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

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

Voodoo (2017) Review

rsz_voodoo1Voodoo (2017)
Directed by: Tom Costabile.
Written by: Tom Costabile.
Starring: Samantha Stewart, Ruth Reynolds, Dominic Matteucci.

When Dani, an innocent southern girl, vacations to Los Angeles to evade her increasingly complicated life, she learns that escaping her past isn’t as easy as she hoped.”

One of the things I always find curious about horror movies is the way so many hateful characters are introduced in the first act. It’s as though those characters are deliberately written into the story so I can despise them and look forward to their eventual demise before the finale.

This is particularly obvious in classic slasher movies, such as Friday 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Nightmare on Elm Street, where the opening scenes introduce a rabble of boisterous American youths, many full of chemicals, most driven by libidinous desires, and each one spewing an excess of unmemorable dialogue. Some of these characters are so unlikeable, I imagine, if I’d fallen into their world (perhaps in a meta-moment such as that which forms the USP of Final Girls) I’d likely be pushing Vorhees, Leatherface or Krueger aside so I could personally take a shot at eviscerating one of these irritating characters.

Voodoo follows this trope of introducing us to characters who are difficult (if not impossible) to like. First is Dani (Samantha Stewart: Days of Our Lives, All About Lizzie and The Mystery of Casa Matusita). We meet Dani as she’s travelling in a taxi and boring the driver to distraction with her incessant and vacuous babble. Dani is visiting her friend Stacy (Ruth Reynolds: The Art of Storytelling, The Guest House and Kook) who seems slightly more likable but I think this suggestion of appeal is only in comparison to Dani. Stacy is hosting a modest pool party when we meet her. She is brash and daring and untidy to a point where we almost empathise with her. But, as the introduction progresses, we learn she is as Valley-Girl-vapid as Dani.

rsz_voodoo2The conceit of this movie is that we’re watching the story develop through the footage from Dani’s camcorder. I did think there were a handful of clever uses with this device, such as the beach scene, where the audience discovers something that the characters don’t know in a well-crafted example of dramatic irony. However, I also thought that the use of the camcorder meant that some of the shots looked stilted and contrived. More importantly, in the final forty minutes of the film, I spent way too long wondering who was holding the camera and filming events.

And, I think it was the final forty minutes that let the film down for me. Up to that point there had been an attractive cast, a mysterious backstory where we discover Dani has incurred the wrath of her ex-boyfriend’s voodoo-proficient wife, and a guest appearance from Ron Jeremy (Orgazmo, Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead and Justice League of Porn Star Heroes). In real terms, I don’t think you can ask for much more from any movie.

But, in the final forty minutes, the film falls into an orgiastic excess of underworld horror and unmotivated violence. There is rape, branding, demons and distress and a hell of a lot of screaming. In truth, there was so much screaming I began to wish Dani would start talking again because I was almost missing her uninteresting dialogue.

rsz_voodoo3Voodoo is a clever idea and the majority of the story is well-acted. The effects are convincing and the whole piece does have some genuinely unsettling moments. However, the final stretch of the movie was difficult to watch with too much screaming and not enough scope to connect with the characters. Ultimately, I think the script in this section could have been much tighter, which is a shame because, without this lapse in the film’s standards, I do think the finished product would have been a lot more enjoyable.

6/10

Killer Piñata (2015) Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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