Horror film fan, former film student, seeker of unholy scriptures, currently roaming the hills of Wales looking like a Papa Jupiter
prequel. A lifelong attendee of the theatre (and VHS and DVD) of the Grand Guignol with a morbid gravitation towards all things macabre. An old ham at extra work, has appeared as a ‘Nazi Zombie Victim’ in Outpost 2, ‘Drunk at Funeral’ in Spike Island and ‘Scared Shopper’ in the upcoming zombie horror Apocalypse.
Starring: Alix Elizabeth Gitter, Erik Avari, Steve Bacic, Tara Westwood
Out NOW in UK from 101 Films
Following up from his 2012 cabin-in-the-woods rural thriller ‘The Sacred’, director Brett Donowho returns to similar territory with the supernatural murder-mystery ‘A Haunting At Silver Falls’. Although the DVD cover and publicity materials for this low-budget feature from Outsider Pictures make it look more like a derivative of the Grudgey-Ringy style of noughties J-horrors and their spawn, the film is actually more Apple Pie than Asia Extreme and takes its inspirations from a different heritage of ghost stories and folklore.
Orphaned teenager Jordan ( a strikingly solemn performance by Alix Gitter) finds a ring enchanted by the spirits of twin girls who were drowned years earlier in Silver Falls by their father. The foreboding ghouls mean no harm to Jordan and appear to caution her about an elusive threat that links a dark secret from the past to a danger in her present.
Rather than employ over-used tactics such as jump-scare effects (usually achieved through the combination of a sudden flashing image and a loud jolt in volume) ‘A Haunting At Silver Halls’ is a unusual style of ghost story- a slow-burner filled with silence and sombre, monotonous dialogue which creates a consistently ominous tone, providing this steadily paced low-budget creeper with one of its unique selling points.
The other stand-out aspect of the film is the convincingly disaffected performance by the lead actress Alix Elizabeth Gitter. Given the demanding task of being the centrepiece of almost every scene in this slow-paced ghostly drama it is this performance that ultimately carries the film and sells it. Gore-hounds or fans of the aforementioned Asian demonic spirits might find themselves feeling disappointed and perhaps misled by the marketing for this bloodless and melancholic ghost story but those in the mood for a suspenseful murder mystery with a supernatural twist will enjoy it for its merits.
More eerie silences than surprise scares- this is a moody and atmospheric chiller with an excellent and vulnerable lead performance and a Fargo-esque cheekiness with its ‘Inspired By True Events’ title card as no amount of research can provide this reviewer with any clue as to exactly what events this film was inspired by. The ‘15’ certificate is undeserving and unfortunate as this style of ghost story would be perfect for a slightly younger audience.
Starring: Onur Tukel, Anna Margaret Hollyman, Dustin Guy Defa, Dakota Golhor
UK DVD & Blu-Ray release 23rd Feb 2015 from Monster Pictures
Onur Tukel stars as loose-lipped and unconstrained ‘Jerry Garcia-lookalike’ Erik Sparrow, a 40 year old New York hipster/slacker/yuppie whose constant verbalising of his contemptuous thoughts for his surrounding Brooklyn culture often lands him neck deep in trouble .When we meet this self pitying and intentionally awkward mess of a man he is refusing a marriage proposal from a girlfriend (Anna Margaret Hollyman) who very quickly sees the light and moves on, trading this pain in the neck for a much better suitor who goes on to become Erik’s nemesis.
For over thirty minutes Summer of Blood is a bleak comedy about a neurotic man struggling to survive socially and who cannot help his vulgar behaviour, such as casually harassing a co-worker (luckily for him she’s kind of into it #moviemagic) and masturbating over a pic of his ex in the staff toilet at work, right up until Erik reaches a literal ‘Dead End’ and things get a little cold and steamy in the vein of ‘Interview With The Vampire’ down on the docks.
Here the film starts to honour its title and we learn a little more about the reasons for this anti-hero’s behaviour-he is a disillusioned man who longs for death, which comes (as it often does in movies) in the form of a ethereal and enigmatic man who transforms Erik from an inappropriate human being into an even more inappropriate creature of the night. But instead of gaining any enlightenment or perspective from his new found powers, Erik’s views remain the same and it is the attitudes of his social circle that change towards Erik, now that he is more parasitic and supernaturally powerful.
Erik’s first kill is both gory and darkly funny as he apologises profoundly to his victim inbetween gulping his blood and chewing on his flesh ,and as the once ‘robotic and rigid’ man embraces the ‘effortless and awesome’ hedonist Dracula lifestyle and its perks –such as an unholy threesome of bloodthirsty groupies so lustful they could scare the English accent out of Keanu Reeves-the film benefits from a much needed lift in the form of some horror and blackest comedy.
The films best scenes occur after Erik has been bitten and there are some genuinely funny and frighteningly surreal ideas in the latter half of the movie. One must applaud Onur Tukel for casting himself as the unlikely object of numerous women’s affections and at times one cannot but think that if Woody Allen made a vampire movie this would be it. Tukel even addresses his own personal ambitions of becoming an auteur in a fourth wall-flattening, neurosis driven monologue that adds some indie self-awareness to the script.
The film ends on a note borrowed from another film about a wandering existentialist , Eyes Wide Shut, the difference being that after a few sessions of debauchery Tom Cruise’s character seems to take a caution from his journey and it is clear here that Erik the vampire is consistent in his immaturity and has learned nothing, which in the end makes the character more likeable.
Spinning a novel idea off in interesting directions, the hard work of the low-budget filmmakers is evident in frame, and it is in its ambition, metaphors and genre scenes that the film sometimes works. The protagonist is reminiscent of Jon Favreau’s loathable and yet oddly still likeable turn in Swingers and Onur Tukel’s comic wit can both charm and grate in equal measure,which we suspect is the writer/director.actor’s intention all along. An unconventional take on some very familiar themes Summer Of Blood occasionally confounds but often delights.
‘Apocalypse’ Screenwriters Interview by Will Roberts
Stuart Jopia and Stuart Bedford are the writers of the upcoming UK zombie action/horror movie ‘Apocalypse’. The film is in post-production and is scheduled for release in 2015.
UKHS – Firstly could you please give us an introduction to the story and the world of the film?
Stu B: Apocalypse is the story of Katya Nevin, a troubled news anchor with a traumatic past, and her escape from the top floor of the W.W News studio after the zombie holocaust hits. At one point in the story, she and her colleagues intercept footage from around the globe and must face the idea that their lives are about to change forever. We tried to imbue this film with a sense of realism and worked hard on the science behind how the zombies function and also how they managed to infest the globe before humanity could respond. One word that got thrown around a lot was “relentless”, I don’t know whether to take that as a compliment or not! We didn’t really allow our characters more than a moment to take a breath, so you can expect lots and lots of carnage, filth and gore.
UKHS – Who are your personal all-time favourite script writers or film-makers?
Stu B: I think a common ground Stu J and I both share is John Carpenter, both as a writer and director. Our mutual love of pretty much all of his films (up to a certain point) is something that always brings us together creatively. Both of us will also cite Romero as a direct influence and I think this is going to be apparent to anyone who reads our script for Apocalypse. Zombies have always fascinated me. They say a good monster shows you your worst fear made flesh; well who wants to be a corpse? To name a few others, Tarantino does it for me; Terry Gilliam; Scorsese. There are too many to list. When you take up film as a passion, you have to pretty much forget any notion of picking favourites.
I do however have to cite Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright as a huge influence, particularly earlier in their careers with Shaun of the Dead and Spaced. These were seminal moments for me. 15 or 16 years old, these were the first things I’d ever watched that spoke directly to me, this weird little fat kid with a stupid hair-cut and an obsession with counter-culture sat alone in my room. They showed me that my passion for horror and sci-fi wasn’t a waste of time as everyone around me seemed to be telling me at the time. In fact, when I walked out of the cinema after watching Shaun of the Dead, something had clicked and I knew then that I wanted to be a filmmaker. A couple of weeks later, I dropped music which I was studying at the time and started studying film.
Stu J: As Stu said John Carpenter is my all time favourite director. I think he has the most movies under his belt that I love and will never get bored of. I am a huge Stanley Kubrick fan, I truly believe he is the greatest director to ever live. Everything about the way he creates movies is astonishing. The level of detail he applies to every frame is mind blowing. A true creative genius. I am very partial to a slice of the Italian horror scene from the 60 and 70’s. Dario Argento and Mario Bava in general. Scriptwriters, i can’t get enough of the Coen Brothers. Their scripts are unique in every way. You know when you read one of their scripts. Very clever and never to the norm.
UKHS – With character names like Carpenter, Proteus and King appearing in the script, which films ,TV shows or novels have influenced you both on this particular film?
Stu B: There are quite a few influences in the Apocalypse script and anyone who has read our stuff will know that we tend to wear our influences like a badge of honour. For me, this obviously stems back to my early influences in reference comedies like Spaced and Shaun of the Dead. I love nods and references in film. I love how they act is in-jokes and sort of reward you for being a geek. And come on, I’m clearly interested in geek rewards. So you’ll see lots of references in Apocalypse; Romero’s first Of The Dead trilogy, Re-Animator, 28 Days Later, La Horde. We even managed to sneak a Dead Rising nod in there for those who like their gaming. It was fun to pepper these in when we were writing.
Stu J: For me the great French action horror La Horde was one of the many inspirations for me. After watching a lot of zombie movies this fresh piece of horror came flying and punched me square in the face. It was an action movie with zombies in. That excited the hell outta me. I had watched the REC movies and wanted to do something that was quite fast and brutal. These French movies were deffo a major part of our research for Apocalypse.
UKHS – Both of you clearly have a fascination with the genre. Can you remember your first introduction to horror or your earliest memories of a horror film?
Stu B: I can, very vividly. That’s a bit of a story actually. When I was a kid, I was terrified of horror. And I’m not talking a toddler, I mean up until I was about 13 or 14. But despite having this fear of horror I was also morbidly fascinated with them. The box art, the stories; they were mysterious portals into the unknown, I couldn’t believe they even existed. It was a whole complex. My best friend though, Mike McGeoch, was a huge horror fan and had watched Hellraiser with his dad when he was 8. Eventually it was him that broke my fear of horror. He talked me through Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors as we watched it with the TV turned to black and white, and then a second time through in colour. And in deconstructing it so clinically, the fear was broken, and then quickly turned into an obsession.
It’s one of the reasons he is still one of my best friends to this day, who would do that for another person?! Care enough that they’re missing out on horror movies and go to those lengths to help?! And Stu J and I connected instantly over our mutual love of horror and obviously that has blossomed into a fruitful creative partnership and a great friendship that makes both of us better storytellers than we would be alone. So Horror obviously has a lot of meaning to me; it perhaps ironically means friendship and creativity.
Stu J: I remember getting my brothers VHS player when he left for university when I was 8 years old. This was the greatest thing ever!!! Tonnes and tonnes of long play vhs’s. All from the 70’s and 80’s. It was heaven for a lad who liked sitting in front of the tv. Evil Dead that was the first horror movie I ever watched. It shat me up so bad and when I watch it now and it still gives me shivers down my spine. From that day the love affair was born and nearly 30 years later, I’m still the same boy who sits on the couch loving the escapism of a great horror movie.
UKHS – What are your personal favourite Zombie movies?
Stu B: I’ve mentioned a few already. Romero’s first three offerings to the genre are clearly amongst the top. I’m often torn between Dawn and Day of the dead. Dawn is the winner in critical acclaim of course but there’s something about Day of the Dead that resonates with me a lot. Day definitely influences Apocalypse, particularly the moments that talk about the science behind the undead.
Outside of those already mentioned, we both love the Return of the Living Dead franchise, and yes, we did reference that in the Apocalypse script as well in a particularly squishy brain-related moment. If it’s got zombies in it, chances are we’ve seen it. And if we haven’t, it’s probably in the queue for the next hangover morning.
Stu J: I’m a huge fan of Day of the Dead. That movie is relentless and the gore is the best I’ve ever seen. Even now it can’t be matched. The works of Lucio Fulci are always very close to my heart. He had his own style of zombies that mixed the old school Hatian zombie with the Romero zombies. He weaves nightmarish zombies that melt, explode or crumble in front of your eyes. Truly spectacular.
UKHS – There is as much action as there is horror in the script, are there any notable action movie influences on Apocalypse?
Stu B: Interestingly enough, the original brief asked for something akin to The Raid meets Dead Rising, which was our initial jumping off point. And I’d consider La Horde to be heavily action-oriented and this as mentioned is a definite tonal influence.
So in terms of flow and pacing, we tried to go toe-to-toe with The Raid for sure. It was certainly a tall order but I’ll tell you one thing, it was fun to tell a story with a pace that fast!
Stu J: One movie can answer this question. Commando or any movies with Arnie in. As Stu says above, The Raid was a huge influence for us. We wanted a strong female action lead too. She’s more Your’re Next than Resident Evil.
UKHS – What were the most difficult or enjoyable things about the process of writing as a team of two?
Stu B: We have not been in this partnership for very long relatively. We started with a script for a Batman comic, did a little bit of writing on Tony Jopia’s last film and then just like that we were given Apocalypse. It’s been a sort of whirlwind bromance if you like. As yet, we’ve had zero arguments. It helps that our influences are so aligned that’s for sure. I think we work because we both have different talents and strengths and different motivations for doing what we do.
What I find interesting about writing is examining characters, getting into the nitty-gritty of who they are and why they make the decisions we have them making. Stu J is a plot man at heart and has amazing instincts when we’re designing the events of the film. It’s almost like together, we make one complete storyteller.
The most fun part for me on Apocalypse was earlier on. I always like when we’re researching and brainstorming and flash-carding our stories. We spend a lot of time together, we watch movies, we talk movies and we throw ideas back and forth. It’s always an exciting time where we learn a lot about each other and ourselves and of course our subject matter. It’s easily the most sociable stage of the process. Once I get to the actual writing of the screenplay, that’s when it starts to get isolated and often challenging; when our ideas don’t work as we imagined early on and I start banging my head against the keyboard trying to figure out how to improve the story in the edit. This is something every writer goes through in the development of that first draft and beyond.
Luckily, I live with Stu J at the moment and he’s always on hand to help me break scenes down and examine them in their elements to figure out where they’re falling flat or not quite working as well as they could. I honestly don’t think I could go back to writing alone, the advantages of sharing the weight of a story with a partner are just too great!
Stu J: The most difficult thing was having to speak to stu b a lot. He would come in to my room at 4am needing assistance on the script. Annoying the hell outa me. (Laughing manically) Seriously though, it was a fun experience, we both have certain skills that lend itself to each other when working out scenes or working on the concepts. This was the second script we worked on together and has been a pleasure. I love thinking about the plot and how things will unfold and stu b is a master of character. So all the watching of movies for inspiration was a blast. What more could a horror fan want?
UKHS – Is there any advice you might have for a first time horror writer attempting their first feature length script?
Stu B: Watch horror. Watch horror while you write, watch horror while you rest. Read horror scripts. In fact, read all scripts, this will only improve your knowledge of your craft in the long run. And just do it. Give yourself a deadline for a first draft and hit it. Do as much research as you can. Live and breathe it. Make everything else secondary to the script. It’s lonely, it’s probably not healthy, but in my eyes, it’s what it takes. Get that first draft done. It will suck. Every first draft sucks. Edgar Allen Poe’s first drafts sucked. That’s when you edit.
Polish that thing until it gleams. Get rid of all of the dead weight. And then, for better or worse you will have your script. And take criticism. Don’t be too proud to include something someone suggests, don’t let ego get in the way of admitting that something isn’t working. Ego is the death of story. And always remember, you are playing a long game. Don’t expect that first script to be the revolution. But keep going, do the whole thing again and again and you will get that bit better every time. Unfortunately, there’s no quick method. Screenwriting is a craft, and crafts have a habit of consuming your life.
Stu J: Watch and read all things horror. Movies, TV shows, short movies, comics, novels, short stories, screenplays. Once you have a great grasp for the genre then just get in from of a computer and write and keep writing. The first draft is your canvas to play around with. Learn as much as you can on the art of scriptwriting and just don’t give up. Keep at it and let your mind go to places it may never get to go to.
UKHS – Are there any future projects you are working on that you could tell us about?
Stu B: We are working on a number of things at the moment actually. We have recently registered and set up our own production company, Two-Headed Snake Entertainment, and we’re currently building our first project and are approaching the point where we will be seeking investment very soon.
Dark Continents is a H.P Lovecraft inspired international anthology movie, featuring segments from the UK, Norway, Belgium, Greece and Canada. We have already attached interest in this project from Miltos Yerolemou (known for playing Syrio Forel in Game of Thrones) and Tristan Risk (a rising star in indie-horror known amongst other things for her role in the Soska Sisters’ American Mary) who are both keen to play leading roles in the UK and Canadian segments respectively.
At the moment, we are also involved in the NCY Midnight Short Screenwriting Challenge and have just submitted our first round entry entitled The Destroyer of Worlds: a five page story about a conscientious scientist confronting Robert Oppenheimer in the moments before the Manhattan Project’s Trinity Test. You can check this out here: http://stuartwbedford.wordpress.com/
We also have a number of concepts in development and are constantly adding more to Two-Headed Snake’s ever growing pile of potential projects.
UKHS – There is one final question I am compelled to ask. During the Summer I was lucky enough to spend seventeen days as a production assistant on Apocalypse and during my stay I distinctly overheard someone from the writers ‘room recommending the (famously ) critically unsuccessful 1995 sci-fi film ‘Johnny Mnemonic’. As a lifelong supporter of Keanu Reeves and a scavenger of lost or under-rated cult films could either or both of you please explain the merits of this film and why it might be worth a re-visit?
Stu B: This amuses me greatly. I can only imagine what it must have been like living in the room next to us during the Apocalypse production. I remember talking about this. Unfortunately, on the day I left for the Apocalypse production, I had received news that a close friend’s mother had passed away. I went back for her funeral about a week into production and while I was back home alone (my girlfriend was visiting her parents) I sort of regressed back to my youth and started watching all of the movies I used to love from the 80’s and 90’s. Cable Guy, The Fifth Element. And of course, Johnny Mnemonic.
If you ask me, crap 90’s sci-fi is always worth a revisit. I feel it has a cult charm that speaks to me as someone who was right in their target audience when they were released. As we get older, we develop our taste and we start to lose the ability to suspend our disbelief. We get overly critical. I’m guilty of it, we all are. Critics particularly are, obviously. I say this as someone who spent a year critiquing movies for WhatCulture.com. The reality is, when anyone makes a film, crap or otherwise, the sheer effort that has gone into it is astounding. It’s hard to make a movie. Any single person who does it has my utmost respect, whatever the result.
Don’t get me wrong, Johnny Mnemonic is bad. But it’s good-bad in my eyes. Not bad-good which is just bad. Does that make any sense at all? There’s something about it that reminds me of being a kid, being young enough to have not developed my passion for film to the point that I understand how they work on a technical level. I remember when I first watched it, I just accepted it, and because of that I loved it. The world through the eyes of a child is awesome! Makes you think how much we may be missing out on by holding every story up to the same standards. Johnny Mnemonic knew what it was – a plop 90’s sci-fi – and didn’t try to pretend it wasn’t. Definitely worth another look!
Stu J: Ha ha ha, I’m a massive fan of the sci-fi movies of the 90’s. With blinders like Johnny Mnemonic, Tank Girl, Starship Troopers, Twelve Monkeys and Dark City all ruled that era. Watching Johnny Mnemonic recently for the 5th time is always a joy. An awesomely ridiculous plot, Yakuza’s, shootouts, evil corporations, crime syndicates headed by the always awesome Takashi Kitano. Awesome cameo’s by Dolph Lundgren, Udo Kier, Ice T and Henry Rollins. Sold?
Starring: Michael Culditz,Melanie Griffiths, Pruitt Taylor Vince.
UK DVD Release October 27th from Monster Pictures UK
Produced by Susan Delaurentiis and directed by Suri Krishnamma (‘Bad Karma’) ‘Dark Tourist’ (meaning ‘one who travels with the intent to visit scenes of tragedy or disaster’) is a morbid character study of a person who not only studies and desires darkness and morbidity themselves but is haunted and controlled by a brutally violent and abusive past.
Michael Culditz (from TV’s LA police drama ‘Southland’) plays an unhinged cigarette smoking, egg-munching (and both at the same time) security guard called Jim who loves his job and is prone to the odd outburst of homophobic and racist comments and plagued by a generally hateful train of thought. As Jim quietly seethes with a high-level of contempt for his fellow man we soon learn that he, like David Duchovny’s yuppie photographer in the 1993 Brad Pitt thriller Kalifornia, likes to visit the locations of places where instances of extreme abuse or murder have taken place.
Unlike Duchovny he is not there to document the grimly historic sites, but to wallow in the mire of their atrocities and try and imagine and re-live the violent events that have taken place there. It is in these dark places and by conjuring entities such as his favourite serial killer (played in typically creepy fashion by horror and thriller stalwart Pruitt Taylor Vince) that Jim thrives, like the narrator from Fight Club descending and transforming, not into Tyler Durden, but American Psycho’s relentless and vocation-loving psychotic Patrick Bateman.
Melanie Griffiths appears as Betsy (a nod to Cybill Shepherd in Taxi Driver)-a fleeting romantic interest in Jim’s life, but unlike Reba Mclane(The Tooth Fairy’s unwitting muse in Manhunter and Red Dragon) there is no man for Betsy to save from the monster. Jim has no redeemable qualities, no ‘good’ side.
Even in their initial conversation in the coffee shop Jim lies to manipulate her into feeling for him, displaying conventional traits of a true psychopath and only mimicking human emotion. Jim isn’t in a battle with himself, he is a miscreant completely lost to his demons.
In the third act there are shades of The Crying Game and The Killer Inside Me and Jim seals his fate with the vile battery and abduction of a prostitute he feels shame for desiring and he arrives at the ill fated future his lurid and ruinous past has mapped out for him. The destructive unravelling and mental deterioration of a psychopath has been done many times throughout the history of cinema, often in great style like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, The Killer Inside Me and Taxi Driver, films which also feature a murderous doomed romance, a graphic bloody beating and scenes in which we hear a jaded monologue as a tortured misanthrope stares transfixed at a TV set. But whereas the anti-heroes in those films are devilishly charming curiosities explored with dreamlike romanticism, the character Jim is abhorrent and his dissolution is cruel, monotonous and purely bleak .
It finishes on a cyclical ending which implies the circle of violence and the voyeuristic curiosity in violence will continue and Jim has become one of his fascinations. Once you adjust to its grim and unsettling tone the film does have three excellent performances from Culditz, Griffiths and Taylor Vince and some extreme scenes of the old ultra-violence but the tropes are now a little too familiar (vitriolic inner monologues, sexual abuse, religious undertones) and the grimy palette and tone of the film conjures the unease of cheap and nasty straight-to-shelf films like Ted Bundy (2002) or Gacy (2003) rather than the classics it undoubtedly aspires to.
Starring – John Berry, Gerard Fallon, Eugene Horan
Studio: 88 Films
UK DVD Release Date: 29 Sep 2014
The Pigman Murders (once known as ‘Somebody’s There’) is a low budget horror film that takes place in County Galway, Ireland. Written and directed by Stephen Patrick Kelly the film stars Mark Hutchinson and Gerard Fallon as two of seven good friends who have met up to commemorate the death of an old friend with a (drink fuelled) trip into the forest.
Tensions build as some of this boisterous bunch are still holding seemingly forgotten grudges and are as prone to a quick scrap with one another as they are a can of lager or a spliff. As the group drink, smoke and banter their way deeper into the darkening wilderness ,they encounter a bloodied messenger of death and it isn’t long before they realise each of them are being stalked and hunted by a mysterious, malignant foe and must up their fight to survive the night.
Although the quote on the DVD cover says ‘Deliverance meets Blair Witch’ films like Dog Soldiers, Southern Comfort and You’re Next might also be mentioned. The very low production values work in its favour and help to make this dimly lit, stalk n’ slash across the plains film consistently unsettling as one by one this bunch of increasingly hysterical lads are picked off by (mostly) unseen pork-faced forces of evil .
The camera swirls, loops, bounds and cuts out a lot , resembling the shaky fisted VHS camcorder recording of a Grandparent rather than the roller-coaster fun-cams of Evil Dead 2 or Dusk Til Dawn 2 .This is a stylistic method that will either put some viewers off completely or help to create a sense of nauseating tension, depending on your stamina.
Director Kelly is well aware that keeping the suspense psychological and the atmosphere uneasy, with only shapes and shadows creeping in the background for most of the film, helps create a sense of impending dread and what sets this film apart from the countless other found footage horror films to be found on the lower shelves of supermarkets is the naturalistic performances and the unfamiliar and sinister setting, which begins in the mountains of the great wide Irish open yet feels genuinely claustrophobic in the grisly woods of the climax.
The background and motives of the antagonists remain so vague that this is a story that could be expanded upon and returned to and anyone agreeing with this after seeing the film is in luck, as The Pigman Murders 2 : Lost Footage is currently in production.
Malleus Maleficarum (meaning ‘Hammer of the Witches’-and the title of a famous medieval text on witchcraft) is Canadian writer/director Torin Langen’s dialogue- free, occult short film currently picking up accolades at various film festivals across North America.
Recently the shocking and expertly crafted South Korean film Moebius by Kim Ki-Duk successfully put the use of a silent cast to excruciating effect and this sixteen minute film takes the same daring approach.
The film begins with a decrepit VHS production logo before fading in on a sepia Autumn palette with a foreboding biblical quote letting us know exactly where we are- in the familiar backwoods of a US low-budget horror film.
This story of occult fundamentalism , and the consequences of what happens when a conflicted member of this sect attempts to kick against the witches, works well and although shot in HD still has the ominous tone and colours that bring to mind nasty 70’s independent horrors like I Spit On Your Grave or Last House On The Left.
The scenes move swiftly, with a number of nice match cuts and cutaways, between the minimum number of locations and the running time of the film seems perfect for this visually reliant and atmospheric piece.
Given the demanding task of bringing their nameless characters to life and telling the story with only the use of reaction, expression and diegetic sound, the cast give solid performances and are the stand out element of the film. One bum note and the (black) magic might be ruined, but the performances, sound production and music (by New Wings members Stephen Schooley and Justin Cober) all contribute towards the success of this short film.
Shot on a shoe-string budget (but with enough practical gore effects to quench the bloodthirsty) Malleus Maleficarum is a bold risk that pays off and a refreshingly experimental take on the age-old witches-in-the-woods folktale.
Cast: Julian Richings, Jake Goodman, Drew Davis, Ron Basch
The Last Halloween is Canadian director Marc Roussel’s latest addition to an already excellent collection of short films which includes the Twilight Zone-esque ‘ Remote’ and gory murder mystery ‘The Elusive Man’. This ghastly tale of pestilence, perishment and sinister visitors is an ideally gloomy treat for any excitable horror fan at their favourite time of year.
As the film opens on a desolate night, with the sullen image of a child in a ragged Ghost costume slowly approaching a dimly lit house, we may be forgiven for expecting all the usual tropes of a Halloween-set short film to follow, but when the boy rejoins the rest of his pre-pubescent clan of costumed Trick or Treaters (made up of a Witch, a Devil and a Grim Reaper) we see this is a haunting of a very different kind, that takes place in an eerie, plague-ravaged ruins of a society.
As the young and ghoulish quartet visit three equally haunted characters –a cautious gypsy hidden in her home, a rotting old man in a derelict house and a mourning couple locked away in their fortress- at their various, condemned abodes, we slowly suspect that the trick being played out by these four horse-children of this apocalypse may well be that there is no treat.
There is a wonderful blend of gothic, mediaeval and futuristic horror on display throughout and the story resonates like a dystopic Brothers Grimm tale – especially when the mini-harbingers , each representing a symbol of the season, dispose of their festive attire, resulting in a spectacular achievement in monster and prosthetic design, and a fantastic new spin on familiar imagery.
The cinematography, production and costume design are impressively bleak and in places this visually stunning ten minute film is reminiscent of other non-horror (but nonetheless terrifying) post-apocalyptic classics such as ‘Delicatessen’ and ‘The Road’.
A story riddled with a dreaded plague is impeccably timed to this particular Hallow’s Eve and this short , produced by Red Sneakers Media, is consistently tragic and wonderfully grim right up until it’s harrowing final shot.
Written by Marc Roussel and Mark Thibodeau, and based on a comic book by Thibodeau, The Last Halloween is currently being screened at prestigious film festivals such as Raindance Film Festival and Screamfest and is destined for (well-deserved) widespread praise and attention come October 31st.