Jordan Hays

About Jordan Hays

I'm Jordan, from gloomy Nottingham. I watch an awful amount of films and occasionally write and make them too. Some of my earliest memories are watching films like 'Alien' and 'An American Werewolf in London' with my dad and this is why I have a soft spot for the horror genre. I also enjoy video games, comics, beer and heavy music.

Hooked Up (2013) DVD Review

hudvd1Hooked Up (2013)

Director: Pablo Larcuen

Writers: Pablo Larcuen, Eduard Sola

Starring: Jona Ehrenreich, Stephen Ohl

Run time: 78mins

UK DVD Release – 27th April 2015 from Signature Entertainment

After being dumped by the love of his life, Peter (Ohl) along with his best friend Tonio (Ehrenreich), decide to take a trip to Barcelona to party, drink copious amounts of booze and most importantly, find themselves some girls! What they do find there however turns out to be much more terrifying and deadly.

When I first read that Hooked Up was filmed entirely on an iPhone I rolled my eyes and let out a rather large sigh. But upon watching the film it’s not as bad as I had anticipated, its not all that great either but it certainly isn’t awful and there are some parts I found quite entertaining.

hudvd2The story here is standard fare, two young guys go abroad to party and end up trapped in an old building whilst being stalked by a seemingly unkillable knife-wielding maniac. It’s been done before and that sort of describes the film in a nutshell “it’s been done before”, we see the same found-footage clichés, the same jump scares, the same twists and turns and so on and so forth. Don’t get me wrong, I think the director has tried to put a unique spin on things but everything just feels familiar.

It also has to be said that both main characters are pretty unlikeable; they’re both obnoxious, loud and incredibly stupid. They make stupid decisions all the way throughout. I never once found myself rooting for them to survive, even when one of the guys has an odd personality transplant about halfway through. It didn’t feel like natural character progression for me and I was still hoping that he got a knife to the head.

Not all is bad, I never found myself bored, it is actually a fun movie to watch, the special effects are excellent for such a low-budget film, there are some genuinely creepy moments and at times and some incredibly funny ones too. Whether those were intentional or not, I don’t know, but I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions.

hudvd3The found-footage gimmick works, for the most part, and the fact that they are “filming their holiday shenanigans” is the perfect answer to the age old question “Why are they filming everything?!” Like I said it doesn’t work all the way through Hooked Up and by the end I was screaming at my laptop “JUST PUT THE CAMERA DOWN!”

Hooked Up doesn’t re-invent the wheel and I don’t suspect it was aiming to. The film is fun, brainless but also pretty scary at times. If you have 78 minutes to kill and have seen all the classics then I think there are worse ways to spend your time and you should give this a shot.

6/10

Open Windows (2014) DVD Review

openwindowsOpen Windows (2014)

Director: Nacho Vigalondo

Writer: Nacho Vigalondo

Starring: Elijah Wood, Sasha Grey, Neil Maskell

Run time: 100 mins

Out 27th April UK From Koch Media

Nick Chambers (Wood) wins an online competition, the prize? A dinner with his favourite actress Jill Goddard (Grey). But after Jill abruptly cancels, he is given the opportunity to spy on her via his laptop; very soon Nick is dragged into a dangerous world full of computer hacking, kidnapping and even, murder!

At the start of Open Windows we are given a look at the film within the film, “Dark Sky: The Third Wave”, and there’s a moment in which Jill Goddard’s character utters the line “Stop thinking!” well if you want to really enjoy this film and it’s frankly ludicrous plot then that’s exactly what you need to do, switch your brain off, sit back and enjoy the ride.

ow1That’s normally an excuse people use to defend bad films isn’t it? You’ve got to turn your brain off to enjoy it. Well Open Windows isn’t a bad film, in fact I quite enjoyed it, but it’s just that the plot becomes so outlandish towards the end that to question it is completely pointless, the film is still an intriguing and tense thriller and I’m not going to chastise it just because the writer dared to dream a little bigger.

Open Windows is largely based around a gimmick, the gimmick being that we barely ever leave Nick Chambers’ laptop screen, we see most of the action through the “open windows” on his desktop, it’ a gimmick that for the most part works, it’s stretched in parts but it never outstays it’s welcome. It’s a very interesting and original twist on the found-footage genre. Oh and just something that I need to point out to UKHS readers, this is not a horror film, so don’t watch this expecting to see scares or gore, you have been warned.

The performances are all pretty solid, Wood plays the geeky and panicky Nick perfectly, Neil Maskell is spot-on as the fiendish villain Chord and Sasha Grey stand out as actress Jill, there are many layers to her performance and she effortlessly switches from an apparently vacuous movie star, to a damsel in distress and then finally to someone who is very capable and cool in the face of danger.

Director Nacho Vigalondo also tries to inject the film with a bit of depth and explore themes such as privacy, technophobia, misogyny, exploitation and fame. While not all of these themes are examined in nearly enough detail, it’s still nice to see Vigalondo try to add a bit of weight to what is quite clearly a simple popcorn flick.

ow2Open Windows is a film very much of its time, it shows a very distorted and disturbing reflection of the modern world. As I said before, you will have to switch your brain off to accept some of the crazier aspects of the plot but once you do you’ll find a film that is a suitable tension builder and one that I personally enjoyed.

7/10

Doppelgänger (2015) Review

DopplegangerDoppelgänger (2015)

Director: Gian Guido Zurli

Written by: Gian Guido Zurli

Starring: Clelia Cicero, Stefano Torselli

Run Time: 58mins approx

22nd of July 2017, Anna Persico (Cicero) awakes one morning to find a mysterious red box near her bed. Inside the box, she finds a piece of paper covered in strange symbols. What follows is a surreal adventure as she sets out to discover the meaning of the symbols and find her missing friend.

15th of October 1817, police commissioner Fosco Oleari investigates the apparent suicide of servant girl Vittoria Clementi (who bares an uncanny resemblance to Anna) and the disappearance of the local doctor’s wife.

The two time periods intertwine and collide as Anna looks for answers.

Writer and Director Gain Guido Zurli has crafted a fairly decent, if not confusing and ultimately unsatisfying, horror/thriller with Doppelgänger. The film, at least in my opinion, seems very influenced by the works of David Lynch and just like his work most people are either going to love it or hate it.

Doppleganger 2Myself? Well I’m in the middle. There’s a lot to like here, the Lynchian aspects, intended or not, were a particular highlight for me. Whether it’s the soundtracks low industrial rumbling, which seems to have been plucked straight from Eraserhead, or some of it’s more surreal and other-worldly images (influenced by too many Lynch works to mention) there’s a lot here for fans of Lynch to admire.

I enjoyed the modern parts of the story, there’s a real sense of dread, danger and mystery in these segments with a lot of experimentation in regards to its cinematography and camera work. There are some truly striking visuals at play here. These parts reminded me of films such a ‘Lost Highway’ and ‘Mulholland Drive’ and were a real treat to watch.

Unfortunately the parts set 1817 were a real let down for me, the period costumes are impressive, yes, but nothing else really works, the acting feels more hammy in these sections, the lighting feels unnatural and too modern, like we’re watching a recreation scene in a TV docudrama, and despite the two separate stories connecting and intertwining I would have much preferred the story to have stayed in it’s 2017 setting.

The film is ultimately too confusing, I’m not sure whether it’s a cultural thing or not, but by the end I was left with more questions than answers. I’m all for ambiguous and mysterious stories but I felt cheated that so many plot points are left unresolved, especially in the modern segments.

Doppleganger3Despite all this you can tell the Director has put a lot in to this film and is passionate about the project, after all he is also the producer, writer, editor and the sound designer. If you’re a fan of David Lynch’s work and are looking to kill an hour I’d highly recommend Doppelgänger, there are enough references and homages in here to keep you interested. If you’re not a fan of Lynch or similar works then I wouldn’t steer clear of this, perhaps just proceed with caution.

6/10

You can find out more by visiting the links below –

Website – http://www.doppelganger-movie.com/en/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/doppelganger.film

Watch Doppelganger on Vimeo here – https://vimeo.com/ondemand/doppelganger

The Allotment (2015) Short Film Review

The Allotment PosterThe Allotment (Short Film)

Director: Mike Tack

Written by: Mike Tack

After two youths cause the death of an elderly gentleman they return to the scene of the crime to remove all evidence. What they don’t expect is the great evil waiting for them there.

Being an amateur filmmaker myself I know how hard it is to create a short film, you can put everything you have into a project and still come out with something you’re disappointed with, trust me I’ve made a stinker or two. Fortunately Mike Tack has nothing to worry about, as The Allotment is actually very, very good.

The Allotment was a joy to watch, the story is simple, it’s not too long, its tongue is planted firmly in its cheek and despite having, what I assume to be, a very low budget it is actually very well made.

The Allotment ImageIt uses familiar but not unwelcome camera techniques from the horror genre, POV shots etc. It has some fantastic instances of gore, especially impressive again considering the low budget is and it makes full use of it’s one location, an ordinary allotment by day and yet a creepy maze of vegetation by night.

The only problem I had whilst watching it was with some of the acting, which comes off as a bit amateur-ish at times, but come on now, I can’t really judge it too harshly!

I’m not sure when the film is released, I imagine Tack is hoping to show it around a few short film festivals first, but when it is officially released I urge you to give seven and bit minutes of your time and give it a watch.

8/10

Links

Facebook – HERE

Twitter – HERE

The Haunting of Black Wood (2011) DVD Review

haunting-of-black-wood_uk-dvd-coverThe Haunting of Black Wood (2011) AKA Enter Nowhere

Director: Jack Heller

Written by: Shawn Christensen, Jason Dolan

Starring: Katherine Waterson, Scott Eastwood, Sara Paxton

Run time: 90 mins

UK DVD Release Feb 2nd 2015 from Metrodome Distribution.

Following separate car troubles, three strangers become stranded in a woodland cabin, as they try to figure out how to get back to civilisation they realise not everything is as it appears.

It seems odd that I’m reviewing The Haunting of Black Wood for UK Horror Scene when in actual fact the film isn’t really a horror at all, more a psychological thriller, with a few supernatural elements chucked in for good measure, that’s not to say it’s a bad film though, I actually found myself enjoying it quite a lot.

A little bit of background on the film; it was actually released in the US a few years ago and has only just found it’s way to our green and pleasant land. Over there the film is titled ‘Enter Nowhere’. Now I don’t know the specific reason for the title change (there isn’t any haunting of any kind in the film) but I suspect it’s so the film will appeal more to the low-budget horror market, which as far as I know, is booming over here right now. The new title is misleading and I’m telling you this now as it did slightly mar my enjoyment of the film, I felt as if I’d been cheated in some way and I don’t want the same to happen to you.

Haunting of Black Wood Image 1Anyway let’s move on to the film itself. There’s a lot to enjoy here, the premise is highly original (at least to me anyway, it has probably been done before) it plays out a lot like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone. The film is slow paced but this only adds to the building mystery and tension. The twist/s are pretty well judged and never seem forced, every time I thought I had the story figured out something happened that completely derailed my theory.

There are some instances of beautiful cinematography, the opening is a particular highlight and seems to be a very clear homage to the films of Quentin Tarantino. There are welcome nods to other films as well throughout the film the writers and director clearly like to wear their influences on their sleeves.

Not all is good though; there is some terribly clunky dialogue and corny lines. It belittles the acting performances, with a better script I feel the actors could have done a better job but sadly this is not the case.

The soundtrack is very generic; you hear this type of “foreboding” score on hundreds of straight-to-DVD horror films and it never stood out for me.

Haunting of Black Wood Image 2The visual effects towards the end are awful, almost laughable, the film decides to go for spectacle and it just doesn’t work on such a low budget, a more subdued ending would have worked just as well.

Despite it’s shortcomings I found myself still liking the film, it has a certain low-budget charm to it and if nothing else it held my attention. I urge people to give it a chance, just don’t expect any horror.

7/10

Gun Woman (2014) Review

Gun Woman CoverGun Woman (2014)

Director: Kurando Mitsutake

Written by: Kurando Mitsutake

Starring: Asami, Kairi Narita

Run Time: 86 mins

Seeking revenge on the psychopath that murdered his wife, a brilliant doctor (Narita) buys a young woman (Asami) and trains her to be the ultimate assassin. Using advanced surgical skills he implants gun parts in her body that she must later remove, assemble and use to kill her target before she bleeds to death.

I’m going to start this review by admitting that when it comes to this particular sort of cinema I am not that knowledgeable, in fact I’m a complete novice. I’ve heard of a few titles that are similar to Gun Woman such as Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police but I have never actually sat down and watched one until now and I can say outright that I just don’t get it. Look, if you’re a fan of this kind of cinema (and I know people are) you’re probably going to want to stop reading now, as it’s not going to be an entirely positive review.

Gun Woman Still 1Gun Woman, generally, isn’t a bad film as far as B-movies go, there are a few decent special effects, some delightfully cheesey costume choices and there is plenty (and I mean plenty) of blood and gore to enjoy. The main problem for me though was some of the themes featured early on. See, I’m no wet blanket, I enjoy trashy, gore-filled and shocking b-movies as much as the next guy, but it seems that violent rape and necrophilia featured in a film that, at least to me, doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously is pretty off-putting. These things are probably staples in these sorts of films but unfortunately they just aren’t really my cup of tea and it kind of left me with a sour taste in my mouth for the rest of the film.

I’m not trying to be a killjoy here but maybe if some of these things were toned down a little or perhaps if they were handled with a little bit more gravitas, I might have enjoyed the film a little more.

Gun Woman Still 2Like I said, not everything about the film was entirely bad, as well as the things I previously mentioned, the 80’s inspired soundtrack was a particular highlight for me and it worked especially well when coupled with the action movie montage we get around halfway through. There are a few cheeky references and nods to classic cinema dotted around that also left me with a little smirk on my face.

So would I recommend Gun Woman? Well I’m not sure entirely, if you’re a fan of this kind of cinema then yeah, I guess I would say you’re going to thoroughly enjoy this. But newcomers? I would suggest doing some research first, going back and seeing where these kinds of films originated, it’s something I wish I had done first. That’s probably why I didn’t get it and why some of it’s themes shocked me so much, now excuse me, I think I’m going to go and watch something a little lighter, a Disney film perhaps…

A Night of the Living Dead (2014) Review

ANOTLDA Night of the Living Dead (2014)

Director: Chad Zuver

Written by: Sean Gallagher, Chad Zuver

Starring: Lee Godwin, Rebekka Daniel

Run Time: 79 mins

Whilst visiting the grave of a loved one, Jerry (Godwin) and his daughters, Melanie (Daniel) and Barbra are besieged by the living dead. A race for survival ensues.

I’m going to admit something straight away and please don’t attack me for it! I have never actually watched the original Night of the Living Dead or it’s 1990 remake, it is shocking I know! They are both on my list of films to see and I will eventually get around to watching them…one day. What I do know though, is how culturally important they are, especially the George A. Romero original.

I was planning to watch the original before viewing this remake/re-imagining so I could compare them but I then decided that I would simply judge this version on it’s own merits.

So where do I begin? Well this is being touted as a microbudget remake and boy does it show! The film feels like a student film, that’s the only way I can describe it really. Now I wouldn’t normally consider this a bad thing (having once been a student filmmaker myself) but when a film is being shown in a limited number of cinemas in the US and being sold on DVD well then you expect a bit more bang for your buck.

ANOTLD2Everything about the film feels amateur, the cinematography and camera work is poor, with jittery pans, awkward camera angles and shots sometimes out of focus. The sound is incredibly distracting, at points you can actually hear the camera and microphone being fiddled with behind the scenes and the music is no better, often feeling out of place with what is happening on screen.

The acting isn’t much better I’m afraid, most of the human cast are wooden and the way these characters interact with each other is pretty painful to watch at times. The lumbering zombies don’t fare well either and a lot of the time they come across as being unintentionally hilarious.

The effects are pretty hit and miss too; some of the prosthetics looks quite impressive while other make-up effects seem shoddy and rushed.

It’s not all bad though; there are references and homages to the original, it’s filmed in black and white like the original, it includes some of the same characters and settings too and of course it has the famous “They’re coming to get you Barbara!” line.

ANOTLD3I don’t want to be a complete killjoy here and I certainly don’t want to dishearten any budding amateur filmmakers, being one myself. To be fair to the filmmakers, it is no mean feat to recreate such a high calibre genre classic with such a miniscule budget; in fact it’s a completely gargantuan task and although this is a valiant effort it just doesn’t pay off at all. If I were you I would stick to George A. Romero’s 1968 classic or Tom Savini’s 1990 remake, in fact I may have to go watch them both right now!

2/10

Treehouse (2014) DVD Review

Treehouse 1Treehouse (2014)

Director: Michael Bartlett

Written by: Alex Child, Miles Harrington

Starring: Dana Melanie, J. Michael Trautmann

Run Time: 95 mins

UK Release 20th October 2014 from Signature Entertainment

Brothers Killian (Trautmann) and Crawford (Daniel Fredrick) break curfew and head to an isolated forest for a night of fun. There they discover an old tree house and inside find Elizabeth (Melanie), alone, injured and terrified. Together they must fight an extraordinary evil.

I had low expectations for this film, having not enjoyed the director’s previous work all that much. But it’s fair to say that Treehouse honestly surprised me and I ended up really enjoying it.

First and foremost it’s a beautiful film with gorgeous cinematography, it looks like something that has come from a big Hollywood studio. The aerial shots are a particular stand out for me; reminiscent of the opening shots of The Shining they sweep across the landscape showing off the locations in all their glory. The director has really come a long way from the gritty found footage look of The Zombie Diaries.

The cast are fantastic, especially the impressive young leads, Dana Melanie and J. Michael Trautmann. In lesser actors hands these characters could have been portrayed as the typical clichéd horror movie teenagers but instead we are given engaging, believable and vulnerable performances, which in turn leads us to really care about the characters and their fates. The supporting cast, what little we actually see of them, are all superb too.

The story is a simple one but it works, the film could have suffered from a convoluted plot and too many twists and turns but instead chooses to focus on the characters and is all the better for it.

Treehouse 2The atmosphere is very tense and there are plenty of slow and suspenseful moments that filled me with dread. There are some genuinely terrifying moments too; one in particular involving a walkie-talkie freaked me out completely. There is little blood or gore in the film, often the violence and kills happen off screen and it completely works, showing us that brutality doesn’t necessarily have to be seen to be harrowing.

The score, for the most part, is great. It’s slow and foreboding in nature, really complimenting with what we are seeing on screen. There are a couple of misfires with the soundtrack though, a few songs that seem to be a fusion of metal and dubstep creep in and really don’t fit with the tone of the film.

The locations are uncluttered and feel natural; they never become distracting and really fit well with the simple nature of the story. The use of effects, although sparse, is also handled really well. It is often difficult to tell which effects are practical and which are computer generated.

Unfortunately all of the suspense, slow burning tension and mystery are lost in the third act when the film somehow stumbles into The Hills Have Eyes/Wrong Turn territory. It’s an unwise move; it removes all the intrigue surrounding the central villains and doesn’t really gel with the rest of the film.

The film also ends rather abruptly, it is supposed to serve as a vague and open ending, left to our imaginations to finish the story but it instead it came across like the filmmakers either couldn’t think of a satisfying conclusion or simply ran out of money and had to wrap things up quickly.

Treehouse 3Despite these flaws Treehouse is a pretty solid horror film, it’s a shame it’s been relegated to a straight-to-DVD release as I feel with the right marketing and a nationwide cinema release this could have been an unexpected hit, hopefully, with time, it will gain a large cult audience because it deserves to be seen.

So if you’re looking for blood and gore or jump scares then go elsewhere but if you’re looking for a genuinely creepy and tense horror thriller then you should really check this out.

7/10

Day Of The Mummy (2014) DVD Review

dayofthemummyDay of the Mummy (2014)

Director: Johnny Tabor

Written by: Garry Charles

Starring: Danny Glover, William McNamara

Running Time: 80 mins

In order to get his hands on a precious diamond, the mysterious philanthropist Carl (Glover) hires infamous Egyptologist Jack Wells (McNamara) to join a group of archaeologists and explore the newly discovered tomb of the cursed king Neferu. Little do they know that an ancient evil awaits them there.

I will tell you this straight away; Day of the Mummy is not scary. It’s not tense; it didn’t fill me with a sense of dread and it didn’t unnerve me at any point. It’s not particularly gruesome or exciting or thrilling either and it certainly isn’t intentionally or even unintentionally funny. It’s just rather dull to be honest.

William McNamara plays our hero, Jack Wells, a discount Indiana Jones. He’s a rebellious Egyptologist with a dark and mysterious past and an eye for the ladies. Yep, he’s a walking talking cliché! He’s a protagonist we’ve seen dozens of times before, although in this film we don’t actually get to see him all that much.

You see the gimmick here is that we see everything from Dr. Wells’ perspective. At the start of the film, his employer Carl (Glover) makes it clear that he doesn’t trust our hero and so sets him up with a pair of glasses containing a camera and an earpiece. This way Carl can see and hear everything that is happening from the comfort of his green screen studio– I mean office! It’s a twist on the found footage genre and one that doesn’t work particularly well. You see it’s rather distracting and often disorientating (it gave me a headache), combine that with tonnes of clunky exposition and it’s rather hard to care about the story or the other characters.

DotM1Speaking of the other characters, they all seem to be as ridden with clichés as Jack Wells maybe even more so. Eric Young plays the films token arsehole Dr. Jeremy Cooper. Pompous and uptight, he’s Jacks’ rival and someone we want to see get killed just to shut him up. Andre Monier plays the only female among the group Kate Alvarez, who comes across quite feisty and independent at the start only for her to fall for Jacks’ charms and thus introduce a rather unnecessary romantic sub-plot. Robin Steffen plays Marty Timor, the well-meaning young nerd who eventually becomes a bit of a magnet for disaster. Philip Marlett plays young archaeologist Greg Baptiste, who is kind of just there. He doesn’t really contribute all that much.

The main draw for most people though will be the inclusion of Danny Glover playing Carl, the rich and mysterious philanthropist. I assumed Glover’s role would be merely an extended cameo, something that would potentially boost interest and sell more copies of the film but he’s actually in it throughout and trust me that is not a good thing!
The camera glasses and the earpiece work as a two-way link and so Carl often pops up in the corner of the screen to talk to Jack (although he has little to say that’s actually interesting), a bit like a guide in a video game. It’s incredibly distracting and a stylistic choice that just takes you out of the film completely!

Not all is bad though, the locations are pretty effective, especially the tomb of the mummy which is dark, eerie and claustrophobic. The practical effects, make-up and props are also impressive although the computer-generated effects are generally poor in comparison.

DotM3And so we come to actual Mummy itself, I bet you thought I forgot about it eh? Well I thought the filmmakers had forgot about it too since it doesn’t actually appear in the film until nearly an hour in! The Mummy itself though is pretty cool looking and has an interesting design, like a cross between a mummy and the more traditional zombie. The only problem is though it’s not scary and it’ not imposing! It looks like a Doctor Who villain and it moves like a very drunk old man.

Day of the Mummy isn’t offensively bad, or even laughably bad, but it’s not that good either. The film drags, it’s incredibly slow and the build-up doesn’t create an ounce of tension but rather leaves you feeling bored. The climax doesn’t pay off at all either leaving you pretty disappointed by the time the credits roll.

4/10