Ryan Coby

About Ryan Coby

I have been a horror fan since the age of five. My collection of horror films is over 800 and I also collect horror video games, t-shirts, soundtracks, and other curios. Passion for all things horror culture is only matched by my love for heavy metal. When I am not watching films I am a high school English/History instructor and assistant principal at a charter school in the United States. I live with my girlfriend of three years, four dogs, and two cats. You can also occasionally catch me writing for Survival Horror Online.

The Treatment (2014) Review

thetreatment1The Treatment (2014)

Director: Hans Herbots

Starring: Geert Van Rampelberg, Ina Geerts, Johan van Assche

UK DVD & Blu-Ray release September 14th from Peccadillo Pictures

Inspector Nick Cafmeyer is haunted by the abduction of his younger brother during his childhood. To boot, the main suspect, Ivan Plettinckx, was never brought on charges and now, years later, taunts him with random appearances on his property and suspicious notes. To make matters worse, a new abductor and child murderer is on the loose, a case which very well may push Nick to the edge as he wallows in the torment of his brother’s mysterious disappearance. As he pushes to capture the monster before another victim is taken, the inspector travels a dark, bleak road from where there may be no return.

The Treatment’s material is often hard to swallow, not due to its exploitative nature, but its inherent disturbing quality. Pedophilia, child murder and personal demons are all blended into a dark, psychological thriller that moves with a slow, incessant burn. What works best for the film is its unflinching realism, including insights into grief and abnormal psychology. Several scenes are quite disturbing and will linger with viewers long after the end credits, adopting a raw approach to uncomfortable and taboo scenarios. The true horror here is realizing that the events in the film are not only possible but happen more often than we would be willing to admit.

thetreatment2Hans Herbots has dabbled in television, shorts and a few feature lengths, but after browsing through his portfolio, The Treatment may be his darkest work to date. In addition, Belgium horror is fairly uncommon and tends to lean on the side of psychological thriller over more traditional horror outings. The Treatment holds its own against other films in the genre and even ups the standards by which such disturbing material is often judged.

The acting is convincing, with a solid performance by Geert Van Rampleberg as Nick and more than adequate support from the rest of the cast. With such heavy material, a lesser group of actors could turn the film into a farce, but the genuine delivery of the dialogue and the intensity of the scenes never lack the ability to make the heart pound and stomach churn. Several scenes, rife with the weight of making ethical and time sensitive choices, only work because of the intense performances from the actors. A light sound score accentuates key moments with an eerie vibe that is never overwhelming and lingers in the backdrop for a perfect blend of melancholy and urgency. The effects are also supplemental, never forced upon viewers, but instead used to emphasize the horrors committed throughout the film.

thetreatment3The Treatment is a hard film to digest but the amount of work put into the final product is both admirable and impressive. I don’t recommend the film for everyone, or even for the casual horror fan, as much of what occurs in the film only intensifies as the plot progressives. Check this one out with a warning in mind. However, that being said, I look forward to what Hans Herbots accomplishes next, and, if its anywhere close to The Treatment, maybe with a bit of dread and reluctance as I find myself challenged to stop watching such an engaging and disturbing work of art.

9/10

Count Magnus (2015) Short Film Review

magnus1Count Magnus (2015)

Director: Richard Mansfield

Mansfield Dark Productions

Available To Purchase – http://mansfielddark.com/MD/A_Pleasing_Terror.html

A Pleasing Terror: The Stories of M.R. James

A curious travelogue author, welcomed into the esteemed De la Gardie house, begins research for his next book during his stay in Sweden. Drawn in by a painting of a malevolent member of the family, he begins investigating the horrible acts and rumors of Count Magnus. With every step closer to the truth of the ominous figure, our doomed hero is schooled in the occult, the depraved and the stigma surrounding a family mausoleum where the late Count Magnus lies.

Count Magnus The PactI am a huge fan of weird fiction and have taken the opportunity to read some of the classics throughout my years of studying horror in all of its forms. Much like Lovecraft, M.R. James’ works are those that are wrought with the bizarre and unknown, although Count Magnus follows a darker, Judeo-Christian terror steeped in blackness and a daring decent down the ever-spiralling Left-Hand Path. After reading the original tale (one in which I had not previously indulged, I am sad to admit), it was exciting to see how close to the source material Richard Mansfield stayed.

Count MagnusFilmed with silhouettes, Count Magnus harkens back to the days of skilful delivery in lieu of over-indulgent production value. The method works, as even the more revealing set pieces become more ominous as shadows writhe and cloaked figures watch from the background. I would say that a film of this sort is minimalistic, but that would be a disservice to the amount of admiration and hard work put into the scenery and characters; even the simpler moments from the film are made to feel full, much more in the vein of a live action work. To accentuate the tense moments and dreadful build-up of the story, solid narration and a creepily grandiose score helps the film keep a constant momentum.

Count Magnus ResearchShort films can be challenging. When budget is limited and time is of the essence, how do you hook an audience and reach closure with such tight restrictions? Count Magnus hits the nail on the head and then continues to methodically pound it into the imagination. Fans of silent films, classic weird fiction, or a more original spin for horror cinema will enjoy the brief run time in its entirety. A labor of love, Count Magnus is a monument to the passion that keeps this genre, and its community, thriving.

10/10

An Interview with Levan Bakhia – Director of Landmine Goes Click by Ryan Coby

landm1An Interview with Levan Bakhia – Director of Landmine Goes Click by Ryan Coby

Here is the UKHS interview with Levan Bakhia – a film director and producer from ex soviet state, Georgia. Founder and CEO of the largest production company in Caucasus region Sarke Studio.

Since 1998, he has been producing and directing commercials. In 2011, Bakhia made his directorial and writing début with a feature film – 247°F. And now he has hit us with the much anticipated and highly rated (by myself) horror/thriller Landmine Goes Click , which hits the UK with it’s European première on August 28th.

1. How has your Georgian heritage and upbringing directly influenced your films? How much of what you show is reflective of culture in Georgia?

LB – You would not expect anyone to assault you physically like Ilya does in the story, that is true, Georgia is the safest country to come as a tourist.  Then why is this happening in my film you might ask?  Well, because it can happen anywhere, including Georgia, but it does not mean that it happens everywhere and every day.

As for Georgian upbringing, I don’t think it has any influence on my films. I’m Georgian, and I’m proud of it of course, but at the same time I recognise the necessity to open up.  I want to inspire my fellow citizens to break out of the eggshell of our own past and join what is earth now.  NOW there is Earth 2.0, it’s not time to enslave yourself to past.  I see huge difference respecting and appreciating your culture, and then being stuck in it.  So, why not make English language films, why not consider communication with the world, despite the fact where you are.

landm22. What have been your greatest cinematic influences (directors, films, movements, etc)? If you could meet with one director, any time in history, living or dead, who would it be and what could you learn from him/her?

LB – I like to think of myself free of authorities.  Not only in filmmaking.  You see, I believe that you can only be in the state of creativity if you free yourself from your past self, the one who has been fascinated when that past self of yours have seen this or that movie.  I enjoy many directors, and love many different films, but I like to keep it there, at the moment of viewing.

Maybe 5 years ago if you would have asked the same question, I would have answered that it’s Spielberg, and my argument would have been that he is the only director that can tell any kind of the story from E.T. to Schindler’s List in most comprehensive and clear way, and my argument would then continue with comparing him to Quentin Tarantino, who is my most anticipated filmmaker, but with a specific style.  And I would say that I consider someone to be a master if it’s not a style but any style that he can do so well.

But that was 5 years ago, since then I changed my mind.  And I chose to free myself from this superficial judgments and evaluations.  You can always learn by observing other directors and what they do, but then you have to flush it off from your point of view. Or at least try to.

landm33. Is it difficult balancing business with art? Which do you prefer (directing, advertising vs. producing)? Why?

LB – I think when something is balanced it becomes easy, answer is already rooted in your question.  I prefer leading.  That’s what I do best, and leading is my balancing act between those disciplines.  And I have a great team who like this dance that we are now performing, be it in business, art, directing or producing.

As for which one I prefer is actually none of “directing, advertising vs producing”, my favourite stage is writing.  Because it is only then that you are creating. Out of thin air comes the story, of a character that has never lived, and events that have never happened.  But you force them into existence.  When you are directing, it’s only like translating, which of course I love, but of the stories I wrote or took part in writing.

4. How would you describe Landmine Goes Click to someone who has never heard of it before? What would be your greatest selling point?

LB – “Landmine Goes Click – and the only thing keeping it from exploding is you.”  and then I would clarify: “It’s a rape and revenge thriller”.
I think that’s maximum the pitch can be, it either clicks or it does not – and if it does and you watch it, then I hope you will appreciate that the film is much more than just that.

landm45. Do you feel that violence is a necessary evil in genre films? Why or why not? How have people received some of the more graphic scenes and images from Landmine Goes Click?

LB – Well, you see that is the whole point of my film.  I don’t know what is necessary and what is not.  I think reminding of people that violence exists is as good as reminding them that they themselves are kind.

On the other hand, there is a specific sub genre in horror that is revenge.

And it is called exploitation genre, and for a reason.  You enjoy watching them because it cultivates desire to do a revenge in response to certain unjust stimulus that you see in the picture before the revenge starts, and then you enjoy the feeling of getting back, making unjust just, and your cheer for violence, you like how one is tortured and killed just because 30 minutes ago he/she did something horrible.  But is that right?  Should that be cultivated in audience?  That is the question I like to explore.

I guess readers have to see the film to get the point.  But to go back to the question, it’s not being exposed to violence that can be bad for society; it’s the point of view that can damage.  I think reminding people of Yin Yang side of kindness is necessary.  We know who we are by comparing our own selves to those we are not.  In this way, violence is not bad, at least in films.

2476. Explain your influence, and its impact, on Georgian film making. What was film making like before you created your production company and where do you see Georgian cinema headed in the next ten years? 

LB – There is definitely a new wave hitting Georgian filmmaking landscape.  Georgian cinema was famous and had it’s big role in Soviet culture, we have over 100 years of filmmaking history.  And we are now breaking out to the world, and everyone has his or her own role.  In recent years, Georgian films have won some major film festivals. A film of Georgian directors was nominated for an Oscar in the international category this year.  But I think what Georgians have to recognise is to break free from the past, and dance into the future.  And my company does exactly that.  We try to envision global filmmaking community, and see ourselves taking Georgia there.  What will happen in 10 years? I don’t know, I don’t like to live in future, I like it now.  But maybe in 10 years Georgia will dominate the world cinema, no more Hollywood and even Bollywood.  Only Geollywood.

7. Advice for aspiring film makers? What would be the most important character trait or skill that an individual can have in order to make it in the industry?

LB – I started a blog on www.landmingoesclick.com, where I propose the idea that indie filmmakers should become indie distributors as well, or otherwise they become extinct.  There is not much that I can tell filmmakers that has not been said already, things like it’s only about doing it rather than dreaming about it.  Being brave enough and etc.  But I think something new that I can advise is to stop saying that their job is done when film is finished, it’s exactly then when their job starts.  And if you don’t like this truth, then move on to something else or count on a lottery.

landm58. What are you working on for the future? How does it stack up to your other films and where do you see yourself going, artistically, in the future.

LB – Philosophy.  Translating complicated philosophical ideas into easily comprehensible stories is what I want to do.  I am fascinated by life.

UK Screening at FRIGHTFEST FRIDAY 28TH August – EUROPEAN PREMIÈRE – LANDMINE GOES CLICK
Film 4 Screen 1.00pm – Arrow Screen 3.35pm – Horror Channel Screen 11.30am.

You can read Ryan Coby’s review of Landmine Goes Click here – http://www.ukhorrorscene.com/landmine-goes-click-2015-review/

You can follow Levan on Twitter here – https://twitter.com/lbakhia

And watch the Landmine Goes Click trailer below

The Devil of Kreuzberg (2015) Review

THe Devil of Kreuzberg Movie PosterThe Devil of Kreuzberg (2015)

Director: Alexander Bakshaev

Starring: Naiden Angelov, Justine Assaf, Alexander Bakshaev

Linda (Sandra Bourdonnec ) and Jakob (Ludwig Reuter) spend nearly every moment of their lives together. Romantically entangled, the couple seems to have a relationship that others will never see in an entire lifetime. However, when Jakob begins having dark, violent dreams of Linda, in which she is seductively murdering him, he begins to have his doubts about the longevity of his commitment. How does any sensible boyfriend back out from a potentially homicidal breakup? Jakob makes the first move.

There is a lot going for this short film by Alexander Bakshaev and at first glance all of the elements mashed together can be quite a bit overwhelming. Pacing is slow, but deliberate, with a focus on character development over flair, and, at times, paints some beautiful and weird scenes into an intense tale of love and betrayal. The Devil of Kreuzberg works best when dialogue is removed and the actors are forced to convey relationships via actions instead. Some of the writing is ham-fisted, maybe even a bit forced at times, but pulls together with an offbeat story and some competent acting.

The Devil of Kreuzberg CoupleIf you have read any of my previous reviews, you know that I enjoy sound scores and ambient music in my genre films and The Devil of Kreuzberg did a solid job of wrapping indie music and over indulgent (but oh-so-good) 1970s Euro fare into the experience. The music compliments the emotionally removed acting, though much of what is accomplished feels right at place with the surreal quality of the film. Several dance numbers, a focal point for the emotional intensity and darkness in which the characters wallow, are akin to watching an alluring sideshow act. Think Dario Argento directs an episode of Twin Peaks and you may be close to what was attempted within the director’s vision.

Alexander Bakshaev wears his influences proudly on sleeve with a forty minute wink and a nod to some of the delightfully bizarre Italian genre films of yesterday. Complete with occult and paranormal backdrops, The Devil of Kreuzberg re-imagines a more contemporary spin of the classic Giallo without losing sight of what made (and still makes) those films so fun to watch. Although a more full length romp would have made this salute to Italian cinema maestros more effective, I could not help but smile at one of the few modern films to at least try to emulate what has long been considered one of the most endearing periods of horror cinema.

The Devil of Kreuzberg WorshipI really want to watch this a second time, give it another spin and see how I feel after fully digesting what is occurring throughout the short running time. I was pleased by the willingness to try something different, drawn in by the film’s adoration of some of my favorite influential flicks, and left desiring a longer, more polished director’s cut. However, I salute Alexander Bakshaev for walking the path untraveled and recommend this to any fan of independent film or student of film making. The Devil of Kreuzberg hits all of the right notes like a teenage boy managing to unhook a bra without looking for the first time, accidentally on purpose, and I look forward to the evolution of this nostalgic, Eurotrash meets arthouse style. Well done.

7/10

Landmine Goes Click (2015) Review

landm1Landmine Goes Click (2015)

Director: Levan Bakhia

Starring: Sterling Knight, Spencer Locke, Dean Geyer

Sarke Studio

European Première – FrightFest 28th August 2015

Dare to step off

When three friends decide to take a vacation through the country of Georgia, off the beaten path, little do they know of the events to ensue. Daniel (Dean Geyer) and Alicia (Spencer Locke) are expecting to get married, happily backpacking through the wilderness with Daniel’s best friend Chris (Sterling Knight) before the special day, but when the relationship turns sour the trip takes a much darker turn. If the thought of stepping on an un-triggered landmine makes you squirm, then what follows may be hard to digest.

I was initially underwhelmed with the beginning of the movie and was not sure much potential was going to show throughout the running time of the film. The opening twenty minutes was a cliché mess of poor writing and acting that seemed to be headed toward a typical American horror film with younger actors. However, I’m glad I stuck it out and waited as the script tightened back up with some sharper writing and more believable performances as time elapsed. To boot, the plot, seemingly centred around a landmine and the poor wretch who stepped on it, evolved past the obvious into something a little darker than the expected Saw-booby trap setup.

landm2Once the plot lines up, the film turns from a simple isolation horror story into a film of depraved madness and revenge. Kote Tolordava steals the film as Ilya, our purveyor of aforementioned madness, and his arrival spins the story arc into a test of will, both for the viewer and the characters, that mirrors such films as Funny Games or Last House on the Left. Although the cast is light I never felt as though something bigger would have meant better and was hooked as soon as the film intensified. Even the shaky acting during the opening was excusable as both Spencer Locke and Sterling Knight give out some uncomfortable, intense performances for the remainder.

Sound is minimal, highlighted at tense moments and only for a matter of seconds. This fortifies the acting and allows Kote to remain the centrepiece during all key moments save for the ending. His dialogue is a shining example of how much can be done with so little, as Ilya goes from likeable to terrifying in a manner of minutes. There is a surreal quality to some of the more off putting scenes, as though a character like Ilya would not be capable of the atrocities he commits. The effects are also brief and lightly handled, but who needs gore and over the top theatrics when raw acting and visceral scenes push the film’s value beyond the superficial?

landm3I was surprised by Landmine Goes Click, and after watching the film will seek it out for my ever growing horror movie collection. Some films take time to sink in, stumbling through a few rough patches and missteps along the way. As unnerving as it becomes, this is a movie worth watching. If you do not mind indulging in the bleak or stepping outside of your comfort zone, push through the first portion of the movie and continue trekking until you find what you are looking for. I guarantee it will not disappoint.

9/10

For more info please visit – www.film.landminegoesclick.com

Amigo Undead (2015) Review

Amigo Undead CoverAmigo Undead (2015)

Director: Ryan Nagata

Starring: Randall Park, Dave Sheridan, David Clennon

Available on iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/amigo-undead/id992339789

The Many Lives of Jovan Cornejo

Straight laced financial advisor Kevin (Randall Park) lives an organized, ordinary life filled with routine and simple pleasures. When his estranged brother Norman (Steve Agee) calls to inform him of his recent diagnosis of diabetes, Kevin reluctantly agrees to visit Norman at his new home for a dying man’s last birthday bash. Along with Norman’s friends Wayne the racist and Ian the drug dealer, as well as his faithful Mexican companion Jovan, Kevin must suffer a weekend in the desert that quickly turns into anything but a normal camping trip.

Horror comedies that find a perfect balance between humor and horror are hard to come by in the genre. Shaun of the Dead is a superb example of a more recent horror comedy done right, along with the likes of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Housebound, or Dead Snow, but many times an attempt at injecting a few cheap laughs into a fright flick fall flat due to poor pacing, bad jokes, or awkward timing. Amigo Undead is not only successful in its delivery of the laughs, but avoids the pitfalls of its less successful contemporaries with some sharp writing and solid chemistry among the actors.

Amigo Undead JovanAmigo Undead initially feels like a buddy comedy with oddball characters and hilarious one-liners. If the film had stopped there, not taking a chance to make it anything more than what it appeared to be, I would have still watched every second. Randall Park’s accidental humor as deadpan realist Kevin and Steve Agee’s man-child logic are complimentary, while the remaining cast offers additional, on point delivery of a well written script. I laughed throughout the entire film, both from the ridiculous scenarios and dialogue, but never once felt that anything was out of place. For a horror comedy, this is a shining accomplishment and speaks volumes to the talent of writers George Edelman and Ryan Nagata.

As a horror film, Amigo Undead gives viewers a persistent, and oft amusing, villain. Although I won’t give much away, Ed Galvez as Jovan is relentless, amusing, and the vehicle to the film’s comedic situations that do not let up once the plot’s momentum is reached. An appearance by David Clennon (Palmer from John Carpenter’s The Thing) as Old Man Schumer is also a nice nod to diehard horror fans. The effects are just enough to offer some great blood and guts while never relying on gloss to impress viewers. Director Ryan Nagata also uses an otherwise bleak and barren backdrop to create some interesting and engaging set pieces, and a more traditional sound score replete with upbeat, Western inspired music and menacing horror themes wraps around an already well-devised film.

Amigo Undead NormanI have always loved a good horror comedy, but not many resonate with what makes human interaction during chaos so amusing. Amigo Undead has topped my list as the funniest film that I have seen in quite some time, and one of the top horror comedies of the last twenty years. Everything, with deliberate fluidity, only adds to an already fun and entertaining story, and surprised me with some genuine, fresh humor. Hopefully, Amigo Undead snags the attention it needs to reach a broader audience and to find a place on the shelves of horror fans around the world. Seek this one out!

10/10

 

Bikini Mayhem (2015) Review

bikinimayhem1Bikini Mayhem (2015)

Director: Eric Williford

Starring: Cori Collins, Katie O., Jody Taylor, Glen Roberts, Daniel Florenzano

95Forty Productions

All She Wanted Was To Be A Model!

College student Ivy Winters (Cori Collins) wants nothing more than to become a professional model. What she does not know is how hard she’ll have to work to get what she wants. After Ivy and new found friend Toni (Katie O.) botch up their opportunity to make it big by getting wasted at a prestigious party, the scramble to maintain fame becomes an exercise in depravity. Naivety has no place in a world where everyone is looking for the next best thing and sometimes dreams become nightmares.

What’s a good horror film without a bit of female flesh to force the blood to pump harder and mind to race in excitement? Movies from the 70s and 80s knew how to entice their viewers with scenes of playful seduction and suggested sex. There is something to be said about the draw of lust and violence, an animal urge to bear witness to primitive impulse and uninhibited acts. Unfortunately, Bikini Mayhem’s end does not justify the means to get there.
Although an old theme, the obsession of fame and fortune for young, aspiring stars is still relevant, and, unless independent artists suddenly change places with what’s popular, inadvertently changing the definition of popular forever, a theme that will never go away.

bikinimayhem2What Eric Williford does right with the film is to address some of the shady, seedy acts that must be committed along the road to popularity in order to maintain any sense of success. Drug abuse and sexual exploitation are consistent throughout the film, even though Ivy never truly seems to delve much deeper than softcore fetishes or slightly humiliating photo shoots. More focus on her descent into desperation and less suggestive photo ops may have given Bikini Mayhem a stronger horror vibe overall.

As to be expected (but not always true) with low budget films, the actors never quite hit a necessary connection with the audience in order to truly invest viewers in not only the characters, but the plot as well. Despite amateur acting skills, I felt that the actors had a great time filming Bikini Mayhem, and therefore feel that the point of the film was not to make a cinematic masterpiece, but to enjoy creating something trashy and entertaining. In addition, the slightly electronic soundtrack is reminiscent of 80’s synth and gives several scenes a much needed boost of energy, but the overall sound quality is rough, especially lacking clarity during times when the scenes are shot from a distance or the actors have their backs turned to the camera.

Even when Ivy is faced with uneven odds, she never seems to feel as though her life is getting worse, but instead offers up tired, bored expressions or indifferent sighs. The hyper-sexualized model and actor/actress lifestyle should be a dark, terrifying place for someone that has never been there before, and even after a bit of experience has been earned an even more intense journey through rejection and body image expectations. This concept is hinted at throughout the film, but never fully realized. Recent genre film Starry Eyes offers a similar spin from a much grimmer perspective and with a stronger spiral into acceptance of what the protagonist must become to survive.

bikinimayhem3As a horror film, Bikini Mayhem falls short of what it promises. Though the heart and enjoyment behind making a film is apparent, it never quite lives up to the catchy, slasher vibe of the poster. I was entertained while watching it, perhaps more by the curvy ladies posing seductively for almost the entire running time than by the story or end game, and as a fan of all things horror recommend this if only for the sake of saying that you’ve seen it or to entertain a bit of your inner pervert. Bikini Mayhem is sexy but restrained in a world where extremes are the desired norm.

5/10

You can download the film on Vimeo  – https://vimeo.com/ondemand/bikinimayhem

Twitter – https://twitter.com/95Forty

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/95Forty

Don’t Despair (2015) Short Film Review

Don't Despair CoverDon’t Despair (2015)

Director: Alfred Giancarli

Starring: Erin Etheridge, Bec Fordyce, Kevin Reed

Written and directed by Alfread Giancarli, Don’t Despair follows Rachel (Erin Etheridge) and William (Kevin Reed), serial killer memorabilia collectors, who meet up in a dimly lit bar after communicating in an online message board. William sells Rachel a rare piece from his collection, more enthralled by her presence than distraught by the loss, and proceeds to explain the collectible’s significance with admiration. As the two bond over Rachel’s newly acquired art, the scenery changes and the plot takes an interesting twist.

Short films have experienced a boom over the past two decades, bolstered even more as of late by such mainstream collections as V/H/S or The ABCs of Death. The challenge for these quick slices of horror is that time is of the essence. Don’t Despair manages to create interesting characters, sold by the actors’ focused, deliberate dialogue and a sense that something is not quite right below the surface in less than twenty minutes. In addition, solid filming from Alfred Giancarli gives the audience a sharp, raw view of an uncommon, uncomfortable hobby.

Don't Despair SceneI have always been interested in the culture of serial killer obsession, though much of my deterrence from following said interests comes from personal morality more so than a sense of disgust. Don’t get me wrong; I own a handful of oddities and always hunt for new curios to add to my collection. However, Don’t Despair is a film about the human psyche and repressed desires.

What Alfred Giancarli does is allow the uninitiated to catch a glimpse of what happens when collecting and obsession are taken to the extreme and hero worship receives a completely new meaning. The results are unsettling.

Don't Despair The MasterpieceIf you are not a fan of violence or torture, whether implied or explicit, then this will not be an intriguing catch for you. Don’t Despair is an excellent example of what a creative mind can do with very little and the brief snapshot that viewers spend with the characters is both fascinating and cringe-worthy. Give this a moment of your time if you enjoy digging into the darker side of humanity and can appreciate strolling down the unbeaten path. As the master of the strange H. P. Lovecraft once wrote: “Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places.”

9/10

FM Andy (2015) Review

FM-Andy CoverFM Andy (2015)

Director: Jamie Carswell

Starring: Todd Caryl, Nancy Gray, Eve Wylden

Rare Species Productions

‘Get Out of Your Head’

First-time film director Jamie Carswell weaves a psychological tale of guilt and madness with FM Andy. Andy (Todd Caryl), the ever-anxious and brooding main character, is still attempting to deal with a previous accident when the girl next door, Grace (Nancy Gray), complicates everything with her romantic advances. As Andy attempts to find solid footing while his mind continuously taunts every decision he makes, his FM radio begins to speak.

The film follows in the framework of other psychological chillers, such as Frailty, Jacob’s Ladder, or The Shining, by gradually building character development and back story through snippets of memory and a sense of permeating discomfort. Seemingly normal interactions are intensified by Andy’s unease, and, although his instability pokes through the harmless veneer, viewers are given a glimpse of things to come early in the story. However, due to solid writing and pacing, I found myself hoping for Andy to find a bit of clarity all the way to the bitter end.

FM Andy NurseNancy Gray creates love interest Grace with equal parts innocence and playful seductress. This character fits well in Andy’s world, forcing him to deal with the concept of a new relationship all the while attempting to come to terms with his past. In contrast, the aforementioned FM radio plays out like an alter ego, mocking and provoking Andy similar to Norman Bates’ mother or Mr. Scratch from survival horror game Alan Wake, giving FM Andy’s uneventful world a much needed catalyst.

Adding to the mix is a competent sound score, switching from upbeat, radio friendly tunes to a much more sinister mix of creepy ambience. What makes the music work is its timing, not only during fitting scenes, but also in keeping in step with the flow of Andy’s unraveling. The voice acting from Robert Drogo as The Radio is also on par with the film, offering both comedic relief and smug interjection, and gives dimension to an otherwise limited tale.

As a final nod to other films in the subgenre, FM Andy does not rely on special effects to keep it afloat, but instead opts to use brief moments of practical gore or secondary means to impress the darker undercurrent upon its audience. Considering the psychological focus of the film, this works much better than full out brutality. Writer/director Jamie Carswell seems to be a fan of leaving more to the imagination, a respectful homage to thrillers from the 70’s and 80’s. One scene in particular was enough to illicit a grimace on this reviewer’s face, but was relevant to our poor Andy’s plight and only added to the already offbeat tale.

FM Andy The RadioIt is refreshing to see a film that wears its influences on its sleeve and still twists the familiar with a bit of creative expression. FM Andy does not tread where no one has gone before, but offers a new perspective on the inner workings of the human psyche. Both tragic and interesting, FM Andy is a fun and engaging addition to any collection.

8/10

Dead Kansas (2013) Review

deadkDead Kansas (2013)

Director: Aaron K. Carter

Starring: Erin Miracle, Alexandria Lightford, Aaron Guerrero

Rotten Productions

Out on Amazon Instant now – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00U143XLI

Live In Hell Long Enough…Everyone Turns Into A Demon.

In post-apocalyptic Kansas, a farmer and his daughter must fight to survive not only against the living dead, known exclusively in the film as “rottens”, but also a desperate and dangerous gang of delinquents. Glen, the father, has done a decent job of protecting said daughter, Emma, until the leader of the gang hatches a plan to kidnap her and sell her off for the sake of continuing the human race and obtaining better supplies for his followers. The initial faceoff leads viewers into a plot that involves “freaks”, a tornado (there may be a sprinkling of Wizard of Oz within), and more than a little bit of offbeat humor.

Low budget zombie films are a dime a dozen, and, like most, Dead Kansas suffers most from a lack of experience and limited scope. Films such as the Zombie Bloodbath trilogy and The Dead Next Door covered their blemishes with gore and practical effects, but Dead Kansas never builds the momentum to a blood soaked finale and I was a bit disappointed that such a traditionally over the top genre was never reflected in the film. However, for all of its flaws Dead Kansas still manages to entertain with a bit of heart and creativity.

deadk2To give credit where it is due, Dead Kansas does not show its zombies until the conclusion of the film, instead opting to set up a black and white, point of view shot whenever a rotten attacks. Simple, effective, first person perspective gives viewers brief opportunities to follow the shambling resurrected, who are quickly dispatched via a variety weapons, including at one point, a pitch fork. Although these shots are brief, I enjoyed the attempt to put a new spin on an old trope. Even the camera falls as the rotten collapses, giving an almost arcade rail shooter feel to each rotten attack.

Like most lower budget films, the acting leaves a bit to be desired. Aaron Guerrero shows the mot restraint and some natural chops with his portrayal of Glenn, the father, and even Alexandria Lightford as Emma has potential early on in the first and second act. However, Alexandria is replaced with another actress halfway through the film and not only is it noticeable, but it changes the audience’s initial interest in the character’s progression. Several cameos pop up along the way, including Irwin Keyes (Ravelli from House of 1000 Corpses) and Ben Woolf (Meep/Infantata from American Horror Story), which give the film some cheesy fun, but ultimately the majority of characters are underdeveloped and overplayed.

As a music fan I was left with a desire for something more fitting of the story and even though I understand how a limited budget can affect choices during production, the songs were repetitive and lacked a strong punch. A more traditional horror score may have gone a long way in changing the vibe of Dead Kansas, and even when sound effects were used to enhance a rotten’s appearance, these moments were too short to hit home any sense of urgency.

deadk1To be completely clear and honest, I love all horror films. That may seem like a tall statement, but the genre is near and dear to my heart. Dead Kansas is not a masterpiece in any sense of the word, but it is clear that these folks have attempted to contribute something unique to horror culture. Falling short of the mark at times, Dead Kansas is worth watching for its amateur passion and sometimes stylish approach. Do not expect to be blown away, but watch with an open mind and a sense of camaraderie for a genre where all, including the budding aficionado, are welcome.

6/10

Links

Amazon Instant Video – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00U143XLI

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/deadkansas

IMDB – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2177336/