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Sinead Beverland

About Sinead Beverland

Devouring stories since 1979, Sinead is a Writer and Film graduate living in South London. She spends her time writing scripts and blogging her way in and around her two loves, Film and London. After penning numerous shorts, Sinead is currently working on her second feature script, whilst the first winds its way through development. Join her at www.trytheotherguy.co.uk and www.guildhallpictures.co.uk You'll also find her Tweeting @sinb

Shut In (2016) Review

rsz_shut1Shut In (2016)

Running time: 91 minutes

Director: Farren Blackburn

Cast: Naomi Watts, Oliver Platt, Charlie Heaton, Jacob Tremblay

Out NOW on UK DVD from Arrow Films

A strong cast head up this psychological thriller whose script was plucked from the 2012 Blacklist; a list of the best unproduced screenplays of the year. So, in some respects, Shut In has a lot to live up to from the very outset.

Naomi Watts plays Mary Portman, a clinical psychologist who has reluctantly agreed to send her eighteen year old son, Stephen, away from home due to his increasingly out of control behaviour. Her husband re-assures her it is for the best but after he and Stephen leave, an argument results in a horrific car accident, killing father and leaving Stephen (Charlie Heaton, fresh from the Netflix hit Stranger Things) unresponsive and wheelchair bound.

rsz_shut2Skipping six months forward, Mary struggles to cope alone with her severely disabled son whilst still running her practice. They live remotely and Mary has little outside help, bar her assistant, Lucy and her therapist, Dr Wilson (a reliable Oliver Platt), who converses with Mary over Skype.

When a patient of Mary’s; nine year old Tom (an underused Jacob Tremblay) runs away from his care home, she finds him having broken in to her car and hiding in the back seat. Wanting to help she takes the child in to her home but he soon disappears in to the night and the hunt for the missing boy begins. Due to the extreme weather and impending storm, it is swiftly believed the boy has died and Mary begins to to be tormented by visions of the child.

As the strain of caring for her son bears heavily down on her, her nightmares escalate. She hears noises throughout the house, believes she sees Tom at her bedroom door and then disturbingly finds scratches on the side of her son’s face. Seeking help from Dr Wilson, he re-assures her that this all just a vivid dream. That stress and the difficult situation is taking it’s toll. Obviously, we realise there is more here than meets the eye and the truth slowly starts to present itself.

Shut In takes the single setting premise and crafts an interesting story around its limitations. Stephen finds himself ‘shut in’ his own body post-accident, whilst Mary has become ‘shut in’ her own home and possibly her own mind.

The film starts promisingly, the story is established quickly and it drip feeds information as it progresses. We learn that Stephen is in fact Mary’s stepson and it was ultimately her decision to send him away. As her guilt eats away at her, the boundaries between reality and Mary’s dreams become blurred and you are pulled further in to seeing things from her perspective. It is in these scenes that the strength of the film lies; the image of Mary bathing Stephen, discovering him alone outside and the ghostly appearances of Tom. Director Farren Blackburn, teases you with the anticipation of the shock and then delivers on that promise, providing some genuine jumpscares. Having directed such UK television staples as Casualty and Silent Witness, it’s clear that Blackburn can create a polished thriller.

rsz_shut3However, is it all rather too polished, if indeed that can be levelled as a criticism? It feels that there could be more beneath the surface of the story that is left untapped. As the film moves in to its final act, it starts to lose some of it’s atmosphere; heading towards a more predictable conclusion than you might have hoped for. You start to question certain characters actions and moments begins to feel plotted. With the limited setting and relatively small cast there is nowhere to hide and although the performances are good, there are no iconic characters or moments that linger with you once the film has ended. By taking very few risks, you are left feeling like you have seen this all before.

Whilst not hugely innovative, Shut In is still a solid piece of filmmaking, albeit probably not one that will resonate in your memory in years to come.

6 out of 10

Devil In The Dark (2017) Review

rsz_ditd1Devil In The Dark (2017)

Running time: 82 minutes
Director: Tim Brown
Cast: Dan Payne, Robin Dunne, Briana Buckmaster, Daniel Cudmore

Available on VOD nationwide in the U.S. from Momentum Pictures on Tuesday, March 7th

Devil in the Dark is the second directorial offering from Tim Brown. It is a film teetering somewhere in between thriller and horror and interestingly, was originally entitled (the more thriller sounding) “The Plateau’.

Opening with a short but atmospheric prologue, the start of the film is pure horror. Night has fallen and a young boy is lost in the middle of the woods. His father and older brother frantically search for him, finally finding him in the midst of a clearing (in a striking red jacket reminiscent of ‘Don’t Look Now’). He is frozen to the spot and transfixed on something out in the darkness.

Cut forward thirty years and the film weaves down a more psychological thriller route. We meet the brothers again, they are now grown men and lead very different lives. Adam (the lost child in red) has moved away from home and lives a successful city life, whilst older both Clint has remained at home, settled down and cared for their now deceased father. The two are chalk and cheese, so when Adam returns to see his brother and take a hunting trip with him, it’s clear it’s not going to be an easy few days.

rsz_ditd2The awkward tension between the brothers is palpable from the outset and is further demonstrated by well placed flashbacks to their childhood. It becomes clear that Adam thinks their father favoured Clint and their relationship suffered accordingly. Before the men set off on their hunting trip, we also realise that Adam suffers from disturbing nightmares, reminiscent of the opening childhood scene. Whilst these visions are hauntingly presented, they are all too brief, leaving you wish they had been explored further.

It is only once the brothers set out on their trip that the true horror of the film finally sets in. As the pair struggle with their inner demons, they discover a bone infested lair inhabited by a dark being that threatens their lives. Their terror and the anticipation of the danger they face is well presented and you are drawn inside their fear. The vision of the demon itself is wisely kept to a minimum, but is strikingly created and impressive when it briefly does reveal itself.

There is no doubting the production value of Devil in the Dark, both the Director (Brown) and Writer (Carey Dickson) have a host of production credits behind them and it shows. The film looks slick and there are some magnificent shots that make the most of the great locations used for filming. The performances are also universally strong, with Dunne (as Adam) and Payne (as Clint) particularly scoring on the edgy sibling relationship front.

However, given all these positives, it still feels like there is something uneven about the film. The horror pay off doesn’t arrive until about three quarters of the way through and the wait seems far too long. Adam’s dreams aren’t enough to tide you over and the film hovers in this psychological drama territory, with no real fear or anticipation to tease you.

rsz_ditd3With the most entertaining and memorable moments happening in the latter stages, you’re left feeling that the end of the film would have made a great start to the third act. Frustratingly it felt like the film had hits its stride just as it was ending. Although it is an accomplished film with many good qualities, it never quite flies in the way that it should. When the horror hits, it is truly engaging, it just all feels rather too little, too late.

5 out of 10

Happy Birthday To Me (1981) Blu-Ray Review

rsz_hbtmHappy Birthday To Me (1981) Blu-Ray Review

Running time: 110 mins
Director: J Lee Thompson
Cast: Melissa Sue Anderson, Glenn Ford, Lawrence Dane, Tracey E Bregman, Jack Blum, Matt Craven, Lenore Zann, Lesleh Donaldson

Out now on UK Blu-Ray from Powerhouse Films.

Originally released in 1981, Happy Birthday to Me has just received a UK blu-ray release prompting a long overdue look at the film that casts Little House on the Prairie’s Mary Ingalls (Melissa Sue Anderson) at the centre of a slasher-fest. At the time, the casting itself must have been something of a surprise, allowing audiences to see the all American good girl in something rather less wholesome.

Anderson plays Virginia Wainwright (the birthday girl of the title) who has recently returned to school at Crawford Academy and been accepted in to the elite ‘top ten’ group. For top ten, read rich spoilt kids who hang out together, wreaking havoc and being crazy 80’s teens. Unfortunately for them, there is someone in town ready to ruin their fun and one by one each of Virginia’s new friends are picked off in elaborate and gruesome fashion. As the bodies pile up we learn more about Virginia’s past, the death of her mother and her subsequent trauma which has resulted in her seeing therapist Dr David (played by Hollywood stalwart Glenn Ford). Influences of Halloween in the writer’s mind? Perhaps, but Happy Birthday is a very different film to the slasher classic and you get the sense that tongue was somewhat in cheek when creating this film.

rsz_hbtm1Opening as it means to go on, we witness the death of the first of the top ten: Bernadette, whose throat is cut as she heads to her car to join her friends at the Inn. As this is the early 80’s, the blood is red and the killer goes straight for the jugular, but surprisingly the camera doesn’t linger too long on the aftermath. When Bernadette doesn’t turn up for class the next morning, people are surprised but nobody seems overly concerned. Even her friends are blasé about where she might be. In fact even as more of the top ten go missing, the remaining ones seem faintly uninterested in where their friends have disappeared to. Then again they’re known for their tomfoolery and pranks, so why immediately panic? As Dr David tells Virginia (in a brilliant understatement), ‘some of your friends have a macabre sense of humour’.

The tagline for the film aptly claims this is ‘six of the most bizarre murders you will ever see’. It doesn’t lie and the killings are what ensures you stay hooked, waiting to see which friend will be next and how they’ll meet their fate. Director Thompson (who also directed the original Cape Fear) handles the tension and suspense of the murder scenes well, playing in to the horror genre with confidence. What makes this film memorable above others though, is the bizarre and insane script, credited to John C.W. Saxton, Peter Jobin and Timothy Bond. Whilst it fulfils the expected horror/slasher elements, it take so many outrageous twists and turns, your jaw will be left permanently dropped. You just need to give yourself over to a rather convoluted back story, some odd flashbacks to Virginia’s past and a little insanity come the finale. The film’s original trailer warned that ‘because of the bizarre nature of this birthday party, no-one will be seated in the last ten minutes of happy birthday to me’ and once you’ve watched the film, you’ll see why.

rsz_hbtm2An interesting part of the early 80’s horror cannon, Happy Birthday to Me does everything in its power to entertain and falls just the right side of cheesy. The performances hit the mark, with Anderson showing a darker side to the sweet daddy’s girl most know and the ‘top ten’ giving us fairly believable (if not necessarily loveable) teenagers, with taxidermy fanatic Alfred, easily the most intriguing. Whilst the running time could be trimmed slightly, the film manages to maintain its momentum to become the sort of ‘cult’ viewing you could see yourself revisiting. One to watch, enjoy and not take too seriously.

6 out of 10

Extras on the Blu-Ray are –

• HD restoration
• Original mono audio
• Alternative 5.1 surround sound track
• Alternative score: experience the film with the controversial re-scored electronic music soundtrack, as used on the 2004 home video re-release
• Audio commentary by The Hysteria Continues team: Justin Kerswell (author of Teenage Wasteland: The Slasher Movie Uncut) Joseph Henson, Erik Threlfall and Nathan Johnson
• Image gallery: on-set and promotional material
• Original trailer and TV spots
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive 24-page booklet with extracts from the original press kit, advertising and promotion guide, and selected film reviews
• UK Blu-ray premiere
• Limited Dual Format Edition of 5,000 copies

Counter Clockwise (2016) Review

cc1Counter Clockwise (2016)

Running time: 91 minutes

Director: George Moise

Cast: Michael Kopelow, Alice Rietveld, Kerry Knupe, Devon Ogden, Joy Rinaldi, Frank Simms

Films in which characters travel through time often involve high budgets and technology riddled future worlds, so it’s exciting to find a film that tries to step away from these clichés. Enter Counter Clockwise, a film about a scientist named Ethan who inadvertently creates a time machine whilst trying to perfect a teleportation device. After accidentally sending his dog through the machine, Ethan sends himself six months in to the future, where he finds himself accused of murdering his wife and sister, then finds his mother in a coma. All in all, not a great day. On the run from the police and some mysterious tough guys who want to know who he works for, Ethan must send himself back in time to save both his wife, sister and ultimately himself. And that’s when things get really complicated.

Pitched as a sci-fi thriller/dark comedy, Counter Clockwise has some great ideas but it seems to suffer from trying to fulfil this hybrid of genres. It’s a shame, as things get off to a good start with an opening scene establishing Ethan in his lab, but with little back story before he starts to time travel it is hard to engage or build up feelings towards his character. Michael Kopelow gives a good performance as Ethan, but ultimately we know little about him, bar a fleeting scene of him ‘getting it on’ with his wife.

cc2As Ethan stumbles his way through the future, the scenes are short and some are edited in a way that makes them feel spliced. In itself this is a nice touch, given the whole time travel aspect, but in terms of becoming engrossed in the story, it jars and makes you acutely aware you are in a constructed world.

As the plot becomes more convoluted (in fairness, that’s something of a given in time travel movies), things start to get weirder and events feel a little plotted. Characters appear and disappear as needed and Ethan does a lot of running (initially amusingly) from scene to scene.
Having said that, Director George Moise ties the multiple timelines together nicely, creating the sensation of different events ostensibly all happening at once. This gives rise to some nice moments where two Ethan’s appear together, in particular a moment where he knocks his other self out cold.

The main issue with the film for me, is that many of the characters feel rather two dimensional, especially the raft of bad guys headed up by Roman (Frank Simms), as the boss of a large corporation. He feels overly comedic, breaking through into panto villain when black comedy would have sufficed. If I’m honest it feels like he belongs in another film entirely. His henchman fair slightly better, although one particular scene near the end of the film between a henchman and Ethan’s sister, simply left me baffled. It felt crowbarred in merely to advance the plot in a particular direction.

cc3On the plus side, Writer / Director Moise and Writer / Producer / Actor Michael Kopelow have visually created a decent looking low budget film, using simple techniques to great effect. A scene where Ethan is interrogated by the police over the murders is essentially two men either side of a table in a black room but its oddity works and feels deliberately stylised.

Overall, whilst Counter Clockwise takes a twisted concept and delivers some nice moments, the overarching tone feels muddled, creating a rather uneven film which ultimately I was a little apathetic towards by the end.

4 out of 10

River (2015) DVD Review

river1River (2015)

Running Time: 95 minutes

Writer & Director: Jamie M. Dagg

Cast: Rossif Sutherland, Douangmany Soliphanh, Sara Botsford, Ted Atherton

Out now on UK DVD from Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment

The classic thriller premise of ‘man on the run’ forms the basis of River, a Canadian film from first time feature Director Jamie M Dagg. The man at the heart of the action is John Lake, a American doctor working at a medical centre in Thailand. Whilst travelling to Laos to contemplate his future, he comes across a young woman being sexually assaulted on the beach. Jumping in to assist her, the woman’s attacker turns on him, with horrific consequences. The next morning a man’s body is discovered and John must literally start to run for his life, with very little option of anywhere to turn for help.

Director Dagg clearly has a handle on the thriller genre, ramping up the tension moment after moment as John tries desperately to save himself. Opening with a fast paced scene of him at work during a medical emergency, the story world is set; this is a good man trying to do everything he can to help people (perhaps with a certain disregard for rules and expectations). We are given scant background information on his character, just the knowledge that there is ‘nothing for him’ back home which adds to the enigmatic mystery of the foreigner abroad.

river2Rossif Sutherland (as John) creates a fully fleshed character who immediately pulls us over to his side of the fence. And yes, he is a brother to Kiefer in case you were wondering (although I couldn’t see that much resemblance myself). Ably supported by the rest of the cast, Vithaya Pansringarm in particular gives a natural and charming performance as a Laos bartender, Sutherland is able to hold our intrigue and belief for the entire 95 minutes.

From the very opening of the film Dagg uses images to tell his story and relies on very little expository dialogue to move the story forward which allows him to maintain the fast pace of the story and consolidate the tense tone. When so many films labour the setup, it was refreshing to see one that confidently throws you in to the action and presses the forward button.

river4When John takes flight, desperate to get back to the mainland without being caught, you’ll find yourself wringing your hands in desperation for him to make it. Each set piece builds upon the previous and sets your heart racing as he flees from police in a market or hides out on a bus. Director Dagg, who also wrote the film, has chosen an interesting story location, bringing that extra level of the unknown that would be absent if John was on the run in his homeland. The setting is unusual and unpredictable to us as viewers, so we can readily imagine and place ourselves in John’s situation. It makes a nice change to watch a thriller film where you genuinely feel like you could be the main character without the need to have the ability to scale walls or possess some highly specialised skill.

As John tries to make his way to Bangkok and then out of the country, he has to turn to old friends for help and it is in this latter part of the film, that some of the thrill gives way to drama and justice. However, this is perhaps understandable as The River is a thriller rooted at the reality end of the spectrum. To an extent the film highlights issues on a slightly more serious note than most ‘follow the dots’ thrillers do and it should be commended for that.

river3The River is a taut and compact thriller that delivers on the promises it makes at the outset. Tense and heart pounding, it drops us quickly in Laos and pulls no punches. Whilst it never fully digs beneath the surface of its characters or the situation, it’s great to find a thriller that tries to use both its heart and mind.

8 out of 10

Hank Boyd Is Dead (2015) Review

hankboyd1Hank Boyd Is Dead (2015)

Running Time: 76 minutes

Writer & Director: Sean Melia

Cast: Stefanie E. Frame, David Christopher Wells, Liv Rooth, Michael Hogan, Carole Monferdini, Arthur Aulisi

Hank Boyd is dead. There you have it. The title of this darkly comic horror film leaves you in little doubt as to what to expect when you sit down to watch the story unfold. The question is, can Director Sean Melia deliver on what feels like a promise to entertain, amuse and horrify in equal measure?

We begin by meeting Sarah, who is making her way to the Boyd house to cater for the funeral of Hank (he’s dead remember). We discover, alongside Sarah, that Hank has killed himself in custody after being found guilty of the murder of a young woman. In time, Sarah will realise that this is not entirely the whole truth. From the very outset of the film, the story is interspersed with old home footage (presumably depicting the Boyd family as children) and whilst the old footage is a nice touch, it unfortunately becomes woefully over used, flashing back continually throughout the story without adding much value. The film also cuts away to an interview being conducted with two as yet unseen characters who have more to reveal about the Boyd family’s past.

hankboyd2The interview seems out of sync with the action taking place in the house and ends up feeling included merely to fill in the gaps of the back story. It’s a shame, as both concepts could have enhanced the film, had they ever actually hit their stride.

Back inside the house, Sarah, alone and uneasy, hears strange noises from upstairs and goes to investigate. Before she can discover anything, she is stopped by David, Hank’s brother, who also happens to be a cop; a particularly shifty and sinister one. His colleague Ray, sits outside guarding the house and it is clear the two are partners in crime. The rest of the family then fall in to place, with confused and forgetful mother Beverley and childlike sister Aubrey. There are one or two nice moments; Aubrey’s dramatic winks towards a dolls cabinet (and subsequently towards the audience) and Beverley’s over the top demands are amusing. However, the humour sits oddly and never fully takes flight.

hankboyd3After Sarah overhears David and Ray speaking she realises that maybe Hank wasn’t guilty of murder at all. She is now in grave danger, as David knows they have been overheard and will stop at nothing to protect his totally dysfunctional family. At this point of the film, our interest peaks, it feels like everything has been established, and that the dark and amusing tale should now let rip. However, as the story lurches from extreme to distasteful extreme, it’s a shame that by this point, you don’t feel more invested in the story, but the characters aren’t appealing enough or clever enough in their insanity to really engage.

From here on out, events turn rather more horrific and to be honest, somewhat farcical. When a reporter arrives on the doorstep, he seems to be there merely to serve the role of yet more story exposition and subsequent victim. There is also a weird revelation of incest, complete with make out moment and romantic music, plus the revelation of what Sarah heard upstairs earlier and a bloody rising body count. It’s a shame but you are left feeling that literally everything has been thrown at the screen in an effort to see what sticks. To be fair, there are a couple of wryly humorous moments that made me titter; murderous carnage in the basement whilst the neighbours sit upstairs and David’s blatant disregard for anyone or anything by the end of the film. Unfortunately it all just felt a little too late.

hankboyd4Veering between thriller, horror and black comedy, it feels like the film never really hits its mark. Not funny enough for a black comedy and feeling a little too bright and glossy for a disturbed horror, it seemed to fall in to an odd middle ground. The concept is a decent one and undoubtedly there will be some that enjoy, but ultimately it feels like it hasn’t quite decided what sort of film it wants to be.

4 out of 10

Adonis and Aphrodite (2016) Short Film Review

adonisaphroditeAdonis and Aphrodite (2016)

Running time: 12 minutes

Director: David Chaudoir

Cast: Madeleine Bowyer

When horror presents itself in a comfortable familiar setting, it often feels at its most disturbing. The idea that pure evil can creep in to suburbia and infiltrate our rather mundane, ordinary lives is both exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure. The pain pleasure balance we all straddle when we sit down to watch a good horror flick is a delicate one to achieve, yet this short film from Director David Chaudoir, manages to lure us in with a wry smile and satisfies our suspicions that things are never really as they seem.

Adonis and Aphrodite has a simple premise, one female character delivers a monologue directly to camera in the surrounds of her greenhouse whilst she tends to her plants. Alan Bennett springs immediately to mind and it was nice to see a nod in that direction at the end of the film with a final ‘dedication’ issuing apologies to the man himself. Apologies however, are not needed as both the script and Madeleine Bowyer’s performance are intriguing and entertaining in equal measure. Full marks go to Bowyer for drawing you inside her world and so eloquently painting the picture of the avant garde neighbours next door that lure her and her husband down new paths, from swinging to some very questionable paganism.

ADONIS-AND-APHRODITEThe simplicity of the film allows the monologue to stand for itself, no tricks or titillating flashbacks are needed. Bowyer does all the work for us, allowing us to conjure up mental images that are often far worse than what could be depicted on screen. Laced with dry wit and all the middle class undertones of what may or may not be going on behind closed doors, this is pure storytelling. You’ll find yourself swept along with the narrative all the way to the dark and satisfying climax. The one issue with first person narration is that we never know how reliable our narrator is. Is everything really as it seems? Perhaps not, but whilst this thought may occur to you as you watch, it’s a small gripe to have.

This is not a short bursting at the seams with guts and gore and nor does it try to be. By sticking to storytelling first and foremost (and presumably helping the budget enormously), what you end up with is a film that feels respectful of its predecessors. It evokes the sense of a scary story told around the campfire or a disturbing Dahl-esque look behind the closed door of polite British society. It manages to be contemporary whilst retaining a comforting connection to the past.

Having both written and directed Adonis and Aphrodite, it’s clear that Chaudoir has a love of the dark side of life and an understanding of the humour that lies alongside it. He deftly manages to strike the balance, coaxing the viewer with a smile before revealing the truth that may (or may not) lie beneath. The monologue nature of the short means that you feel somewhat complicit in the story being told which, for me at least, makes it all the more entertaining. Based on this, I’m intrigued to see what Chaudoir’s second short, Bad Acid, will bring; more great storytelling and strong performances I hope. No pressure then.

7 out of 10

Refuge aka The Mansion (2013) Review

refuge1Refuge aka The Mansion (2013)

Director: Andrew Robertson

Cast: Carter Roy, Amy Rutberg, Chris Kies, Sebastian Beacon, Eva Grace Kellner, Travis Grant

Running time: 74 minutes

What better way to put a spring in your step on a wet afternoon, than to sit down to watch a post apocalyptic thriller? If nothing else, it changes your perspective on how bad the weather makes things seem.

Refuge (originally titled The Mansion) takes a premise that has been re-worked many times; a plague has spread throughout the population, killing nearly everyone in sight thus leading to a chaotic, dark and uncivilised world. The immediate assumption when approaching a film like this, is that you will witness zombies (in their droves) tearing people limb from limb. That however, is not the journey that Refuge takes and and it’s all the stronger for it.

refuge4In a gripping opening scene we witness a band of men approaching an isolated and vulnerable home. Immediately an unsettling tension hovers over the screen which is solidified when, despite the protestation of one of the party, the men advance on the house to pillage and kill who ever gets in their way. It is a startling and arresting opening which sets the tone of the film and establishes the characters quickly. We then learn, through news footage and desolate city shots, that there has been an outbreak of a deadly virus which is untreatable by antibiotics and spreading quickly. It’s succinctly and subtly presented, feeling eerily real and more than a terrifying possibility in this modern world. Having understood what has happened up to this point, we meet four survivors who are struggling to exist; parents with a young child and a single man, all trying to survive in one house together.

Considering this is Director Andrew Robertson’s début feature, it’s an extremely confident film that manages to steer clear of horrendous back story and laboured expository scenes. The muted, almost bleached colour adds to the theme and despair of the world the film depicts. The colours are so subdued that at times you’d be forgiven for thinking it was shot in back and white. In all aspects it is a slickly produced film, with arresting scenes and a real understanding of emotion and tension. This level of expertise for a first time feature is understandable when you realise that Refuge is produced by Passerby Films, an accomplished production company who clearly understand the power of storytelling.

refuge2Back to the film itself and as we watch our four survivors try to stay alive, we flit back to the initial band of men from the opening scene. Russell (Sebastian Beacon) the lone voice of reason, does not want to be involved with the killings and vigilante violence carried out by Rez (a terrifically disturbing Travis Grant) and the rest of the men. However, opting out is not an option and Rez makes it clear that if Russell runs, he will find him. This is exactly where Refuge elevates itself above other post-apocalypse films.

The threat here is not from lumbering zombies, or even a new strain of souped-up ones. The threat and fear comes from people themselves. Refuge is about the breakdown of humanity; people kill not because they know no better or even for survival of the fittest, there is a sadistic pleasure in every killing that this uncivilised world brings. However, whilst the killings are brutal, they don’t feel revelled in. One particular attack with a baseball bat spiked with nails is particularly disturbing, partly due to a cut away at exactly the moment of impact.

refuge3Needless to say, Russell makes his escape and is found and taken in by the other survivors. Oblivious to the danger they are opening themselves up to, Russell promises them he knows of a safe haven that they can all make their way too. But does it really exist? In a film where it is every man for himself and the worst of humanity is on display, it is virtually impossible to know who to trust. This is not a fun world to be living in, but from the comfort of the world we inhabit, it’s an entertaining one to watch.

8 out of 10

OMG… We’re In A Horror Movie (2014) Review

omgOMG… We’re In A Horror Movie (2014)

Running Time: 107 minutes

Director: Ajala Bandele

Cast: Ajala Bandele, Chris Hampton, Liz Fenning, Nils Jansson, Shanna Malcolm, Sharon Mae, Brendan McGowan

An ensemble, low budget film, OMG opens with six friends playing a board game and hanging out. After Tom’s (McGowan) psycho-ex Amy (Fenning) arrives, bringing the total to seven, a booming voice over is heard, informing the group that they are all in a horror movie. This fact is clarified by oddball of the group Kyle (Jansson), who tells them they’re probably all going to die and the killer will be the one they least suspect. Cue everyone’s panic, need to save themselves and immediate categorisation of the role they play and their likelihood of survival.

omg1With films such as Scream having kicked of the self-referential horror movie so successfully, it is no surprise that others haven taken up the mantle and chosen to teasingly play with conventions. This is the camp OMG firmly sits in, but it most definitely has it’s heart in comedy rather than horror. Sure, the premise is that the characters are trapped in a horror movie, but here, the laughs definitely overtake the screams. I imagine the concept of the film will provoke one of two reactions in people; either send them running for the hills or peak their interest enough to say, come on then, are you clever enough to pull this off? The end result doesn’t completely satisfy, but there are enough fun moments to indulge in and the entire film is actually cleverer than you might imagine.

omg2After a strong start, It’s fair to say that the film sags towards the middle and the running time of 107 minutes does feel a little over stretched. As the characters try to find different ways to survive the movie, we are treated to the obligatory fight scenes, sex scene and the not so obvious guys dressing up as women to act out an entirely different scene. Mad, but kind of fun at the same time. Not all of the laughs land quite as you might want and it seems a shame that more isn’t made of the weird and frankly disturbed Kyle. However, AJ (Ajala Bandele) and his friend Chris (Chris Hampton) steal the show. These guys could definitely have their own sequel. (No real stretch on the names though right)?

omg3Independently driven and mainly personally funded, OMG is clearly a project of passion and the enthusiasm of everyone involved seeps off the screen. Director, Writer, Producer and Actor Ajala Bandele is definitely one to watch, as alongside his co writer / co-producer Tom Hatfield, the pair have clearly shown that they can handle the reigns of a feature.Their knowledge of genres and horror references are playfully flaunted throughout the film, even down to the music and lighting. Add a script littered with good gags (even if some linger a little too long on screen) and you can see the pair are also clearly adept at comic film.

It would have been nice to have had a bit more gore (don’t expect Wes Craven style killings), but do expect everything to be thrown in to the mix, including zombies. If you want a film that terrifies, OMG is not for you. However, if you fancy seeing something low budget and fun, then stick around and press play.

5 out of 10

Sinead Beverland’s Top 5 Films of 2015

Sinead Beverland’s Top 5 Films of 2015

It’s been a year of great films, with some weird and wonderful experiences along the way. It always feels like I could have crammed more viewings in to the past twelve months, but time flies and we’ve only one pair of eyes. So, my top five films from 2015 include a double dose of my favourite horror and documentary, alongside an Oscar nominee.

Curse of the Witching Tree (2015)
Director, James Crow
UK release date: 18th May 2015

This cracker from English writer, producer and director James Crow, was the first film I reviewed for UKHS and what a great start. The witching tree of the title is cursed by a woman accused of murdering her son and subsequently hung as a witch. Flash forward 500 years to present day and a new family move near the tree and unwittingly unleash the demons lurking within. A brilliantly constructed film, with top notch performances; as the tension builds there are some genuinely jumpy moments and the story spins towards a great climax. Entertaining, scary and well produced, as this is Crow’s first feature film, it is exciting to imagine what he will bring to the table next.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
Director, Ana Lily Amirpour
UK release date: 22 May 2015

Another film I reviewed for UKHS, this is a delicious and alluring tale of a female vampire who stalks the dark streets of Iran, discovering a connection with a young man equally lost. Shot in black and white with a fantastic soundtrack to boot, the film teases tension out of every moment and draws you in to its underworld. With a graphic comic feel bubbling under the surface, Director Amirpour delivers what feels like a fresh new vampire tale both in story and look. Definitely add this one to your watch list immediately.

Iris (2014)
Director, Albert Maysles
UK release date: 7th June 2015

As soon as I saw the striking poster image for Iris, I wanted to see the film. All I knew, is that it was a documentary by Albert Maysles who brought us the captivating Grey Gardens. The subject, Iris Apfel is a designer, business woman and 93 year old fashion icon and this intimate film gives an insight in to her unique and fascinating life. It manages to capture the spirit and passion of life, the love and companionship of relationships and the importance of being true to yourself. After meeting Iris on the big screen you’ll undoubtedly wish you could meet her in real life too.

Older than Ireland (2015)
Director, Alex Fegan
UK release date: 25th September 2015

A second documentary slips in to my top five, as it was just too touching and humour filled not to include. Director Fegan interviews 30 of Ireland centenarians about life, love and what it’s been like living in Ireland over the previous changing 100 years. As they take over the screen, the interviews are edited together seamlessly to produce a charming documentary that will challenge your expectations of ageing. Such an honest and heart-warming film deserves to be seen by all and trust me when I say, some of these characters will have you in stitches.

Whiplash (2014)
Director, Damien Chazelle
UK release date: 16th January 2015

Coming off the back of Oscar hype, earlier in the year I approached Whiplash tentatively, not wanting to be disappointed. I needn’t have worried. The story of Andrew, a student wanting to excel at drumming and become the best of the best is full of ambition, power, anger and passion. Pushed to his very limits by his teacher (a scene chomping J.K Simmons), Andrew (Miles Teller) gives us a character to hate and like in equal measure. This film is an actors dream and for the viewer, an exhausting watch for all the right reasons.

Dud of the year

However, not all films hit the mark and this year, for me, it was a slow-paced western that turned out to be my turkey.

Slow West (2015)
Director, John Maclean
UK release date: 26th June 2015

Perhaps a controversial choice, as this western has been lauded with praise, but when I left the cinema, I left feeling disappointed. The story follows a young Scottish man who follows his heart to America to find his sweetheart. When a mysterious wanderer (Michael Fassbender) offers to assist him, things become dangerous and soon other men are on their trail. The downfall of Slow West for me personally, was mainly due to a lack of belief or interest in the characters and the slow pacing. It meant I felt totally unconnected to the film and, worst of all, I had a flagrant disregard for the fates that might befall the characters themselves. It certainly looked good, but at no point did I feel like I cared. As a whole, it just felt like it was trying too hard and the core story irritated rather than moved.