Dogged (2017) Review

Dogged (2017)

Director: Richard Rowntree
Writers: Matthew Davies (screenplay) Christina Rowntree (based on a short story by) and Richard Rowntree.
Starring: Debra Leigh-Taylor, Sam Saunders, Toby Wynne-Davies and Tony Manders.

When Sam returns home to the tidal island where he grew up to attend a funeral, he soon discovers that the seedy underbelly of this small community harbours more than just a few secrets.

Dogged begins by introducing us to Sam (Sam Saunders: Reversible Lines, #Selfie and Absent Friends). Sam is returning from university to the family home on Farthing Island, the tidal island where he grew up. Sam has been summoned home to attend the funeral of Megan Lancaster (Abigail Rylance-Sneddon). Straight away, Sam begins to suspect that something about Megan’s death is being concealed.

There are several reasons for his suspicions. First, and most important, the villagers all look as though they have recently relocated from The League of Gentlemen’s Royston Vasey. They study unfamiliar faces with untrusting curiosity and there’s something in the way they regard Sam that makes it clear there is a ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentality on Farthing Island.

Then there’s the not-very-convincing-story about how Megan died: she went to help an injured deer and fell off a cliff. This story is relayed by Farthing Island’s resident priest, Father David J Jones (Toby Wynne-Davies: Blackline and Escape from Cannibal Farm). Admittedly Sam adds to the creepiness in this scene by making googly eyes at his love interest Rachel (Aiysha Jebali: Locked In, Start Again and Call of Babylon), which seems a touch inappropriate during a eulogy.

And, without wishing to slip into the territory of spoilers, there’s a sinister island cult and their nefarious way of dealing with outsiders and recalcitrant locals. Admittedly, about halfway through the film I was echoing Sam’s exclamation when he asked Sparrow (Nadia Lamin: Viewpoint, Meadow Lane and Human), “Excuse me, but what the fuck is going on?” However, by the end of the film, the story had reached a satisfactory resolution.

Dogged works on a level of paranoia and suspicion that has invariably played out so well in many British horror films, such as The Village of the Damned (1960), The Wicker Man (1973), and even the hilarious Pegg/Frost vehicle Hot Fuzz (2007). Perhaps it’s because none of us trust unfamiliar villages and their residents and their insular little local ways.

On another level, it’s possible to see Dogged as a parable for the division in the UK caused by Brexit. There are factions of little islanders, all of them adamant that they know what’s best for the community, with so many of them convinced that outsiders are a diabolical influence, and none of them willing to compromise on a satisfactory resolution.

There are some genuinely creepy scenes within Dogged as main characters explore the eerie local scenery. The overall story is well-played and the effect of the animal-head masks used by the local cultists is wholly disconcerting. The use of colour cleverly conveys an intensity of emotion and the story has some vicious twists and turns. Father David J Jones steals every scene in which he appears with a criminally charismatic performance.

This is definitely one to watch, but not if you’re planning a holiday trip to any quiet, isolated village.

9/10

The Madame in Black (2017) Short Film Review

rsz_mib1The Madame in Black (Svarta Madam) (2017)

Directed by: Jarno Lee Vinsencius
Written by: Jarno Lee Vinsencius
Starring: Demis Tzivis, Ida Gyllensten and Ellinor Rosander

“After playing the infamous urban legend game “The Madame in Black”, Alex and his sister, Sarah, experience the wrath of the evil witch Madame in Black.”

On some levels, short horror films can be far more effective than full length movies. With short horror films there is little time for the audience to second-guess surprise developments. Knowing that there’s less than half an hour of a film makes us (as viewers) aware that every second of the narrative is important and will likely have some bearing on the resolution. This brevity of time is one hell of a tool for focusing attention. The Madame in Black uses this brevity to shrewd effect.

The storyline is relatively simple and it’s nothing we haven’t seen touched on in Candyman (1992), Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005) and countless other movies. A character sits in front of a mirror and says a name three times in an attempt to summon a supernatural entity. In this film, starting in Hörby, Sweden, 1995, brother and sister Alex and Emma try this childish summoning with their grandmother’s mirror.

rsz_mib2It does not end well.

Fast forward twenty-two years and, whilst Alex and Emma are physically mature, their idea of a fun evening’s entertainment remains as childish as it had been back in 1995. To make the situation worse, they still have granny’s mirror.

The Madame in Black is a masterclass in tension and suspense. With moody lighting, awkward camera angles, strong performances and lots of shocks, this works on every level. It’s no surprise that this film has claimed awards at the Actors Awards, Los Angeles (2017), Barcelona Planet Film Festival (2017), Direct Online Film Festival (2017), and many, many others. Well worth checking out. 9/10.

Florida Gothic by Mitzi Szereto – Book Review

florida gothicFlorida Gothic – Book Review
Written by Mitzi Szereto

UK Amazon Link https://www.amazon.co.uk/Florida-Gothic-Book-1-ebook/dp/B06ZZ6QCXN/

A hit-and-run driver leaves Ernesto Martinez to die by a Miami canal. Then an alligator comes along to finish the job. Being dead gives Ernesto plenty of time to think. He thinks about his wife, taken from him too soon by illness. He thinks about his daughter, the victim of a drunk driver. He thinks about his death as he watches his body slowly decompose. Most of all, he thinks about injustice.”

Full disclosure before I begin: I’ve known Mitzi Szereto for more than a decade. Not only is she an author I respect and admire, and someone with whom I’ve collaborated in the past, but she’s also a good friend. So, if you’re thinking this review is going to be biased in her favour: you’re absolutely right.

Florida Gothic is a well-crafted story with a strong focus on character. Written in the present tense, which gives all events a powerful sense of immediacy, the story shifts chapter-by-chapter into the lives of various characters who develop as they insouciantly propel the story’s plot. Cleverly, because Szereto has dropped a lot of Spanish vocabulary into the text, the sense of place is as vivid as the sense of character. Occasionally this vocabulary lesson can be a little distracting, but it is a constant reminder of the story’s well-rendered, exotic location that helps to keep the reader immersed in the physicality of the story.

One of the things that makes this story particularly compelling is the unlikability of the characters in the story. It’s easy to desire justice when you’re reading about people who seem deserving of punishment. And Szereto makes sure the journey to justice is thoroughly enjoyable.

With endorsements from esteemed figures in the horror world such as Peter Straub and Nancy Kilpatrick, Florida Gothic is an intelligent dip into the supernatural that bodes well as the starting title in the series. I’m sure I’m not alone in looking forward to the next title. 9/10.

Bonejangles (2017) Review

rsz_bj1Bonejangles (2017)

Directed by: Brett DeJager.
Written by: Keith Melcher
Starring: Reggie Bannister, Elissa Dowling and Julie Cavanaugh.

While transporting the legendary serial killer Bonejangles to an asylum, a group of police officers break down in a town cursed with demonic zombies. The only way they can survive the night and save the town is to release Bonejangles to help them fight the curse, with something much worse.”

The other night I was discussing comedy/horror movies with a colleague. He opined that, to get the balance just right, a comedy horror needs to be written by someone who loves the genre they’re mocking. In his opinion, this is why successful films like Shaun of the Dead and American Werewolf in London work so well, whilst films less popular titles such as Pervert, Lesbian Vampire Killers and Zombie Strippers fail to satisfy large audiences. It’s a compelling argument and the reason why I mention it is, with that criterion of love, my friend could have added a film to the list of successful films: Bonejangles.

Bonejangles begins by introducing a janitor, (Wade Everett, Tilt, Wunderland and Tombstone-Ramoshon). It’s late on his shift, he’s wanting to settle down with his copy of the beautifully titled periodical ‘Melons and Muff’, but he gets summoned to an emergency clean up. As the janitor says, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another in this damned shithole.”

And then he’s killed by Bonejangles.

rsz_bj2Interestingly, Bonejangles kills him with the copy of Melons and Muff, giving an important clue to the psychological underpinnings of the story that’s about to unfold. As it is with so many good comedy horror stories, one of the key motifs in this film is the idea that sex is a bad thing: something that merits punishment. Consequently, the story keeps going back to those natural urges that govern most of our poorest decisions.

I’d like to say that Bonejangles is not your ordinary criminal, but that would be misleading. He looks like a composite of Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers, with maybe a little Ed Gein thrown in for good measure. Several times characters such as police unit leaders and news reporters and other authorities explain, “Conventional weapons are useless against him.” But this is done in a delightfully deadpan way, as though there is nothing remarkable about his well-known ability to withstand bayonets, bullets and bombs.

The main comedy in this movie comes from the superb performances of police officers Wes (Bret DeJager: A Prairie Wind, The Legend of Cooley Moon and Hair Rules) and Randy (Jamie Scott Gordon: Lord of Tears, Good Intentions and The Unkindess of Ravens). These two play off each other with a banter that is childish, cowardly, credible and constantly amusing.

rsz_bj3This is a wonderfully campy comedy homage to 80s slasher horror, in the vein of The Final Girls or Zombeavers or the early examples from the Scary Movie franchise. It’s witty. It has genuine moments of shock, fright and surprise, and it’s entertaining throughout. Unless your next seven days genuinely involve you transporting an indestructible serial killer through a zombie-infested remote town, this is the most fun you’re likely to have all week. 9/10

The Control Group (2014) Review

rsz_tcgThe Control Group (2014)

Directed by: Peter Hurd.
Written by: Logan Gion.
Starring: Brad Dourif, Ross Destiche, Jenna Enemy.

Trapped in an abandoned insane asylum, five college students and the rogue scientists who abducted them must band together when a supernatural threat appears.”

Trust is an unusual motif for a horror movie, but it is a predominant theme within The Control Group, which seems apposite given the current climate of political and societal unrest. Do we trust our governments or their agencies? Do we trust our friends and family? Can we even trust ourselves?
If these questions are all sounding a little Kafkaesque, that’s probably because The Control Group has a very Kafkaesque feel. There are few explanations given and, when questions are asked, there is always the strong suspicion that better questions should have been raised.

We start the film being introduced to Jack (Ross Destiche: Keepsake, Domina, Death to Prom). He’s just woken up but he doesn’t know where, how or why. Save for a few fleeting flashbacks, one prompted by the mention of a tragedy, another prompted by the sight of the scars on his wrists, Jack is unable to remember much. Even when he can, he knows he can’t trust his judgement. That’s the sort of world Jack lives in.

rsz_tcg1Jack meets a group of ‘friends’ who seem very shouty and animated as they exposition their way through the film’s first main conversation. We meet Vanessa (Jenna Enemy: Keepsake, American Beast, Watch Over Me), Jaime (Kodi Saint Angelo: Juiced, Echoes, The Kettleman), Grant (Justen Jones: The Sand Box, Fall Into Me, Flourtown) and Corey (Shane Philip making his debut appearance). And no one knows if their very vocal confusion comes from a chemical indulgence, a supernatural element, or if some other preternatural explanation is responsible. Grant is one of those overachieving bullies who deserves the unpleasantness that we hope is headed his way. Jaime is a hippy airhead, in tune with the ‘ghosts’ surrounding the group. Corey is spineless and Vanessa is a bitch being abused by Grant. The whole group are the sort who would make Amnesty International write letters to their captors saying, “They deserve more torture.”

There are some great points to this film that are marred by poor-quality effects. When characters get electrocuted, and several of them do encounter electricity, the effects prove to be shocking: but not in the good way. If anything, the effects are reminiscent of the low budget overlays that were used on the likes of Birdemic or the later Christopher Reeve Superman outings. It’s a small but (I think) valid criticism, that an audience’s suspension of disbelief can be easily shattered by a poor effect. And, since director Peter Hurd had already made the sensible decision to have a lot of the movie’s deaths and violence occur just off screen, adding to the tension by exploiting the audience’s imagination, it’s puzzling as to why this decision wasn’t extended to obviate the distraction that comes from those not-that-special effects.

rsz_tcg2That said, the whole idea is worth checking out because it does have a neatly original feel. Admittedly, there were parts that felt like a homage to Cabin in the Woods (or even i-Zombie) with the suggestion of covert government agencies that share a secret relationship with supernatural entities. But this felt less like a reimagining of a modern classic and more like an attempt to forge new ground in a developing genre. It should also be said that these scenes with covert government agencies are wonderfully exploited by Dr Broward (Brad Dourif: Child’s Play, Deadwood, Halloween and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers) who steals every scene in which he appears.

And, I have to admit that I was very impressed by the use of shutter-speed adjusting as a cinematic device. It was a technique that produced stilted results, with some events seeming to begin after they’d happened, all of which added to the suggestion of chemically altered interpretation and faltering cognition skills.

Overall, this film is about an abandoned insane asylum with a group of difficult-to-like college kids being subjected to violent extremes whilst the paranoia of drug abuse being manifested as a reality. And, when you put it like that, is there a better way to spend Saturday night than watching The Control Group?

7/10

White Raven (2015) Review

rsz_wr1White Raven (2015)

Directed by: Andrew Moxham.
Written by: Andrew Moxham.
Starring: Steve Bradley, Aaron Brooks, Andrew Dunbar and Shane Twerdun.

For release information check http://www.whitebuffalofilms.com/

Four men head into the remote woods on an annual camping trip. As one of them gradually loses his mind, the weekend of fun takes a turn for the worse and the other three must fight for their lives.”

Given a choice, there are lots of things I would do rather than go camping. I’ve never seen the appeal of holidaying somewhere cold, unhygienic and lacking the most of basic of facilities. I’ve never found myself thinking, “This seems like an appropriate spot in the wilderness where I could spend my vulnerable sleeping hours, protected from cruel nature and the harsh elements by only a flimsy sheet of polyurethane canvas with a 75 denier.”

Of course, this reluctance to be exposed to the great outdoors means that I’d never receive an invite to join the four camping buddies at the centre of White Raven: but I don’t see that as a bad thing.

rsz_wr3Each of the four characters at the heart of White Raven has a grim and bleak existence. Jake (Aaron Brooks: Bad City, Alien Trespass, Naked) is an alcoholic with a nagging wife and the results of a failed drugs test stamped across his (now revoked) pilot’s licence. Dan (Shane Twerdun: She Who Must Burn, Black Mountain Side, Two Married People) has just been told that the young waitress he’s banging has missed her period. Kev (Andrew Dunbar: When Calls the Heart, Leprechaun Origins, Christmas Icetastrophe) has a wife, coming home in the early hours and lying about where she’s been. And, when we first meet Pete (Steve Bradley: She Who Must Burn, Black Mountain Side, Hastings Street), he’s sucking on the barrel of his own handgun and trying to pluck up the courage to squeeze the trigger.

Each of them is living the sort of grim and bleak existence that makes a camping weekend with drunken losers seem like the epitome of fun. Not that I’m saying these party animals don’t have some fun. They wrestle one another with ‘five second fights’. They toast ‘chicks’ they have known. And they competitively shotgun beers. In amongst all the macho showboating, Jake confidently dismisses Dan’s worries about his current relationship by explaining, “There’s no such thing as too young.”

And, when the serious conversation threatens to become too much for the more light-hearted members of the group, Kev tactfully explains that he doesn’t want arguments and serious conversation and says, “I came here to drink beer and jerk off in tents.” I don’t know about anyone else but I’m thinking of using that as the signature for every one of my future Trip Advisor reviews.

rsz_wr2The film takes its title from a native American legend about a white raven stealing light and giving it to the world. Pete explains, “When you see a white raven, you’re in a part of the world where the light doesn’t reach.” And, it seems fair to say that this camping weekend is taking place in a pretty dark place. The acting, writing and direction in this one were strong, although I think the film did suffer a couple of devastating flaws. It didn’t help that Jake, Dan and Pete all have a similar build, similar colouring and, in the early stages of the film, are difficult to differentiate. The opening of the film was fairly slow as we were introduced to the backstory on each of these not-so-happy campers and the bleak lives they currently suffer. However, once it did get going, White Raven proved to be a darkly fun excursion into the wilderness.

If nothing else, White Raven is a good reminder why, if anyone invites you on a camping holiday, you should always say, “NO.”

7/10

Population Zero (2016) Review

rsz_pz1Population Zero (2016)

Directed by: Julian T Pinder, Adam Levins
Written by: Jeff Staranchuck
Starring: Julian T Pinder, Julian Robino

Out NOW on demand from Frightfest Presents

“In 2009 three young men were killed in a remote part of Yellowstone National Park. The only thing more shocking than the crime itself are the bizarre events that followed.”

I do not consider myself a gullible person. As the old joke goes, I can almost always tell when a dinosaur in a movie is real or not. And yet, when I got to the end Population Zero, I jumped onto Google to try and find out if I’d watched a movie or a documentary. And, even though I now know it was only a movie, I’m still unsettled by the truth that underpins the story.

Population Zero is presented as a documentary. The phrase mockumentary, although technically accurate, seems to suggest a light-hearted tone in the mode of This is Spinal Tap or The Office. However, rather than focusing on humour, Population Zero narrates a puzzling story that begins with a brutal and motiveless murder, goes on to expose a cruel legal loophole, and carries on with further twists and turns that never overstep the bounds of plausibility.

rsz_pz2According to Wikipedia, “the filmmakers were inspired to make the movie after learning of the existence of the “Zone of Death”, a small portion of Yellowstone National Park, that under the Sixth Amendment’s Vicinage Clause, would enable “The Perfect Crime”.” The perfect crime in this case is the unmotivated murder of three innocent young men. It’s a perfect crime because, thanks to a legal loophole, even though the murderer has confessed his guilt, he is able to walk free.

This sounds like a ridiculous notion but the idea is based on a hypothetical argument from American lawyers and it’s presented in a truly convincing way. The footage of TV reporters discussing the Yellowstone Murders, the in camera court drawings, the grainy still photographs and the crackly confession from a police station’s CCTV footage, all lend a sense of credibility and gravitas to the story’s not-that-fantastical premise. Also, since we’re discussing a country that has elected Trump as president, the idea that America contains a fifty-square mile strip of national park where motiveless murders can be committed without repercussion, does not seem so farfetched.

Julian T Pinder, who usually stays on the director’s side of the camera, carries himself well as the too-curious-for-his-own-good documentary maker at the heart of this story. Pinder was the director of the 2012 documentary, Trouble in the Peace, an exploration of the poisons and upsets that come with fracking. Cleverly, giving the storyworld a more focused sense of reality through intertextuality, Trouble in the Peace is mentioned as Pinder explains why he thinks he was contacted with information about the Yellowstone Murders.

rsz_pz3This was an intelligent film that suggested fear on so many levels. There are the fears that come from a system that fails the community it’s meant to protect; there are the fears that come from the potential brutality of the unknown and irrational amongst us; there are the fears we share of being abused by greedy and uncaring corporations; and the fear that any one of us could become a real victim to the boundless appetites of any of the above.

Well worth watching. 10/10

Deadly Virtues: Love. Honour. Obey. (2014) Review

deadly4Deadly Virtues: Love. Honour. Obey. (2014)

Directed by: Ate de Jong
Written by: Mark Rogers
Starring: Edward Akrout, Matt Barber and Megan Maczko

“A stranger breaks into the house of a couple, ties up the husband and, having a whole weekend at his hand, plays a slow game with the woman, a game of threats, fear, obedience – and intimacy.”

People often complain about excesses of sex and violence in the horror genre but, in truth, it’s rare that these two elements are successfully brought together on screen. Films like Zombie Strippers (2008), Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1998) and Nightmare Sisters (1988), whilst attempting to blend those genres that titillate and terrify, usually end up producing a concoction that doesn’t excite on any level.

And, I must admit, during the first few moments of Deadly Virtues: Love. Honor. Obey., I did worry that the filmed sex was going to prove as disappointing as the experience usually is in real life. In the first moments of the film we discover it’s a Friday evening and we are following a mysterious figure entering a suburban home. Clearly he has no right to be there, as is suggested by his furtive manner, his penchant for sniffing the shoes that he finds in the house, and the fact that the owners are oblivious to him.

deadly2We know the owners are oblivious because, although they’re off-screen, they’re engaged in the sort of noisy sex that would make most neighbours believe the couple were watching one of the Saw movies. Or strangling an unwanted piglet. The unseen man grunts and wheezes like an asthmatic bulldog humping a reluctant chew toy. When the intruder bursts in on the scene the tension of this movie really kicks in and we, the audience, begin a rollercoaster ride of genuine horror. The cast in this film do an excellent job.

We first meet Tom (Matt Barber: Downton Abbey, Dracula and Being Human) whilst he’s behind his wife, banging away at her with a level of mechanised ferocity that seems to indicate more industry than intimacy. Tom is taken out of the equation early on in this film but his presence remains as a focal point for some particularly pleasing torture and abuse. At the same point when we meet Tom, we’re also given our first glimpse of Alison (Megan Maczko: Me and Orson Welles, A Hologram for the King and The In-Between). If Tom looks like he’s an overenthusiastic participant in the intimacy, Alison looks like she’d rather be grouting the kitchen. As the story progresses we learn there are lots of things Alison would rather be doing than Tom, but I won’t give away any spoilers here.

deadly3The final member of the cast is the sinister intruder, Aaron (Edward Akrout: The Hollow Crown, The Borgias and Mr Selfridge). Aaron is a man of mystery, a master of shibaru and an extremely focused (if uninvited and unwanted) houseguest. From the first moment when he has Alison alone, when he says, “You belong to me now,” he comes across as a dangerous and unpredictable threat. Perhaps he’s best summed up in the exchange where Alison sobs at him, “Why are you doing this to us?” Aaron laughs confidently and simply responds, “Why not?”

From beginning to end this is a film that pushes boundaries and explores the very real horror of assault and sexual violence, as well as the vast difference between sex and intimacy. The acting is superb. Mark Rogers’s script is strong and credible and Ate de Jong’s direction is flawless. For narrative tension, for an unsettling sense of realism and for a disquieting sense of menace, this is a film that will genuinely make you squirm in your seat.

10/10

Capture Kill Release (2016) Review

rsz_1rsz_capturekillrelease_keyart_samCapture Kill Release (2016)

Directed by: Nick McAnulty and Brian Allan Stewart
Written by: Nick McAnulty
Starring: Jennifer Fraser, Farhang Ghajar and Jon Gates

UK DVD Release 25th September 2017 from Eureka Entertainment!

“A couple plots to murder a random stranger just for the thrill of it, but things turn ugly when one of them decides not to go through with it.”

Found footage films are almost certainly here to stay. Since the Blair Witch came wobbling onto our screens back in 1999, it seems that the number of found footage movies has been increasing steadily. Some of these, such as Rec, Troll Hunter, Exhibit A, Cloverfield and Quarantine, have been beautiful examples of the genre.

And there are others, which I won’t mention here, which don’t quite tick all the boxes. There is something about the idea of characters holding the camera that draws us into this subgenre of film. We live in a world of Snapchat, Skype and Facetime. We’re all adept at holding a camera and this familiarity makes it easy for us to identify with the characters on screen. We think, “I’ve held a wobbly camera like that before: I can empathise with this character.”

rsz_cuffsCapture Kill Release begins with Jennifer (Jennifer Fraser: winner of Best Newcomer at the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival, and winner of Best Actress at HorrorQuest Film Festival and Louisville Fright Night Film Fest) unwrapping her new camera. This is the camera through which we see most of the movie. This is the camera she’s going to use to record every step of the hobby she wants to take up. And we soon find out that her intended hobby is homicide, with aspirations to become a serial killer.

Jennifer’s somewhat pussy-whipped husband, Farhang (Farhang Ghajar: Dark Matter, Man Seeking Woman and Uncle Brian) seems supportive of her plans. He helps his wife as they go shopping for shovels, axes, rope and plastic sheeting. He holds the camera when ordered. He even helps with practice runs as they dissect slabs of meat in the bathtub, so they have a better understanding of how to use a bone saw to carve up cadavers.

And whilst all of this has vague echoes of Zack and Miri Make a Porno (or maybe Zack and Miri Make a Snuff Flick) there is an obvious lack of parity in the commitment that this couple demonstrate to the completion of their shared goals. Jennifer is determined and focused. Farhang is not quite so resolute. Consequently, when Jennifer extends a dinner invitation to homeless Gary (Jon Gates: Something to Hide), with the subtext that he won’t have to worry about being homeless for much longer, it comes as no surprise to the astute viewer to see that Farhang does not share her enthusiasm for postprandial homicide. This is where we first see a rift between the couple rearing its ugly head.

rsz_farhang3Capture Kill Release is a fun slice of grisly entertainment. Farhang’s uneasy relationship with murder plays neatly against Jennifer’s enthusiastic acceptance of her vocation. The dynamics between the pair are almost as much fun to watch as the gruesome gore of butchery and barbarism that occurs in the second act of the film. Jennifer Fraser deserved the awards she’s won for this role. The whole film deserves to be seen by a wider audience. Nick McAnulty and Brian Allan Stewart have done a superb job in bringing this story to life and, if you get a chance to watch this unsettling home movie, it won’t disappoint.

8/10

Bloodrunners (2017) Review

rsz_1rsz_bloodrunners_poster_hiresBloodrunners (2017)

Directed by: Dan Lantz.
Written by: Dan Lantz and Michael McFadden.
Starring: Ice-T, Michael McFadden, Chris James Boylan and Airen DeLaMater.

For more information visit – www.bloodrunnersmovie.com

“Set in 1930s prohibition, a corrupt cop discovers that the popular speakeasy in town has been infiltrated by vampires”.

I often wonder if vampires should still be included as one of the horror story’s staple monsters. In the seventies and eighties Anne Rice made vampires mysterious & sexy. In the nineties, Buffy the Vampire Slayer made vampires fun. In the noughties, the Twilight series seemed to emasculate vampires and sprinkle their embarrassed memory with glittery sparkles. As a consequence of so much distillation, dilution and homogenisation, our modern-day vampires are now so far removed from their ancestors (such as Nosferatu, Varney the Vampire and Dracula), that they come across as homeopathic incarnations. They are as scary as the risk of not having checked your entitlement to PPI. Which is why it was kind of refreshing to watch Bloodrunners.

Director Dan Lantz (Bloodlust Zombies, Ninja Babes from Space and Modern Marvels) brings his capable hand to a cleverly-crafted story of vampires in the time of the prohibition. The conceit of vampires shipping bottles of blood across the country gives motive to a plot that is carefully balanced and enjoyable from start to finish.

rsz_br_prod_still00104Early on we’re introduced to slightly-corrupt-cop, Sergeant Jack Malone (Michael McFadden: The Breaks, Bull and Gotham). Jack later describes his motive for joining the police force, with the words, “I was handy with a gun and I needed a job.” It’s this pragmatic attitude that makes him likeable throughout the film. Jack’s backstory, which includes some of the guilt and PTSD he’d suffered as a participant in the first world war, was an intelligent contribution to the narrative and allowed for his character develop.

The background romance between Willie (Chris Boylan: Killers, Redcoats and Zeroes) and Anna (Airen DeLaMater: Apparition, A Crime to Remember and Redrum) is probably not the most compelling subplot you’re likely to encounter this season. I say this, although I’m willing to admit my lack of investment in this detail is likely down to my own puerile response of giggling when Anna was desperately calling for help from her beau by shouting, “Willie! Willie! Willie!”

But it is Chesterfield (Ice-T: Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Johnny Mnemonic and Tank Girl) who steals this movie. Commanding every scene he’s in, Chester is presented as a talented showman able to command the stage of his speakeasy; a skilled smuggler who can slip illicit drinks past the authorities; and an uber-competent gangster who doesn’t suffer fools. He has a suave sense of dress, a harem of women at his command, and his own personal finger collection. The fact that he’s also a vampire is a detail that only serves to make him more likeable.

rsz_br_prod_still00063I genuinely enjoyed this one. It’s clear that a lot of time and effort has been invested in recreating the authentic look of 1933 New Jersey. The cars and clothes make the experience immersive. The special effects are sophisticated and the whole feel has a strong sense of the dangerous theatrics that we once used to associate with vampires. More importantly, this film should be seen just for those of us who’ve wanted to see Ice-T say the words, “Human blood should be enjoyed like fine wine.”

Well worth your time. 8/10