The Loved Ones (2009) Review

 

lovedonesThe Loved Ones (2009)

Optimum Releasing – 84 minutes

Sometimes less is more , and with The Loved Ones that is definitely the case . This films doesn’t try to be clever it is just a really grim , dark and nasty film set in a small town in Australia . It is beautifully acted , the sets are perfect and the script is funny yet utterly terrifying.

The film starts with student Brent (Xavier Samuel) driving along with his dad when a mysterious figure appears in the middle of the road forcing Brent to swerve and smash head first into a tree killing his father.

Six months later we rejoin Brent who is still struggling to come to terms with his fathers death and his part in it.
Slowly withdrawing from his friends and his mother Brent finds solace in marijuana, self harm and his loving girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine).

It’s the day of the prom and Brent is asked to the prom by Lola (who is played by the fantastic Robin McLeavy) but he has to politely decline as he is going with his long-term girlfriend Holly. This scene is very reminiscent of Carrie as Brent walks off and leaves her standing alone and bereft by the school lockers.

Later that day Brent is at home and after a brief encounter with his mother who still blames him for the death of his dad and armed with a stash of pot Brent goes for a walk with his dog. Sitting down listening to his MP3 player he is unaware of a man who walks up behind him and drugs him using ( we are lead to believe) chloroform.

And now the films really kicks off. Lola has organised her own prom and unbeknownst to Brent he is her guest. Daddy (John Brumpton) is tremendous as Lola’s doting and psychotic father who will do whatever it takes to make sure his daughter has everything she needs.

Brent comes round tied to chair at a dining table and from then on we have a Misery meets Pretty in Pink meets Jeffrey Dahmer rollercoaster ride through torture, degradation, panic, incest, psychosis, suspense and blood.

lovedones2There is also a sub plot of Brent’s socially awkward friend Jamie (Richard Wilson) and his prom date Mia (Jessica McNamee) . They turn up to the prom and spend a while in the car drinking vodka and smoking pot before entering the prom, dancing inappropriately and being asked to take that sort of thing elsewhere (which they do). We also find out that Mia’s brother has been missing for about 6 months and no clue as to his whereabouts.

I totally loved this film. Yes it is nasty but it has enough humour and subtlety to carry this off. There is a lot of blood but really very little gore, in fact the real unease and horror in this film comes from the fantastic performances of Lola and her father. They play the parts so well and so realistically that it feels like you are intruding on an incestuous home video.

A wonderfully depraved 8/10

 

Twixt (2011) Review

 

Twixt (2011)

Dir. Francis Ford Coppola – 88 minutes

Francis Ford Coppola really needs no introduction , a writer , director , producer . He is also a successful businessman and vintner as well being a septuagenarian .

So why I wonder did he decide to return to directing with the 2011 film Twixt ? I know he hasn’t *been away* but I wonder why go through the whole writing/producing/directing process at that age and why anyone didn’t say STOP , STOP THIS NOW!

Well apparently the whole influence for the film was he had a vivid alcohol induced dream and upon awakening this was conceived .

Anyhow – onto the film .

Failed author and alcoholic Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer) arrives in a small town to do a book signing in a hardware store . While there he gets talking to the sheriff (Bruce Dern) who tells Hall about a mass murder many years ago and also explains he has a fresh corpse back in the morgue that has died in suspicious circumstances .

He decides to stay on in town and try to write his next book . Help comes in the form of alcohol induced dreams (sound familiar?) that feature the ghost of a girl named V (Elle Fanning) and some great advice from Edgar Allan Poe who acts almost like a spirit guide . He is also being haunted by the memory of his dead daughter and harassed by a wife after money .

Then we also have the puzzle of the seven faced clock tower and how about all them kids across the lake with their leader Flamingo

The positive in this film is that it looks fantastic , the colours are beautiful . The dream sequences are very reminiscent of Twin Peaks and using very deep reds and bright whites whilst everything else is monotone really works well . Also the performances of Fanning and Dern are above average .

Now Val Kilmer . Where do you start with him ??
How does this man still get work? He is appalling in the role of Hall and it seems to be just another payday for him . He delivers lines with the fervour and zeal of a dead squirrel , he plays the drunk parts straight and the emotional parts drunk . Can he act or could he ever ? He honestly looked like he couldn’t be arsed with anything throughout the film .

In the UK we have a chocolate bar named Twix – and for 88 minutes I would have much rather have sat eating a Twix than watching Twixt . And I imagine looking at Kilmer’s ever increasing bulk that he is partial to a Twix or fourteen .

Now when Coppola dreamt this he didn’t know how this would end , and it seems he just winged it because the ending is as bad if not worse than the rest of the film .

A huge disappointment , because this had promise . Hugely disjointed and when its over you have more questions than answers . And when you have someone with the talent of FFC behind it , then you wonder just what went wrong .

A poor 3/10

 

Nightmare At Elm Manor (1961) Short Film Review

 

Nightmare at Elm Manor (circa 1961)

George Harrison Marks – 5 minutes

This is a wonderful little 5 minute nudie/horror short directed by legendary British glamour photographer Harrison Marks .

Rather than me randomly babble about him here is a brief biography from the site http://www.harrison-marks.com .

Harrison Marks, as he came to be known, first got involved in glamour photography in 1953 after he met, and started a relationship with Pamela Green (1929-2010), a photographic model. He was 27, she was 24 and together they were to transform the British glamour scene and gain world-wide recognition. They started out by producing postcard-sized black and white glamour photographs in sets of five packed in cellophane bags, which they sold through book shops and newsagents in the Soho area of London where they had established their home and studio together. These tastefully posed pin-ups quickly became popular and the business expanded rapidly.
In 1957, they launched ‘Kamera’, their first printed publication. The 7 x 5 inch, 36 page, monthly pocketbook of nudes was an instant success.
They followed Kamera with an array of similar publications and an annual, 13 page colour calendar. Their success grew, and at the end of the fifties they ventured into home movie production featuring their most popular models, and went on to make their first feature film, ‘Naked as Nature Intended’, which played to packed houses at a West End cinema in 1960 before being released nationally and then internationally. The Marks-Green partnership came to an end in the mid-sixties, but Harrison Marks carried on producing adult entertainment until he died in 1997, spanning a remarkable forty-five years.

The film has a Marks favourite in the lead – the beautiful starlet June Palmer who arrives a manor house and after settling for the night but after waking in the night she (for our entertainment) takes to exploring the house whilst in the nude/semi nude .

She is then frightened by a Dracula inspired creep ( I believe again played by a Marks favourite Stuart Samuels ) who follows her around the house scaring the wobblers off her .

A lovely piece of 1960’s nostalgia , filmed on 8mm in black and white and completely silent .But saying this there is a version on You Tube that has a background musical score , so not sure if mine is meant to be silent or not ? But I do prefer the silent version – so just put it on mute ;) .

Really most of Mark’s work was just an excuse to get well endowed beautiful dark haired women to get naked – and fair play to the man he did achieve this remarkably well .

Really worth checking out ( on you tube ) you won’t be disappointed . And try to check out some of his other work especially from the 1960s .

A top heavy fabulous 8/10

 

A Visit From The Incubus (2001) Short Film Review

 

A Visit From The Incubus (2001)

Anna Biller Productions – 26 minutes

Set in the old west , this 26 minute short deals with a young lady being visited by an incubus .

Lucy (Anne Biller) visits her friend Madeleine (Natalia Schroeder) and tells her of sleepless nights due to visits from an incubus while she sleeps . We are told he takes many forms in these encounters including rats and even the devil himself .

Madeleine then confesses that she has been visited by the incubi , but they are actually vampires who feed not on blood but on sex ! . Madeleine also tells Lucy that she is no longer visited by the incubus – and she seems almost sad and wistful that it has now stopped .

Madeleine asks Lucy to stay over so they may fight the demon together should he appear , but Lucy has some shopping to do to take her mind off this , and needs to get some groceries , you know onions and things .

Lucy returns home later (minus any onions I may add) and retires to bed . She falls into a deep sleep and is once again visited by the incubus cleverly disguised as a very very camp satan .

The following morning Lucy decides to join the local strip bar / whorehouse and we get a wonderful Vaudeville finale .

Now you can see that Anne Biller is a feminist . And she uses Lucys innocent femininity as a lure for the incubus but then also as a weapon . And its also amusing how after she is defiled by the demon she almost awakens sexually and uses this to her advantage .

Now I really liked this despite the poor acting and very weak script . In fact during one of the songs later in the film there are lines about fast cars and airplanes when I think this is set around the 1880s ?

But the real stars of the show are Lucy’s eyebrows , boy those babies can really move and do steal the show .

The costumes and settings are well done and the camera angles and colour are fantastic. Yes at times disjointed  So if you have 30 minutes spare and can track this thing down then please do as it is a very entertaining short and I will definitely try to find more work by Anne Biller although checking IMDB she seems to only have 1 film in the last 10 years since this .

A recommended  7/10

The Wicker Tree (2010) Review

 

The Wicker Tree (2010)

Director – Robin Hardy

Anchor Bay Films – 95 minutes

Oh Dear , just oh dear .
I was looking forward to watching this as I am a major fan of the original and knowing Robin Hardy both wrote this (it is based on his book Cowboys for Christ) and directed this , I was intrigued as to see what he could do almost 40 years on from The Wicker Man .

After five minutes I realised this was going to be both awful and at the same time fun .

The film starts in Dallas when we see famous singer Beth Boothby (Britannia Nicol) and her (thick as a brick) cowboy boyfriend Steve (Henry Garrett) attending a church service where she sings on stage , after this the preacher explains to the congregation that Beth & Steve are going to Scotland for two years as redeemers to convert the locals .
The preacher explains “There are people there that have forgotten the Lord – many I hear don’t even believe in Angels” . Well as good a reason as any then to jet off to the heathen wastelands of Scotland .

Upon arriving at a huge mansion Beth and Steve are greeted by their hosts Sir Lachlan Morrison (Graham McTavish who you may know from Rambo , Pandemic and Penance) and Lady Delia Morrison (Jacqueline Leonard – a well known face on UK television , in Eastenders , Holby , The Bill etc etc ) . Inside the house Beth performs a Christian revival concert , now raise them horns.

As she performs Lachlan and Delia have the following conversation.
Lachlan “What a star and rather beautiful too”
Delia “I bet she smells of the dairy. A musky bush , milky tits and just a hint of warm cow shit behind the ears”.

And that’s the problem here , do we have a film that’s trying to be a serious successor to the original or is the a tongue in cheek pastiche to the whole genre that followed The Wicker Man?

Now we learn that Lachlan own the local nuclear power plant and 10 years ago there was an *accident* and maybe the locals have now become infertile as there are no kids around the village where they are now staying .

Now Mayday is looming and will the village choose Beth as their May Queen and Steve as her laddie?

There is a much underused (in my opinion) cast . There is Lolly (played by the wonderfully named Honeysuckle Weeks) who is a promiscuous , sexually aggressive pagan . And star of the film
Clive Russell who plays the butler Beame , who looks enormous in his kilt and plays the role in a very over-the-top manner that really lifts the final third of the film .

There is beautiful scenery , awful lighting (especially in the river scene) , dreadful dreadful music , poor scripting and wooden acting . But I think the script inadvertently adds some classic comic scenes and one-liners .

There was a small cameo from Christopher Lee who as I remember was offered a larger part in this but had to refuse due to ill health .

In summary the film is poor and only lifted by some awful scripting and a couple of half decent acting displays (Weeks & Russell) .

I advise not to watch this alone but with a few friends with a few beers and you may get a few laughs .

A sorry 4/10

Him Indoors (2012)

 

him-indoors-2Him Indoors

Kesslerboy Productions – 11 minutes

I saw this at the Grimmfest film festival in Manchester in October 2012 . I remember looking through the listings and seeing this and it really just stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb .

Firstly it stars Reece Shearsmith ,who is an absolute idol in my eyes , from League of Gentlemen to Catterick to Shaun of the Dead to Psychoville – he just is a wonderful dark comic actor .

Secondly it also stars Pollyanna McIntosh who was just sublime in The Woman and the best thing in Burke & Hare .

So to the film (well short) – Reece Shearsmith plays Gregory Brewster an agoraphobic serial killer whose new next door neighbour Lizzie (Pollyanna McIntosh) turns up unannounced for a cup of tea (or a shag) . And what follows is 11 minutes of hilarious , dark and very British horror.

So much praise must go to director Paul Davis ( who I also saw starring in another great short – The Other Side) who catches this one perfectly from the great camera angles to the décor and collectables on show around the house .

him-indoors-1You will laugh and wince at the same time with the kooky Lizzie and also love the way that Reece Shearsmith just owns the character Gregory – he is polite , well mannered and socially awkward but also hides a dark side while seeming so normal .

And all this in 11 minutes .

A real hidden gem so if you can track this down or get a chance to see this at a festival please do so as you cannot be disappointed .

It is as if Ronnie Corbett in Sorry was crossed with Ted Bundy !

Insane – Inept – Indoors

Wonderful 9/10

 

Contagion (2011) Review

 

contagionContagion (2011)

Director – Steven Soderbergh

Warner Brothers – 108 minutes

Firstly watching this was a very last minute decision and the premise is not something I would be immediately drawn to .However I had a spare 2 hours free and had been online discussing some of the movie highlights of 2012 and this film was brought up (Cheers DL) , so I grabbed it and away I went .

I knew very little about the film before watching it , but the first thing you notice is a very strong cast made up of many of *household* names , including Jude Law , Matt Damon , Gwyneth Paltrow , Lawrence Fishbone , Kate Winslett and Elliott Gould to mention a few . Also there are a huge amount of unaccredited actors that are recognisable in many background scenes .

Its rather difficult reviewing this as there is so much going on worldwide , a large cast and I could give so many spoilers – so here is a short condensed summary and review .

The story starts with Beth (Paltrow) returning from a trip to Hong Kong , the following day she has flu like symptoms that result in her having seizures . Her husband Mitch (Damon) rushes her to hospital where she has another seizure and dies . Upon returning home Mitch finds that his step-son has also died .Mitch is then placed in isolation but seems to be immune to the disease .

Various montages show people with similar symptoms from cities around the world and we now have a race against time with members of the World Health Organisation and Centre for Disease Control desperately trying to find a cure while cases around the globe multiply and an alarming rate.

You get a real feeling of at first panic when you realise just how widespread and deadly the virus is becoming , and then despair and futility when society starts to break down and we see looting , crime and mass graves .

The film manages to link different stories that are all interwoven really well , we have the father surviving and trying to protect his daughter , the WHO and CDC desperately trying to find a cure , the blogger (Jude Law) who announces he has a cure but are there ulterior motives ? And also the small Chinese village that is just trying to survive .

This is almost filmed in an almost documentary fashion which gives you a feeling that this could be real and could be now .
I loved the slow pace and the lack of character development , but there are flaws aplenty however they do not take much away from what is a claustrophobic film about 7 billion people that could be on the verge on extinction .

For me the standout scene has to be after Beth has died she is on a gurney and two doctors take out the skull saw and proceed to remove the top of Beth’s skull . The flaps of scalp are peeled back to reveal the exposed brain . You don’t know how long I have waited or how many times I have wished to see this (not a Paltrow fan) . For me the film could have finished then and I would have been a very happy man J

A good watch but for me nothing special , with a cast and director like this I would have expected a little bit more .

6.5/10

Cassadaga (2011) Review

 

 

cassadagaCassadaga (2011)

 

Poiley Wood Entertainment – 108 mins

 

I only heard of this after a recommendation from a friend , and I really didn’t know what to expect .
Now if you were to decide to watch a film purely by the front cover of the DVD then I would not have watched this , as the cover portrays a young woman with hooks screwed into her hands and knees and being operated as a human marionette . It looks like a very low budget gorefest .
Now how wrong would I have been , this is a fantastic little ghost film , with a serial killer , romance and a twist by having a deaf lead character .
The film starts with Lily a deaf teacher (wonderfully played by Kelen Coleman ) who loses her younger sister to a traffic accident . After this event she leaves town and moves to the quiet town of Cassadaga (the psychic capital of America) to take up a scholarship and part-time art teaching role .
While there she falls for a students father (played by Kevin Alejandro) who is a paramedic and local football hero .
After a night out they decide to visit a local psychic and during a séance they try to connect with her dead sister .
Unfortunately for Lily she is connected to the spirit of a dead woman murdered by a serial killer who has a penchant for turning pretty young women into live marionettes (well a man needs a hobby) .
So from then on Lily has various visions and hauntings that could be leading her towards the killer . Plenty of twists and turns keep the film ticking along and enough bumps and scares to keep ghost film fans very happy .
So there we have it , a great film that weaves three different stories together with real accomplishment and by having a deaf main character it has some really good moments of total silence that add to the tension .
This is by no means perfect , there are plenty of flaws but they are easily forgiven and forgotten .
Well directed by Anthony DiBlasi (of Dread fame) and a great story by Bruce Wood , this really is a little gem of a film that offered litle but gave plenty .

Enjoy 7/10 .