An American Terror (2014) Review

rsz_aat1An American Terror (2014)

Director: Haylar Garcia

Starring: Graham Emmons, Louise Macdonald, Brian Thompson

If there’s one thing the American educational institution has taught us, it’s to keep your wits about you.

Ever since the 18th Century American school shootings have sadly been a common occurrence across various states in the USA. A lot can be traced back to mental illness however within the subject matter we are going to look at today bullying is the perpetrator. Diving into his first creative output within our world of monsters Haylar Garcia makes his horror debut with An American Terror. Released back in 2014 An American Terror is the story of 3 outcasts battling their way through high school in an American suburb over run by popularity rather than morality.

The film opens with Protagonist Josh played by Graham Emmons making his feature film debut, awakening to the sound of a Harsh but relentless alarm. A narration of voices begging Josh to go back to sleep wash over the scene of Josh laying in a rickety bed. Giving the impression that this is routine the scene cuts to waist level shots of Josh’s parents arguing with josh sat at a table watching his childhood figureheads unfold in front of him. The way one scene cuts to the next is done in a very gritty style, this can be comparable to Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses.

rsz_aat2Arriving at high school that day with fellow misfits Ray and Sammy we soon run into a group of jocks that add fuel to the inevitable fire. After an altercation, the 3 misfits then make a pact to seek revenge on the jocks that had so effortlessly ripped them a new one.

The acting within the group of jocks is fairly tepid and unconvincing but then again, it’s sometimes hard to capture the essence of being a dumb jock unless you’re one of those twats from high school musical. The choice of soundtrack is very suited to what an outcast would be associated with, ranging from genres of Punk to Industrial. This really compliments the montage scene of 3 teenagers drinking and plotting out a massacre.

A plan is formulated for Josh and Ray to find some guns while Sammy is in charge of making explosives. In their search, Ray and Josh come across what looks to be a legitimately run junk yard but little do they know what they’ve stumble across. After a mild break in they soon discover an underground tunnel not long before the one and only owner of the establishment returns trapping them within said tunnel.

rsz_aat3From this point in the film it very soon develops into a traditional teenage slasher type ordeal with our characters trying to outrun a masked maniac within an underground torture chamber. A criticism can be found is the films lack of elaboration on the character known as The Junker. Although mystery can be a positive I feel that with all the unique torture instruments and cult like memorabilia scattered around a bit of back story would have helped the flow of the film and made for a more memorable character.

Although with its dark subject matter An American Terror is average at best. 5/10

Zombie Lake (1981) Review

rsz_zlZombie Lake (1981) aka Le lac des morts vivants

Director: Jean Rollin

Starring: Howard Vernon, Pierre-Marie Escourrou, Anouchka

Out NOW on UK DVD from Black House Films!

Back in the 1980s there’s no denying that as a film genre Horror was at one of it’s highest peaks in terms of creativity, we saw the likes of Jason Voorhees slicing through our anxiety to Freddy Krueger making insomnia suffers blessed. Debuts by characters that are both highly regarded as the figureheads of the horror culture we live in today.

Amongst many classics during this period today we delve into Jean Rollin’s Zombie Lake. Jean originating from France sadly left us back in 2010 however is remembered for his unique cinematography, off-kilter plot progression and poetic dialogue which showed us the likes of The Living Dead Girl and The Night of the Hunted.

Zombie Lake is no exception to these sentiments. Set in a quiet rural village somewhere in France post World War II. Zombie Lake opens in a very Jaws-esque manner. A young local girl decides to take a mid-afternoon stroll followed by a casual skinny dip, little does she know there’s something lurking in the depths. The soothing sound of what can only be described as elevator music provided by composer Daniel White accompanies the opening. One can only assume that it was Jean’s intention to make the audience feel at ease prior to all hell breaking loose.

zl2After a savage attack by what everyone’s expectations of a zombie should be, green, angry and ready to eat the terror off someone’s face, there is a slight difference as these aren’t your traditional Zombies these are Nazi Zombies. Word travels fast throughout the village and grabs the attention of the village Major portrayed by Swiss actor Howard Vernon, who makes a very convincing job of knowing something that the audience do not at this stage of the film.

Very much a slow burner, after a brief back story of how the terror came to fruition the film very quickly changes its pace when a group of teenagers decide to go for a refreshing dip in the now suitably named The Damned Lake. Very much like the lives of the teenagers sadly this change in pace is short lived.

Although at times Zombie Lake tends to be lacklustre, you can’t deny that when it gets to the point where it’s about to go bat shit it is executed in a brilliant way. I also feel that Zombie Lake could have benefited from having a lot more gore within certain scenes. I couldn’t help but think while watching this that George A Romero’s 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead must have been a key influence on the making of this film overall.

zl3In 2017 Nazi Zombies are predominantly a lot more present in popular culture however in the 80s this was a completely new take on the zombie concept . It’s easy to see how Zombie Lake has influenced modern takes on this concept such as the Dead Snow films and even the Call of Duty Video game franchise.
Slow burner or not Zombie Lake is definitely worth the time of any zombie based film enthusiast.
This certainly won’t leave you wanting to go Skinny dipping, or will it? 😉


Essex Spacebin (2016) Review

rsz_spacebinEssex Spacebin (2016)

Writers/Directors: Philip Thompson and David Hollinshead

Starring: Lorraine Malby, Caryl Griffith, Joerg Stadler

To quote Charles Manson: You know, a long time ago being crazy meant something. Nowadays everybody’s crazy. This sentiment I feel couldn’t ring any truer with Essex Spacebin which was unleashed on the world back in December 2016. Essex Spacebin is a twisted tale which follows protagonist Lorraine’s journey to another dimension in Essex. Not sold yet?

All round debuts by Philip Thompson and David Hollinshead, from directing to acting, these guys introduce us to their world like an acid trip without the chemicals. Our protagonist Lorraine is portrayed by Lorraine Malby who’s previous works include Born to be Kind and Cleaning in progress. Lorraine’s tale begins from a very early age when she encounters a gentleman on a beach who explains his quest to find the key for the stargate, a portal which connects our world to a different universe.

The story then picks up many years later with Lorraine now an obese senior marketing executive for a chicken shop. Determined not to let the chains of reality hold her down Lorraine is on a quest to find the gate through to a different world while trying to not lose her family in the process. Now that we’ve established the basis of this tale, the energy of this Essex Spacebin does not let up for one second. Like an attack on the senses I found that while trying to keep up with the dialogue there was always something visually that made this a challenge to do so. From milk bottles being bounced off characters faces to stealing televisions, if the Directors intention was to make the viewer feel exhausted they have smashed it out of the park.

rsz_spacebin1Very much the visual equivalent of ADHD, it can be hard at times to gauge the overall plot and journey of the characters which adds to the intensity and makes the viewer questioning what could happen next which in the Essex space bins case is anywhere. Ceephax Acid Crew provide the music throughout the feature and they really compliment the outlandish scenes and helps the overall flow of the film.

All the fundamental traits that make a B-movie are very present, from the charm of low production but colossal ideas to non-convincing but believable acting. This film oozes creativity but can be hard to appreciate with the fast-paced nature of the dialogue and plot. I can draw parallels between films such as the Greasy Srrangler and Toxic Avenger in many ways. Essex Spacebin feels very much like a film that was made for a certain audience, not intended for mass appeal and more trying to appeal to a cult film following.

rsz_spacebin2As debut directors, it’s exciting to see where they go from here as originality and creativity can be few and far between these days which brings me back to my opening. As Charles Manson rightly said if back in the day being crazy meant something and nowadays everyone’s crazy, I expect to see Philip Thompson and David Hollinshead do something pretty fucking crazy.