Blood Ransom (2014) Review

bloodramson1Blood Ransom 2014

Director: Francis dela Torre

Starring: Anne Curtis, Alexander Dreymon, Jamie Harris, Dion Basco, Caleb Hunt

Running Time  – 101 Minutes

“You kill us in the throat.”

Crystal (Curtis) is a goth stripper on the verge of turning into a vampire. She has seven days to kill a human with a special dagger or, if she changes her mind, have someone kill her with the same dagger. Then she’s kidnapped but rescued by the driver Jeremiah (Dreymon) who she has feelings for. A hitman, a super freaking cool hit man named Bill (Harris) is dispatched by vampire Roman (Hunt) to kill them? Not kill them? Kill the kidnappers? Let’s just say a lot of disjointed stuff happens. All the while the whole movie is being voiced over by Jeremiah’s childhood friend and police officer Oliver (Basco). Painfully, ponderously, voiced over. Oh and Blood Ransom is set in West Covina, which it will remind you of often.

First the good. The film is well acted, well shot and well directed. It was lovely to look at and the casting was diverse. With only one or two outstanding exceptions all the actors were excellent. There are interesting costumes, like Crystal’s goth stripper get-up. The special effects are minimal but look great. The vampires go all black-veins when hungry and the filmmakers used it well. Fun characters abound, from delightfully strange hitman Bill to the Tom Hiddleston look-a-like vampire Roman and Oliver’s cowboy partner played by Clifton Powell. Plus the movie introduces a really unique vampire mythos all its own. And of course VAMPIRES. I love vampires. And I wanted, desperately, to love Blood Ransom.

Blood Ransom 2But what actually happened when watching of Blood Ransom was this:

Phase 1) This is going to be terrible. It’s always dubious when a movie opens with scrolling text explaining the entire plot in advance.

Phase 2) This is going to be awesome! A pretty vampire, a kidnapping gone wrong, and the best hitman since, well OK he’s not John Wick, but dammit, Bill is great and needed to be in his own movie.

Phase 3) When will this be over?

After the first twenty minutes the pacing goes off the rails and slows to an imperceptible crawl as Crystal and Jeremiah go on the run. Oliver’s voiceover continually breaks in for long and morose monologues about his father’s encounter with vampires and the nature of life/fate/God. Roman is barely in it. Oliver adds nothing to the movie. He is supposed to be investigating a murder in a bar and hides the fact that the victims are acquaintances of his. He is covering for Jeremiah all the while trying to find him. But Oliver doesn’t. He’s five steps behind the plot at all times and his voiceover drones on continually.

After a certain point everything stops making sense. Events get sloppy, transitions are sudden, it feels like things happen just to get characters to particular locations. The film also suffers a major identity crisis. It starts off as a supernatural crime drama, wanders off into romance, then ponders the major philosophical issues of our day before wandering back into action movie territory.

Blood-Ransom 1I would ALMOST recommend Blood Ransom to die-hard vampire fans. They might be able to struggle through. The problem is I AM a die-hard vampire fan and I barely made it. Someone out there is bound to like it though. So give at least the first half hour a shot if you really, really, really, like vampires. And did I mention hitman Bill?

Kudos for: The existentialist dread and hit man Bill.

Final lesson: Under the right circumstances you can bring a knife to gun fight.

4/10

Blood Ransom is currently being handled by Devilworks and you can get more info on Blood Ransom by visiting their website here – http://devilworks.eu/projects/blood-ransom-101-min/

Misogynist (2013) Review

misog1Misogynist (2013)

Director: Michael Matteo Rossi

Starring: Jonathon Bennett, Jon Briddell, Danielle Lozeau, Tracey E. Bregman, Alia Raelynn, Eve Mauro

Out Now on VOD

“You better keep your voice close to your vest…”

Trevor (Biddell), male chauvinist and the films titular misogynist, finds stray puppy Harrison (Bennett) on the sidewalk one day. Trevor promises that if Harrison follows him home he will teach Harrison how to never get taken advantage of by women again. Three years later Harrison is Trevor’s golden boy, helping conduct Trevor’s dubious “seminars”, which involve a lot of unwarranted fisticuffs for no discernible reason (the script needed tension?). Harrison, on the verge of his greatest conquest, marrying the virginal April (Lozeau), is beginning to wonder what sort of man he really wants to be.

The movie doesn’t really live up to the film poster. The bar set by the synopsis and even the tagline are pretty high. It looks like an early 90’s sexual thriller in the vein of Basic Instinct. Instead it’s a low budget thriller without the thrills. Or boobs. Judging by the film poster I was fully expecting nudity. And BDSM. None of which were present. There are a couple of sex scenes sans nudity, one of which is kind of rapey, and some dirty talk. But that’s all.

misog2But that doesn’t mean the film is terrible. What it accomplishes is a small scale fairly decent character study of Trevor and Harrison. Trevor is unrepentant and repellant. Biddell oozes gross charm and gleeful hate. In fact all the actors in Misogynist are giving 110%. A few scenes cross the border into melodrama, but with a better script those scenes would have worked. April has one of the most dramatic scenes in the movie and Lozeau handles it with skill and vulnerability.

The main problem is one of pacing. A long, long, long time is spent in one of Trevor’s “seminars”- is it really a seminar with only three people? We get it, Trevor is an asshole. Trevor hates women. Give Trevor thirty days and you too can learn to use and abuse women. The entire seminar complete with multiple punches takes an eternity. An eternity that could have been better used developing Harrison, his fiancé April, and April’s mother. The pacing together with a weak script the movie feels smaller than it could have.

There are long conversations which obviously serve only to set up the climax. The end comes suddenly and the twist has already been telegraphed. Then there’s a text wrap-up and brief call back to the seminar that occupies almost the first third of the film. And the final shocker at the end could have, and should have been a real shocker but the movie ends with no warning and no time for the characters to absorb the impact of what just happened.

misog3Misogynist’s budget, or lack thereof, shows again and again like an unzipped fly. From having to film only inside people’s apartments and houses because someone couldn’t afford the permits to film on the streets of LA(I’m guessing). Though I will say they accomplished a very nice wedding without actually showing it, so props. A few obvious money saving shots and awkward transitions bring down the overall production value and feels plain cheap.

Kudos for: Fuck yeah April!

Final lesson: Fuck yeah April!

5/10

For more information and to watch Misogynist then please visit – http://midnightreleasing.com/misogynist

Afterimages (2014) Review

PrintAfterimages (2014)

Director: Tony Kern

Starring: Jeremy Meyer, Caren Utino, Sheena Chan, Daniel Jenkins, Kevin Legrange, Michael Kwah

European Distribution from Devilworks .

“Creepy, but confused by the end.”

A group of film students burn paper effigy cameras and receive films from the dead in the format of the camera they burned. Which is a great premise the film doesn’t quite live up to.

It begins when one of them burns a still camera and finds photographs in the ashes the next day. After that they try out various movie cameras and receive the films that make up the anthology of ghost stories which comprise Afterimages. They decide to turn in the films they get from the afterlife as their home work assignments. But of course you can’t have ghosts do your homework for you and not pay a price.

The first of the four films the students pull from the ashes is “Ghost Pool (Pull) Leg” based on the legend of ghosts pulling the legs of night time swimmers in order to drown them. In “Xiao Boa Boa” a woman witnesses a suicide and must uncover why the ghost has latched onto her. “Skin Deep” is a tale of vanity acted out in an elevator. Last and best is “Rekindling” which has veteran actor Vincent Tee. His experience really shows and carries the short.

On the plus side the setting of Singapore and the ghosts based around Chinese and Malaysian mythologies is great. There is some nice cinematography including computer overlays in “Xiao Boa Boa” which enhance the creepiness and mood. The diversity of the cast is better than anything Hollywood can muster up. The cast is truly international and makes Singapore- as seen in the film, a true cultural crossroads.

Afterimages-03024For those who don’t like reading, fear not, there are no subtitles, it’s filmed in English. It’s sort of creepy? There isn’t anything shocking and it’s nothing a horror buff hasn’t seen before in other, better movies, but it’s an okay introduction to South East Asian horror films.

Unfortunately the negatives outweigh Afterimages few strengths. The acting is very uneven. A few of the actors do a great job, but their performances are hampered by the majority of mediocre to poor performances. The special effects are, well, bad. The film feels significantly longer than its 93 min. runtime and the film quality was grainy and dark, making the darker shots hard to read. Though with the poor special effects that might be a bonus. In some scenes there is a disconnect between the ghost and the action taking place, as if the ghost isn’t even present in the scene. A lot of jumpy cuts at major scare points don’t help and it undermines the supernatural occurrences in a few places.

Worst of all were the characters of the film students. They had no real reason to be in the movie but someone decided there should be a framing device. Derrick, the American(?) student was horrible and possibly racist-he calls one of his Singaporean friends a ‘fortune cookie’. The film students story progresses from “This is cool” to “Let’s make a crowd funded movie and call if Afterimages” (yes there is a commercial for the film midway through the movie), to “This getting scary”.

10689 -Afterimages-1There is also some vague plot about the house they’re staying in which comes in at the very end for no good reason. Afterimages did not need the framing device of the film students and it only serves to pad out the runtime. The actual story of the house and the students might have made a compelling film all by itself but it feels sandwiched in.

Kudos for: The bicycle bell of doom and oscillating fan cam.

Final Lesson: VHS tapes are not that old!

4/10

Trailer

Judas Ghost (2013) Review

JudasGhost-DVD-2DJudas Ghost (2013)

Director: Simon Pearce

Starring: Martin Delaney, Lucy Cudden, Simon Merrells, Alexander Perkins

Judas Ghost is released in the UK from Bulldog Films on April 20th

We don’t take any shit from the hereafter.”

Five Ghost Finders from the Carnacki Institute have been sent to a village hall to investigate a suspected haunting and film a training video for the Institute at the same time. They’ve been told it’s just a typical haunting, people getting the willies and children making creepy drawings. The group is lead by brash and overconfident Jerry Mackay (Delaney) the team sets up in the empty village hall and goes to work.

All is not what it seems, psychic Anna Gilmore (Cudden) can’t detect anything in the hall, not even traces of the living which it should be rife with. They guess that something very powerful is masking itself but of course all thoughts of leaving are shot down by Mackay who constantly (and in the face of evidence to the contrary) insists that it’s just a typical haunting and everything will be fine. But of course far more is going on than anyone on the team suspected and the Carnacki Institute leaves it’s investigators to their fate. Supposedly the Institute is watching it all go down from somewhere safe and cozy with ample popcorn.

jg3Judas Ghost is a locked room mystery and in an interview with Simon R. Green, author of The Ghost Finders series and scriptwriter of Judas Ghost, he explained that they had a much larger movie in mind. However the film they wanted to make cost too much so he had to go back to the drawing board. He devised Judas Ghost as a stage play. The film has one setting (aside from a few brief flashbacks) and five actors. In such circumstances, and on such a limited budget, a lot rests on the performances. Luckily everyone is up to the task. The acting is topnotch and the film makes good use of the few special effects it can afford and while not particularly scary, there is a sense of mystery and suspense maintained throughout.

The flaws of the film double as its strengths. It’s not really scary and it looks like a cheaper episode of Supernatural. It feels like a television pilot and at one point when the screen went black I fully expected a commercial break. It takes a long time for anything more than a few haunted house standards to happen (a piano plays by itself). Also Jerry Mackay (Delaney) is incredibly irritating, his dialogue consists mostly of varying iterations of “We can handle this”, although he does finally lose it at one point which turns out to be pretty satisfying.

Another minor irritant is cameraman Mark Vega (played by Simon Merrells). He alone seems to know what is happening, or at least a close approximation as he has run into something similar before. He dribbles information only when the plot demands it and it comes off as withholding important information. The ghost of the title doesn’t show up until well toward the end and he is a little anti-climactic. Gloating like a cartoon villain.

jg2Flaws aside it’s a great lesson for film makers on how make good use of a small budget. Show to aspiring filmmakers, older children, and fans of Supernatural. For curious book lovers there are a series of Ghost Finder novels, and if you know any Simon R. Green fans this one is for them.

Kudos for: The Exorcist gag and Shakespeare quote.

Final lesson: Always bring a towel.

6/10

Available April 20 from Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Judas-Ghost-DVD-Martin-Delaney/dp/B00U2MTL60/