Classroom 6 (2015) DVD Review

classroom1CLASSROOM 6 (USA/GERMANY/BRAZIL, 2015)

Dir- Jonas Odenheimer

Starring- Valentina Kolaric, Vince Major, Wesley Rice, Victor Manso

Out Now on UK DVD from LEFT Films

It’s hard and in many ways wrong for me to lambaste independent film-makers as I can understand and appreciate their effort into making a film, the time, the money, the limited amount of shooting time you can have in various locations and loss of actors who have to go away to get paid gigs elsewhere rather than give up their time for no money to help with an up and coming directors project. At the end of the day I’m a critic and I’m not the director maybe sometimes we can have our opinion but in the long scheme things it doesn’t matter cause we didn’t make it. That said when it came to watching CLASSROOM 6, a film I didn’t mind taking up the offer to review as its found footage and I don’t mind this sub genre (as explained in previous reviews of this type) I came away feeling, well bored and often frustrated with a film that seems steep in unoriginality and especially with some obvious blatant special/visual effects trickery that, er, doesn’t really work (we’ll get into that later).

classroom3Plot synopsis briefly- The film is a documentation of when a reporter, (Kolaric) leads her cameraman, freelance sound bloke, two unpaid film school helpers and a psychic into a school building, supposedly haunted and recently the location of the disappearance of a teacher and a pupil, who many at the school suspect were having an affair. Admittedly a title card states that this footage has been obtained by an undisclosed source. We get the usual talking head interviews, with pupils and staff, cameras recording stuff when it should be turned off and setting up the cameras before the night begins. Naturally after much fooling around, people arguing, strange noises being heard, the film kicks off into gear when the crew soon realise they are in over their heads and soon start to be picked off one at a time by the demons or spirits in the high school which could have been unleashed by the missing teacher and pupil performing some occult ceremony and opening a portal between this world and the other world.

classroom2CLASSROOM 6 follows that standard found footage scenario and this in lies the problem of the film. It doesn’t offer anything unique and is almost like a greatest hits of found footage films compilation. We have the bickering characters (the sound guy especially is the most miserable humourless dick of the lot), the initial running around filming everything with shaky cam vision, characters being taken away in mysterious circumstances by demonic entity’s and even a BLAIR WITCH style to-camera apology for our central characters decisions that have led her crew to have their careers cut short. Never mind the unoriginality of the plot, it’s the fact that there’s ideas in here that could be utilised and expanded upon, such as the portals, the missing teacher and pupil.

Material that could be drawn upon and not lead into “lets run around screaming and slowly wait to be taken out whilst filming it all of course” which is now so unoriginal in the genre that even fans of found footage must surely be bored of it. Even one of the film’s original release promotional material (thankfully not used on this DVD release) is almost a carbon copy of the posters for the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series. Similar font and similar shot of CCTV picture from the film.

classroom4Yes budget is of course constrained on a small production, but something with a little bit of thinking, simple effective solutions could lend the film a bit more originality rather than what we have on offer here. It also commits the crime of giving away a special effect or visual effect and this is in one scene in particular where the magicians hand is revealed. When the token psychic is outside one of the classrooms where he suspects there are paranormal goings on a-happening, he has his trusty psychic detection tool at hand, a compass, yet we can clearly see a fishing wire attached to said compass that looks like its leading into the classroom. Then all of a sudden (shock!) the compass is snatched out of his hands by the supernatural forces/fishing wire. This is the sort of thing that can make a film seem laughable, just look at PLAN 9’s flying saucers on fishing wires effect (though that film is far better and more fun) and in the age of digital film-making and editing surely trying to hide the wire with some visual effect trickery would have disguised this faux pas.

classroom5Its a shame to see that even on the special features on this DVD there is short film from Odenheimer called THE INTERVIEW, which at 12 minutes is far more interesting and attention grabbing than the 72 minutes of the main feature. Odenheimer displays some confident direction in his short and learns to craft a brief and interesting story within the means of his budget. It’s just a shame that he didn’t apply this for CLASSROOM 6 and instead goes for the easy but entirely unoriginal found footage angle and the end result is nothing remarkable at all.

2/10

Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #12 – The Vampire’s Coffin (1958)

Vampire Coffin Netflix posterChe Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #12 – The Vampire’s Coffin (1958)

Join 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: The Vampire’s Coffin

Year: 1958

Director: Fernando Mendez

Starring: Abel Salazar, Ariadna Welter, Germán Robles

Netflix Rating: 2.8

Seen it before: No, I don’t think so, but I’ve seen an awful lot of old vampire movies…

Vampires Coffin 1First Impressions: Oh shit… buckle up for BAD dubbing! I had to IMDB this to find the director and it’s just as I feared. A Mexican B-movie which will be dubbed in English because Americans are too lazy for subtitles.

The Verdict: Huzzah! To my surprise and delight The Vampire’s Coffin was in its original Spanish! No bad dubbing to sit through. And what a difference it made to the performances. This assessment is based solely on other dubbed films from the 50s I’ve seen. MAYBE the dub for Vampire’s Coffin was good, but I sincerely doubt it. Anyway, on to the plot!

Dr. Mendoza (Guillermo Orea)steals the body of the vampire Count Karol de Luvad with the help of hired thug Barraza (Yeire Beirute). When Barraza removes the stake form the Count’s heart the vampire comes back to life to seek his revenge on Dr. Enrique Salvidar (Abel Salazar) and his girlfriend Marta (Ariadne Welter) who apparently put him in the ground to begin with. I say apparently because apparently The Vampire’s Coffin is a sequel. A lot of references are made to events in the earlier film. Luckily The Vampire’s Coffin stands on its own enough to be enjoyed without having to see the first one.

Vampires Coffin 2And by enjoy I mean only if you enjoy cheesy B-movies from the 50s. Because boy howdy, this movie has it all! Rubber bats on strings (that are still visible), cardboard set, props made of Styrofoam, ridiculously imperiled heroines who trip over nothing, and even the mandatory 1950s dance routine! A lot of the action takes place in a “wax museum” which is really a museum of department store mannequins dressed in funny clothes and wearing paper name tags. The entire movie is pretty bloodless. The Count de Luvad gets to bite a few people but the vampire bites on the victims neck’s are some of the funniest and badly done I’ve seen. They are also nowhere near a vein or artery.

Vampire Coffin other posterThe acting is surprisingly good for a B-movie at least where the main cast is concerned. There is a terrible child actor playing a patient in the very beginning. Luckily she isn’t in it much. But everyone else gives a great performance. There are even a few moments of genuine comedy INTENDED to be funny that actually are.

But all the cheese adds up to a delightfully bad film that richly deserves to be riffed on. This is another one I recommend getting a group of like-minded friends together, watch and mock all the way through.

Rating: 6/10

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016) Review

ppaz1Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

Director: Burr Steers

Writers: Burr Steers (screenplay), Jane Austen (Quirk Books novel)

Stars: Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Matt Smith, Lena Headey

UK DVD/Blu-Ray release June 27th 2016 from Lionsgate

Graphic Novel and comic adaptations have been all the rage for some time now. Last year, the number one grossing movie in the US was based on a comic book, and the year before that two of the top 5 were. So it comes as no surprise that our favourite movie genre tries to cash in on this once niche subculture. One such horror graphic novel adaptation is director Burr Steers adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2009 parody novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies takes us to the reimagined world of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice, but somehow it has been infested with the zombie virus. This strange juxtaposition is first introduced in the films prologue, which introduces us to the iconic Mr Darcy, who we quickly find out is a highly skilled zombie hunter!

ppaz2After the opening credits, we see the beautiful Bennet sisters (played by Bella Heathcote, Ellie Bamber, Millie Brady and Suki Waterhouse), but rather than partaking in needle work or sipping tea like in Austen’s world, we find them polishing their ample weapon collection. You see, as with the new Mr Darcy, the Bennet sisters are transformed from love obsessed damsels into prolific zombie killers.

But why the need for zombie killers, I hear you ask? Well, it turns out that society in Georgian England is under siege from the undead. We learn from a Charles Dance (who plays Mr Bennet) voice over that international trade expansions have brought back a mysterious “Plague” which turns the afflicted into the flesh eating creatures that we all know and love. In an effort to protect itself, the upper classes have retreated to fortified country estates, and along with classical music and the arts, young women are taught the martial arts and how to use firearms and other ranged weapons.

While the girls father spends his time making sure his beloved daughters are able to protect themselves, their mother is obsessed with marrying them off to wealthy and powerful suitors. When the wealthy Bingley family move in nearby, Mrs Bennett sees this as an ideal chance to get the handsome Mr Bingley to take a shine to one of the girls.

ppaz3When the Bingley’s host a ball which the girls attend, it is attacked by the undead, which gives the girls a chance to show off their combat skills. It’s this display of skill that makes Mr Bingley fall head over heels for Elizabeth Bennet, but unfortunately marriage is the last thing on her mind. I’m not going to go any further into the story as it would be spoiler galore, but rest assured there are many twists, turns and battles with both the living and the dead(ish!).

The first thing fans of the original comic would want to know, is how faithful to the original material is the film? Well, its quite different actually. Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel stayed quite close to Austen’s classic love story as you can get, then added hoards of zombies, while the films writer/director Burr Steers has added many original aspects in adapting the story to film. For example, Steer’s vision of Georgian England feels much more historically accurate, and has made the zombie plot run parallel to the familiar story that Austen wrote rather than mixing the two.

ppaz4For me, it’s the latter choice that has the biggest negative effect on the finished article. It just seems like Steers hedged his bets a bit. The two concurrent storylines don’t really mesh, and while fans of Jane Austen’s novel will be happy with that side of the story, I feel that many horror fans will be left frustrated and disappointed with the zombie and horror elements in the movie.

The acting in the film is impressive, and in particular the stunning Lily James portrayal of the iconic Elizabeth Bennet is an absolute delight to watch. There really is something pure about her screen presence that makes you want to see more. Also, the pure chemistry she has with Sam Riley’s arrogant and abrasive Mr Darcy is a highlight. Unfortunately, several of their key interactions come during, or are abruptly interrupted by some sort of altercation with the zombies. Infant, this is an issue throughout as much of the character development is interrupted prematurely this way, and I just wish Steers would have cut back on this events to allow us to care about the characters more,

Talking of the zombies, while not being the best I have ever seen, the make up and CGI effects hold up well.

ppaz5One of the big drawing points of the film should be its big action sequence, but they are staged , lit and edited in touch a way that its often quite hard to tell what going off, and this really depletes the tension of the scene making it impossible to really get wrapped up in the battle. It’s a shame, as some good battle scenes could have made this a must watch.

I’m sure that someone out there has great zombie mash up/parody still to be made, but unfortunately, this isn’t it! The zombie aspects actually undermine the dramatic moments in the movie, and the action sequences are a massive disappointment. Lily James performance may be the only saving grace in the film, but to be honest, she deserved much, much better!

4/10

Bind aka American Conjuring (2016) Review

bind1BIND (aka AMERICAN CONJURING) (2016)

Starring Lynn Csontos, Darren Matheson and Morgan Lindsay Lane

Directed by Dan Walton and Dan Zachary

Written by Ken King and Dan Walton

UK DVD Release – August 8th from LEFT Films

A family move into an abandoned orphanage and they soon learn that their charming orphanage has a disturbing history and is convinced they are not alone”. Dan Walton.

Now I don’t know about you, but I would never, ever look at an abandoned orphanage on right move and think you know, that’s a great place to raise a family. So imagine the struggle from the opening to the close of American Conjuring to suspend my disbelief as not one but TWO families movie into what is OBVIOUSLY a horrible haunted place where bad things will happen to kids.

bind2Although acted terribly (but it’s a bunch of inexperienced kids so we can give them a pass) the film starts well with the combination of kids, a butchers knife and some spilled intestines. It’s gleefully nasty and offensive and sets you up for a fun splatters supernatural horror.

But, we don’t get that. Not for the most part anyway. Because writers and directors Dan’s Walton and Zachary insist that for our protagonists, we must suffer the most annoying family I’ve seen in a long time. I know it’s the norm for horror films to have detestable characters but these lot take the biscuit:

Dad (Matheson) is almost completely nondescript, and his wife (Csontos) is thick as pig shit a lot of the time. But the kids are the worst. Oh I prayed to Satan for them to die horrible deaths like the opening. The worst is Zoe (Mackenzie Mowat) who just HATES EVERYBODY BECAUSE SHE’S A TEENAGER AND A BIT GOTH AND STUFF. Pleas ghost, take her next.

bind3To be honest, aside from the usual low budget technical issues such as sound, this is really well made. Choppy editing doesn’t distract from the well composed shots and the gloomy tint, and story wise things ain’t that bad. They’re slow, and filled with needless scenes of bickering but once you get used to all that it’s a fairly fun time.

The gore is plentiful and manic, and from what you could tell is all practical. And the ending really notches the action up, and for a little while this monster gets quite intense.

If you want something that kind of riffs on most classic supernatural fare such as The Shining, Amityville and even Sinister, you could do a lot worse. Just try not to punch the family through the TV.

6/10

Jonah Lives (2015) Review

jonahlives1JONAH LIVES (2015)

Starring Brinke Stevens, Cesar Pereira and Ryan Boudreau

Written and Directed by Luis Carvalho

A story of revenge from beyond the grave, centring on a group of teenagers who unwittingly supply the catalyst for the murdered Jonah’s return from the grave.”

What do you get when you get a bunch of thirty yet old looking teenagers who like talking about nothing between weird long pauses and just playing poker in a basement, and toss them in a blender with a zombie with a shaky motivation for going on a killing spree?

You get the ridiculous Jonah Lives. Man I really hate hating on a film but this was bad.

The aforementioned group of teenagers who look like adults who speak like aliens probably think we speak get bored of playing poker while their parents get pissed upstairs and start playing a ouija board. As well as kind of being possessed they inexplicably wake up a dead guy who, instead of going after the people who killed him, just kills the dumb kids downstairs.

There are so many things weirdly wrong with this but I kind of got myself lost listing them all.

Characters are completely inconsistent. One minute they’re an asshole jock, then they’re religious and nice, and then they’re suggesting doing a seance. And the actors never rise above it.

jonahlives3Francis is the Skeet Ulrich type who is a jock on the outside but has a heart of gold. Maybe. He flip flops.

Lydia starts as a typical dirty talker Rob Zombie type and then has an existential crisis or something.

And it goes on like this for them all.

Not only are they inconsistent, they’re horribly written and completely unlikeable. I swear to god someone says penetration and another guy chuckles and says “he said penetration!” And then another guy says “fuck you and your peer pressure” and they just sit around in a basement like little children. Carvalho probably does know how human teenagers interact, but he sure as shit can’t write it.

Which is a shame, because Carvalho can compose a shot professionally. This feels like a bigger budget than it probably was visually. But the seizure induced editing makes even the simplest scenes incoherent, as does the laughable sound effects.

The pacing, the structure, the acting, the filmmaking is all just massively uninspired. As is Jonah himself when he eventually turns up.

To wrap this up on a positive note, the score by Russell Estrela is a great 80s synth score that recalls a few Giallo scores. It’s really fun.

But that’s it.

jonahlives2From the cutaways to the party upstairs that leads to nothing, to the random debates about religion that feel cut and pasted from Wikipedia, I just found this a really joyless experience. Could there be a drinking game in here? Maybe a tequila shot every time there is an unnaturally long pause in the dialogue, or a beer bong when someone an attempt at humour goes wildly wrong. Actually, that could be fun! Maybe order a pizza too, and get some friends round.

3/10

Feed The Devil (2015) Review

ftd1Feed The Devil (USA, 2015)
Dir: Max Perrier
Starring: Jared Cohen, Ardis Barrow, Brandon Perrault

Expected UK DVD Release 31/10/2016

Plot: Desperate to make some cash and start fresh, Marcus (Cohen) and Lydia (Barrow) go out into the wilderness to find a secret stash of weed. Getting lost in the woods becomes the least of their problems when they become prey to a figure of Native American folklore.

The first horror film by writer/director Max Perrier, his second feature behind his comedy crime drama, Dead Man’s Luck. Like many other first time horror directors, Perrier goes to the woods and we watch his cast slowly get bumped off in various nasty ways. However the particular evil in this film comes from Native American roots and gives the film an uneasy racial tone. While it might not have been the intention of the film makers to have race focused on in their film, it’s hard to avoid it.

Marcus is particularly racist towards the natives, at one point calling them “Bush N******” and even when he’s helped by the natives he is dismissive and arrogant. Like most horror fans, when I see a character who is incredibly arrogant and unlikeable, I hope that the killer will pick them off quick. Sadly I wasn’t so fortunate as the other members of the small cast are picked off and leave Marcus to fight the evil. It’s hard to be on the side of the racist white guy fighting a figure of Native American culture.

ftd2While the film is well shot with decent cinematography, the film often drags with slow pacing. Marcus and his friends wander around the woods for too long without explanation of the danger they’re in for so long before the audience gets a scrap of exposition, all the while enduring Marcus.

It’s often been debated if a main character in a film needs to be likeable for the film to be good and while I don’t believe they have to be, I think it helps. The film starts off by showing Marcus’s terrible home life, his abusive mother, and his plans to escape that life. However just because someone has hardships it doesn’t make them a good person and it failed to make me care about Marcus. I didn’t want him to succeed and it made the film disappointing as he continued his survival.

If the point of the film was to show white Americans as dismissive against Native American culture and how horrible it is, this film succeeded. It doesn’t feel like that was the intention, instead it’s just another arrogant horror protagonist getting himself into danger by ignoring the warnings of people who know better than him.

ftd3The Native American folklore feels like an after thought, that it could have been any kind of evil in those woods, but this felt like something a little different than the usual Catholic demons, or feral Big Foot. A lot of people might watch this and see it for what is on the screen and not read anything into it what so ever. Sadly I watched it and saw White American culture exerting dominance over Native American culture and I’m not cool with that.

2/10

Model Hunger (2016) Review

modelhunger1Model Hunger (USA, 2016)
Dir: Debbie Rochon
Starring: Tiffany Shepis, Lynn Lowry, Suzi Lorraine

Plot: Deep in her suburban neighbourhood, Ginny (Lowry) preys on the young girls of the area. Full of bitter rage from years of insecurity and exploitation, Ginny has become a violent cannibal who preaches the sins of body shaming. A failed modelling career has her fixated on the “twigs”, the skinny girls who are buying into the system that destroyed her. Her violent spree hits a bump when new neighbour, Debbie (Shepis) becomes suspicious of Ginny’s actions.

Model Hunger is the directorial début of Debbie Rochon, a horror icon from her years in the genre. Clearly taking inspiration from the independent films from Troma that she has starred in, including Tromeo and Juliet, this a small budget horror film that answers to no one other than the film makers. It’s a film with a message, tackling issues on body shaming, a very feminist message despite the screenplay being written by James Mogart.

The message of this film is the strongest element of the film, however it’s not immediately clear what that message is for much of the film’s duration. The film’s villain, Ginny and it’s hero, Debbie are separated for the majority of the film, with a relationship similar to Hitchcock’s The Rear Window. Debbie’s slowly growing aware of Ginny’s crimes but remains only a spectator until the final act. Ginny is the main focus of the film and the audience is often privvy to the thoughts running through her head as she chooses her victims. We hear all the venomous thoughts as she tears down her victim’s characters, accusing them of being sexually promiscuous, judgemental, and brainless. It’s uncertain if we’re supposed to be on Ginny’s side because she acts like a champion against unrealistic body expectations and the male gaze. Yet she’s a murderous cannibal.

modelhunger2Model Hunger features a television show called Suzi’s Secret, a shopping network channel that preaches for plus-size women. Ginny’s obsessed with the show, despite not being a plus-sized woman. The host Suzi (Lorraine) goes on about the hardships, that she wants to feel sexy but still eat, and how she makes clothes for “real women with real curves.” Suzi spreads hate about skinny women and continues the cycle of women hating women. In an abrupt change of character, Suzi delivers the line that confirms that this is what the whole film is about, that women hating women is as toxic as the men who police women’s bodies, and that it needs to stop. It’s a little out of character for Suzi as she has been going on about how all the skinny women are not real women but it’s good clarification of the film’s message.

The character of Debbie is a little hollow by comparison to Ginny, although the do attempt to give her a bit of depth through tragedy, an abusive mother giving her body issues, problems with mental illness, yet it’s hard to see her motivations for getting involved with Ginny’s murders. Debbie is a little too self-involved at times, particularly the moment where she slams the door in the face of a young Jehovah’s Witness girl and watches her walk next door to Ginny’s house, the woman she suspects is murdering people. It’s an aspect of Debbie’s personality that made her seem unrealistic, but this film is pretty far from realistic.

When speaking of the realism of this film, it’s never really explained why Ginny has become a cannibal. It’s good for gore but there’s no motivation for it. The murdering I can understand, it’s misguided rage, although even that is a little over the top. Ginny’s suffering at the hands of sleazy men in the modelling and fashion industry is more likely to make her hate men than women, but that’s misguided rage.

modelhunger3Despite the lack of realism, the message of the film is important. However the delivery of that message was hard to draw out under all the gore and sometimes feels secondary to the gore. I can’t help but feel that this might be due to the writer, James Mogart having not live with the constant body shaming that women go through. Rochon has been able to guide the message with her directing but it still lacks the focus that could have made this a gruesome social commentary.

6/10

i-Lived (2015) DVD Review

ilived1i-Lived (2015)

Dir- Franck Khalfoun

Starring- Jeremiah Watkins, Nic D’Avirro, Jan Broberg, Sarah Power

UK DVD release July 1th 2016 – Second Sight

Apps are pretty much the commonplace standard available on smartphone and modern technology and whilst we already have mobile phones not working in isolated areas where characters are being stalked by someone or something in horror films it wasn’t long before the genre would utilise the app as a centrepiece for a characters misfortunes or in the case of I-LIVED both fortune and miss-fortune. Whilst it is both clever in using this motif and smartly attacking the control mobile phones have over our lives in general, Khalfoun has also managed to update a pretty much Faustian pact with the devil story told through the ages for the iPhone generation.

Internet video blogger Josh (Watkins) is down on his luck or in many respects hitting rock bottom. His girlfriend has left him, he has no job, his Mum (Broberg) is battling cancer whilst this also affects his Dad (D’Avirro) as well, and to top it off he is months behind his rent and dodging his landlords knocks at the front door. He make video blogs reviewing apps, some of which we see done in nice if often slightly irritating straight to camera you tube vids. He has the chance to review an app called iLived where it requires the user to set out a goal and upload videos of certain tasks he is told by the app to complete. Whilst dismissing it at first, on one night out in a bar the app tracks his location and tells him to take a picture of a girl who he likes the look of.

ilived2This puts him with Greta (Power) and soon its not long before he is dating her. Things start to turn up, his videos start to attain more subscribers, his mum is getting better and he is offered a nice job where he can get paid work for his video blogs. However, thinking that the change in luck is down to him and not the app, he decides to delete it from his phone, which is when things go back to the shit. He catches Greta with another man, the job offer is pulled, the landlord has put an eviction notice on the door and worst of all his mum’s cancer has come back. Taking heed that this might be due to the loss of the app he reinstates it on his mobile, yet this time the tasks he is given become far more sinister and force Josh to start questioning his own sanity and how far he will go to succeed as well as protect his own family.

Khalfoun has utilised a traditional story idea and matching it with new technology in the modern world. Much like last years UNFRIENDED (which I still think is better than many made it out to be) where much of the action took place on a laptop screen, we initially see Josh’s videos and are also treated to some clever utilisation of a CCTV app which allows Josh to see on his phone the video of cameras he’s placed around his house. Which naturally comes into play in the films latter parts where our characters paranoia and fear starts to affect him. However, unlike UNFRIENDED it does break away from focusing the action on the perspective of technology and instead breaks into normal narrative flick for most of its running time. Unfortunately as mentioned before whilst there is some slight nice attacks on the form of modern technology and mobile phones being such a benefit and adherence in our lives, this at times does not come out sharper than expected and it would make the film much stronger in form to have seen a fantastic chance to attack this very current and commonplace tool of our lives and how it holds us in its graps.

ilived4Yet it does play nicely or riffs in a slightly satirical manner in our central characters reliance on becoming an internet star or top video blogger. This is most clearly played out in Josh’s initial decision to get rid of the app results in a loss of subscribers to his channel. Though installing it back and being forced to commit more darker tasks starts to bring more subscribers back to him and the allure of fame and women, making Josh become almost like a will do anything for fame type of internet celebrity wannabe. This latter part of the film is also well orchestrated as we get a sense that as well as Josh sliding into more darker tasks, his sanity is also sliding away from him as the narrative starts to take breaks from structure, even using some first person perspective shots that Khalfoun used to brilliant effect in his fantastic MANIAC remake.

The let down in the film comes in the initial reveal of the company behind the app and its company address that almost works like a too obvious sign post (you’ll know when you see it), almost bringing to mind the name of Robert De Niro’s character, Louis Cyphre, from ANGEL HEART. Also read the title of this film backwards and you already have an idea of why I mentioned Faustian pact at the start of the review. The films conclusion is also flawed and is in need of much more playing out or expansion in explaining our central characters actions and without giving too much away, the reasons for his decision at the end of the film, which does provide a fantastic final shot. But sadly it seems like certain points in this film are flawed, rushed and missing out on an opportunity to do something better, stronger with the smart material on offer.

ilived3Credit should be given to Watkins who puts in a decent performance as Josh and delivers a likeable and believable dorky character who at the start you root for as he is in the shit and you want to see him come out on top, but by the end despite him growing in confidence becomes someone forced into a corner and one partly of his own naivety and greed. Despite some flaws and a messy rushed conclusion there is something still to like in I-LIVED and there is no doubt that Khalfoun has shown he is a confident genre director. There’s just part of me that feels that unlike MANIAC, he seems to have missed it by a slight, slight margin this time round and with maybe a tightening of script and direction there could have been an excellent film on hand here rather than the good one which is on offer. Lets hope he hits his stride in his next film, the long awaited and much delayed AMYTVILLE: THE AWAKENING.

6/10

Dark Web: Steven Hickey’s Essential Guide To Creepypasta – Part 20: Funnymouth

DARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA – PART 20: FUNNYMOUTH

creepypastaIn my last feature I touched on the shrewd manner in which writers of Creepypasta incorporate common web/communications experiences into their stories to tailor their scares to the CP audience. There are a number of Creepypasta authors who, quite deservedly, have cultivated a real reputation for producing high-quality work. One of my favourites is the prolific Slimebeast, creator of the fantastic Abandoned By Disney series, which I have covered here before.

This week I return to his work for a story that utilises its web origin flawlessly: Funnymouth.

The story first appeared online at Slimebeast’s website on 1 January 2013 (http://slimebeast.com/forum/slimy-stories/funnymouth/). It opens with a very realistic transcript of an exchange between three users of the #ReferSales forum: lemonlimeskull; GhostJorge; and funnymouth.

The bizarre funnymouth dives into the channel, spouts a load of gibberish, then promptly disappears, drawing the curiosity of lemonlimeskull, whose real name is then revealed to be Charles Watts as he takes over narrator duties. After attempting to chat with the increasingly weird funnymouth, Charles moves on. However, he soon finds himself cyber-stalked by the mysterious web-user, bombarded with emails to his private account. Funnymouth’s actions become increasingly intense, including somehow bringing down ReferSales.com causing it to redirect to bludd.com, a site which seems to consist simply of a large bitmapped image of a face with a long, distended tongue lolling out.
Charles also finds himself cracking under the pressure and haunted by grim nightmares.

funnymouth_fanartFinally a frightening truth is revealed about who or what funnymouth is…

There’s no denying that Funnymouth manages to pack a lot of frights into its comparatively brief length. That the story starts with such a realistic chat transcription really draws the reader in, echoing an online setting with which many Creepypasta consumers will be familiar. By engaging a reader in this way early on, Slimebeast builds a natural suspension of disbelief, before heading into his trademark, personable and likeable narration as the ill-fated Charles Watts. Watts is something of a horror fiction archetype, a flawed protagonist who proceeds along a path to damnation by allowing his natural disposition to cause him to wander into the sights of something deadly. Think the stuffy disbelieving sceptics of M.R. James’s ghost stories, or in more modern terms, the blindly driven Ellison Oswalt as played by Ethan Hawke in 2012’s Sinister.

In this case it is curiosity in the face of what he knows to be wrong — lemonlimeskull says as much himself when describing his initial encounters with funnymouth. With online stalkers and trolls a very real threat to web users, the slowly building intensity of funnymouth’s attentions is decidedly unsettling, long before the story reveals the terrifying imagery of Charles’s nightmares and THAT haunting climax.

The bludd.com image is also disturbing, a devilish ‘face’ to place to the name funnymouth. The long tongue is reminiscent of several depictions of Satan, while the intense glare is definitely a spine chiller.
In August of that same year the story appeared over on the Creepypasta Wikia (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Funnymouth) where it was a massive hit with readers. The story took on an even more legendary reputation when it emerged that the sites and email addresses within the story were all genuine. ReferSales.com is still live, although bludd.com has since gone done.

What really got people buzzing though, was that they would receive replies if they wrote to any of the email addresses listed in the story (http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Thread:110971?useskin=oasis). This really was a fantastic display of commitment to his craft from Slimebeast, one that has seen the usual questions regarding whether the story is truly based on fact (https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20130603230322AAqaTuz).
Of course, we all know that Slimebeast is a well-known and talented creator of fiction, but as the story spread throughout the Internet (copied and pasted, like all truly great Creepypastas) some readers lost track of where the story originated. The waters were muddied even further on 18 July 2014 when a sequel to the story, titled Funnymouths appeared at Slimebeast’s site (http://slimebeast.com/stories/funnymouths.php).

The story really toys with the reader, taking a more meta approach and directly referencing the spread of the original story online and even the author himself. This story follows a sceptical protagonist who accidentally stumbles across the original Funnymouth story online, then starts to research the tale. It leads him to the YouTube channel of a user called Tormental, who it seems may have crossed paths with the dangerous funnymouth while playing an online game. Another video is then described which tells us about the fate that befell poor Charles Watts — and it is chilling.

Suitably creeped out by the video, that evening our poor narrator goes on to have a vivid nightmare. Waking in a state of real terror, he tries to get over the shock by posting to a web forum, pointing out that the story is clearly a well-worked hoax and that a broken jaw isn’t THAT scary.
Then he receives a private message from a familiar name…

bludd.comFunnymouths is a good follow-up and the clever manner in which it incorporates elements of real-life into its narrative really adds to the suspension of disbelief, while the large cast of (mostly online) characters and subtle changes in writing style for each by Slimebeast really adds to the experience. Arguably the biggest scare comes from the description of the “Watts-01_10_13” video.

This touches on the very real fear of insanity, Dementophobia, a phobia that is actually pretty common. We all fear the thought that one day our mind will betray us — that our perception of reality could become inherently flawed, not through external stimulus, but through the very processes we use to make sense of the world around us. With madness comes the very real threat that we could harm ourselves, or others, without reason, and this is truly horrifying.

Factor in the historical cruelty or mistreatment of those with mental disorders and it’s all too clear why the thought of suffering some kind of mental break could cause deep anxiety. That this sequence culminates in some startlingly gory imagery really drives home the horror of that moment.

Once again there’s a nice real-world reference, YouTube user Tormental is actually one of the author’s YouTube channels (https://www.youtube.com/user/tormentalist) — there’s no Charles Watts video there, but the story directly addresses this. It’s another dedicated, clever and artful piece of work from a Creepypasta icon who consistently excels at this kind of thing.

This author Slimebeast (Christopher Howard Wolf) was kind enough to speak with me again about his very successful, yet very different creepypasta double act.

UK HORROR SCENE: Thank you for agreeing to speak with me. First, what served as your inspiration for the story?

SLIMEBEAST: It’s basically the classic “something is after you” story, with an “internet troll” twist thrown in. It’s basically inspired by all the lolrandom trolls out there.

UKHS: It cleverly utilises a real website to contribute to the story telling process. What inspired you to do that? And what challenges did that present?

SB: I’ve made a few websites in the past, just to see if I could convince people they were real. For example, before The Dark Knight Rises finished production, I made a fake viral site for Poison Ivy’s high-class escort service. It hit about 400,000 views in a day or two before people started picking up that it wasn’t an actual part of the marketing campaign. I guess it’s just something I like to challenge myself with — can I create a false reality and convince someone of it — even for a short time? As for challenges, I suppose the only real challenge is paying the domain name fee every year. XD

slimebeast.com_logoUKHS: I’ve noticed that Bludd.com has closed, but you can still access the site if you know how to through ReferSales. What happened to Bludd.com?

SB: Before I used Bluud.com in the story, I had it up for sale along with a bunch of other names. I forgot to remove it from the sales website because I hadn’t used it in a year or more. Needless to say, once it started getting traffic, someone bought it. I regret forgetting it was on the market, but really the fact that it went down kind of adds to the story a little bit, eh? I actually used to respond to email at bluud.com as Funnymouth before it got overwhelming.

UKHS: The character Funnymouth writes in a very distinctive manner. Is it based on anybody real you’ve encountered online?

SB: Yes, some of his style of speech is based on a forumgoer I used to see on a comic book message board. There was more than one discussion on the site about whether he was legit or a troll. He would post comic scripts and say stuff like: “tom cruise can star in the movie. I hope he can like it.”

UKHS: The opening section of the story takes place as a transcript in an Internet chat room and is frighteningly believable. Was that difficult to do? Would you consider writing a full story in that manner?

SB: It’s not all that difficult. Most of the aggravation just comes in the form of typing the usernames out every time, and making sure I didn’t misspell them somewhere. Copy/paste doesn’t really help when you have two or even three names to use over and over again in a quick-fire discussion. I don’t really know if I’d write a non-Funnymouth story in this exact format, because then it’d basically just be borrowing from this story.

UKHS: The sequel, Funnymouths is very self-referential (I like to refer to it as the Wes Craven’s New Nightmare of creepypastas) and takes a decidedly different tone than the original story. Why did you choose to try a different tack with the sequel?

SB: I tackle sequels, prequels, etc. with a sort of “meta” approach. I want them to actually seem like a movie or book sequel in some regards, like using various tropes or behaviors associated with sequels. For example, “Lost Episodes” ends on a very final note. However, the follow-up story, “Sid’s Video”, takes that ending and basically undoes it. People get aggravated at that, but that’s the point. It’s a story about movies and TV shows, so the second story is like a movie sequel that doesn’t respect the source. I probably get too far into my own head on these things, but yeah. Funnymouths does this by attempting to sound like someone else is writing their own spin-off of Funnymouth. Like a second author decided “this looks popular, I think I’ll write an unofficial sequel!” I don’t know if any of that carries across, but you can hopefully see it in little touches here and there.

UKHS: Funnymouths in particular really blurs the lines between fact and fiction. Was this hard to do? And have you heard of many people who have actually mistaken either of the stories for fact?

SB: It’s not all that hard to blur the line. I think most of my stories have some connection to real-life events I’ve experienced. Even if it’s just “One time I fell down the stairs and hurt my foot… but imagine if I had somehow kept falling for hours!” or something dumb and mundane like that. People have definitely mistaken the stories for reality, unless they’re all shining me on. People still email Charles at ReferSales.com and ask if he’s okay.

funnymouth_fanart2UKHS: Both stories leave quite a lot of mysteries unanswered. Do you think you might return to the story in the future? Or do you prefer this element of mystery?

SB: I like to leave things open to interpretation. Hopefully I can do this in a way that doesn’t frustrate people so much as inspire them to imagine their own meaning. I want to set up a situation where the reader can walk away thinking rather than just being done with the story and moving on. Whether or not I accomplished it depends on who’s reading, I suppose.

You can read more of Slimebeast’s work over at his web site http://slimebeast.com/forum/index.php or check out more creepypasta writing at Slimebeast’s other site, toospooky.com.

It’s clear that Slimebeast’s stories work so well because they are frightening realistic in their descriptions of, thankfully, fictitious horror. For creepypasta to work, most of the time it needs to convince the reader that it is based on fact… so what happens when a viral horror tale really is based on true events?

Check out my next feature for one of the internet’s most enduring viral horror stories that just so happens to be based on a genuine heart-stopping encounter the author experienced.

Prepare for nightmares…

O)_(O

And Now The Screaming Starts #3 – Christopher Lee: Six of The Best

And Now The Screaming Starts! #3  – UKHS’ Regular Hammer / Amicus Feature

cleeoldSix of the Best: Christopher Lee

There are a great many actors who graced the silver and small screen over the latter half of the twentieth century who cut their teeth on, and often made their name known thanks to, fleeting or regular roles in the films of Hammer Productions – the unforgettable Ingrid Pitt, the irreplaceable Peter Cushing and the legendary Oliver Reed to name a few – but there is one actor whose name was and still is utterly synonymous with ‘Hammer’, despite him having starred a massive number of films over his career produced by countless other studios and companies. That actor is, of course, Sir Christopher Lee. A year on from his death last June at the grand old age of 93, I felt it fitting this time around to cast an eye over a selection of his Hammer roles and explore how some of the varied films his work for Hammer propelled him to fame and went on to mould him as an actor – not to mention his contribution to the development of the company itself as his talent thrived over the decades.

I’m not necessarily suggesting in my selection of the six films that follow that they are his six best ever roles, for Hammer or otherwise, or indeed the six best Hammers he starred in, but I pick them more as a showcase of the range of parts he developed over time and variety of horror sub-genres he was able to explore through the company. I believe he starred in a total of 19 Hammer films (could be wrong!) spanning four separate decades so it’s hard at any rate to whittle down which part he played best or which film was the most enjoyable! Personal preferences aside, I invite both the discerning Hammer nut and novice to simply kick back and chew over these six outings, each made by one great British institution and starring another…

CLEE-The-Curse-Of-Frankenstein-christopher-lee-2511526-376-304The Curse of Frankenstein (1957, Dir. Terence Fisher) – ‘The Creature’

Though best known for playing the first fanged fiend of literature, Lee’s first ever film under the Hammer banner (and one of the company’s first releases) saw him play a different yet no-less well-known ‘monster’ – Frankenstein’s, no less. The Hammer interpretation of Mary Shelley’s classic horror tale also featured Peter Cushing as the titular Baron, pairing the two actors in a picture together for the very first time and heralding the beginning of probably the most well-known and enduring lifelong friendships in cinema. Christopher Lee was cast because of his towering height (which ironically had seen him strike out with many acting roles before this in favour of shorter actors), and also because he had some experience in the field of mime.

He certainly brings this skill to the fore in his first Hammer flick, all at once convincing the viewer of the Creature’s melancholy, confusion and silent rage, even under the thick layers of make-up artist Phil Leakey’s corpse-like mask. Six further films starring the Baron were to follow from Hammer, yet this would be the only one to star Christopher Lee. What makes ‘Curse’ so special is, aside from simply being Lee’s first Hammer role, it can be argued that it ‘kicked off’ proper the company’s brand success as it was both commercially and critically successful, proving Hammer to be a film production force to be reckoned with and firmly kick-starting the long and highly prestigious career of one of Britain’s best-loved actors.

CLEE-drac58The Horror of Dracula (1958, Dir. Terence Fisher) – ‘Count Dracula’

Of course, this one has to be included in this particular line-up – Sir Christopher’s first time playing the Count for Hammer! Appearing the year after ‘Curse of Frankenstein’, ‘Dracula’ (or ‘Horror of Dracula’) introduced us to Lee’s definitive Lord of the Undead amidst huge box office takings for the time and some derision on grounds of good taste from the then critics. Lee is simply perfect for the role and it is no wonder he was picked for it – the character of Dracula calls for charm, reticence, anguish and pure aggression in equal measure and he displays all these qualities in spades. The film itself, loosely re-telling the Stoker narrative, is still an essential horror watch today – an enjoyable thrill-fest and visually sumptuous, and it features a fabulous ending with decent special effects (fantastic for the 50’s!), understated acting from Lee even during a sequence that could easily be heavy on the ham, and of course the first of many quality Lee/Cushing death grapples!

cleebaskThe Hound of the Baskervilles (1959, Dir. Terence Fisher) – ‘Sir Henry Baskerville’

Another Hammer spin on a classic novel (and like so many early Hammer classics, directed by Terence Fisher), this interpretation of Sherlock Holmes’ most famous case of all brought us Christopher Lee as the distinguished heir to the Baskerville fortune. ‘Baskervilles’ is not only one of the stronger early Hammer films, establishing Peter Cushing as one of the more memorable Sherlocks and with Andre Morell’s Watson providing stalwart support alongside one of literature’s best-loved mysteries – it also gave Lee the chance to spread his wings a little and show audiences that he could play the good guy just as well as the villain or monster, even almost your average Joe (landowning and Beagle fancying aside). Lee takes command of every frame he’s in as he did in any role, but as Sir Henry he was able to try his hand at a somewhat more vulnerable character, falling in ill-advised love with a Spanish servant’s daughter and although no wimp, still under threat of murder from an unknown and possibly supernatural force.

cleedracDracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968, Dir. Freddie Francis) – ‘Count Dracula’

Leaping ahead to the late sixties, Sir Christopher reprised his role as the vampire (and went on to do so another six times, five of which were for Hammer), now thawed out from his frozen demise a year previous and bent on a rampage of mayhem and revenge. With Ewan Hooper’s tormented priest under his hypnotised thrall, the Count plans to take revenge on the Monseigneur who exorcised his castle whilst he lay frozen by preying on his sweet daughter Marie (Veronica Carlson). Lee’s vampire has more interaction here with the living and seems more willing to get his hands dirty with a spot of coffin-robbing and public house basement squatting (even the undead have to move with the times). While the film did not impress on the same scale as its predecessor, ‘Grave’ is still a strong Dracula film, featuring a fantastically ghoulish opening, and Sir Christopher is once more effortlessly imposing, continuing to terrify and enthral audiences with his chilling performance as the Count.

cleedevilTo the Devil a Daughter (1976, Dir. Peter Sykes) – ‘Father Michael Rayner’

“Excommunicate – it is not heresy, and I will not recant!”

The vitriolic opening words, spoken by Lee as disgraced priest Father Michael Rayner, of what was to be Hammer’s final horror film before the company ceased producing films in 1979. The innocent young nun Catherine Beddows (Natasha Kinski) has been raised within Fr Rayner’s religious order in Bavaria, all seemingly above board, but the unsuspecting girl does not realise that Rayner is in fact leader of a highly dangerous religious sect which worships the ancient God Astaroth, and they plan to use her as the Devil’s representative on Earth once she turns eighteen. I choose this one plain and simple for Lee’s performance – the film itself was not a particular commercial or critical success, and thoroughly displeased Dennis Wheatley, the author of the book the film was (ultimately loosely) based on 1968’s ‘The Devil Rides Out’ (Hammer’s previous film based on a novel by Wheatley) was much more successful, and Christopher Lee turns in an equally respectable performance as the Duc de Richleau in it, however the sheer unsettling, total creepiness Lee brings forth as Fr Rayner still makes this Satanic horror film worth a look.

Lee is simply fantastic, oozing malice as he performs Satanic magic on his lackeys and doing a fine job of making the evil priest seem just pleasant enough on the surface – proving that even after working with Hammer by this point for nearly twenty years, he could still bring a character to life with utter conviction and curdle the blood of a whole new generation of filmgoers.

cleeThe Resident (2011, Dir. Antti Jokinen) – ‘August’

“I will always be grateful to Hammer for launching my international career as an actor. Like millions of others, I would welcome the day when the company resumes production.” *

And resume it fittingly did, in what would be the last few years of the actor’s long life, and what a pleasure it was for fans of this movie legend to see him collaborate with the resurrected company once more. In this first film from its new incarnation, we see Hammer take on a form of ‘stalker/home invasion’ horror, with Hilary Swank’s Juliet Devereaux falling foul of the affections of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s obsessed landlord Max. In what would be his final Hammer performance, Sir Christopher plays a small part (he was 89 by this point to be fair, and only a few years prior was heavy involved with various factions of both the Orc and Sith type!) as Max’s frail yet clearly emotionally abusive grandfather, August. Despite the short screen time, Lee keeps us guessing about August’s character, turning up in jump scares to unsettle, unintentionally or not, both Juliet and the audience, and leads us to suspect he may pose more of a threat to her safety than his grandson ever could…

So there you have it – a look back at a few of Lee’s Hammer roles and a reminder of one of the great cinematic partnerships of blossoming film production company and favoured ‘go-to’ actor, symbiotically launching and at times upholding each other’s success. And what an unbelievable talent the man was, both as a Hammer actor and in his near uncountable other acting credits – he is quoted as once saying “People come up to me and say, ‘Oh, Mr Lee, I’ve seen all your films!’ and I think, ‘No you haven’t.’”

He kicked ass for real in his 20’s in the RAF and Special Forces and kicked cinematic butt of various kinds as an nonogenarian. I’ve often thought that if (when?) a film-maker ever wanted to film a biography of his life, who would play the man himself – not to deride today’s current actors, but which actor today has the equal stature, presence and level of film and life experience?

There’ll never be another quite like him.

* = from the Foreword to ‘The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer’ by Marcus Hearn and Alan Barnes