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Ghosthunters (2016) Review

rsz_gh1Ghosthunters (2016) Review

Director: Pearry Reginald Teo

Starring: Francesca Santoro, Stephen Manley, David O’Donnell, Liz Fenning, Crystal Web.

Out now on UK DVD from High Fliers Films

“Ghost DNA.”

After Henry’s wife and daughter are murdered in an abandoned house used by a serial killer, he and his group of ghosthunters go back in to extract their souls. Henry (Stephen Manly) and his friends have been working on a machine to find and preserve ectoplasm. They were testing the machine at the site of the murders when everything went wrong. Now Henry and his cohorts face the angry victims of the serial killer. A serial killer who may not be done.

Well, it sounds okay in theory. And it’s certainly not the worst movie ever. It’s an Asylum film. So that right there should tell you a lot about Ghosthunters. Don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed. Ghosthunters manages to be a mediocre supernatural thriller. It has some fun special effects and creepy ghosts. The jump scares aren’t terribly effective, they pop up right about where expected, negating their effectiveness.

There is also a delightful amount of techno-babble the likes of which haven’t been heard since Star Trek went off the air. The techno-babble actually makes for a pretty hilarious scene of really terrible exposition about the ghost hunting machine. It’s basically a ghost trap from Ghostbusters. Don’t give it too much thought.

rsz_gh2Aside from the mediocre plot there is also plenty of mediocre characters performed by so-so actors. The good news is that no one is stand-out terrible. The problem is they are also stuck with a pretty ridiculous script. The most weighty role is given to Manly who does pretty good as the grief stricken Henry but could have brought a lot more personality to the role. Especially since one of the major twists hangs on his. David O’Donnell plays Henry’s friend and confidant Neal who built the ghost trapping machine. Neal also brings along his reporter girlfriend Amy played by Francesca Santoro, who is arguably the main character, but nothing in the movie indicates that fact. Then there is computer programmer Jessica played by Liz Fenning. Crystal Web plays the sadly under-utilized psychic Devon. No one has much character development and nothing more is known about the characters at the end of the film as was known in the beginning.

There are a lot of wasted opportunities in Ghosthunters too. Devon brings a knowledge of the occult to the “science” of paranormal investigating, and in a good scene that goes nowhere, she tries to trap the ghosts in the house using salt. The combination of the occult and science would have been a really interesting development. But the script slogs along with paint-by-number predictably.

The best thing about the film are possibly the props. The best prop in the entire movie is a pair of steampunk styled ghost spotting goggles. Second runner-up is a steampunk styled plague doctor mask worn by the killer. Sadly the ghost trapping machine itself is a bland jumble of spare parts that look like they could be anything. The rest of the special effects are okay, but not great. There is some CGI enhancement of the ghosts, but it looks like most of the effects were achieved practically. It’s not a special effect heavy film, probably due to budget constraints, and it manages with what it has. Over all Ghosthunters is pretty skippable.

gh3Kudos for: The organ music.

Lesson Learned: Say ghost DNA often enough and it just sounds silly.

5/10

Dead End aka Drifter (2016) Review

rsz_deadendDEAD END aka DRIFTER (2016)

Starring Aria Emory, Drew Harwood and Monique Rosario

Directed by Chris von Hoffman

Written by Chris von Hoffman and Aria Emory

UK DVD Release from High Fliers Films on March 6th

A pair of outlaw brothers seek temporary refuge in a desolate town inhabited by a small family of psychotic cannibalistic lunatics“.

The story of Drifter pretty much goes like this. If you take the Gecko Brothers from Tarantino and Rodriguez’s classic From Dusk Till Dawn, roughed them up and put them in the middle of an arid post-apocalyptic, just about to go Mad Max wasteland, and then had them stumble upon the family from Texas Chainsaw Massacre and their mutant cousins from The Hills Have Eyes, then you’ve pretty much got it.

Seriously. The script actually replicates wholesale dialogue, even scenes, from those films and others. This kind of thing is basically the reason I’ve grown so tired of Tarantino and Rob Zombie. So why the high rating?

rsz_deadend1Because this film is an absolute assault on the senses, that’s why. In his feature debut, director Hoffman, a veteran of music videos and short films, has less directed the script as directed the living shit out of his script. Imprinting a gritty, flashy, grimy and relentless vision all of his own, Drifter is less directed and more choreographed, like an 80’s dubstep goth rave in the desert. There are images here that are truly stunning, the way Hoffman frames the landscape, follows his characters, captures the day and the night. It all feels iconic. His energy behind the camera is non stop, reaching even crazier heights in the moments of savagery.

And choreography is nothing without music. My oh my, the soundtrack in this rhymes with the visuals in a way we rarely see these days. It’s a pulsing, pounding, monstrous beast from Nao Sato, and it’s a marvel. I swear there were moments in this film where the combination of movement, framing, action and soundtrack nearly had me cheering. Everything just clicks to create a sensory overload. I think this is what makes the film work so well. The script and story may lack originality, but its execution is anything but derivative. The feel of this film, the texture of it, the sound of it, is like nothing I remember seeing. Yes, it’s showy and attention seeking but it bloody well deserves it. Drifter is Hoffman trying not to make a splash, but to kick all the water out of the tub. And I need to own this soundtrack immediately.

The performances are also extremely fun. As our heroes, Emory and Howard take stock characters and rough them right up, make them lived in and raw. But our villains have the most fun. James McCabe is fantastically sinister as the childlike patriarch of the clan, Doyle, and Rebecca Frasier is the most devious white trash doll you will find. But the standout was Anthony Ficco as the Danny Zuko on acid Latos. A twitchy, nightmarish bottle of bloodthirsty rage, he’s a fantastic villain.

rsz_deadend2Although technically the film is a striking marvel, with sights and sounds that are seared into my brain, it’s a real shame that the script is such a hodgepodge of scenes and dialogue from other movies. In this case it’s not a deal breaker, but it would’ve elevated this to cult-classic status. But maybe the reason it’s all so blatant is because that was the point. So, if Drifter is a love-letter to a particularly grimy type of cinema, it’s a kinetic and visceral success. But we will have to wait for the next film from Hoffman for originality.

As it stands, Drifter is an everything and the kitchen sink project done right. An angry, vicious, grindhouse fever dream.

8/10

The Conjured aka Adaline (2015) Review

conjured1THE CONJURED aka ADALINE (2015)

Starring Jill Evyn, Lane Townsend and Jeremy Walker

Written & Directed by Bidisha Chowdhury

Out on UK DVD October 10th from High Fliers Films

“Adaline’s terrifying visions bleed through from the past and become Daniela’s present day nightmare”.

Daniella is your typical starving artist living in the city. Talented but not yet appreciated, she is a good soul who deserves a break. And she thinks that break has come when she inherits a large estate from her aunt out in the country. But as she struggles to settle in, she stumbles on the houses gruesome past, and soon learns that history has a way of repeating itself.

Although the setup is familiar, it’s familiar for a reason. Lots of haunted house films follow the same central conceit but they are still successful because the filmmaking is skilled, but unfortunately that’s not the case for Adaline.

It’s a very pretty film on the surface, with lots of showy shots of the city and the country and very well-composed framing of the house and characters but my god it’s boring. And while the reasons are many, the main culprit is the script. I lost count of how many random, overlong scenes of chitter-chatter there was here.

conjured2In the opening ten minutes we have not one but two scenes of Daniela chatting with her friend, and both scenes completely lack drama or conflict in any way shape or form. It’s a real slog and proof that the old, basic screen writing rules really are true. But all this could have been edited out if writer and director Chowdhury had been more disciplined. As it is, the film feels stale and unengaging, full of filler.

The performances are also a mixed bag, but when the scenes are filled with so many awkward gaps in conversation that could easily have been cut out in post, again, it’s more the filmmakers issue. As the clichéd sexually confident and adventurous best friend, Emma Claeys struggles with the inane dialogue, her character just there to show how quiet and lovely Daniela is. As Daniela, Jill Evyn does very well with the material she is given, but deserve better.

And then there is the flashback scenes. Daniela finds a diary in the spooky old house, which tells a tale of murder and betrayal. But the visualisation of it is laughable. It feels like you’re on the set of one of those hammy murder mystery tours, with cheap consumes and over the top acting.

But the main issue I had with Adaline was the ridiculously offensive disabled character Marvin (Jeremy Walker). His inclusion in the story is as mystifying as the insensitive way the character is written and portrayed.

conjured3On a technical note, aside from the editing in the dramatic scenes, Adaline is just fine. Chowdhury has a good eye and goes for the more M. Night approach, lots of steady wide shots and patience. The house itself is beautiful and we get to see lots of it, and the ending does jump up the pace a bit even if it did raise more questions than answers for me.

But Adaline is too bland and unengaging for me to truly recommend. Not campy enough for a fun Friday night in, it’s just a bit dull.

4/10

The Haunting of Mary aka Mary Loss of Soul (2014) Review

hom1The Haunting of Mary aka Mary Loss of Soul (2014)

Director: Jennifer B. White

Starring: Kaylee Bryant, Jose Zuniga, Catherine Black, Anne Bex

Out on UK DVD October 24th 2016 from High Fliers Films

If I’d met you like a week ago I’d have thought you were crazy.”

After going missing in the woods, Mary Solis (Kaylee Bryant) comes back with missing hours and a changed personality. Once a vibrant young woman with aspirations to dance ballet she’s a shell of her former self. Then a strange ghostly figure begins to haunt the Solis family. Mary’s parents scramble for answers as the haunting grows more violent and the mysteries stack up. Turns out Mary’s soul is AWOL after witnessing a horrific crime.

Sometimes a movie just hits a sweet spot and you like it for no explicable reason. Mary Loss of Soul is one of those movies. At least for me. Yes the effects are minimal and not very good. The acting is just shy of being good enough for television. But the plot is solid. The characters act in reasonable and logical ways that make them believable human beings. A rarity in horror films. The Solis family is a close knit happy clan worth rooting for. And yes, I am heaping praise on what boils down to a mediocre, slightly cheesy, paranormal suspense drama. There’s no gore. No real scares. Nothing that would put this in the realm of horror movie. It is in fact the second most adorable film I’ve reviewed thus far. The first one being Ruby Strangelove Young Witch. Mary is a family friendly paranormal, which for some is a recommendation to run away. But for some reason this film touched my blackened little heart.

Mary Loss of Soul 1The Solis family has a great rapport and the actors do a good job. Everyone is acting to the best of their abilities and no one phones in a performance. A couple of times the performance borders on overacting but doesn’t quite cross the line. There was a particularly cosy moment in the beginning where Mary and her mother Gina start talking in fake British accents to each other. It’s the sort of goofy thing mothers and daughters do and it rings true. It’s also nice to see a loving sibling relationship. Mary and her little sister Sophia (Anne Bex) genuinely like each other and want to protect each other.

However, Mary is not without flaws. There is a lot of deus ex machina at play. Gina Solis (Catherine Black) meets Irish healer Trice (Emma Gruttaudaria) at exactly the right time dispensing with the need for the character to go out and find a shaman. Every plot point comes along in much the same way. The “villain” in the movie is introduced so late as to take all the mystery out of the crime. And the actual crime that caused Mary’s traumatic soulectomy is secondary to everything else in the film including Mary’s pet finches. The few scares the film goes for aren’t really scary. They do add to the tension, so at least they aren’t entirely wasted.

The effects are worthy of note only because Mary’s disembodied soul looks like a ghost from a bad SyFy Channel original. The rest of the practical effects boil down to some make-up to make Mary look pale and some poorly applied bruising to her dad’s face. The weakest actor is surprisingly not little sister Sophia, but Mary’s goth best friend.

Mary Loss of Soul 2Would I recommend this movie to everyone? No not to everyone. Horror fans looking for actual scares will want to go elsewhere. If you’d like to watch a ghost story with your kids give it a shot.

Kudos for: Harry Potter quoting Karate Mom
Lesson Learned: Bird metaphors are the best metaphors

7/10

Hollows Grove (2014) Review

hollows1Hollows Grove (2014)

Starring: Mykelti Williamson, Lance Henriksen, Matthew Carey and Sunkrish Bala.

Written & Directed by Craig Efros.

Expected UK DVD Release 14th Nov 2016 from High Fliers Films

A young filmmaker documents his ghost-hunting, reality show friends as their routine investigation of an abandoned orphanage turns into a nightmare from which they can’t escape.”

For me, the charm of any found-footage movie is the subtle claim to realism that lays beneath the framing of its narration. The conceit behind The Blair Witch Project (1999) was the notion that the film was made up from footage left behind by missing documentary students. In Grave Encounters (2011) the crew of a ghost-hunting reality show lock themselves in an abandoned mental hospital and the subsequent film comes from the video they left behind. And, here, we have the same premise supporting Hollows Grove (2014). The story is being told through found footage from the combined camcorders left behind by a documentary maker and the producers of a ghost-hunting reality TV show.
And that subtle claim to realism works.

hollows2I’ve sat through hours of ghost-hunting reality shows. Not because I believe in ghosts, or because I think I’m ever going to see proof of a ghost whilst watching one of those shows. But my TV station is jammed onto the ghost-hunting channel and I’ll sit through anything whilst I’m trying to get drunk.

I’ve even been on a ghost-hunt. Locally, there’s an abandoned cinema. A team of professional ghost-hunters took me and some other gullible marks through darkened backstage areas and disused cinema lavatories as they told us about untimely deaths and alleged sightings. I didn’t see anything that didn’t have a rational explanation (except for people calling themselves professional ghost hunters). However, I did spend the night entire in a state of trembling anxiety as I expected to see something other-worldly leaping out at me from the shadows.

This is why the premise of Hollows Grove works so well. We watch ghost-hunting TV shows, not for the people in front of the camera, but for any subtle anomalies that occur in the background. Did that shadow move? Was that a face at the window? We go on ghost-hunts not to have the supernatural proved or disproved but simply to enjoy the rollercoaster thrill of venturing into the unknown. Hollows Grove is certainly a rollercoaster thrill.

hollows3My one issue with Hollows Grove was that it took a long time establishing it’s premise. Given the simplicity of the idea (potential victims are trying to film ghosts in an abandoned orphanage) I thought the concept could have been presented more succinctly. It’s framed with a suggestion that the film is being presented by the FBI, trying to understand what happened to the cast of the TV show. This framing is then further framed by a storyline where a documentary maker is filming the cast of the reality TV show. When you realise the cast of the reality TV show are trying to film the story of the ghosts, it becomes a Russian Doll of a story that seems more complex than it needs to be.

By way of comparison, consider the effective way that [REC] (2007) gets us into the action with a TV reporter filming a fire crew. The same events are effortlessly conveyed in [REC]’s English-language remake, Quarantine (2008). Or there’s the camcorder conceit used in Cloverfield (2008). And the ubiquitous CCTV footage that makes up the Paranormal Activity (2007 – 2014) movies. Each of these films managed to convey its premise with a stylish simplicity that moved it above the awkwardness of Hollows Grove.

hollows4That aside, if you can stay with Hollows Grove for the first fifteen minutes, you’re going to be entertained by a movie that has enough scares to make you spill your popcorn and some seriously eerie effects. The nuance of the ghost-hunting TV show is well-utilised. Night vision cameras can make the most normal of locations look like a place where Ed Gein would fear to tread without an adult holding his hand. Shadowy backgrounds, cleverly used to foreground the impending supernatural encounters, are well-crafted and neatly employed. The acting is credible and the characters are rich with the typical horror movie duality where most of the good guys are so despicable the audience wants them to suffer a brutal and horrific death.

Definitely worth watching. 7/10

Feed The Devil (2015) Review

ftd1Feed The Devil (USA, 2015)
Dir: Max Perrier
Starring: Jared Cohen, Ardis Barrow, Brandon Perrault

Expected UK DVD Release 31/10/2016

Plot: Desperate to make some cash and start fresh, Marcus (Cohen) and Lydia (Barrow) go out into the wilderness to find a secret stash of weed. Getting lost in the woods becomes the least of their problems when they become prey to a figure of Native American folklore.

The first horror film by writer/director Max Perrier, his second feature behind his comedy crime drama, Dead Man’s Luck. Like many other first time horror directors, Perrier goes to the woods and we watch his cast slowly get bumped off in various nasty ways. However the particular evil in this film comes from Native American roots and gives the film an uneasy racial tone. While it might not have been the intention of the film makers to have race focused on in their film, it’s hard to avoid it.

Marcus is particularly racist towards the natives, at one point calling them “Bush N******” and even when he’s helped by the natives he is dismissive and arrogant. Like most horror fans, when I see a character who is incredibly arrogant and unlikeable, I hope that the killer will pick them off quick. Sadly I wasn’t so fortunate as the other members of the small cast are picked off and leave Marcus to fight the evil. It’s hard to be on the side of the racist white guy fighting a figure of Native American culture.

ftd2While the film is well shot with decent cinematography, the film often drags with slow pacing. Marcus and his friends wander around the woods for too long without explanation of the danger they’re in for so long before the audience gets a scrap of exposition, all the while enduring Marcus.

It’s often been debated if a main character in a film needs to be likeable for the film to be good and while I don’t believe they have to be, I think it helps. The film starts off by showing Marcus’s terrible home life, his abusive mother, and his plans to escape that life. However just because someone has hardships it doesn’t make them a good person and it failed to make me care about Marcus. I didn’t want him to succeed and it made the film disappointing as he continued his survival.

If the point of the film was to show white Americans as dismissive against Native American culture and how horrible it is, this film succeeded. It doesn’t feel like that was the intention, instead it’s just another arrogant horror protagonist getting himself into danger by ignoring the warnings of people who know better than him.

ftd3The Native American folklore feels like an after thought, that it could have been any kind of evil in those woods, but this felt like something a little different than the usual Catholic demons, or feral Big Foot. A lot of people might watch this and see it for what is on the screen and not read anything into it what so ever. Sadly I watched it and saw White American culture exerting dominance over Native American culture and I’m not cool with that.

2/10

Delirium aka The Haunting of Emily (2015) Review

Delirium PosterDelirium (AKA The Haunting of Emily) 2015

Director: Jared Black

Starring: Nathan Polzin, Jolene Kay, Chris Gann, Taylor Pigeon

Expected UK Release date 15/08/16 from High Fliers Films

“I’ll bring you a child just like me.”

Oh boy… where to begin. Given the synopsis and the other (failed I guess) title a haunted house film was to be expected. And while the final title Delirium is more appropriate the synopsis from IMDb is painfully misleading. That synopsis: “Emily has mysteriously returned home to her mother and stepfather, after being missing for over a year – and something came with her.”

That is not at all what the movie is about. And honestly I would like to watch the movie from the synopsis, it sounds like a good movie. Instead I watched Delirium. Which is about Tim (Polzin). Tim is being held for questioning in the psych ward on suspicion of having kidnapped a little girl named Emily (Pigeon). Tim harbors a dark secret, a demon which has haunted him since childhood. This very basic story is told in the most confusing and convoluted way possible because filmmakers think this sort of thing is interesting. Let me TRY to explain how the film actually goes down.

Tim and Rachel have come to collect their daughter Emily who has been missing for a year and refuses to speak. Everyone says she’s fine. Weird things happen when Tim and Rachel (Kay) bring her home. A lot of poor editing and things happen and then the edits get jumpier. Big reveal- Tim is NOT happily married to Rachel. He is in police custody being questioned. The cops have 72 hours to figure out where Emily is before they have to cut Tim loose. None of this is spoilery. Spoilers suggest an emotional investment in a film, trust me, this isn’t an investment worth making. So, Tim is answering their questions in the form of a story and everyone has to play along.

Delirium 3Almost everything in this film is preposterous, from character motivations, to police procedure, to props. At one point a tertiary character goes back to the scene of the crime with a cigarette lighter as her only source of lighting. Why not a flashlight? She KNOWS where she’s going, according to the confusing flashbacks she’s been to this place before. At another point near the end of the film Rachel’s sister sacrifices herself to the demon, flips out, eats some people, and then dies? Maybe? Trust me, it sounds more interesting than it is.

The number of characters is preposterous as well. There is Tim, Tim’s sister, Tim’s father, Rachel (Kay), Rachel’s sister, Rachel’s ex-husband Barry (Gann), the main cop, the main cops daughter, a nameless rabble of extras, and of course Emily.

Strangely enough the acting is pretty tolerable, at least in the case of the lead characters. Tim is by turns caring husband and freaking psycho. Jolene Kay is good. Everyone else is a bit hit or miss. The cop who also doubles as the exterminator is terrible. There are too many characters to remember their names and there is no room for character development. Rachel’s sister’s sacrifice falls completely flat because the reason behind the sacrifice gets literally one line of dialogue and she shows up over halfway through the movie.

Delirium 1This isn’t one that can really be recommended for any reason to anyone except maybe aspiring editors looking to learn what not to do.

Kudos for: Nonsensical demon possession

Lesson learned: Just bring a goddamn flashlight

3/10

The Diabolical starring Ali Larter to hit UK cinemas Oct 16th & DVD Oct 19th

The Diabolical starring Ali Larter to hit UK cinemas Oct 16th & DVD Oct 19th

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Following the UK premiere at FrightFest 2015 in August, Content Media and High Fliers are pleased to announce that *The Diabolical*, a film by Alistair Legrand starring Ali Larter, will be released in select UK Cinemas and on VOD platforms on Friday October 16th and to DVD on Monday October 19th 2015.

The Diabolical is the petrifying new film from hot new genre producer Ross Dinerstein, the man behind ‘The Pact’ franchise and Xavier Gens’ cult favourite ‘The Divide’.

Madison, a single mother of two, is awoken nightly by an increasingly strange and intense presence. She seeks help from her scientist boyfriend Nikolai, who begins a hunt to destroy the violent spirit that paranormal experts are too frightened to take on themselves.

The Diabolical puts the constant dread and startling twists found in ‘The Others’ alongside the relentless terror of ‘The Conjuring’.

Until then enjoy the trailer below!

Area Q (2011) Review

areaqArea Q (2011)

Director: Gerson Sanginitto

Starring: Isaiah Washington,  Ricardo Conti, Tania Khalill, Murilo Rosa

UK DVD Release October 5th 2015 from High Fliers Films

This is how the most unbelievable story I have ever covered begins.”

First impressions; That’s the font from Sliders. OMG Isaiah Washington! This will be good. Boy this is cheap. Wow, this is long.

Yikes. I’m afraid my interest in Brazil got the better of me and I volunteered to review Area Q.

Thomas Mathews (Isaiah Washington), an investigative journalist mourning the disappearance of his son, is sent on assignment to Brazil. There are stories of close encounters with UFOs and miraculous healings in a place called Area Q. Named after the plethora of towns with names that begin with “Q”. Many of the abducted describe a bright white light with an orange tinge that seem to happen around a certain rocky “mountain” in the area. Most of the time is spent wandering around Area Q talking to witnesses, investigating dirt circles that are hotter than the surrounding dirt, and the occasional flashback. So, so many flashbacks.

As good as Isaiah Washington normally is, it seemed like he was sleep walking through most of the movie (imagine my horror when I saw he had a producer credit at the end of the film! I guessed he agreed to star in this for a free trip to Brazil…). Or maybe he just didn’t want to outshine his co-stars and held back. Or maybe it was just a bad movie and even he couldn’t save it.

Area Q 2The good parts: Area Q is filmed in Brazil. It’s actually a Brazil/U.S. production and filmed on location. It’s kind of good looking. The film quality is kind of cheap, but the scenery makes up for it. The Brazilian actors seem to be talented amateurs. They aren’t horrible. A few are better than others but no one was painful to watch. The effects are also cheap, but thankfully minimal. And, umm…Isaiah Washington? Sort of?

The not so good: The sound! Arg! The dialogue is barely audible. Which is worse when dealing with thick accents. The Portuguese was subtitled but probably the only way to catch everything would either be superhuman hearing or captions. But, how important is the dialogue really when the plot is a plot everyone has seen before? Benevolent aliens have come to save us from ourselves.

They are kidnapping folks, aging them backwards, and then having them reborn once their programming is complete. The end result? In the words of the film, imagine ten thousand Gandhis (is that the plural of Gandhi?) running around making the world a better place. (OK, maybe those weren’t the exact words). At a run time only minutes shy of two hours Area Q is a long haul. And what was the time spent on? I watched the whole thing (admittedly it took two days and the occasional break for Facebook games to make it through) and I’m still not sure.

Area Q 3The bottom line is Area Q is boring. If it had been forty minutes shorter I would recommend it as a bland but decent Close Encounters knock-off with an exotic locale and Isaiah Washington. But as it stands, no, not recommended.

Kudos for: Brazil

Lesson learned: So that’s how reincarnation works…aliens…

4/10

Atlantis Down (2011) Review

atd1Atlantis Down (2011)

Director: Max Bartoli

Starring: Mae Flores, Darla Grese, Dean Haglund, Michael Rooker

Atlantis Down gets a UK DVD release on October 19th fro High Fliers Films.

“It isn’t happening. It can’t be happening. ”

The year 2025. The plot, thin. The shuttle Atlantis is now part of a private fleet running errands to space stations. But that’s not important at all. The crew gets sucked away by a flash of light and find themselves on earth, or something equivalent looking. They experience all their worst memories and die in various ways related to their visions. The one member left on board the shuttle Atlantis is eventually pulled down with the rest of them and he’s the one who has to suss out what is happening.

Atlantis Down seems to be inscrutable for the sake of being inscrutable, and boring because far too much time is spent on shots of wandering through the woods and talking. The movie reminded me a bit of Cube, with less gruesome deaths and location shooting. Like Cube there is a whole lot of “What’s happening?” conversations and paranoid arguing. Because everyone knows that’s exactly what everyone in mysterious circumstances does, right? Lay blame and panic. Unfortunately many of the arguments feel forced due to mediocre acting and a lack of originality on the script’s part.

atd2Oh, and there isn’t really an explanation. Much like Cube. Atlantis Down’s description on IMDB says “Its crew is on a routine mission, conducting experiments – little do they know – they are the experiment.” But why and to what end aren’t explained. The movie is a mobius strip, ending where it began for the events to repeat endlessly until someone wins the game? The experiment concludes? Michael Rooker kills them all? I don’t like these sorts of movies, but I can forgive them a little if the ride is at least interesting. Sadly Atlantis Down isn’t.

What’s that? Michael Rooker is in this you say? Well, yes. And for no good reason other than he is Michael Rooker. He shows up as (IMDB page incomplete- I am NOT going to go back and read the credits for this review) one of the characters’ (let’s call him Lt. Babyface) sadistic chess master dad. So Lt. Babyface is the last one on the shuttle after all his co-workers disappear in a blinding flash of light. After three or four of them die on the planet (earth? the video game? The rat maze made by aliens?) it’s his turn to get beamed down.

Lt. Babyface is the first to figure out that this is a game of some sort, thanks to visions of his mother telling him it’s a game. As things get weirder, and more of his crewmate’s die, he tries to convince them that it’s all in their heads. To no avail. Eventually he is the last one standing and confronts his dad (Michael Rooker) in a white room. Rinse and repeat. There endeth the movie. And, no I haven’t spoiled it for you, there’s nothing to spoil. Which is very much the problem with the entire film.

atd3The acting is not-so-good. And while Lt. Babyface looks super familiar there is only one other name actor I can point out which is Dean Haglund who plays Jack Spano who dies immediately. The acting was passable, and if served by a better script everyone would have been fine. Maybe not amazing. But fine. But it’s the script and plotting that are Atlantis Down’s undoing. Somewhere this probably looked great on paper. Or not. Or somebody just thought it did.

Bottom line, skip it and go watch Love in the Time of Monsters. You’ll have a lot more fun.

Kudos for: Not being worse.

Lesson learned: I am really mean sometimes…

4/10