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

Spidarlings (2016) Review

rsz_spidarlingsv2SPIDARLINGS (2016)

Starring Sophia Disgrace, Rahel Kapsaski, Lee Mark Jones and Rusty Goffe

Written and Directed by Salem Kapsaski

Available NOW online at – http://watch.troma.com/

Poverty stricken lovers Eden and Matilda have enough trouble just getting through the days. Their Landlord is trying to terrorize them and strange things seem to be going on at “Juicy Girls”, the place where Matilda works… but when Eden buys a pet spider the real troubles start.”

Despite a myriad of technical issues, Spidarling’s is a pretty endearing piece of trash cinema, and it’s easy to see why it was picked up by Troma.

Opening with a funk-tastic animated title sequence that’s accompanied by a quite polished punk song, Spidarling’s immerses you unapologetically in the lives of skint couple Eden and Matilda, lovers who are the definition of punk. Their tiny flat and style screams “I don’t give a fuck and I don’t give a fuck if you give a fuck that I don’t give a fuck” but a lot of this is blamed on their lack of income. Eden is smart but lazy and doesn’t work, and Matilda appears to just lounge around the burlesque club Juicy Girls. Bored, fed up, behind on their rent and without a clue what to do. Enter, a spider!

For what will be a penny budget Spidarlings doesn’t lack ambition. While technical issues are rife, the experimentation is great to see. Lots of inventive animation and sudden disorienting edits, as well as ransom cutting to songs all really sell the attitude and world of the characters.

rsz_sd1However, Spidarlings falls into a lot of traps that show a lack of experience. Whether down to a choppy colour grade or lack of equipment, the film looks as if it were shot on a consumer camcorder from the nineties. It misses a lot of visual detail and just looks jarring. Also the sound was flimsy. Eden seems dubbed in post while Matilda is often inaudible, and many of the musical sequences are either too loud or too quiet.

But then again, this all adds to the DIY, trashy John Waters micro-budget transgressiveness of it all. You don’t feel like you’re dealing with a safe group of filmmakers, which is great. And it’s two hour runtime manages to flirt from body horror, domestic melodrama, black comedy, slasher and musical as if it’s on shuffle. Each situation however shares a common theme, and that is the strong undercurrent of feminism. Every bloke around the lovers is either a pervert, greedy fucker and often much worse. Some of it doesn’t always hit the spot but that’s the risk of throwing the kitchen sink in there.

The performances are eager and veer from OTT, to delightfully strange, or almost zombie-like and it all adds to the kaleidoscope of tones. Disgrace and Kapsaski hold the thing together and are a surprisingly sweet couple. Along with the engaging leads and diverse supporting cast are the the tunes, and again while the recording and editing holds them back, they are still surprisingly catchy and may just stick in your head for better or worse!

rsz_sd2With gallows black humour and a story that throws the rules out the window, Spidarlings won’t be for everyone. And it can’t be denied that at two hours it’s way too bloody long. But for fans of John Waters, Troma and underground cinema you could do a lot worse. One thing is undeniable, the feminist blood runs strong through this with, viscerally and unapologetically.

Is this a good film? I’m not sure it’s trying to be. But it’s an experience.

6/10

Altar (2017) Review

rsz_altarALTAR (2017)

Starring Stefanie Estes, Brittany Falardeau, Deep Rai and Jessica Strand

Written and Directed by Matthew Sconce

ALTAR is the terrifying story of a group of former college classmates who get lost driving to a college reunion camp out in the Sierra Nevada mountains. After stopping for the night, they stumble onto something much darker. They must battle to escape the evil they unleashed to not only save their own lives but their souls as well.”

I’ve watched so many found footage horror movies at this point that I kind of want to know what attracts filmmakers to the format. It’s not like they have a particularly good reputation now with critics and audiences, and the big hitters like Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity feel like an age ago now. I’m honestly curious, because the amount of found footage movies in recent years that have found a real genuine reason to be made in such a way is very small. Most of the time it just seems to be an excuse by a filmmaker to get away with dodgy camerawork and sound. As if it excuses a lack of skill or talent. Which it absolutely doesn’t. Because if the story isn’t still told right in the edit, and if the performances aren’t even more believable than in a traditionally shot movie, then the audiences attention has already jumped ship. Truth is, it takes real skill and passion and filmmaking prowess to make a good found footage movie.

Which brings me to Altar. Which, to my surprise, was actually a very cool found footage horror!

rsz_altar1All those complaints in my little rant? Well, it seems Matthew Sconce has the same, and sought to avoid them all here. The camerawork is coherent while still convincingly “found”, the sound is effective and the acting is mostly very engaging. And you know what, it’s actually pretty scary occasionally. We can’t forget that!

As you can probably tell from the plot description, the storyline for Altar doesn’t offer anything in the way of originality but the ace up its sleeve is the characters and actors. The lead siblings Maisy (Estes) and Bo (Parr) are incredibly engaging. Complete opposites, with Maisy outgoing and spirited and Bo introverted and suffering from crippling anxiety and shyness, they nonetheless have an incredible bond that is not something you see many genre films even attempt to develop. Not only that, but Bo’s characterisation is what justifies the found footage format, with the camera being a kind of protective barrier for the aspiring filmmaker. The rest of the cast do well too, each character transcending stereotypes and it’s a pleasure to see.

rsz_altar3Once the horror does kick off (and it admittedly does take a while) the film is in a race to get to the finish line which I really did not mind. It felt very well-structured as the films emphasis is much more on characterisation. There’s a few great jump scares and some fantastic tension, but in terms of violence, due to the ambiguous nature of the threat it’s all a bit PG 13. Also, the production values in one pivotal scene kind of give away the budget, with a plastic-looking set that really draws attention to itself when it should be creating fear.

But all this can be forgiven. Altar is a slow build chiller that gets away with it because those slow moments are filled with characters you’re interested in spending time with.

7/10

The Telephone (2017) Short Film Review

rsz_teleTHE TELEPHONE (2017)

Starring Nigel Barber, Bernard Deegan and Rachel Prince

Written and directed by Stuart Wheeldon

“When Richard arrives in a small town, following the receipt of a letter and glassfish sent to his newspaper office, he is unaware of what he is about to become embroiled in. Intrigued by the story of a mysterious disappearance of a young woman Jane. Richard takes a room in the pub, the last place Jane was known to be alive. Awakened one night by an old telephone that seems to ring endlessly and then a chance encounter with the spectral image of a young woman, Richard decides to question the owner. Max an abstract artist denies ever seeing or putting up the woman in question. Richard is told ‘The Telephone’ must be in his imagination. Richard’s instincts tell him there is more to the story. Is the ghostly figure seen late at night, that of Jane? Could the telephone ringing truly just be in his head? If you heard the ringing, would you be prepared to answer what lies at the end of the phone?” Via Stuart Wheeldon IMDb.

rsz_tele1Running at 27 minutes, quite lengthy for a short film, The Telephone at times feels like a Hammer House of Horror episode minus the commercial break. It has a mysterious atmosphere of dread, with strange seemingly unconnected scenes and actions that build towards a finale that answers lots of questions, but leaves you with even more.

Wheeldon has a clear love for the psychological thriller and also pays homage to Giallo and Hitchcock films from the past, putting a unique and very British spin on them.

Nigel Barber is having lots of fun here, essentially getting chance to channel Norman Bates and Hannibal Lecter in the same scene, while Bernard Deegan makes for an interesting and morally ambiguous hero.

rsz_tele2While Wheeldon has skill behind the camera, creating some sharp and often beautiful compositions, the editing often lets him down. On top of the plodding pace, there are some very clumsy and distracting transitions that really take away from what could easily be a very polished calling card with some extra care.

The Telephone is still a diverting and seedy little psycho-thriller, with plenty of visual references that will have horror fans smiling.

7/10

Don’t Hang Up (2016) Review

rsz_dhu1DON’T HANG UP (2016)

Starring Gregg Sulkin, Garrett Clayton, Bella Dayne and Sienna Guillory

Directed by Damien Mace and Alexis Wajsbrot

Written by Joe Johnson

Out on DVD on 12th June 2017 and Digital on 26th June 2017 courtesy of Solo Media and Matchbox Films

An evening of drunken prank calls becomes a nightmare for a pair of teenagers when a mysterious stranger turns their own game against them…with deadly consequences“.

Social media themed thrillers are everywhere now. Some are actually quite successful, with Unfriended somehow managing to make a film entirely shot through webcams gripping, and the glossy thriller Nerve was a fun time. But they all come with a built in flaw, one that is completely incurable. As soon as they’re released, possibly as soon as they’re scripts are finished, they become dated. Social media is constantly evolving, on a daily basis. Seriously, how many Facebook updates have you had in the past month? In the digital age, a techno thriller has a tough task staying up to date for its savvy target audience.

Enter Don’t Hang Up, which does itself no favours by having characters who are still using consumer camcorders when they have 4K iPhones that can upload their pranks directly to YouTube! I wouldn’t bring any of this up if not for the fact that this is all vital to the plot and characters. And it’s details like these which start chipping away at the believability.

rsz_dhu2Speaking of characters, there are no heroes here. Our protagonists are dicks, particularly Brady (Clayton), an irritating dick. And no matter how lovesick Sam (Sulkin) is, he is still a dick. Which is fine, we don’t need likeable characters, as long as they’re interesting. But these are just those pricks Lad Bible like to make famous. The opening scene, involving their horrible prank on Sienna Guillory’s mother, establishes that. Now, this would all again be fine, if the film took a more satirical stance, and really analysed these YouTube personalities and their affect on society. But the filmmakers go with a traditional thriller instead, stalked by an all seeing malevolent home invader playing a twisted game Jigsaw would do after he watched When A Stranger Calls, and the suspense in those only works for me if I give a shit about the people involved. And I really didn’t.

The leads struggle with the script, which forces Sulkin and Clayton to be hysterical as soon as the shit hits the fan. It would have been much more fun to see the snivelling little sociopaths begin to show their true colours. But they are just asked to cry or look like they’ve been crying a lot. It’s annoying.

I’ll say one thing though, the directors know how to make a small film feel big, with lots of cinematic stylistic flourishes throughout a very brisk runtime. It’s just a shame the writer didn’t share their ambitions.

rsz_dhu3This all may sound like I didn’t enjoy Don’t Hang Up, but I actually did. It’s a fairly fun contained thriller, with some nice sadism thrown in and some actual surprises. But this subject is so rife and relevant and ready for an ambitious exploration that I wanted more. It just fails to live up to the promise of its premise for me.

6/10

Seoul Station (2016) Review

rsz_ss1SEOUL STATION (2016)

Starring Seung-ryong Ryu, Franciska Friede and Joon Lee

Written & Directed by Sang Ho-Yeon

OUT NOW on UK DVD & Blu-Ray from Studiocanal

Several groups of people try to survive a zombie pandemic that unleashes itself in downtown Seoul“.

Let’s get this out of the way. I have a confession to make.

I still haven’t seen Train to Busan.

I get it, every other horror fan in the whole entire universe has seen it and raved about it, I’ve seen the trailer and it kicks ass, and as far as I know it’s been available in the UK for a while. I just haven’t gotten round to it, I’m going to soon, I swear. Stop giving me evils. Stop the hate mail. I will watch it eventually.

“So why the hell would I want to review the prequel?” I hear you ask. Well, after a quick bit of research I discovered the animated Seoul was actually made before the live action Busan, yet released later. This is only after a google search so may not be true, but I thought this must be more than a cash in like expected, and I really wanted another good zombie movie.

rsz_ss2And let me just say, animated or not, Seoul Station is a VERY good zombie movie.

Seoul Station unfolds predominantly from the point of view of four characters: young runaway prostitute Hye-sun; her useless computer geek boyfriend Ki-Woong; Hye-sun’s desperate father Suk-Kyu; and a nameless vagrant who is desperately trying to get help for another homeless man, who happens to be patient zero…

Just from the brief character descriptions you can see that Seoul Station is not interested in conventional heroes. Everyone here is damaged, even if they don’t at first appear to be. They are each victims of society before the zombie outbreak, and this is shown best in the early stages as we see seoul Station as a nocturnal haven for the most desperate of society. Homeless, the mentally ill, all abandoned and left to suffer in the building. It’s because these people are ignored by society, the film suggests, that the outbreak is allowed to spread so quickly. Like the best of Romero, Seoul Station effortlessly provides a fascinating social commentary, and goes to some very dark places indeed to make it’s point.

But skillfully the film never becomes preachy or stops in it’s tracks to relay anything too heavy handed. One big difference compared to the low-budget Romero flicks of the past is the set pieces, no doubt helped largely by the freedom being an animated movie allows. Ho-Yeon creates some truly imaginative and visually arresting sequences, the likes of which I don’t think I’ve seen before. Moreover, he truly “gets” zombies, and their behaviour, their expressions of pure hunger, are something to behold. As is the gore, which is plentiful and rightly so.

While I doubt the story is as propulsive and energetic as Train to Busan, which I’ve heard described as a rollercoaster, Seoul Station is still a finely paced dramatic horror that milks it’s situation for every bit of action, tension, terror and subtext it can. It often feels choreographed, almost like a dance, the result of a filmmaker using everything in his toolbox.

After this, Ho-Yeon went onto make Busan, his first live-action feature, and if he’s taken half the craft he displays here with him, well, I’m not surprised it’s gone down so well.

rsz_ss3Any complaints are very minor. The score is a little non-descript and doesn’t always compliment events onscreen. Also, some of the animation can be a little rough around the edges. But it’s nothing really.

A dark hearted and socially aware thriller interrupted by the relentless undead, Seoul Station is an excellent zombie movie, and I can’t wait to see how it plays alongside Train to Busan.

9/10

End of Days, Inc (2015) Review

rsz_1eod1END OF DAYS, INC (2015)

Starring Carolyne Maraghi, Janet Porter, Mark O’Brien and Paulino Nunes

Directed by Jennifer Liao

Written by Christina Ray

A group of laid off workers bribed into working one last night discover that processing the last of their “inventory” will lead to cataclysmic consequences“.

It’s the last day of work at Godfrey Industries. As the workers prepare to be jobless in their own ways, Janet (Carolyne Maraghi) is sad to be leaving, a loyal worker and genuinely sweet soul; Jason (Mark O’Brien) willing to lick all kinds of ass to get a good reference and decent payoff; and Misty (Janet Porter) just looking forward to getting away from the place and the people in it. But Mr Godrey (Paulino Nunes) has other ideas. He invites the workers to a last minute and compulsory “party” at the office, which is unsurprisingly all a ploy to get the staff to finish off processing some more of the inventory…Well, they have to work, basically. But there’s something very odd about all the little slips they are handling. They seem to affect the outside world in disastrous ways, and soon even begin to affect them…

Mr. Godfrey (Paulino Nunes) and Esther (Anna Ferguson) in END OF DAYS, INC.

Mr. Godfrey (Paulino Nunes) and Esther (Anna Ferguson) in END OF DAYS, INC.

End of Days Inc is a very odd little film, the kind of film that no matter how well made, how energetically performed, feels like it never wants to be an out and out success. The comedy is as broad as it is dark, yet the story is small and stagey, almost on the level of a sitcom. It’s too clean, too bright, too processed.

The performers have a thankless job. The story and the tone pretty much order them to go way over the top, and so they all obey. Everyone is professional, and Maraghi and Porter are both incredibly likeable. O’Brien is expertly smarmy as well and has some cracking timing. But the group as a whole feel like cartoon characters. They’re all very witty, yet all very sanitised. It’s an odd balance, a dark comedy playing it as safe as it’s premise will allow.

Director Jennifer Liao directs with polish and an eye for a good gag, but the budget doesn’t allow for the Burton-esque look she seems to be aiming for. Christina Ray, who wrote the very enjoyable Ginger Snaps Back way back when, scripts with pace and verve but again, this feels more like a stage play. Even with the jaunty score that almost plays like a laugh-track, signalling when something kooky is happening, just in case you didn’t notice.

rsz_eod3All in all, End of Days Inc has a fun premise that plays on the idea that the corporations are destroying the world, but it’s far too quaint to be memorable. But it is a fluffy, fast and inoffensive good time, if you’re in the mood for something on the lighter side.

6/10

Dark Cove (2016) Review

rsz_dc1DARK COVE (2016)

Starring Rob Willey, Cameron Crosby and Rob Abbate

Directed by Rob Willey

Written by Dennis Willey and Rob Willey

Five friends go camping on the rugged coast of Vancouver Island, Canada. Things start to go seriously wrong while they party with two Australian surfers

There’s an argument in scriptwriting circles that you don’t necessarily need likeable characters in a film. Screw the save the cat moment, or even being relatable. Hell, most quality TV series now revolve around antihero’s. Because no matter whether the characters are likeable or relatable, there’s always two things the writers never forget to do: make them BELIEVABLE and INTERESTING. But what if you don’t make your characters likeable, relatable, believable or interesting? Well, you end up with something like Dark Cove.

rsz_dc2Five friends head out to the coast for some fun, including the Bromantic Bro Triangle of Joey (Rob Abbate), Donnie (Cameron Crosby) and Quinn (writer, director and editor Rob Willey), and friends Lacey (Jules Cotton) and Jen (Montanna McNalley). They expect a night of shrooms, beers and existential bro chats. And for about half the film, that’s what they get. Until they invite over a pair of Aussie and a Brit with the most bizarre accent I’ve heard in a very long time and a plot begins happening.

I wanted all of these characters to die. I was waiting patiently for a masked psycho or squealing inbred to wipe these fuckers out…but they never turned up. They just let this bunch come out with more inane, juvenile dialogue and play footy, play the guitar and talk about life and shit round a campfire.

Once the dark stuff starts happening, the unbelievable behaviour simply becomes inexplicable. I won’t go into detail and spoil it for you but it’s pretty hilarious, as everyone’s acting kicks into overdrive and completely at odds with normal behaviour. It’s actually enjoyable for all the wrong reasons.

rsz_dc3Technically the film is pretty slick. Willey has an eye and cuts the film well, and aside from the most ridiculous axe attack sound effect, the sound is very professional.

Look, this is an admirably assembled bad film, but I can’t deny, it’s entertaining in a The Room kind of way. Its mercifully short and with a better script this cast and crew will make something great. As it stands, it’s campy schlock.

5/10

Dead Awake (2016) Review

rsz_deadawake1DEAD AWAKE (2016)

Starring Jocelin Donahue, Lori Petty, Jesse Bradford, Brea Grant and Jesse Borrego

Directed by Phillip Guzman

Written by Jeffrey Reddick

Out NOW from Matchbox Films

“A young woman must save herself and her friends from an ancient evil that stalks its victims through the real-life phenomenon known as sleep-paralysis”.

Jeffrey Reddick struck gold when he created the original Final Destination. A smart, original and genuinely scary horror film, helped along greatly by the team of Glen Morgan and James Wong, Final Destination was a huge critical and commercial success that launched a pretty enjoyable franchise. But none of them involving Reddick. So what’s he been up to? Well, he wrote that really bizarre Day of the Dead remake, and a teen horror called Tamara that nobody remembers…And now he’s back again with Dead Awake. Is it as forgettable as those two?

Kate (Jocelin Donahue) is a social worker who begins to investigate the mysterious death of her twin sister Beth (also Donahue), who died in her sleep. Teaming with Beth’s partner Evan (Jesse Bradford), Kate delves into the dark world of sleep paralysis, and quickly discovers a mythical creature which is hell bent on using the horrifying condition to kill her friends.

rsz_deadawake2Imagine for a moment, if you will, if the villain in A Nightmare on Elm Street wasn’t the amazing Robert Englund as the horrifying Freddy Krueger, but a rickety crawling Samara from the Ring remake. Not only that, but the heroes weren’t teens who used their smarts to beat the villain, but a few thirty something mates who can’t move and just let the thing get them.

Well that’s Dead Awake in a nutshell. Sleep paralysis can be used to creepy effect, but not here. It robs the characters of any fight when the demonic entity known as “The Hag” comes crawling up in their faces. Reddick and director Guzman manage to make the sequence quite creepy the first few times it happens, but it becomes quite clear that’s the only trick up their sleeves.

The cast try hard, with Scream queen Donahue squeezing as much life and personality into her underwritten role, and Jesse’s Bradford and Borrego do great, auditions for Charles Manson, the former chilled and morose, the latter bug-eyed and edgy. But more often than not they appear bored when playing exhausted, and like the pace of the film, it can do the same to the viewer. Dead Awake takes itself very seriously, but the lack of fun is a real problem.

rsz_deadawake3Reddick had a great concept on his hands but the execution has no imagination. Every scene that showed the hazards of sleep deprivation just made me hope the Channel Zero crew get around to “The Russian Sleep Experiment”. Now that could be terrifying.

For now, we have this. A shuffling Elm Street retread without the wit and imagination of even it’s remake. If you’re looking for a visually pretty film with nice performances and one or two effective jump scares, check it out. If not, go with the awes Craven one.

5/10

Cam-Girl (2016) Review

rsz_cam2CAM-GIRL (2016)

Starring Erin Nicole Cline, Joe Coffey and Bjorn Jiskoot Jr.

Directed by Curt Wiser

Written by Curt Wiser, adapted from his novel “Box Cutter Killer”

A thriller that revolves around Gessica, a 23 year old webcam stripper who is pushed to the limit when she is held hostage by an unknown gunman“.

Cam-Girl is the latest in a wave of webcam, chat room and adult performer themed horror thrillers, and it’s starting to seem strange why this isn’t being talked about among horror fans. Subgenres come in waves, and often reflect the political or social climate. So what does the rise in cam-girl horror say about society at the moment? Has this profession become more mainstream recently, or maybe social media has made it more accessible and caught the eye of young filmmakers.

rsz_cam3The idea is ripe for film treatment on a budget, automatically carrying a Hitchcockian, voyeuristic quality, with built in sex appeal. But why now? I reviewed the hypnotic BB recently, which was a visually stunning analysis of a cam-girl and the dangers of the job. But in being completely non-judgemental, it perhaps suggested that the job isn’t the problem, it’s the society that frowns upon a person making money doing something they enjoy that is disturbed.

Cam-Girl doesn’t answer the questions in the same way, instead delivering a slick, slasher type scenario. Think a cross between Scream, Saw and Phone Booth, and you wouldn’t be far off. But rather than offer senseless violence and torture, Cam-Girl is more about the psychological analysis of its lead character as Gessica is forced to hold a mirror up to herself and her past, or die.

While far from perfect, Cam-Girl is held together by the solid rock that is Erin Nicole Cline as Gessica. In what is for the most part a one woman show, Cline does wonders with the character, filling her with a naturalism that many would struggle with. And she makes a very flawed (I’m not talking about the cam stuff) character very likeable. In a similar yet less provocative way to BB, Cam-Girl subverts the typical victim character and then toughens them up.

rsz_cam1While it is great to see filmmaker Wiser go the road less traveled, the psychological rather than the visceral, it does leave a few drawback. The pace, particularly in the mid-section, hovers when it should soar, becoming just a little bit too talky. And the film as a whole is surprisingly conservative when it comes to nudity and the exploration of sexuality, especially considering the plot. A strength of BB was its raw realism and expression of female sexual empowerment.

However, upon reflection, Cam-Girl is more about the inner than the outer, and in that sense it’s a resounding success. Sure it has the usual micro-budget issues, dodgy sound and iffy camerawork and editing in places, but it is an entertaining Larry Cohen style thriller with a supremely engaging lead performance, and a few twists up its sleeve.

7/10

Hunting Grounds (2015) Review

rsz_hg1HUNTING GROUNDS (2015) aka Valley of the Sasquatch

Starring Bill Oberst jr, Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, Jason Vail and David Saucedo

Written & Directed by John Portanova

A father, his son, and his two old friends arrive at an isolated cabin for a weekend of hunting. A trip deep into the forest looking for wild game uncovers a tribe of Sasquatch who are determined to protect their land“.

Bigfoot movies have been making a quiet resurgence recently, with Willow Creek, Exists and countless other DTV titles appearing in the past few years. While Willow Creek did very little for me, spending the whole runtime building great tension but point blank refusing to pay it off, I did have a lot of fun with Exists, which went the more kitchen sink fun route. It still had its flaws, but I enjoyed it.

New to the table is Hunting Grounds, aka Valley of the Sasquatch. And while it’s not perfect by a long shot, it gets enough right to be worth a recommendation.

rsz_hg2The story focuses on the troubled relationship between Roger (Vail) and his son Michael (Joris-Peyrafitte). After the recent death of Michaels mother, their very contrasting personalities are brought to the forefront and causing a strain. Michael wants to go to college and make something of his life, while Roger insists they simply can’t afford it. They drive out into the woods to spend some quality time together, with Uncle Will (D’Angelo Midili) and and asshole hanger on Sergio (Saucedo). But as they venture deeper into the forest, they find out they are on the menu of a clan of savage Sasquatch, and must work together to survive.

I want to focus on how enjoyable Hunting Grounds was so I’ll briefly mention its problems first. The main one for me was the character of Sergio. It’s not the fault of the actor, but the script inserts him to be a huge prick from the get-go, and he kind of drags the other characters with him simply because they don’t chin him straight away! Some of the pacing is a little sluggish, and the score has a real Lifetime Channel feel most of the way. Also, many of the night time scenes are too dark, making some of the action incomprehensible. And finally, lets face it, this one does nothing new. The story beats, the characters, many of the situations, we’ve seen before elsewhere…

rsz_hg3HOWEVER, there is something to be said about doing something we’ve seen before but well, and that’s what happens in Hunting Grounds. The performances are very capable, and the father son dynamic is well thought out, and contrasts nicely when the family of Bigfoot’s lay siege. Which brings me to another aspect, the FAMILY of beasts. It’s hard enough to survive against one in many films, so adding more really heightens the stakes. The man-in-suit FX can be hit and miss, but that adds a level of B Movie charm to it all.

After a slow start, director Portanova really lays his cards on the table, with showdown after showdown in an entertaining man vs nature story that is much more than a SyFy Channel special. Stick with it, and you’ll find an engaging, if derivative creature feature.

7/10