Martin Appleby

About Martin Appleby

Martin is from the small south coast town of Hastings. Yes, where the battle of 1066 happened. He loves horror movies, punk rock, boxing and pro wrestling. He blogs about horror movies at NERDS DIE LAST (http://nerdsdielast.com). He blogs about everything else at IN PURSUIT OF EXPRESSION (http://inpursuitofexpression.com) and he is also editor of literary fanzine PAPER AND INK (http://paperandinkzine.co.uk).

The Passage aka Lemon Tree Passage (2014) DVD Review

passage1The Passage aka Lemon Tree Passage (2014)

Director: David Campbell

Writers: Erica Brien, David Campbell

Stars: Jessica Tovey, Nicholas Gunn, Pippa Black

UK DVD Release – 5th October 2015 from Metrodome UK

A group of American backpackers on vacation in Australia are befriended by two local guys and introduced to the “true story” of Lemon Tree Passage – a remote stretch of road that is haunted by the ghost of a motorcyclist who appears to warn drivers to slow down. Doubtful of the legitimacy of the tale they decide to put it to the test and go for a late night spin along the famed passage. Of course, they end up with much more than they bargained for and are killed off one by one in violent fashion by a mysterious malevolent entity. An entity that is definitely not there to discourage reckless driving.

The urban legend of the ghostly motorcyclist on Lemon Tree Passage is actually true… to a degree. Apparently it became somewhat of an internet phenomenon a few years ago when a YouTube video of a mysterious headlight following behind a car and then vanishing in to thin air went viral. However, anyone hoping for a film about the apparition of a motorcyclist will be sorely disappointed, as writer-director David Campbell and co-writer Erica Brien merely use this urban legend as a springboard for their own ghostly yarn (and no doubt an excuse to plaster ‘based on actual events’ on the promotional paraphernalia).

passage2There is some nice cinematography throughout the film and Australian actor Jessica Tovey gives an excellent performance as American tourist Maya. This is a well made, slick looking film but unfortunately that is about all I have in the pro column. Not that this is a bad film, it is just gloriously mediocre. There is nothing that you haven’t seen before and nothing that you will be eager to see again, and it does not do itself any favours with its slow pacing and lacklustre deaths. The actions of the characters defy logic every step of the way as it limps along towards its grand finale, which goes off not with a bang but with a whimper. I can only really recommend watching this if you are a fan of Jessica Tovey or a die hard fan of Australian horror.

4/10

Death Call aka Old 37 (2015) Review

old371Death Call aka Old 37 (2015)

Director: Alan Smithee

Stars: Kane Hodder, Bill Moseley, Jake Robinson, Brandi Cyrus

UK DVD Release TBC from High Fliers Films

Old 37 a.k.a Call 37 a.k.a Death Call is the story of two brothers who intercept 911 emergency calls, then arrive on the scene posing as paramedics in a beaten up old ambulance – the titular ‘Old 37’.

Of course, these brothers are not good Samaritans out to help innocent survivors or to lift the burden off of America’s failing healthcare system, no, they are depraved lunatics who take pleasure in torturing and killing the defenceless victims. The two brothers are played by horror icons Kane Hodder and Bill Moseley, a dream team that could cause even the most stone faced horror fan to go weak at the knees.

old374The casting of Hodder and Moseley, along with the intriguing synopsis, had me licking my lips at the prospect of this film, but sadly it did not deliver the goods… Instead of focusing on the story of the psychopathic brothers and their exploits, it mostly follows a group of errant teenagers – All played by actors in their mid to late twenties, all vapid, insidious, soulless, cookie cutter characters that could have been plucked from any horror movie this side of Scream. These “teenagers” literally bring all of the trouble onto themselves – They are picked off one by one, thanks in no small part to their dangerous driving and foolhardy antics on the highways of backwater nowhere.

Throughout the film we are shown flashbacks and glimpses into the past of the two brothers which offer a brief insight into why they are so deranged. They are following in the footsteps of their father, a nasty piece of work who psychically and mentally abused his sons to breaking point – creating the monsters they are today. Hodder and Moseley both turn in excellent performances and do their best with what they are given.

old373The film seems to suffer from an identity crisis – is it trying to be a slasher movie? Not really. Is it going for the ‘torture porn’ angle? There isn’t enough blood and gore or interesting kills for that. Is it trying to be a ‘Jaws on the highway’ type movie? Maybe. It really struggles to find a balance between all of the plot threads. The brothers’ story is far, far more interesting than that of the teens and it could have been excellent in the hands of someone like Rob Zombie. In the end it is let down by the dumb teenagers that we are supposed to be rooting for and the ridiculous way the writers try to tie everything together.

3.5/10

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014) DVD Review

ttt1The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)

Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Stars: Addison Timlin, Veronica Cartwright, Anthony Anderson

Out on DVD from Metrodome

Texarkana, a small American town that sits on the border between Texas and Arkansas is terrorised by a serial killer who is mimicking a series of brutal, unsolved murders that occurred in the town some sixty plus years before. Jami, a lonely high school girl is singled out by the killer to deliver his message to the town. He torments and toys with her, picking off her friends and family one by one. Unwilling to sit back and do nothing, she begins her own investigation into the original events that took place all those years ago in the hope of figuring out why it is happening again.

This is not a remake of the 1976 film of the same name, but nor is it a sequel. It is set in a world in which the original film and the events it was inspired by both exist. A sort of ‘meta’ Human Centipede 2-esque approach, which is much more refreshing to see than another glossy remake. It may sound slightly confusing on paper, but having never seen the original film myself, or heard of the events it was inspired by, I had no trouble at all following the story. It is cleverly written and keeps you guessing about the identity of the killer until the very end.

ttt2The film looks absolutely beautiful, which is not something you can often say about horror movies, and huge credit for that has to go to Michael Goi for his masterful cinematography. Everything from the set design to the wardrobe has a very seventies feel to it; a subtle and effective visual metaphor for the town being trapped in its own past. It works so well that it is only when you see a character use a laptop or a mobile phone that you remember it is set in the modern day. Addison Timlin’s understated and evocative performance as Jami is also worthy of note. Thankfully she never descends into a screaming, snivelling mess – A fate that all too often befalls slasher movie heroines.

If I was being picky I would argue that finale does fall slightly flat. The reveal of the killer and his motivations could have been stronger, but that doesn’t take too much away from what is, overall, a well made and refreshing take on the genre. Obviously I can’t speak for fans of the original film but whether you have seen it or not, this is definitely worth your time.

7.5/10

Girlhouse (2014) DVD Review

girlhouseGirlhouse (2014)

Directors – Jon Knautz, Trevor Matthews

Starring – Ali Cobrin, Adam DiMarco, Slaine

UK DVD out now from Signature Entertainment

Attractive college student Kylie Atkins (Ali Corbin) has recently lost her father and her windowed mother is struggling financially. When Kylie is ‘talent scouted’ by internet tycoon Gary Preston (James Thomas), he makes her an offer that will lift the financial burden on her poor mother and will see her through college off her own back. He invites her to take part in Girlhouse, an adult website that is basically Big Brother but with porn. Kylie joins the other super hot housemates in a secret, high security mansion where their every move is streamed live on the internet. The raunchier their behaviour, the more popular they are with subscribers, the more money they will make.

Kylie’s girl next-door demeanour makes her an instant hit with the punters. One in particular, who goes by the username ‘Loverboy’, develops an unhealthy obsession with her and doesn’t handle it too well when he discovers that he has been mocked and ridiculed by the other housemates. Being that this is a slasher movie and not a rom-com, you can guess what happens next…

gh1Girlhouse has been labelled as a ‘throwback’ to the slasher movies of the 80s. In fact it seems that every slasher movie that comes out at the moment is a throwback to a bygone era, some golden time that we now look back on with rose-tinted nostalgia glasses. Given that the technology driven plot of Girlhouse is more akin to the awful ‘Halloween Resurrection’ than anything made in the 80s or 90s, I am assuming it has been labelled such due to it’s structure. The first hour of the film is all set up and I was actually starting to wonder if anybody was going to die at all at one point. Once the action does get going it is fast and frenetic and there are some excellent, brutal kills but like those early 80s slashers, it takes a long time to get there.

Loverboy is a lonely introvert who has been rejected and scorned by females his whole life and unfortunately for our protagonist also happens to be a computer expert. We are introduced to him early on in the film and there is even a prologue scene at the beginning with him as a child. I am not sure if this early introduction is designed to instil some kind of empathy with the killer but it feels slightly out of place. It is almost as if the filmmakers were caught between going down the ‘Maniac’, character study of a killer route or with a faceless, generic monster, so we end up with an awkward combination of both.

gh2For a low budget film it feels very polished and is aesthetically very well made. The high production values are more in line with the big studio slashers of the late 90s than the scratchy, grimy tone of many 80s slashers. The main thing that it lacks, which those late 90s slashers did so well, is a big reveal. A defining moment at the end which ties all the plot threads together. That would have taken this film to the next level. Sadly, as it is, it’s a well made, entertaining film that sadly just falls a little flat.

6.5/10

Charlie’s Farm (2014) DVD Review

Charlies Farm DVD 2D - FINALCharlie’s Farm (2014)

Writer & Director – Chris Sun

Starring – Nathan Jones, Tara Reid, Kane Hodder, Bill Moseley

UK DVD & Blu-Ray release June 22nd from Monster Pictures UK

Four friends from the suburbs of Australia’s Gold Coast (including honorary Yank, Tara Reid) decide to ditch the beach for the weekend in favour of camping at an allegedly haunted farm. An absurd decision to us Pommies currently suffering an indecisive British summer, but par for the course for any self respecting slasher movie protagonists. The farm in question is the titular Charlie’s Farm; the location of a series of horrific murders in the 1980s.

The cannibalistic Wilson family who lived there (led by father John Wilson, played by horror icon Bill Moseley) would routinely murder and consume any unlucky backpackers and tourists that were passing through. The local townsfolk, having decided that enough was enough, rolled up at the farm mob deep with pitchforks and shotguns at the ready and the vile Wilsons were slain one by one. Legend has it that the tormented ghost of their ‘retarded’ son, Charlie, now haunts the area.

charliesfarm3In a time when slasher movies are few a far between, us faithful fans of the sub-genre are often left disappointed. Not due to their infrequency but due to their (mostly) poor quality. Thankfully, Charlie’s Farm does not disappoint. Writer-director Chris Sun is clearly a huge fan of slashers himself and knows that to make a good one is not to re-invent the wheel but to do the basics, and do them well.

As far as the plot goes, it is very much by the numbers – You will know who is going to die and you will probably even guess what order they will die in, but the fun part is seeing how they die. Nathan Jones portrays Charlie, the hulking killer who systematically wipes out any and all visitors to his farm in brutal fashion. The make-up effects are excellent and the performances of the actors are brilliant across the board, with a special mention to Trudi Ross who puts in a mesmerising turn as Mrs Wilson, Charlie’s protective mother.

charliesfarm2My only real criticism of the film, if you can call it a criticism, is of Kane Hodder’s strange cameo role. His character adds nothing to the actual story and almost felt as if it had been written in at the last minute merely to capitalise on Hodder’s name value. Other than that I have nothing but love for Charlie’s Farm and very much hope that we get a sequel. Chris Sun’s next film, Boar, not only stars Nathan Jones again but also Wolf Creek’s John Jarratt. Maybe I am dreaming, but I would definitely pay good money to see a Mick Taylor vs Charlie Wilson cross over movie!

8/10

Pernicious (2015) Review

pernicious1Pernicious (2015) Review

Director – James Cullen Bressack

Starring – Ciara Hanna, Emily O’Brien, Jackie Moore

Runtime – 90 Minutes

Three attractive young American women head to Thailand for the summer… Which is either the start of a tasteless joke or the start of a horror movie. Being that this is UK Horror Scene not UK Joke Scene, rest assured it is the latter. Two sisters, Alex (Ciara Hana) and Rachel (Jackie Moore), and their friend Julia (Emily O’Brien) land in their exotic destination with the intention of volunteering at a local school, but with a week before they are due to start a few nights of hard parting are in order.

Unfortunately for them, when they arrived at the remote house they will be staying in, they unwittingly unleashed the spirit of a long dead little girl who was brutally murdered by her own family and turned into a creepy gold statue. Don’t you hate it when that happens?! After a night of heavy drinking with some pervy British tourists, the statue goes missing and believing that the pesky Brits stole the damn thing they set about trying to get it back. As they gradually uncover the truth about the statue and what happened to the little girl, their Thailand adventure descends into an unrelenting nightmare.

pernicious2Director and co-writer James Cullen Bressack (Hate Crime, Blood Lake) is a prolific filmmaker and at only twenty three years of age, already has thirty directing credits to his name (along with credits in pretty much every other department of film making). It was a bold choice to make this movie in Thailand, as most low budget films of this ilk take place on more familiar ground.

The gamble pays off, If only due to the fact that it being set in Thailand is what sets it out from the pack. I don’t know how much of the backstory of the little girl and the statue was based on actual Thai folklore and how much was made up for the film, but it provides an interesting spin on the familiar evil spirit genre.

pernicious3As for the actual execution of the film, the gore effects are mostly practical and very convincing and there is some beautiful cinematography throughout which really takes advantage of the stunning setting.

Unfortunately much of the acting is poor and some of the character make up is laughable (look out for the old ‘witch’ character in an unconvincing grey wig). I don’t want to be too harsh on this film because I feel like if it had been made in the 80s and I had just stumbled across an old VHS and watched it, I would be giving it nothing but praise. It isn’t for everyone but it it certainly has its moments and will definitely appeal to those with a predilection for supernatural horror of the Asian persuasion.

5/10

The Badger Game (2014) Review

Badger-Game_Theatrical-PosterThe Badger Game (2014)

Directors – Joshua Wagner & Thomas Zambeck

Starring – Augie Duke, Patrick Cronen, Jillian Leigh, Sam Boxleitner, Sasha Higgins.

Runtime – 99 Minutes

Available to watch NOW from Vimeo here – https://vimeo.com/ondemand/thebadgergame

Badger Game (baj-er)(geym) noun – an extortion scheme in which a married man is tricked into a compromising position and made vulnerable to blackmail.

Alex, the scorned mistress of high rolling businessman, Liam, sets in motion a plan to get revenge on her ex-lover. Accompanied by her brother, Kip, best friend, Shelly, and another of Liam’s scorned conquests, Jane – the gang don some super creepy plastic animal masks, kidnap the sleaze bag and demand that he stumps up two million dollars or have all the sordid details of his extramarital activities revealed to his wife.

Badger Game_Still 1_Sam and AugieThe plan hits a major bump in the road when Liam manages to escape and Alex’s identity is compromised. They re-capture him easily enough, but now he knows too much. To make matters worse a private investigator is found snooping around and reveals that he has been hired by Liam’s wife to follow him. From this point on the original plan goes out of the window and the night descends into unmitigated chaos.

The premise of this movie is so simple that you kind of get the feeling while watching it that it must have been done before. Surely? Hasn’t it? It probably has but that doesn’t matter. Often the simpler the premise, the better the movie. Filmmakers can to get so wrapped up in convoluted structures and plot twists that they forget what makes films work to begin with. Writer-directors Joshua Wagner and Thomas Zambeck certainly haven’t forgotten those things and this wrought thriller belies its meagre budget.

Honest, interesting characters are at the heart of this film. None of them are perfect, infact some of them are straight up dicks, but they all have their own reasons for embarking on this hair brain scheme to begin with. As the night progresses their true personalities and motivations are revealed, some very subtly and some not so much.

Badger Game_Still 2The deft writing is complimented perfectly by the fantastic performances of the actors. There are some terrific, tense scenes that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck and also leave you wondering why a woman sexy dancing in a frog mask is so damn hot. The messy conclusion is just about perfect and all in all this film may not be doing anything altogether groundbreaking or original, we’ve all seen kidnappings , blackmail and animal masks before, but what it does do, it does very, very well.

7/10

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Automata (2014) DVD Review

automataAutomata (2014)

Director – Gabe Ibáñez

Starring – Antonio Banderas, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Dylan McDermott, Melanie Griffith

Automata is released on DVD & Blu-Ray from Lionsgate on May 4th

The year is 2044 and this humble film reviewer is fifty seven years old. Or at least, I will be if I manage to survive that long. You see, according to Spanish director Gabe Ibáñez’s film, at some point between now and then a drastic increase in solar flares has scorched the Earth and wiped out 99% of the world’s population. Thanks, Global Warming. The remaining population of the Earth are divided into two distinct categories: those that can afford to live in large bubble-like cities that protect them from Earth’s now radioactive atmosphere and those who can’t, and live in squalid ghettos outside of the city walls.

These large cities have been built, and are maintained, by robots, or Pilgrims as they are known. These robots have become a large part of everyday life – not only building and maintaining the cities but helping out around the home, catering to the needs of their human owners. The robots are programmed with two main protocols: the first is that they can not harm, or allow harm to be caused to a human life. The second is that they can not alter themselves, or another robot in any way. Jacq (Antonio Banderas) is an insurance fraud investigator for the robotics company who manufacture the Pilgrims. He is a down trodden man who hates his job and when a police officer guns down a Pilgrim unit who he claims to have witnessed self-repairing, it is Jacq who is tasked with investigating the matter. This leads to a chain of events that takes him deep in to the murky underworld of the ghettos, where robots are bought, sold, traded and altered (illegally) by people known as ‘Clockmasters’.

automata2This is film is very much inspired by the film noir of the 40s and 50s, you could easily imagine the likes of Robert Mitchum or Humphrey Bogart in the Banderas role. It is a slow burner, following the weathered protagonist as he attempts to unravel the mystery of how and why these robots are able to alter themselves. The robot effects are largely practical, which not only looks excellent, but adds so much to the texture and tone of the film. Ibáñez has crafted a grimy, gritty atmosphere, reminiscent of Blade Runner or more recently, the work of Neil Blomkamp. As well as looking wonderful, this is a thought provoking story, which throws up many questions around the nature of evolution, morality and of life itself. If you’re in the market for a Terminator style, Man vs Machine action flick, then you won’t find it here. What you will find is a rewarding, well directed, superbly acted and beautiful looking film.

8/10

Automata is available to order from Amazon UK NOW here – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Automata-DVD-Gabe-Ibáñez/dp/B00TSEW5LQ/

Rebound (2014) Review

rebound1Rebound (2014) Review

Director – Megan Freels

Starring – Ashley James, Mark Scheibmeir, Ali Williams.

Rebound is out now on demand from the retailers below.

Available on Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00STZXFLO/

Available on Vimeo – https://vimeo.com/ondemand/rebound

A common trait amongst many a horror movie protagonist is that of being damn unlucky, often to the point where it becomes quite comical. The lead character in Megan Freels’ directorial debut Rebound, Claire (portrayed by actress Ashley James), certainly has more than her fair share of bad luck in this movie, but the ordeal she goes through is far from comical.

The film begins in the aftermath of Claire having walked in on her boyfriend of several years between the sheets with another woman. Understandably heartbroken and distraught she decides to pack up her life in to the back of her car, leave LA and head back home to be with her family in Chicago.

Now, this is America, so it’s not like driving from Dagenham to Chesterfield, this is a three day drive along seemingly endless highways and through an abundance of backwater towns that all look the same. Therapeutic, you might think. Just what you need after a traumatic break-up, you might think. But you’d be wrong.

rebound3Having stopped off at a service station to use the bathroom Claire is not only harassed by an oddball homeless woman but also manages to lose her mobile phone in the process. Despite this minor setback she continues on her journey, only for her car to give up the ghost in the middle of nowhere.

A creepy local offers to drop her off at the garage in town, and despite her better judgement, she accepts his offer. The mechanic she is taken to is even creepier than the man who took her there and she continues to encounter the strange inhabitants of the town throughout the course of the night. Just as Claire begins to think that things can’t get any worse, they do. They get much, much worse.

This is a low-budget slow burner which is very well acted and directed. There is an uncomfortable, unsettling tone throughout which builds up nicely to a harrowing crescendo. When you sit down to watch a horror movie, you generally know what you are getting in to, but Rebound does a good job of toying with your expectations about what is going to happen to Claire and which of the bizarre characters she meets will be the perpetrator (if not all of them).

rebound4There is also a little twist at the end which will flip your expectation on it’s head. As débuts go, writer/director Megan Freels has done a fantastic job. Gore hounds may be a little frustrated at the slow pace and lack of blood and guts but this is an interesting watch; a solid if unspectacular film. I, for one, will be looking out for whatever Megan Freels does in the future.

7/10

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