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

Aimy In A Cage (2016) Review

AIMY IN A CAGE (2016)

Written & Directed by Hooroo Jackson

Starring Crispin Glover, Allisyn Ashley Arm, Terry Moore, Paz de la Huerte and Michael William Hunter

UK Release TBC?

“A creative teenage girl is placed into a mind-altering procedure to civilise her, while news of a virus epidemic spreads throughout the world”. Via IMDb.

Erm. I…umm…well…

Yeah. So. Erm…

While watching Aimy In A Cage, I tried to make my usual notes ready for the review. But around a minute into this 79 mins of wtf I just gave up and let the insanity soak into my eyeballs and my brain and for the rest of the night I pondered whether or not I just watched the most pretentious bag of bullshit ever made or one of the most singular and courageous masterpieces I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

But the fact that I can’t stop thinking about it makes me lean towards the latter.

Adapted from his own graphic novel “Aimy Micry” by the brilliantly named Hooroo Jackson, this is a film experience like no other.

In trying to describe it to someone who hasn’t seen it, I’d say what if Tim Burton and Hunter S. Thompson had a baby, which then wrote a script, which was then directed by Terry Gilliam, but he gave up halfway through and handed it to Darren Aronofsky, who raised Stanley Kubrick from the dead and let him have final cut.

Still with me? No? Then you really need to just watch it.

And more than once as well. While the immediate metaphors for the restriction of artistic expression, the mission to normalise extroverts, insanity treated as a disease that can be cured…I think, anyway, there are probably more themes and subtleties that will go unnoticed on first viewing. Every line feels loaded with subtext, every skewed angle and splintered edit is there for a freakish reason, every scream has a meaning.

Seriously, every second of the short runtime is full of more imagination, thought and uniqueness than any film released in the past few years at least. Never are you not completely engaged. Just try and take your eyes off this animal. Really. Try. You can’t.

What becomes clear in this world of insanity is that the more a person tries to be “normal” the more “normal” the “insane” people look.

Throughout the film, Aimy is subjected to increasingly sadistic torture in an effort to make her fit in. You can see her soul being crushed and all of a sudden, the heightened atmosphere becomes very disturbing and upsetting.

Performances here are critic-proof, because everyone is ratcheting it up to 11. But they are all completely committed to the madness, especially our tragic hero played by Allisyn Ashley Arm. Screaming, wild-eyed, a force of nature, she is mesmerising. Crispin Glover appears as a sleazy faux-gangster, and when you can say Glover is one of the less crazy ones in a film…well, you get the picture.

I really don’t know what to say anymore about this one. It’s just too polarising, too unique. Lacking any typical narrative structure or story, but at the same time completely immersive, it’s a total one off.

Visually stunning, with fantastic production design that is full of fascinating details, Aimy In A Cage will either be one of your favourite films ever or the biggest pile of trash you’ve ever seen.

For me, it’s just too memorable to be anything but brilliant.

P.S. SSOOOO many things that I don’t have the space to get into: The Apollo Virus, the newscaster, Paz de la Huerta, Nero, The Mosses…this films is bursting with ideas and things and ideas YOU HAVE TO WATCH THIS SO I CAN TALK TO YOU ABOUT IT!!!!

9/10

Cruel Summer (2015) Review

CRUEL SUMMER (2015)

Written & Directed by Philip Escott and Craig Newman

Starring Danny Miller, Reece Douglas, Natalie Martins and Richard Pawulski

“Young autism sufferer Danny enjoys the serenity and solitude of camping. That’s all about to change when enraged teens Nicholas, Calvin and Julia find him, each with their own agenda for wanting to see Danny suffer”. By Philip Escott via IMDb.

Starting with an off-the-cuff lie in the spate of the moment, and leading to a prolonged scene of sheer horrific brutality, Cruel Summer is the kind of bruising, close to the bone experiences that we Brits really have a knack for.

When volatile teen Nicholas is dumped by his girlfriend Lisa after a row, his anger is fuelled when his friend (and number one fan) Julia tells him that Lisa lost her virginity not to him, but to autistic loner Danny, who goes to their school. Why does she tell him this? Why does he believe what is obviously a lie? And why do they tell new kid Calvin that Danny is a paedophile when Nicholas sets out on a quest for revenge?

The answers would be too complex and contradictory, and writer/directors Philip Escott and Craig Newman are smart enough to not try and give us any. We are given slight backstories to each character, but it’s irrelevant. This story is all about making one decision and whether you follow it through or not. Right or wrong, cowardly or brave, individual or follower…what are you?

What is made evident is that these three characters feel they have nowhere to go in life, they are lost and angry and, although they know of the consequences, they just don’t care. Or they do, but only when it’s too late.

The performances here are outstanding. Danny Miller evokes Jack O’Connell and Tom Hardy in his volcanic, unstable Nicholas, not satisfied unless he is causing trouble, and determined to drag others with him. Natalie Martins is possibly the most troubling character, displaying sociopathic tendencies as she puts on a different mask for everyone she meets, and willing to do anything to make Nicholas happy. Reece Douglas is the guy who is good deep down but does he have the courage to do what’s right. He is the moral compass, and while his decisions aren’t always right, they are understandable. Richard Pawulski gives a brave and authentic portrayal of autism, never slipping out of character and never once demanding our sympathies. But he gets them anyway. Every performance and every line and every action felt authentic, lived in, real.

Beautifully shot on location, Cruel Summer recalls hoody horror Eden Lake in themes but not in execution. There is no Hollywood heroics, no easy character arcs and nothing out of the realms of possibility. This feels like it could happen now, today. A mundane tragedy that is all too common.

What hits hardest about this film is that most viewers will probably have known, or suffered at the hands of kids like these at one point or more in their lives. I certainly did when I was younger. I’ve been a follower, done stupid things to fit in with the “popular” crowd. And I’ve regretted it and thankfully managed to move away from them, severing the ties. Some of them have grown up to be very respectable I believe.

Others, not so much. And that’s the most powerful thing a film can do, make you confront your own demons. After this, I just wanted to make sure my family was ok. To lock my doors. To watch my back on the street. And Michael Myers never did that. Because real horror is unprovoked, and comes without rationale and without reason from nearby. And that’s what Cruel Summer shows. They should show this to teens in school. To show that the kids who do this kind of thing, they never look cool. The never look brave. They just look like senseless, dangerous, hopeless idiots.

Any complaints? Not really. Some of the musical score sometimes feels distracting, but is mostly great. The scenes on screen are so powerful this would work with no score at all. But that’s a minor nitpick.

At 1hr 18mins, and with a slow-burn High Noon structure of impending doom that you just can’t take your eyes off, I can’t recommend Cruel Summer enough. It’s one of the most brave, uncompromising films I’ve seen in a very long time, and I cannot wait for whatever Philip Escott and Craig Newman come up with next.

A day can start off like any other, and end with the most horrific tragedy imaginable.

Find this, and watch this. It’s important.

10/10

The UKHS Writers Christmas Horrors – Black Christmas (2006)

The UKHS Writers Christmas Horrors

BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006)

Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Michelle Trachtenberg, Lacey Chabert

Directed by Glen Morgan

An escaped maniac returns to his childhood home on Christmas Eve, which is now a sorority house, and begins to murder the sorority sisters one by one.

The original Black Christmas from director Bob Clark has gained something of a cult classic reputation since its release, and deservedly so. It’s a dark, terrifying and simple slasher that was a big influence on John Carpenter’s Halloween but was unfortunately overlooked at the time. So any remake was bound to have a difficult reception, and that’s exactly what this remake got. But was it justified?

Looking back at the ‘06 Black Christmas and comparing it to the original, it’s easy to see why critics ripped it apart. Gone is the slow-burning methodical dread, replaced with flashy editing, over the top kills and even more over the top performances. But let’s take a step back and look at this as its own film…

This is what I like to call a “Party Horror Film”. Most horror films are meant to scare the viewers, leave them shaken. But films like this are meant to be watched with friends, laughed at and with, just a load of daft fun! And this film delivers that. You sit with your mates, order a takeaway, have a few drinks, and enjoy watching a group of detestable characters get murdered in insane ways. And for what it’s worth, it’s fantastic fun.

Director Glen Morgan takes all his experience from the Final Destination franchise and creates a gaudy slasher that is all about the kills. Everyday objects are given extreme close ups, keeping you guessing as to which one will be used as an instrument of murder. Characters do stimulus thinks and act with zero common sense because let’s face it, it’s no fun seeing them survive, and they have no normal traits. Everybody is a bitch and hates each other, and hearing them trade barbed insults is all part of the party. The cast are all faces we know, and some like Mary Elizabeth Winstead have gone into great things, but they aren’t asked to bring depth here, just to scream and run and they do that admirably. Our killer Billy is less Michael Myers and more a perverted psycho which fits right in with the trashy-feel of the rest of the flick.

If you want a coherent story, likeable characters, and masterful filmmaking, watch the original. This is throwaway entertainment, a midnight movie for Christmas Eve, with a devilish sense of humour and a savage sadistic streak. A reminder of simpler times, the slasher films of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, before slashers became self-referential.

But even as a bit fluff, the film does have problems. Glen Morgan has tried to disown the film for alleged studio cuts, and there is a choppiness with some of the editing and pacing, especially towards the end.

But who cares? What we have here is a film where people get killed in festive ways just for the gimmick, and there’s not an ounce of pretence about it. It doesn’t reach the heights of the Dawn Of The Dead remake, but it’s no Nic Cage Wicker Man either.

So get some friends round, have some beers and eat something unhealthy, and revisit this seasonal guilty pleasure.

Oh, and here’s my recommended Black Christmas ‘06 drinking game, guaranteed good times:

A shot of Sambuca every time you hear “Bitch!”

A shot of Tequila every time you see a close up of an inanimate but possible lethal household object.

A jäger bomb on every kill.

And a shot of absinth for every use of festive music.

And if you’re still conscious by the end of the film after all that, GO TO HOSPITAL NOW!

MERRY BLOODY CHRISTMAS READERS!

Maggie (2015) DVD Review

MAGGIE (2015)

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson

Directed by Henry Hobson

Written by John Scott 3

UK DVD Release 23rd November from Universal

A teenage girl in the Midwest becomes infected by an outbreak of a disease that slowly turns the infected into cannibalistic zombies. During her transformation, her loving father stays by her side.

People getting bit by, and gradually turning into, zombies is a staple of the genre. There is not one single zombie outbreak film that does not contain this sequence, and it’s usually one of the more emotional and powerful scenes in there. But what if their was a whole film based around this one sequence? Would it be ultra-intense and powerful? Or would it drag itself around like a reanimated corpse..?

Shot in grey and gloomy tones and almost exclusively handheld, Maggie establishes a quite realistic vision of a zombie outbreak. No mass hysteria, no massacres, just a world odealing with it like they deal with any outbreak: quarantines and paranoia.

Wade (ARNIE!!!) goes to the city to pick up his recently bitten eldest daughter Maggie (Breslin, growing up fast!) and finds her…okay really, other than the scabby bite wound on her arm. He is allowed to take her home, but warned by doctors that sooner or later, she is going to turn, and before that happens, she needs to be quarantined.

But Maggie is a daddy’s girl, and Wade is not going to give up on his hopeless dream of a normal existence for her. He takes her home to his rural homestead, where he and Maggie must deal with angry mob police, heartbroken townsfolk and a struggling Caroline (Richardson), Maggie’s mother. All the while, Maggie is beginning to rot, and the inevitable is getting nearer and nearer. Sooner or later, Wade must make a choice. Stick his little girl, or end her suffering.

Take the word “zombie” out of there and you have the basic premise of any lifetime tragedy-of-the-week, and that was the main issue with Maggie. The script didn’t try and do anything new, it told a story we’ve seen a fair few times before but under the cynical cover of the zombie genre in order to seem fresh. It only worked for so long.

Another issue with the script was that I felt it started at the wrong point. The film’s ending was a foregone conclusion, but would have been so much more powerful if we had a glimpse at this family in happier times. I always think a bit of humour always makes tragedy hit harder, especially in the horror genre (I still cry at the end of Dog Soldiers) but Maggie decides to start on a depressing, somber note, and stick with it until the very end. It’s a pretty draining watch all in all and I’d be lying if I said I was entertained. But I don’t think this is meant to entertain. It is here to provoke a discussion, ask the moral questions of it’s audience. And in that it succeeds.

But Maggie could never be called a bad film and here’s why: the performances from the whole cast are extremely authentic and engaging. Breslin completely sells a naive girl who must grow up fast; Richardson convinces as a mother dealing with the impossible situation best she can; but it’s Arnie who steals the show here, in a very un-showy turn as a father who finds himself completely out of his depth in a world he no longer recognises. There’s a real damaged, sorrowful soul in Arnie’s performance here, and it’s the best he’s ever been. I’m a lifelong Arnie fan, but this is something not seen before from him. He’s magnetic in this.

Couple that with some stunning imagery from newbie director Henry Hobson that lends an epic scope to what is a very small, low-key drama, and you have a film that all zombie fans should seek out. There was the potential for a dark body-horror here (imagine what Cronenberg could have done with it) but instead we have a mature, committed, and tight family tragedy. As long as you don’t expect any hardcore zombie gore and violence, and are ready for a slower, existential and moody piece, then you will find work to admire here.

7/10

Krampus: The Reckoning (2015) Review

KTR1KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING (2015) Review

Directed by Robert Conway

Written by Owen Conway & Robert Conway

Starring Monica Engesser, Amelia Haberman, James Ray

UK DVD Release – TBC

On Demand from 3rd Nov – https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/krampus-the-reckoning/id1040695365

“Zoe, a strange child has a not so imaginary friend the Krampus who is the dark companion of St. Nicholas.” Courtesy of IMDB

Its official. Christmas is becoming the new Halloween. Besides the excellent TALES OF HALLOWEEN, you’d be hard-pressed to find many Halloween-themed horror releases this year. But Christmas? We have Trick ‘R’ Treat creator Michael Dougherty’s studio release KRAMPUS, William Shatner starring A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY, and now KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING. Keyword here: KRAMPUS. KRAMPUS KRAMPUS KRAMPUS. If KRAMPUS is not yet a household horror name, he will be by the end of this year…

So how does KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING compare to the big boys? Surprising underdog or worthless cash-in? To be honest, kind of in the middle.

Zoe is a weird girl. she’s a problem child, with a white trash mom and deadbeat dad who treat her like dirt. But they will regret that when, using creepy, well-designed voodoo style dolls, Zoe summons her best bud, the big bad Krampus, who proceeds to melt her parents faces off! The police, led by Detective Miles O’Connor (a chilled out James Ray) are baffled and put Zoe into care, where Child Psychologist Dr Rachel Stewart (Monica Engesser) tries to get the truth out of here.

But Rachel soon realises that Zoe is no normal little girl, and is willing to summon her terrifying pal to do her dark deeds at any given moment…

KTR2It begins with an effective title sequence that is both visually astute and well-written, that classic fairytale feeling of an old lady telling her granddaughter the story of the Krampus on Christmas Eve. With seasonal production design and warm red lighting, it certainly sets a tone.

But then the present day story starts and the quality takes a dip. The visual style changes and that good will starts to fade with slow, drawn out scenes of mumbling dialogue from characters with no defining personality. The pace is fine, but it could have been even tighter, and in fairness, this is actually an interesting story. While it’s easy to poke holes in, the plot takes some interesting turns towards the end that I actually didn’t see coming, showing the filmmakers had more ambition than to just get confused with bigger budget films on the DVD shelves.

But there is one MAJOR issue here that bogs the film down. Is it the direction? No, working with what looks like a tiny budget, director Robert Conway (Exit To Hell) is quite consistent and effective, even if the editing could have been tightened up. Is it the acting? Not really, the leads are game even if their characters are bland, and little Amelia Haberman is just as good as any kid actor in a studio film?

No, the major issue here is the Krampus himself. Not only is he barely even in the film due to long scenes spent on the shrink and the cops flirty banter, but he looks absolutely abysmal. This is easily some of the worst CGI I have ever seen. It’s on the level of Playstation One graphics. And it’s really distracting.

It’s frustrating as, even with a tiny budget, I’m pretty sure some tweaks in his design could have made it possible to be a man in a suit. But instead it’s just really bad visually, which results in laughter when there should be screams.

KTR3BUT if you can look past this, then grab a beer, pop on Krampus: The Reckoning and if you’re a die hard horror fan you should still find things to like about it. It’s got gore, creepy kids, and it’s fair share of nudity. What more do you want on Christmas Eve?

Advice to low-budget filmmakers: CGI is not your friend. Leave it be.

5/10

Survivors (2015) Review

survivorsrev1SURVIVORS (2015)

Director: Adam Spinks

Written by: Adam Spinks, Laurence Timms

Starring: Joanna Gale, David Anderson, Simon Burbage

Release dates 20th October USA 26th October UK & Europe.

The outbreak of a deadly virus sends the UK into a state of emergency, into a war it appears destined to lose. In a world without laws, without order and without anybody watching… how far would you go to survive?

28 DAYS LATER has a lot to answer for. Although released in 2002, we are still seeing its off-spring. Got a deserted location and a digital camera? Well add some ketchup and moody guitar-music and BOOM. You have secured your place on the supermarket DVD shelf, along with every other film with the words “Zombie”, “Apocalypse”, and “Dead” somewhere in the title. There’s only so much of this stuff an audience cam stomach. We need something fresh, innovative…Will SURVIVORS do the job?

Kate and Duke are young documentarians working to expose a company called Madea on there illegal genetic experimentation. As they investigate and gradually expose what will eventually (SPOILER!) become a zombie outbreak, we intercut with Kate after the event, where she meets the mysterious Paul. The two wander the wastelands, overcoming obstacles on their search for the now-missing Duke. As the film goes on, so the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, past and present coming together…

survrev1Okay, I will give Survivors this. It does try to shake things up. With our post-apocalypse scenes shot traditionally, our pre-apocalypse scenes are done found-footage. So we have a half and half, a best of both worlds. But its very uneven. Its basically two films stitched together!

We have an atmospheric but witty and quite engaging found-footage film, with a real sense of urgency and stakes as the world turns to shit. These scenes work well, as the budget is well-utilised, guerrilla filmmaking allowing scenes to happen in public, background sound selling us on the chaos. Its simple, its smart, its effective.

Then we have a slow, meandering present day story that only gathers steam in the last half hour. Until then, it is just scenes of…walking…pondering…sulking…no momentum, no stakes, no interest. Also, the performances suffer compared to the past portions.

Director Adam Spinks is becoming quite prolific recently, with the recent EXTINCTION proving a successful home entertainment indie. He is definitely growing as a filmmaker, and Survivors shows a real affinity with the material and the performances in particular. But like Extinction, Survivors also suffers from serious pacing and structural issues. The first third is extremely slow, and I would not be surprised if some viewers turn off at this point. Which would be a mistake, as things do eventually get interesting. Eventually.

survivorsrev2The cast is a similarly mixed bag. As our lead Kate, Joanne Gale is naturalistic and convincing as a determined documentarian, but the character is pretty unsympathetic until towards the climax. David Anderson as Paul is hampered with an ill-defined character who gets his fair share of poor dialogue, and takes a while to make his presence known.

Simon Burbage is excellent as Duke, but he’s hardly in the bloody movie! Our best character is the cameraman for the most part, and so we only hear him. Its a testament to Burbage’s efforts that he is so likeable, so engaging, so human, with just his voice. The need for Kate to find him is what drives the plot, and you really want him to be okay when she does. Really promising work.

For what I’m guessing is low-budget production, the money is on the screen. Gore FX are great when they come, and lots of background detail in both the post and pre-end of the world scenes are utilised in smart, efficient ways: background sirens sell chaos elsewhere; a burning crashed plane in a field is so unexpected and realistic it took me by surprise. Music is moody and suspenseful, and the sound design for the infected is to be commended.

survrev2I think the main issue with Survivors is that every single idea and scene has been done in countless other zombie films. Although its done very, very well, it is nothing new. Stitching two types of filmmaking together is not enough to distract from this unfortunately.

That said, after a slow first twenty five minutes, things begin to pick up and horror fans are sure to find a lot of entertainment value. Spinks has shown ambition with filmmaking techniques and scope here, but he just needs a faster and more original story to stick it to.

There is genuine effort and intent here, and that’s enough to separate it from the other “Zombie”, “Dead” and “Apocalypse” films that stalk the DVD shelves.

6/10

The Horror Network Vol 1 (2013) Review

horrornetworkTHE HORROR NETWORK Vol 1 (2013) Review

Directed by Brian Dorton, Joseph Graham, Manuel Marin, Lee Matthews, Douglas Connor, Ignacio Martin Lerma

Writing Credits  – Douglas Connor, Brian Dorton, Joseph Graham, Manuel Martin

Out October 27th on VOD and DVD (North America) from Wild Eye Releasing

In the tradition of “Creepshow”, “Tales From the Crypt”, “Tales From the Darkside”, and “Trilogy of Terror” comes 5 horrific stories in the ultimate horror anthology. Courtesy of IMDB.

Ever since I can remember I’ve liked anthology horror films. Probably for the same reason I love anthology horror novels: my attention span. From “The Twilight Zone Movie” to “Creepshow”, “Ghost Story” to “Amazing Stories”, there’s nothing like a quick, sharp horror with a nice, gory, irony-filled punchline. It’s my childhood in a nutshell. No filler, all killer.

The anthology went away for a while, before returning recently with a bang. The ABC’s Of Death, VHS films, the classic Trick ‘R’ Treat prove the horror crowd are ready for them and are eating them up! With more on the horizon, I checked out Volume 1 of The Horror Network. Five tales of gruelling terror from a very different group of filmmakers. Would it be as successful as the others? Well, let’s look at these tales of terror…

horrornetwork1Segment One: “3:AM”
Up first and before the titles is 3:AM, and what a nice tone-setter it is. Simplicity at its finest, this tale of a paranoid woman (Charlotte Armstrong) tormented by either her own paranoia or something else, is full of dense atmosphere and jolting jump scares.

With barely any dialogue and only one character on-screen, director Lee Matthews uses all the tricks in the book to scare us: everyday household objects such as cat-flaps and jack-in-the-box are terrifying, the ticking of the clock and the howl of the wind building a sense of something not quite right. Its clockwork horror, with one aim, to scare us, and although it’s nothing new for horror buffs, it works perfectly.

horrornetwork4Segment Two: “Edward”
Up next we have the therapy session from Hell. A two man show set majoritively in one room, it details a conversation between Hal (Nick Frangione) and his psychiatrist Aleksey (Artem Mishin). Alan has been keeping himself awake for the past two days, because he keeps waking up…somewhere else…

Although sometimes feeling stagey, being primarily a chat between two blokes, some expert direction and fantastic performances make this really work. Subtle changes in camera angles and lighting keep the pace and story flowing, and smart dialogue filled with subtext sell the characters. This is a full, complete story from director Joseph Graham, about real people with lives outside the story, all building to a dark, ambiguous ending.

horrornetwork5Segment Three: “The Quiet”
From the beautiful widescreen cinematography to the pitch-perfect editing, The Quiet is my cup of tea, and possibly my favourite of the bunch. The story is simple: A hearing-impaired schoolgirl (Jenni-Lee Finch) makes her way home from a bus stop, and appears to be menaced by a mysterious man in a blue van…

Bringing to mind terrible real-life horror stories ripped from the headlines, the sense of unease and dread builds with every sighting of the blue van, as the girl gradually gives in to paranoia and fear, but never her will to survive. Although I have no idea what the cutaways to a creepy-ass doll mean, and am not entirely sure on what occurs towards the end, this minimalist, stark tale is still extremely effective, director Lee Matthews again showing real talent and promise. Give this guy a feature!

horrornetwork6Segment Four: “Merry Little Christmas”
Now this was a tough pill to swallow. The heaviest and most hard-hitting of the bunch, I’m not sure I would even call this entertainment, but damn is it effective. A young woman tries to recount an event from the past, a horrible Christmas from her childhood that has scarred both her and her mother for years. But opening old wounds proves to be extremely dangerous…

With uncomfortable violence and a completely unflinching tone, this one got to me. Recalling films like Martyrs and A Serbian Film, and featuring a stark, high-contrast visual style, this is a waking nightmare, we’re inside a damaged mind and there is nowhere else to go. Stellar prosthetic FX and committed performances ensure this will stay with you long after, but you may not want to revisit it very soon.

horrornetwork7Segment Five: “The Deviant One”
Last and, unfortunately, definitely least, The Deviant One. Clearly inspired partly by the crimes of Jeffrey Dahmer, this monosyllabic, black and white day in the life of a necrophiliac killer (Writer and director Brian Dorton) was sadly a bit flat for me. With pretentious bible quotes, robotic performances and ill-fitting music, it kind of feels like a student art project. But, like the other shorts, it’s undeniably brave, dark, twisted, and tight.

In short, the first volume from The Horror Network is a resounding success. Because I knew little going in, I’m not sure what my expectations were, but it was a huge, pleasant surprise. This is not amateur hour. There is serious, professional filmmaking going on here, and bright futures are ahead all involved. If you have the stomach, and are in the mood for some really dark, really thought-provoking horror, give this one a look. Can’t wait for Volume 2. Highly recommended.

9/10

Body Snatchers aka Lost Time (2014) Review

bodysnatchers1Body Snatchers aka LOST TIME (2014)

Directed by Christian Sesma

Written by Kenneth Owens, Christian Sesma & Rochelle Vallese

Starring Rochelle Vallese, Luke Goss, Robert Davi, Derek Mears, Lin Shaye.

UK DVD – Out now !

After leaving a doctor visit with the worst news, Valerie Dreyfuss and her sister Melissa come to a stop on a lonely stretch of road. Their car is engulfed by a blinding light…12 hours later Valerie wakes to the horror that her sister is gone, nowhere to be found.

They say that the most important part of any script or film is the opening and the closing moments. Grip them at the start, and let them leave happy. And the join in the middle should take care of itself. “LOST TIME” definitely gets the first part right, but is hampered by a middle that doesn’t live up to it, and an ending that just left me scratching my head…

Remember in the mid-90’s, when the world was obsessed with little green men, and the video shelves were full of “truth is out there” flicks like The Shadow Men, Progeny, and the absolute stone cold Charlie Sheen Classic The Arrival? I do. I loved those films. Which is probably why I enjoyed Lost Time so much.

bodysnatchers4We open with a surreal, visceral and intensely disturbing sequence that I won’t spoil here, which is revealed as the nightmare of Valerie, a beautiful woman clearly in the late stages of cancer treatment. As we get a look at Valerie’s daily life, the performances are brilliant, that of lead Rochelle Vallasse and Jenni Blong, who plays her sister Melissa. A strong bond is communicated and the anguish of the effects of cancer is sincerely played. The tone is set for a dark, haunting drama with a nightmarish mystery at hand.

And then Melissa disappears, and we are flashed forward in time…that’s when everything changes.

Valerie’s cancer is taken along with her sister, and so our hero sets off on a desperate mission to find out where she is, which mainly concerns handing out flyers, pestering the authorities, and hovering around that notorious notice board covered in theories/pictures/clues. In other words, she’s getting nowhere. Until, that is, she approaches Dr Reed, an expert on “lost time”, and agrees to take part in his sinister form of therapy…

It’s not that this is a bad film. But there is a quality in those opening ten minutes, that set up a film we unfortunately don’t get. The pacing becomes slightly sluggish, not helped by an over-emotive and slightly repetitive score. Odd changes in tone and style hinder things as well.

But once Valerie enters The Sanctuary, Dr Reeds retreat, and meets the other patients/inmates suffering from her similar lost time, that’s when I got completely lost. Interesting and unexplored ideas and themes are used, but its all too unfocused, and filled with exposition that doesn’t actually help. By the end of the film, I was…puzzled, to say the least. The writers and director have strived for something more ambitious than the norm though, and its hard to criticise that.

bodysnatchers3Which is all even more of a shame considering everything this bad boy gets right. Sesma has a hell of an eye, and crafts some great, nightmarish images with his moody cinematography. Production values are high across the board, creating a very cinematic final product. Flashbacks are filmed with sumptuous slow-motion or jarring kinetic energy, putting us in Valerie’s confused, desperate shoes as she navigates this weird world.

The cast lined up here is also great for any horror fans. Luke Goss (Blade 2, Hellboy 2) is gruff and likeable as Valerie’s squeeze and detective, trying to help his woman; Lin Shaye (Insidious, The Signal) pops up in a strangely similar role to her Insidious one, but is under-used; Derek Mears (Hills Have Eyes 2) is for once not covered in prosthetics, as a strange, well-mannered henchman; Maria Olsen, basically reprising her eerie role from the awesome Starry Eyes to similar unnerving effect here; and Robert Davi (Predator 2, Maniac 2, and every other 80’d cult classic) pops up as the mysterious Dr Reed.

But the real highlight for me was lead Vallase. Although she strayed into the typical hysterical overacting in the films latter stages, she showed a real physical dedication to the role, putting everything out there. And it shows. Credited as one of the writers, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are elements of this story somehow inspired by Vallase’s real life or experiences (well, the less mind-bending stuff anyway).

bodysnatchers2Add to all this some deliciously icky gore that caught from left-field, some truly unexpected plot turns (this is not just another alien-abduction flick) and you have a very solid 93 minutes. Director Sesma has mainly done stuff in the realm of DTV action stuff, but I hope he tries his hand at horror again. I think once he has a more confident, focused narrative, we will be in for a real treat.

So, if you can’t wait for that X-FILES mini-series, love conspiracy theories, like your sci-fi horrors full of moody camerawork and theological insanity, then you should definitely check this one out.

7/10