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Night of Something Strange (2016) Review

rsz_112819375_994557477247045_1782208119961988031_oNIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE (2016)

Dir: Jonathan Straiton
Stars: Rebecca C. Kasek, Trey Harrison, Michael Merchant, Toni Anne Gambale, John Walsh, Tarrence Taylor, Nicola Fiore, Wayne W. Johnson, Janet Mayson, Kirk La Salle, Al Lawler

Released by Hurricane Bridge Entertainment. See it at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival on 21 January at 5.30pm.

Night of Something Strange opens with a messy sequence in which we discover the origin of an STD that transforms its victims into ravenous rapist-zombies(!). From here we meet a gang of youngsters on a Spring Break road trip. There’s good girl Christine (Rebecca C. Kasek), her best friend Carrie (Toni Anne Gambale), Carrie’s obnoxious boyfriend Freddy (Michael Merchant), nerdy Jason (John Walsh) and pothead Brooklyn (Tarrence Taylor). On the way to a party destination, they choose to stop over in a seedy motel. Also at the motel are bad chick Pam (Nicola Fiore) and her tough boyfriend Dirk (Trey Harrison) who are hooking up for a night of passion. However, unbeknownst to our horny high-schoolers, the infected necrophiliac who kickstarted this whole mess is on his way to the motel…

Inside the first six minutes of Night of Something Strange we are treated to a prolonged sequence of necrophilia, a man urinating in a woman’s face before he violently rapes her, a bloody wound complete with arterial spray and somebody ripping out an unspecified, but gore-soaked part of a woman’s genitalia with his bare hands, then eating it. Then the film REALLY gets going.

rsz_14917277_1155870461115745_3324279579145028734_oIf that sounds a bit much for you, then you should probably steer clear. Night of Something Strange is a shocking movie that is full-on, in your face, and legitimately disgusting at times… and THAT is why it is so good. Think classic Eighties splatter horror-comedy Night of the Creeps crossed with the excesses of South Park — NoSS is chock-full of gross-out moments, from sexual misadventures to a veritable explosion of body-fluids. As such, it’s absolutely hilarious!

It certainly helps that these moments are brought to life with visual effects and make-up far more impressive than NoSS’s modest budget might lead to you expect. But over-performing is pretty much the norm for this movie.

Take the cast — I think it’s safe to say that most of the leads in the movie probably won’t be immediately recognisable to many viewers, but that doesn’t stop them from knocking their performances out of the park. Harrison does a tremendous job of delivering some killer tough-guy lines with a straight face, while the impressive Kasek shows some real potential as a future Scream Queen. Gambale shows real dedication to her craft with a couple of her scenes, as does the simply fantastic Merchant. It is Merchant’s crass Freddy who very nearly steals the film. Merchant is brave, utterly shameless and throws himself into his role with gusto. He’s awesome! Elsewhere, Fiores clearly has fun playing the witchy Pam and she’s a joy to watch.

rsz_12513692_1002519173117542_1525579911595151897_oOf course, the actors are only as good as the material they’re given to work with, and the writing team of director Straiton, Ron Bonk and Mean Gene deliver great dialogue, some brilliant set-pieces and a plot with some pretty out-there twists. The violent monsters are suitably terrifying villains, especially the menacing Wayne W. Johnson as the lead undead sex-fiend, Cornelius. As the zombies mutate even further later in the flick, their genitalia transforming into lethal weapons, they become reminiscent of the ‘sickos’ in Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse segment, Planet Terror, and, along with the laughs and outlandish action, the film even manages to pack in some well-crafted scares and some intense sequences.

This is all under the steady guidance of director Jonathan Straiton, whose keen eye for a good shot is a massive contributing factor to the success of NoSS. Bravo sir!

rsz_11157579_843957512307043_3862393676166830435_oAn unapologetic fist (or perhaps another body appendage) in the face, Night of Something Strange takes your typical Eighties splatter horror flick, sticks it in a blender with some late Nineties gross-out humour, and produces a heady, hilarious, horrific cocktail that really does need to be seen on the big screen with a crowd of laughing, shrieking, gasping genre fans. This is the ultimate horror party movie and it needs to be seen the right way!

7/10

Ghost Tour (2015) Short Film Review

gtour1Ghost Tour (2015) (Short)

Director: Erik C. Bloomquist

Writer: Erik C. Bloomquist & Danielle Bonanna

Starring: William Bloomfield, William Youmans, Natalie Brown

Runtime: 8min

Watch it now here – https://vimeo.com/143648106

Synopsis: A late November night in 1973; Richard Sawyer concludes his final tour of a boarding school with a dark past. She hasn’t given up all her secrets just yet!

Ghost Tour opens with Richard Sawyer (William Bloomfield) concluding his final tour of the well-known haunted house of the area. Patrons question why it has to go, but the truth is everybody that wanted to see it, has seen it. William Sawyer (William Bloomfield) the curator and brother of Richard, presents myself to the final group. He reveals to them, against Richard’s wishes, that they are the sole survivors of a mysterious and unresolved incident that left all students and staff of the boarding school dead, many years ago. What was the fate of these poor souls?

gtour2Ghost Tour is a fine spectacle of movie making, visually stunning, it captures all the right horror tropes, just where they need to be in this brief six minute encounter. The period house is the perfect setting for a ghost mystery. You can almost hear the walls whispering to you. Quick pans and varied close ups, add to a very quickly escalating sense of disorientation, one low angled shot of the staircase was particularly Escheresque. Bloomquist looks to have had some fun with this piece, flexing some muscle and giving us an idea of what he is capable of behind the camera. The score here too is perfectly suited, unobtrusive, on cue, tension building, abiding by what is expected of the ghost horror genre.

As technically robust as the camera work and setting, the same cannot be said for the acting; some characters are flat and drole, contrasted by theatrics by those sharing the screen. There is a clear dichotomy of acting talent on display here. I have also mentioned the use of horror tropes and that here is sort of a bad thing, given the brief runtime. What we are left with, I feel, is almost like a cookie-cutter horror, a sample template of a ghost story. The plot itself pushes no new boundaries in storytelling.

gtour3Despite being enjoyable to watch, it fails a bit in the writing department. With short films like this, you should aim to build it around one simple hook, a twist, a message, what we get here has been done one hundred times before. I find it is often the case with budding writer/directors that the talent lies in one aspect of the two; here we have fine directing and vision meshed with an average at best tale. Had this little visual marvel been rewritten and recast, scene for scene, Ghost Tour would have achieved greatness. Bloomquist and Co are on my watch-list.

Verdict: Worth a watch, solid ghost mystery outing

6.5/10

Please check the links below and support indie filmmaking

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/GhostTourMovie

IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4815090/

Kickstarter: www.kickstarter.com/projects/erikbloomquist/ghost-tour-short-film

Krampus: The Reckoning (2015) Review

KTR1KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING (2015) Review

Directed by Robert Conway

Written by Owen Conway & Robert Conway

Starring Monica Engesser, Amelia Haberman, James Ray

UK DVD Release – TBC

On Demand from 3rd Nov – https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/krampus-the-reckoning/id1040695365

“Zoe, a strange child has a not so imaginary friend the Krampus who is the dark companion of St. Nicholas.” Courtesy of IMDB

Its official. Christmas is becoming the new Halloween. Besides the excellent TALES OF HALLOWEEN, you’d be hard-pressed to find many Halloween-themed horror releases this year. But Christmas? We have Trick ‘R’ Treat creator Michael Dougherty’s studio release KRAMPUS, William Shatner starring A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY, and now KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING. Keyword here: KRAMPUS. KRAMPUS KRAMPUS KRAMPUS. If KRAMPUS is not yet a household horror name, he will be by the end of this year…

So how does KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING compare to the big boys? Surprising underdog or worthless cash-in? To be honest, kind of in the middle.

Zoe is a weird girl. she’s a problem child, with a white trash mom and deadbeat dad who treat her like dirt. But they will regret that when, using creepy, well-designed voodoo style dolls, Zoe summons her best bud, the big bad Krampus, who proceeds to melt her parents faces off! The police, led by Detective Miles O’Connor (a chilled out James Ray) are baffled and put Zoe into care, where Child Psychologist Dr Rachel Stewart (Monica Engesser) tries to get the truth out of here.

But Rachel soon realises that Zoe is no normal little girl, and is willing to summon her terrifying pal to do her dark deeds at any given moment…

KTR2It begins with an effective title sequence that is both visually astute and well-written, that classic fairytale feeling of an old lady telling her granddaughter the story of the Krampus on Christmas Eve. With seasonal production design and warm red lighting, it certainly sets a tone.

But then the present day story starts and the quality takes a dip. The visual style changes and that good will starts to fade with slow, drawn out scenes of mumbling dialogue from characters with no defining personality. The pace is fine, but it could have been even tighter, and in fairness, this is actually an interesting story. While it’s easy to poke holes in, the plot takes some interesting turns towards the end that I actually didn’t see coming, showing the filmmakers had more ambition than to just get confused with bigger budget films on the DVD shelves.

But there is one MAJOR issue here that bogs the film down. Is it the direction? No, working with what looks like a tiny budget, director Robert Conway (Exit To Hell) is quite consistent and effective, even if the editing could have been tightened up. Is it the acting? Not really, the leads are game even if their characters are bland, and little Amelia Haberman is just as good as any kid actor in a studio film?

No, the major issue here is the Krampus himself. Not only is he barely even in the film due to long scenes spent on the shrink and the cops flirty banter, but he looks absolutely abysmal. This is easily some of the worst CGI I have ever seen. It’s on the level of Playstation One graphics. And it’s really distracting.

It’s frustrating as, even with a tiny budget, I’m pretty sure some tweaks in his design could have made it possible to be a man in a suit. But instead it’s just really bad visually, which results in laughter when there should be screams.

KTR3BUT if you can look past this, then grab a beer, pop on Krampus: The Reckoning and if you’re a die hard horror fan you should still find things to like about it. It’s got gore, creepy kids, and it’s fair share of nudity. What more do you want on Christmas Eve?

Advice to low-budget filmmakers: CGI is not your friend. Leave it be.

5/10

Hans Crippleton: Talk To The Hans (2014) Review

hans1Hans Crippleton: Talk to the Hans (2014)

Director: Jimmy Lee Combs

Writer: Kevon Ward

Starring: Bria Law, Lyle DeRose, R.J. Wagner

Runtime: 100min

Synopsis: “A disturbing mystery lurks on an old backwoods farm brought to new light when a travelling camera team arrives… seeking the one and only Hans Crippleton.”

Hans Crippleton (HC) I can guarantee will be the marmite of indy horror cinema; a love/hate experience in the extreme. Some hail HC as being comic gold, bold, rash and irreverent; I myself feel that it misses the mark. In a world where there is an audience for a second sequel to Tom Six’s Human Centipede, it is going to take more than a new born baby/mutant foetus being dragged through a field by the placenta (yes this is in fact one of the opening scenes in HC) to shock more than just the casual movie goer. This is, after all, a horror website!

HC follows Barnaby Hunt (Andy Hankins) who is host of famed Horror Hunts reality TV; a show that reports on real life paranormal events. He is lead to the deep south of the USA where he has heard tales of the legendary Hans Crippleton; who has made waves in the horror circuit. But there is more to the story than meets the eye.

hans2Shot as a mockumentary, we are introduced to the whole Crippleton family, who are cast as inbred hillbillies, all with their own disfigurements; MaMa Crippleton (Irene Leonard), Cousin Bumpkin (Heath C. Heine), One Legged Sis (Katie Bevard) and Hans himself (Kevon Ward), if you haven’t guessed already he has a crippled hand. The way this group plays off each other is entertaining at times in a charming sort of way, but there is little to develop the plot and pacing is erratic. In this world zombies exist and have been plaguing the Crippletons for generations, slowly but surely wiping them out. This mystery makes up the bulk of the latter half of the film.

As a whole, HC just did not know what it wanted to be. With an overly ambitious runtime the film lacked focus and content; by the end I felt I was watching an action movie rather than a mockumentary. The absurd nature of the humour and the lack of coherent story telling are lost on me, a European, as irreverent tropes are an everyday occurrence in British and Irish comedy. The film does have its moments however; as I found myself surprised at costume design and felt there was some genuinely funny dialogue.

hans3It is sad to have to say that the credit roll scenes were actually the most entertaining part of the film. It was a shame that that idea wasn’t the premise of the film to begin with. The choice to include a scene where a critic of the film is killed at the end just strengthens the fact there’s an underlying insecurity with the work that has been done here. I am still on the fence, having waited two days to mull over my thoughts on this low budget love affair. I mentioned this would be a love/hate kind of film so you best decide yourself if you want to take the plunge.

Verdict:
Unfocused, occasionally comical, hillbilly banter.

5/10

 

Website – http://www.hanscrippletonmovie.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/hanscrippletonmovie/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/HeartFireProduc

Alien Strain (2014) DVD Review

alienstrain1Alien Strain (US, 2014)

Dir: Robert Benavides Jr, Andy Palmer

Starring: Michael Finn, Laura Gordon, Michael Phenicie

UK DVD – Out NOW from 101 Films

Plot: Matthew (Finn) finds himself locked in a mental asylum. As Matthew talks with his doctor (Phenicie) the lines between what really happened to Matthew come into question. Did Matthew’s girlfriend, Rachel (Gordon) really get abducted by aliens or is Matthew trying to escape the reality? Things get worse as Rachel is returned by the aliens with an infection that is making her into something else.

Alien Strain puts a different spin on the alien abduction sub-genre by blending it with a little body horror and some psychological horror and presents us with this non-linear story of love, obsession, and paranoia. Bouncing between the scenes in the asylum and scenes of Matthew in his search for his abducted girlfriend create an uneasy experience, making the audience ponder his sanity. It uses non-linear storytelling pretty well but I did find that it got a little confusing near the end. Robert Benavides Jr and Andy Palmer are still relatively new in the director’s chair (First feature for Benavides and second for Palmer) and they do an admirable job here with an ambitious film.

I have to say I was a little worried in the pre-abduction scene, there was a reference to Rachel being pregnant and as someone who is entirely worn out on pregnancy sub-plots in horror films, it thankfully didn’t go down that route. It does make me question why the reference was in there and I can only assume that it was something that might have been cut from the final film. Either way I’m just glad they didn’t go there. The closest we get is some vicious transformation pukes that I intially assumed was some kind of alien infected morning sickness.

alienstrain3The “Strain” element of Alien Strain takes a long time to come into effect. There is a big body horror element to this film as Rachel succumbs to the alien virus but I have to say I was expecting something a bit more infectious from the use of the word Strain. Alien Strain is not a film with a large cast, instead keeping the infection small and intimate. The earlier scenes of the film build up Matthew’s love for Rachel by following his unending search for her, but it did feel like it went on a little too long and could have been trimmed down by about 20 minutes.

The asylum scenes are more of a frame for the story’s narration and it does manage to plant that seed of doubt that maybe Matthew has just had some kind of psychological break. It makes me think of Lovecraft’s tales of madness and beasts from beyond the stars, although Alien Strain’s tone is probably closer to X-Files era alien movies.

I think my only real issue I have is that they could have used Rachel’s transformation in a much more creepy way, Matthew’s more concerned for her health than afraid of what she will do to him once she’s transformed and it would have been a bit scarier if the film had a little more of that kind of thing.

alienstrain2Alien Strain is a welcomed return to sci fi horror, although I feel like I’ve seen it done better recently in the film Honeymoon. Regardless it’s something different from the slew of possession and haunted house films we’ve been inundated with and it’s something I’m glad to see.

6/10

The Binding (2015) Review

bindingTHE BINDING (2015)

Director: Gus Krieger

Stars: Josh Heisler, Amy Gumenick, Max Adler, Leon Russom, Catherine Parker, Larry Cedar, Max Adler

UK RELEASE TBC

Sarah (Amy Gumenick) and Bram (Heisler) are a devout religious couple overjoyed at the birth of their first child, Scaia. This event is celebrated by the church community where Bram is a pastor, and senior clergyman Father Uriel (Leon Russom) is among those to add his congratulations.

Life is good for the pair — right up until Bram reveals that he has been having a recurring dream in which God himself says that Bram must sacrifice Scaia to avert the End of Days. At first Sarah thinks this is something that the pair can cope with together, praying side by side. However, as she realises that Bram’s visions are intensifying and her husband is starting to become swayed by these powerful messages, she becomes increasingly desperate.

Can she protect her daughter from the man she loves? And at what cost?

binding1The Binding (written and directed by extremely impressive first-timer Gus Krieger) is a compelling story driven by a fascinating dilemma — can faith go too far?

It’s an intelligent plot, featuring likeable, believable characters that draw us into the complex web that Krieger weaves. The film takes its title from the biblical Binding of Isaac, in which God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac at the future site of Temple Mount where, at the point he was about to strike, an Angel intervened, preventing the sacrifice. There are obvious parallels with the plot of this film, but the title takes on a deeper meaning when looking at the themes of Krieger’s story. Bram is bound by his vows to the Lord and his own struggles with addiction, but it is the manner in which Sarah is bound to Bram as his wife and as the mother of his child that is key to the entire plot.

Sarah (brought to lbinding2ife with a brilliant performance from the talented Amy Gumenick) and her struggles with her faith, her role of mother and her perceived responsibilities as a wife, are at the heart of the story. It is impossible to not feel for her, watching as her preconceptions about her role not just in the church but in her family are torn down. It’s committed and flawless work from Gumenick, not shying away from her character’s flaws and showing us glimpses of the terror and fragility beneath the surface.

Josh Heisler’s Bram is also wonderful, playing him just right to avoid any melodrama. It would have been easy to veer into hammy, cartoonish lunacy, but Heisler instead provokes sympathy, showing us that this devout clergyman is no caricature. Instead he is a man that is struggling. With a history of mental illness and alcoholism in his family, it becomes easy to see how guidance from religion could have helped him to find the right path. That this very same faith should now be the source of his anguish is heartbreaking and Heisler nails this with his performance.

binding3Elsewhere Leon Russom and Catherine Parker provide excellent support, but make no bones about it, this is primarily the tale of our leads.

And what a tale it is, raising plenty of questions but never preaching to its audience — there are no heavy-handed criticisms of organised religion or bull-headed proclamations that only Christ can save us. Instead the issue is dealt with thoughtfully examining the themes on an individual basis rather than making sweeping generalisations. That Kriegler’s thought-provoking story is presented in an eye-catching and clean fashion by cinematographer Jeff Moriarty — especially during some genuinely frightening nightmare sequences — is just another boon.

binding4The Binding is not heavy on jump-scares, nor is there a huge body-count. Instead there are some superb twists and, despite the somewhat sedate pacing, the mounting sense of dread builds to a truly gripping climax.

The Binding is a mature film and, if you are prepared to work with it, a film as likely to keep you awake at night pondering its weighty themes as through its effective scares. Here’s hoping that it finds the audience it deserves on the festival circuit.

8/10

Last Girl Standing (2015) Review

lgs1Last Girl Standing (USA, 2015)

Dir: Benjamin R. Moody

Starring: Akasha Villalobos, Danielle Evon Ploeger, Brian Villalobos

UK Release TBC

Plot: After surviving the brutal massacre of The Hunter, a slasher movie style masked killer who wiped out all her friends, Camryn (Villalobos) is just trying to get on with her life. She struggles to move on, avoiding making friends at the dry cleaners she works at, and still living out of boxes at home. That is until Nick (Villalobos) starts working the counter at the dry cleaners. The two end up getting closer and Camryn meets Nick’s friends. Her new friends are in trouble though when Camryn starts seeing The Hunter stalking them and her fears that history might be repeating it self start to mount.

Last Girl Standing takes the archetypal Final Girl of the slasher movie sub-genre and shows us just what happens to that girl when she doesn’t find herself in a franchise of 5 or more films (How will she ever get to go to space if not for some seventh instalment?) and instead goes down a route of Survivor’s Guilt and PTSD. Another horror that takes the challenge of mixing horror with mental illness. It’s a trickier feat these days because it’s getting less and less acceptable to say “He’s crazy and that’s why he kills” without being an insensitive asshole these days.

lgs3Camryn is clearly a traumatised woman and her self-inflicted isolation doesn’t seem to be helping her condition, especially when she starts catching glimpses of The Hunter despite the fact that she saw him die. Last Girl Standing attempts to show the support friendship can offer through Camryn’s interactions with characters like Nick and Danielle (Evon). However when things go bad, it starts to get awfully close to the line of tastefulness, Camryn’s mental problems and violence don’t look good if it’s supposed to represent how PTSD manifests itself.

While it’s not an impossibility that the traumatic events of her past have effected her, most violent people do come from some past abuse, it doesn’t quite feel enough to make her actions feel justified. However films are not here to show us what the realms of probability and logic are and Last Girl Standing takes us along for a ride where violence perpetuates violence as Camryn struggles to escape her trauma.

Aside from it’s depiction of mental illness, Last Girl Standing is notable for it’s spin on the Slasher movie sub-genre. It’s not so openly meta as films like Scream or Cabin in the woods. It strives to create it’s own mythos rather than borrow from films like Friday the 13th . There is no screaming about people running up stairs when they should be going down them. This film is all about the Final Girl, and yet there’s no reference to things like her being a virgin or anything as cliché as that. Camryn is physically strong, it’s what helped her survive, but it’s the cracks in her mental well-being that make her an interesting character.

lgs2Last Girl Standing is a film all slasher movie fans should watch, an interesting film that stands out amongst all the love-letter slasher homages that keep trying to create the next Freddy Kreuger but ultimately has us watching another two hours of people running around the woods. Last Girl Standing tells us a new story, what happens next.

6/10

The Passage aka Lemon Tree Passage (2014) DVD Review

passage1The Passage aka Lemon Tree Passage (2014)

Director: David Campbell

Writers: Erica Brien, David Campbell

Stars: Jessica Tovey, Nicholas Gunn, Pippa Black

UK DVD Release – 5th October 2015 from Metrodome UK

A group of American backpackers on vacation in Australia are befriended by two local guys and introduced to the “true story” of Lemon Tree Passage – a remote stretch of road that is haunted by the ghost of a motorcyclist who appears to warn drivers to slow down. Doubtful of the legitimacy of the tale they decide to put it to the test and go for a late night spin along the famed passage. Of course, they end up with much more than they bargained for and are killed off one by one in violent fashion by a mysterious malevolent entity. An entity that is definitely not there to discourage reckless driving.

The urban legend of the ghostly motorcyclist on Lemon Tree Passage is actually true… to a degree. Apparently it became somewhat of an internet phenomenon a few years ago when a YouTube video of a mysterious headlight following behind a car and then vanishing in to thin air went viral. However, anyone hoping for a film about the apparition of a motorcyclist will be sorely disappointed, as writer-director David Campbell and co-writer Erica Brien merely use this urban legend as a springboard for their own ghostly yarn (and no doubt an excuse to plaster ‘based on actual events’ on the promotional paraphernalia).

passage2There is some nice cinematography throughout the film and Australian actor Jessica Tovey gives an excellent performance as American tourist Maya. This is a well made, slick looking film but unfortunately that is about all I have in the pro column. Not that this is a bad film, it is just gloriously mediocre. There is nothing that you haven’t seen before and nothing that you will be eager to see again, and it does not do itself any favours with its slow pacing and lacklustre deaths. The actions of the characters defy logic every step of the way as it limps along towards its grand finale, which goes off not with a bang but with a whimper. I can only really recommend watching this if you are a fan of Jessica Tovey or a die hard fan of Australian horror.

4/10

Farhope Tower (2015) Review

farhope1Farhope Tower (Canada, 2015)

Dir: April Mullen

Starring: John White, Evan Williams, April Mullen

UK Release TBC

Plot: A group of paranormal investigators on the verge of breaking into the big time, decide to shoot their pilot episode at the infamous Farhope Tower. The building is an obsession for team leader Jake (White), so much so that he previously swore to Andre (Williams) that they would never return to Farhope Tower. But with so much on the line, it’s the only choice. Once inside the tower, it’s more than they bargained for, the strange activity going on inside the building and the slipping mental state of Jake might be the end for them all.

This is the second film I have seen of April Mullen’s, the first being 88 which I saw at the Glasgow Fright Fest back in February. She’s a talented upcoming director and I was excited to see more of her work. Farhope Tower is her contribution to the current slew of haunted house films that has been favoured in horror cinema with every Insidious and Paranormal Activity instalment that Blumhouse releases. Thankfully Mullen decides to veer away from the found footage style and gives us something with more of a kinship to The Shining or the Amityville Horror.

farhope2That similarity is most prevalent in the character of Jake, the Jack Torrence or George Lutz of Farhope Tower, who starts off as the reliable man and soon descends into violence and madness. While the building itself is a menacing character with it’s changing layout, it’s spikes in EMF readings and other ghostly behaviour, Jake is the main threat of this film and White really commands the attention of the audience. He’s very menacing as he begins to ramble and scream at the other members of his team, especially when they’re split up.

The other actors in the film are alright but they lack the physical acting ability when it comes to fighting against themselves, acting under the invisible puppet strings of the tower. They give it their best shot but I feel like they couldn’t get passed the awkwardness of fighting the advancing menace of your own hands. Wildly flailing your arms like Olive Oyl in Popeye just doesn’t feel like you’re actually possessed. It just comes off as silly or forced. It’s a bit of a shame.

The other problem I had with Farhope Tower was the ending, I’ll resist spoiling it for anyone who wants to see it for themselves but again it feels forced. Jake’s malice manifests to it’s peak but it does feel that it peaks too soon, that Jake should have tried harder to fight the control of the tower. There should be more internal conflict between the murderous wish and his desire to save Zoe (Mullen), his pregnant girlfriend.

farhope3I do feel a little disappointed with how Farhope Tower turned out, I still think that Mullen is a tremendous talent. However 88 is still the stronger film and I recommend it highly, yet I’d still recommend Farhope Tower to anyone who’s curious or a particularly big fan of haunted house movies.

4/10

Infernal (2015) DVD Review

infernal1Infernal (USA, 2015)

Dir: Bryan Coyne

Starring: Andy Ostroff, Heather Adair, Alyssa Koerner

UK DVD release 24th August from Signature Entertainment

Plot: Nathan (Orstroff) and Sophia (Adair) are a young couple beginning their life together, moving in together, marriage and the birth of their child, Imogene (Koerner).However their marital bliss is short lived as Imogene starts to exhibit strange behaviour. They seek medical help with what they assume is autism and are instructed to film Imogene’s day to day life. The camera captures the dark occurrences of the supernatural happenings around the house as well as the collapse of Nathan and Sophia’s relationship.

Infernal is the second film of director Bryan Coyne (His first being Harvard Park, a baseball documentary)and first feature as a writer. Infernal has a complete absence of baseball but it does keep a hint of the documentary style by being a found footage film. It follows in the stylistic footsteps of Paranormal Activity but I have to say that I wish that it had chose a more traditional film making style. While I can find the merit in a well made found footage film, the choice here doesn’t really work. Many scenes don’t have the motivation required to have the camera switched on and the characters actively refuse to revisit the footage for the majority of the film and when they do it’s always met with a conflict of interest. There is clearly a demonic presence, Infernal makes a bold choice by having physical demons on screen, yet the couple refuse to seek help until it’s much too late.

infernal2Imogene is the focus of all the spooky occurrences of the film, channelling more of The Omen’s Damien than The Exorcist’s Regan. However unlike The Omen with it’s ambiguous nature, Infernal is quick to clarify that Imogene is a demonic force and her parents are right to be afraid. Except they’re rarely afraid,at least at the same time. When Nathan sees something on the footage that’s clearly not normal, Sophia can’t find the time to care. When Sophia wants to get a priest involved, Nathan doesn’t believe anything is wrong with their daughter. It often feels that the two would rather be right than help their daughter, or at the very least save themselves. They spend a lot of time being angry and not much time showing that they are part of a loving relationship.

Nathan and Sophia’s relationship is built up on screen through their proposal and wedding video as a way to stay in the framework of the found footage but it’s not enough to believe that their life is not that hellish before the demons show up. Perhaps without the found footage there could have been at least a montage of their relationship but the film chooses to jump forward eight years after their marriage to get to the action and it felt very jarring.

There are positives about Infernal,it’s got decent production values even behind the shaky camera movements and the occasional dark scene. The sound is always clear and some of the more demonic scenes are well orchestrated.

infernal3The film has potential. The actors deliver good performances but they could have used more material than be angry and be confused. Bryan Coyne has shown us that he can do what so many others have done with found footage/evil children films but I hope that his next film can show that he can take it to the next level.

3/10