Hell House LLC (2015) Review

hh1Hell House LLC  (2015)

Directed By: Stephen Cognetti
Written By: Stephen Cognetti
Produced By: Joe Bandelli
Release Date: November 23rd, 2016
Starring: Gore Abrams, Adam Schneider, Danny Bellini, Jared Hacker, Ryan Jennifer, Lauren A. Kennedy, Phil Hess, Miranda Robbins

Synopsis
The long since abandoned ‘Abbadon Hotel’, is converted into the ultimate Halloween haunted attraction, called ‘Hell House’. On the highly anticipated opening night of the attraction, there was an unexplained malfunction, that resulted in the fatality of fifteen staff and tour goers. Five years later, a documentary team is contacted by one of the surviving staff members of the Hell House opening night. She has come forward with real time footage of the massacre, which was never handed into the police. With the new footage in tow, we will travel back to the scene of the tragedy, to once and for all find out what really happened.

Review:
This found footage feature, is one of the best constructed, written, directed, and genuinely scary films I’ve seen all year. By looking at the synopsis, you would be forgiven for thinking that this film is the same, tired, haunted house story, that has been done a million times, and follows the same formula that made Grave Encounters a cult favourite.
It gives me great joy to tell you, that this independent horror movie, has a director with the power of free thought. This allows the story to follow his intended path, and have its own story, and make its own rules, with the only restriction being his imagination and his budget. Believe me when I say, that veering off the found footage- beaten path, and being bold, has paid off immensely.

hh3Prior to ‘Hell House LLC’, writer/director Stephen Cognetti, had only made 3 short films, that were low-budget, cop/crime comedies. This is Cognetti’s first feature film and first step into the world of horror. Coupled with a young, enthusiastic cast, the film gives a breath of fresh air, to a format, and sub-genre, that can often be tiresome and repetitive. The pacing throughout the film really works. The way that it eases you in, allows for you to come to grips with the characters, and to get a proper feel for, and digest all the important information being given to you, that builds the scene for the film you’re about to watch.

Throughout, the build up of tension and suspense is exquisite. Whatever evil is lurking, wants to drag the group of friends, kicking and literally screaming, to that point where absolute terror, turns into complete insanity. We see their reality spin clean off of its axis, as the group struggle to keep their heads, in what will become a fight for their lives. You’ll be sat on the edge of your seat, and driven into a nail biting frenzy. The atmosphere of suspense in the film, is reminiscent of techniques used to perfection, by the likes of John Carpenter. That kind of filmmaking is something that can’t be taught. It’s instinct.

hh4The film begins with a happy feeling, as our five protagonists, Paul, Alex, Tony, Andrew, and Sara, get ready to begin their new venture, in turning an abandoned hotel, into a leading haunted house attraction in time for Halloween. Shortly after getting there, they learn of a previous owner from decades before, who had hung himself in the dining room of the hotel. He practised the black arts and saw himself as a vessel for the word of Satan. He was using the basement for occult meetings, and much of the paraphernalia used, was still laying around, as well as satanic artwork and pentagrams drawn on the walls.
After the first few weeks, the original team of five, are joined by two new staff, in male actor Joey, and female actor Melissa. Over a few drinks, they all sit and discuss their plans for the further building of the attraction. This kind of social interaction further adds to the character development, and helps ease Joey and Melissa into the film. At this point, it creates the standpoint of high morale and camaraderie in the group.

hh2In the days and weeks that follow, there is activity of a bizarre, and hard to explain nature. Suddenly, we see the atmosphere amongst the friends start to change for the worst. The cracks in the walls and leaky roof, start to seep in to the once strong friendships within the group. This allows for further character development, to be integrated effortlessly into the film. Only this time, they’re different, more emotional, and temperamental sides of the characters.
That old building that once seemed so big, is becoming very claustrophobic.

Further unexplainable, and now frightening activity, is causing tensions to run high. Friendships have fully splintered, as nasty thoughts sink in, that someone, or something, is being so cruel and vulgar, as to take joy in feeding on their fears, and deliberately making them feel vulnerable. This is of course, until they catch something happening on camera, that could not have been done by anyone in the group. They find themselves arriving at the horrible realisation, that they’re not alone. For the now tired and weary ‘unhappy campers’, feelings of doubt about opening the doors to the public start to niggle, as Hell House starts living up to its name. The walls are starting to close in on the unlucky group.

There is an impending feeling of doom that you can’t shake off. You’ll find yourself, genuinely fearing for the group, and what on earth could possibly happen next to these poor souls. You know you’re about to find out very shortly, and as much as you want to watch, you can’t bare to see them come to harm.

hh6The opening night arrives, and seeing the actual events in full, from the viewpoint of the staff, does not disappoint. There is no anti-climax. For the staff of Hell House, the aeroplane, is about to crash into the mountain, with devastating effects. This is the point where I will discuss the use of practical effects. Quite simply put, they’re brilliant. Being a found footage film, it would be such a school boy error to have gone down the route of CGI. The film has been outstanding up to this point, so it would have such a cheap blow, to have seen something so ridiculous.
The main event features blood, screaming, clowns, druids with big swords, and lots of death. They’re all uninvited, but they’re bad ass perpetrators, and make their presence known when they come to crash the party.

It looks, sounds and feels like hell, and everything in it, is literally breaking loose. Nobody can do anything to stop it. Trying to fight this would be like trying to fight fire with a chocolate axe. In narrow, cramped, maze of hallways in Hell House, the only thing to do, is run, as fast as possible, and hope that the massive crowd of people in front of you, has the same idea. What is unfolding, is a scene of carnage, terror and mayhem.

hh5The staff of Hell House can’t be staff anymore and worry about the lives of everyone in the building. Self preservation is key. They too are under siege, and you the viewer, can feel their full fear through the screen. If you’re easily frightened or of weak stomach, you’re going to want to hide behind a pillow, or find yourself facing many sleepless nights. (You have been warned).

The film will cut back to the safety of the documentary team, and tentatively, you’ll put your cushion down, and attempt to draw breath. This would be a mistake. If you think you’ve seen the ending, and you can rest until the credits, you’re wrong. Like every great horror film, ever made, the villain/evil entity always has one last scare, and/or a big, juicy twist.

The surviving staff member telling the story, brings the found footage element, showing the arrival at hell house, through to the opening night massacre, with cuts to interview questions from the documentary team. Added to that, there are the ‘Real Life’ interviews, with viewpoints of journalists/investigative reporters, police/fire crew, and on site photographers. This really adds to the film and makes it more of a spectacle. As silly as this may sound, it adds a proper feel of realism.

hh7For a novice director and cast, this film throughout, is incredibly well made and acted. I have to say, that I was genuinely… happily surprised. In saying that, if it was a seasoned director and cast, I’d say exactly the same thing. There is a lot of talent being showcased in this film, and they should all be very proud of what they’ve made.

I’ll be sure to be following the future work of this director, to see what he comes up with next. Hopefully another horror. Hell House 2 perhaps? We should be so lucky.

9/10 

The Jokesters (2015) Review

jokesters1THE JOKESTERS (2015)

Director: AJ Wedding

Stars: Dante Spencer, Nathan Reid, Gabriel Tigerman, Luis Jose Lopez, Jen Yeager, Jim Dowd

UK Release TBC

Ethan (Dante Spencer), Nick (Nathan Reid), Andrew (Gabriel Tigerman) and Chris (Luis Jose Lopez) are the stars of Master Pranksters, a web series in which they pull Jackass-like tricks on one another. But now Ethan plans to quit the show and marry Gabrielle (Jen Yeager). The gang agree to keep the wedding day prank-free to ensure that the couple have a day to remember. As a gesture of goodwill Nick, Ethan’s closest buddy, offers the pair use of his father’s peaceful cabin in the woods.

However, Nick has a parting gift for his pal: one last prank in which he recruits Andrew and Chris to terrorise the newlyweds on their honeymoon. However, what starts as a series of jokes soon takes a darker turn… and then transforms into something far worse. There are plenty of surprises in The Jokesters but perhaps the biggest is that it took somebody so long to mash-up the sick-stunt Jackass/Dirty Sanchez TV genre with Found Footage horror!

jokesters2I don’t want to give away the twists in the plot, but by far the strongest element of the story is the lack of predictability. When events turn towards the horrific the audience is kept off balance as to WHAT the threat actually is. There are clues sprinkled throughout the plot but viewers are kept guessing as to where the worst danger lies right up until the pivotal moment.

The story (by star Reid) is engaging and the characters are written well. What’s more, as a film about a gang of jokers it delivers a hefty serving of humour, from some suitably vulgar slapstick along with some riotous one-liners. The leads are all excellent, with Reid and Spencer the standouts ably supported by the talented Tiger, Lopez and very pretty Yeager. In a relatively low-budget flick such as this one character work is vital and thankfully the script and cast deliver.

jokesters3On the other side of the camera AJ Wedding clearly knows his stuff. In less capable hands this could have turned into a ham-fisted melodrama but Wedding delivers the goods. Of course, what most of you are going to want know is how The Jokesters delivers on the horror front. Well for the most part it’s pretty damn effective. When the crazy finally starts to occur, the frights are delivered well and there are even a couple of effective gore moments later on in the film.

However, The Jokesters is not without its flaws and chief among these is pacing. For a horror film, it takes an extremely long time before we get any scares. I usually appreciate it when a film takes the time to establish characters and set the scene, but the problem here is that there’s very little creepy atmosphere until late on. In fact, with the crew pranking each other, for most of its runtime The Jokesters actually feels more like a comedy than a horror film. Thankfully the closing scenes hit hard, but I predict that not everybody will have the patience to stick with this one until the splatter hits the screen.

jokesters4Also if you’re the sort of person who dismisses the Jackass gang as unfunny idiots or you’ve had enough of Found Footage films, the combination here is sure to grate on the nerves. It could be something of an acquired taste.

However, with its cool premise, well-written characters and some technically superb filmmaking, this is a film that feels fresh in a genre in serious danger of stagnating. It’s clever, unpredictable and well worth your time. Check it out.

7/10

Ghoul (2015) Review

ghoul1GHOUL (2015)

Director: Petr Jákl

Stars: Jennifer Armour, Alina Golovlyova, Jeremy Isabella, Paul S. Tracey, Vladimir Nevedrov, Yuri Zabrodskyj, Inna Belikova

UK RELEASE TBC

Ghoul opens with reporter Jen (Jennifer Armour), cameraman Ethan (Jeremy Isabella) and director Ryan (Paul S. Tracey) heading to the Ukraine to film a documentary, Cannibals of the 20th Century. The group has chosen the locale after hearing tales of how Stalin’s cruel regime caused a famine so terrible that some locals were forced to resort to cannibalism to survive.

The trio’s driver Valeriy (Vladimir Nevedrov) offers them a major scoop — a guaranteed meeting with suspected killer and cannibal Boris (Yuri Zabrodskyj). So, camera in tow, the filmmakers, Valeriy and Katarina set out for the isolated house in the countryside in which the crime occurred, joined by timid translator Katarina (Alina Golovlyova) and local ‘witch’ Inna (Inna Belikova). Upon reaching the farmhouse there’s no sign of Boris, so the group drink a bottle of vodka they discover in a cupboard. As the booze flows the group finds a large pentagram/Ouija board carved into the table and decides to conduct a séance to contact Boris’ victim (despite Inna’s warnings not to), then falls into a drunken stupor.

The next morning sees one of their number missing, and Inna warns them that now the group is trapped in a haunted house by restless spirits…

One of the biggest positives that Ghoul has going for it is its grim and ominous atmosphere. Director Petr Jákl and
cinematographer Jan Suster ensure that the location work feels awash with storm-laden skies and dank mud.

ghoul2Of course achieving a suitable atmosphere is nice but doesn’t do the job if we aren’t given characters to care about. Thankfully the cast are all very good, especially the talented Armour and the ‘local’ actors.

Belikova in particular does a sterling job delivering some material that could have seemed decidedly hokey in less assured hands and really helps ratchet up the fear.

This is an area in which Ghoul delivers. The eerie mystery behind the characters’ plight is unnerving (with the discovered film-within-a-film a stomach-churning highlight for me) and when the story starts to tie into the real life horrors of serial killer Andrei Chikatilo’s reign of terror the frights hit a new level. This source of inspiration may well polarise viewers — the crimes of Chikatilo were sickening and genuinely terrifying, so to mention them as the source material for what is, at heart, a rather inconsequential work of fun fiction could seem in poor taste.

Ditto, the references to the very real and horrific Holodomor, the man-made famine that claimed up to 7 million lives. As such, viewer discretion is advised.

Even the hackneyed first-person flight through the tunnels finale works, proving that even if something has been done before; if it’s done well it can still make an impact. Here Jákl does it very well indeed.

That Ghoul is a Found Footage film may well act as a barrier to some viewers. This is a good example of the genre, but if you’re sick and tired of these films, it doesn’t do anything likely to change your mind. Luckily Jákl is a gifted director and uses every available trick to keep the audience unsettled, from superb framing of shots to an assured, slow-burn pace that takes its time to reveal it’s many mysteries.

ghoul3Jákl is also credited for the story of the film and co-wrote the screenplay with Petr Bok. The pair did a pretty good job too, coming up with realistic dialogue and characters. The story blends plenty of creepy elements to give a decidedly unique (and VERY Eastern European) feel to a genre in which a film needs to work very hard to stand out from the crowd. Some may find the backwards portrayal of the superstitious locals a little condescending, but it certainly adds colour.

With some fascinating folklore combined with the crimes of one of the most prolific serial killers in history, it is easy to see why Ghoul has smashed box office records in Jákl’s native Czech Republic. If you haven’t yet had your fill of Found Footage, this is a heady horror goulash sure to whet most appetites.

7/10

The Gallows (2015) Review

gallows1The Gallows 2015

Directed by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing

Starring Resse Mishler, Ryan Shoos, Pfeifer Brown

It’s 1993 and we are watching a home movie of a school play, complete with an annoying parental narration. This seems to be a run of the mill situation until it suddenly ends with the accidental hanging of one of the student actors named Charlie.

Cut to 20 years later and the school is once again putting on a show, the very same show in fact that previously ended in tragedy, yup you guessed it, no doubt we will encounter someone out for revenge or a ghostly curse, whatever happens, this play is destined for disaster.

It’s here we meet Ryan Shoos, the obnoxious camera operator of this found footage horror labelled as police evidence. In a few minutes the film has immediately set up the cast and scene, but we then spend an unnecessary amount of time elaborating upon characters that don’t need it, this may have been an attempt at setting us up to identify possible suspects but narratively it began to drag.

gallows2In a nut shell the student playing the same role as the one who previously died (Reese Mishler) really cannot act and is only in the play to impress a girl (Pfeifer Brown). The annoying camera guy who is adamant at capturing a one sided approach to the doomed play, convinces Reese that in order to get out of acting, but still look good in the public eye, is to secretly break in to school and destroy the set, particularly the gallows of the title and blame it on the curse of the fallen student Charlie.

What follows is a by the book experiment in found footage horror. There are a few well timed scare moments and a very creepy maze of school corridors, this is a UK 15 certificate but there was next to no gore and I don’t recall any bad language whatsoever. The Gallows is a crowd funded low budget film that was lucky to be picked up by a good distribution house that has been responsible for quite a few scare movies of late, Dark Skies, Insidious and Sinister to name a few. There are a fair few clichés and some of the acting is below standard but this is a low budget film and with that in mind, it is very impressive.

THE GALLOWSIt’s run time of 81 minutes could probably have been lowered to 70 but what you’ll witness is a competent first person horror. Yes there are some weak moments and some that are confusing (suddenly there is more than one camera in play and it’s not clear that smartphones are now being used). This is better than some found footage films and offers a reasonably original storyline and despite the numerous clichés I found the ending very good and it held plenty of surprises.

The film makers tried to up the hype by pushing the Charlie Charlie curse on social media. That craze missed me so I’m not entirely how effective or successful that was, either way it brought some attention to the film.

6.5 out of 10

Specter (2012) Review

spectercoverSPECTER (2012) Review

Director: Jordan Graham

Stars: Corey Ankele, Kaitlin Ankele, Adrian Cavlan

UK DVD Release 27th July from High Fliers Films

Set in the middle of a tsunami in the small town of Midgroud. Chris Benadictus follows his best friend Chase Lombardi as they set out on a mission to get their hands on a new unnamed drug before meeting the rest of their friends for a party at Chase’s house in the woods. During the party strange things start happening and their night flips from fun to terrifying.

This is a difficult film to review, the premise of the film is really interesting and the use of real disaster footage gives the film a real and raw feel. But the execution is amateurish which makes the film a bit of a let-down. Also because of the found footage technique, it does get a little confusing as to what exactly is going on. (SHAKY CAM WARNING!!!) Director Jordan Graham deserve plaudits for Specter though, as not only did he direct, he wrote, edited, did the visual effects, produced, did the sound, acted….pretty much every job that goes into making a film…. he did for Specter. Bravo to him for the multi tasking he endured to get his film made.

specter2The characters are all acted well but not one of them are remotely likeable. The main character Chase, played by Joe Patron, does some really odd things and that’s before all the crazy, mysterious, drug fuelled insanity begins. He goes around trying to be funny by drinking hobo pee from a broken wine glass found on a stairway early on. This is upon the introduction of the character. Then later he is giving his friend, who’s filming these events, a tour of his shabby home in the woods and proceeds, in an attempt to be funny and cool, to sniff a handful of mud.

I just kept wondering “why is this guy such a knob?” and “how does he have friends?” He also doesn’t go a long way to prove to us that he’s a decent human being by leaving the girl; he was banging at his party, in the woods, then when she goes missing he doesn’t try for more than a minute to look for her. I just wanted him to die horribly to be honest. The guy behind the camera was the director Jordan Graham. He did well as a bit of a nerd and the nicest of the characters. Bit one dimensional but did what was expected.

As I am a huge found footage fan, I found it difficult not to enjoy, despite its flaws. There are some genuinely frightening scenes including an underground tunnel scene (who doesn’t love an underground tunnel scene). There are plenty of jump scares to be had, as is the standard with found footage Horror films these days. The only real complaints I have regarding the found footage aspect of Specter is the constant camera glitches and distortion whenever something “bad” is near.

specter1Camera glitches can be used to great effect when used sparingly but there was a little too much in this. Also the shaking cam made what was happening even more confusing, but in hindsight I believe this was done on purpose. Firstly we aren’t meant to know what exactly is going on, so nauseating shaky cam certainly helped confuse and secondly, the characters were on drugs a lot of the time or were drunk, I can’t imagine many people can hold a camera steady whilst being intoxicated.

The day scenes are unsettling to say the least; the destruction of the Tsunami is shown using real natural disaster footage. This is incredibly effective. What is shown in these nature scenes is pretty terrifying. Amongst the chaos caused by Ol’ Mother Nature herself, are random people, just standing still staring at nothing. This goes mainly unnoticed by the two friends but as a viewer, we are to notice this and start wondering “what the hell is going on?” This question stays with you right up until the final scene and even after the credits.

specter3Overall, plaudits need to be made to the makers of Specter. They attempted to try something a little new with Found Footage. The genre is becoming ever so stale so I always enjoy seeing what filmmakers can come up with to freshen it up a bit. The film is enjoyable for the most part. If you can over look characters you can’t help but hate and the disorientating shaky cam with eye ache inducing glitches and distortion, then there is a really interesting idea here. It’s worth a watch, if found footage is your thing or if nothing else is on.

Rating; 5/10

Follow me on Twitter @NLouse91

New Found Footage Horror Movie from Germany – SEEKERS!

New Found Footage Horror Movie from Germany – SEEKERS!

Accompanied by a cameraman, the four friends Mike, Eileen, Sarah and George go into the deep forests of Poland to shoot a documentary about their hobby: Geocaching, a modern form of treasure hunting. In their search, the group finds an old abandoned hotel, where they spend the night. But the building hides a dark secret … As even a group member disappears in the middle of the night, the group experienced a night of horror. What began as a harmless trip is ending in a bloody nightmare!

Directed by: Michael Effenberger

For updates check Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/SEEKERS/1532151356999010

The Mothman Curse (2014) Review

mmc1The Mothman Curse (2014)

Director: Richard Mansfield

Starring: Rachel Dale, Stephen Glover, Daniel Mansfield, Darren Munn, Katy Vans

Mansfield Dark Productions

All Regions DVD release from Wild Eye Releasing (April 21, 2015)

An Ancient Evil Unleashed. A supernatural thriller based on the terrifying legend of The Mothman. Rachel and Katy work together in a large, empty museum.

The Mothman Curse follows Katy and Rachel as they work in a cinema museum, archiving and organizing old movies. In the beginning of the film, the viewer is shown Rachel’s recent trip to the Lake District via flashback, but most of the action occurs either in the museum or at home, giving the audience a limited perspective on the coming events. Strange nightmares plague the girls and it becomes apparent early on that an ominous influence is affecting them both. As time progresses, each begins seeing bizarre apparitions, both in their homes and at work, and, with increasing intensity, each sighting becomes clearer and more threatening.

Independent films will often run the risk of showing their lack of experience on their sleeves, but to be honest The Mothman Curse never feels like an amateur effort. The film runs much more arthouse than low budget and what appears to be a rather loose narrative turns into a raw, increasingly bizarre excursion in fear. From the successful use of light and shadow, thanks in most part to the black and white picture filmed by a (£10) pinhole CCTV camera, to the eerie, white noise sound score, The Mothman Curse plays with the audience’s desire to be scared.

mmc3Fans of Akira Yamaoka’s Silent Hill soundscapes, or even the understated music from UK creature feature Creep, will appreciate what is done here. The sound is a constant, cleverly situated beneath dialogue and sound effects with a low combination of static, hums, and an often industrial tilt. Sharp whistles and screams evoke jump scares, but are not overdone, and the whispering voices and strange breathing only add to the mix. Turn up the sound and turn off the lights for the best experience.

As far as the cinematography is concerned, less is consistently better. Most scenes follow the protagonists through their daily routines but are juxtaposed with surreal, nightmare scenes reminiscent of Wes Craven’s The Prince of Darkness, replete with ominous voices and washed out visuals. Often these moments are interwoven with tense shots, adding an ever building sense of dread to an already nightmarish and frightening setup. As the film progressed, I found myself looking forward to the random cutaways.

The titular entity, known simply as the Mothman, provides an already terrifying reputation, being both fodder for other genre films and a living legend throughout the annals of North American history, by way of random appearances throughout the film. Said to be a harbinger of bad fortune and impending death, the Mothman has appeared prior to tragic accidents and has been connected to extraterrestrial encounters, cryptozoological sightings and other supernatural happenings. The ambiguity of this creature only serves to make the film more terrifying and bizarre.

mmc2I have a soft spot for found footage films and I am not ashamed to admit it. Perhaps it’s the thrill of living vicariously through terrifying realities, much like a gamer stepping in a virtual world filled with shambling horrors and limited resources or even a nervous patron of a theme park, travelling in a rickety railcar through an animatronics-filled haunted house. Whatever the case, The Mothman Curse satisfied my craving for something unnerving and I was left very impressed by its atmospheric dread and jarring, effective scares. Be patient, as this is a slow crawl, but be sure to enjoy the ride along the way.

8/10

The Mothman Curse is available from Amazon.Com – http://www.amazon.com/Mothman-Curse-The-Rachel-Dale/dp/B00RZXWVD4

Hooked Up (2013) DVD Review

hudvd1Hooked Up (2013)

Director: Pablo Larcuen

Writers: Pablo Larcuen, Eduard Sola

Starring: Jona Ehrenreich, Stephen Ohl

Run time: 78mins

UK DVD Release – 27th April 2015 from Signature Entertainment

After being dumped by the love of his life, Peter (Ohl) along with his best friend Tonio (Ehrenreich), decide to take a trip to Barcelona to party, drink copious amounts of booze and most importantly, find themselves some girls! What they do find there however turns out to be much more terrifying and deadly.

When I first read that Hooked Up was filmed entirely on an iPhone I rolled my eyes and let out a rather large sigh. But upon watching the film it’s not as bad as I had anticipated, its not all that great either but it certainly isn’t awful and there are some parts I found quite entertaining.

hudvd2The story here is standard fare, two young guys go abroad to party and end up trapped in an old building whilst being stalked by a seemingly unkillable knife-wielding maniac. It’s been done before and that sort of describes the film in a nutshell “it’s been done before”, we see the same found-footage clichés, the same jump scares, the same twists and turns and so on and so forth. Don’t get me wrong, I think the director has tried to put a unique spin on things but everything just feels familiar.

It also has to be said that both main characters are pretty unlikeable; they’re both obnoxious, loud and incredibly stupid. They make stupid decisions all the way throughout. I never once found myself rooting for them to survive, even when one of the guys has an odd personality transplant about halfway through. It didn’t feel like natural character progression for me and I was still hoping that he got a knife to the head.

Not all is bad, I never found myself bored, it is actually a fun movie to watch, the special effects are excellent for such a low-budget film, there are some genuinely creepy moments and at times and some incredibly funny ones too. Whether those were intentional or not, I don’t know, but I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions.

hudvd3The found-footage gimmick works, for the most part, and the fact that they are “filming their holiday shenanigans” is the perfect answer to the age old question “Why are they filming everything?!” Like I said it doesn’t work all the way through Hooked Up and by the end I was screaming at my laptop “JUST PUT THE CAMERA DOWN!”

Hooked Up doesn’t re-invent the wheel and I don’t suspect it was aiming to. The film is fun, brainless but also pretty scary at times. If you have 78 minutes to kill and have seen all the classics then I think there are worse ways to spend your time and you should give this a shot.

6/10

Hunting The Legend (2014) DVD Review

huntingthelegendTitle: Hunting the Legend

Directed by: Justin Steeley

Written by: Justin Steeley

Produced by: Justin Steeley

Edited by: Justin Steeley

Starring: Christopher Copeland, Hannah Wallace, Jeff Causey

Running time: 95 Minutes

UK DVD release: 9th Feb 2015 from Image Entertainment

1999 – ‘The Blair Witch Project’.
Three teenagers running through a forest for ninety minutes. Wow. Thrilling.

But how I feel about Blair Witch isn’t important. The important thing is that it was made for twenty-three thousand dollars and went on to make two hundred and fifty million. It generated A LOT of money. So what happened next?
Every fucker with a camcorder realised that they could make a movie. WooHoo! We’re not talentless, we’re indie! We’re low budget! Making terrible ‘found-footage’ films is cool now!

Paranormal Activity. Skew. Cloverfield.
And now, Ladies and Gentleman, we can add ‘Hunting the Legend’ to this diseased, inbred pedigree.
At the tender age of fiteen, Chris Copeland saw his father get captured (presumed eaten) by a ‘Large Bi-pedal ape-like humanoid’.

htl1For non-cryptozoology nerds; Bigfoot.

So what does he do? He does what anyone would. He waits a few years, gathers up his friends and a camera then goes to prove that HE’S NOT CRAZY. By searching for Bigfoot. After this, the film is almost so generic that it’s almost painful to watch. Here’s a Spoiler Alert for you; it is exactly what you expect from a found footage. You’ve seen this a thousand times before. Now obviously, with it being a handycam, we don’t expect any real production values. The whole point is to emulate real life, so losing focus, periods of looking at feet and jarring when the character runs is all par for the course.

However, the one notable value that these films should have is a good editor. So many films can be improved by a smooth flow, and that should go double for handycams. Each scene is supposed to be one long shot, and when that shot is interrupted the audience should know why. That isn’t what happens here. There are random cuts in the middle of interviews and (on a couple of notable occasions) mid-sentence. Most people won’t notice the individual lapses, but it gives the whole thing a jerky, unprofessional feel.

Mixed in with this is the acting and the characters. Aside from the opening few minutes, there’s no real development. You aren’t watching people, you’re watching stock characters. And the fact that the dialogue is pretty stilted doesn’t help. All in all, ‘Hunting the Legend’ is a FOUND FOOTAGE FILM in all caps. It checks off every box you’d expect it to, without bringing anything new to the table. The truth is, I want to hate this movie. I want to rally against it and label it as ‘The Cancer that is Killing Horror’. But it isn’t. It’s just an amalgamation of lots of other, more inventive handycam movies.

htl2This movie is the younger, less talented brother of The Blair Witch Project and Exists. You can’t hate it, but it’s trying so hard to be a grown up that it’s irritating and should to go away.

Three words to describe this film? Dull, generic and amateurish.
3/10

Creep (2014) Review

C1Creep (2014)

Dir: Patrick Brice

Written by: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass

Starring: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass

Running Time – 81 mins.

European Premiere: Frightfest 2014

After answering an advert for $1000 for one day’s filming, Aaron (Brice) meets up with the eccentric Josef (Duplass). At first, Josef appears to be kooky but harmless but as the evening goes on, his behaviour becomes progressively strange before turning outright dangerous.

Craigslist certainly never seems to carry a great reputation when it comes to various films that have used it as a starting point. Whilst many go for the more sordid sexual route, Creep uses a deceptively sweet and innocent angle in order to craft something infinitely more effectively sinister. With a cast of only two, Creep is a distinct cut above most found footage horror in that they are both likeable, interesting and do not spend their time running around, bathed in the green and black of night vision.

Aaron (Brice) is, crucially, not a profoundly unlikeable jerk like so many other found footage protagonists. He is relatable, polite and good hearted. When most would have been incredibly awkward and desperate to get away from, Josef, he stays and makes the effort to befriend him. His naivety is, of course, his downfall and it is incredibly refreshing to convincingly feel the same terror as the character with the camera after Josef (Brice) is exposed.

C2Josef himself, is a wonderfully complex character. Whilst there is the initial sympathy towards him when his reason for wanting to be filmed is revealed, there is the constant sense that there is far more to him than meets the eye. His off the wall nature is, at first, charming and this adds further to the blood-chilling revelation of what sort of man he really is later in the film. It must be remembered that he is human, not a monster and whilst he does and has done horrible things in the film, it is to the immense credit of Brice’s performance that he is still, shockingly, sympathetic.

The interaction between the two is essential and adds an extra layer of effectiveness to the film. With largely improvised dialogue, the flow of conversation and gradual development of both their relationship and characters feels brilliantly natural and believable. This, ultimately, helps and audience to invest in them more as people, not characters, which is hugely beneficial as the film slowly reveals what it’s been hiding, there’s the extra danger of human unpredictability.

One ever present staple of the found footage horror rears its ugly head in the form of the jump scare. Within the first 20 or so minutes, Josef jumps out at the camera from a hidden spot far too many times and it becomes instantly tiresome, before the film has even properly started to get going. When your best hand at scares is having someone jump out and scream “Boo!”, there is a serious problem. The incredibly deliberate weapon foreshadowing feels very contrived also.

C4That being said, the first half of the film has a wonderfully uneasy feel about it. Gradually, the conversations between the men get more uncomfortable and in doing very little, there is a palpable atmosphere of dread that is created out of minimal effort. The peak of this comes in the form of an “off-camera” conversation where Josef tells an incredibly dark story, concerning his wife. It is an incredibly uncomfortable listen as it leaves the audience unsure as to whether or not it is ok to laugh. The story itself is both bizarre and horrifying and does a great job of conjuring up a sense of being very ill at ease.

Sadly, the superb air of tension gets thrown off balance in the second half of the film. The isolated setting of the cabin is replaced by Aaron’s urban apartment and the film becomes a stalker based set-up. Whilst Aaron still receives bizarre gifts and videos from Josef, there is a notable lack of pace or anything dramatic, the attempted jokes end up falling flat and the night in which Josef prowls around the apartment is overdone and un-engaging. Whilst proceedings take a dark turn come the finale, there is the unshakable feel that the film would have been infinitely better served cutting the length and restricting the action to the cabin and the very clear end point it could have used.

Despite the notable slump, there are two enormously impressive moments that proved to be genuinely terrifying. The iconic image of Josef’s silhouette, backlit by a bright light is masterfully put together and is visually striking. Not only does is look incredible, but it is literally the point of no return in the film, as he invites Aaron back inside his home for a drink as the audience scream internally for him to get away. The second moment is sadly at the end of the film and to spoil it would ruin its huge impact. Suffice to say, it is a stunningly long drawn out piece of nail-biting tension that is brilliantly almost unwatchable.

C3It has to be said, as well, that the film did a fantastic job at making the cheap and silly ‘Mr Peachfuzz’ wolf mask scary in one heart-stopping scene. Whilst the film hardly has endless re-watch potential, it would be interesting to see it again, just to pick up on the clues of the larger and incredibly chilling picture throughout.
Creep is certainly one of a very select number of found footage films to actually feel authentic. With two superb performances and two remarkably well shot scenes of enormous tension, it was so close to being a classic of the subgenre.

An over-reliance on cheap jump scares and a dramatic drop in the pacing in the film’s second act, however, results in the film letting itself down. There is great potential here from the writing partners and future found footage horror could definitely learn lessons from it.

Rating: 6/10