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Havenhurst (2016) Review

Havenhurst posterHavenhurst (2016)

Director: Andrew C. Erin

Starring: Julie Benz, Belle Shouse, Fionnula Flanagan, Josh Stamberg

Havenhurst is now available on Cable VOD and Digital HD platforms, including Charter Spectrum, Comcast, DirecTV Cinema, Dish, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Vudu and more

“Clean slate. Fresh start. The rest is up to you.”

Genre darling Julie Benz stars in this entertaining thriller. She plays Jackie, an alcoholic fresh out of rehab who goes to stay in an apartment building that takes in various addicts and offer them a home, as long as they obey the rules. Her landlady Eleanor (Fionnula Flanagan) offers a warm welcome with a side helping of veiled threats. Jackie is welcome to stay for as long she wants but she mustn’t return to her old habits or she’ll face eviction. Jackie agrees to the terms, but she has another motive for taking the apartment in Havenhurst. Jackie’s friend Danielle has recently disappeared from the building without notice and Jackie wants to find out what happened to her. Luckily she is the newest occupant of the apartment Danielle has just vacated. During her search, Jackie meets some of the other residents, including a young girl named Sarah (Shouse) who reminds Jackie of her tragic past.

rsz_havenhurst_3Havenhurst doesn’t exactly break new ground. And I was surprised that I guessed the nature of the apartment building so quickly. Not that the film tries for a big reveal, but literally, my first thought was correct. Still, that doesn’t matter so much with such enjoyable performances and a smoothly told story. Julie Benz is in good form and Fionnula Flanagan, despite the small part, shines brightly as the overbearing landlady with a very dark secret. Sadly, the villains don’t get much screen time. At least not as much as they rightly deserve. Especially given the slasher roots of Havenhurst. Shouse is a talented young actress and does a decent job as the quiet and traumatized Sarah.

There are a couple of gory scenes but there was certainly room for many more, and it feels a bit like a lost opportunity. I’m not generally fan of torture porn, but this movie could have used a bit more blood and guts. Though, there is at least one scene very heavy on the guts. The practical effects are also a welcome change of pace. No CGI that’s noticeable at least (which is always the best kind of CG). Not that there is great emphasis on special effects. Havenhurst depends more on suspense rather than effects.

There are few places where the movie falls flat. There are an unfortunate amount of jump scares that aren’t scary. The director would have been better off aiming for psychological thrills or, again, gore, instead. There are a lot of side characters who don’t get much, if any development. Jackie’s friend Tim (Josh Stamberg) is more plot device than character. He’s a cop. He’s her friend… and that’s it. There is nothing to indicate how they met, how they know each other, how long they’ve known each other. Same goes for the creepy building superintendant and Eleanor’s son Ezra (Matt Lasky)who could have had a much larger and more threatening part, but appears in only about three scenes. Both Tim and Ezra are wasted opportunities script-wise.

rsz_havenhurst_2While Havenhurst isn’t exactly an amazing film, it entertains and provides a coherent, well told story. Julie Benz fans in particular will enjoy her in this starring role. Just be sure to curb your expectations, and settle in for a decent little thriller with a nice kick at the end.
Kudos for: Julie Benz rocking the brunette dye job.

Lesson learned: Always read the lease agreement.

7/10

Killer Piñata (2015) Review

rsz_kp1Killer Piñata (2015)
Directed by: Stephen Tramontana
Written by: Megan Macmanus and Stephen Tramontana from a story by Nick Weeks.
Starring: Lindsay Ashcroft, Nate Bryan, Eliza-Jane Morris, Steven James Price and Joette Waters.

Available here – http://lcfilmsonline.com/product/killer-pinata-bluray-dvd-or-limited-edition-vhs/

A possessed piñata, seeking to avenge the savagery that humanity has inflicted on his kind, picks off a group of friends, one by one, in an unending night of terror.

There has always been a trend in the horror industry for films with titles that make us grimace. These are the titles that we’re almost embarrassed to say aloud for fear that someone will think we’re condoning the pas complique of their unashamed simplicity. Back in 1964 we were watching Ray Dennis Steckler’s The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies. In 1966 Don Weis gave us The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini. More recently, we’ve sat through Sharknado and all its sequels (including Feeding Frenzy and Heart of Sharkness). And now, thanks to Stephen Tramontana, we can all sit back and bask in the glory of the title that is Killer Piñata.

I did not sit down in front of this movie expecting finesse, sophistication or subtlety. I’m stupid, but I’m not that stupid. I did not expect cutting edge special effects or award-winning acting. In truth, I went into this film with very low expectations, and I was not disappointed.

The film opens in the Candyworld toy store and it appears there’s been an incident. The hook-handed shopkeeper (Joette Waters, The Night-Like Daydreams of Wolfgang Deedle, Dead Girls, and His Dream, His Nightmare) finds a former cashier sprawled dead on the floor. In blood, with one finger, the cashier has started to write a final message, identifying her killer. She only got halfway through the word and we see the letters P I Ñ A.

rsz_kp2Jump forward a little in time and David Goodman (Steven James Price, I’m Fine, Welcome to Dreadville V: Souls of Mischief, and Not Another Zombie Movie) is bursting into Candyworld, desperate to buy a piñata or three for his son’s birthday party celebrations. Obviously, he buys the one labelled ‘DO NOT CELL’, and this is how the unlikely mayhem moves from Candyworld into suburbia.

Despite the ludicrousness of the plot, I have to admit there is something a little unsettling about the ritual of beating a piñata. Piñatas are usually pretty. They’re usually small to the point of being vulnerable. And they’re invariably filled with appetising and appealing sweets. So, given all these positive qualities of a piñata, why do we encourage children to string them up like war criminals and then take a bat to them like Robert De Niro in The Untouchables?

Clearly the Killer Piñata, seeing his kith and kin succumb to this fate, is pondering the same question. And, if we sidestep the notion of him being sentient and possessing motility, we can understand why pathological vengeance becomes his raison d’etre.

rsz_kp3This is not a film to take seriously. It’s a film to watch with drunken friends. It’s a film to watch with people who appreciate surrealist comedy. It’s a film to watch with those who enjoy the OTT reactions of those under attack from the Papier Mache paws of a killer piñata. Given the current political climate of the world, with so many reasons to be unhappy, fearful and worried, this movie offers a chance to laugh at the absurd and embrace the notion of ridiculousness. I think it’s fair say that this Killer Piñata can’t be beaten. 7/10

Abandoned Dead (2017) DVD Review

rsz_1adABANDONED DEAD (2017)

Dir- Mark W. Curran

Starring- Sarah Nicklin, Judith O’Dea, Carlos Ramirez, Robert E Wilhelm

UK DVD Release – Feb 27th 2017 from LEFT FILMS

A security guard’s sudden night shift at an addiction clinic and the sinister goings on that befall this luckless worker are the main plot focus for Mark W. Curran’s independent horror ABANDONED DEAD, that whilst showing some of its budget constraints and at times flaws slipping through the cracks does also allow it’s director and main star to showcase their talent on a shoestring.

Rachel (Nicklin) is on her way home from a day shift but at the last minute she is called up by her boss to cover a late shift over the memorial day weekend and being at night is something that she is not too keen on since she has a “problem with night-time” (sure that’s known as fear of the dark?). Given a quick tour of the addiction clinic that’s her work place for the night, she is warned by the secretary who is about to leave her, to lock the doors at all times (that rule will be broken) and being assured not be afraid despite learning that the clinic is in a bad area and that addicts have tendency to try and break into the building for extra methadone. Once she is the only person there its not long before strange things start to happen, weird noises and voices Rachel starts to hear and soon she finds herself possibly the focus of a killer or supernatural presence that wants to end her shift pretty abruptly and some of this may also tie in with a detective (Ramirez) investigating a spate of murders and disappearances linked to the clinic.

rsz_1ad1Whilst ABANDONED DEAD is clearly a low budgeted feature and that does unfortunately seep through during its short and sweet running time of 77 minutes, there are still moments within the film to appreciate amongst the faults and the director clearly knows how to pace and set up a story well and given the limitations of the budget he has still managed to make an interesting feature that knows not to stretch beyond its means and also not deliver a slowly driven feature that can be the fault of many an independent film. Yes, as mentioned there are flaws. Aside from a decent performance by Nicklin, some of the other acting seems a bit ropey and hammy including a scene with a caretaker of the building who for some reason might be linked to the dead, skinned cats that are lying about outside the clinic and some hammy acting from a mad doctor (Wilhelm) who could be linked to the disappearances that have occurred at the clinic and seems to be more interested in performing surgery of the less life saving kind.

Some effects in the film don’t fully work an example of which is a shot of a female ghoul that looks a bit hokey to the point of not being scary but more laughable, yet at the same time effects are kept to a minimum which in the long run is a good decision from a production standpoint and the final twist is pretty easy to figure out and at times seems a pretty obvious sign post once the film escalates to its final conclusion. The police detective as well seems a bit like he’s popped up from another film with earlier scenes of him wandering around a city night-scape accompanied with a voice over monologue trying to sound like a film noir private detective. His inclusion, at first, seems a bit of a confusing character in terms of what his position will be towards the films proceeding story and the scenes of him wandering around to drag and add an uneven tone. But then in retrospect this could be a neat ploy by Curran that plays into the films final twist.

rsz_1ad2Incidentally the horror buffs and geeks around will be pleased to see NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD’s Judith O’Dea in a brief role as a doctor. Despite some flaws and a predictable twist there is still much to enjoy in ABANDONED DEAD and its in the later part of the twist that some neat and stylish scenes are executed that clearly shows Curran has a talent and a knack of leading a story into an atmospheric conclusion and in these latter parts there are scenes that are unnerving in their portrayal. Whilst certain parts of the film look a bit weak its hard not to be impressed by this neatly packed supernatural thriller that offers creepy moments, confident direction and a willingness to express some maturity and aspiration beyond its limitations.

6/10

Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #17 – Tucker & Dale vs Evil (2010)

rsz_tucker_and_dale_posterJoin Che as she plays Netflix Roulette and watches a randomly selected horror film. Will it be awesome? Will it be torture? What horrors await?? Find out every month with Netflix Roulette!

Title: Tucker and Dale VS. Evil

Year: 2010

Director: Eli Craig

Starring: Tyler Labine, Alan Tyduck, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss

Netflix Rating: 4.5 stars

Seen it before: No

First Impressions: At first I thought I was in DEEP trouble judging by the dumb title. BUT then I saw who it was starring! Tyler Labine!!! He is a long time favorite of mine and tragically underrated. He’s a goddamn national treasure! Alan Tyduck is good too…So I felt assured by the stars and the rating that this will be good. It promises to be a horror comedy, let’s find out if it delivers. Fingers crossed.

The Verdict: Tucker and Dale VS Evil is a fun film that subverts the “killer hillbilly” trope so painfully common to horror films.

rsz_tucker_and_dale_3Tucker (Tyduk) and his friend Dale (Labine)are on their way to Tucker’s newly purchased dream vacation home. On the way they run into a group of college students who are on their way to get drunk in the woods over the weekend. Dale tries to talk to one of the college girls at a gas station stop but the college kinds, raised on a steady diet of Wrong Turn, flee. Dale and Tucker encounter the college kids again as they’re doing a little night fishing on the lake. One of the kids, Allison (Bowden) falls in the lake and hits her head. Dale jumps in to rescue her but all Allison’s friends see is a hillbilly taking away their friend. And so begins an epic case of misunderstanding and brutal accidental deaths, while a very confused Tucker and Dale think they are caught in a mass suicide pact of college kids.

The fun is both the college students falling into the assumption that any hillbilly must be a killer hillbilly, and Tucker and Dale’s reactions to all the death and mayhem happening around them. There are a number of great deaths, soured by an unfortunate amount of CGI. The CGI is very poor and very obvious. Most of the impalements are done digitally and there are quite a few impalements. The movie makes up for some of it’s worse effects with really good trauma make-up. Especially in the case of poor Tucker who takes most of the damage. But practical gore effects would have elevated the film and been a great parody of older horror hillbilly films like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

rsz_tucker_and_dale_2Still, that is a small complaint. The acting is great. The comedic timing of Tyduck and Labine is perfectly on point. The actual villain of the film emerges in the form Chad (Jesse Moss) a preppy college kid who slowly becomes unhinged as his personal demons overtake him. The death scenes are hilarious and there is a lot of great repartee.

This is an older film, but if you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend it. It’s not the goriest horror comedy, or maybe even the funniest, but it’s an original and subversive take on a classic trope and manages to breathe new life into one of the more obnoxious horror tropes.

Rating: 8/10

Ghosts of Darkness (2017) Review

GhostsOfDarkness-POSTER_BILLING - 350-EditedGhosts of Darkness (2017)

Written & Directed By: David Ryan Keith
Produced By: Lorraine Keith
Starring: Michael Koltes, Paul Flannery, Steve Weston, Lisa Livingstone, Liam Matheson, Morgan Faith Keith, Cameron Mowatt, Lindsay Cromar.
Release Date: March 7th, 2017 on VOD, and June 6th on DVD
Trailer Link: https://youtu.be/8FR5Uq9MMiU

Introduction:
Ghosts of Darkness, is the third feature film, to come from Scottish Writer/Director David Ryan Keith, and was part of the official selection of films at the ‘Bram Stoker International Film Festival, 2016.

The two previous feature films, were 2011’s zom/com spectacular, Attack Of The Herbals, and 2014’s bloodthirsty slasher, The Redwood Massacre’, which had the classic tale of teens in the woods, being hunted and slaughtered. Both of the films are clever in their storytelling, and choice of sub genre, with the two films following completely different paths. To that end, Ghosts of Darkness, certainly follows in the footsteps of its predecessors in following a different path, and for me, this film feels like it’s got its serious face on, and has more ambition and maturity to it.

Filmed in Scotland, Ghosts Of Darkness is the first feature film, that the talented Scottish director has made in the paranormal genre. The film secured worldwide distribution, before a scene had even been filmed, with American distribution company Uncork’d Entertainment in August of 2015.

god_promoshot44Synopsis:
On the strength of their reputations, Jack Donovan (Koltes), a paranormal investigator, and Jonathan Blazer (Flannery), a powerful psychic, are paired together in a large manor house with a very dark and shady past, in the hope of solving a mystery, that has had people guessing since the 1800’s.

To do this, Donovan and Blazer will be locked in the house for three nights, to record their findings and prove once and for all, if there really are secrets lurking within the walls. After starting their investigation, they discover that there’s more than one, very real paranormal entity, that means to do them harm. The two men must put their differences aside, if they want to survive their stay at Richmond Manor.

Review:
Ghosts of Darkness, is a celebration and a triumph, for Scottish indie-horror, film making. Do not make the mistake, of thinking this is another film, that’s riding the coattails of paranormal activity. This is a film that stands on it its own two feet.

demon7Creating a film about two men, running round a house chasing ghosts, is by no means an easy thing to do. It could have been so easy for things to have gone stale and fallen flat, but the dialogue is slick, witty and funny. There are moments of major intrigue that build suspense, and when things get going, the non stop action does not let the film fall into the trap of becoming a sleeping aid. The pacing of the film is great. Its not a film you have to be patient with, and then only delivers the frights at the end. Its gripping the whole way through, particularly the relationship between Blazer and Donovan, and the development of their characters. The pair, seemed so at ease, not only with each other, but in the roles they were portraying. Its obvious there was a good camaraderie between Koltes and Flannery, because although their characters are very chalk and cheese, they worked so well together. You are taken on a wonderful journey with the pair, from them butting heads, to forming a mutual respect, and most important of all, a real friendship.

Upon the two protagonists being introduced to us, they both start to go about their work, and have a very different approach towards getting started. Blazer is looking for something to drink, and Donovan gets out all of his fancy gadgets, and goes about setting them up. Little do they know at this point, that within the walls of Richmond Manor, there really are things that go bump in the night.To begin with, the two are dealing with ghosts that merely tease them with noises, apparitions, and actions akin to poltergeist activity. But when demons enter the fray, things go from bad to worse, as they start to prey on their inner most feelings and fears. Things then turn to acts of physical harm, use of sharp weapons, extreme violence, and much worse.

1The special effects and makeup team that worked on this film, need to take a bow. The ghosts and demons look genuinely threatening and scary. The eyes are the window to the soul, and firstly with the ghosts, the big black eyes show us an element of pure evil and bad intentions. The blackness in the eyes, reminded somewhat, of a film called ‘Grave Encounters’, which was terrifying, so this really worked well. The skin, as you would expect for a ghost is very pale, almost grey, and is made up to look dead and scarred. Its been done very effectively and the demons look incredible.

They really are the epitome of evil. If you had one of these walking towards you in a dark house in the middle of the night, you’d have a heart attack. Its hard to imagine that there is actually a person under that make up and that its not something straight from the necronomicon. The time and detail that has gone into that has gone into creating the gaping wounds and decomposing flesh is astonishing.

Score: 8/10

Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell (2014) Review

rsz_1bb1Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell (2014)

AKA The Japanese Evil Dead

Director: Shinichi Fukazawa
Writer: Shinichi Fukazawa
Stars: Shinichi Fukazawa, Masaaki Kai, Asako Nosaka

Out on UK DVD – April 24th 2017 from Terra Cotta.

Run time 1hr 2min

“Trapped inside a haunted house, a body builder must save himself from a gruesome ghost hell-bent on revenge!”

I’ll start off by saying that Asian horror, especially Japanese and Korean horror has given me many a sleepless night, everything from ‘Audition’ to the original ‘Ring’ and ‘I Saw the Devil’, but i do love me some fun, over-the-top horror too, so when i got the chance to review a Japanese horror translated as ‘Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell’ I hit play with vigor, especially as I’d heard it was the Japanese version of the beloved ‘Evil Dead’.

rsz_bb2Now calling this a feature film is stretching it as the run time is just over an hour but we’ll let that slide, the story goes a little something like this; a man is almost killed by his wife in their home but he manages to kill her instead and then buries her body under the house. We fast forward 30 years when their son, who is now into weightlifting meets up with an old flame who happens to be a paranormal journalist.

She asks him to take her and a male psychic she knows back to the old house where the murder happened. The psychic then contacts the spirit of the wife who comes through and then possesses the psychic with murder on her mind.

rsz_bb3This movie is very much a product of the late 90’s when it was filmed, the stop-motion effects are actually very good and there is bloody aplenty to go with the gore. The acting is fine too and you do get the feeling that the two leads still have feelings for each other. Of course when a movie is labeled the Japanese ‘Evil Dead’ I wasn’t holding my breath. Does it compare to that great Sam Raimi film? No, not even close but it’s still good fun all the same.

Yes the story falls apart and the way to kill the ghost has literally nothing to do with the lead being a bodybuilder whatsoever but just sit back and enjoy the utter so-bad-it’s-goodness of it all.

6/10

The Snare (2017) Review

rsz_1the_snare_posterThe Snare (2017)

Director: C.A. Cooper

Starring: Eaoifa Forward, Dan Paton, Rachel Warren

Please note the following review could contain spoilers , you have been warned !!

“Somewhere quiet. By the sea.”

Dark and moody from the outset. Ingrained with a deep sense of something wrong from the very first minute. Gross, disturbing, dark, unsettling and ultimately rather unsatisfying, The Snare comes close to becoming something really quite great, only to falter at the end. Still, if you can take a lot of up close shots of maggots, rape and incest, it’s actually a horrifying little film. If you are sincerely bothered by any of the latter than jump ship (and never watch this movie) as this review will discuss each one in turn.

Still there? All right, here we go.

The Snare is about three friends who become trapped in an empty vacation rental. Alice (Eaoifa Forward), her best friend Lizzy (Rachel Warren) and Lizzy’s creepy boyfriend Carl (Dan Paton) decide to get away for the weekend. Lizzy steals the keys to an empty vacation rental from her father and they take off. Everything is normal until the second day when the elevator won’t work, the stairs are locked and there is no phone service. Thus begins a tale of survival. The food they have goes rotten immediately, the water gets shut off and their sanity whittles away as they slowly starve and thirst to death. But there is a little more going on, the apartment is possibly, probably haunted and Alice is assailed with disturbing waking nightmares of past inhabitants, maybe. It’s hard to tell.

rsz_snare_1Alice is unquestionably the main character and ably played by Forward who has a “resting worried face” that somehow makes even the most mundane scenes fraught with tension. From the very beginning Alice’s dreary and awful life is established with painful clarity. She is obviously a victim of sexual abuse. In the opening scenes her father barges into her room right after she’s gotten out of the bathtub. He gives her only nominal privacy while she tries to get dressed to flee for the weekend getaway. He questions her about Lizzy’s boyfriend who he spies outside the window of her bedroom.

Once Alice has gotten away from her father the abuse continues as Carl starts in on the most disgusting ever game of “would you rather” on the car ride up to the seaside resort. He continually pushes into Alice’s personal space in a way that women will instantly recognize and revile. As the situation deteriorates so too does the mental state of the characters. Carl grows ever more restless and violent. Alice’s visions become all the more brutal, calling up abuse from her past and an uncertain vision of an old woman who might be the ghost keeping them trapped. A lot of horror directors shy away from giving concrete explanation for what’s happening in supernatural thrillers, but there is a fine line behind vague and confusing. The Snare leans into confusing and it’s up to viewers to craft their own explanation.

The film’s climax is a horrific rape scene when Carl finally loses his mind, which results in murder, and then cannibalism, because by then the food is long gone. It’s an awful and unrelenting sequence of scenes that are absolutely nauseating. But it’s an absolute gut punch that a lot of horror films don’t come close to accomplishing, so, good for them? In some ways, that is what horror strives for, to haunt and unsettle and in that much they succeeded admirably.

rsz_snare_2And, the maggots. Oh my fucking gawd, I haven’t seen this many maggots since the last Dario Argento movie I watched. The very first shot in the entire film is a close up of big fat maggots writhing in the guts of a dead rabbit. There is even some maggot eating when the food is low enough Carl has a go at a maggot riddled chicken leg, with predictable results. Which, for the record, was an almost funny scene, or in another movie would have been funny, in this too, The Snare succeeds in just making is horrible and I nearly threw up at the end.

The questions the plot raises is, is this a real haunting? Is it something, a mental state, or Alice’s personal demons that she has brought with her, magnified by the apartment? Unfortunately there is no satisfactory answer. The ghosts are vague and it’s hard to tell if some of them are from Alice’s memories. The Old Woman ghost (Emma Cooper) seems to be the main ghost but it’s very confusing and the ending doesn’t clear anything up at.

For all of The Snare’s queasy merits it has a few flaws. For starters the character’s escape attempts are rather lame. Carl tried to bash open the door to the stairs with a chair, but his attempt begs the question, has Carl ever seen a police drama on TV? It also would have been perfectly possible for the characters to lower themselves from the balcony, and going, one balcony at a time, make it to the ground. There are plenty of clothes, and blankets, curtains and bed sheets, to make a rope. But, again, Carl’s one lame attempt at making a rope ends with it dropping uselessly off the side of the building. The other thing is that Carl and Lizzy are not well developed or nuanced characters. Carl is surly and grotesque and that is established at the outset and he never changes, or only changes for the worse. Lizzy is a fun party girl. But she disappears for huge chunks of film at a time. When she does show up she either complains or is sleeping.

rsz_snare_3C.A. Cooper is a director to keep an eye on. Hopefully he will be making more films of this ilk as he definitely has a knack. A brutally disturbing watch best recommended to those with an iron clad gag reflex. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go scrub my brain out and try not to dream about maggots (again).

Kudos for: Almost making me vomit?

Lesson learned: Stop watching horror films over lunch!

7/10

Slasher House 2 (2016) Review

14368789_1267178763315526_1562502904226346982_nSLASHER HOUSE II (2016)

Dir: MJ Dixon
Stars: Francesca Louise White, Luna Wolf, Sophie Portman, Jamie B. Chambers, Sam Cullingworth, David Hon Ma Chu

Released by Mycho Entertainment.

Red (Francesca Louise White, taking over the role from Eleanor James) is still hunting her father, The Demon (Jamie B. Chambers), the serial killer who slaughtered her family. Aided by tech-savvy assistant Luse (Sophie Portman), she investigates a number of murders, hoping each one will lead her to her nemesis. On one of these cases that she saves the life of stripper Amber (Luna Wolf), an individual who goes on to become a valuable ally. After crossing paths with a team of heavily armed operatives obsessed with capturing slashers, Red once again finds herself in a series of pitched battles against a host of monstrous adversaries — each leading her one step closer to the truth about the mysterious Slasher House…

Something that has struck me with MJ Dixon’s Mychoverse series of horror movies is his visual style. Think slashers by way of Argento, with a striking colour palette of blood reds and other-worldly greens.   Slasher House II takes his unique style to the next level, with the bright wigs of female leads, Red and Amber, making them look more like anime heroines than live-action characters.

With more money spent on this than his previous films, the fruits of Dixon’s labours are clear to see. As well as enhanced production values in the look of the film, it’s also reflected in some ambitious effects sequences from Bam Goodall (the Gravestone puppet is very cool, while the scenes with Molly Bannister’s, ahem, friends are another triumph) and some great fight choreography. However, if you’re more used to larger budget horror such as Blumhouse’s output, this may seem a little rough.

13769509_1216502365049833_7221261266634105140_nNevertheless, SHII marks a new kind of Mychoverse movie, with a more action-packed, Blade-esque feel. There are some excellent set-pieces in which White shows impressive martial arts moves — but that’s not all she offers. She delivers some great one-liners with a snarky, world-weary ease that makes her Red a very different character to James’s helpless amnesiac from the previous film. Wolf brings humanity and humour to the movie. She’s got an inherent likeability that marks her out as one to watch. While Portman doesn’t have as much screentime as the other two ladies, she makes the most of it.

Dixon writes fine dialogue and tells a suitably satisfying story for his cast that successfully expands on and encourages viewers to revisit Slasher House. It offers twists and turns, while the non-linear structure adds some depth to the storytelling process. I love that this is movie builds on the Mychoverse mythology, including shoutouts to its predecessor while blowing the story wide open to make a bigger, more complex world.
However, this may pose a problem for casual fans in that it relies on the viewer knowing the original movie, characters and mythos. If you haven’t seen it (or the other Mychoverse movies), you might struggle to make sense of this.

Speaking of these stories, viewers of the previous movie will be aware that several of Slasher House’s villains received their own spin-off films in the form of Legacy of Thorn, Cleaver: Rise of the Killer Clown, and Hollower. So, even though we’ve had no official confirmation yet, it’s probably safe to assume that we’ll see more of these new movie maniacs. I’d most like to see a Gravestone solo flick. His scenes were so marvellously executed, Dixon already has the framework to create a must-watch slasher/comedy.

13710015_1211177188915684_1585350713468624285_nMJ Dixon is a fan of horror, sci-fi and action, and all the cool genre-blenders that combine these. His are films by a fan, for the fans. The Mychoverse is a love-letter to the genre… and Slasher House II might just be the best example yet. It’s fun, witty and furthers the rich mythos of the Slasher House universe. Think Blade II meets Halloween with a little Anime thrown in.

I would recommend this movie just on Mycho’s sheer ambition, but it’s a genuinely good film and one I implore you to check out.

8/10

Attack of the Killer Shrews (2016) Review

rsz_ks1Attack of the Killer Shrews (2016)

Director: Ken Consentino

Starring: Bill Kennedy, Elizabeth Houlihan, Jonathon Rogers, Cheryl Szymczak, Marcus Ganci-Rotella

The DVD is $12 plus shipping and can be found at http://www.killershrewmovie.com 

“A movie about hope, redemption and ice cream.”

So, what do you do with a $2000 movie budget? If you’re smart you realize your limitations and you make a terrible version of an already legendarily bad movie The Killer Shrews. Last seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Attack of the Killer Shrews, is, if anything worse than the original. But fear not! It’s all in the name of comedy. This slapstick reimagining of a movie about giant killer shrews (originally played by dogs dressed in mops) stays close to the absurdity of the original, tosses out any attempt to be serious and just runs with it. The dialogue, the sound effects, even the introduction by Lloyd Kaufman of Toxic Avenger fame, all serve to create a parody of bad films that’s just a parody but is also a bad low-budget film itself.

There are almost too many delightful things going on on-screen to list, but I’m going to give you a few of them. The sets are terrible, the props are terrible, the gunfire is bad CGI, the police boat is a jet ski with cardboard bits glued on, the nuclear missile is made of tape, cardboard and paint, and that’s just a short list. Not a scene goes by where purposefully bad things aren’t happening. Honestly there almost aren’t words for this film. But again, here are a few, funny, terrible, cheap, and hilarious.

rsz_ks2So, what’s the actual plot? Well, a scientist cooks up some giant killer shrews in his lab and they escape. The shrews terrorize various denizens of the town including Professor Perry, his diner guests, starlet Fiona Rae, literary agent Lewis and his girlfriend Cassandra. Sherriff Blake saves the day, sort of, but only after a lot of running and screaming. Now, if you all remember the original film you are probably hoping the shrews are dogs wearing mops again. Unfortunately they aren’t. BUT they are spectacularly cheap props and sometimes a person in a gorilla suit from the Halloween Store.

There are a ton of laughs to be had in this movie, both with it, and at its expense, but it’s worth watching, especially with other people. I watched it alone and found the second half dragging, which would have been alleviated by a having some friends to laugh at it with. The foley also deserves special mention for the cartoon sound effects added in. The rest of the sound, including the dialogue is hit or miss. Which is unfortunate as some of the jokes would have been even better if they had been audible. And a special, special mention for the opening credits which are, again, hilariously bad stop-motion animation and comprise a more or less accurate summary of the film.

And. the last burning question, What is Lloyd Kaufman doing in this film? Well, he introduces Attack of the Killer Shrews, and bonus, stay until after the credits, he appears again to wrap things up. According to IMBD the real reason he was there is that he was in town. It would be very interesting to see what filmmaker Ken Cosentino could do with a budget, considering he accomplished a minor miracle of comedy with $2000. Maybe one day we will get to find out.

rsz_ks3Kudos for: “What the fuck is that thing?” (the actual thing, and no it’s not a shrew)

Lesson learned: When in doubt, squeaky toy SFX

8/10

Parasites (2016) Review

rsz___parasites_posterPARASITES (2016)

Starring Sean Samuels, Jeffrey Decker and Sebastian Fernandez

Written & Directed by Chad Ferrin

Out now on VOD –

“Three friends find themselves lost on Skid Row and are captured by an angry homeless gang”.

Horror films have long been used to reflect issues in society, with many of the outright classics being very much a response to the shitty state of the world at the time. From one of the finest indie films ever made, Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead, to recent hits such as Under The Shadow. Horror, along with sci-fi, is a fantastic genre to explore the more disturbing aspects of our world. And the best ones really know how to push your buttons. And Parasites is a fantastic new entry.

Filmmaker Chad Ferrin has been around for a while now. I remember first watching Someone’s Knocking At The Door and thinking “this guy really gives no fucks!” Angry, aggressive and confrontationally shocking, it was the work of a truly twisted and independent mind. But Parasites is easily his most accomplished work. Ferrin has taken inspiration from the brutal street level thrillers of the past and inserted a social conscience. If you’re a fan of films such as The Warriors, Assault on Precinct 13 and Judgement Night, then look no further, this is for you.

rsz_eddie_and_mona_drop_itHelping that midnight movie feel is a fantastic score by Matthew Olivo. Recalling John Carpenter, Ry Cooder and Tangerine Dream, it’s absolutely amazing.

The most striking thing about Parasites is the social commentary and the way it presents its antagonists. The vagrants might be violent and murderous psychopaths, but they also have a point in their hate for the world. They are the scum, treated like dirt in a world that spits on them when it’s not trying to pretend like they don’t even exist. The way they are presented, they are the tribe of the city, the night is their world and they have created their own world, own rules. If it’s legal in Texas to shoot someone for trespassing on your land, then maybe you shouldn’t be surprised when you stray into the streets of someone who lives on them without an invite. They are definitely the villains of the piece, bit they are also the most well defined characters. Much of the dialogue of their leader, Wilco, is fascinating and thought-provoking.

Speaking of Wilco, veteran character actor Robert Miano is the standout of the cast. With a raw intensity and skeletal face, Miano thoroughly convinces as someone who has suffered so long on the streets that he is full of hate for all around him. Sean Samuels as Marshal works hard in a role that demands he pretty much constantly run, at one point completely naked! But his character is basically used as a vessel to take us on this midnight tour, one dimensional to meet the demands of the story. To be fair, the story gets going so quickly that none of the protagonists are given much chance to establish themselves. Marshal encounters numerous creatures of the night on his travels, and it was fantastic to see Day of the Dead’s Joseph Pilato in a scene-stealing role.

rsz_getting_dressedI have only one complaint and for anyone who has read any of my reviews the first should come as no surprise. Shaky-cam. Although it does add an immediacy to some scenes and Ferrin does achieve a strange sense of poetry here and there, for the most part, the film is frantically edited and shaky. The guerilla shooting style was probably necessary due to the location shooting, but still. It’s getting more and more common amongst indie horror so I should probably just admit defeat with this one.

Parasites is a bruising odyssey into a very real world, that we all choose to ignore or disrespect, an ambitious and confrontational horror that feels very timely at the moment. Looking at themes of racism, sexism and poverty head on, it all builds to a horrifying, heartbreaking conclusion. One that you cannot deny feels very real, ripped straight from the headlines.

rsz_hammer_points_flareSkid Row will probably be expanding as we speak with Trump in charge. With an authentic grindhouse feel recalling the New York City horrors of the 80’s like Maniac and Driller Killer, it’s going to be one that genre fans need to see, and won’t be able to forget.

8/10