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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

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

Knock Knock (2015) Review

knockknock1Knock Knock (2015)

Directed by Eli Roth

Starring Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo, Ana de Armas

Evan (Reeves) seems like the perfect guy and the perfect husband. He’s an architect, lives in a beautiful California home, has two kids and a lovely talented wife. One afternoon, his wife and kids go to the beach but Evan has to stay behind and work. It’s raining hard, he’s alone, listening to music, when late at night there’s a knock at the door. Two beautiful young girls are standing, shivering in in the cold. They’re drenched, lost and just want to come in to dry off and use the phone.

So begins Eli Roth’s latest film, a break of 8 years since his last directorial feature, missing out the unreleased The Green Inferno, 2007’s Hostel II. Ever since Cabin Fever came out back in 2002 I have been watching Roth’s filmography very closely, whether he is directing, producing or even starring in films (he holds his own in Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds). I went into this film thinking this was a film Roth took just to get back into the directing game, but I was happy to see that not only did he direct but also co-wrote (with Guillermo Amoedo, writer of Aftershock, produced by Roth and The Green Inferno). With that in mind it gave me good a good sense that Roth wasn’t just taking this film for a quick buck ala Kevin Smith and Cop Out.

knockknock2The film’s look and style is well thought out. The camera taking us through Evans home giving us a good sense of family background and how loved Evan is to his family and vice versa. The camera stalks the corridors of his very architecturally ‘now’ home, from the floor to ceiling glass and modern décor. Giving the viewer an understanding of the layout of his home and as watchers almost being voyeurs looking in on an almost perfect family set-up.

Once the family are split up and Evan is left alone, we get to see a grown man relax and enjoy this rare freedom. Loud music and reefers abound. Whether you are a child or fully grown adult, I think there is nothing scarier than not knowing what’s the other side of the glass of your windows, in your yard, watching your every move. With rain lashing the windows there is a knock at the door. Now you ask yourself, what would you do? Its 1am, raining heavy and you are home alone. Whether you are Male or Female, you have a decision to make.

Through a set of circumstances, Evan’s basic family instincts kick in and he lets in the two barely dressed young girls in with the best intentions, to get dry, dressed and on their way. With the two girls over the threshold and tightening their grip on his basic needs, the games are afoot. The two girls, Bel and Genesis, played by Ana De Armas (in Reeves new film Daughter of God) and Lorenza Izzo (Kylie in Roths produced Aftershock) play well off each other, using their feminine charms to good effect to lure and entice Evan into doing things he really shouldn’t be doing as a husband.

knockknock3Once Evan steps over the line, there’s no going back and the situation quickly spirals out of control. Other than a lull in proceeding the film ramps up and up and up, until Reeves’ character cant take it no more and snaps. At this point, the first cracks appear. Ever since he appeared on the scene, Reeves has always been mocked for his acting. You cant deny the guy has charisma and can hold the screen well. There is a scene with a tied up Evan, where he has to scream and shout, and this is where his acting falls flat, he isn’t able to emote and convey what needs to be conveyed. Its a startling scene and one which may have needed a few more takes.

Overall though I loved Knock Knock, it’s a tightly scripted, well made film and I for one am glad to see Roth directing again.

9/10

Society (1989) Blu-Ray Review

society1Society (1989) Blu-Ray Review

Directed by Brian Yuzna

Starring – Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards

Runtime – 99 minutes

UK Release – Dual Format Blu-Ray & DVD from Arrow Films OUT NOW

Every teenager goes through the stage where they feel they do not quite fit in, but for Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) his suspicions about his idyllic high society family might well be right.

Beginning much like any run of the mill teen comedy, we are introduced to troubled teenager Billy visiting his psychiatrist, he voices his concerns about a possible conspiracy,his disassociation from his family and thoughts that he may well have been adopted. His psychiatrist attempts to put Bill’s mind at ease but his hallucinations and numerous on screen innuendos are just the first signs in a lesson that will really make you question his own sanity. When his sisters ex-boyfriend attempts to bring to his attention evidence of his family’s incestuous parties, Bill tries to seek help, first from his girlfriend who seems more interested in her own social status and then his psychiatrist who’s best advice is, “you have to learn to accept society’s rules of privacy. If you don’t follow the rules, Billy, bad things happen.” and then to top things off, Bill’s only ally is disposed of in a freak accident.

This is a fair warning that kicks Billy’s suspicions in to overdrive in this weird mix of John Waters style humour, Cronenberg-esque body horror visuals and an ending that is the pure definition of WTF!

society2Directed by the great Brian Yuzna in his first outing as director, Society is a very clever (if somewhat bizarre) take on the class system and how an individual can try to fit in but at the end of the day you are what you are and trying to be something you are not, never works out. Yuzna who is better known for producing the awesome From Beyond and Re-Animator and later went on to direct the re-Animator sequels sequels as well as a favourite of mine, Return of the Living Dead III, shows that he can bring to the screen a very unique vision competently.

This early outing as director allowed Yuzna to hit the floor running, this is a true mind fuck of a film and one that should grace the collection of any Body Horror fan. Sure it has some questionable acting but hey, this is the late 80’s Billy Warlock is one of the Baywatch alumni, there is an ex playboy bunny and the budget was extremely low for the time, needless to say, these folks were hired for looks not talent. But with that being said there is enough there to make the audience connect with Bill and share his paranoia, any normal film would have ended with the Rosemary’s Baby inspired revelation of conspiracy, but this is not a normal film.

The final reel will definitely be engraved in your memory for a long time to come.I cannot write about this film without bringing to your attention the mastermind behind the special effects, Screaming Mad George, who is this film is credited as ‘Surrealistic Makeup Designer’. I’m amazed at how nasty and disturbing the final sequence is and yet there is absolutely no blood, apparently this was one of Yuzna’s ways of getting around the rating system.

Screaming Mad George delivers some truly disgusting imagery that is sure to make anyone squirm, his previous work included Poltergeist II and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 and 4, a man who’s work on this film seems to be the combined offspring of Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste and David Cronenberg’s Videodrome. The Effects are pure genius, no surprise then that Screaming Mad George has been Yuzna’s go to FX guy ever since.

society3This is yet another great release from Arrow Films, again not sparing on the extras, the Blu-Ray features a collection of interviews with the director, principal cast, the FX crew, there is also a lengthy conversation with the director at the UK World Première, a Screaming Mad George music video as well as a trailer and audio commentary
‘The society that kills to keep it’s existence a secret’.

Society is a great film that is only let down by budget restraints. A classic that I still found disturbing, over twenty years since my last viewing.

7.5 out of 10

And as an extra shout to Arrow Films then please check out the stunning artwork and packaging for Society.

societydvd1 socirtydvd2 societydvd3

The End is Here! Zombieworld hits the UK June 8th 2015

zombieworldThe End is Here!

The Zombie Apocalypse is upon us – and all you can do is kick back and watch how it happened, right here, right now in the place we call Zombieworld.

Satisfy your thirst for all things zombie as we take you back in time to the biblical rise of the living dead; before running screaming from continent to continent as reports of zombie devastation arrive from Ireland, Canada, Australia and all over the U.S.

Watch for the ‘Government Health Warnings’ on ‘How to Survive a Zombie Attack’. They could be the only thing between you and a newfound hunger for human flesh. And above all else, enjoy yourself – you may not have much longer to live.

With ultra-violence, gallons of gore and heaps of bloody fun, Zombieworld is like nothing you’ve seen before. This ravenous collection of deadly tales takes over DVD on 8 June 2015 courtesy of Image Entertainment.

Welcome to Zombieworld.

Zombieworld is available to pre-order from Amazon UK now – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zombieworld-DVD/dp/B00TSFXZ4G/

Blood and Black Lace (1964) Blu-Ray Review

b&bl1Blood and Black Lace (1964)

Directed by: Mario Bava

Written by: Marcello Fondato

Cast: Cameron Mitchell, Eva Bartok, Thomas Reiner, Ariana Gorini

Running Time: 89 Minutes

UK Certificate: 18

Format: Dual Format DVD & Blu-Ray + Ltd Edition Steelbook

Studio: Arrow Video – Out NOW

Blood and Black Lace is an Italian Horror film from the director of Bloody Sunday and Black Sabbath, Mario Bava.
Opening with a rather strange title sequence, involving the cast being posed as if they were appearing in a fashion catalogue, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.

The story focuses on the girls of a fashion salon in Italy. One of the girls, Isabella (played by Francesca Ungaro) is murdered on her way back to the salon. Her assailant is a man in black wearing a featureless mask, looking like a character in a 1930’s pulp strip, he kills her brutally. This sets a precedent for the film as the deaths are unflinching and brutal. Bear in mind that this was 1964 and as of yet we hadn’t seen Voorhees or Myers plying their trade.

With the death of Isabella her diary is discovered. Every single character within the Salon reacts to this find and we suddenly realise they are all worried, they all have something to hide and that diary holds all their secrets. Over the course of the film we discover that the killer, too, is after the diary, throwing suspicion over all the cast. When the police become involved the film does stalls a little,it isn’t to do with the story but actually the dubbing, which although good in most cases, seems flat and unfeeling when it comes to the Inspector, played by Thomas Reiner.

B&BL2The film itself definitely influences some later slasher movies, the silent killer in the mask, utilising objects around him to make for interesting kills. Great care is taken, however, to not cheapen these deaths, which don’t become more elaborate as the film progresses. These murders are personal and harsh and the killer presents as calculating, yet all killings have a tiny peppering of to them. The killer doesn’t play cat and mouse, they have no time, they have a job to do and will do it however they can.

The story and its resolution are solid as are the majority of the cast. Some of the characters are incredibly interesting, an unwanted pregnancy, unrequited love and a Marquis who owes a significant amount of money. This gives at least a few of the cast motive for finding the diary and feeling the need to kill for it. I would have liked to see some of these character threads brought to some form of conclusion, instead, the focus shift to putting the murders front and centre.

The main characters of Max and Cris who both run the Salon are played wonderfully by Cameron Mitchell and Eva Bartok respectively. Mitchell oozes cool and calm and Bartok is stunning, pure 60’s beauty.

Bava’s direction was a delight to watch, his camera movement is fluid and exciting. The sets are lit with varying, bright colours that enhance the mood and cast long shadows over the fairly epic sets. The kills are presented in the face of the audience, leaving no room to escape, not an inch of frame is wasted.

B&BL3The music by Carlo Rustichelli was, at times, brilliant at capturing the mood and tension but then at odd times he incorporates the theme from the opening titles which comes across like a jazz band scoring a chase sequence, this is both distracting and inappropriate. The performances on the whole were great, however, as I mentioned before, although some were hurt by the dubbing. Paul Frees dubbed multiple roles for the US release.

Overall very enjoyable, once you got through that bloody awful title music, and I surprised myself at how much I liked it. And it has made me want to seek out other works by Bava in the hopes that I will enjoy them just as much.

Rating: 7/10

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
New 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Optional Italian and English soundtracks presented in original uncompressed mono PCM audio
Newly translated subtitles for the Italian audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English audio
Brand new audio commentary by Mario Bava s biographer Tim Lucas
Psycho Analysis a new documentary on Blood and Black Lace and the origins of the giallo genre featuring interviews with directors Dario Argento (Suspiria) and Lamberto Bava (Demons), screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (All the Colors of the Dark) critics Roberto Curti and Steve Della Casa, crime novelist Carlo Lucarelli and others
An appreciation by Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani, the creative duo behind Amer and The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears
Yellow the much-acclaimed neo-giallo by Ryan Hansom & Jon Britt
Gender and Giallo a visual essay by Michael Mackenzie exploring the giallo s relationship with the social upheavals of the 1960s and 70s
Panel discussion on Mario Bava featuring Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava and Steve Della Casa, recorded at the 2014 Courmayeur Film Festival
The Sinister Image: Cameron Mitchell an episode of David Del Valle s television series, devoted to the star of Blood and Black Lace and presented in full
The alternative US opening titles, sourced from Joe Dante s private print and scanned in 2K especially for this release
Original theatrical trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Howard Hughes, author of Cinema Italiano and Mario Bava: Destination Terror, and an interview with Joe Dante, David Del Valle on Cameron Mitchell and more, all illustrated with archive stills and posters

Selfie (2015) Review

selfie posterSelfie (2015)

Director: Geoff Harmer

Starring: Stacy Hart

Running time: 7 minutes

“I might be a girl but I can mess you up.”

I can’t give any better a synopsis than the one from the website, so to quote “A woman is haunted by a mysterious figure in her selfie photos.” And that figure is right out of a J-Horror, with black hair hanging over her face and a tattered nightgown on. But there is a reason those sort of ghosts work so well, they are implacable and undefined. The imagination can imprint far more menace on them than any make-up job.

Selfie is a great mood piece with dark stairs and a creeping figure that grows closer with every snap the unnamed protagonist takes. Photography and horror have gone hand in hand since the technology was created and the idea of the camera seeing more than we can is an intriguing one that never seems to grow old.

The film begins with most mundane of set-ups, and quickly takes a turn for the creepy. A woman at home watching TV and texting with her boyfriend. The texts appear as little pop up bubbles on screen so the viewer can read them. She sends her boyfriend a few selfies and he keeps complaining she’s not alone. My one small quibble is with the boyfriend who texts her that he’s worried she’s seeing someone else when he sees the figure behind her. Which is ridiculous? Who is she is supposed to cheating on him with? The Grudge?

selfie prod shotStacy Hart does an admirable job of carrying the short all on her own. As the only actor she had to make it work. While there is nothing wholly original about Selfie, it is great fun to watch. Show it to any J-Horror fans you know.

Kudos For: The Ring homage (intentional or not).

Final lesson: Stop taking selfies!

6/10

The Haunting Of Radcliffe House (aka Altar) (2014) DVD Review

radcliffe1The Haunting Of Radcliffe House (aka Altar) (2014)

Writer & Director: Nick Willing

Cast: Matthew Modine, Olivia Williams, Antonia Clarke, Adam Thomas Clarke

Running Time: 89 minutes

UK DVD Release date: 11th May 2015

UK Certificate: 15

A decent premise with some good performances, but it just falls short of the mark.

The Haunting of Radcliffe House (originally entitled Altar) starts promisingly, establishing our expectations and tantalising us with memories of classics such as The Shining and The Innocents. Unfortunately however, it just can’t live up to such lofty heights and you may be left wondering if the original intention was somewhat watered down.

The story begins when Meg Hamilton (Olivia Williams, Sixth Sense) takes her family to an empty old countryside house that she is renovating for a wealthy client and which the family will make their home for the next few months. Naturally however, the house has a rather dark past and we swiftly learn that the previous owner (an artist) dabbled in the occult, murdered his wife and subsequently committed suicide. Local people are wary of the house and not overly willing to help Meg with her renovation work, then strange images appear in photographs and ghostly figures stalk the grounds. Whilst this might send most of us screaming for the door, the family’s resources are tight, so they have little choice but to make the best of what we all know will turn in to a very bad situation.

radcliffe2Meg’s husband, Alec, a struggling artist looking for his next flash of inspiration finds it’s not long before he feels the dark force of the house and its history spreading over him. Matthew Modine does a good job of portraying the slowly possessed Alec, particularly in the early part of the film, where the gradual obsession and introspective attitude of the character works well. As he begins to make an artistic breakthrough, his relationship with his wife becomes unsettling and you find yourself drawn in psychologically; a scene where Alec massages his wife particularly disturbs. Olivia Williams plays well against Modine’s Alec, as she becomes equally confused and disgusted by his behaviour. It is these intimate moments spent together that engage and leave you wanting more, however it tends to feel as if the surface is merely scratched before the scalpel is put away.

When daughter Penny (Antonia Clarke) finally encounters the ghostly apparition of the murdered wife (Isabella) it doesn’t quite have the effect it should, relying perhaps too much on jump cuts and camera technique rather than the actors themselves. Having said that, Clarke does a great job of portraying the terrified Penny, and it will be interesting to see what roles she will take on next.

With the growing presence of the ghostly Isabella and the possession of Alec, the setting should rise to the occasion. Yet I found myself looking for shadows and straining for figures, waiting for the terror to unfurl and disappointed that it never really did. When one creeping figure does cause a jump, I wasn’t quite clear who or what it was meant to be. Equally, the back story of the original owners never feels fully explored and what we do learn just doesn’t quite add up. Craving further depths to the psychological nature of the story, the film doesn’t sit together well as a whole.

The Haunting of Radcliffe HallWriter and Director Nick Willing has a good body of work behind him and he does create some nice moments; the walls breathing, long corridor shots, the sense of the house being in control and changing at will. Yet, unfortunately, the story doesn’t convince and you’re left feeling that the boundaries could have been pushed further. On the whole, The Haunting of Radcliffe House should have been so much more than the sum of its parts.

5 out of 10

American Ghost Story (aka Devil’s Mile) (2014) DVD Review

americanghostAmerican Ghost Story (a.k.a. Devil’s Mile) (2014)

Written & Directed by: Joseph O’Brien

Starring: David Hayter, Maria Del Mar, Casey Hudecki

Out Now from Metrodome

Joseph O’Brien’s feature directing début, this is a low-budget affair that turns a fairly standard gangster/revenge set-up into a genre-bending supernatural nightmare. Three kidnappers are transporting their latest victims; two Japanese girls; intending to deliver them to their boss, the mysterious and much feared Mr. Arkadi. The three of them all seem to be at varying points in the process of a nervous breakdown, and have the sort of group chemistry that could easily see them kill each other over a game of charades. The freeway is taking too long, so one of them suggests taking a shortcut down an unmarked, desolate side road. After a cryptically foreboding warning from a shopkeeper is ignored & the troupe continue on the road it’s unsurprising that everything soon starts to go horribly wrong for all involved.

Many issues are evident from the beginning of this film – jilted scripts & uneven acting make the hardened criminals’ squabbling feel more like siblings fighting over Pokemon cards on a road trip, and daytime scenes are treated with the most appalling grading that makes everything painfully overexposed & bleached out. Thankfully, however, after stumbling through the first act more and more promise starts to creep through, and night time scenes are completely the opposite: giallo-style imagery with high contrast with coloured lights gives the film a stylish appearance; it’s surely no coincidence that the majority of the second and third acts take place at night.

devilsmile1One particular set-piece sets the main events into motion, and despite what is clearly a shoestring budget, O’Brien has created an action-packed & dramatic sequence skilfully. This flair for set-pieces carries throughout the film, albeit visibly restrained by the lack of resources. The main ‘villain’ is lifted directly from every single Asian horror movie you’ve seen, but is put to unique use in this type of storyline and occasionally takes on a far more terrifying form that is only let down by brief glimpses of generally adequately-disguised sub-par effects.

After the awkward first act sets up the characters, the issues with acting and script do subside, leaving room for some unexpectedly deep moments exploring the motivations and histories of the characters. The quality remains patchy however, with the script sometimes becoming a bit of a slog, and the performances sometimes appearing wooden, but there are more than a few moments where it all somehow manages to click into place, and once again in these points it’s clear that O’Brien has potential. The final moments tie up the story in an admittedly unexpected twist, but not one that particularly makes much sense. Containing the level of logic that would be acceptable in a short film, where the sole presentation of an interesting concept is enough, the ‘final reveal’ does not stand up to the scrutiny that a 90 minute feature warrants.

devilsmile3This is not a great movie. Not even a great low-budget movie. But to watch it with a critical eye there are more than enough moments that O’Brien displays great potential with the visuals, the writing, and the whole style of his filmmaking to stop them feeling like happy accidents. Even if this film misses the mark at least as often as it hits, displaying a strong, unique vision (even if it is comprised almost entirely of borrowed concepts like a scrapbook of horror) and no end of ambition I am still very interested to see what he is capable of with a bigger budget.

4/10.

American Ghost Story is available to order from Amazon UK here – http://www.amazon.co.uk/American-Ghost-Story-David-Hayter/dp/B00PY6PD0C/

Open Windows (2014) DVD Review

openwindowsOpen Windows (2014)

Director: Nacho Vigalondo

Writer: Nacho Vigalondo

Starring: Elijah Wood, Sasha Grey, Neil Maskell

Run time: 100 mins

Out 27th April UK From Koch Media

Nick Chambers (Wood) wins an online competition, the prize? A dinner with his favourite actress Jill Goddard (Grey). But after Jill abruptly cancels, he is given the opportunity to spy on her via his laptop; very soon Nick is dragged into a dangerous world full of computer hacking, kidnapping and even, murder!

At the start of Open Windows we are given a look at the film within the film, “Dark Sky: The Third Wave”, and there’s a moment in which Jill Goddard’s character utters the line “Stop thinking!” well if you want to really enjoy this film and it’s frankly ludicrous plot then that’s exactly what you need to do, switch your brain off, sit back and enjoy the ride.

ow1That’s normally an excuse people use to defend bad films isn’t it? You’ve got to turn your brain off to enjoy it. Well Open Windows isn’t a bad film, in fact I quite enjoyed it, but it’s just that the plot becomes so outlandish towards the end that to question it is completely pointless, the film is still an intriguing and tense thriller and I’m not going to chastise it just because the writer dared to dream a little bigger.

Open Windows is largely based around a gimmick, the gimmick being that we barely ever leave Nick Chambers’ laptop screen, we see most of the action through the “open windows” on his desktop, it’ a gimmick that for the most part works, it’s stretched in parts but it never outstays it’s welcome. It’s a very interesting and original twist on the found-footage genre. Oh and just something that I need to point out to UKHS readers, this is not a horror film, so don’t watch this expecting to see scares or gore, you have been warned.

The performances are all pretty solid, Wood plays the geeky and panicky Nick perfectly, Neil Maskell is spot-on as the fiendish villain Chord and Sasha Grey stand out as actress Jill, there are many layers to her performance and she effortlessly switches from an apparently vacuous movie star, to a damsel in distress and then finally to someone who is very capable and cool in the face of danger.

Director Nacho Vigalondo also tries to inject the film with a bit of depth and explore themes such as privacy, technophobia, misogyny, exploitation and fame. While not all of these themes are examined in nearly enough detail, it’s still nice to see Vigalondo try to add a bit of weight to what is quite clearly a simple popcorn flick.

ow2Open Windows is a film very much of its time, it shows a very distorted and disturbing reflection of the modern world. As I said before, you will have to switch your brain off to accept some of the crazier aspects of the plot but once you do you’ll find a film that is a suitable tension builder and one that I personally enjoyed.

7/10