Oliver Ryder

About Oliver Ryder

Ever since he saw 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' at the tender age of five, Oli was dragged into the wonderfully disturbing world of horror and has never looked back. He enjoys all things macabre, dark comedy, penguins and likes his coffee black just like his metal.

Cold In July (2014) Cinematic Review

cij1Cold In July (2014)

109 mins

Dir: Jim Mickle

Starring: Michael C Hall, Don Johnson, Sam Shepard, Wyatt Russell, Vinessa Shaw and Nick Damici

After shooting a would-be burglar in his house, small town frame maker, Richard Dane (Hall) soon finds himself embroiled in a sinister conspiracy. With the fear for his family’s safety, Dane finds himself teaming up with an ex-con and private investigator as they venture down a road of dark deceit and violence.

Jim Mickle skyrocketed into my awareness earlier this year with the simply sublime ‘We Are What We Are’ remake and I was already incredibly excited at the prospect of seeing more of his work. The promise of a dark Southern noir had me at hello as it seems to be an awesome blossoming sub-genre.

What I was met with was nothing short of a complete and utter mess of quite startlingly high proportions. Was this seriously made by the same director? Was the overriding thought that stuck in my head for what felt like an eternity and yet a mere 109 minutes. The film is absolutely all over the shop with a troubling identity crisis. It has all the outer seeming of a gritty, sun-baked southern noir and yet, bizarrely, elements from road movies, buddy movies, 80s crime dramas, home invasion horror and grindhouse are all rammed together with no thought spared for narrative cohesion.

cij2At times, it felt almost as though three separate and arguably very bland crime thrillers had been human centipeded together, in the hopes that maybe three times the level of seen before crime drama could approach something verging on compelling. It didn’t. Lifeless dialogue, uninteresting characters and the whole thing felt incredibly tired and the apparent real verve Mickle has for being creative, completely tossed aside, which is a real shame.

It would be an unfair comparison to stand this next to ‘We Are What We Are’ as they are both completely different genres of film. It is certainly perplexing, however, that where Mickle showed such note-perfect restraint and terrifyingly bare bones human cruelty with ‘WAWWA’, here he seems to have completely lost his touch. A more apt comparison would be to the tragically under-seen but beautifully dark and haunting, ‘Blue Ruin’ that was released earlier in the year. Both concern seemingly unlikely killers faced with terrifying odds, but where ‘Blue Ruin’ had the hugely sympathetic and ‘innocent’ Macon Blair, ‘Cold In July’ has Michael C Hall.

Now it must be said, that Hall is by far and a way the best thing about ‘Cold In July’ in that he is the only actor not playing some form of terribly dated southern small town stereotype. Whilst he does cut a sympathetic figure, his shift from naive family man to gunslinger is far too quick and unbelievable. It’s impossible not to be reminded by his grim visage of previous performances from two separate TV shows in which he was responsible for putting an awful lot of people in the ground.

It’s certainly a case that this is a ‘boy’s own’ story where Dane’s poor suffering wife is completely reduced to the sidelines and towards the final third, she and her son are dropped completely from the narrative. Perhaps this was a small mercy, if she was anything like as excruciatingly one-dimensional as the other ‘characters’.

cij3Sam Shepard’s grizzled ex-con comes across as a poor man’s Nick Nolte, grumbling incoherently about various things and using his gun to shoot stuff, because that’s what MEN do! Into this shambles is thrown Don Johnson who, to all the world, looks as though he just walked off the set of ‘Dallas’ or god forbid a new ‘Cannonball Run’ film. Cowboy hat, boots and flashy car lined with garish red leather in tow, his exaggerated smooth-talking cool cat demeanour clashes horribly with the harsh real world drama the rest of the film is attempting to create. We as an audience are left unsure as to whether or not we’re supposed to laugh or to actually take him seriously when he’s blowing a load of do-badders away and then dropping quips here and there.

Fundamentally, it is the film’s relentless restlessness that completely blocks any form of real character development or audience investment as to what on earth is actually happening. Having done some research, I discovered that this is remaining truthful to the novel upon which the film is based but it simply does not translate onto the big screen. There remain huge gaping plot-holes that are irritatingly never answered or even mentioned again. The dramatic mood swings from cold and serious to something approaching almost Coen Brothers-esque hyper-reality macabre humour throw you completely off-balance and leave you unsure as to just what you are supposed to be feeling for the characters or situation.

When the film does get dark and full of tension, in the opening section of the film, it does a fantastic if done before job of conjuring up extreme threat levels. The fact that it is able to achieve this simply by showing a teddy bear that’s been hit by a bullet is hugely impressive. It is a problem, however, that once Shepard’s character gets captured and the film again changes its mind as to what it thinks it wants to be, all these levels of dread plummet like a stone and never built up to the same levels even during the film’s bloody climax.

cij4There have been films in which dramatic tonal shifts can add a hugely intriguing and unexpected quality, such as the drastic 180 degree turn in ‘Kill List’. With ‘Cold In July’, however, the constant jumping from different style and tone is undisciplined and largely unpalatable. It is clear that Mickle has the potential for creating a gritty crime thriller, but this original direction is lost in amongst wave after wave of badly disjointed ideas that are loosely stitched together in a sadly haphazard manner.

Verdict: A muddled misfire from Mickle that simply doesn’t know what it wants to be. 2/10

Devil’s Knot (2013) Cinematic Review

devilsknot1Devil’s Knot (2013) Cinematic Review
114 mins

Dir: Atom Egoyan

Starring: Reece Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Dane DeHaan, Stephen Moyer, Mireille Enos and James Hamrick

In the summer of 1993, three 8 year old boys went to play in the woods of West Memphis, Arkansas and never returned. When their bodies were discovered, the brutality of their deaths was linked by authorities to be as some part of a Satanic ritual. Soon afterwards, three teenagers were arrested and put on trial founded on intense interrogation and highly circumstantial evidence as a result of the ‘Satanic Panic’ that was running amuck in the American Mid-West. The boys all faced extreme charges, the penalties of which included life imprisonment and condemnation to death.

Based on the book of the same name by Mara Leveritt, it is surprising that it has taken such a long time for a theatrical retelling of the chilling and blood-boiling events that surrounded the West Memphis Three. Whilst some may feel that it could be considered to still be ‘too soon’, the far more likely reason is the existence of the immaculate ‘Paradise Lost’ trilogy of documentaries.

At a combined total of nearly 10 hours, it is no surprise that Atom Egoyan felt that the story needed to be kept to a more mainstream running time but this only proves to be one of the film’s key detriments. It was interesting that in the film, Firth has a brief dialogue with a documentary filmmaker, presumably supposed to be Joe Berlinger. I’m sure this was intended to be a wry nod of acknowledgement from Egoyan to what came before him, but sadly only served as another reminder of how better this story had already been captured.

devilsknot2The most noteworthy element of the film is that it was surprisingly enjoyable and refreshing to see Colin Firth not just playing the same bloody character he’s done for seemingly his entire career aka stuffy but secretly hopeless romantic upper-class Brit. Adopting a convincing southern drawl, Firth plays investigator, Ron Lax, one of the very first people to dare to raise a contrary voice to the overwhelming majority belief of the guilt of the three boys. Whilst he is stereotyped with the saddle of being an alcoholic, Firth displays a huge amount of conviction in his character and expertly represents the outrage and indignation many felt at the hideously one-sided case against the WM3.

The three boys themselves, whilst irritatingly not given enough screen time, also provide an almost scary degree of accuracy in their portrayals. James Hamrick as Damien Echols is especially brilliant and crucially, the sole occasion in which the film gets its handling of the story completely spot on. Hamrick’s performance is a perfect medium of both intimidatingly suspect and yet at the same time, vulnerable. Beneath his veneer of being cold and aggressive, we see how much he fears for his mortality and his despair that seemingly no one will believe in his innocence.

It is a shame, however, that both DeHaan and Witherspoon who are both usually so reliable, are very much on auto-pilot here. As the mother of one of the murdered boys, Witherspoon does track the emotional journey the real life Pam Hobbs underwent of initially cursing the accused to being the first to start to believe in their innocence superbly. The problem is, however, that due to Egoyan’s unsettled nature and desire to jump between stories, her performance that could have been packed full of nuance and inner turmoil is muted as a result of the reduced screen time.

DeHaan fares far worse, on the evidence such as this, it is clear that he’s getting all too dangerously close to being stereotyped as ‘the creepy guy’. Don’t get me wrong, he is amazing at what he does, but his almost pantomime villain performance here threatens to tip the film off the rails and into yet further mediocrity.

devilsknot3The recreations of the 90s is faithfully captured through the now humourlessly chunky mobile phones and of course, dress sense but very little effort is made to get a real sense of the community at the time. What caused the almost witch-hunt of the three accused boys was the tightly bound community bonded together by their faith and almost uniform identity of polite small town America. The fact that the accused were the total antithesis to this fuelled the flames of the town’s paranoia and, arguably, the police’s personal prejudices. Egoyan’s limited focus in his three storylines skimps on the Satanic Panic that was sweeping America at the time and as a result, leaves the film feeling a tad limp and without much context.

Admittedly, those who have read a lot into the case or watched the documentaries bring heightened levels of expectation that a theatrical feature, primarily designed to entertain, could never hope to fully satisfy. So does it work on a cinematic level? Well no, the film rushes through interesting and well captured moments, such as the child whose recorded statement was proven to be completely manipulated and then slows down to an excruciating snail’s pace when dealing with Rox Lax’s divorce.

The film’s main stumbling block is its sheer reluctance to really get its hands dirty and expose the truly horrifying nature of the case and the highly dubious actions of the police and justice system. Scenes of a potentially troubling nature are handled with the delicate care of the ‘Hallmark’ channel and it is only come the end of the film with its fact cards that any real feathers are properly rustled, the audience I was in shaking their heads in disbelief at the all too true farcical actions of the police force after the events of the film had concluded. It is of course difficult to render dramatic tension when we already know the outcome but if a film like David Fincher’s ‘Zodiac’ can make it look so effortless and resurrect the genuine horror behind a real life case, then such an excuse simply doesn’t hold much water.

devilsknot4‘The Devil’s Knot’ could have been made far stronger if it had simply stuck to one of its three storylines and told that version of ‘what happened’. In attempting to cover all the ground, Egoyan has spread himself far too thin. As a result of trying to focus on all the key footnotes, the director lost out on creating any real intrigue, tension or even and perhaps most crucially, any sense of anger at the injustice the boys suffered. Perhaps, stories as shocking and confounding as this can only be properly expressed through the documentary medium. Real life can be infinitely more terrifying and aggravating than any piece of fiction.

Verdict: A heavily sedated trundle through an incendiary story, only held afloat by the solid performances. 5/10

Cinematic Review: Oculus (2013)

O1Oculus (2013)

105 mins

Dir: Mike Flanagan

Starring: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Kate Sackhoff, James Lafftery and Rory Cochrane

Ten years have passed since the brutal murder of the parents of siblings Tim (Thwaites) and Kaylie (Gillan). After only recently being released from protective custody having being accused of their murder, Tim simply wants to get on with his life but Kaylie suspects something more sinister was responsible for her parents death. Believing the cause to be somehow linked to the antique Lasser Glass mirror in their home, the two soon discover the mirror’s dark history and that the nightmare is far from over.

A darling of the festival circuit and surprisingly picking up a great deal of praise from the usually stuffy towards horror mainstream media, the red warning sirens to signify the Hype-Monster rang aloud in my head as I sat down in my local multiplex, fully prepared for yet another ‘Sinister’ or God forbid, ‘Paranormal Activity’.

O2 To say that I was pleasantly surprised, is a gross understatement. With the summer heat finally hitting these shores, it was simply delightful to experience bucket-loads of ice being poured down your back as ‘Oculus’ took great glee in creating a wonderfully chilling horror film, the likes of which we have not had for a long time. Before any of you who know a bit about this film start worrying about a repeat of the dreary Keifer Sutherland vehicle, ‘Mirrors’, put those fears to rest right away. Yes there’s a possessed mirror involved here…

Or is there?

Perhaps the most unexpected element of ‘Oculus’ is how much it is willing to take its time and demands that audiences be patient. A bold move in this era of ADD jumped up on ‘Jump Scare’ energy drinks horror films and one that lifts the film head and shoulders above its contemporaries. There is a deliberate and wonderful gradual progression of scares to be had here, there’s the odd ‘jump’ but the film’s primary focus is stirring up a immensely thick atmosphere of dread that builds to an almighty watch through your fingers climax.

O3The film takes a great risk by alienating both gorehounds and Friday Night Shriekers alike by firmly sticking to its guns and slowly unravelling the many layers of this disturbing present. It is fascinating to see the clinical lengths to which Kaylie (Gillan) has prepared to do battle with and document the paranormal, with so many horror films hinging on the stupidity and lack of resources of the protagonists, you genuinely struggle, initially, to see how things could go wrong.

Of course, however, the proverbial eventually and agonisingly hits the fan as the film’s vice-like grip on your senses grows ever tighter. Rarely, in this day and age, do we get to see a horror film that emphasises brains over mindless violence and ‘Oculus’ is a film that wants your mind to be bent and misshapen and leave you terrifyingly disorientated as to what’s real and what may or may not be in the characters’ heads. It is not an easy job to mix the chills and thrills of both the supernatural and ‘real world’ horror, but ‘Oculus’ does a pretty perfect job of it. It says a great deal that Gillan’s simple reading of the records of the mirror’s dark history is spine-tingling and pins you back in your seat without the need to resort to messy flashbacks.

A long-thought forgotten element of all the best horror is mercifully resurrected here in the form of subtext. With so many films abusing the idea of suppressed memories as a cheap get out explanation, ‘Oculus’ uses the notion to its proper, full potential. Refusing to give us answers, it is left to the viewer’s discretion as to what they think is really going on. Is there really a possessed mirror or is this all as a result of the terrifyingly human symptom of abuse? We the audience, are left in the dark and that is frankly terrifying!

O4The film makes the wise decision to stick to a very limited cast, focusing almost entirely on the two siblings throughout as both adults and children. Able support is provided by the parents who, even despite not having an enormous amount of space, are able to establish fantastic character development and their rocky relationship with one another before things really go off the rails. The two child actors deliver incredibly realised performances, really excellently capturing both the childhood innocence, vulnerability and then a believable level of bravery in the fight for their lives.

Relative newcomer, Thwaites, has a great turn and capturing the fragility of a recently released mental patient struggling to acclimatise , who is naturally highly reluctant to revisit past trauma but really, this film is all about the knock-out performance from former Doctor Who companion, Karen Gillan. Gillan holds up the film with incredible gusto. Her character, Kaylie is assured, independent and wouldn’t be caught dead running away screaming hysterically in a skimpy outfit.

Her character is easily comparable to a Nancy or Laurie, she wants to confront the evil head on with the demeanour of a really methodical tough cookie, dismissing and scorning the mirror’s attempts to hurt her. It is simply astounding that she is able to balance this so believably well when she is gradually broken down by the overwhelming odds against her in having to confront the demons of her past. With such an acting range and likeable charm, this could well be Gillan’s first step into the big leagues, with her upcoming bad guy role in Marvel blockbuster, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ sure to elevate her stock into the stratosphere.

O5On a par with Gillan is the director, Mike Flanagan, who effortlessly steers the film to avoid any of the trappings of the cliché-ridden modern genre horror. It is true to say that what Flanagan does is not original but it has been a long time since a director has been able to put his own stamp on and properly collate previously established horror blueprints effectively. The use of the double narratives of the past and the present running side by side is yet another gamble the film takes, but like any true lover of the craft, Flanagan is not pandering and taking his audience for idiots.

Much like Ti West, Flanagan clearly favours the slow-burn and skin-crawling build up with proper investment in the story and characters because this will ultimately lead to a passionately intense and emotionally-driven climax. From my own personal perspective, it seems as though Flanagan has been keenly observing all that is wrong with modern horror and ‘Oculus’ is his miraculous demonstration of how to do things oh so very right.

It is sadly unlikely that ‘Oculus’ will ring in a new dawn of intelligent and provocative horror. Many who see it will have more than the odd bone to pick and the general cinema goer will most likely find its restraint to be suffocating. This is a film, however, that was not made with only the box office in mind and it is incredibly refreshing to see a production whose primary concern was delivering a good, solid horror film. It may not ever be considered a classic of the genre, but it deserves as big of an audience as it can possibly get for being a true standard-bearer for intelligent and gripping horror.

Verdict: A clever, tense and chilling thriller, featuring some superb acting and the signs of a bold new voice in horror from director Flanagan. 10/10

P.S Oh, and you may want to check carefully before taking a bite out of an apple next time you have one…

The UKHS Ecstasy & Agony Showcase #15 – The Evil Dead (1981) by Oli Ryder

The UKHS Ecstasy & Agony Showcase #15:

The Ecstasy of THE EVIL DEAD (1981)

It’s the return of Oli Ryder today as he gets all mushy about his greatest genre love…

evildead1When asked to write about my very favourite piece of horror filmmaking, there was and will only ever be one answer: Sam Raimi’s masterpiece The Evil Dead.

I didn’t actually discover the film until a few good years into my obsession with all things horror. I knew of it and the uproar it caused back in the eighties as a near part of the Video Nasty scandal, but for one reason or another I kept verging off to discover other established classics. Finally, our paths would cross one fateful night…

On Film 4’s Extreme Cinema mini-season, the immaculately quiffed Mark Kermode gave a brief but pulse-quickening introduction of just what was about to come at me with all guns blazing. With the most innocuous of all horror film openings, where the creeping force POV (shot by Raimi running with a camera strapped to a board of wood) catches up with the hapless five college students of their way to an old abandoned cabin in the woods, no hint of the true horror of what’s in store is hinted at. It is only after they’ve crossed the bridge and start to approach the cabin that the chills really start to tingle down the spine.

At this point, all the noise has suddenly stopped and all that can be heard is the endless banging of the outdoor swing against the cabin wall… Which suddenly stops as soon as jock Scotty reaches the door. This moment never fails to put a big grin on my face as this is where the rush of fear starts to kick in. The film deliberately takes its time to have a slow build-up, establishing characters and slipping in lots of brilliantly chilling moments, like Cheryl’s hand becoming possessed, the sudden opening of the iconic cellar door and of course, the discovery of the Book of the Dead (the film’s original, less stark title) and the playing of the mysterious tape that resurrects the Kandarian demons.

evildead2Once the infamous tree-rape scene occurs, the film throws the audience into a bloody and disturbing assault course of fear that never lets up; it’s still just as effective now as it was over 30 years ago. It has always been interesting to me how many people view the film as a comedy. This could be down to the modern-day perspective of the special effects or the admittedly very hokey acting but for me, the film absolutely terrified me the first time I saw it and still gives me a great thrill every time I watch it. Whilst the demon make up is basic, I am always in awe of just how damn creepy they are all made to look! The classic image of Ellen Sandweiss’ head just sticking out from under the cellar floorboard is one that’s forever burned into my retinas.

The demon voices, all distorted and growling are also hugely effective; Betsy Baker’s shrill taunts of “We’re gonna get you!” are profoundly unnerving. The scares aren’t all about the extreme bloody carnage of dismemberment and torrents of blood, however. I’ve always argued that that there is a surprising amount of subtly to The Evil Dead that is too often ignored. The great mystery of just what happened to the man from the recordings or just what on earth he was doing deciding to see if the demon incantation really worked is never explained. On top of this, the malevolent force that stalks the group is never once seen for what it really is. I don’t know it’s just me, but I find the concept genuinely scary! Even if it’s made somewhat less scary when discovering the terrifying calls of “Join Us!” were made off-camera by Sam Raimi growling into a megaphone.

evildead3Technically, the film is a sheer marvel when its incredibly limited budget is considered. Resorting to the use of marshmallows, stop motion animation and milk, it says a great deal that the amount of carnage and gore displayed onscreen is still effectively squishy and nasty. Raimi’s camerawork is, without question, one of the reasons why the film still looks so impressive and is held in such high regard. Examples such as the ‘floating’ force pov or the incredibly bizarre angles that are employed towards the end of the film to give the impression of a totally warped reality are magnificent and clearly marked him out as a future visionary talent. My very favourite aspect of his directing here is just how intensely he is able to hold your attention and never lets the pace or the tension relent for even a second. I have seen the film countless times now and still feel like I’ve been put through the ringer afterwards!

Oh and of course, Bruce Campbell is the man. His Ash is the everyman, thrown into a hellish situation who somehow manages to pull through and survive. Despite doing all his own stunts, Bruce (in this film anyway!) is not the toughest of guys, and doesn’t even initially have the air of a leading man about him but that is why he has such an endless appeal. Ash is us, the viewer, and with such a proud chin, is just so darn groovy.

evildeadoliWhat comes through most of all in the film and possibly one of the main reasons why I cherish it so much, is that despite all the violence and gore, you can genuinely feel all the love and effort that went into the making of it. Despite cast-members having to wear painful glass eye contacts, the struggles of a limited budget and all the problems that can plague a small production, the film was gloriously unique and threw a bold marker down for the shape of horror to come. To my mind, it is still yet to be surpassed. It has a great story, awesome special effects and remains a genuinely scary classic!

 

*****

Read all the previous Ecstasy & Agony pieces by clicking them:

#1 Dead & Buried (1981) by Duane Hicks 

#2 The Happening (2008) by James Pemberton 

#3 Sleepstalker (1995) by Matty Budrewicz

#4 A Serbian Film (2010) by Oli Ryder

#5 A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Dead (1985) by Dave Wain

#6 Cabin In The Woods (2012) by Joey Keogh

#7 Battle Royale (2000) by Mark Pidgeon 

#8 Avia Vampire Hunter (2005) by Andy Deen

#9 La Jetee (1962) by Stuart Anderson

#10 The Shining (1980) by Stuart Smith

#11 The Thing (1982) by Dean Sills

#12 Monster Brawl (2011) by Duane Hicks 

#13 Session 9 (2001) by James Pemberton

#14 Crimetime (1996) by Dave Wain 

The UKHS Ecstasy & Agony Showcase #4 – A Serbian Film (2010) by Oli Ryder

The UKHS Ecstasy & Agony Showcase #4:
The Agony of A SERBIAN FILM (2010)

asf1It’s day four of our Ecstasy & Agony Showcase, where each of the UKHS take it in turns to profile a film they love and a film they hate. Today finds Oli Ryder waxing angry about his most hated horror experience, the dark and deeply controversial A Serbian Film. Safe to say, **SPOILERS FOLLOW**. It ain’t pretty, y’all!

Now don’t get me wrong: despite what I’m about to say, all the hubbub and controversy is exactly what drew me to A Serbian Film in the first place. Like the moth to the flame that I am, I simply had to see what all the fuss was about.

In this day and age it’s become so hard to shock horror audiences with something they haven’t seen before. In a junkie-like manner, many of us still find ourselves chasing that elusive dragon; the thrill of fear and joyful disgust that we first got when discovering this wonderfully dark strand of cinema for the first time.
However, in order to make us feel invested and truly disturbed by what we are seeing, there has to be both a purpose and meaning behind any violence depicted. Otherwise it’s just being controversial and extreme for the sake of it.

And that is why A Serbian Film rubs me so far up the wrong way.
It should be remembered that grot horror such as the Faces of Death series has been around a long time, and it does bring me to wonder as to whether or not that A Serbian Film will one day be considered just as old hat when something more extreme has come along to take its place (like the third Human Centipede film).

asf2I would not be in the least bit surprised if something even more outrageous came along, but that does not mean that I would be flocking back to A Serbian Film, armed to reassess it, anytime soon. As it stands, it is the one horror film that I would refuse outright to ever watching again. I’ll continue to berate the Paranormal Activity films with great gusto until they stop but, ultimately, their worst crime is being stupid. If it pleases the court, the crimes against the horror genre I hold against A Serbian Film are far more serious.

For starters, it is far from stupid. Despite my abject hatred for it, I concede that it is shot immaculately and I was even thoroughly invested in the story. Whilst watching it for the first time, I felt like I was more than prepared for what was coming as the initial build-up had been so well put together. The sense of imposing dread and mystery that hung over the lead character of retired porn star Milos [Srdjan Todorovic] was gripping, and the instructions being delivered through an earpiece by imposing director Vukmir [Sergej Trifunovic] were profoundly creepy and disturbing….and then… “Newborn porn”.

Now I’m not going to go off on a rant at how outraged I was by the sheer depravity of this scene, but it was at this point that the film revealed itself to be nothing more than a piece of immature trash. This scene and the remainder of the film served no purpose other than trying to be as controversial as possible to get the public to rise up in outcry, thus gaining more publicity and ultimately poor saps like myself to fall victim to its assault on the eyes. The point where Milos kills the burly security guard by sticking his erection deep into his eye-socket sums up how I felt after having watched it quite neatly, followed up by wanting to shower myself in bleach.

asf3I am fully aware that director Srdjan Spasojevic has defended all the extremely violent and eye-soiling actions depicted in the film as being an allegory for the way the Serbian government treats its people. To directly quote him, A Serbian Film is “about the monolithic power of leaders who hypnotise you to do things you don’t want to do. You have to feel the violence to know what it’s about”. Absolute bollocks. From my perspective, what I saw was a director so desperate for attention that he tried to come up with the sickest, most vomit-inducing shit he could think of and has tried to mask it as ‘art’.

A film can be a metaphor for something without having to bludgeon an audience over the head with all the grace of an angry rhino. When you have horrific abuse scenes and fathers raping their own sons whilst their brother in law rapes his wife next to him, then it is clear that the film’s sole intention was to deliberately push buttons, like a naughty child pressing every stop in an elevator.

asf4My biggest problem with A Serbian Film though is not the gratuitous violence. If anything, when a film such as this tries so hard to shock and appal, I am just completely unimpressed. My main problem is the message it sends out to the non-horror world. It gives one of the most caring and heartfelt group of fans imaginable an extremely negative image, and could make any average Joe think we’re all fans of this kind of empty-head garbage. The fact that it’s only the vile violence of films like this that get the general public’s attention, rather than genuine horror made with love, is a sad blight on an often already misunderstood of genre. Films like A Serbian Film hold the horror industry back and if I could work it into my will, every single copy of it would be thrown into the nearest volcano.

I realise of course that in getting so wound up about A Serbian Film I’ve played right into Spasojevic’s grubby little hands because that’s exactly what he wanted. Hey-ho.
*******
#1 Dead & Buried (1981) by Duane Hicks 

#2 The Happening (2008) by James Pemberton 

#3 Sleepstalker (1995) by Matty Budrewicz

An Interview with producer and script supervisor Sandy King Carpenter

Interview with Sandy King Carpenter for UK Horror Scene

S1UKHS: Hi Sandy! First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us! You seem to be a creative type who enjoys having a huge number of fingers in incredibly varying pies, does it ever get confusing or difficult hopping from one medium to another? Would you class yourself as a total workaholic?

SKC: HA HA HA!! Oh my God, I don’t think so. I prefer to think I just have a very active and interesting life. There are many ways to tell a story and they all offer interesting challenges and opportunities to reach new audiences. I find that there is a more organic flow than one might think from one medium to the other when the various avenues present themselves. My path into film making came from animation, which had come from my being an artist first, so there is more of a common thread between these worlds (say the comic books and the movies) than it might first appear.

UKHS: Of all your many projects that you have worked on, do you have a particular favourite that you find yourself looking back on with the most pride?

SKC: That’s like asking a parent to choose between their children. Most of the great memories come from the experience of working with great technicians and artists who become your family and friends. I love making movies. I love making comic books. I love learning new things and in our business, the technology is constantly evolving. There is no point at which you sit back and say, “Now I know it all.” I get excited when I’m driving down the freeway and I see film trucks headed down the highway at magic hour. I want to follow them like the circus. I want to see what they’re doing and how. So I might answer your question this way: that the film I am doing at the moment is my favorite and the most exciting. It’s new love–fresh and unknown.
BUT…I love “Big Trouble in Little China” to sit back with a big bowl of popcorn and laugh my ass off with.
“Vampires” to remember waiting for the sunrises in New Mexico to fly Valek across the sky.
“Rumble Fish” for working 104 hours a week in 115 degree heat and making an American art film.
“Starman” for finding true love.

UKHS: Having expanded your talents to the world of comic books, are you pleased with how they are now hugely embedded on mainstream conscious like never before or do you find yourself pining for the days when the world of comic book fans and makers felt more shall we say ‘exclusive and secretive’?

SKC: I’ve never been a fan of exclusive clubs. Whenever I find something I think is cool I like to share it, so I love that comics and graphic novels are finally getting their due. Finally mainstream is recognizing the great artists and writers who have been telling stories there, and much like current television, I think the comic world is expanding and the writing is getting even more diversified and better. Maybe I’m crazy, but it feels like a second Golden Age of comics to me.

S7UKHS: We seemingly can’t move these days for huge blockbuster pictures based on comic books, with their often incredibly varying quality, do you feel that there’s a slight case of over-kill in the market?

SKC: Not all comics make good movies and not all movies make good comics. It’s not one size fits all. I’m just pleased at the number who have gotten it right.

UKHS: Something that certainly can’t be ignored is the very male-dominated focus of both the films and fan-base in general. Having worked on the fantastic ‘Heroes’ anthology with Womanthology, do you feel as if you’ve made a significant step to stem the tide or is there more that still needs to be done to have female characters be on level footing with their male counterparts?

SKC: Actually, I did the second anthology, “Space”, which was the series that grew out of “Heroes”. Rene Deliz was the driving force behind Womanthology and I thought she did a brilliant job of showing publishers and retailers and readers that there was all this female talent in the comic industry ready to tell stories that all ages of females (and males) would buy. She proved we were economically viable and supportable. Little girls could be found in the corner of comic shops across the country reading that giant volume of Womanthology comics. Twice.

In general, the best way to push female character forward is to make them as interesting and as deeply flawed a their male counterparts. Make them WHOLE personalities. Gail Simone has always written amazing female characters and pushed Red Sonja right up to the forefront when she took it over.
EVERYBODY was reading it. That’s what it takes. You can’t whine and make it happen.

UKHS: As someone who’s dealt with their fair share of projects of the horror genre persuasion, what do you personally find is the best way to scare people?

SKC: Suspense and dread. It isn’t about the gore and the jumps so much as it is the underlying truths of personal fear.

UKHS: How do you personally see the state of the horror genre as it is today in comparison to what it was?

SKC: I think it’s gotten lazy. But I have faith we’ll cycle back into something more interesting. I’m glad the slasher/torture porn seems to have worn itself out.
I’m happy the Scandinavians seem to have infiltrated a bit and given us a bit of darkness.

S5UKHS: Are we any closer to getting the highly anticipated ‘Darkchylde’ film adaptation off the ground?

SKC: I sure hope so. We are currently finalizing the look book for the agents to take out and have just finished shooting some motion capture segments for the pre-viz for sales presentations. WETA has designed some great monsters for us and we have our visual FX team together and sets being designed.

UKHS: Much of John Carpenter’s iconic film scores have recently been lovingly pressed onto vinyl and snapped up incredibly quickly by die-hard fans. Does it surprise you at all that his music is still considered to be so influential and adored and do you find it a shame that these days there appears to be a distinct lack of effort put into a film’s soundtrack?

SKC: I’m not surprised at all by how popular his soundtracks are. He’s a great composer and some of his themes are truly iconic. While some soundtracks seem either over-amped or cliched, I am in awe of Hans Zimmer and Brian Tyler’s work. John Williams is still hammering them out and I thought Steven Price’s score for “Gravity” was really good. T-Bone Burnett does the unexpected.

UKHS: Increasingly today, a great deal of effort is being put into creating truly terrifying horror video-game experiences that often pack a great story with them. Are you at all concerned that with the direct interaction afforded by the game experience that audiences may end up turning their back on horror films altogether?

SKC: No. They are two different forms of entertainment. A good horror movie is like a good ghost story told around a campfire. Great Stephen King books read at night with a storm outside are another way to get scared. A massive roller coaster that turns upside down works, too. There’s room for it all.

S3UKHS: With the world increasingly focusing of the injustices of the “1%” and the terrifying manipulative powers of corporations, do you almost feel eerily prophetic when you look back on the satire of ‘They Live’? It certainly feels as relevant watching it today as it must have been at the time, if not more so

SKC: At the time we considered it political satire and still do. It was what we saw happening around us. Nothing has changed.

UKHS: On a personal note, ‘Big Trouble In Little China’ is one of my all time favourite films and I still find it outrageous that it wasn’t the success it deserved to be at the time. When assisting with the script, did you feel that it was going to potentially be too ‘out-there’ for mainstream audiences or that it was so unique and exciting a project that it didn’t really matter?

SKC: No. It’s a great movie. Funny, timeless and discovered by new generations every incarnation of home video, DVD and Netflix that comes along. It’s a movie that succeeded in spite of a studio that made every effort to bury it. We believed in it. We still believe in it and Jack Burton and the Pork Chop Express roll on.

S4UKHS: The hugely-anticipated comic book series based on the film is coming out this summer, what, if anything can you tell us about it and is it the closest we’ll get to ever seeing Jack Burton again?

SKC: Eric Powell, the creator of “The Goon”, is writing the new comic. He and John have been working together to set the tone for it and I think fans of both the movie and Eric’s comics will have fun with the new book. BOOM! publishes good quality comic books, and from what I’ve seen of the upcoming art and covers and pieces of the stories, I think “Big Trouble” fans will have fun with them. As for the future of Jack Burton? I wish Fox would ask us to fire up the Pork Chop Express again. I think Jack and Wang could really shake the pillars of heaven one more time.

UKHS: And finally, if you had to select one film of your husband’s extensive back catalogue to watch on the couch on a lazy Sunday, which one would it be and why?

SKC: Only one? Damn. Give me two Sundays.
On a lazy summer Sunday it would be “Big Trouble in Little China” for the sheer fun of it. I have great memories of everyone involved in it and I love a comedy that I can lose myself in and laugh out loud.
On a dark and rainy winter Sunday–preferably with thunder and lightening–it would be “The Thing”. I have to say that this is my all time favourite movie of John’s. I think it is flawless film making. I’ve seen it dozens of times and the suspense still kills me. Jeb, the dog from the Norwegian camp, walking down the hallways looking in doors is terrifying. Testing for the blood…I still jump every time it screams. The notion underneath it all that you aren’t what you seem. Perfect.

UKHS: Sandy King Carpenter, it’s been an enormous honour, from all of us at UKHorrorScene, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to us!

SKC: Thank you for asking.

 

 

 

The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears (2013) Review

S1The Strange Colour Of Your Body’s Tears (2013)
102 mins
Dir: Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani
Starring: Klaus Tange, Ursula Bedena, Joe Koener, Birgit Yew, Hans de Munter and Anna D’Annunzio

 A man returns home to his lavish apartment after a business trip to discover his wife has disappeared. Through a series of increasingly bizarre and surreal encounters with his neighbours, the closer he gets to unveiling the truth, the more his life is in danger…

Directorial duo, Cattet and Forzani first came to my attention with their segment ‘O if for Orgasm’ from the much loved and maligned ‘The ABCs of Death’, released last year. What made the short stand out was the fact that is was arguably the most ‘restrained’ in a mixed bag of the downright crude and the openly nasty. There was very little violence involved, as it favoured a captivating surreal erotic style that provided welcome relief from killer pieces of shit and miscarriages trapped in toilet u-bends.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, however, that what works and ensnares your interest in a short will not always work for a feature length film. Nowhere more so is this truth displayed here, in a film so head-thumpingly awful it makes you feel like a fool for being drawn in so easily by the alluring flashing lights of the short. This film can surely just be described as the previous segment that has been stretched out for an ungodly 102 minutes and makes you question why ever you were interested in the first place.

S2What little narrative structure there is resembles a cat’s cradle from hell of tangled plot strands that go absolutely nowhere and do so in excruciatingly slow a fashion. We see the lead in Klaus Tange (looking like a gruff mix of Chris Martin and Willem Dafoe) stumble awkwardly from one weird neighbourly encounter to the next with absolutely zero sense of narrative cohesion or a lick of sense. Half way through the film, we do discover what happened to the wife, but the film is too busy trying to show off all the incredibly deep and brain-bending camera trickery to really give it a second thought. The film serves as the perfect example of when withholding information from an audience in an attempt to beguile ends up drastically backfiring and results in the viewer not giving a damn about just what the hell was actually supposed to be happening.

The not insignificant amount of sexual violence is robed in the false clothes of ‘arthouse’ filmmaking. It is nearly impossible to move for all the poor attempts at staples such as symbolism, including but not limited to making stab wounds all look like vaginas. The gore stands and loggerheads with the flashy visuals and results in an unpalatable mix of the cheap and grizzly giallo style and the French New Wave. In attempting to bridge the gap between these two wildly different styles, it falls between the two and just ends up looking like a mess with an identity crisis.

S5 Effectively creepy ideas such as a character wearing another’s skin are smothered by moments where, in an attempt at being profound, the film style changes to a slowed-down frame-rate, making the film looking like it’s jumping on a badly scratched DVD. For all the film’s attempts at being erotically charged, the sexualised elements get boring incredibly quickly, unless you have a thing for black leather and S&M. It could easily be argued that the experience of watching this self-righteous garbage is some form of sexualised torture in its own right, provoking audiences to feel unclean and in need of a good shower.

A further example of the filmmakers sucking even more blood from Argento and his brood, comes in the form of the soundtrack. Performed by a bad trying so desperately hard to be Italian prog rockers, (and frequent giallo soundtrack contributors) Goblin, that you can practically hear the musicians licking their boots in every irksome twang of the guitars. To its credit, however, the long periods of exposure to the soundtrack does have the intended maddening effect as it seems to get progressively louder until it’s unbearable. Amusingly, one of the characters actively demands for it to be turned off because it’s “awful”.

S6 It would be overly mean to say that there are no redeeming qualities in the film. It looks fantastic with its luridly-lit style that compliments the plot by blurring the line between reality and fiction. The setting of the gorgeously unique and mysterious apartment building adds to the attempted mysticism, but the real problem is that horror aficionados will have seen this all before. Every film made much be judged on its own merits but with the constant nods to the giallo style of horror (blood reds, haunting blues, bizarre murals and of course, lots of close-ups of breasts), the leather coating the film is covered in wears out and begins to chafe very quickly and painfully.

There will of course be those who hold this film up as a masterpiece of boundary-pushing surrealism and the reason I (and many others) didn’t like it is simply because we didn’t get it. I truly believe, that there really is nothing more going on in the vacuous head of this film, than the desire to deliberately be obtuse and out there in the hopes of making the filmmakers and the fans of the film feel very smug and pleased with themselves. I’d much rather be watching a killer clay-mation toilet again. Tres profond? More like tres bollocks.

Verdict: A film so up itself that it’s been turned inside out several times over. 1/10

Magic Magic (2013) Review

M1Magic Magic (2013)
97 mins
Dir: Sebastian Silva
Starring: Juno Temple, Emily Browning, Michael Cera, Catalina Sandino Moreno and Agustin Silva

 Alicia (Temple) is making her first trip out of the United States to visit her friend Sarah (Browning) and get some rest and relaxation on a tranquil island in Chile. Once she gets to the island, however, the cruel humour of Sarah’s friends and a complete lack of sleep starts to tear at Alicia’s fragile sanity…

‘Magic Magic’ seems like a bizarre film to have not had a wide-release and to have more or less gone straight to DVD. It has a highly bankable star in Michael Cera, an up and coming star in Emily Browning and for many, the intrigue of the superb Juno Temple. After a stunning support turn in the none more black ‘Killer Joe’, it was an exciting prospect to see Temple finally take centre stage and in a slow-burn psychological horror no less.

After some stunning cinematography of the cinematically unfamiliar setting of Chile, the film wastes little time in jumping into the narrative of Alicia being awkwardly introduced to her oldest friend’s new friends. The group includes her boyfriend Augustine (Silva), bitchy driver Barbara (Moreno) and Brink (Cera) looking unnaturally like a young John Turturro and somehow making the wearing of a woolly turtleneck seem really creepy. Following a long road trip, suddenly, Browning jumps ship and Temple is left to get better acquainted with the weird habits of her fellow islanders.

M2Signs soon arise that these are not the sort of people you want to be marooned with, the basic staples of cruelty towards animals an untoward sexual advances are slowly rolled out and after being traumatised by an overly amorous dog (no I’m not joking), Alicia soon begins to lose her grip on reality and her own behaviour.

Some of this is starting to sound awfully familiar. A lodge/cabin in the woods (oooooo) by the lake, animal cruelty, psychological torture and forcing people to do acts against their will? Oh bloody hell, it’s ‘Funny Games’ all over again, only slightly less pretentious but still just as insufferable. ‘Magic Magic’ is only able to separate itself from the aforementioned horror film (that lectures you about how terrible of a person you are for watching horror films) in that it isn’t anywhere near as actively hateful, just dull, lifeless and just past the hour mark completely does away with the psychological horror angle in favour of ‘sympathetically’ capturing mental illness by having Temple run around the island like a basket case.

Fortunately, the film is not a total disaster. Temple truly tries her best to make the awkwardly bad dialogue work and does work hard to portray the emotional imbalance that her character is suffering. It is a performance of high quality that such a poor film frankly does not deserve. She’s proved now though that she is more than capable of steeping up to the lead role and should no longer just be restricted to reliable support roles. Cera’s performance is certainly revelatory also. Whilst his over the top creepiness (possibly also as a result of some form of mental illness) stands at odds with the more natural approach of the rest of the cast, it is still enjoyable to see him going so far against his far too repeated type. At one point, the film casually focuses on Brink masturbating to the thought of Alicia which is both disturbing and highly cringe-worthy.

M3 It would be unfair to say that there was nothing in this film that worked. There are several unnerving moments, such as when it appears that Brink is very much on the verge of forcing himself upon Alicia but too often these moments are just dropped like a hot potato and the film reverts back to the characters being irritating and under-developed. The best moment in the film is a scene where Augustine has hypnotised Alicia and Brink begins to make her perform humiliating acts. This scene works superbly at being disturbing and hard to watch as the group all seem to get a perverse please from watching Alicia be humiliated and ends with her burning herself in the fire. The question that hangs over the scene is if Alicia really is hypnotised or not which adds a fascinating potential direction for the film which it tragically completely fails to capitalise on.

Come the end of the film, it completely gives up on its original focus and ends with an excruciatingly over-long search for the AWOL Alicia, followed by a bizarre tribal dance performed by the people of a nearby village. It was, without question, the worst ending to a film I have seen in a long while. It did not make one iota of sense and the final reactions of the support characters moaning and groaning with their heads in their hands very likely mirror those of the unfortunate viewer.

With a couple of superb actors in Temple and Cera, there was all the potential to create a disturbing depiction of the abuse of mental illness. At times, the film this could have been was glimpsed but these moments were all too few and far between and the end result was a tediously dull misfire. The film had no real grasp of what it wanted to be and audiences will only want it to be over as soon as possible.

 Verdict: A superb performance from Temple can’t stop this from being a huge messy letdown 3/10

The Library (2013) Review

The Library - PosterThe Library (2013)
90 mins
Dir: Daljinder Singh

Starring: Sibylle Bernardin, Bradley Carpenter and Kathryn Walker

Ignoring the warnings, young Lucy Clarke (Bernardin) starts work at the infamous Beckinsale Library. Hidden amongst the bookshelves, Lucy slowly starts to unravel the dark secrets of the library and soon discovers that whatever dark force lies within it is trying to get rid of her, for good.

It is wonderfully refreshing to see this independent horror make the case that libraries can still be pretty creepy places if used properly, which the film does to a remarkably high standard. The very basic plot revolves around young art student Lucy who is looking to finish off her MA, struggling financially; she takes up a part-time job at the library and becomes the target of interest from some unspecified malevolent force. It is interesting that whilst the library itself is in a classical building, it has been fairly modernised within, which makes the achievement of still being able to pull off some highly unnerving moments all the more commendable.

Stylistically, the film is almost comparable to Ti West’s magnificent, ‘The House of the Devil’, in that it takes its time to establish characters and atmosphere long before going for the jugular with the scares. Director, Daljinder Singh, makes a bold decision to open the film with shots of the library and an accompanying police report that details the grisly murder of the main character before the audience has even met her. Far from burdening the film with a sense of inevitability, this greatly adds to the doom-laden atmosphere and adds a sad sword of Damocles-like sympathy for the main character, in that we are aware she is not long for this world and can’t do a thing to stop her eventual fate.

For whatever the film lacks with regards to budget restrictions with regards to the visuals, it more than just makes up for it with a wonderfully eerie score by Vista Films and Samuel Allen that constantly permeates through the veneer of ‘everything being OK’ and adds a sinister, disquieting edge. It is evocative of the legendary Akira Yamaoka who provided the music for the ‘Silent Hill’ videogame series. There are no grand orchestral flourishes or stings with shrieking violins, just a chillingly calm score that belies a creeping menace hidden behind it.

Lib2   The acting perfectly complements the film’s natural style in that the characters are all very well realised even though there is not too much time to get to know them properly. Sibylle Bernardin has the unenviable task of appearing in almost every single scene but she is able to create a perfectly likable and sympathetic lead. Whilst the rest of the limited cast perform well and seem to have a perfect chemistry with one another, the film falls down in its depiction of an unnecessarily over the top frosty head librarian and a mad old woman who only appears in one scene to offer Lucy a warning before promptly urinating all over the carpet (Can I not go a week without seeing a film that rips off ‘The Exorcist?’). These characters completely take away from the film’s brilliantly natural and ‘real world’ style and serve as nothing more than jarring stereotypes that hinder proper investment in the film’s narrative.

With regards to actual scares, the choice has very wisely been made to keep it subtle and there are several delightfully creepy moments throughout that may not sound like much, but are surprisingly effective. There is a wonderful scene in the restricted section of the library where a great deal of tension is effectively raised by doing very little and later on, the fact that this film is able to make a shot of automatic doors…opening by themselves scary then the filmmakers are definitely doing something right! The camera changes throughout to a negative lens to show the pov of whatever force is stalking Lucy and what worked so brilliantly was the first time it’s shown to not have been restricted to just the library and is following her everywhere. It is never revealed what it looks like, but the shots that happen immediately in front of Lucy’s unseeing face are superbly spooky.

The Library Still 04The enormous glowing red ‘weak spot’ however is the film’s woefully poor ending. Alongside several examples of incredibly clunky exposition dialogue, it was a great shame to see what was a genuinely neat little box of thrills go to waste as ‘The Library’ committed the cardinal sin of building up so much intrigue and then explaining nothing. It is a very thin line to walk between scaring audiences with an unresolved ending or leaving them with a bitter taste in their mouths as literally none of the weird events or allusions to a larger picture in this film were concluded.

Combined with a catastrophically poor choice of end credits song (some cheery indie-pop after a girl’s just been killed? Really?) it really was sad to see ‘The Library’ end on such a bum note. Once you can get past all the gaping plot holes (Who was that girl? What was the necklace? Oh I could go on…) then the film should be highly commended for being a terrific debut feature for the director and, at times, definitely succeeded in being highly unnerving and enjoyably spooky.

 Verdict: A great home-grown subtle chiller that only lets itself down in its conclusion. 8/10

You can watch The Library on VOD now from Distrify HERE

The Quiet Ones (2014) Cinematic Review

Q1The Quiet Ones (2014)
98 mins
Dir: John Pogue
Starring: Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Olivia Cooke, Erin Richards and Max Pirkis

Set in the 1970s, cameraman Brian McNeil (Claflin), is enlisted by Professor Coupland (Harris) to document every stage of his latest experiment to disprove the existence of the supernatural. The subject is a young woman called Jane (Cooke) who is believed to be possessed by a malevolent spirit named “Evey”. As the experiment progresses, it soon becomes clear that Jane’s demons may not be in her head and are in fact real and highly dangerous…
It says a great deal that after 80 years and having come back from the dead, the Hammer horror label still holds the expectancy of quality and that audiences know exactly what they’re going to get.

Q2Since its resurrection from the grave, however, a mere 5 films (and internet series ‘Beyond the Rave’) have been released amongst which have been two completely unnecessary remakes in ‘The Resident’ and ‘Let Me In’. The studio then hit gold with the infamously 12A- rated adaptation of ‘The Woman In Black’. The film fully encapsulated the classic Gothic style so synonymous with Hammer, made big business and did a damn good job (bar a terrible change of direction ending) of scaring the bejezzus out of a new generation in the same way that the classics of old had done. It seemed that Hammer was truly back.

The follow-up feature in ‘The Quiet Ones’ appeared to be ready to tick all the boxes again. A period setting (the 1970s), a gothic style of looming buildings and dark corridors, plucky young Brits and a strong desire to emphasise supernatural scares instead of splatterings of blood and guts. This had all the makings of another ghostly and unsettling classic…and then it shot itself in the foot twice with the fatal blows of found footage and the cringe-worthy based on a true story gimmick. Back to the coffin for now then…

Q3Much like the disastrous ‘Frankenstein’s Army’, the use of such a modern concept as found-footage simply does not work in a period setting. The sight of Claflin lugging around an enormous machine that seems to possess a remarkably high quality of image for the time, completely takes you out of the film and leaves you sat there pondering on the realistic practical issues of such a device, such as how it never even seems to be plugged in. The constant switching of viewpoints from found-footage the regular steady-cam is irritatingly jarring and simply implies that the filmmakers did not have the confidence in either medium to uphold the tediously derivative narrative.

It is hard to think of a horror film in recent times where the actors very visibly appear to want to be anywhere else but onscreen, their attention more drawn to the wafting pay-check just slightly to the left of the lens. All of the limited cast appear to be stuck between only two different modes of snarky and trying to get into the sack with one another (well, this was the 70s) or slightly heightened threat that they’re a little bit concerned about and would rather it stop now please if that’s ok with you spectral being. With even Jared Harris only bringing the identity of always having a cigarette in his hands, it is made impossible to care about the plight of this D-grade Scooby gang when they seem to be even less bothered by the ghostly goings on than the audience are. Some have praised the effort of Olivia Cooke as the possibly possessed (but who cares) Jane but to be frank, it’s still the same one-note creepy girl who always seems to be in pyjamas and lures you in with her innocence only to suddenly lash out that’s been done to death and like the majority of this film, seen before.

Q4That is not to say there aren’t a couple of intriguing tweaks. The extent of the cruel treatment of Jane by the Professor is certainly an interesting angle to take in the line of how far someone will go just to prove their theory even when faced with indisputable contradiction (although much better dealt with in ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose. On top of this, the origin behind the Professor’s original desire to his theory proves for a neat little twist and the true identity behind the spirit that may be inside Jane is built up cleverly, only to then be dashed upon the rocks as soon as the tired use of cults rears its ugly head and the film nose-dives to a frankly silly conclusion.

The film’s attempts at scares are so few and far between and of such little note that they are hardly worth mentioning. I have always been an advocate for the less is more approach, but this requires things to actual happen in order to illicit chills. All ‘The Quiet Ones’ can offer is a few banging doors, a creepy doll and off-screen screams, which place it just below your average weakest amusement fair ghost train ride.

Q5The film borders on insulting and plagiarising as several comparisons of events are made with snorts of derision by the characters to a certain other possession-based film that was out at that period in time (clue, it might be called ‘The Exorcist’). Not content to stop there with its cherry picking of clichés from hundreds of other horror films, at several points in the film, a machine is used to try to contact the spirit that is almost an exact replica of the one used in ‘The Exorcist II: The Heretic’. To badly paraphrase a certain mischievous Norse god, “You must be truly desperate to come to The Exorcist II for help”.

The few moments of intrigue where it appears the film may have finally found its own voice are soon snuffed out by a slow and lazy horror by numbers row of set-piece scares. If Hammer is to firmly re-establish itself to its former glory then it needs to believe in the strength of their heralded conviction that less is more and feel no need to pander down to what is popular now or fall in with whatever current ‘style’ of horror film making is ‘du jour’.

Verdict: A largely soulless trudge over worn thin ground. In regard to the back catalogue of Hammer films, it’s best to keep very quiet about it. 2/10