The Wave (2015) Review

thewave1The Wave (Norway, 2015)
Dir: Roar Uthaug
Starring: Kristoffer Joner, Ane Dahl Torp, Jonas Hoff Oftebro

UK Preview – February 27th 2016 at FrightFest Glasgow

Plot: When Kristian (Joner), a geologist from the Norwegian town of Geiranger is about to move away to Stavanger, he can’t leave his work alone. Part of a group that monitors the mountains in hopes of preventing landslides that had previously resulted in massive death and destruction in the area, Kristian can’t shake the feeling that it might be happening again. Despite the fact that the rest of the group are unconcerned, Kristian’s concerns turn out to be true and the landslide results in a massive wave heading for the town, where Kristian’s family are.

It’s a terrifying thought being caught up in some kind of natural disaster, with volcanoes, tornadoes and earthquakes all causing massive devastation where ever they hit. Humanity does it’s best to predict these acts of God, and we’ve made plenty films based on them. While films like Twister and Dante’s Peak kept the scale reasonably small, films like The Day After Tomorrow upped the ante. Why show the destruction of a town when it can be a continent? Blockbusters by film makers like Roland Emmerich started setting the bar too high. With The Wave, it’s been scaled way back to show the destruction of a town and personally, it doesn’t feel big enough.

thewave3In a disaster movie, we’re living vicariously through the characters going through this ordeal. It’s a little more difficult when those characters live in a town you’ve never heard of before. The Wave does do a lot of character building around Kristian and his family but unless you get invested in them, you’re not going to care. Kristian is a workaholic dad but even with that flaw he does seem to generally care about his family.

His family is his wife, his teenage son, and his young daughter. The daughter is the simplest character, she’s just kind of adorable, too adorable to want to see her drowned by a big wave. The wife is supportive but calls Kristian on his shit, they argue a bit but they are far from dysfunctional. The teenage son is almost perpetually in a mood, and just makes things difficult for the dad because this is the movies and there always has to be someone in the family to make things harder than they need to be. Compared to most American movie families, Kristian’s family is idyllic. They’re too perfect.

Going back to the scale of the movie, because it’s such a small scale I can’t help but feel like the scenario is a lot more preventable than say the end of the world in the film 2012. The people who are in charge of keeping an eye on the mountain seem so unconcerned when it’s the whole job to be concerned and cautious. This results in everything going to hell and the people in the town are left with 10 minutes to evacuate, which is an impossibly short time to get anything done in my opinion. That goes double for evacuating a hotel which is the task that Kristian’s wife is given.

thewave2Overall this film is pretty typical of disaster films, the first act is our hero being told he’s a crazy person for wanting to do his job and prevent a disaster, the second act is the disaster, and the third act is the hero trying to save his family from the disaster. It’s not really a rocket science plot so it really relies on you to care about the characters and I just didn’t. Also I found it quite distracting that the actor who plays Kristian, Kristoffer Joner looks like a Norwegian Norman Reedus. If you like disaster films this might be a good film for you, but for everyone else you’ve probably seen another film like this and it doesn’t add anything new enough to be interesting. However if you’ve planning a trip to Norway I’d recommend it because the scenery is gorgeous.

5/10

Ripper (2015) Short Film Review

ripper1Ripper (Short 2015)

Director & Writer: James Campbell

Starring: Jacob Anderton, Mike Carr, Sally Collett

Runtime: 23min

Synopsis from IMDb: “London, 1888 and the Ripper murders are gripping the country. The people of Whitechapel are afraid to walk the streets at night; the police are no closer to cracking the case. But someone is watching, waiting, ready to strike.”

Ripper: a fan-made, for-the-fans, independent, and crowdfunded short. Funded through Indiegogo, this project caught my eye in the early days of its campaign. Admittedly, I made a small pledge to the project, which will not in any way affect my views of the film.

An ode to Brian Augustyn’s graphic novel: Gotham by Gaslight (DC Comics, 1989) with elements also taken from Alan Moore’s legendary Batman: The Killing Joke (DC Comics, 1988). Ripper is splendidly put together, with an eye for detail that would rival any triple-A production.

Ripper unfolds at an explosive pace; it must, due to its 23 minute runtime. Campbell’s vison of London in 1888 is fully realised and he has impressively made full use of a limited budget to achieve it. The Bat’s lair, an old maritime vessel, is fantastic in its presentation. The use of deep red, blue, and green hues is a throwback to Mario Bava. Others have been critical of the use of these colours and the synth score; however, I think their use is perfect in its execution. The kaleidoscopic disorientation achieved is also a nod to 1980’s surrealist cinema from the likes of Terry Gilliam or Jim Henson. This synth score is quite fitting due to the source material also being a product of the 1980s.

ripper2The plot doesn’t follow much “Batman” or Jack the Ripper, and instead focuses on the victims and investigators of The Ripper’s heinous crimes, but the performances are solid and well-acted. The final confrontation of the film is by far its high point pitting The Bat against Jack himself. Given that this is his first outing as both a writer and a director, Campbell has done a fine job delivering to us an entertaining entry into the ever-growing fan film landscape. Ripper is proof of concept that this story can be told well and in live action; maybe someday we will see a fully licensed and fully funded Gotham by Gaslight with Campbell at the helm!

Verdict: 8.5/10

Fantastic Fan-made Gothic Fantasy

Watch it here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trc1ItzBvaE

Patchwork (2015) Review

patchwork2015posterPatchwork (USA, 2015)

Dir: Tyler MacIntyre

Starring: Tory Stolper, Tracy Fairaway, Maria Blasucci

UK Première – 26th February 2016 at FrightFest Glasgow

Plot: Things just got tougher for Jennifer (Stolper), Ellie (Fairaway), and Madeleine (Blasucci), they just woke up on a mortician’s slab as one person. Stitched together like a Frankenstein creation, the girls are confused and angry. Hazily remembering the previous night, the girls decide to bring the pain to whoever did this to them.

While most Frankenstein inspired films go down the route of hubris, Patchwork keeps it light. It uses the work of Mary Shelley to discuss topics like identity, while at the same time it’s fun splatter film. Tonally it’s closer to Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator than Frankenstein. It pays homage to Re-Animator by sharing the animated style opening credits. Despite the similarities, Patchwork has it’s own personality, one that stems from it’s leading ladies. It’s hard to think of this area of medical based body horror that isn’t male centric, and revenge movies are equally macho. Patchwork deviates from this tradition by telling it’s story from the perspective of three interesting and fun female characters.

patchwork1The film has an odd couple dynamic as heroines are forced to share a body with each other and their vastly different personalities. Each brings something to the table and it’s fun to see them bonding as the film goes on. Jennifer is the overly serious, work fixated girl with no time for fun, Ellie is the ditzy party girl, and Madeleine is the insecure loner. However despite these archetypes, they don’t feel restricted. These are the roles that they have been put into by the guys in their lives and since those guys are the main suspects, they are also the targets of the rampage and it’s very satisfying to see them get their comeuppance.

Patchwork is gory and hilarious, a campy horror comedy at it’s best. While it’s got inspirations from splatter films like Re-Animator and Brain Dead, I can also feel the influence of modern, female lead horror comedies, such as Life After Beth and Jennifer’s Body. It never takes itself too seriously and it makes it a fun ride from beginning to end. The ladies are definitely the head liners of this film but it also has a great supporting cast including one half of Harry Potter’s Weasley Twins, James Phelps, as the love interest, and Corey Sorenson as the mad scientist. The cast all have the right comedic timing to pull off such an absurd story. I’m not entirely sure which of the three main actresses played the role of their combined self (which is a great compliment to the effects team) but which ever one it was has fantastic physical acting and performed the physical comedy at a spectacular level that I would compare to Bruce Campbell in Evil Dead or Jim Carrey in his prime.

patchwork2Shown as the midnight movie on Friday at FrightFest Glasgow, it was a great way to end the day and easily my favourite of the whole festival. Even on the way home I was feeling that need to just watch it again.

Just a hell of a lot of fun.

9/10

The Mind’s Eye (2015) Review

mindseyeeeeeThe Mind’s Eye (2015)

Dir: Joe Begos

Starring: Graham Skipper, Lauren Ashley Carter, John Speredakos, Larry Fessenden.

UK Première Feb 26th 2016 at FrightFest Glasgow

Plot: When a number of people start to exhibit psychokinetic powers, several research facilities start taking an interest in these individuals. Dr Slovak (Speredakos) runs one of these facilities studying psychokinesis. Zack (Skipper), a telekinetic individual ends up in Slovak’s facility while looking for his girlfriend, Rachel (Carter). Slovak does have Rachel under his care and refuses to let Zack see her, and performing horrific experiments on both of them. When Zack manages to escape Slovak, he decides to save Rachel and inflict his bloody revenge on Slovak.

The second feature of director, Joe Begos, who returned to FrightFest Glasgow for the première. His first feature Almost Human also premièred at FrightFest Glasgow back in 2014. Begos brings us a tale that shares a kinship with David Cronenberg’s Scanners. Scanners is infamous for it’s telekinetic head explosion scene, and The Mind’s Eye takes that and runs with it. While Scanners whet our appetite for gruesome telekinetic violence, The Mind’s Eye provides a banquet.

mindseye2Set in the simpler time of the 1990s, The Mind’s Eye manages to capture the style of the psychokinesis sub-genre, a sub-genre that really hasn’t been used much since then. This also means that the film doesn’t address technological changes, such as mobile phones and the internet, things that would probably be focused on in a film set today. It keeps the film streamlined, taking the audience along for the ride without distracting from the spectacle.

As previously mentioned, the psychokinesis sub-genre hasn’t really been used in a long time and when it has been, it’s either been used for comedic effect like in the South Park episode, Cartmen’s Incredible Gift, or it’s a little cheesy looking, like in the remake of Carrie. It’s difficult to make the body language for psychokinesis look good without looking like some kind of X-Men character. The Mind’s Eye manages to do it through the use of it’s actors and it’s practical effects. The lead actor, Graham Skipper, was cast due to his ability to bug out his eyes and bulge his veins and Begos wrote the role for him. Speredakos also manages to unleash his psychokinetic fury but it helps that he has been transformed with make up effects to make it look like the power is running through him. Speredakos plays the villain, Slovak, tremendously. He’s a power-hungry maniac and it’s so easy to hate him which is the mark of a great villain.

mindseye3We had the great fortune of sitting down with Joe Begos before the première at FrightFest (stay tuned to UK Horror Scene for that interview) and it was exciting to hear Begos talk about the film and it’s clear just how much passion he has for it and for film making in general. I couldn’t wait to see The Mind’s Eye after hearing him speak about it. He’s definitely a director to look out for, especially if you love indie Sci-fi horrors.

8/10

Pandemic (2016) Review

pandemic1Pandemic (USA, 2016)

Dir: John Suits

Starring: Rachel Nichols, Missi Pyle, Alfie Allen

World Première 26th Feb 2016 at FrightFest Glasgow

UK DVD Release May 23rd 2016 from Platform Entertainment Limited

Plot: After a virus has infected most of the human race, the fight to find a cure is becoming desperate. With the symptoms of the virus turning people into mindless, violent zombies, it’s getting harder and harder to find those who are still uninfected. Amongst the search effort is Lauren, a doctor who is returning to Los Angeles from New York, in hopes of finding her husband and child.

The biggest selling point of Pandemic is that it is shot almost entirely from first person perspective. With previous films like the remake of Maniac showing that it can be done to great effect, and with the anticipation of other first person films such as Hardcore Henry, Pandemic promises to show what this style can do with the zombie sub-genre, a sub-genre so densely populated that it really requires something special to stand our amongst the brain-munching crowd. While Maniac chose to shoot the film directly from the perspective of their titular maniac, Pandemic relies on camera mounted hazmat masks so it’s already shifting into the more common territory of Found Footage. Also Pandemic switches vantage point between it’s four main survivors depending on who has the best shot during the scene. By this point we’re not really getting what we’ve been sold.

pandemic2What we do get is a fast-paced zombie survival story as the group follow their orders deep into the infected zone of Los Angeles. As the plan falls apart, the group start to break from their orders and do what’s important to them, specifically the rescue of Lauren’s family. Each stop along the way from the safe zone to their ordered rescue point to Lauren’s house, there are set pieces, normally focused on a significant zombie threat. Sadly the zombies are near identical, extras in make-up and fake blood. While the film’s first person perspective kind of feels like you’re playing Left 4 Dead, without the unique zombies, the special infected, it quickly becomes quite stale and boring. Pandemic could have used the other staple of zombie cinema, the savagery of human beings, to liven things up but it doesn’t do much with that either.

Combine Pandemic’s lack of interesting zombies, with it’s technical issues and it’s just not that good. It tries to get away with cheap looking CGI to try and make Los Angeles look more apocalyptic, as well as using shots of LA’s homeless community which just feels a bit exploitative. The other technical issue is that Pandemic suffers from lazy Found Footage issues, often breaking away from the first person perspective to random CCTV footage or dashboard cams when they’re chosen perspective doesn’t give them the shots they want. While the film doesn’t play to the found footage trope that the footage has actually been found and edited together, it’s still disappointing when they have to throw additional easy shots in there rather than working with the limitations of the style.

pandemic3I’d recommend this one for the hardcore zombie crowd, but I’d probably recommend something more interesting before I came to Pandemic. There’s not enough money-shots of zombies ripping people apart to get a visceral enjoyment from Pandemic and the plot is nothing that you haven’t seen in countless replays of Left 4 Dead.

3/10

Bone Tomahawk (2015) Review

bone1BONE TOMAHAWK (Dir- S. Craig Zahler, USA, 2015)

Starring- Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins, Matthew Fox, Lili Simmons, Sid Haig, David Arquette

Horror western is an unusual combination that has been utilised before in films such as the underrated DEAD BIRDS, GRIM PRAIRIE TALES and most recently EXIT HUMANITY. However it’s a combination that can work on it’s reliance of the use of recognisable genre traits from each particular area. The old west with it’s almost lawless arena, which is patrolled and overseen by the lone sheriff, outlaws, bank robbers, and the progression of a new American age, combined with horror of monsters, spirits, undead and in the case of BONE TOMAHAWK, cannibals. Zahler’s superb debut works as a neat combination of two genres and whilst it certainly has recognisable elements from prior classic western and horror films, it somehow comes off as a unique and often brutal movie.

Opening with a scene of two bushwhacking robbers Buddy and Purvis cutting the throats of sleeping cowboys and stealing their possessions in the vast western wilderness, is a great set up into the mood of the film and on in which genre fans will recognise the two actors as Sid Haig and David Arquette which is a nice tip of the hat to those familiar with horror cinema. The robbers soon stumble upon what looks like a burial site of some sort and after one of them is shot down by an arrow and axed by a shadowy yet domineering figure, the remaining one member of the two thieves makes his way to the town of Bright Hope. Here he arouses the suspicions of the local sheriff Franklin Hunt (Russell) and in an altercation in a saloon is shot in the leg and taken to the local jail.

bone2However at the same time in the town a local stable hand is butchered by what seems to be the same things or people from the burial site and in the morning it’s soon discovered that the thief from before, a local doctor Samantha O’Dwyer (Simmons) and one of Hunt’s deputy’s have been abducted. Hunt has no choice but to lead a rescue party, including his acting back up deputy, the well meaning if bumbling Chicory (Jenkins), an experienced trekker John Brooder (Fox) and Samantha’s husband Arthur (Wilson) who is nursing a nasty broken leg. Yet before they set out they are warned by a local expert on tribal history that what they are up against is not Indians but ‘troglodytes.’ A savage tribe that is “a spoilt bloodline of inbred animals that rape and eat their own mothers.” Needless to say they head off, though along the way they encounter obstacles such as other thieves and bandits and weakened with Arthur’s broken leg which is holding him back. This does not prepare them for what they encounter and how their eventual rescue mission becomes a struggle for survival.

bone4No doubt BONE TOMAHAWK will probably be a hard sell to a wider audience who might not be prepared for it’s utilisation of the western with some dark and often grizzly horror elements that are especially prevalent in the film’s second part. However, it is a film that I highly recommend seeking out as somehow on this second viewing I enjoyed it a lot more. From it’s character’s, the dialogue, the setting’s and even the nightmarish and often threatening presence of the cannibals in the film who wear grotesque body modifications and cry out a horrid scream once any unwitting victims have entered their territory and acts as an attack call. Aside from the opening scene Zahler sets up neatly the town of Bright Hope and focuses on it’s residents who will become key players in the ensuing rescue mission. It’s only when the posse go out of the civilised township and into unknown territory that they encounter civilisation at it’s base and most primal. Yet it’s interesting to note that the violent tribe in this is not ‘Indians’ but instead cannibals or the aforementioned ‘troglodytes.’

bone3In this instance, rather than relying on the old western cinema’s demonising of an Indian tribe, the one featured in this case is a far more violent and brutally primitive being and therefore their eventual confrontation and anything that happens to them is justified and that their inhuman quality’s can be measured against our human characters, who even though they live in a civilised place, are still prone to reliance on weapons and violence to maintain a degree of stability. This is demonstrated at the start with Hunt shooting the remaining survivor of the thieving murders in the leg, yet stating that they need a doctor to heal the wound to allow him time to be hung up by the neck in front of his victims family’s. In the landscape BONE TOMAHAWK occupies it’s only a few days journey between a civilised community to an uncivilised community and it’s only the living space and the progressive way of life in Bright Hope that separates them from the Cave Dwellers.

bone5Indeed one of the more aggressive yet still rounded characters in the film is the bigoted trecker Brooder, who boasts about killing more Indians than anyone in the rescue party. Yet his hatred for natives stems from witnessing his family murdered at the hands of a tribe when he was 10. Brooder, is brilliantly played by Fox who hasn’t really hit his stride since leaving the TV series LOST. However, he envelopes himself in a character that brings to mind the Indian hating bigotry of John Wayne’s Ethan Edward’s in THE SEARCHERS (1956) and whilst being ruthless and arrogant remains the more experienced of the group. The cast handle themselves brilliantly in the roles and you can tell it was character’s that they jumped at the chance to play thanks to Zaher’s sharp dialogue.

Jenkins is particularly memorable as Chicory who has a tendency to break off onto rambling reminiscing monologues. Wilson spends much of the time clutching onto a walking stick yet somehow remains a strong moving force pushing himself through the punishing landscape on his mission to save his wife. Though it’s Russell who is enjoying a sort of renaissance at the minute, who is brilliant as Hunt. Already starring in another western this year (Tarantino’s THE HATEFUL EIGHT), his role as the sheriff in this film is a more restrained and compelling character compared to the angry suspicious bounty hunter he played in Tarantino’s film.

bone6Zaher is also aided by some superb cinematography by Benji Bakshi which perfectly captures the changing landscape from the sharp bright colours of the township to the almost grayish, alien and death like landscape of the cave dwellers area, with the grey dust resembling the crushed ashen-ed bones of both animal and man. BONE TOMAHAWK is a film deserving of acclaim and whilst its not an easy ride, especially in the violence portrayed in the final part which requires a strong stomach, there is much to enjoy in Zaher’s mish mash of genre’s which is destined to become a cult classic. This is also might be the first and only time to say that a film has taken elements of or from John Ford’s THE SEARCHERS and Umberto Lenzi’s CANNIBAL FEROX, something which you wont say that often.

9/10

Anguish (2015) Review

anguish2016Anguish (USA, 2015)

Dir: Sonny Mallhi

Starring: Ryan Simpkins, Annika Marks, Karina Logue

UK Première – FrightFest Glasgow 26th Feb 2016

UK DVD April 11th 2016 from Arrow Films

Plot: Tess (Simpkins) is the new girl in town. Things are hard with her Dad over-seas in the military, and having to take medication for various mental health issues. Things escalate when Tess becomes the target of a restless spirit in the town who wants to use her as a vessel and return to the life she left behind.

While it seems that possession and haunting films are still in vogue when it comes to popular horror, Anguish does make an attempt to mix things up a bit. Most notably the film chooses to focus on a possession that is neither a demon or the spirit of some serial killer. This creates an entirely different dynamic, while there is still urgency to end the possession, the lack of an evil force means that the ramifications are unclear.

anguish1Anguish has a lot of potential, especially in the earlier scenes of the film. As well as the attempt at trying to change the possession film formula, Anguish also has very good cinematography. It’s stylistic, often using lingering shots that make you feel uneasy. It’s comparable to the look of last year’s It Follows. As the ghostly presence intensifies we are given some striking scenes that are genuinely creepy. However as the possession comes into full effect, it marks the point where this film starts to lose it’s edge.

As we learn more about the spirit, another teenage girl who’s life is snatched from her by a speeding car, the less suspense the film has. It often hints at an evil, there’s a priest who’s vaguely involved that is kept on the sidelines in case heads start spinning but it never really reaches that point. The film lacks a true villain and without it, Anguish doesn’t really feel like a horror film. There’s little motivation to deal with the possession other than the fact that it is Tess’ body. It almost feels like sisters bickering over shared goods. Like a borrowed t-shirt. The possessing spirit needed to be much more selfish and resentful of Tess, she needs to have a desperation that makes her evil. Sadly it’s just not there.

anguish2Anguish lacks drive. It’s pacing is dead slow and while I waited for it to build up to something spectacular, it never really got there and instead of suspense and dread, I was left with just boredom. In the environment of Fright Fest, there’s good films and bad films. When it comes to judging the bad films I’ve found it difficult to decide what’s worse: films that don’t live up to potential, films that you expect nothing and get less, or films that are just too boring to care. Anguish falls in the third category and I can’t say that I recommend it for that fact. You might find a glimmer of something you like in it, but it’s more likely you might want to switch it off and have a nap instead.

2/10

The Hexecutioners (2016) Review

hex1The Hexecutioners (Canada, 2016)
Dir: Jesse Thomas Cook
Starring: Liv Collins, Sarah Powers, Timothy Burd

UK Première Feb 26th 2016 at FrightFest Glasgow

Plot: When a law is passed legalising assisted suicide, companies spring up to offer the service. The Hexecutioners follows an employee of one such company. Malison (Collins) as she is assigned a client with unusual demands. Accompanied by her colleague, Olivia (Powers), they arrive at the client’s rural mansion and slowly begin to realise that something isn’t quite right and that they might be involved with some really dark deeds.

The film starts off with a line of text that sets up the foundation of the film, explaining that the assisted suicide law has been passed. It reminds me of The Purge, letting the audience know just what sort of world we are entering. Morals don’t exactly align with what we’re used to in our own lives. The Hexecutioners does this but it never really uses this to give the audience a message. Due to everything getting a little bloody and violent as the film progresses, it indicates that Assisted Suicide is bad but it doesn’t feel like the film makers were here to preach, and just wanted to make a horror film.

hex2When it comes to the storytelling, The Hexecutioners isn’t the clearest in it’s delivery. The story includes a lot of horror tropes, including mystic rituals, ghosts, and human sacrifice to name a few. With all this going on, it can be quite difficult to see where this film is going, and only really becomes clear when we’re given more pieces of the puzzle. I love a good human sacrifice story, it’s one thing that really appealed to me with this film but with everything else thrown in, it just made it a bit confusing and slowed down the pace of the film. The innovative use of multiple horror tropes could be a strength of the film but at times it can also be frustrating.

What keeps The Hexecutioners fun is the chemistry between Malison and Olivia. There’s quite a lot of humour in this film as the two comment on the absurdity of the situation they are in. Sarah Powers’ Olivia seems to be saying what we’re all thinking and it gets us through. Powers also provides the film with some titillation with a topless moment that felt a little exploitative to me, but when the film throws in a girl on girl kiss between Malison and Olivia, it’s shot down immediately and to great comedic effect. These moments could have cheapened the film but instead added a little complexity to the characters.

hex3I’d like to rate The Hexecutioners higher, it’s entertaining and funny and has some spectacular moments, but it really needs to tell it’s story clearer. There’s several parts of the film that we are left to ponder just what happened and that effects the whole plot. While I feel like I can suss out just what happened in this film, other Fright Fest attendees seemed to have struggled and I don’t think that benefits the film.

6/10

The Mutilator (1984) Blu-Ray Review

mutilator1The Mutilator (1984)

Starring: Mat Mitler, Ruth Martinez, Bill Hitchcock, Connie Rogers

Directors: Buddy Cooper & John Douglass

UK Dual Format Blu-Ray & DVD release from Arrow Video Feb 15th 2016

I always love to snap up the oldies when they get a new release on Blu-Ray; they just don’t make ‘em like this anymore! ‘Bloody’ Buddy Cooper’s brainchild The Mutilator, A.K.A. Fall Break, is a fun, camp, totally mid-‘80s slashfest that combines the creativity of Friday the 13th and the sympathy and humour of Sleepaway Camp. Before even starting the movie, I liked it. The Blu-Ray menu is blessed with an extract of the movie’s theme song, performed by Peter Yellen and the Breakers (one of whom is writer-director-producer Cooper) – an instantly catchy and upbeat retro pop song which also serves as the opening credit music.

This use of ironic soundtrack to juxtapose the violence is somewhat reminiscent of David Hess’s musical contribution to Last House on the Left, which may push the cheese level into overdrive for those who can’t appreciate techniques of the era, but made me feel quite at home.

mutilator2The introduction is a compelling one, which tugs at the heartstrings and lands the audience’s sympathy somewhat with the character who goes on to do all the slashing. Young Ed leaves a birthday note for his father and makes a start cleaning his shotguns as a gift, when he accidentally shoots his mother dead. The father, a surly and burly man, finds them and, much against his usual behaviour, we guess, takes the blame and confesses to murder.

Years later, Ed (Matler) is in high school, and his friends complain that there’s no way to pass the school holiday in their boring little dump of a town. So when Ed receives a call demanding that he close up his father’s beach villa for the winter, the crew jump on the opportunity for a little fun, and a road trip is underway. Along for the ride are his prudish virgin girlfriend Pam (Martinez), essential sex-crazed couple Mike (Morey Lampley) and Linda (Frances Raines) and slightly more restrained couple Ralph (Hitchcock) and Sue (Rogers). They are a very standard dead teenage bunch, and with frigid Pam on board, she’s pretty much guaranteed a free invincibility cheat when it comes to who’s getting butchered.

mutilator3I mean, it goes without saying that they start getting butchered, and I shan’t disclose who’s behind it all, but I shall say that though the set-ups for the murders are wonderfully stupid (“Come on you guys, quit messin’ around!”) and a few of the kids are in the habit of incessantly thinking out loud, the attack sequences are imaginative, with impressive make-up effects. It really ticks all the boxes for a fun old slasher movie, and let’s face it, the fun has always been of equal importance to the fright.

Yes, the acting is pretty bad, but yes, in a sort of ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ way, and it’s comfortable for this sort of movie. All good horror fans know to approach dead teenager movies from any era with an open mind, especially ones from the 1980s, churned out when the slasher bug had firmly burrowed itself into the cultural ear, following on the heels of the some of the more admirable and professional horror efforts of the ‘70s. Semi-amateur production, below-standard acting, and the majority of effort being put into special effects just go with the turf.

The Mutilator is a thoroughly entertaining movie, with a stirring beginning and ending, and a hell of a lot of fun in between.

Rating: 8/10

mutilator4DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:

Brand new 2K restoration of the unrated version from original vault materials.
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations.
Original mono 1.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray.
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Introduction to the film with writer-director Buddy Cooper and assistant special make-up effects artist/assistant editor Edmund Ferrell.
Audio Commentary with Cooper, Ferrell, co-director John Douglass and star Matt Mitler.
Audio Commentary with Buddy Cooper and star Ruth Martinez Tutterow.
Fall Breakers: The Story of The Mutilator brand new feature-length documentary on the making of the splatter classic featuring interviews with Cooper, Douglass, Ferrell, Mitler, actors Bill Hitchcock, Jack Chatham and more.
Mutilator Memories special make-up effects artist Mark Shostrom looks back at one of his earliest projects.
Tunes for the Dunes composer Michael Minard reveals how The Mutilator s unique score was created.
Behind-the-Scenes Reel
Screen Tests
Alternate Opening Titles
Trailers and TV Spots
Fall Break Theme Song (Original and Instrumental Versions)
Opening Sequence Storyboards
Motion Stills Gallery
Original Fall Break Screenplay (BD/DVD-ROM content)
Reversible sleeve featuring two original artworks
Region: Free

The Forest (2016) Review

theforest1The Forest (USA, 2016)

Dir: Jason Zada

Starring: Natalie Dormer, Eoin Macken, Jozef Aoki

Shown at FrightFest Glasgow 2016

IN UK Cinemas NOW!!

Plot: When Sarah’s (Dormer) twin sister goes missing from her teaching job in Japan and the last place she’s seen alive is the infamous Aokigahara suicide forest, the start of a frantic search begins. Travelling from the US, Sarah has to deal with culture shock as well as the increasing strangeness from the forest. Recruiting the help of travel journalist, Aiden (Macken), who promises her he can help find her sister, things seem to be going better. However Aiden might not be what he seems, or is the forest just starting to get to her?

theforest3The Forest was the opening film for this year’s Glasgow FrightFest weekend, the only film on the Thursday for any early arrivals, a taster for what the rest of the weekend had in store. Possibly the most marketed of the FrightFest line up, especially since it was released theatrically the next day. Audience members who were there to catch a glimpse of the star, Natalie Dormer were probably a little disappointed as she cancelled her appearance but did leave a video intro. As someone who doesn’t watch Game of Thrones and hasn’t seen any of the Hunger Games films yet, this wasn’t so much of a disappointment for me, but I did have high hopes based on the setting of Aokigahara and it’s there that my disappointment with The Forest began.

It’s a little difficult to set a film in a country other than the one that you are from, or at least it’s hard to do it well. While this film is set in Japan, it never feels like the story is anchored in Japan. There is very little focus on the culture of Japan, instead opting to glimpse at Japan’s weirder side for a brief moment. While American remakes of Japanese films such as The Ring and The Grudge at least kept a certain flavour of Japan in it’s portrayal of it’s ghosts, The Forest is much more bland and Americanised. It doesn’t help that for the majority of the film, the focus is on the western leads.

theforest4Dormer does work hard for this film, not only playing Sarah but also her twin sister, Jess. The twin aspect of this film was also something that didn’t feel right with me. It uses the logic that twins can feel each other, spurring on Sarah’s motivation that her sister is still alive in Aokigahara. It’s one of those bullshit facts like “We only use 10 percent of our brain” that makes for convenient screen-writing. Also the film gives us very little information about Jess to really care about her survival.

The other main focus of this film is the trust between Sarah and Aiden, a travel journalist who might be less than trustworthy. His introduction in the film is in a Japanese bar where he tries to chat up Sarah and this plants a seed that this might be some kind of romantic sub plot despite the fact that Sarah seems to be happily married back in the States. This scene also felt odd to me because Sarah felt oddly approachable for someone who was riddled with grief and worry. These emotions seem to be conveniently glossed over so we can get Aiden involved in the plot.

Lastly we have to talk about the jump-scares. This film has plenty of them but the timing and placement of these jump-scares are ridiculous. They often pop-up out of nowhere with no relation to build-up or relevance to the plot. Some of them are dream sequences, which ties it in loosely but overall it just feels like they are filling a quota.

theforest2The Forest could have been great, given the location that it is inspired by. However we’re given a film about a suicide forest and not THE suicide forest, with so little integration into Japanese culture that this film could be set in any kind of haunted forest. Personally I wanted something special from this film and it just didn’t deliver. I think I’ll just wait for the Japanese to make their own film about Aokigahara and enjoy that instead.

3/10