the hell the title of this film means. The subject is actually quite interesting and ripe for exploration, but this isn’t the film to do it. There’s the seed of an idea here, but the execution lets it down massively.

Coming from Porcelain Films, Transhuman follows British journalist Alex (Natasha James) and her investigation into some nasty business in picturesque Spain. When her close friend Cassie (Rebecca Scott) goes missing, she must help hired muscle Lukas (Marc Bannerman) in finding her. As they do, they uncover a much larger terror.

rsz_transhuman2Transhuman feels like a film cobbled together because if what was available at the time. It’s as if the filmmakers had some actors they wanted to work with and some lovely Spanish locations at their disposal and just cooked up a story to fit around them. But the story is ultra-thin, and so director Nicolas Winter fills the film with scenes of discussing where to go next, driving to that place, walking around that place, with morose orchestral music forever in the background.

The production values are actually pretty great, with a proficient polish over everything. But that can only carry a film so far. Scenes are dragged out forever, particularly one set in a car that should have been claustrophobic and tense but became filler after lasting five whole minutes. Much of the film just wanders nowhere.

The performances only slow things down further but much of this is fine down to the script more than the actors. Each of the characters is pretty interchangeable, stood around in rooms spouting inane dialogue like they’re in a cut scene for an early Resident Evil game. They each do their best, but with nothing exciting to say or do, no way of making themselves likeable, it’s a lost cause.

Any positives from this? At about an hour in, Winter starts to get a bit more ambitious with his camerawork and editing, and Eastenders star Marc Bannerman starts to ham it up which livens up proceedings. The experienced Michael McKell also shows up to add a bit of class.

rsz_transhuman3But it soon slumps into lazy, boring and ultimately pointless flashbacks, adding backstory that’s not needed to characters that have no dimension.

These actors, location and subject matter deserved better than this. As it is, I have to be honest and say I found this a pretty miserable viewing experience.

Best bit: the random and distracting appearance of a Barcelona shirt!

4/10

Don’t Knock Twice (2016) Review

rsz_dkt_poster_1_sheetDON’T KNOCK TWICE (2016)

Starring Katee Sackhoff, Lucy Boynton and Nick Moran

Directed by Caradog W. James

Written by Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler

DON’T KNOCK TWICE is released in cinemas and On Demand from 31st March and DVD 3rd April

A mother desperate to reconnect with her troubled daughter becomes embroiled in the urban legend of a demonic witch”.

Welsh filmmaker Caradog W. James burst onto the genre scene in 2013 with stylish sci-fi thriller The Machine, which has gained quite the cult following in the time since its release. Low on budget but high on style, The Machine was a homegrown attempt at a Hollywood quality product and, buoyed by two great lead performances, it very nearly achieved it.

James is back now with Don’t Knock Twice, and this time he’s shed the sci-fi and opted for a very traditional attempt at supernatural horror. From the opening titles to the very last frame, James distinct and slick visual style is evident. He packs every scene with inventive lighting and colour, and visceral camerawork, the whole film a feast for the eyes. It makes a change from the usual gritty handheld that we get, with composed shots that give everything a very high end feel.

rsz_1rsz_054Another aspect that really helps this thick and polished atmosphere is the score from James Edward Barker and genre fave Steve Moore. While sometimes slightly intrusive, the duo have nonetheless come up with an eerie and memorable theme for the film that reminded me very much of Charles Bernstein’s classic Elm Street score.

The performances are great if purposely subdued. Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica, Oculus) conveys much more than the script by Howl writers Mark Huckerby and Nick Olster allows, and Lucy Boynton, who I caught recently in the absolutely stunning February, is equally innocent and edgy as her troubled mothers equally troubled daughter. It was also great to see Nick Moran of Lock Stock pop up, for a stock cop character that becomes much more interesting as the story progresses . As the film went on though I felt slightly disconnected with the characters. It’s not the fault of the cast, with both Sackhoff and Boynton doing great work. But the pace of the film leaves very little room for character development, often in a rush to deliver a trailer shot or a jump scare.

rsz_097This in turn affects the actual scares of the film. If we don’t care much about the characters, we don’t fear for them either. Same goes for the antagonist. The film plays its cards a little too early, foregoing the subtle build up and showing most of the big bad quite early, again, rendering it a little less scary. And while the design is indeed creepy and has rightly been earning praise, it reminded me a little too much of the antagonist in last years risible Lights Out.

It’s a shame that one came first because Don’t Knock Twice is easily the better of the two films. I watched an analysis of James Wan’s work recently, observing how he creates an effective jump scare, and the secret is all in the build up. Wan will milk the suspense for as long as he can, avoiding an onslaught of stingers for one big, terrifyingly effective one. But here, everything that can be a jump scare, is a jump scare. And so, they’re less effective.

rsz_163As it is, Don’t Knock Twice reminded me very much of another British film that attempted to emulate the big budget Hollywood style, action movie Welcome To The Punch. On a surface level, they get everything right, but there’s just something missing. The story lacks originality by default and scenes of exposition stop the film dead. But none of this is enough to take away from what is an ambitious chiller. If you’re a fan of Mama, Insidious, or any one of Blumhouse’s productions, you’ll find a lot of enjoyment in this, and it’s great to see Caradog W. James becoming one of the most visually striking directors on this side of the shore. Hollywood must be calling.

7/10

Doll In The Dark (2016) Review

rsz_doll_in_the_dark_2d_dvd_tempDOLL IN THE DARK (2016)

Starring Amy Crowdis, Robin Taylor and Josh Caras

Directed by Alejandro Daniel

Available now from Safecracker pictures – http://www.safecrackerfilmdistribution.com/

A lonely young woman whose only companion is a creepy life size doll, finds her loose grip on sanity slipping away when she makes a real friend“.

I like to do a bit of research on films I watch before I review them, not for spoilers or anything that might influence the review, but more out of curiosity. What else has the filmmaker done? Where did they start? All that kind of stuff. Sometimes you find stuff much more interesting than that, and in the case of Doll In The Dark, I was a bit shocked.

So here’s what I unearthed.

Doll In The Dark was made in 2009 under the title The Melancholy Fantastic. It did the festival circuit until 2011 and then subsequently vanished into thin air.

That is until co-lead Robin Taylor landed the role of Oswald Cobblepot on hit TV show Gotham, and now it’s being released under the title Doll In The Dark, no doubt to cash in on the casting of a then-unknown Taylor. Now, I don’t mind the title, it seems quite apt to the story, but something else has changed on its way to release and I don’t think it has done it any favours. More in that later though.

rsz_doll1Doll In The Dark tells the quaint story of Melanie Crow (Crowdis), a sweet but lonely woman who lives and interacts with a very crude and creepy life size doll. She treats this doll like a real person, even taking it out for a drive with her every now and then. It’s clear that Melanie is lonely, and more than a little mentally unstable. And then she meets emo Dukken (Taylor) a quirky, confident outsider in black eyeliner who is curious about Melanie and gradually spends more and more time with her. As he gets to know Melanie, he also gets to know her doll…

This kind of film is all about the performances, and thankfully our two leads are on the ball, particularly Taylor who really shows a manic and likeable energy. Crowdis is shaky at first, but her naivety all works to make her character both cute and creepy. Together they make these offbeat characters very relatable somehow.

Writer and director Daniel does fine work with what looked like a very low-budget. His direction is pleasant and focuses on the characters rather than showing off, so it’s all quite low key but hey, it’s a low-key film.

But there was something missing from the overall experience, and I think I know why. Doing a bit of sleuthing, I found there is TWO versions of this film on IMDb. One called Doll In The Dark, another under the original title of The Melancholy Fantastic. The listing under the original title has different artwork obviously, but it also has a different runtime. The original runtime, going off IMDb, was 1 hour 40 mins. The version titled Doll In The Dark, that I watched, was 1 hour 13 mins. And six minutes of that were credits!!!

rsz_doll2So there’s about 30 mins that has for whatever reason been left on the cutting room floor, and I’m a big fan of tight runtimes but here it feels like half the story is missing, most of the nuance, maybe even a whole subplot, and I think it harms the finished product. I’d be very intrigued to see the 1 hour 40 cut.

As it is, Doll In The Dark is a pleasant and well-acted addition to the creepy loner subgenre. Fans of Excision, Love Object and the mummy of them all, May, will find something to like here. It’s just a shame so much of its missing.

6/10

Bornless Ones (2016) Review

rsz_bo1BORNLESS ONES (2016)

Starring Margaret Judson, Devin Goodsell and Michael Johnston

Written & Directed by Alexander Babaev

With the help of her friends, Emily moves to a remote home to take better care of her brother, Zach, who is diagnosed with cerebral palsy. But what they don’t know is that the house kept a terrifying secret that will haunt them one by one“.

Horror movies that riff on The Evil Dead are nothing new. From Cabin Fever to Cabin in the Woods, and last years absolutely amazing Tonight She Comes, it really goes to show just how classic, timeless and inspiring Sam Raimi’s original demonic possession movie was. Hell, we’ve even got a hit TV spin-off over 30 years after its release!

It’s also a great springboard for low-budget genre loving filmmakers to cut their teeth. Isolated location, minimal cast, and plenty of opportunity for outlandish, ridiculous and crowd-pleasing violence.

Writer and director Alexander Babaev knows all this, but his Bornless Ones isn’t a lazy retread.

The script really sets Bornless Ones apart. Things start off seemingly quite sketchy, with cliched and juvenile humour and interactions coming from a young and attractive cast. But all of a sudden, without you really ever noticing, Babaev has established the relationships and backstory for each of the characters in a deft and effortless way. Then the demons are introduced, and these characters and their history’s are beautifully exploited. It’s nothing new, see Event Horizon, but it’s a refreshing change to see it all handled so expertly.

rsz_bo2Just as the story grows in confidence as the film goes on, so do the performances. Judson is an amiable and sympathetic heroine, her focus on her brother making her more than just a final girl. Goodsell grows into a fantastic asshole, becoming a human pin cushion as things get more horrific, and he communicates it with aplomb. Bobby T and Michael Johnston do well, again adding layers to what would usually be thin stock characters. The inclusion of Johnston as the cerebral palsy afflicted Zach adds a whole new dimension to the film.

Special mention must also go up David Banks as a nutso realtor who briefly shows up to add some real humour. But the standout was Mark Furze as Woodrow. So much more than the sex-obsessed character, Furze seems to add lots of little nuances to Woodrow as things go on. He’s a big talent.

Babaev doesn’t skimp on the gore either, with some excellent mostly practical FX that are very inventive and fun. It’s rare that this kind of film shows you something you haven’t seen before!

rsz_bo3On the downside, some of the editing felt a little off, the content cut to blacks giving an episodic feel to the flow, and the CGI used in some of the exterior shots felt unnecessary and could have been done practically.

But other than that, Bornless Ones is a really nice surprise. Tightly directed and well-written, with great performances and some outstanding violence, it’s well worth a watch for horror lovers.

8/10

Parasites (2016) Review

rsz___parasites_posterPARASITES (2016)

Starring Sean Samuels, Jeffrey Decker and Sebastian Fernandez

Written & Directed by Chad Ferrin

Out now on VOD –

“Three friends find themselves lost on Skid Row and are captured by an angry homeless gang”.

Horror films have long been used to reflect issues in society, with many of the outright classics being very much a response to the shitty state of the world at the time. From one of the finest indie films ever made, Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead, to recent hits such as Under The Shadow. Horror, along with sci-fi, is a fantastic genre to explore the more disturbing aspects of our world. And the best ones really know how to push your buttons. And Parasites is a fantastic new entry.

Filmmaker Chad Ferrin has been around for a while now. I remember first watching Someone’s Knocking At The Door and thinking “this guy really gives no fucks!” Angry, aggressive and confrontationally shocking, it was the work of a truly twisted and independent mind. But Parasites is easily his most accomplished work. Ferrin has taken inspiration from the brutal street level thrillers of the past and inserted a social conscience. If you’re a fan of films such as The Warriors, Assault on Precinct 13 and Judgement Night, then look no further, this is for you.

rsz_eddie_and_mona_drop_itHelping that midnight movie feel is a fantastic score by Matthew Olivo. Recalling John Carpenter, Ry Cooder and Tangerine Dream, it’s absolutely amazing.

The most striking thing about Parasites is the social commentary and the way it presents its antagonists. The vagrants might be violent and murderous psychopaths, but they also have a point in their hate for the world. They are the scum, treated like dirt in a world that spits on them when it’s not trying to pretend like they don’t even exist. The way they are presented, they are the tribe of the city, the night is their world and they have created their own world, own rules. If it’s legal in Texas to shoot someone for trespassing on your land, then maybe you shouldn’t be surprised when you stray into the streets of someone who lives on them without an invite. They are definitely the villains of the piece, bit they are also the most well defined characters. Much of the dialogue of their leader, Wilco, is fascinating and thought-provoking.

Speaking of Wilco, veteran character actor Robert Miano is the standout of the cast. With a raw intensity and skeletal face, Miano thoroughly convinces as someone who has suffered so long on the streets that he is full of hate for all around him. Sean Samuels as Marshal works hard in a role that demands he pretty much constantly run, at one point completely naked! But his character is basically used as a vessel to take us on this midnight tour, one dimensional to meet the demands of the story. To be fair, the story gets going so quickly that none of the protagonists are given much chance to establish themselves. Marshal encounters numerous creatures of the night on his travels, and it was fantastic to see Day of the Dead’s Joseph Pilato in a scene-stealing role.

rsz_getting_dressedI have only one complaint and for anyone who has read any of my reviews the first should come as no surprise. Shaky-cam. Although it does add an immediacy to some scenes and Ferrin does achieve a strange sense of poetry here and there, for the most part, the film is frantically edited and shaky. The guerilla shooting style was probably necessary due to the location shooting, but still. It’s getting more and more common amongst indie horror so I should probably just admit defeat with this one.

Parasites is a bruising odyssey into a very real world, that we all choose to ignore or disrespect, an ambitious and confrontational horror that feels very timely at the moment. Looking at themes of racism, sexism and poverty head on, it all builds to a horrifying, heartbreaking conclusion. One that you cannot deny feels very real, ripped straight from the headlines.

rsz_hammer_points_flareSkid Row will probably be expanding as we speak with Trump in charge. With an authentic grindhouse feel recalling the New York City horrors of the 80’s like Maniac and Driller Killer, it’s going to be one that genre fans need to see, and won’t be able to forget.

8/10

Hunters Lodge (2016) Review

rsz_hl1HUNTERS LODGE (2016)

Starring Tim Ahern, Janis Ahern and Nicola Wright

Written & Directed by Martyn Tott

“A war veteran discovers treachery, murder and ghosts from his past at a remote island lodge funeral. Psycho thriller”.

It’s always the most exciting when reviewing a film you have absolutely no prior knowledge of. When something slips under the radar it can sometimes be a sign of the films quality, or lack thereof. But every once in awhile, you find a gem.

Hunters Lodge isn’t quite a gem, but it was definitely an enjoyable experience. A no budget psychological thriller with a combined cast and crew of EIGHT (!!!), with filmmaker Martyn Tott multi-tasking as writer, director, producer, cinematographer and editor, Hunters Lodge is a labour of love for all involved and that love is quite infectious.

Set almost completely in the titular location, Hunters Lodge tells the story of Harry (Tim Ahern), a war veteran who, despite being haunted by his violent history, is a genuinely nice guy. He travels to the lodge for his old friend Peter’s funeral, and is greeted by Peter’s nephew Eddy (Matt Oliver), his wife Sue (Nicola Wright), Eddy’s cousin Penny (Kim Driver) and caretaker Jackie (Janis Ahern). The longer Harry stays at the lodge, the clearer it becomes to him that something sinister is going on…

rsz_hl2Hunters Lodge plays like an Agatha Christie stageplay crossed with an old school ghost story like The Changeling, with a slightly Gothic atmosphere and constant talk of inheritance and family ties. It’s melodramatic but I suppose that goes with the territory. Visually, the piece is quite polished, with layered lighting and a lovely location. Unfortunately the editing and sound design lets it down slightly. Dialogue is crisp and clear but the musical interludes are sometimes repetitive and ill-fitting, and attempts to jazz up the style in the edit misfire. In the first half of the movie, that is…However, the story is always coherent, which makes a change for a no-budget film. I must mention a sequence halfway through the film too. A nightmarish scene set in Harry’s room, it does absolute wonders with sound, lighting and framing, and really stands apart from everything else. I have to hand it to Tott for single handedly creating this section of the film, it’s very inspired. Just shows what can be achieved with no money and lots of imagination.

As a matter of fact, one thing that Hunters Lodge has to its advantage that similar films don’t, is it’s cast. Veteran character actors Tim and Janis Ahern have incredible charisma and likability and it’s clear these characters were written with them in mind as they are perfect and disappear into the roles. Matt Oliver and Nicola Wright are also engagingly mysterious as the Brits, offering plenty of subtext to their characters. In terms of acting and dialogue, the film works wonders.

rsz_hl3Occasionally sluggish in pace and hampered by a pretty predictable story, Hunters Lodge nonetheless deserves your attention for it’s fantastic performances and some very creative filmmaking. For a no budget film, Tott has still managed to make something cinematic. It really makes you wonder what he and his cast could do with a bit of money and extra crew. Check it out.

7/10

Blood of The Tribades (2016) Review

rsz_bottposter-600wBLOOD OF THE TRIBADES (2016)

Starring Chloe Cunha, Mary Widow and Seth Chatfield

Written & Directed by Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein

Out on VOD – 20th January 2017

“2000 years after the great vampire Bathor established the village of Bathory, superstition and religious violence take over as the men and women battle for control. When the men are afflicted with a mysterious illness, they become certain that the vampire women of Bathory are responsible for their ills, and thus the hunt begins. Long forgotten lovers Elisabeth and Fantine find that, with the help of those who were banished, it is their fate to piece together the past and help preserve what little of their society remains before Bathor’s impending return and judgement”.

Blood of the Tribades may wear its influences on its sleeve, but it still manages to be its own beast. Harking back to the soft core vampiric lesbianism of Jean Rollin and Jess Franco, Blood of the Tribades is chock full of erotica and regular nudity from both the female protagonists and male antagonists. But in a surprising twist, it all actually seems to not only matter but make sense in this completely original world.

rsz_bloodofthetribades-still040For their third feature film, Boston husband and wife filmmaker/musician team Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein have crafted an atmospheric yet tongue in cheek love letter to the gothic horror of the past. Working with a next to no budget, the duo have made their limitations work for them. Filmed in a contained forest location in Massachusetts, the film is visually beautiful. Stark colours and lighting, and authentic location work really heighten the gothic feel.

By hiring a game but inexperienced cast, they have managed to sincerely replicate that strange European feel of the films that inspired it, with over and under acting exploited to almost genius effect. Many of the cast come from a Burlesque background and this really helps, with their dedication to the themes of sexuality and freedom overcoming their lack of acting skill and experience.

The soundtrack also adds to the offbeat feel, with awkward transitions between scenes that again stylistically reflects the vampire skin flicks of the seventies. And it’s also pretty sweet on its own merits too.

rsz_bloodofthetribades-still004If you’re looking for story then you’re in the wrong place. Complex narratives and characters do not belong in this particular sub genre. Rather, everything is based on mood, atmosphere and sensuality, with copious lashings of the red stuff.

Rough around the edges but containing some genuinely interesting ideas, such as vampirism as a religion and a provocative treatment of sexuality and feminism, Blood of the Tribades is a fun, cheeky and admirable low budget erotic horror.

7/10

Wake In Fear aka All I Need (2016) Review

rsz_wake-in-fear-2016WAKE IN FEAR aka All I Need  (2016)

Starring Caitlin Stasey, Leah McKendrick and Rachel Melvin

Written & Directed by Dylan K. Narang

Available now On Demand from Grimm Entertainment!!

“The paths of a desperate man and an imprisoned young woman cross unexpectedly in the den of a mysterious killer”

Chloe (Caitlin Stasey, All Cheerleaders Die) wakes tied up in a dingy hotel room, surrounded by either dead or soon to be women just like her. She quickly realises they are all victims of a lunatic who is killing them one by one. To survive, she must somehow escape. Meanwhile, Andrew (Markus Taylor, Deadheads) is a down on his luck father who needs cash quick. When he receives a mysterious package and delivery instruction, he is offered a chance by a mystery man over the phone to make a lot of money. But at what cost?

By design a film of two halves, Wake In Fear is much better than it’s by the numbers synopsis sounds. Avoiding torture porn cliches in turn of a fairly tense cat and mouse game punctuated by sudden and brutal violence, the motel set portion is by far the best. But the parallel storyline does add a sense of mystery that we don’t normally get and I have to say, I was hooked. The film manages to be claustrophobic and mysterious all at the same time.

Narang directs with a sure hand but his budget restricts him in the exterior set scenes. But technically, anytime we’re in the motel room, the film is firing on all cylinders.

wifThe performances worked very well here. With Narang keeping dialogue and exposition to a minimum, it was left to purely physical performances to immerse you and I have to say, Caitlin Stasey was truly standout. Her heroine was fascinating, at first a whimpering wreck, but hiding a strength, resilience and intelligence that comes in very handy. Narang also obeys the first rule of scriptwriting, which is “put your lead through hell”. Stasey was put through the wringer over and over again and managed to convey true fear and agony in a way we rarely get to see in these types of films. As the co-lead Andrew, Markus Taylor fared a little less, but he was saddled with the less intense storyline and was left talking to a cheesy Russian accent on the phone for a lot of the film. But he does well with what he’s got.

The main flaw here was pacing, even for such a slim runtime. Suspense and tension is vital in horror, and a lot of the time it worked very well here. However, there were certain scenes of tension that went on way too long, and at the characters expense, in an effort to pad out the runtime. One early sequence had a character debate what to do for so long it almost became funny. We get it, your legs are nweak, but get bloody moving somehow, it’s not a tricky choice! A peeve I had throughout was how clean cut the dead bodies around Chloe were. I don’t think I even saw any fatal wounds on them. Little details like that could have really increased the impact. Also, the reveal of just what the hell is going on is a bit of a letdown.

wif1Wake In Fear, with its parallel storylines waiting to connect, it’s throw you right in there pacing, and it’s perverse killer hunting scantily clad women scenes really reminded me of the works of late horror author Richard Laymon, particularly his grim classic Endless Night. Hell, even the title, short sweet and unspecific, would look right at home on the cover of one of his paperbacks. And as someone who is still waiting for an honest to god cinematic adaptation of one of Laymon’s macabre masterpieces, I was pretty satisfied.

7/10

Dead End aka Drifter (2016) Review

rsz_deadendDEAD END aka DRIFTER (2016)

Starring Aria Emory, Drew Harwood and Monique Rosario

Directed by Chris von Hoffman

Written by Chris von Hoffman and Aria Emory

UK DVD Release from High Fliers Films on March 6th

A pair of outlaw brothers seek temporary refuge in a desolate town inhabited by a small family of psychotic cannibalistic lunatics“.

The story of Drifter pretty much goes like this. If you take the Gecko Brothers from Tarantino and Rodriguez’s classic From Dusk Till Dawn, roughed them up and put them in the middle of an arid post-apocalyptic, just about to go Mad Max wasteland, and then had them stumble upon the family from Texas Chainsaw Massacre and their mutant cousins from The Hills Have Eyes, then you’ve pretty much got it.

Seriously. The script actually replicates wholesale dialogue, even scenes, from those films and others. This kind of thing is basically the reason I’ve grown so tired of Tarantino and Rob Zombie. So why the high rating?

rsz_deadend1Because this film is an absolute assault on the senses, that’s why. In his feature debut, director Hoffman, a veteran of music videos and short films, has less directed the script as directed the living shit out of his script. Imprinting a gritty, flashy, grimy and relentless vision all of his own, Drifter is less directed and more choreographed, like an 80’s dubstep goth rave in the desert. There are images here that are truly stunning, the way Hoffman frames the landscape, follows his characters, captures the day and the night. It all feels iconic. His energy behind the camera is non stop, reaching even crazier heights in the moments of savagery.

And choreography is nothing without music. My oh my, the soundtrack in this rhymes with the visuals in a way we rarely see these days. It’s a pulsing, pounding, monstrous beast from Nao Sato, and it’s a marvel. I swear there were moments in this film where the combination of movement, framing, action and soundtrack nearly had me cheering. Everything just clicks to create a sensory overload. I think this is what makes the film work so well. The script and story may lack originality, but its execution is anything but derivative. The feel of this film, the texture of it, the sound of it, is like nothing I remember seeing. Yes, it’s showy and attention seeking but it bloody well deserves it. Drifter is Hoffman trying not to make a splash, but to kick all the water out of the tub. And I need to own this soundtrack immediately.

The performances are also extremely fun. As our heroes, Emory and Howard take stock characters and rough them right up, make them lived in and raw. But our villains have the most fun. James McCabe is fantastically sinister as the childlike patriarch of the clan, Doyle, and Rebecca Frasier is the most devious white trash doll you will find. But the standout was Anthony Ficco as the Danny Zuko on acid Latos. A twitchy, nightmarish bottle of bloodthirsty rage, he’s a fantastic villain.

rsz_deadend2Although technically the film is a striking marvel, with sights and sounds that are seared into my brain, it’s a real shame that the script is such a hodgepodge of scenes and dialogue from other movies. In this case it’s not a deal breaker, but it would’ve elevated this to cult-classic status. But maybe the reason it’s all so blatant is because that was the point. So, if Drifter is a love-letter to a particularly grimy type of cinema, it’s a kinetic and visceral success. But we will have to wait for the next film from Hoffman for originality.

As it stands, Drifter is an everything and the kitchen sink project done right. An angry, vicious, grindhouse fever dream.

8/10