James Pemberton

About James Pemberton

James has been a horror fan ever since he was 6 when he used to watch hammer horror films on late night tv. He is currently living and working in Manchester, occasionally gets work on helping out with short films and music videos, and in his other spare time like to go to heavy metal gigs, cinema and horror film festivals and has attended Frightfest in London 3 years in a row, as well as Frightfest Glasgow, and Grimm up North festival. He is planning on trying to get to either Fantasia in Montreal or Sitges in Spain, some point in his life!

Memory Lane (2012) DVD Review

memorylaneMEMORY LANE (2012, USA Dir- Shawn Holmes)

Starring- Michael Guy Allen, Meg Barrick, Zack Snyder

Released in the UK – March 10th from Monster Pictures

 

Made on a reported budget of $300, Shawn Holmes MEMORY LANE is low budget, well pretty much no budget, indie film making on a practical guerrilla style level. Yet despite some scenes which do show the no-budget limitations, there is enough brisk energy and style in the film that will put to shame some pictures made on mega budgets that often occupy your local multiplex on a weekly basis.

The story follows Nick (Michael Guy Allen) who has come back home after a tour of duty in Afghanistan, and is suffering the shell shocked mental consequences of his most recent trip overseas. One night he meets Kayla (Meg Barrick) who is about to throw herself off a bridge, and Nick talks her out of it, and soon develops a romantic relationship with the woman who also seems to have some personal issues of her own. The two’s relationship blossoms and it’s not long before their living together and everything is going fine for Nick, so much so that he plans on proposing marriage to Kayla, yet tragedy strikes and Nick comes home to find his fiancée with her wrists cut.

Sinking back into despair and deeply traumatised by the suicide, Nick takes his own life, but before he is resuscitated by his friends he experiences a flashback to his time with Kayla, that makes him suspect she was murdered. Nick, back in the land of the living, now has a purpose and that is to experience death again, if only to decipher the visions he sees in the afterlife and find the identity of Kayla’s murderer.

The only way to do this is through the help of his friends who set about setting up a makeshift suicide and resuscitation chamber in their garage, using a bath tub full of ice, a stolen heart monitor and basic homemade electrical wiring set up, he kills himself again and again trying to find clues as to what happened to his girlfriend, though repeatedly doing this causes damage both mentally and physically to his relationship with his friends and his family and also with his own health.

memorylane1The energy in this film is evident from the enthusiasm and fast paced skill that it produces. Showing that a large budget is not needed, and a film can be made through sheer determination and spirit. Holmes has crafted a nice little sci-fi using lo-fi techniques and fitting scenes around the limitations of the budget. Granted my only drawback on the film is the no budget does come through on a few scenes, through the lighting and sometimes the sound (certain lines of dialogue I could not make out) and story wise, aside from the obvious FLATLINERS reference, style wise Holmes certainly seems to be paying nods to a certain Christopher Nolan, with the use of recurring flashback, and even there’s a hint of Memento in the story and style with the use of a central character trying to piece clues to something that may or may not have happened, though this might be where Holmes is showing that he can produce inventive big budget ideas for little money and he can certainly produce scenes that would stand well in any million dollar plus feature.

He is also afforded a cast who do well with their roles and a good central performance from Allen as the traumatised soldier, haunted by what he did in his last tour of duty in Afghanistan and further haunted and obsessed by the death of his new love, who also lends a special relevance to his role as the actor himself has been a former soldier stationed in the middle east. Overall MEMORY LANE is a great first feature, and here’s hoping that Holmes gets the funding if possible or if he would want to, to expand on the idea, as given a bigger budget, this story would have greater scope and could be pushed further, but as it stands it’s a testament to a filmmakers determination to bring their ideas and creativity to the screen no matter what.

DVD EXTRAS

Monster Pictures have provided a nicely packed and presented 2 disc edition of the film which carries a small but perfectly formed set of features that compliment the guerrilla style filmmaking of the feature. On disc 1 we get the film presented with optional audio commentary from the director which is both informative and interesting, as Holmes gives us behind the scenes hints and tips of how he made the film and recounts some interesting story’s regarding the making, making it insightful for anyone wanting to learn or just listen to how someone has produced something on such a small budget.

memorylane2On disc 2 we get some features that have come from the internet campaigning and behind the scenes footage that the film offered during its production including teaser trailers, dailies/interviews, and an interview from an online webcast with Holmes. Also we get making of footage, including the novel and cheap way of depicting the debris of a grenade gun used in the features brief Afghan war flashback, a brief video for the failed Kickstarter campaign (Holmes originally wanted to get crowd funding but went against after a failed campaign) and deleted scenes one of which, the director rightly describes as weird and I concur, it was weird! On top of that there are two brief short films from Holmes back catalogue, and also a PDF copy of the screenplay, accessible on your computers DVD drive.

In the end it’s not a ground breaking set of features, but still it’s a nice collection and it’s great to see Monster paying respect in the presentation of the DVD and providing a group of features to go alongside the main film, and these features along with the audio commentary also show how the internet has become a formidable tool in helping gain publicity and recognition for film that would otherwise struggle to find an audience and should offer hope to filmmakers out there wanting to get their work out. MEMORY LANE’s budget was $300, the British zombie film COLIN was made on a reported budget of £45, I’m sure there’s a filmmaker out there who can go even lower on budget, £20 maybe?

FILM- 7/10

DVD- 7/10

Black Water Vampire (2014) DVD Review

bwv1BLACK WATER VAMPIRE (Dir Evan Tramel, USA 2014)

Starring- Danielle Lozeau, Andrea Monier, Anthony Fanelli, Robin Steffen, Bill Oberst Jr.

Released in the UK on DVD from Image Entertainment on March 24th 2014.

 

My second review of 2014 for UK HORROR SCENE and I’m back in the found footage genre again (see my previous review for MUIRHOUSE) and it’s found footage of the usual BLAIR WITCH PROJECT kind, that seems to emphasise a fundamental lack of originality in this sub-genre.

The film follows of a group of amateur filmmakers led by Danielle (Danielle Lozeau), her friend Andrea (Andrea Monier), a cameraman for hire Anthony (Anthoy Fanelli) and their sound guy Robin (Robin Steffen), who are going to film a documentary about the killings in Danielle’s small town of Black Water and try to disprove the guilty verdict of killer convicted of the murders, Raymond Banks (Bill Oberst Jr), who has been convicted of the murders and is currently on death row.

On their arrival in the town we see interview footage with locals, some believing and retelling the tales of the black water vamp, and some saying that they hope Banks burns in hell and that they believe that he is the guilty one. We also get interview footage with the victim’s families and also an interview with Banks, who comes across as a paranoid, wild-eyed stared loony, though could his rants and ravings be true, which then leads into the second part of the film where the group trek into the woods and hope to film at Banks’ cabin and at the murder sites.

Though as soon as dusk falls, and camp is set up, it’s not long till we start hearing strange noises and screams from the outside of the tent, and when dawn comes strange symbols are found on the tent itself, leading the hostility and infighting within the group to arise, and divisions to be formed. Also it doesn’t help that Danielle, is a virgin, believing in abstinence before marriage, which is not good to have, young virgin blood, when their might be a vampire around.

bwv2When I mentioned at the start of this review that this film lacks originality that can so often be seen in found footage, I meant that this film in particular, takes its cues from one of the hallmarks of the genre THE BLAIR WITH PROJECT. The similarity’s are pretty obvious, film crew in the woods, reporting on a local legend that has caused mysterious deaths in the past, symbols being drawn on trees and eventually getting lost in the same woods, and tensions, bickering and arguing between the filmmakers.

The only difference is, is instead of a supernatural entity attacking the group, this time it’s a vampire, which is a neat trick and one that for my knowledge hasn’t been used before, but when it’s placed in the context of woodland area along with symbols associated with the legend, it’s end up being something like the Blair Vampire Project instead.

That’s the disappointing thing about the film, if it was released back in 1999, this would have probably been a superb and original idea, but flash forward 15 years later and it comes off as unoriginal and pretty mediocre, and the concept of a found footage vampire movie, certainly would intrigue me, and I had hopes going in to this one, but ended up finding it more disappointing, that the filmmakers could have done more with the story rather than end up with a laboured running-around-the-woods- in-the-dark shaky camera horror film!

bwv3A couple of plus points, the vampire itself looks pretty cool, and effects wise it’s well done, and Bill Oberst Jr’s one scene performance as the paranoid convict Banks, is good in a scenery chewing sort of way. Overall BLACK WATER VAMPIRE has an idea that could have been approached with some originality instead the filmmakers have opted for a pretty un-original and standard premise which unfortunately does not make the film stand out in the overcrowded found footage sub genre.

3/10

 

 

Muirhouse (2012) DVD Review

muirhouse1MUIRHOUSE (2012, Australia, Dir- Tanzeal Rahim)

Starring- Iain PF Macdonald, Kate Henderson, Steve Lynch

Found footage, it’s that sub-genre in horror that has a tendency to divide horror fans. Many fellow fans of the genre I speak to admit that it’s a genre that they avoid like the plague, or a Michael Bay movie, and some have admitted to it being a guilty pleasure. I personally like and hate the genre, as it can produce some excellent films but then can also produce some dross, and with the increase in digital film making, and found footage’s ability to exploit this as well as being able to be produced and made on a small budget, which is a blessing for many independent filmmakers, it looks like this sub-genre of horror won’t be going away for quite a while. MUIRHOUSE is yet another example of found footage that actually works effectively and without an over reliance on shaky camera/must film everything as it happens routine, also benefits from using a real life haunted house (the Monte Cristo homestead located in Junee, New South Wales), which adds to the effectiveness of the film.

It begins with the shot of an onboard police camera responding to a call of a man wandering around half naked clutching a hammer. The police promptly arrest the guy when he tries to go for one of them with the weapon, and we find out that this crazed man is Philip Muirhouse (Iain PF Macdonald). We then cut to archive, interview footage filmed by Muirhouse as he is currently writing a novel on haunted sites in Australia. Muirhouse’s final stop and the one he is going to be filming, for a DVD with his yet unreleased book (hence the interview footage) is the supposedly most haunted house in Australia, the Monte Cristo residence.

After we get a bit of back story on the house we then end up with Muirhouse on his own and it’s the majority of the film that we see our central character having to wait for the rest of his ghost hunting team colleagues, setting up cameras and filming whatever he can, hoping to catch something. He starts to hear noises and sounds and as he is the only one in the house this sets him out to try and find or capture some paranormal entity, but he breaks one of the rules, which we are told in the previous interview scenes, of ghost hunting and that is not to contact the paranormal alone, and this provokes the spirits in the house to become increasingly restless, and Muirhouse to be at the mercy of the old Homestead’s supernatural forces.

muirhouse2It’s the final section of the film with Muirhouse on his own in the house that is most effective in this film, and with just a couple of visual effects used, the scares and tension come from the use of the standard supernatural horror technique of hearing noises- a footstep upstairs, a piano playing- and this old fashioned technique works in the films favour. What also adds to the tension and unnerving atmosphere is witnessing the front viewpoint of Muirhouse’s video camera as he slowly makes his way round the house. We are at the mercy of this viewpoint as something could happen could something jump out at us? Can we see an apparition in front of us?

This viewpoint, I found to be generally unnerving and like any good found footage film, we are at the mercy of the camera, and we become a point of view witness, as well as being on the edge of our seat or looking between our fingers with our hands over our faces, scared that something is going to jump out at us, and this is where the found footage genre works well. Iain PF Macdonald is very good in his role as Murihouse, having to be the only actor on screen for the majority of the film, he works well with little he has, though I did like the scene where he is unhappy with his agent that he has to wait an hour and a half in the Monte Cristo residence on his own, adding a slightly comical human depth to his character, that he may come across as a fearless ghost hunter yet even he doesn’t want to be alone in this homestead.

Overall MUIRHOUSE doesn’t really add anything to the sub-genre of found footage, and my only criticism is that though even the 75 minute running time, is quick and doesn’t drag out, which some found footage films have a tendency to do, there might have been more time to add a bit more to the film, to what Muirhouse did in the house etc, maybe more revelations of how he got to being on a highway road without a clue of where he is and with a hammer in his hand, maybe budgetary constraints prevented this, but if there was to be another film based around this house it would be very welcome as the house itself if a beautifully designed, old fashioned and suits the atmosphere of a haunted house film, and would be a set designers dream.

muirhouse3In the end MUIRHOUSE does the job effectively and while not being an amazing addition to found footage, still stands out as an effective piece and manages to conjure up some sinister scary atmosphere that can be lost in majority of found footage horror.

 

7/10

The Best Films of 2013 by James Pemberton

End of year list of the best films of 2013

It’s that time of year again, where everyone draws up their best of lists, It’s been an interesting year overall, with certainly the festival circuit giving people a chance to catch some superb pieces of cinema, and I’ve managed to whittle my list down to 8 of the best along with some honourable mentions and also the worst film of the year. Here goes…….

 

Maniac (2)MANIAC (Dir- Franck Khalfoun, USA 2012)

Going back to one of the earliest releases of the year and a film I originally saw at Frightfest 2012, this superb and fantastic remake of William Lustig’s 1980 sleazy horror classic, was brilliant in both technical department and in doing what remake’s should do most, in paying homage to the original all the while adding new depth and story to its own updated vision. Using the technique of filming from first person, the film update’s its story of a psycho stalking women and scalping them to present day Los Angeles. Elijah Wood (though not as good as Joe Spinell which would be difficult to top his performance anyway) is superb as Frank the mannequin store owner who develops a relationship with artist/photographer Anna (Nora Arnezeder), though his sanity and deep rooted desire to kill comes to the surface and the women are not safe when Frank is around. Surprisingly more violent and brutal than the original, the technique of seeing the murders from Frank’s viewpoint adds an uncomfortable voyeuristic edge to the film, and it works well and adds to the overall intensity of what is a brilliant remake.

U3YOU’RE NEXT (Dir- Adam Wingard, USA 2011)

Adam Wingard’s latest film, has been waiting for a release ever since it was picked up by Lionsgate after its premiere at Toronto’s International Film Festival in 2011, and it’s been a long wait. Rest assured the wait is worth it as this is a brilliant, darkly comic and brutal home invasion horror. The Davison family are gathering for the parent’s anniversary in their suitable large home, located in the country. It’s not long though until some uninvited guests draped in black boiler suits and sporting animal masks invade and start attacking and killing of family members and friends, though they haven’t counted on one of the guests having the ability to fight back, and be just as brutal as the attackers. This film has a superb high level of energy, dark comedy, brutal violence and intensity to warrant it as being a stand out and enjoyable fun thrill ride. Wingard, whose previous film A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE (2010) shows again why he is being touted as a genre talent to watch.

vhs2newV/H/S 2 (Various directors, USA 2013)

Wingard pops up again in this sequel to the superb original which was only released back in 2012, and this time round this follow up goes full throttle, and is an even better, faster paced, shorter and superb. Wingard’s segment is enjoyable, though special mention should go to Eduardo Sanchez’s and Gregg Hale’s story which is a zombie invasion from the viewpoint of a recently turned victims helmet cam, also Jason Eisener’s fun Slumber Part Alien Abduction is a great segment, but its Gareth Huw Evans and Timo Tjahjanto’s A Safe Haven, that steals the show, where a documentary film crew profiling the leader of a doomsday cult, arrive at the wrong time, when the cult are about to carry out their final mass suicide and then all hell breaks loose, literally. A brilliantly bonkers, intense and entertaining entry into an otherwise excellent sequel.

dw3THE ABC’S OF DEATH (Various directors, USA 2012)

Take 26 horror genre directors from around the world, give them a letter from the alphabet, and 5 minutes to create a short film revolving around the theme of death based around that letter given to them, and you get this mad, varying, and often superb collection of short films designed to both shock, disturb, and illuminate. The film overall works, in that I felt many people picked up on the varying degrees in quality of the short films, and how some where better than others, yet I feel that this is where the films strong point lies, in that you might get one part that seems slightly standard or not that interesting yet given another part that dazzles or excels in it’s bizarre and often twisted quality. It’s like a varying selection of the best and not so best combined, allowing you to see some genuine quality shorts. A great collection of short films.

U6ONLY GOD FORGIVES (Dir- Nicolas Winding Refn, DENMARK , THAILAND 2013)

Okay not really horror but Refn’s follow up to DRIVE, divided many critics into two camps of those who hated it and those who loved it. I loved it; though found it a confusing disturbing almost psychedelic journey into a neon lit criminal underworld. I think many people were expecting Drive part two, especially with Refn’s actor of choice from DRIVE, Ryan Gosling, in the lead role as a brother forced into a revenge plan by his mother (Kristin Scott Thomas), after his older brother is murdered partly at the hands of a Thai police detective Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm), yet it’s deliberate incoherent and at times slow pace, combined with scenes of brutal and often shocking violence, that left many confused as to what they’ve seen. But this incoherent narrative added to the films neon drenched view of underworld hell and redemption, comprehended by some superb performances from Gosling, who plays an often at times weak younger sibling undermined by his bitchy cold hearted mother (a superb Thomas), and their eventual collision with the detective, Chang (again a superb performance from Pansringarm), who acts almost like a non-human force of vengeance, an angel of death almost, delving out justice to those who have done wrong. A confusing but visually superb film, that stays with you after you’ve seen it, it’s also a nice gesture from Refn to dedicate the film to the king of cult obscure flicks Alejandro Jodorowsky.

gravity1GRAVITY (Dir- Alfonso Cuaron, USA 2013)

Much has been made of Cuaron’s space set thriller, and one of the points made, is where should you see this and how, 2D or 3D? Normal 3D screen or IMAX 3D? I chose with IMAX and while I do still have doubts over 3D, and was hesitant at first at seeing this film in 3D, I was told by various friends that this was the way to see it. And yes it is. GRAVITY is designed for the IMAX format, and it works really well using the tale of astronauts stranded in space after a disaster leads to their space station headquarters being destroyed, to stunning and intense effect. Immersing you in the plight of Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), the 3D visuals work to the formats advantage and rather than being a distraction they become part of the story, creating some stunning scenes and adding to the overall intense impact of every oncoming collision and desperate moment of isolation and helplessness. A truly stunning and visually brilliant film, a lot of critics have been highlighting Bullock’s performance, and how it will put her in line for an Oscar next year, and while it’s a superbly acted role, I feel that the visuals and effects in the film are the star and it’s these category’s that If GRAVITY does not win in next year’s award ceremony would be a greater and far more deeper loss.

wawwa1WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (Dir- Jim Mickle, USA 2013)

Viewed at Frightfest on August bank holiday weekend, Mickle’s latest is yet another remake that has made my best of list, as he takes the basic story of the original 2010 Mexican film and transposes it to rural small town America. It follows the same story template as the original, about a family who carry out a sinister and dark tradition that has been passed down through the ages, though changes various parts of the original to beneficial effect. Particularly with the mother character losing her life in the first part of the film, allowing the male patriarch to assume the leader role and the co-ordinator of the ritual and his two daughters to become the mothering element of the film, and to slowly realise the drastic and disturbing effect of the ritual they take part in. It also expands on the history of the family, something not done in the original, and usually I wouldn’t really like this added extra element, yet feel that this adds more depth and character to what is both a brilliant slice of American gothic horror and a superb remake, which I’m safe to say surpasses the original, and shows Mickle, who after the excellent MULBERRY STREET and STAKE LAND is fast becoming a superb director in the genre.

taokTHE ACT OF KILLING (Dir- Joshua Oppenheimer, NORWAY, DENMARK, UK 2012)

Again another entry on my list which is non-horror and also non-fiction, yet being one of the most disturbing, surreal, insightful, yet uncomfortable documentary’s I’ve seen recently. Oppenheimer’s film follows a group of men, former gangsters, who were promoted to death squad leaders following a failed military coup in 1965, and the period proceeding that and the following year, took part in purging the country of communists, and tortured and killed in excess of 500,000 people. We follow in particular Anwar Congo, who has boasted that he killed 1,000 people alone. He and his friends boast of their actions, and rather than giving them on screen talking head interviews Oppenheimer, gives them the opportunity to re-create the interrogation and torture scenes through the visual use and look of various Hollywood genres, that Congo and his friends are fans of, such as musicals, westerns and gangster films. It’s this recreation through the act of staged artifice, and the realisation that what these guys are recreating, actually happened, that lends the film its uncomfortable and surreal edge. It’s only Congo, who starts to realise the pain he put his victims through and finds it uncomfortable, yet as Oppenheimer points out he was only acting and his victims would have suffered worse, leading the viewer to see the differences between reality and fiction which have allowed the former executioners to distance themselves from what they have committed. A truly remarkable and frankly disturbing documentary, this unnerved me a lot more than most horror films have recently, and it’s surreal often visually beautiful scenes, only adds to the uncomfortable edge of this film. An essential documentary and one I highly recommend.

 

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

BIG BAD WOLVES (Dirs- Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado, ISRAEL 2013)

A superb pitch black comic revenge thriller, already acclaimed by Tarantino as his best film of 2013.

STOKER (Dir- Chan Wook Park, USA 2013)

Park’s American debut, boasted the directors unique visual style, interwoven in this excellent tale of a very dysfunctional family.

ELYSIUM (Dir- Neil Blomkamp, USA 2013)

Okay not as good as Blomkamp’s DISTRICT NINE, this still boasted a fantastic visually designed exciting futuristic action sci-fi, which contained a decent dystopian socially aware story.

THE LORDS OF SALEM (Dir- Rob Zombie, USA 2012)

Rob Zombie’s latest, while featuring some scenes that bordered on the unintentionally camp/laughable, was still a well made and nicely paced demonic horror, with overtones of Polanski’s THE TENANT and ROSEMARY’S BABY combined, with a superb soundtrack, and it was much better than the god awful HALLOWEEN TWO remake he did from a few years ago.

DARK TOURIST (Dir- Suri Krihsnamma, USA 2012)

Viewed at Frightfest 2013, this dark and disturbing film follows a man who likes to go on holiday and visit the haunts and crime scenes of serial killers. Michael Cudlitz gives a superb central performance in a brilliant and haunting character study of one man’s disturbed mind cracking while on his equally disturbing vacation.

 

And finally…..

WORST FILM OF THE YEAR

tcm3dTEXASCHAIN SAW MASSACRE 3D (Dir- John Luessenhop, USA 2013)

I did see this in 2D, so might lose brownie points on not experiencing it in 3D, but then even in 2D this film was an utter stinker and again another, un-deserved nail in the franchise. Please Hollywood, stop making this nonsense, if anything I will give the distributors credit as they knew that they had a stinker, and released this in the opening weekend of the year, without press screenings, allowing clueless cinema goers, to partake in the rip off 3D charge for the film, and allowing the distributors to pocket a $22 million opening weekend, from a $10 million budget film, until that is word of mouth and critical reviews spread out and people realise its rubbish, and then it dropped out of the charts, fast! Please take the cash and leave this franchise alone and as an example of the stupidity of this film check out this gaff from IMDB.COM……

The film takes place in 2012. At the beginning of the film, Heather Miller is shown to have been a baby in 1973. This would make Heather at least 39 years old. However her character is obviously much younger than that (her actress Alexandra Daddario was only 26 years old at the time of filming).”

Enough said!

 

ELVES (USA, 1989) A UKHS Xmas Horror Review

ElvesVHSCoverELVES (USA, 1989)

Director- Jeremy Mandell

Starring- Dan Haggarty, Julie Austin, Dianne Lund

“There not working for Santa…..anymore!”

So goes the tagline for this poorly produced and possibly bat shit crazy seasonal horror flick. ELVES very idea and plot is the attraction in this hard to find masterpiece, and boy is it terrible but all the better for it. Remember when you watch a bad film that ends up being so barmy and brilliant that it transcends that fine line of being completely painful and embarrassing to watch, to instead be an almost grandiose quality of badness that you end up loving it for all the wrong reasons, there are many of those sort of films and ELVES is one of them. The film is terrible no doubt about it, with piss poor acting, scenes that don’t need to be there, awful production values and awful effects, yet these terrible quality’s lie in the attraction of the film and so does the plot, and that’s where the audacity and madness of ELVES succeeds.

The plot concerns a young girl, Kirsten (Julie Austin), who along with her two friends, go out into that part of the woods that they’ve been told not to go to, by their parents. Kirsten accidentally cuts herself and it’s this pure virgin blood that spills onto unhallowed ground that resurrects an evil elf. When Kirsten’s Grandpa finds out about her trip to the woods he’s none too pleased and realises that she may have resurrected the evil elf. This is good for Gramps fellow Nazi’s though, who want the elf to procreate with Kirsten, as she is pure and with the impregnation will bring about the rise of a new breed of supermen and the fourth Reich (I told you this was bat shit crazy). In the meantime the elf relentlessly pursues Kirsten and murders anyone who gets in its way including a sleazy coke headed department store Santa, who he castrates after he tries to proposition Kirsten with the classy chat up line “Santa said Oral.” This sudden murder allows our central hero character of the piece Mike McGavin (Dan Haggerty) to take his place, as he is an ex-cop, ex-store detective, ex-alcoholic, and now recently evicted and desperate for a job. But it’s with the previous Santa’s murder and a shoot out and confrontation with the Nazi’s and the elf, in the department store that leaves Kirsten’s friends dead, that brings out McGavin’s detective instinct to investigate what’s going on and help Kirsten from the advances of the Nazi’s and the horny killer Elf.

Elves1Everything about ELVES plot just screams campness and the fact that this is taken with such seriousness, and no hint of self referential or ironic nods to the audience makes it all the more audacious in that respect. Don’t go into this expecting balls to the wall terror or a half decent attempt at horror, or even half decent attempt at a film, as you will be disappointed. Instead expect awful acting, I mean truly awful the type that veers from almost deadpan delivery of lines such as “What’s going on? Are we gonna be alright?” “No Willy, Gramps is a Nazi!” to the scenery chewing style of acting from some of the cast. The Nazi’s themselves also have the slightly awful English/German accent, that seem to have come out of an English world war two film (“Ze bleeding has stopped”). The dialogue also has the balls to take lines from horror classics and change it to their own, for instance Ken Foree’s immortal line from DAWN OF THE DEAD (“When there is no more room in hell. The dead shall walk the earth”) is changed to “When there is no more room hell. The elves shall walk the earth.”

As for Haggerty himself, the ex-Grizzly Adams star, obviously seems to be tired being there, and chains smokes his way through the entire film. Seriously this guy is trying to give himself lung cancer, he smokes during shootouts and even when brushing his teeth. He has one particularly brilliant scene though, where he gatecrashes an academics Xmas eve dinner with his family, much to his annoyance, but this academic happens to know much about Elf mythology and Nazi’s (always helpful in any place where elves have been resurrected and Nazi’s are around) and goes onto explain, while his daughters look on, that the Nazi’s used Elves as assassination squads in World War 2, and their also the carry’s of the master race sperm!?

elves2 Haggerty, who had fame from Grizzly Adams, but was done for narcotics not long before this, is obviously there for the money, what little of it is he got paid for it we don’t know, but he at least provides and entertaining and nicotine addicted hero. As for the evil elf itself, the budget must have been spent on it, but that’s not to say it’s a brilliant piece of effects work, no in fact it’s quite comical in it’s one frozen expression on its face, and the fact that we only see it usually from the waist up for the majority of the film, and it also has the ability to hold objects in scenes such as a knife and a handgun. Yes towards the end, the elf packs a pistol which is a truly brilliant sight to behold.

When you watch a film like ELVES, you wonder how this gets made, but then that’s the case with any bad film, how does it gets made? Who funds it? Hey, who thought that this was a great idea on paper to warrant funding? But then you realise, if this wasn’t made we wouldn’t have a piece of cinematic awfulness that leaves you gobsmacked, thanks to its lunatic plot, awful acting, awful effects and general bad production value. This is the sort of film you should gather your friends around to watch before Christmas. Get a few cans of beer or mulled wine, whatever your seasonal tipple is, gather round and bask in the awful glory of ELVES.

 

elves3If you would like to watch ELVES please click on the link below……

http://cultmoviesblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/elves-1989.html

 

Rough Cut (2013) A Cinematic Review

rough cutROUGH CUT (UK, 2013)

Dir- Jamie Shovlin

Starring- Jamie Shovlin, Mike Harte, Euan Rodger, Agnes Aspen

The third feature to be created out of the Cornerhouse Artist Film scheme, is an interesting documentary that goes behind the scenes of a film that is not real. If you’re a horror fan or fan of exploitation cinema, the title of a film called HIKER MEAT would certainly pique interest, no doubt you would watch it and it would end up being terrible, as films with lurid and over the top titles no doubt can prove (watch ZOMBIE ISLAND MASSACRE or the horrible MEAT CLEVER MASSACRE for examples) yet as proven with the fake trailer at the start the lurid subject matter, and hints at sex, nudity, violence, malevolent creatures and killers at work will peak your interest, even the trailer itself reeks of one of those bad rip off Italian genre films, made in true Italia style in that it takes a popular American genre format and they do it themselves, usually with more sex and blood.

Yet this HIKER MEAT film doesn’t exist and is only a trailer as it stands and is in fact a film that will only exist in a few re-created shots that we get to see in this documentary. In fact Shovlin and his crew, who travel up to the Lake District for the shoot, recreate certain scenes from the script that are also contrasted in existing horror films such as TORSO, THE EVIL DEAD and FRIDAY THE 13TH, whether it be the scene of a women in the woods seeing a masked man or an eerie threatening figure in the distance in the fog or being chased to a wood cabin by a demonic force, Shovlin’s film shows the similarity’s and traits that exist in the genre and that have been recreated.

hikermeatSo it’s no surprise that Shovlin’s original idea started off as one long montage of scenes from different exploitation and horror films, which ended up creating a narrative structure throughout. Though what is most fascinating with ROUGH CUT is that we get to see the collaborative effort between the writer, the musician, the director, the special effects guys, the sound effects guys and the pyrotechnic guys, and how it’s this hard work and often difficult effort that shows how the artist is not the key creator on this project, but rather someone who brings people together with one idea and the crew bring their own ideas and creativity to add to the project. It’s like watching a behind the scenes guide on the creation of a film, and this makes ROUGH CUT fascinating watch.

It also does not deride its subject matter, and doesn’t poke fun at or mock the exploitation genre, rather the collaborative effort highlights the difficulty in achieving the right shot, the right effect and the right explosion, and most of all the contrast between what’s being shot in the Lake District, and scenes that already exist in horror films, is a nice touch and made me reminisce about many of the films I’ve seen over my life as fan of genre.

If anything I would like to see a full version of HIKER MEAT, and feel if Shovlin had released this as full feature, with a fake background history as a long-lost exploitation classic, then come out with the ROUGH CUT documentary to reveal the magicians hand so to speak and it turns out this wasn’t made by an Italian director in 1982, and didn’t have a soundtrack by a fake German band, and in fact the film was made last year in the Lake District. If this was approached then that would have made an interesting and fascinating project. Though in the end I would recommend ROUGH CUT for fans of the genre and fans of cinema in general.

 

hikermeat1ROUGH CUT is currently showing at the CORNERHOUSE in Manchester, and is available online at CURZON HOME CINEMA. There will be an exhibition based around the film starting on 18th January 2014, and at the same time the CORNERHOUSE will be doing an all night Sleazeathon on Saturday 18th January, see CORNERHOUSE website for further details.

 

http://www.cornerhouse.org/

 

Benny Loves Killing (2012) Review

blk1Benny Loves Killing (2012)

Director- Ben Woodiwiss

Starring- Pauline Cousty, Canielle Hoppe, Kristina Dargelyte

Benny (Cousty) is a university student on a film theory course hoping to break the mould of the course by making an actual film, a horror film or as she puts it a “Meta horror film….a horror film about horror film.” This is much to the disapproval of the university board who want her to study theory and hand in essays. Yet she is determined to maintain her vision along with her course colleague Alex (Dargelyte).

In the meantime she goes from couch to couch, staying round at Uni friend’s houses, without no accommodation of her own, wandering the streets on occasion and pick pocketing strangers house keys, following them and returning back to said homes when unoccupied and stealing food and items to sell off to maintain an increasing cocaine addiction. All the while she is trying to create her film her lifestyle, which is living on the fringes of society starts to fracture her personality and her life starts to slowly unravel through her self destruction.

The only strong relationship she maintains is with her mother (Hoppe) who is a former drug addict herself and is still occasionally using and who may be the reason that Benny is living an unhinged reckless lifestyle, though as the film progresses and through uncomfortable dream/nightmare sequences we start to get an idea that there is more to Benny than meets the eye and something darker has affected her in the past.

blk2Being more of a psychological drama/character study, BENNY LOVES KILLING, which is Ben Woodiwiss’ first feature, is an interesting and uncomfortable film, and even though it’s not primarily horror there is a certain darkness in watching this character’s life self destruct and unravel in front of us. Cousty’s performance is brilliant, at once making us unsympathetic for her due to her stealing and selfishness, but then we end up sympathising and wondering where she will end up on her journey.

There’s a particularly good scene where while shooting her film Benny cannot get one of the actresses to go nude for a shower scene, and her loss of confidence in trying to resolve the situation, leaves her to get Alex to try and negotiate while she goes outside to do cocaine, emphasising the characters distancing and lack of interaction with other people and dependence on drugs to distance herself from her reality.

There are some strong performances from the cast all round including Hoppe as Benny’s mother whose own problems may have affected her daughter. Woodiwiss’s direction is solid and confident, using a gritty handheld style to plant the film in reality and static camera shots for the unnerving dream sequences, one of which I found particularly uncomfortable, and which in part emphasised the horror elements that can be found within this story.

blk3Another interesting stylistic touch is too have many of the male characters not been shown on screen. Aside from a few characters, one of Benny’s University friends and some of the male cast of the film she’s making, most of the other male characters who are seen as a threat or like the University lecturers, seen as someone not believing in Benny or telling her where she’s going wrong, have their backs to us.

Overall Benny Loves Killing is a very good and solid debut feature showing much promise from Woodiwiss, and it will be interesting to see what his next film will bring and from this film alone, it would be interesting to see if he would go into making a straight up horror film. My only criticism of it is that it could be done with being a bit shorter with maybe 10 or 15 minutes taken out, and certain scenes to tend to drag on a bit, but this is slight criticism of a film that put me in mind, most of all, of films such as Abel Ferrera’s BAD LIEUTENANT (1992), and Simon Rumley’s RED WHITE AND BLUE (2010) or most recently Suri Krishnamma’s DARK TOURIST (2013).

blk4These focus on characters living on the fringes of society who have distanced themselves from others, and have their own personal problems, whether drug addiction or psychological, and whose horror, lies within these characters unraveling through their own self destruction, and either trying to face some form of redemption or admission, or going all the way down to the abyss.

Verdict 8/10

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