Wolfcop (2014) Review

FF bannerWolfcop_poster[1]Wolfcop (2014)

Dir: Lowell Dean
Written By: Lowell Dean, Bannister Bergen
Starring: Leo Fafard, Jonathan Cherry, Sarah Lind, Amy Matysio

79 mins.

UK release: Frightfest 2014 and out on DVD now

It’s exactly what it sounds like – a police officer turns into a werewolf, fights crime and uncovers a whole heap of wrongdoing in a quiet, Canadian town.

Wolfcop – both the man, and the film – is exactly what one might expect, a werewolf police officer who solves crimes and drinks too much and runs riot with all the chicks in an otherwise run of the mill Canadian mountain town. If that doesn’t sound like your kind of film, well, then you should probably avoid Zombeavers, too while you’re at it.

The superb Leo Fafard is Lou, a grumpy, alcoholic police officer bored with his life and literally drinking from the moment he wakes up until his head hits the pillow once again. Everything changes when, as a result of a mysterious ritual, he is reborn a werewolf. Suddenly he cares, not just about himself but the welfare of the town and makes it his mission to save its inhabitants from further evildoing.

Wolfcop shares many similarities with the sadly short-lived, but hilarious, Canadian horror TV show Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil. The Satanists are presented in much the same way – though, sadly, the hapless Atticus isn’t in charge of them – and the humour is so tongue-in-cheek, the appendage might as well be poking out of each character’s face.

Wolf_3[1]The charm of the film is thanks, mostly, to Fafard who somehow manages to make the hideous, messy character of Lou a hero and a man whom we can really get behind. He also takes part in one of the weirdest sex scenes in cinema history, and gives us a good shot of his (sizeable) wolf dick, too. His is a physical role, by all accounts, but he takes to it well, effortlessly stealing each scene.

Considering Wolfop is as blatantly silly as it is, the transformation sequence is awe-inspiring. Lou’s body contorts and splits and jerks and spasms, all while the camera glides over it, never once pulling away in an effort to convince us it’s not worth seeing. It probably goes without saying, but Wolfcop tends to show rather than tell, and is all the better for it.

Gut-wrenching violence is perfectly executed onscreen thanks to some awesome effects work that makes the gore – particularly during Lou’s transformation – so three-dimensional, you almost want to reach out and lick it. Almost. Director/writer Lowell Dean has but a few indie credits to his name, making Wolfcop all the more surprising an entry into the low-budget, tongue-in-cheek creature feature sub-subgenre. The clever, canny script, on which he collaborated with the brilliantly-named Bannister Bergen, encourages repeat viewings, just so certain lines can be endlessly quoted with friends.

Wolfcop is definitely a party film, but its heart is in the right place and, although troubled Lou doesn’t quite find love, his bromance with Willie (played by Jonathan Cherry, whose past credits include Final Destination 2 and the infamous Uwe Boll-helmed House Of The Dead adaptation) is strangely sweet, given the situation the two find themselves in. Without it, Wolfcop might have felt a bit heartless, but Willie rounds out Lou’s character, he gives him a kind-of conscience in a way.

Wolf_2[1]Much like Zombeavers, which also enjoyed the perfect late-night spot at Frightfest, Wolfcop is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of film. Just reading the title, you should know whether or not it’s for you. The marketing team for the flick outdid themselves, giving free mints, T-shirts, posters, and everything in between at the ‘fest, and their postcards were even handed out during the Sleepy Queue back in June. But, funnily enough, the promotion wasn’t entirely necessary (although we all appreciate some free swag) because the film stands on its own.

Wolfcop more than succeeds as a comedy/horror/spoof/creature feature hybrid. Funny, gory and with an assured central performance from Leo Fafard, it is destined to achieve cult status. Seek it now or forever live your life without wolf dick.

Rating: 8/10

Shivers (1975) Blu-Ray Review

SHIVERS1 (1)SHIVERS – 1975

AKA: They Came From Within; The Parasite Murders

Dir: David Cronenberg

Starring: Paul Hampton, Joe Silver, Lynn Lowry, Allan Kolman, Susan Petrie, Barbara Steele.

Shivers in out in the UK now on Dual Format DVD & Blu-Ray from Arrow Video.

Shivers makes a bow on Blu-Ray as Arrow Video put their considerable talents to creating a definitive edition of Cronenberg’s early classic. David Cronenberg is now something of a household name respected and revered by both horror fans and the cineastes alike. Shivers marked his feature debut and immediately singled him out as a talent to watch and a subversive voice in the darkness. Although it was un-appreciated at the time, Shivers is intensely intelligent, yet creatively schlocky and emerges as a minor masterpiece, showcasing early examples of many recurring Cronenberg themes.

The story of a medical experiment gone wrong, it follows a group of people living in a high class high rise as a nasty parasite is loosed upon them. Causing violent and aggressive sexual tendencies in its victims it becomes a fight to survive for those who have kept the parasite at bay. Thematically ahead of its time, and dealing with some heavy issues Shivers is a sexually charged, grotesque affair that deals head on with the darker side of sexuality, the dangers of insular communities and the asinine impersonality of modern living. Many of these themes would inform his later work and the cold, detached style would be perfected in later films like Dead Ringers (1988) and the astonishing Crash (1996).

Its views of modern living and the dangers inherent within sexually repressive societies were quite revolutionary at the time. Trapped by the confines of the apartment block, and of their own lifestyles the residents are easy pickings for the parasites, and as it brings out the repressed desires of its hosts it passes easily from person to person. Foreshadowing the outbreak of HIV and presenting the penis shaped parasites as penetrative creatures forcing their way into their victims was a subversive idea. As they corrupt the routine and infect the social equilibrium the film presents a society that is released from its prison and all leads to an orgiastic conclusion that didn’t sit well with critics.

SHIVERS2 (1)The film was branded repulsive and disgusting by some on its release, and questions were asked as to whether or not the Canadian government should be helping to fund such ‘trash’. Completely missing the films core points about repression and the lack of intimacy within modern communities, these critics would also miss the films streak of jet black humour. Cronenberg is often viewed as an overtly serious film maker but many of his films are laced with a wicked sense of humour that underline the darker principles at work.

In its way it is a strange retelling of Romero’s Night of The Living Dead (1968) with the zombies replaced by the sex crazed hosts as the movie progresses. However, Cronenberg’s film avoids a lot of horror’s usual tricks and approaches the material with a scientific eye, introducing Cronenberg’s obsession with the inside of the body forcing its way out. Rabid (1977), Videodrome (1983), The Fly (1986) and even A History of Violence (2005) would return to some of the ideas that he first explores here. It may be a little rough around the edges, and there are times where Cronenberg’s lack of experience as a film maker are evident, but Shivers is something of a classic in own right; transcending its b-movie trappings to become a smart, rebellious picture that would mark Cronenberg’s arrival as one of the foremost directors of a generation.

As is now the norm with most Arrow releases the image here is pretty good. It isn’t the best I have seen but it is a step up from any DVD release that I have previously viewed. It’s a little grainy at times and doesn’t quite live up to Blu-Ray expectations but that suits the films humble origins and its gritty ideas. The special features here are a decent batch with two documentaries that detail the films production and feature contributions from almost everyone involved, including Cronenberg himself and producer Ivan Reitman who would go onto make such mega hits as Ghostbusters and Twins.

But its special effects maestro Joe Blasco that provides the most entertaining interviews. His lively, excitable recollections of how he came to be part of the production are engaging and thoroughly amusing. There is also a video essay by Croneberg expert and avid fan Caelum Vatnsdal detailing the directors career from his early shorts right up to his first major studio outing Videodrome (1983). It’s a very detailed piece covering everything including his television work and the little seen Fast Company (1979).

shivers3 (1)As to this being a definitive edition it has sadly come to light that several seconds have been cut from this version of the film. Arrow have released a statement regarding this and they are looking into what has happened. Unusually for Arrow they were not directly involved in the restoration of this one and the first they knew of the problem was after the film’s release. So if you are a purist it may be best to hold on to your DVD copy right now. I haven’t been able to do a comparison as I no longer have a DVD copy, but the word is that around 14 seconds are missing from various scenes throughout the film.

FILM: 8/10
PACKAGE: 7/10

Antisocial (2013) DVD Review

anti1Antisocial (2013) DVD Review

Director – Cody Calahan

Starring – Michelle Mylett, Cody Ray Thompson, Adam Christie, Ana Alic, Romaine Waite, Ry Barrett.

UK DVD release date 14th April 2014 from Monster Pictures UK.

 

Antisocial is a Canadian production which tells the story of a group of students whose New Year’s party becomes more like a siege when a 28 Days Later type virus takes swift and violent hold, turning the outside world into a warzone. As the situation on the streets deteriorates, the only method the protagonists have of gaining information or of contacting anyone else is through an all pervading social networking site, The Social Redroom. But is this essential link to the rest of uninfected humanity playing a more sinister role in the disintegration of society?

In terms of the basic set-up, Antisocial doesn’t offer anything that hasn’t been seen before, in movies such as the aforementioned 28 Days Later or any zombie film you might care to think of; as is tradition these days, it has the obligatory Night of the Living Dead homage, with characters nailing planks across windows.

anti2This is not necessarily a derogatory observation and some of Antisocial’s similarities with other films are its strengths; the main characters start boarding up the house in a pre-emptive move, based on what they have heard on the news and the internet. By having this happen before we have been exposed to the carnage to come, writer / director Cody Calahan very skilfully ratchets up the tension, making us apprehensive of what may be to come, in a way which rivals John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13.

However, as with many genre movies, after a decent build up, what actually follows fails to live up to what has gone before. There are a couple of jumpy moments, with people popping through windows, but the “is he/isn’t he, is she/isn’t she infected” plotting doesn’t quite manage to effectively exploit the air of tension which Calahan has created, although the paranoia amongst some characters is palpable, if a little melodramatic. As is to be expected, you will sometimes be scratching your head at the reaction of some characters to the end of the world; would you skype your mate to tell him you’re being chased up the stairs by zombies? The final reel also gets a bit messy in its execution, but a scene where the main character eventually leaves the house when “safety” arrives with the dawn is nicely shot and beautifully lit.

As the brief synopsis at the beginning of this review might suggest, Antisocial provides a critique of the current omnipresence of social media. This commentary is reminiscent of Romero’s Diary of the Dead and, similar to the great man’s later works, it is about as subtle as a brick in its message. Having said that, it’s difficult to convey social commentary of any sort subtly though the medium of blood and guts, so perhaps that can be forgiven.

anti3Maybe not something you should base your Saturday evening around, Antisocial is, however, definitely worth checking out if you’re at a loose end on a rainy Tuesday night; it’s a solid idea and, although the overall execution is a little bit messy, there are some nice touches.

6.5 / 10

 

Black Christmas (1974) A UKHS Xmas Horror Review

BC1Black Christmas- 1974

Dir. Bob Clark

Starring: Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, Keir Dullea, Andrea Martin, Marian Waldman and John Saxon

The girls of a sorority house have been receiving highly disturbing phone calls from a sick-minded prank caller during the Christmas season. Unbeknownst to them, they have an uninvited guest hiding in their attic, who slowly and meticulously starts to murder each girl in increasingly brutal and terrifying fashion.

Ah dear reader, so you’ve chosen to draw yourself away from the comforting glow of your Christmas decorations and the empty expectant space beneath your tree to join us here for the recounting of the macabre tale of Bob Clarke’s ‘Black Christmas’ this cold Christmas Eve? Very well, let us begin…

I can still remember the exact feeling I had after watching this film for the first time, mainly because it is still the very same feeling I get as I watch it every year as a Christmas tradition! This is a film that, aptly to coincide with the season, chills you to your very core, leaving you frozen rigid in fear as the terrible endless and empty ring of the sorority house’s telephone haunts the end credits.

BC2 The first American slasher film (sorry ‘Halloween’) is special for 2 reasons, firstly, it was filmed in Canada and secondly, it is darkly amusing that director Bob Clark is most fondly remembered in the American psyche for a VERY different Christmas film, namely ‘A Christmas Story’. Now whilst the quirky whimsy of ‘ACS’ is all good and obviously infinitely more popular in the public eye, ‘Black Christmas’ is the director’s greatest Christmas film, as important a traditional viewing in my household as ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’, ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ and ‘Fireman Sam’s Christmas Special’. Now there’s some good, varied company.

It seems odd to gush and feel full of the seasonal spirit over a film that is incredibly bleak and downright scary, but that is ultimately ‘Black Christmas’s greatest achievement. In a way, it is modernising the Victorian tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas, it perfectly off-sets the optimistic and cheery mood associated with the season with whilst still, somehow, intrinsically linking the two polar opposite moods together. If ‘Black Christmas’ was nothing more than a slasher film where a bunch of sorority girls get brutally murdered, no-one would really remember it or care, also it would be called ‘Sorority Row’ ba boom tish.

BC3 What really sets the film apart is that it somehow manages to balance the responsibility of having an awful lot of characters and yet somehow gives them a perfect amount of screen time each and develop their characters. Obvious ‘final girl’ Jess (Hussey) is the shy, reserved and good natured one who provides the perfect mid-point between the bright and cheery Phyl and the drunken, brash hellraiser Barb (Kidder). It may seem an obvious final trio to some as these three get the most screen time, however the real joy here is that they’re all incredibly likeable and realistic characters, doing away with hedonistic stereotypes of bitchy and sex-obsessed sorority girls as represented in just about every other film ever made, including one certain remake. We do NOT want these characters to die and therefore it’s much more of a tragic shock, when the film cold heartedly dispatches them without mercy.

Whilst they are pushed into the background, the importance of the brilliance of some of the male performances must not be ignored. John Saxon plays the gruff but loveable police chief (thank God he was never type-cast in that role, eh?) who so expertly conveys great concern and determination without ever going overboard. More interesting and intensely creepier is the role of Peter as played by Keir Dullea. The senior boyfriend of Jess, Dullea is weird and skin crawling without ever being too OTT from the minute he first turns up on screen. I know exactly what you’re thinking, right, duh? He’s so obviously the killer! He’s weird and she leaves him so, yeah! Obvious! Well, no. This film is far cleverer than that and like a very twisted magician, this is the film’s chilling piece de resistance of misdirection and sleight of hand. Don’t ask me how, but somehow Clarke is subverting the genre’s boundaries at the same time as creating them in truly magnificent fashion!

BC4Don’t go thinking that the film is nothing but oppressive atmosphere and morbid murders, it does have a surprisingly strong funny bone that at least goes some way to keeping the festive cheer. This is primarily embodied in the sorority’s sozzeled house mother, Mrs. Mac (Waldman). Merrily cursing her way through her life and hiding a hearty supply of booze in some truly novel locations, it’s rare that her time onscreen isn’t leading up to some hilariously sharp piece of dialogue or boozy antics.

This is superbly counter-balanced by the incredibly straight-laced and proper performance of James Edmond as Mr. Harrison, a father of one of the girls. His sour lemon face when enduring the vulgar chatting of Mrs Mac or Barb is painfully funny and eventhough he comes across as a miserable character in relation to the plucky youngsters, it must be remembered that tragically the audience all know that his daughter is already dead and in the attic above him.

BC5It may sound odd to say, but the reason why the killings in ‘Black Christmas’ remain so harrowing after many a re-watch is because they feel incredibly real. I appreciate that sounds daft and keep repeating ‘It’s Only A Movie’ however the objects used and the manner in which the deaths are filmed, often totally without the irritating accompaniment of screeching instruments, leaving nothing but the groans and crunch noises of the victims. This is infinitely more terrifying and like all truly great horror films, it invades that dark space in your mind and opens the terrifying door that suspends your disbelief. The fact that Claire Harrison’s ( Lynne Griffin) corpse with a plastic bag over her head in a rocking chair simply does not move for the whole film is absolutely skin-crawlingly uncomfortable. It’s the film’s most iconic image, but still one that induces dramatic shivers just by looking at it.

When the killing takes place, we always see it through the murderer’s perspective. It might sound simple, but this remains a brilliantly unnerving trick that has been assimilated by many other horror films, such as ‘Halloween’ and more recently the ‘Maniac’ remake. This remains devastatingly unsettling as it is making the audience feel that they have become part of the mindset of the killer, associating with them and carrying out these horrible acts themselves. The ‘voyeuristic’ element makes you feel unclean and even guilty and Clark has absolutely mastered its power here.

BC6It always saddens me that the antagonist, ‘Billy’ (it’s still debateable who on earth it ‘really’ is) does not get the credit they deserve for being one of horror’s all time scariest boogiemen. We NEVER see what he/she/it looks like but for two shots of a terrifyingly crazed eyeball, leaving their appearance to our own terrifying imagination. On top of this, those blood-curdling telephone calls and grunts always stay with you long after seeing the film, making you distinctly untrustworthy the next time yours should happen to go off (as a fun bit of trivia, it was in fact a combined effort of director Clark and an assistant making those awful noises together). They are both human and inhuman, there seems to be several voices and it is through these phone calls that arguably the most intriguing element of ‘Black Christmas’ comes through.

There is some sort of back story here, possibly involving a baby called ‘Agnes’ and we presume ‘Billy’ has done something to her. What? Who knows? Crucially, we don’t ever want to know, thank you very much 2006 remake! It can be a risky game to play when withholding information from an audience. It can either backfire, leaving people scratching their heads in annoyed confusion, or as it is here, leaving them shivering and alone in the dark, totally unaware of what’s coming up behind them. Why is ‘Billy’ doing this? We’ve no idea, it’s just cold, remorseless murder. I don’t know about you, but that always puts the frighteners on me!

BC7The scariest part of the entire film is THAT ending. There is no stinger or final “BOO!” just pure concentrated fear as we see that “Billy” is still muttering away in the attic,  Claire’s corpse still sits by the window and the death-knells of the phone ringing is the only sound to accompany the end credits. Upon a first viewing, my family and I just sat there, as still as the grave, 100% blown away. Seldom ever do horror films end properly and but my word this one stands amongst the greatest ending of all time!

Snuggle up with your loved ones, turn off all the lights but for the twinkly ones that adorn your Christmas tree and enjoy one of the very scariest films ever made…just remember to lock your attic door…

Merry UKHS Xmas!

Verdict: The very coldest in winter chillers. The perfect festive horror film that will never be bettered. 10 out of 10 Glasses of Finest Bloody Mulled Wine. 

Silent But Deadly (2011) Review

sbd1

Silent But Deadly (2011)

Dir. Stephen Scott – 80 minutes .

Starring Jason Mewes, William Sadler, Jordan Prentice, Kim Poirier, Benz Antoine.

 

Part of SLASHER July here at UKHS!!

Thomas Capper (Jason Mewes- Jay & Silent Bob) is an almost mute man who just loves goats, and he lives with his Father (William Sadler – Shawshank , Green Mile) and his Father’s two Russian mail-order brides. One day he is caught sneaking a peek while his two Step-mum’s get it on.

His Father enraged chases Thomas round the farmhouse and outbuildings. Getting his shotgun he searches for Thomas but just finds a young goat who he believes to be the offspring of Thomas and his favourite goat Lisa. Capper Snr shoots the young goat in the head causing instant death and also Thomas to pin him to the side of the barn with a pitchfork through the neck in a great kill scene.

After murdering his Father Thomas turns his attentions to his stepmothers who he finds still semi-naked in a bed and he dispatches them with axe blows to the head.

Thomas then sets of with Lisa (the goat) in his pick-up truck, we see him driving off and then he picks up a hitcher (Bobby) who turns out to be on his way to a film set nearby. Thomas drops Bobby off but ends up getting a job as the directors assistant purely on the fact that he can make a lactose free latte (he uses goat milk).

Back in the town Sheriff Shelby (Jordan Prentice – Long Pigs, In Bruge) and Deputy Jimbo (Benz Antoine – Death Race, Gothika ) are being followed by a young woman Sandra (Kim Poirier – Dawn of the Dead (2004), Decoys) who is making a documentary on them . The police get a call to visit the Capper farm as there have been bodies discovered there .

Will the police piece together the pieces ? And will Thomas start a new career as a directors assistant and live happily ever after with the lovely Lisa?

 sbd2

Silent But Deadly is a really good Slasher comedy. The start is wonderful with goat loving Thomas being hunted by his hick of a father, who is not just angry that his son was spying on his two wives but also that his two Russian brides are actually only interested in each other rather than him. William Sadler comes out with the fantastic line “Godamn Russian lesbos , worst money I ever spent”. Just after those immortal lines are uttered then Capper kills the kid goat and Thomas takes his revenge.

SBD keeps the laughs coming with a wise cracking 3 feet tall Sheriff and his able but often put down deputy. Sheriff Shelby is a riot and his one-liners are great , he is a small man with small man’s syndrome and poor Deputy Jimbo is often the butt of the Sheriff’s jokes and wrath.

The film set that Thomas arrives has a tyrannical director , beautiful lead actress and great Jamacian kitchen staff who cook up a right storm!

There are many things to like about SBD including Mewes performance as Thomas, he is almost entirely mute apart from just before he kills someone he speaks the name of the implement he will use for the murder “Delicatessen Meat Slicer” for example ! This is genius. Also the performances of Prentice and Antoine as the Napoleonic Sheriff and his long suffering Deputy are brilliant. They play off each other really well and have many laugh out loud moments and great scenes together.

The one bad thing (and for me it is horrendous) is the appalling CGI . Other than the first kill the rest are completely unbelievable, and this is just not needed . There are so many talented FX guys out there and CGI is just used out of pure laziness . The cost difference is non existent and it just really made me dislike a film that on the whole I was really enjoying.

 sbd3

SBD was first screened in Canada in 2011 on Tv ,now I got this copy from a friend in the USA who told me it is scheduled for release in September 2013, so maybe they will be able to edited out some of the nasty CGI (one can hope) and at least make a few of the kills look almost realistic. I know I am going on about this but this is a huge bugbear of mine and it just is not necessary.

So in conclusion Silent But Deadly is a good Slasher that is one best watched with friends over a few beers. It is no Tucker & Dale but it is still a great addition to the slasher genre BUT could have been much better.

Jason Mewes is Silent & Deadly 6/10